10 smartest shonen anime protagonists

Dr. Stone
Dr. Stone's Senku Ishigami undoubtedly ranks as one of shonen anime's smartest protagonists (Image via TMS Entertainment)

Some of the most iconic protagonists in shonen anime also turn out to be the smartest. Characters like Light Yagami from Death Note popularized the idea of having a series centred around a genius of a protagonist.

More recent shonen anime series such as Dr Stone has proved this even further, with characters like Senku Ishigami pushing the limits on how bright a protagonist can be. Thus, the repetition of this trope demonstrates that there is an audience for it.

Here are the 10 smartest shonen anime protagonists, ranked in no particular order.


21st-century series dominate the list of smartest shonen anime protagonists

1) Senku Ishigami (Dr. Stone)

Senku as seen in the series' anime (Image via TMS Entertainment)
Senku as seen in the series' anime (Image via TMS Entertainment)

As mentioned above, Dr Stone’s Senku Ishigami redefined what it means to have a genius anime protagonist. His level of intelligence in nearly all things scientific is a unique quality and trait among shonen anime protagonists.

His general intelligence beyond the scientific field is also impressive, specifically related to negotiations and reading people. While these pale in comparison to his scientific intelligence, they’re still significant.


2) Lelouch vi Britannia (Code Geass)

Lelouch as seen in the Code Geass anime (Image via Sunrise Studios)
Lelouch as seen in the Code Geass anime (Image via Sunrise Studios)

Code Geass’ Lelouch vi Britannia is somewhat Senku's opposite. While still generally knowledgeable in all areas, his focus is on the areas of understanding human behaviour.

The entire Code Geass series essentially follows him as he creates and leads a cult personality to overthrow Britannia, ensuring he gets his planned victory. While some hiccups do come up along the way, the journey Lelouch goes on and the intelligence he displays along the way solidify him as one of shonen anime’s smartest protagonists.


3) Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

Edward as seen in the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime (Image via studio Bones)
Edward as seen in the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime (Image via studio Bones)

Edward Elric is knowledgeable in alchemy throughout the series. The word prodigy is used to describe him several times within the series, and it’s certainly justified.

Beyond his knowledge of alchemy, Ed has had a unique experience among shonen anime protagonists. He’s met the god of his world before and has learned a vast amount of truth about his world in exchange for a sacrifice.


4) Light Yagami (Death Note)

Light as seen in the Death Note anime (Image via Madhouse Studios)
Light as seen in the Death Note anime (Image via Madhouse Studios)

Light Yagami is regarded as one of, if not the most brilliant strategists among shonen anime protagonists. The entirety of the Death Note series essentially sees him masterfully manipulating a real-life chess game. To continue with the adage, nearly everyone else in the series is, meanwhile, playing checkers with the exception of a few.

He’s seen planning everyone's moves and actions out nearly two steps ahead of time, always coming out on top even when things don’t go as planned. While he eventually meets his match, watching him give every rival the runaround is entertaining.


5) Izuku Midoriya (My Hero Academia)

Midoriya as seen in the My Hero Academia anime (Image via studio Bones)
Midoriya as seen in the My Hero Academia anime (Image via studio Bones)

My Hero Academia’s hero course at UA High School sees children not only learning to be a hero but also studying classic high school courses. Combining this with his already natural abilities of analysis and deduction, Izuku Midoriya is undoubtedly one of the smartest shonen anime protagonists.

Receiving general education has been accepted among very few protagonists, and even fewer are seen studying general education in their series. The emphasis on Midoriya’s receiving this education and his inherent intelligence and aptitude for analytical practices cements him as one of the brightest shonen anime protagonists.


6) Emma (The Promised Neverland)

Emma as seen in The Promised Neverland's anime adaptation (Image via CloverWorks)
Emma as seen in The Promised Neverland's anime adaptation (Image via CloverWorks)

While Emma is said to be less intelligent than her friends Ray and Norman, The Promised Neverland’s central protagonist is undoubtedly one of the shonen anime’s most brilliant. Considering she was being raised with the consumption of her brain, it’s not surprising that the children in the series are some of anime’s most intelligent characters.

Emma, in particular, however, is singled out as especially smart early on in the series, thanks to her perfect test scores at Grace Field House. Her intuitions and non-academic ideas also shine throughout the series, portraying her as someone who can efficiently and effectively plan her way out of nearly any scenario.


7) Gohan (Dragon Ball Z/Super)

Gohan as seen in Dragon Ball Z (Image via Toei Animation)
Gohan as seen in Dragon Ball Z (Image via Toei Animation)

Especially when he was Dragon Ball Z’s undisputed protagonist, Gohan has been one of the smartest in shonen anime. From a young age, both he and his mother emphasized their intent to prioritize his education.

This pays off when Gohan becomes an adult, retaining and displaying the level of intelligence one would expect from such an upbringing. Although his time as Dragon Ball Z’s protagonist is brief, even within that time, he undoubtedly ranks as one of shonen anime’s smartest.


8) Soma Yukihira (Food Wars!)

Soma as seen in the Food Wars! anime (Image via J.C. Staff)
Soma as seen in the Food Wars! anime (Image via J.C. Staff)

Similar to Izuku Midoriya, Food Wars! Protagonist Soma Yukihira attends Totsuka Culinary Academy, which teaches students general education in addition to its primary focus. As a result, he also becomes one of the few shonen anime protagonists whose general education is continuously emphasized in their series.

Soma’s true genius lies in his culinary expertise, where creativity, quick thinking, and comprehensive knowledge must be put to use in a matter of moments. His intelligence in this field is incredibly significant, and even if his general intelligence and education are lacking, his skills in the kitchen alone solidify his inclusion here.


9) Ichigo Kurosaki (Bleach)

Ichigo as seen in the Bleach anime (Image via Studio Pierrot)
Ichigo as seen in the Bleach anime (Image via Studio Pierrot)

Although potentially surprising, Bleach’s Ichigo Kurosaki is one of the anime’s brightest protagonists. He’s said to have ranked 23rd in his class in high school and has been seen studying during the series, thus showing him receiving a general education.

His skills as a Soul Reaper further emphasize his intelligence, especially as it relates to adaptability and quick learning. Learning the Bankai technique takes typical Soul Reapers 10 years, while Ichigo mastered it in two and a half days. Although a shocking entry, there’s little doubt he’s one of Shonen anime’s most competent protagonists.


10) Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)

Naruto as seen in the Naruto: Shippuden anime (Image via Studio Pierrot)
Naruto as seen in the Naruto: Shippuden anime (Image via Studio Pierrot)

Similarly, Naruto’s eponymous Uzumaki clan ninja doesn’t initially strike fans and viewers as intelligent. However, his maturity and progression in the second half of the series allow his intelligence to shine, especially regarding battles and tactics.

Eventually, he becomes smart enough to run the Hidden Leaf village as a good Hokage. While he’s far from the smartest inclusion on this list, there’s little doubt that he deserves a spot here.


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This article was modified on Thursday, July 13, at 7:19 am.