I should probably warn you that I have not yet gotten around to seeing some classic detective animes like Monster and Hyouka and as such, I am not familiar with the anime detectives they feature. So this list may need to get updated in a year or two.

I really like mysteries. In general, I think there are very few genres as captivating as a well-written mystery. Unfortunately, there are very few things as stupid and boring as a badly written mystery. This said, I have gotten to know my share of detective characters throughout the years and have developed some preferences.

Here are 5 of my favourite detectives from anime.

5. Satoru and Sachiko – Erased

Although neither are technically detectives, Erased very much plays out as a murder mystery and this Mother and Son team were the only ones that could shed light on a case that had grown so very cold.

What I actually enjoyed is how complementary they are. Not in a Watson and Sherlock way, where one figures everything out and the other is there for physical labour and to get stuff explained to him. Satoru and Sachiko have very different ways of looking at the world, at least in the beginning of the series and that’s how one could see things the other missed and vice versa.

We rarely see that type of dynamic. I also happen to be nostalgic for Erased. I think I like it a lot more now than while I was watching it. It’s a really good mystery and I think it deserves a spot. Also, Sachiko is GOAT. We all know it.

4. Victorique – Gosick

Ok still not technically a detective as I think Victorique hasn’t graduated yet but she very much styles herself as one! She even has the pipe! Victorique is much closer to the classical representation of a detective character. She’s pretty much a straight-up adaptation of good ol Sherlock.

Although in isolation I’m not crazy about the character. I don’t really like tsunderes. I thought she worked very well in the series and the few chances she got to show off her deductive skills were a high point. It was also fun to imagine Sherlock Holmes as a cute tiny blonde girl.

3. Ranpo – Bungo Stray Dogs

Now, this is more like is. Ranpo is very much a detective. And he works for a detective agency and is based on possibly Japan’s best-known detective novelist. I also really just like Ranpo.

The issue I have though is that Bungo Stray Dogs is much more an action series than a mystery. As such, we don’t really see Ranpo doing his detective thing all too often. And when he does, it’s almost like a superpower so blink and you’ll miss it! The manga is a bit better about this, he gets to explain his entire process.

I really do hope that more seasons of BSD get made because there are some great detective Ranpo moments coming up. He finally gets his chance to be centre stage for a while and I really want to see that get animated.

2. Tensai – Nanana’s Buried Treasure

My second small blonde girl Sherlock and also one of my favourite characters. Tensai is just loads of fun. And although I might not know her official status, she certainly has no issue reminding me that she is the world’s greatest detective in just about every episode. Who am I to argue?

There is a murder mystery in Nanana’s Buried Treasure, but it doesn’t really get addressed. So instead, greatest detective Tensai spends most of her time, solving puzzles and riddles but that works as well. She does it through deduction after all! She’s just a bit more Professor Layton than Sherlock Holmes, is all.

death note anime mello L Near

1. L – Death Note

Could there really be anyone else? I’m sure if you just google Top anime detectives, L will be on every list. And there’s a reason for that. Death Note took the classic genius detective archetype and twisted it just enough to create one heck of a memorable character.

L is a genius and a very talented detective but he’s also immature, devoid of most morals and generally kind of a dork. This clash of classical qualities and unusual faults makes him difficult to resist.

And Death Note itself is one of the most elaborate detective stories in anime which gave L plenty of chances to show off his investigative skills. And in many ways, the story was about those investigative skills. And for all those reasons, L is my very conventional top pick for anime detective.

Well, there you have it. These are my current five favourite anime detectives. The order is somewhat random. Do you have a favourite anime detective? Do you like mysteries in generals?

17 thoughts

  1. Holmes of Kyoto is a sweet, fun anime and he’s a good detective, although he mainly runs an antique shop. I was happily surprised I knew every single series and detective on this list – and I have watched Hyouko (it’s great). Still, my first thought was Victorique. I’m not much on tsundere’s either, but she just so perfectly suited this whole style of the anime. BSD is a favorite, so that was a gimme LOL. But I admit I had not really thought of the son/mother of Erased, but now that you point it out it’s like DUH. Yes, they are an excellent team, and what a great mystery anime that was! I think you will love Mushishi and I think you could call Genki a detective – maybe a medical detective? There must be a better term but yes, a holistic sort of detective who cures ailments by considering all the surrounding circumstances. Midnight Occult Civil Servants is another good one – with yokai!

  2. Sad to see that Young Kindaichi isn’t here. The case files of young kindaichi is my favorite mystery-thriller type anime there is. If we veer off from anime, Shinokawa Shioriko from Biblia Koshodou no Jiken Techou is also pretty good.

  3. Some of my favourites are Conan/Shinichi (that /is/ where my handle comes from, after all…) and Sherlock from Moriarty the Patriot. I also like unique takes on the mystery genre, such as occult detectives, probably more than I should. (Does anyone remember Tactics or Matantei Loki Ragnarok, both at least partially by Sakura Kinoshita? I like those.)

    1. I thought of him, too, and wasn’t quite sure whether he counts either. But he does spend a lot of time figuring out what’s going on.

  4. Hyouka is a treasure!

    What about Detective Conan? 🙂

    Some of my favorites: Moe and Souhei from “Perfect Insider” and Sakurako from “Beautiful Bones.” My anger knows no bounds that the latter anime was cut short, just as it was reaching its prime.

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