Anime and black characters have had a sketchy history in the past. In the earliest days of anime, they took on stereotypical appearances and were often either played as jokes or more basic criminals. But that doesn’t mean all black anime characters have been bad—over the last four decades, we’ve seen tons of really awesome black characters of all types.

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And they haven’t been simply limited to being cameo appearances or played as jokes. For this list, we’re looking at ten of the most iconic black anime characters of all time, meaning we’re looking at several decades worth of series, so don’t be surprised to see characters from much older series than usual. Let's take a look!

10 MICHIKO MALANDRO - MICHIKO & HATCHIN

Michiko serves as one-half of the main characters in the series Michiko & Hatchin, and serves as the fiery adult to her reserved child partner. She’s an Afro-Latina with a design based on famous R&B singer Aaliyah. When we meet her, she’s breaking out of a supposedly impossible to escape prison in search of her one true love, Hiroshi Morenos.

Of course, the series is about more than that, and Michiko so far gets the credit for being pretty much the only black female protagonist. Clever, beautiful, with a take no crap attitude she deals with everything from the cops to bounty hunters with ease.

9 BOB MAKIHARA - TENJOU TENGE

A teenager from South Africa, Bob comes to Toudou Academy with his elementary school friend Souichiro Nagi. The two immediately believe they’ll have no problem conquering Toudou, only to both get embarrassed by people who aren’t even the most powerful of the school.

Later on, though, people acknowledge Bob for his incredible strength and his ability to tap into the rhythm of a fight through his capoeira skills. Though the anime eventually leaves him behind a bit, the manga gives him his just due, establishing him as one of the strongest characters in the series.

8 CLAUDIA LASALLE - MACROSS

Young fans aren’t going to remember Claudia LaSalle. After all, her series is from the ’80s, and thanks to Robotech we’ve never gotten to see the pure Macross licensed in the States.

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Claudia LaSalle is a key character running the bridge of the original Macross series. Though she’s not a main character in the series, she’s a large part of what makes things on the ship running in such smooth order while everyone else is panicking because...well, because they’re at war with a group of alien giants who don’t understand what culture is.

7 KILLER B - NARUTO: SHIPPUDEN

Who doesn’t love Killer Bee? A member of Kumogakure, Killer B is impressive because not only is he the person in whom the Eight-Tails lives inside, but he managed to befriend his Tailed Beast. Thanks to that, the level of control he displays over his powers are second only to Naruto...maybe.

He’s one of the more interesting shinobi in the ninja world, as literally everything about him is unique—his wrestling fighting style, his connection with his tailed beast, and especially his swordsmanship. Plus he still has time to think up dope rhymes while being one of the best ninjas in his village.

6 MARIK ISHTAR - YU-GI-OH: DUEL MONSTERS

There’s space for a villain here too, of course. If people thought Pegasus was scary, they hadn’t seen anything yet. He was still playing kid games, trapping people’s relatives in Viewmasters and Betamax tapes. Marik was legitimately trying to kill Yugi, intent on taking out his harsh upbringing on the Pharoah.

He came the closest to legitimately beating Yugi without cheating with his insane Infinite Card Ra strategy, and he was responsible for nearly killing Joey...twice. First by brainwashing him, second by having him deal with the power of Ra’s energy in a Shadow Duel.

5 CAROLE STANLEY - CAROLE & TUESDAY

One of the main characters of Carole & Tuesday, Carole Stanley is a young orphaned girl growing up in Alba City on Mars. Until she meets Tuesday, she spends much of her time working a variety of jobs that never seem to go well because she refuses to take any crap off her customers or employers, she’s a hero before she even starts working with her musical partner.

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Even better though is that despite staying in a dump, Carole never gives up on her dreams. In her spare time, she’s constantly working on music and performing in front of people.

4 NILS NIELSEN - GUNDAM BUILD FIGHTERS/FIGHTERS TRY

Nils feels like something of a cheat code in Gundam Build Fighters. Both his mom and dad are famous, and he’s somehow managed to surpass them both, earning three Ph.D.’s. He’s barely even 13 when the series shows him off. Using his Sengoku Astray Gundam, he pushes Sei and Reiji to their limits, and while he lost, they successfully showed him the joy of Gunpla.

Nonetheless, when he appears again in Gundam Build Fighters Try we aren’t actually shown what he can do anymore. His knowledge about Plavsky Particles, which makes Gunpla run here, is so great he calls it an unfair advantage for him to compete.

3 CANARY - HUNTER X HUNTER

Canary was barely seen on Hunter x Hunter but she still deserves our respect. She’s meant to be an apprentice butler to the Zoldycks, a family of the most deadly assassins in that world. But despite being an apprentice, she has no problem putting down Gon.

Admittedly, Gon isn’t really the type to overcome the odds like most shonen protagonists, but he was still good enough to earn Hunter’s license...and Canary was strong enough for this not to matter. But she’s also got a kind heart, and her loyalty to Killua trumps her loyalty to the Zoldyck family.

2 YORUICHI - BLEACH

Is there anyone that doesn’t like Yoruichi? A member of the Four Noble Families of Soul Society, she became the first woman to become the head of her clan and went on to become one of the most powerful Captains in the Gotei 13. Despite being a century out of practice, Yoruichi is still able to keep up with many of the heavy hitters of the modern era.

She’s also so good at Flash Step she becomes known as the Flash Goddess, and as such we’ve seen her wipe out entire squadrons in a matter of seconds. Even her lieutenant was unable to keep up with her strength after a century.

1 AFRO SAMURAI

C’mon, he had to be on this list right? Introduced in a manga by Takashi Okazaki, Afro Samurai is one cold dude. After all, owning the Number 2 headband signifies you’re the second strongest swordsman in the world, worthy of challenging the Number 1. But only if you can survive every other fighter constantly wanting to challenge you for your spot.

Grabbing actor Sam Jackson for the lead role, Afro Samurai gives us a series that’s as much in love with hip-hop culture as it is with slick fight scenes, bringing us one of the best swordsmen in all anime.

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