A heroic loser might sound to your ear like an oxymoron. Like sweet sorrow or honest thief, heroic loser is a bit of a thinker. Losers aren’t at all heroic. They struggle against fate or a rival or their own insecurities. Losers toil and strain. In short, losers are losers.
However, we root for these lovable losers all the same. Why is that? Do we see their struggle as our own? Is it the human condition to believe with enough effort one can go from zero to hero? The heroic loser possesses a lesson to pass on to the audience. It happens so frequently in anime that I went through a list of twenty to get down to this list. I want to share the best heroic losers from anime that I could find.
Spoiler: My hope is to limit these spoilers to as few as possible. It isn’t always possible to keep these character vignettes spoiler-free. Please take the revealed tidbits as excess enthusiasm on the part of this otaku. My wish is that you’ll check out each of these animes and the heroic loser found in each!
Heroic loser – Rock Lee
Our first look at Rock Lee’s motivation is a challenge that a “failure could never defeat a genius”. Rock Lee is a ninja unable to use ninjutsu or genjutsu. This limits him to just using taijutsu – effectively limiting his ceiling as a shinobi. Rock Lee will never possess the power of Naruto or Sasuke, but he works hard and does everything to keep his word. His effort is the strength to transform from failure to the heroic loser we admire.
Heroic loser – Subaru
My Erika-in-crime likes to call Subaru the king of losers. Subaru is unlucky enough to possess a power that only triggers upon his death. He is a shut in and hikikomori. Nothing about Subaru surpasses average. For Subaru to succeed he needs the benefit of his Return from Death ability. He must fail over and over – the definition of a loser. However, he doesn’t give up. Subaru might crack but he possesses a fortitude to keep on trying.
Heroic loser – Genos
Tough to call a teenager who loses his family, hometown, and nearly all his humanity a loser. Genos falls in this strange space with all these other losers. He is actually quite successful as a hero (he goes from civilian to S-class hero immediately). Genos has immense strength, speed, reflexes, and endurance as a cyborg, but all of this falls short of his master, Saitama. Genos is unable to measure up to Saitama even though he tries so hard. One Punch Man makes everything look so easy and by comparison Genos can’t be the same overpowered hero.
Heroic loser – Soma
Soma is another strange case of a loser. He has lost hundreds of one-on-one cooking battles against his father. Soma grosses out innumerable test subjects with his food combination experiments. Much like our other heroic losers, Soma has an inexhaustible perseverance. His ability shines through when he’s against competition of his own skill level. Soma’s experimentation pays off even when he is written off by those that don’t believe in him.
Heroic loser – Jaune
Jaune possesses a bit of an obsession for becoming a hero. It leads him to do some crazy loser-ish stuff. He fakes transcripts to get into Beacon. Then the loser/fraidy cat gene activates as Jaune freaks out during the launch/team exercise. He must work incredibly hard to become a passable leader and hunter. Jaune hasn’t yet climbed the mountain to become a full-fledged hero and that’s why we can call him a heroic loser. His determination is an inspiration.
Struggle vs. determination…that is the story of the heroic loser in anime. This story doesn’t end in an overpowered character that overcomes every obstacle without blood, sweat, or tears. Losers aren’t supposed to have it easy. But their stories show us what we can accomplish if we don’t give up so easily. If you want to discuss more about these losers, leave a comment below or reach out to me on my social media (Facebook – Twitter – Instagram)!
Featured image: Funimation