Some anime are worth watching simply because they’re fun and relaxing. But with so many genres, sub-genres, and target demographics, a few anime are guaranteed to test your brain with their clever mind games. This is only possible, though, through the portrayal of very intelligent anime characters. So, if mind-bending anime are your cup of tea, here’s a list of some of the smartest anime characters of all time.
Norman from The Promised Neverland
Norman might start the series as a 12-year-old, but it’s only his intellect that allowed him to go even that far in the dystopian anime world of The Promised Neverland.
Norman comes first in all tests along with his two best friends, Emma and Rei, who are also very smart. But if you had to choose a clear winner, it would arguably be him.
Not only is Norman the source of some of the series’ best mind games, but he’s also able to concoct master plans that can go on without him, pulling the strings even in his absence.
Kurisu Makise from Steins;Gate
Kurisu Makise is one of the smartest characters not only in Steins;Gate but in anime generally.
She’s book smart, having graduated college at a very young age, but she won’t hesitate to apply her knowledge too, as she’s a talented and curious researcher who loves experiments.
While there are other intelligent characters in Steins:Gate, with the main character being a self-proclaimed mad scientist – many find Kurisu’s intellect to be the most superior in the series.
L From Death Note
Death Note’s L is arguably one of the first characters that come to mind when you think about intelligent anime.
The genius detective who works to unmask Kira has captured the hearts of thousands of fans, not only because of his brain but also because of his quirky habits and enigmatic personality.
For those who dislike Light, L is the true star of Death Note. He’s the first to come close to Kira’s identity and – as he exits the show before the Death Note’s ending, many believe the mystery anime should have ended with him.
Related: What is L’s Real Name in Death Note
Johan Liebert from Monster
Monster is a very dark seinen anime that will test your brain. Johan Liebert, the main antagonist, is one of the scariest characters in this list because he uses his intellect to commit truly horrifying acts.
Johan is a serial killer who eliminates his victims by sheer cleverness and expert manipulation. As a young child, he talked other children in the orphanage where he lived into killing each other, and he only got worse growing up.
His cold calculation makes him chilling to watch, and his intelligence makes Tenma’s task to hunt him down all but impossible.
Lelouch vi Brittania from Code Geass
Lelouch vi Brittania is a true mastermind. It’s not by chance that in one of his first scenes he beats much older people in chess – and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
His talent in chess later becomes a motive, as he manages to make his entire world into a chessboard, using those around him as pawns to achieve his goals.
Even when he finds himself in unexpected or challenging situations, Lelouch always has a master plan, and, while his Geass power definitely helps, it wouldn’t take him far if he was not really, really smart.
Related: Code Geass Ending Explained
Nine from Terror in Resonance
Nine and his partner in crime, Twelve, are teenage prodigies who commit terrorist acts (that do not involve bloodshed) in order to raise public awareness about their plight, in a world that tried to silence them.
Nine is able to outsmart police forces and detectives, amongst others. And, of course, it takes incredible planning to cause the damage he does, while carefully calculating each move to avoid harming anyone.
When the full extent of the duo’s planning becomes apparent, you can’t help your awe – and heartbreak.
Yumeko Jabami from Kakegurui
Yumeko Jabami has a gambling problem, and it’s important to remember that before idolizing her, but she’s also a very smart character who is fun to watch.
Her deceptive skills are next to none, and, while her victories seem to be at least partly attributed to luck, her reasoning skills keep developing. As the series progresses, she manages to pinpoint her opponents’ strategies almost flawlessly.
Sometimes, it’s a bit hard to follow all the steps of her reasoning, but this shows that she’s at a whole different level.
Light Yagami from Death Note
Light Yagami could not be missing from this list, especially since, for the first few episodes, at least, Death Note was a one man show.
Light has devoted fans and ardent haters, but if you like him, you can’t deny he’s an absolutely horrible person. But no matter what you think of him, he’s also one of the smartest characters in the show, and according to some, the smartest.
It’s not by chance that he managed to outsmart some of the greatest detectives, not only in-universe but in the entire anime world.
This doesn’t make him any more likeable, but he has set an incredibly high standard for anime mind games, and even haters couldn’t help wondering what he would come up with next.
Related: What Happened to Misa in Death Note?
Koro-sensei from Assassination Classroom
Anyone would want a very smart teacher, but Koro-sensei sets an impossibly high standard that is not humanly possible to reach – which is fitting, as he isn’t a human.
Koro-sensei might start of as a seemingly evil octopus monster that needs to be eliminated, but it will take an entire classroom to assassinate him, and even after undergoing extreme training, the students’ chances to succeed are doubtful at best.
Not only is Koro-sensei a gifted educator – despite his plan to destroy the world – who instils self-confidence, core values and knowledge in his students, but he’s also a formidable opponent with unparalleled observation skills and multitasking skills.
Conan Edagami from Detective Conan
Conan Edagami might look like a child, but he has been solving criminal cases for over 25 years – even if it isn’t that long in-universe.
Many wonder if Detective Conan will ever end but, perhaps, the only reason that it hasn’t is that Conan is such a smart character that people can’t get enough of.
Even though Conan – a teen prodigy – is trapped in a young child’s body, he doesn’t let this stop him from doing what he knows best.
Winry Rockbell from Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
A disproportionate amount of smart anime characters are male, and they tend to have specific character traits, such as stoicism, reserved manners and a love for intellectual activities. But it’s important to acknowledge different types of intelligence.
Winry might seem like a typical, naïve love interest at times, but she’s also an incredibly talented scientist who started creating advanced prosthetics at a very young age.
Throughout Fullmetal Alchemist, Winry has demonstrated resourcefulness, often working with very little, and still managing to save the day with a smile.
Sebastian Michaelis from Black Butler
Like Koro-sensei, Sebastian from Black Butler can’t be matched in intelligence, and this is largely because he isn’t a human.
There’s virtually nothing the demon butler can't do. From ridding the Phantomhive mansion of intruders to helping his young master solve complex crimes, Sebastian is always there to save the day – and he makes all tasks, from the simplest to the most complex, look impeccable.
Ranpo Edogawa from Bungou Stray Dogs
There are several smart characters in Bungou Stray Dogs, given that it’s an anime about a supernatural detective agency.
Ranpo Edogawa, who is based on the famous Japanese author of the same name, is a very logical character who is able to outsmart everyone in the room.
Even fellow detectives recognise his superior intelligence – he isn’t known as a genius detective for nothing!
Bulma from Dragon Ball
Bulma from Dragon Ball doesn’t get enough credit for her intelligence. In a show whose characters rely mainly on their physical strength, Bulma goes on to prove that smart solutions are just as important as powerful ones.
Throughout the anime, Bulma invents and repairs key items, deciphers alien and animal languages and perfects time travel, to name a few of her achievements.
Saiki Kusuo from The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Saiki Kusuo is a high-schooler with psychic powers who nevertheless tries to live an ordinary life.
It’s not by chance that this list mostly focuses on fantasy and mystery anime. These are the titles with the most over-the-top smart characters, who use their intelligence in unimaginable ways.
In comparison, Saiki is a relatively normal student, who mostly uses his intellect to hide his telekinetic and psychic powers.
As such, we don’t see him being as awesome as other smart characters, but we can’t help thinking that if he decided to use his power in mind games, he would be a fair opponent against many of the characters in this list.
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