Anime protagonists are designed to win; Concepts like loss and failure are often short-term obstacles on the road to greatness. Victory is built into your very DNA, but this does not mean that everyone succeeds all the time. In fact, there are several shonen heroes and heroic supporting characters who lose their respective battles.

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Some of them recover to fight another day, but others perish and fade into obscurity. These characters don’t deserve to fail simply because they are weaker than their opponents. That said, your achievements can occasionally help your allies prevail over mutual enemies, so your deaths or losses aren’t necessarily in vain.

Spoilers and sensitive topics discussed below.

10/10 Masaki Kurosaki could have destroyed Grand Fisher if he still had his Quincy powers


Bleach fans had long suspected that Masaki Kurosaki was a Quincy, an educated hypothesis that was ultimately proven during the Thousand Year Blood War arc. It is revealed that Masaki is an Echt Quincy, which refers to his pure blood lineage. She sacrifices her legacy after meeting Isshin Shiba and starting a family, eventually giving birth to Ichigo, Karin, and Yuzu.

When Grand Fisher attacks Masaki and Ichigo, he bravely fights the villain and saves his nine-year-old son, but at the cost of his own life. Masaki would have easily destroyed the Hollow if Yhwach had not recently absorbed his powers from Quincy.

9/10 L dies before being able to officially expose Light Yagami’s true nature

Death Note

L looking angry with lights behind him

L comes tantalizingly close to unmasking Light Yagami on several occasions, but the villain constantly evades the hero’s admittedly brilliant strategies. L even discovers the existence of the Death Notes before his death and decides to interrogate the Shinigami Rem.

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To protect himself, Light intentionally endangers Misa Amane’s safety, forcing Rem to protect her by writing the words “L Lawliet” on his Death Note. L dies of a heart attack, but not before recognizing Light’s mischievous nature. This heroic character is ultimately avenged by his successors, Near and Mello, who corner Kira and consequently expose her identity.

8/10 Shinji Ikari certainly doesn’t feel like a winner at the end of his story.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Asuka holds Shinji's face in The End of Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion fans are still unclear if the protagonist survives the story’s conclusion. Shinji Ikari is a very complex metaphor for humanity, a single representative on behalf of an entire sentient species, so his fate is far beyond the realm of human comprehension.

Although Shinji apparently frees the people of the world in the end of evangelion, he himself is trapped in a supernatural environment. He attempts to strangle Asuka to death, but she tenderly strokes his cheek until he begins to cry. No one knows what happened to Shinji after this point, but it’s safe to assume that he doesn’t feel like a winner.

7/10 Isaac Netero tries to kill Meruem with a self-inflicted nuke

hunter x hunter

Netero's ability 100 Type Guanyin Boddhisattva striking a hand in Hunter x Hunter.

hunter x hunterIsaac Netero is painfully aware of the difference in power between himself and the Chimera Ant King, and yet the president of the Hunters’ Association willingly travels to East Gorteau and openly defies Meruem. Netero overwhelms the Ant King with his Type 100 Guanyin Bodhisattva, but Meruem quickly analyzes his opponent’s moves and dismembers Netero.

The old man simply smiles at the Ant King and unleashes his Zero Hand, but even this transcendental technique does little damage. Although Meruem orders Netero to stand down, the latter accidentally activates a nuclear device inside his heart, blowing them both up.

6/10 Guts hasn’t beaten Griffith yet, but he won’t stop until he does.


Berserk Guts grimacing while holding a sword.

casings of crazed he is technically a sdeinen character, but his personality traits reflect various popular shonen tropes. Although Guts reluctantly joins the Band of the Hawk under Griffith, he soon comes to admire and appreciate his charismatic friend. Unfortunately, Griffith’s ascension during the legendary Eclipse permanently destroys his bond with the Band.

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As Femto, Griffith proceeds to sexually assault Casca in front of Guts, earning the latter’s undying hatred. Guts survives the encounter, albeit barely, before escaping to safety with Casca. Griffith remains undefeated as of this point in the manga, but Guts will never stop chasing him.

5/10 Edward Elric should never have had to choose between Alphonse and Alchemy

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

Fullmetal Alchemist: BrotherhoodEdward’s Elric is undoubtedly one of the most talented alchemists in Amestris, on a par with skilled combatants like Roy Mustang and Scar. He effortlessly defeats countless opponents throughout his State Alchemist career, demonstrating his courage, knowledge, and unwavering dedication.

Edward eventually defeats Father with everyone else’s help, but is forced to make the final decision. He offers his alchemical abilities in exchange for Alphonse’s body and life, which greatly impresses the entity known as Truth. Edward should never have had to choose between him and his little brother, but he happily agrees to sacrifice everything just to save Al.

4/10 Kyojuro Rengoku dies after an explosive battle with Akaza

Murderer of demons

Demon Slayer - Rengoku performing a flaming attack

As Flame Hashira, Kyojuro Rengoku is an incredibly competent warrior who uses the volatile Flame Breathing style with deadly force and pinpoint precision. He is more than capable of defeating Lower Rank Moons, but Upper Rank 3 proves to be a much more dangerous opponent.

Akaza endures most of Kyojuro’s devastating attacks and pierces his abdomen, once again asking the hero to accept Muzan’s blood to save his life. Kyojuro retaliates by slitting Akaza’s neck, exposing the demon to the next dawn. Akaza suffers an embarrassing defeat despite killing his opponent, but many viewers didn’t like the way Kyojuro unceremoniously retreated.

3/10 Eren Yeager is forced to follow a fixed time loop to save Paradis.

attack on titan

Eren Yeager in Attack on Titan.

Eren wants to protect Paradis more than anything else. He probably would have chosen a peaceful method to save the Eldian Race from extinction, but in reality he has no choice. The Attack Titan’s prophetic powers force Eren to follow a fixed cycle in which he has to initiate Rumbling and destroy 80% of the world.

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While Eren’s actions can only be described as global genocide, fans are also keeping Eren’s intentions in mind. He understands that he can never be forgiven for his crimes and explains why he leaves the most difficult task to his best friends. Armin blocks Eren’s Colossus Titan in the final chapter, allowing Mikasa to enter his mouth and cut off Eren’s head.

2/10 Fans would rather see Kamina alive than pay homage to her statue

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Kamina grins broadly at Gurren Lagann

If Kamina were alive, he would be immensely proud of Simon’s accomplishments. Unfortunately, this fighter gurren lagann The protagonist dies long before the heroes discover Lordgenome’s true allegiance and the cosmic threat that hangs over the world. During the Beastmen War arc, Kamina fights against Divine General Thymilph, who severely injures the hero.

Before dying, Kamina asks Simon to “believe in the Simon who believes in himself”, an ambiguous maxim that Simon takes to heart. Simon honors Kamina’s memory by building a towering statue of his deceased friend, but fans would rather have Kamina back than pay homage to a nondescript effigy.

1/10 Katsuki Bakugo apparently dies while fighting Tomura Shigaraki in The Final Act Saga

my hero academia

Katsuki Bakugo from My Hero Academia.

my hero academiaKatsuki’s Bakugo begins his character arc on a distinctly sour note. Unable to tolerate Deku’s new powers, she constantly tries to destroy the “friend of hers” trust of hers. Bakugo partially atones by saving Deku’s life and fully redeems himself when she tearfully promises to call him Izuku.

Bakugo faces Tomura Shigaraki in Final Act Saga, but the overpowered villain nonchalantly pierces Bakugo’s heart before discarding his seemingly lifeless body. Deku is currently fighting Tomura Shigaraki in the manga, but Bakugo’s fate has yet to be sealed (or revealed to readers).

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