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To all the anime boys we’ve loved before

A Valentine’s Day tribute to our favorite boys

Illustration featuring six different anime boyswithin angular heart shapes Image: James Bareham/Polygon

On this day, the day of love, we want to take a moment to reflect on the anime boys who have our whole hearts.

When one looks upon their list of fictional crushes, one may spot a trend emerge. For three Polygon staffers who really wanted to interrogate their anime crushes, we decided to really interrogate what our taste says about ourselves and take a moment to reflect. (Or we just wanted to put a bunch of our favorite characters on a list — but that’s classified information).

The characters we love vary greatly, but in the spirit of Valentine’s Day we’ve decided to single out some of our favorite anime boys and define what really makes them shine.

Petrana Radulovic’s boyz

For whatever reason (you can psychoanalyze me later), the characters I find most interesting tend to be little shits with secret hearts of gold or stoic, brooding fellows who are actually have a lot of feelings deep down — or inversely, nice fellows who have a mischievous or edgy streak. There are some exceptions, but usually, it comes down to the way I like boys who are much more than they appear. My shortlist:

Sugawara from Haikyuu!!

sugawara from haikyuu!! Image: Production I.G.

Suga probably fits the archetypical description of Best Boy (ie; good, wholesome) more than anyone else on my list, but I cannot emphasize enough that he’s also a cheeky little shit. It took a bit for me to zero in on him as my favorite character, but the minute I realized there was more nuance to his niceness, I knew he was the one. He’s basically the Team Mom of the Karasuno High School Volleyball team, providing emotional support and encouragement to the players — while also teasing his teammates and performing embarrassing cheerleading moves for them. Sugawara also personally resonates with me because his experience on the team reflects my own athletic experiences.

Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle

howl guides sophie across the rooftops Image: Studio Ghibli/GKids

I loved Howl before I loved any other anime boy. Howl’s Moving Castle was my first Ghibli movie, and even my first foray into anime, so you could really say that for this gal, it all begins with Howl. He’s suave, smooth, and incredibly powerful, but also pretentious, fixated on his personal appearance, and cowardly. But by the end of the movie, he grows the courage to protect the people he loves. There’s the heart of gold I love! That beautiful hair! The fashion! The Christian Bale voice! The scene where he swoops in to save Sophie from some pushy soldiers and then they fly across the city together lives in my head rent-free.

Shigure Sohma from Fruits Basket (2019)

shigure smirking Image: TMS Entertainment

OK, yes, manga readers, I know there’s something suspicious about Shigure, but… I still love him. He absolutely fits the complete-little-shit vibe too. He may not have a heart of gold, but he does have hidden depths, and he knows more than he lets on. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ayame and Hatori, his two BFFs, though, because really, it’s the trio dynamic of flamboyant costume designer, flirty scheming author, and stoic, serious doctor that is just [chef’s kiss].

Miyuki Shirogane from Love is War

shirogane in love is war Image: A-1 Pictures

My favorite part of Shirogane’s design is the deep lines he has under his eyes, because my boy is just so tired. The class president seems like a reserved hardass, but he’s actually easily embarrassed and just a total sweetheart on the inside. He gets very excited about space! He overanalyzes every social interaction he has with vice president Kaguya! He tries very hard all the time, and he just needs to rest! He only deserves good things.

Kurapika from Hunter x Hunter

kurapika about to slay people with his CHAINS Image: Viz Media

I don’t even know where to begin with this one, because frankly, when I started this list, I had loudmouth-jerk-with-secret-heart-of-gold Leorio on here for Hunter x Hunter. But as I’ve watched more of the show, stoic and noble Kurapika’s quest for complete vengeance in the name of his murdered people is just really vibing with me! Like Suga before, I originally overlooked him because he seemed too Reserved and Cool, but he grew on me when I realized how snarky he was. Now he’s absolutely my favorite character because of the desperate measures he’s taking to achieve his goal, spiraling deeper and deeper… It’s the tragique backstory for me.

Kite from Hunter x Hunter

kite from hunter x hunter, his hair flowing in the wind Image: Viz Media

Apparently, I have a bad habit of latching onto broody characters who are just fated not to have a good time. But I do not care, because Kite is just so damn dreamy. He has long flowing white hair and a very sexy nose. He has big dad vibes, too, taking young Gon and Killua under his wing and risking it all to protect them. Also, one of the weapons he wields is a very cool scythe! Have I daydreamed about a self-insert Hunter x Hunter OC in a decades long romance with Kite? I won’t answer that, but instead just

Tengen Uzui from Demon Slayer

tengen uzui in demon slayer, showing off how flashy he is Image: Ufotable

As evidenced by this list, I really love obnoxious characters. And Tengen Uzui, who goes around proclaiming things to be “flashy” and putting on a show for everyone, is absolutely obnoxious. He is incredibly hot! He is super buff! He has THREE HOT WIVES! But as we learn more about him, we learn that he escaped a very brutal childhood. A member of a Shinobi clan, Uzui watched his siblings all die for his family’s cause and his remaining younger brother treat his wives terribly. So he swore to always prioritize his three wives and the lives of innocents over everything else and turned away from his assassin life to help slay demons. Beneath that flashy exterior is a soft heart, and I just think he’s neat.

Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

roy mustang brooding Image: Bones

Before I watched Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Ana and Julia (below) told me that there was a specific character that I would absolutely go feral over. That is what convinced me to watch the show and … phew, boy, I have never felt so seen.

the author cooing over a figurine of roy mustang Image: Petrana Radulovic

Where do I begin? Roy Mustang is a cocky idiot and a bit of an asshole, except he’s also deeply wracked with guilt and has spent his entire life atoning and working to make his broken country a better place, and also he cares about his team so much and doesn’t want to see any of them in danger, and also he is still a cocky idiot and an asshole. And I just love him so much that I made everyone redo this list so I could add him.

Ana Diaz’s boyz

You know, I think I’m in my “Zaddy Era,” meaning I just like dads. I have more dads on the list this year. Within the sphere of “dad” type I also have belligerent mentors, as well as the “more responsible and calculated” friend type. Anyone who is cool and calm, but then is secretly softie wins a place in my heart.

These are my types.

Loid Forger from Spy x Family

a blonde man carrying his pink-haired daughter Image: Toho Animation

Loid Forger is the begrudging father of the upcoming show, Spy x Family. I became obsessed with him while reading the manga, during which he quickly climbed to the list of my “best boys.” In the series, Loid is a top-secret spy on a mission to gather information on a political leader and save the world. To accomplish this mission, he puts together a fake family that has the unintended consequences of softening him up over time. Loid isn’t the gentle type, he is a spy after all. However, his cold, calculated side often takes a back seat to supporting his adopted daughter Anya. For me personally, a lot of his appeal comes from watching him interact with her. Early on in the manga, there’s a panel that shows the two of them napping together that captured my whole heart.

Shinjuro Rengoku from Demon Slayer

shinjuro rengoku growling in demon slayer Image: Ufotable

Everyone seems to be obsessed with Kyojuro Rengoku, the red and yellow-haired flame hashira from Demon Slayer. But let me propose a new crush: his dad, Shinjuro Rengoku. Shinjuro appears for the first time in the most recent season of Demon Slayer, when protagonist Tanjiro Kamado goes to update Shinjuro on the events that took place with his son during the Mugen Train Arc. Look, Shinjuro isn’t a defensible crush. The guy is a horrible father and a piece of shit. However, he softens up after he gets in a fight with Kamado. Look, there’s nothing much to this crush other than he just looks like a more grown-up, hotter, and angrier version of Kyojuro.

Trafalgar Law from One Piece

a closeup of trafalgar law Image: Toei Animation

You know, I’m honestly fine with having Trafalgar Law on this list twice, because he deserves it. I haven’t seen all of One Piece; I read it, but after I finished the manga, I did just go and watch literally every single episode that Law appears in, and only those. One Piece is filled with wonderful characters, but he’s my favorite by leaps and bounds. I just have a soft spot for any character who looks permanently tired and an even softer spot for hand tattoos — which he has. He’s known as the “Surgeon of Death” because he’s a doctor, in addition to being an excellent fighter. His cool demour contrasts with the series’ rambunctious protagonist, Luffy. Although he’s the captain of his own ship, he helps Luffy at many critical points of the story, even goes as far to save Luffy’s life. Saving Luffy and teaming up with him is to his advantage, however, I can’t also help but feel he himself has been endeared to the antics of Strawhats as well. I guess I just like boys who seem like they’re secretly soft.

Satoru Gojo from Jujutsu Kaisen

Satoru Godo from Jujutsu Kaisen. Image: MAPPA

Satoru Gojo is a new fan favorite for Jujutsu Kasien viewers, and for good reason. He’s goofy! I don’t know what it is, but something about the most powerful characters being some of the most down-to-earth really resonates with me. He’s a wonderful mentor, even if he’s clumsy at times — he cares about the kids and is a good role model. If I was going through tough times, he’s the kind of character that I could turn to.

Kisuke Urahara from Bleach

Urahara tipping his bucket hat upwards. Image: Studio Pierrot

Kisuke Urahara was the first e-boy. There, I said it. He wears a stupid bucket hat and keeps his hair long, and like Miyuki Shirogane above, he also looks tired all the time. He’s super shady and an asshole, but he also isn’t afraid to cut through the nonsense and do what is morally right. Do the ends justify the means? Urahara would probably say yes. And while he puts Ichigo Kurosaki through some real bullshit, he is also ultimately responsible for kicking off Ichigo’s journey. He could stand to care about others more, but things somehow always work out according to his plan.

Julia Lee’s boyz

These are just boys I think are neat. I do have some boys in here that are good boys. They’re pure, they’re guys I would feel comfortable setting my friends up with. But some of these boys are not good boys. Even so, I would still like to hold their hands while they presumably try to rip my arm off.

Steven Stone from Pokémon

Steven Stone holds up his arm before challenging a trainer Image: The Pokémon Company via Bulbapedia

I love every iteration of Steven Stone from the various Pokémon media, and I have since I was young, but I want to specifically speak about the version from Pokémon Adventures, the manga. He’s got red eyes and a powerful set of steel-type ’mons. He wears a gaudy “champion’s cape” that signals, yes, he’s the best around in the Hoenn region, and he proves he’ll sacrifice himself to protect said region.

Legoshi from Beastars

A anthropomorphic gray wolf leans down to help a small anthropomorphic white rabbit Image: Orange/Netflix

Call me a furry. Do it. I don’t even care anymore. Legoshi the wolf is a good boy, you know it and I know it. I would die for Legoshi. He cares so much about his friends and his rabbit crush Haru. He goes through so much just to protect her, including from himself. He’s a loyal doggy boy, and I love him.

Trafalgar Law from One Piece

Trafalgar Law smirks behind some crossed swords Image: Toei Animation

When Law first showed up in the One Piece manga, flipping off the reader, my heart throbbed. I love a stupid bad boy, but Eiichiro Oda has also done an excellent job of making him into something of a goof. The Strawhat Pirates pick on him and poke at him for fun, turning him into a really likable character beyond being a cool ally. He’s also a surgeon who has a talking bear as a companion, and pilots a yellow submarine. What isn’t to like?

Jin from Samurai Champloo

Jin’s profile against a fish textile Image: Manglobe

Samurai Champloo does a good job of making all three of the main characters really likeable. When I watch Mugen and Jin in combat, the animation is so good, I can’t help but to form a little weird crush on them. But the episode where Jin helps Shino escape her fate and run away? Yeesh, I’m ashamed to talk about how far I fell at that point.

Kotetsu Kaburagi from Tiger & Bunny

Kotetsu poses with his fist up, with his superhero alter ego Wild Tiger standing in the back Image: Bandai Namco Pictures

I don’t have too much to explain here. Kotetsu is a hard-working guy who is trying his best to impress his daughter and also stay in the loop among the other young heroes. He’s also a super hot dad.

Tatsu from The Way of the House Husband

Tatsu explains who he is to two bewildered cops Viz Media

Tatsu is literally the ideal man. He knows how to meticulously clean a house, cook good food, fight for bargains at the grocery store, and everything else you would expect from a functioning adult. But he also knows how to fight and intimidate people just by existing. The former yakuza has truly won my heart, because not only is he a great house husband, he’s ride-or-die for his lucky wife — and that’s yakuza loyalty.

Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez from Bleach

Grimmjow slashes his sword on a grey backdrop Image: Bandai Namco/Klab

Man, I did not have a Bleach phase as a teen. I knew about a lot of the characters, and knew which ones I found hot, but given how polarized the takes were about the ending, I never cared to read it. Coronavirus quarantine got me to read Bleach. And as predicted, I fell madly in love with Grimmjow. His stupid jawbone? Good. His undying attachment to Ichigo? Good. The little jumpsuit he gets in the final arc? Good. He’s also voiced by Junichi Suwabe, which did not help me not fall for him. Even if the ending of Bleach was bad, Grimmjow is good.

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