Sometimes the main character of an anime cannot go through saving the world or just live on their own. They usually need a friend or group to carry them through the finish line. This can manifest in the literal power of friendship, having to carry the hero to their destination physically, like Sam did with Frodo in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, or keeping a smile on the face of a depressed person.
Although the best friend character in anime is usually considered a shonen character, that's not always the case. For every Joey Wheeler in Yu-Gi-Oh!, there is a Mako Mankanshoku from Kill la Kill. Hence, this article will attempt to focus on 10 iconic best friend characters in anime and how they have helped the main protagonist.
Disclaimer: This list will contain spoilers for the anime listed and the best friend characters' fates that occurred in the series. The opinions therein are only exclusive to the author.
Team 7, Ash and Pikachu, and 8 other iconic anime friendships
1) Yugi's friends (Yu-Gi-Oh!)
One cannot look at the Yu-Gi-Oh! series without marking down the protagonist's large friends gallery. The core group include Joey Wheeler, Tristan Taylor, and Téa Gardner. The one that stuck with fans the most is Joey Wheeler, considering how impactful he's been throughout the entire series. He used to bully Yugi until the protagonist saved him from bullying.
So, how has Joey been so iconic? Well, he's been the underdog throughout the original Yu-Gi-Oh. His story is good since he tries to get the support for his sister Serenity Wheeler, who is his motivation in the Duelist Kingdom, even while dueling Yugi in the anime. Tristan and Tea, on the other hand, are usually there to help the two onward.
Likewise, Joe is the constant underdog in the anime yet gets his awesome moments, such as when he nearly beat Yami Marik in a shadow game after taking an attack from the Winged Dragon of Ra. Tea helped Yugi regain his confidence after nearly becoming despondent in the Duelist Kingdom. Tristan also rushed to Joey's aid, helped save Mokuba during the Duelist Kingdom, and has generally been the muscle of the group.
2) Koichi Hirose (Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable)
This could have gone to Caesar from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency due to Joesph going after the Pillar Men in his name. The title could have also gone to Kakiyoin from Stardust Crusaders, who died fighting Dio and gave his friends the clue they needed to know about the latter's weakness. However, this iconic anime best friend entry goes to Koichi Hirose from Diamond is Unbreakable.
He gets a lot of character development from beginning to end. Koichi started out as a regular kid who got sucked into the world of Stands via kidnapping. He later goes onto make strides against Yoshikage Kira, landing one of the final blows before Jotaro Kujo and an ambulance finish him off. Moreover, his Stand is one of the first to have three phases to it.
This earns Koichi his status as the deutagonist of Diamond is Unbreakable. It also helps that he is there for everyone, even Rohan Kishibe, whenever they are in a jam. He even earns Jortaro's respect, which is not something easily handed out.
3) Krillin and Goku (Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z)
Krillin is literally Goku's first friend, even though they started as training rivals in the original Dragon Ball anime. The two became good friends over time, having each other's back through many trials and tribulations, including when Krillin died. His death usually mark a turning point where Goku gets so infuriated that he unleashes a new level of power.
In the original Dragon ball anime, Krillin started out as a monk trying to train under Master Roshi. He tries to trip Goku up on many an occasion, but this stopped after a while. Although Krillin is mostly perceived as a comic relief by mangaka Akira Toriyama, he gets a few moments to shine.
Krillin killed all but one Saibaman after Yamcha's death and is one of the only survivors of the Z Fighters following the Saiyan Saga. He helped Gohan and Bulma survive Namek and made a good showing against Imperfect Cell. To top it off, he married and had a kid with Android 18. Not bad for the guy who's constantly derided by anime fandom as being completely useless.
4) Mako Mankanshoku and Ryuko Matoi (Kill la Kill)
Mako Mankanshoku considers herself Ryuko Matoi's best friend. Since she had nowhere to go, the former opened her home and heart to Ryuko, who accepted on both accounts. From there, the two strode to survive Honnoji Academy and the many over-the-top fights that awaited them.
Mako does not stand out among the crowd, given she's a high school girl of shorter than average height. However, she's not someone to take lightly. She's hyperactive, carefree, and quite lazy but also one of the most fearless characters in Studio Trigger's anime. She's stood up to everyone from Gamagori to Nui Harime, and often finds some way to help Ryuko even if it goes over the top.
She showed she's capable of hard work and productivity when properly motivated, as Ryuko can attest, though does go overboard when the subject of wealth comes up. One episode even saw her fighting Ryuko when things were looking good for her family financially, but she soon came to her senses. Moreover, Mako and Ryuko's friendship goes into the territory of dating by the end of Kill la Kill.
5) Kazuma Kuwabara and Yusuke Urameshi (Yu Yu Hakusho)
While Kuwabara from Yu Yu Hakusho is a rival to Yusuke Urameshi, the two are more friendly than most rivals. At least, Kuwabara has much more respect for Yusuke than many other rivals in other shonen anime would. Showing up to his funeral to pay respects and loudly crying is a good measure of Kuwabara's character.
He is loyal to his friends, especially Yusuke, and has a strict code of honor. This gets tested multiple times throughout the series, but Kuwabara stays with it even when tempted to cheat or trip up Yusuke to get ahead. He was even approached as a choice for Yusuke to return to life when the latter was in spirit detective form.
After Yusuke returned to life, he and Kuwabara formed a solid friendship out of demon killing and boosting each other up. They may have started as rivals, but they continued to have each other's backs. Even when Kuwabara died through Younger Toguro, Yusuke defeated the latter in his name and Genkai's.
6) Hideyoshi Nagachika and Ken Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul)
As this list as demonstrated, not every best friend character has superpowers. Take Hideyoshi Nagachika from the seinen anime Tokyo Ghoul as one such example. Hideyoshi, or Hide, is an outgoing and bright person who contrasts with an introverted Kaneki. He's also a lot more clever than he looks.
Hideyoshi is also cunning and manipulative, even finding out that Kaneki was part of CCG. Over the course of the anime, the two were forced apart due to threats against Hide's life. This didn't stop him from investigating into things. However, Kaneki considers Hide to be a positive influence on his life because the two have known each other since elementary school.
When Hide died, Ken had a major death wish and sought to die saving someone like Hide did. Of course, he gets broken out of it after a while since Hide reappears in the anime. Finding out his best friend knew he was a Ghoul also definitely helped bridge the gap even when he was forced to push Hide away for his own safety.
7) The Inner Senshi (Sailor Moon)
While Naru was Usagi's first friend, she got pushed to the back as the other Inner Senshi took center stage. As friends, all of the Inner Senshi have been there for Usagi, meaning they have been with her from assissiting her for exams to saving her life.
Ever since Usagi met the others Inner Senshi, they have helped her in some way, such as saving Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury from the cram school and from hell, having Minako Aino/Sailor Venus save them from certain death, etc. Usagi has returned the favor many times as well, either helping them with relationships or saving them from certain death.
The friendship and bonds between these five girls have been weaponized more than once to defeat a villain. Usagi even becomes much more selfless and better at many things because of her friends. In turn, her friends become better people under Usagi's influence.
8) Pikachu and Ash Ketchum (Pokémon)
The iconic friendship between Ash and Pikachu have been a classic. The two have been together and gone through several arcs since the beginning of the Pokemon anime. They started off rather antagonistic toward each other, especially Pikachu, who refused to get inside a Pokeball and did not follow any of Ash's commands.
This started changing slowly when they both got injured on the way to Viridian City after leaving Pallet Town. Pikachu had to be rushed to a Pokemon center, and Ash had to rest after the frantic rush. Since then, they have saved each other, been there for each other in emotional straits, and have shown worry for the other's well being when they were apart.
Pikachu even resisted evolving and Ash, after a bit of an argument between the two, respected his wishes. They have both been through a lot, including Ash becoming regional and world champion. He has never let go of Pikachu either, never releasing him or anything. This shows how true their bond is, given how they have been together throughout Ash's journey.
9) The Straw Hat Crew (One Piece)
The friendship between the entire Straw Hat crew is what makes One Piece the swashbuckling and fun pirate anime. Though the crew may have all started as antagonistic and/or used each other, they have all become comrades in arms over time. They might even consider themselves family, seeing as they spent practically years apart.
The Straw Hats have blown through several rival pirate crews and World Government assets. Now wonder they aren't some of the most wanted pirates in the world of One Piece. One of the main reasons they have stuck together for so long is that the crew members have grown accustomed to each other's company, as one needs to be aboard a ship.
This doesn't mean they haven't had their share of scraps. Usopp once betrayed the crew, Sanji was shanghaied into betraying them during the Whole Cake Island arc, and Zoro and Luffy have locked horns before. Nami has even dipped out on the crew. However, she came back soon afterward. It's all part of being a close pirate crew, and disagreements are bound to pop up eventually.
10) Team 7 (Naruto)
Naruto practically ran on the idea of Team 7 being the series where best of friends were separated. The titular protagonist always considered Sasuke his friend, even after the latter left and tried to kill him and Sakura multiple times. Sakura, for her part, tried to help Naruto get through it and cushion the blow of nations by putting Sasuke on a kill list while having conflicting emotions on the whole subject. However, the two never gave up on Sasuke and eventually pulled him back to the side of good.
This kind of dedication to someone takes a lot of courage and strength, even in the face of the multiple crimes that person committed. In fact, Sasuke spends a year in jail following the events of the series due to Naruto and Kakashi arguing his case. Moreover, Team 7's friendship lasted through the follow-up Boruto anime, and their kids are friends as well.
This concludes the list of iconic anime best friends, which goes to show that the power of friendship has plenty of major awesome benefits in many anime, whether having a friend as a shoulder to cry on or someone to depend on when things get rough.
If there are any iconic anime friendships that have been forgotten, readers are encouraged to list their favorites in the comments.