The main characters in anime have been losing their memory for as long as anyone can remember. This typically occurs at the beginning of a series and provides the character with a clean slate to start a new life.
However, it can also happen the end of the series, making the character forget much of what they went through ove the course of the anime. Either way, memory loss in anime can either be amazing or another run-of-the-mill cliche depending on how it is written.
Note: This article is not an exhaustive list of all the main characters that have lost their memory and contains spoilers for each series mentioned.
10 anime protagonists who have lost their memory at least once
1) Goku (Dragon Ball)
Goku is the protagonist of the Dragon Ball series and is loved by anime fans everywhere. He is a character with unlimited potential and is frequently shown gaining more transformations and power-ups as the series progresses.
Although Goku's memory is intact throughout the entire series, he lost his memory right before the series began. He was sent to Earth in a pod and ended up hitting his head on a rock as a kid. This caused him to forget everything about his parents and his violent nature as a saiyan. As a result, he became the fight-obsessed and kind main character that everyone knows now.
2) Kaneki Ken (Tokyo Ghoul)
Tokyo Ghoul is a very dark anime. It features ghouls and flesh-eating humanoids who terrorize human populations by blending in and consuming them for sustenance. This causes many of the fights between ghouls and ghoul investigators as the latter are trying to stop humans from becoming prey.
Kaneki lost his memory after his fight with Kishou Arima. However, it was not Arima who erased his memories, although he did have a major role in this happening.
After Arima pierced Kaneki's eye, he told the latter that he had killed all of his friends at Anteiku. The pain of losing the people he loved most was too much for Kaneki to handle, so he forcibly gave himself amnesia to not be in as much emotional pain. However, it was later shown that Arima was lying and his friends were still alive.
3) Caiman (Dorohedoro)
Dorohedoro is a dark and gloomy anime that caught fans off guard when it first aired. No one was expecting a horror anime to air in Winter 2020, and yet, it has been amazing. It never fails to provide the audience with a tremendous amount of bloody fights and gorey kills while simultaneously being comedic and lighthearted.
Caiman, also known as the Magician Killer, is one of the main protagonists of Dorohedoro and a resident of Hole. He was given the name Caiman by Nikaido after discovering he had lost his memory.
Like many others, he seems to have lost his memory prior to the events of the anime. Caiman has no idea who erased his memory or hexed him, but he is determined to find that out as quickly as possible.
4) Adolf K. Weismann (K-Project)
K-Project is an anime where the Color Wheel holds all the power. Each King channels a different color and they use the power of the Dresden Slate to be stronger than the other Kings.
Adolf K. Weismann lost his memory prior to the start of K-Project. He was ejected from his original body by the Colorless King and entered Toru Hieda's body. As a result of his amnesia, Weismann assumed a new identity while in Toru's body, Yashiro Isana.
It was later revealed that Weismann was the first and only Silver King. He also became the King of the White Rice Party, a powerful clan despite having only three members.
5) Akira Takizawa (Eden of the East)
There are not many anime out there that do battle royale quite like Eden of the East. This anime had fans constantly on the edge of their seats, unsure of whether the main character would survive or not. However, in the end, everything always went according to plan, all thanks to Akira Takizawa.
Akira Takizawa is one of the main characters of Eden of the East and is the official participant in the battle royale. Due to being a participant, his memory was erased prior to the beginning of the death match. This did not stop him from accomplishing the main goal of the game and winning in the end.
6) Natsu Dragneel (Fairy Tail)
While Fairy Tail is disliked for its abuse of plot device and over-the-top fan service, one aspect every loves about Fairy Tail is the camaraderie the characters show. Whenever fans watch the anime, they begin to feel like they are a part of the anime's family and can do anything.
Natsu Dragneel is an incredibly powerful Fire Wizard and is capable of defeating many powerful opponents due to his Dragon Slayer Magic. He lost his memories, along with the other First Generation Dragon Slayers, after they had passed through the Eclipse Gate and were sent to the future.
Natsu remembers only one thing: Igneel is his father and he needs to find him.
7) Yuzuru Otonashi (Angel Beats)
Angel Beats is an original anime that blew everyone out of the water when it aired. Original anime do not have the best reputation in the anime community, but Angel Beats made sure to prove everyone wrong and became one of the most loved anime of all time.
Yuruzu Otonashi lost all of his memories after appearing in Purgatory. His amnesia caused him to go with the flow in Purgatory as he tried to figure out where he came from.
He joined SSS, fought Tenshi, had Tenshi join their team, and finally recovered his memory after Yuri hypnotized him. Getting his memories back changed everything for Yuzuru and gave him the motivation to escape Purgatory.
8) Light Yagami (Death Note)
Death Note is one of the highest rated anime of all time. Fans loved the cat and mouse chase between Light Yagami and L. Throughout the show, Light was capable of outsmarting even the smartest criminal investigators. However, L really gave him a run for his money. In fact, Light losing his memory was just a way for him to get off L's radar.
Light lost his memory voluntarily. To make sure L and the other investigators would not suspect him, he relinquished ownership of the Death Note and subsequently lost memory of ever having used it. He convinced everyone that he was innocent and he was free to do as he pleased from then on as he was safe from suspicion.
9) Kazuto Kirigaya (Sword Art Online)
Sword Art Online is one of the most infamous anime series out there. Many fans believe the series peaked with the Aincrad Arc and went downhill from there. At the same time, not as many people have seen Alicization, which has definitely made the SAO series much better.
Kazuto Kirigaya, or Kirito, lost some of his memories at the end of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld Season 2. He and Asuna stayed behind in Underworld after helping Alice escape, and as a result, the two ruled over the land for 200 years of Underworld time. After leaving Underworld, the two asked for their memories to be wiped, erasing everything they did during that 200 year timespan.
10) Yuu Otosaka (Charlotte)
Charlotte was an original anime that exceeded fans' expectations, just like Angel Beats did. It featured characters with abilities that were completely unique to each person. In the end, all of them lost their abilities after Yuu Otosaka stole them to save the world.
Stealing everyone's abilities caused Yuu's body to seemingly get overloaded, resulting in him losing his memory. His memory loss got worse each time he acquired a new ability, and in the end, he could not remember any of the people he cared about.