As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaches (and the predicted Akira apocalypse - god I hope they reference it sometime) ever steadily approaching one thing we have known for a while is that anime will be playing a big role in the festivities. It’s been Government policy in Japan for a while that Anime represents one of the countries most visible cultural exports. As such the heroes that make up this grouping is so fascinating to look over as an outsiders glimpse into Japans Government thinking about themselves and us.
Goku and Monkey D. Luffy of Dragon Ball Z and One Piece respectively were always going to be there no matter what happened. It is without any doubt that Dragon Ball and its hero Goku is likely the most recognizable anime face in the world. You can argue all you want but the longevity and cultural market share this series still dominates over three decades after its first appearance is rare in any medium. As such Goku being included on this list was as close to a sure thing as you could get.
On the flip side Monkey D. Luffy while a popular figure within anime fandom in the West doesn’t have the cultural reach of Goku. That is not the case in Japan where One Piece is a cultural phenomenon. If you know anything about manga sales One Piece doesn’t just win every year it DOMINATES. One Piece is the highest selling manga in history and it’s not even close outpacing its nearest rival by 120,000,000 sold.
Hell to put that in perspective One Piece is closing in on cultural juggernauts such as Spider-Man and The X-Men. Hell One Piece which is only 20 years old could (if it goes long enough) catch the big daddies of them all Superman and Batman. If Goku is about manga’s face in the world at large, Luffy is its face at home in Japan.
Finally Usagi/Sailor Moon of Sailor Moon, I think for many fans who grew up in the 1990's there were two ubiquitous anime which everyone watched. One we have already discussed the second also made the list Sailor Moon. It is clear to me with the new anime series going strong how much of a lasting impact this manga and anime had on so many people.
Especially from a time when shojo anime were being butchered in the name of viewership (Cardcaptor Sakura anyone?) Sailor Moon managed to stand tall and proud as an out and well not out girls power manga. While it didn’t find overwhelming popularity at the time being cancelled before it could be fully dubbed its lasting impact on the magical girl and shojo genre as a whole is hard to ignore. I’m happy the Government of Japan decided to recognize Sailor Moons achievements.
Naruto Uzumaki is in many ways the modern incarnation of Son Goku one of the biggest - if not the biggest - characters in the West. It was once said Gamestop would only stock physical anime games if three characters were on the cover; Goku, Naruto, and Ichigo. Well two of the three made this list the other... ya not so much.
Of all the Shonen Jump characters to challenge One Piece and Dragon Ball Naruto has had the most consistent success around the world if not at home in Japan. The fact Namco Bandai is pushing an expansion pack/DLC to its popular Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm fighting game franchise so aggressively still shows how culturally significant our orange ninja really is.
I think Jibanyan’s inclusion over Pikachu is a huge sea change in the anime and gaming world. A decade ago their is no chance this would not be Pikachu, however now it’s Yokai time! Honestly I’m a little shocked Yokai Watch managed to muscle out Pokemon for one of these slots. Honestly it’s a little shocking however according to to everything I’ve read the kids love them some Yokai Watch.
I wanted a Gundam character, then again it would likely be Kira... okay over that! Astro Boy it is! From acclaimed author Osamu Tezuka “The Father of Manga” Astro Boy represents the history of the medium and art form we now know as manga and anime. When applauding Japanese culture Tezuka deserves to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greats such as Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki. Honestly this celebration of all this manga and anime would be just wrong without Astro Boy.
Not going to lie I laughed a little when I saw Crayon Shin-Chan and two of the Maho Girls Precure! ladies round out the line up. Obviously based on the title I can’t say much about this series themselves as well... I’m not a Japanese little boy or girl so I don’t watch these. That said based on the Japanese anime rankings a lot of people do though and I mean a lot.
When you think of monster hits over the past decade Attack on Titan, One Punch Man, Tokyo Ghoul they all are nothing compared to the monster that is Shin-Chan. Yes that crudely drawn little kid right their is one of the most watched anime in Japan, regularly running circles around the late night fare we love so much. Really only Goku, Luffy, and Naruto can stand a chance and even they lose. Yup Dragon Ball Super barely breaks the top five while Crayon Shin-Chan lives there. It seems Japan wants to give a full view of its anime offerings to the world with this Olympics and without it’s family fare the list wouldn’t be complete.