With the dawning of the 21st century came a flood of brand new pop culture figures. In the west, animated characters like Spongebob and Shrek became iconic and left a lasting impact on the medium. While in the east, anime introduced a plethora of characters.
Compared to western animation, anime pumps out an extraordinary amount of content. So much so that it’s almost too much to keep track of. Yet among the mountain of material adapted from manga, many characters from Shonen Jump managed to stand out above the rest. Here are just ten of the most iconic characters to come from Shonen Jump during the 2000s.
10 Roronoa Zoro
While the manga for One Piece started in 1997 and anime premiered in 1999, it wasn’t until the 2000s that the world came to know about the pirates like Roronoa Zoro. The legendary swordsman of the Straw Hat Pirates, Zoro has established himself as a total badass. Somehow he managed to wield three swords, with one in his mouth and made it look very cool.
Many members of the Straw Hats try their best to look cool but Zoro doesn’t need to try. His coolness is shown every time he goes into battle and slices up his enemies on his quest to become the world’s best swordsman. His greatest accomplishment by far has been keeping his idiot of a captain alive for so long, serving as a straight man to Luffy’s actions, leaving his mark in Shonen Jump and anime as a whole. Unless it’s the 4Kids version, in which case he just leaves a bunch of unconscious bodies with no blood.
9 Sasuke Uchiha
Every edgy teenager who’s made an AMV is familiar with Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto. One of the title character’s closest friends who went bad for a while, fans have adored him and his tragic backstory. After his brother wiped out their clan, Sasuke dedicated his life to avenging his family but at the cost of hurting many innocents along the way.
Despite the horrible atrocities he’s committed, he was still relatable in that he was a miserable, misunderstood loner unwilling to talk things out. He was like the living embodiment of teenage angst and gave adolescent viewers someone they could connect to. Make all the jokes you want about him but he’s one anime character that won’t be forgotten.
8 Light Yagami
An anime that is most beginners’ first watch, Light Yagami is the protagonist of Death Note better known as the mass murderer Kira. Possessing a book that kills anyone whose name was written in it, Light took it upon himself to rid the world of evildoers by writing their names in the book. Even though he’s still in high school, Light is a dastardly genius capable of outwitting the authorities and getting them off his trail.
What’s most notable is the lengths he is willing to go to achieve his goals, even if it means killing honest, innocent people to protect his secret. Fans were left in anticipation waiting to see how Light will avoid capture and whether he will get away with his crimes. Of course, he wouldn’t be half as exciting if not for his equally gifted rival.
For every Moriarty, there is a Sherlock Holmes and for every Joker there is a Batman. For Kira, he had a formidable foe using by using the moniker L preventing Kira from using his name in the Death Note. He was the first to suspect Light of being Kira and managed to match Light in intelligence.
Their battle of the minds made the show fascinating as they kept one-upping each other. Additionally, he’s also known for his many idiosyncrasies such as his love of sweets, disheveled appearance, and unusual sitting position. Light and L have a lot in common but Light hides his disturbed side while L unabashedly shows off his weirdness. In terms of popularity, L has bested Light.
6 Alphonse Elric
Alphonse Elric from Full Metal Alchemist and is living proof you should never judge a book by its cover. When Alphonse and his older brother Edward attempted to resurrect their mother with alchemy, Edward just barely saved his brother by transmuting his soul into a suit of armor.
Most people would be bitter about the experience but Alphonse retained his innocence and purity. He loves his brother unconditionally and is willing to help him in any way possible. The armor he inhabits has a distinct look that is perfect for cosplay and his sweet, childlike, lovable personality never gets old. Given how messed up their world is it’s amazing Alphonse hasn’t grown jaded.
5 Ichigo Kurosaki
Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach has come a long way since Rukia first made him a Substitute Shinigami. Since then he has worked tirelessly to train his body, mind, and spirit to fight Hollows. Ichigo differentiates from the other Shinigami because of his humanity.
He’s willing to go to extreme measures to protect his friends whether its undergoing severe training regiments to invading another realm to save Rukia from execution. He’s a likable, stubborn guy that people can’t help but root for although he isn’t as irritable as the next person on this list.
4 Edward Elric
The older Elric brother, Edward is the protagonist of Full Metal Alchemist. When he and Alphonse tried to resurrect their mother, his failure literally cost him an arm and a leg. A gifted alchemist earning the position of youngest State Alchemist, Edward has made it his mission to find the Philosopher’s Stone and give his little brother his body back.
He’s got a chip on his shoulder when it comes to his height and being underestimated because of his age but he works hard to help Alphonse. He has a signature design that practically screams “cosplay me!” and while he can be reckless, Edward has a good heart that shines whenever he is with his brother.
3 Yugi Mutou
Again, Yu-Gi-Oh started its run as a manga in the mid-90s but the anime first aired in 2000. Yugi Mutou was the star of the original series who shares a body with Pharaoh Atem and wanted to be the best Duel Monsters player.
On his way to becoming the best, he got sidetracked with trivial matters like saving his grandpa’s soul and stopping his possessed classmate from taking over the world. Compared to other anime based around card games Yu-Gi-Oh had darker stories and its marketing was shoved down the throat of every kid, making sure that no one forgot to believe in the heart of the cards.
Naruto is among the most iconic anime in the world and the source of the infamous Naruto run trend. Obviously, the titular character would make an appearance on this list. For the few who aren’t familiar, Naruto is a young ninja training to become the next Hokage.
Starting as a young rapscallion seeking attention, Naruto has grown over the years into a remarkable adult. His design is unforgettable and over the years fans following his adventures grew up alongside him as he fought to achieve his dreams and protect his friends. There’s just one Shonen Jump character that is slightly more iconic than he is.
1 Monkey D. Luffy
If Zoro made it on this list it would be inevitable that Monkey D. Luffy would be too. It was close but the protagonist of One Piece and captain of the Straw Hat pirates just barely managed to eke out the number one spot. Luffy is a simple guy with a simple dream: become king of the pirates.
He can be obnoxious but he’s a fun, hilarious character whose positivity is infectious and his rubber powers make for great comedy and action. Most of all, he’s a kind captain that will sacrifice life and limb for his crew going so far as to challenge the World Government just to save Robin. Much like with icons like Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse, the key to being iconic is simplicity.
Shounen Jump released a plethora of new content and characters throughout the 2000s. Here are the 10 most iconic characters, ranked.