Seinen anime differs from shonen anime in that they are meant for an older audience. Just because seinen skews older, however, doesn't mean they don't have their own set of iconic characters.
From Alucard to Ryuko Matoi, these characters are all iconic for one reason or another. This article will explore the most iconic seinen characters and what makes them so iconic.
These are the 10 most iconic seinen anime characters.
Note: The entire list contains spoilers and reflects the author's opinion.
10 spectacular seinen anime characters
1) Ryuko Matoi (Kill la Kill)
Ryuko Matoi is iconic in the seinen anime Kill la Kill for a variety of reasons: her outfit, her scissors, and her generally crass attitude you don't normally see in female anime protagonists.
Her quest in the anime is to find out who killed her father and what Senketsu's deal is. It's refreshing that Ryuko is allowed to be as loud, angry, and hotheaded as she pleases.
Ryuko's determination is second only to the likes of Naruto or Goku, she's loud enough to rival Bakugo, and her esthetic with the red and black hairstyle is as boisterous as it gets.
This combined with her willingness to fight and break out of brainwashing, donning the best outfit in Senkentsu, and having a friend in Mako Mankanshoku make her iconic. The fact that she's the protagonist and fights hard and dirty is also a plus.
2) Lelouch vi Britannia (Code Geass)
Lelouch vi Britannia commands you to pay attention. The exiled prince of the Britannian Empire is a genius chessmaster and strategist who uses his Geass to force people to do his bidding.
His goal is simple: collapse the Britannian Empire, get justice for Japan, and keep his sister Nunnally safe. He does so by organizing the Black Knights into a coalition aimed at destroying Britannia.
Lelouch may not seem like much, but this seinen protagonist would rival Death Note's Light Yagami in a game of chess. It helps that his dark fashion sense, and his alter-ego Zero's helmet, are easy on the eyes.
His speeches are also iconic and he's a character whose demise was planned and executed by himself. It took being seen as the villain to get there, but it worked.
3) Madoka Kaname (Magica Madoka)
Madoka Kaname's life was forever changed when she crossed paths with Homura Akemi, becoming a magical girl in a twisted game of life, death, and monsters. Madoka's overall fashion sense, with pink and white bows in her hair, is recognizable, but it's the story she goes on that makes her iconic.
It's a tragic, heartfelt tale featuring manipulation, magic, and the subversion of an unjust system.
To put it as simply as possible, she goes from a young girl and transitions into a wizard before blossoming into a goddess in Magica Madoka. Despite all the pain and suffering she and her fellow magical girls endure, Kaname never loses hope and becomes the embodiment of it all.
She also ousts the system and ensures peace for all magical girls and humans. Sailor Moon would be proud.
4) Mokoto Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell)
Motoko Kusanagi may not be the first cyborg in seinen anime, or anime in general, but she's certainly iconic in Ghost in the Shell. Despite her human-like appearance, she's fully cybernetic.
Her iconic status comes from her purple hair, her fully cybernetic body, her developing personality that changes with each incarnation and leadership skills.
The fact that she's an anime woman over 40 and looks like it is another factor in that iconic status, as most anime women are either in their 20s at best or aren't allowed to age gracefully if depicted at all.
She's also the titular protagonist, which is another feather in her cap. Her relationship with Batou and becoming more relaxed as the film and series goes on is another factor.
5) Guts (Berserk)
Take everything about shonen heroes that people love: determination, courage, and great hair and bolster it with a huge sword and you get Guts from the seinen anime Berserk.
The rugged black armor and elf-like ears also make Guts an incredibly enigmatic seinen anime protagonist. But it's not just his appearance people love, but the way he develops along the way.
Guts has been through plenty of trauma and abuse from his adoptive father. Furthermore, he was betrayed by his best friend and tormented by demonic monsters who are attracted to the brand on his body. Guts has endured suffering on a magnitude most wouldn't dare wish on their worst enemy.
Yet somehow, he still finds the strength and courage to carry on. He's one of the most iconic seinen protagonists ever written.
6) Saitama (One Punch Man)
Saitama is what you get when you fuse the personalities of almost every mainline shonen character and then flip them on their head. The lead of the seinen anime One-Punch Man is exactly that, a superhero that defeats everything in a single punch.
Saitama's iconic status doesn't lie in his power, but his personality that shines through as someone who's a bit lazy and oblivious at times. It helps that he's a parody character, mocking the shonen battle genre.
He is a parody of the average gung-ho, enthusiastic shonen battle anime protagonist like Goku or Luffy. Simply put, Saitama is indifferent and lazy because of his unfathomable power and lack of competition.
He is forgetful, impatient, frugal, and a little greedy due to needing money as being an unregistered hero doesn't pay the bills! Thankfully, his disciple Genos is there to keep him in line.
7) Vash the Stampede (Trigun)
Despite premiering over 20 years ago, Vash the Stampede remains instantly recognizable as a Seinen protagonist. However, it wasn't Vash's signature outfit and hairstyle that made him stand out as an unforgettable protagonist.
Vash's cheery attitude and famous "love and peace" catchphrase was what made the audience fall in love with him.
Despite being an incredibly skilled gunman, Vash believed in spreading the message of peace and always tried his best to retreat from any sticky situation without killing any of his enemies.
The combination of Vash's signature look, spiky hair and overall personality truly made him stand out as an iconic and lovable seinen protagonist.
8) Kaguya Shinomiya (Kaguya-Sama: Love is War)
Kaguya-sama: Love is War is a big deal, as it's considered one of the new big three in seinen anime alongside Re:Zero and Attack on Titan. As the vice president of the student council, Kaguya Shinomiya is popular among the student body.
The same holds true for the student council president, Miyuki Shirogane. Everyone thinks they’d make the perfect couple.
There's just one hitch to that: they aren't a couple yet, and the crux of the anime is that they play mind games to get the other one to confess! Kaguya herself is considered iconic because she starts off cold and gets warmer over time. Plus, the schemes she comes up with get more and more elaborate and she also has an immense drive to win.
9) Jotaro Kujo (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders)
Although Jojo's Bizarre Adventure has followed the Joestar family line, with different people in it throughout the entirety of the series, there is one specific main character that almost every anime fan knows.
While Jonathan Joestar was the first protagonist and Joseph was smart and snarky, Jotaro is the JoJo most people recognized as the face of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure.
While Jotaro only appears as the main protagonist in Stardust Crusaders, he and his Stand, Star Platinum are the series' most iconic duo. Jotaro was the first JoJo to be a Stand user, the first to stop time itself and defeat DIO. Furthermore, he was the first to have a memorable catchphrase.
His coat and hat that blends into his head also count as an iconic part of himself.
10) Alucard (Hellsing)
Alucard is terrifying, but in all the right ways. This older-than-dirt vampire, formerly Vlad Dracula, joined the Hellsing organization to use his abundant vampiric powers on his more sadistic and corrupt brethren.
Whether it's manipulating gravity or controlling people's minds, there are only two that rival him: the monster hunter Vatican priest Alexander Anderson and the Nazi werewolf The Captain.
Beyond his power, he has a killer fashion sense with a red hat, red suit, and orange tinted glasses that have become iconic pieces of clothing in their own right.
Alucard is also a melancholic being who envies humans and constantly wrestles with religious ideas, especially when it brings him into conflict with the Vatican's monster hunters.