Anime is no stranger to upbeat and stubbornly hopeful characters; if these characters are not lively enough, they just pair them with the edgiest, most depressed supporting characters you can think of to drive the contrast higher. It’s such a common trope that the edgy anime characters now come with a starter-pack look; they’re often dark-haired, pale, and aloof.
But not all edgy anime characters deserve the role. Some of them are just there to look cool, and their edge seems unjustified. The real MVPs are bonafide edge lords born from suffering. And this suffering comes in many forms, from losing your whole clan to losing your whole body. That kind of loss will fast-track character development into a suffering incarnate, and these following edgy anime characters are ready to screech that point at you.
Thorfinn (Vinland Saga Season 1)
Losing your virtuous father at a young age and then getting adopted by his killer, who’s the quintessential Viking raider, is pretty bad for your upbringing. Thorfinn from Vinland Saga practically threw away his future just to seek revenge.
He also spent most of his childhood and teenage years wandering from battlefield to battlefield getting paid only with measly opportunities to duel his dad’s killer in a messed-up utilitarian aggreement. Regardless, it’s not hard to compare Thorfinn to the other edgelords here despite having a less severe catalyst for his cycle of suffering.
Eren (Attack on Titan)
On to more cantankerous edgy anime characters.
Eren Yeager is a tragic tale of a young and hopeful protagonist who turns into a villain by the end of his own show. That’s what happens if you lose your parents, your home, 3/4 of your remaning lifespan, and your happiness– then finding out that the reason for all of those predicaments was a huge farce. So he decided to just kill everyone– well, almost everyone.
And even in his descent to villainy and mass murder, there was no relief for Eren. He knew what he was doing (killing 90 percent of the world) was bad, and he took no satisfaction in it. Rather, he deluded himself into thinking that the path he took was the necessary evil.
Diva is the antagonist of Blood+ and poetically enough, she’s also the twin sister of the antagonist. Both of them are vampires but Diva got the short end of the stick since she was the one whom authorities experimented on while Saya, the older twin was treated properly. Hence, Diva’s was treated like a monster from her childhood.
She grew up sadistic but with childlike behavior (like those cute but dark anime series) since she never experienced a proper upbringing. It didn’t help that she was a vampire and could rip humans apart like buffalo chicken wings. Unsurprisingly, Saya, the twin sister who was raised like a human, grew up properly.
Sanemi Shinazugawa (Demon Slayer)
Just about most members of the Hashira in Demon Slayer have experienced an early onset of suffering that gave them a one-way ticket to being edgy anime characters. Giyu is also another candidate here, but the angrier and more tormented Sanemi is a more intense poster boy for edginess.
That bewildered look in his eyes, the innumerable scars from fighting demons, and “too angry to die” mentality makes him a loose cannon among the Demon Slayer Corps. Let’s not forget the fact that his best way of communicating to his brother (Genya) that he doesn’t want him to die is to insult and belittle him, hopefully to try to dissuade him from joining the Demon Slayer Corps.
Really, a hug and a heart-to-heart talk would have worked better, but edge lords gotta ‘edge.’
Ken Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul)
You don’t even have to know his name. One look at Ken Kaneki’s ghoul form in Tokyo Ghoul is enough of an introduction. You just know that as a protagonist, his kind is predisposed to slaughtering and eating humans, but Kaneki doesn’t want to do that– he’s a reluctant vampire or ghoul, whatever.
As far as suffering origins go, Ken Kaneki just wanted a normal life, but then one day, his date decided to eat him, literally– she was a ghoul (what were you thinking?). But the date didn’t go so well and Kaneki ended up waking up with the girl’s organ transplanted into him, turning him into a ghoul.
Whether that’s an extreme analogy for STDs as an argument for teenage abstinence or not, we can all agree that it was the worst date ever. Definitley not a relationship ghoul– sorry, goal.
Everyone knows him. He’s the lousiest emo best friend whom everyone somehow still loves despite being a sociopath. But it’s hard to blame Sasuke– his brother killed their whole clan right in front of him so that he could become the poster boy for edgelords in the 2000s.
Since then, Sasuke has been awfully quiet and brooding.
But apart from being a cultural icon and a flagbearer for anime stereotypes or tropes, Sasuke was yet another challenge for Naruto’s talk-no-jutsu and how the power of friendship could overcome even the most traumatized minds. Just as soon as they stop trying to kill each other during their teenage years. Now we have undeniable Sasuke clones in other anime, seemingly as a homage to his edgy legacy.
Hyakkimaru from Dororo is a lesser-known edgy anime character despite suffering more than most other characters here– even Sasuke. It’s hard to quantify just how much despair he has, but even before he was born, Hyakkimaru’s royal father had already offered him to demons in exchange for a more prosperous land.
As soon as he was born, the demons took parts of Hyakkimaru like he was a buffet. So here we have an anime protagonist with no skin, no limbs, no hearing, no sight, no voice, no teeth, etc. but somehow he lived.
Hyakkimaru is practically the most disabled anime protagonist in history; but the consequence of Hyakkimaru being sacrificed to demons was his demonic powers, which allowed him to see souls and granted him superhuman strength (despite having no limbs). Thankfully, this allowed him to hunt down the demons and regain what they took.
He’s not really well-known in the mainstream due to the lower popularity of the seinen genre and the lack of a stellar anime adaptation; but Guts takes the crown as the edgy anime character who has suffered the most. It’s not really a contest to be proud of winning, but you can count the moments of reprieve in Guts’ life using the fingers on your hands.
He was born shortly after his mother was hung from a tree and killed. Some cruel mercenaries found him on a pile of his mother’s intestines and decided to raise him as one of them for profit. He has known nothing but war and death since childhood.
And when he found his friends and the love of his life, his best friend decided to become a demon lord and ruin his and his lover’s lives once more. He also lost an arm and an eye in the process. Now, Guts is just about ready to sacrifice his humanity for a chance to defeat his demon lord ex-best friend, and even that’s not going too well.
It seems Guts’ ordeals will only end once the Berserk manga series has come to a conclusion. That’s why no edgy anime character can surpass him.