Anime redemption arcs are almost as memorable as anime betrayals in the fandom. There are hundreds of character arcs that center on a not-so-great character being redeemed. However, while many people will herald Naruto as a master class in character redemption due to Sasuke’s turn to evil and back again, some incredible redemptions are often overlooked by anime fans.
From JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure to Dragon Ball, the following five arcs are by far some of the best redemption stories in anime. While you might not immediately think of these when discussing famous anime redemption arcs, they rank as some of the most profound. However, be wary that the following will contain spoilers for the respective series. After all, you can’t discuss anime redemption arcs without some spoiler explanations.
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JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – Robert E.O. Speedwagon
Speedwagon from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is kind of a memetic character by this point. Many remember him as the iconic friend to the Joestar Family throughout the generations. Others remember him for dramatically shouting, “Even Speedwagon is afraid!” However, many sometimes forget that Speedwagon started as a criminal in the British underground, almost robbing Joseph Joestar as he searched for a cure to his father’s illness.
Speedwagon was so touched by his encounter with Joseph that he just tagged along the Joestars from that point on. He turned his life around, going from a common thug to the founder of the Speedwagon Foundation — a biochemical technology organization that would help the Joestar Family for generations to come. Even Speedwagon would be in awe of what Speedwagon would do.
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A Silent Voice – Shouya Ishida
A Silent Voice is one of the most heart-breaking anime films ever made. In his childhood, Shouya bullied a deaf girl named Shouko in increasingly cruel and vicious ways. However, as he grew up, Shouya became incredibly broken by his own actions, unable to even look other people in the face. Guilt utterly breaks him as a person, turning him into a social outcast. The film centers on his drive to make it up to Shouko, exploring the personal journey Shouya goes on to make reparations for his past actions and overcome his own self-loathing.
Shouya’s story is probably one of the most realistic redemption arcs in anime. While many people likely don’t serve evil villains or commit atrocious acts of violence, bullying is universal, and something tons of kids have either been the victim of or participated in, saying something they later regretted. Shouya’s journey through A Silent Voice is one of self-reflection and redemption — one that feels a little too real for some people.
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Sailor Moon – Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh
Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune aren’t necessarily villains, but during Sailor Moon S, they undoubtedly served as antagonists to Usagi and friends. This antagonism isn’t present in the manga or Sailor Moon Crystal, but it does result in Uranus and Neptune having a fascinating redemption arc. Again, they’re never villains, but at one point, they do plan on murdering a young child for the good of the planet and refuse to live by Usagi’s naive code of idealism.
Throughout Sailor Moon S — and later Sailor Stars — Haruka and Michiru come to respect Usagi. However, not before multiple confrontations and arguably one of the darkest gambits in the series history when Haruka and Michiru rip out Sailor Saturn and Pluto’s heart seeds to get Sailor Galaxia to trust them long enough for them to rip out Galaxia’s heart seed. Genuinely, this plan almost works — until they realize Galaxia doesn’t have a heart seed. It all ends well in the end, but this moment still proves Haruka and Michiru weren’t exactly pure-hearted heroes but rather pragmatic soldiers willing to get their hands dirty to save the planet. Their redemption showed they learned there is always another way.
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Berserk – Guts
Berserk’s Guts is a figure of pure anger and rage. After almost finding a reason to live as a member of the Band of the Hawk, Guts’s life was ruined when Griffith murdered his companions, maimed Guts, and ravaged his lover and companion Casca in front of his eyes. This is enough to drive an ordinary soul down the deep end, but the moment drove Guts absolutely berserk.
Guts’s arc throughout Berserk showcases how toxic his obsession with revenge is for others around him and himself. At times, Guts almost seems to transform into a person as monstrous as those he fights. However, things slowly start to improve for Guts, and rather than kill Griffith, he prioritizes taking care of those nearest to him instead. With Kentaro Miura’s recent passing, Berserk has come to an early close, with Guts and Casca living in Elfheim in seeming harmony. In many ways, this is the perfect ending for Guts, with him finally able to find joy with his loved ones in a land of peace. The series, ultimately, becomes an exploration on how to process trauma.
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Dragon Ball – Piccolo
Half of the characters in Dragon Ball have redemption arcs. 18? Majin Buu? Frieza? Even Krillin — all redemption arcs in one form or another. Most fans agree that Vegeta and Piccolo experienced the best redemption arcs in the series, though debate rages on which one had the better arc. In selecting only one, Piccolo’s arc proves to be far more interesting and compelling than Vegeta’s arc, though Vegeta as a character is the more larger-than-life.
Piccolo starts as the son/reincarnation of the Evil Demon King Piccolo, vowing to kill Goku. He is the dark half of Kami, the God who helped create Earth’s Dragon Balls. However, adopting Gohan ultimately starts Piccolo’s growth as a character, turning him into a self-sacrificing figure willing to die for Gohan. His arc continues into the Cell Saga, where we ultimately see Piccolo reunite with Kami to save the world. In Dragon Ball GT, he dies and willingly goes to Hell to save Goku, the very man he vowed to kill so many years ago.
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About The Author
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Earned my MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Written for The Mary Sue, ScreenRant, The Anime Feminist, The Gamer, and Vocal. Lifelong lover of comics, anime, and weird films. Loves different varieties of coffee.
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