Image source: 「ドラゴンボール超」公式‏ on Twitter

Every series has their hero and heroine—and now Japanese audiences have chosen their favorites.

On August 26, Japan aired a TV special where they revealed the top 20 heroes and heroines for the Showa and Heisei periods as chosen by viewers. Titled, Showa vs. Heisei: Anime & Tokusatsu & Manga Hero, Heroine Top 20 – Timeless Ranking Chosen by 120,000,000 People, the show revealed four lists.

Of course, the title is a bit misleading—120,000,000 people would basically the entire population of Japan, after all. In reality, the program asked 12,000 people (6,000 men and 6,000 women). For the top Heisei hero and heroine lists, 2,000 children, 2,000 teenagers, and 2,000 people in their 20s were polled. Likewise, for the top Showa version of the list, 2,000 in their 30s, 2,000 in their 40s, and 2,000 in their 50s were polled.

For those who are unfamiliar with what “Showa” and “Heisei” are, let’s take a moment for a little lesson on Japan—those who are already familiar, feel free to skip ahead to the actual lists. Japan’s history is divided into periods which can be further divided into eras. The span of each era is generally defined by the emperor of the time and usually ends when an emperor passes the crown on due to death or stepping down. Currently, Japan is in the Heisei era. The previous era was the Showa era, which lasted from 1926 to 1989.

In modern Japan, the divide between the Heisei era and Showa era is essentially viewed as a generational divide with people of the Heisei era viewed in Japan similarly as millennials are viewed in the West. There is a stark contrast between what are considered the “Showa” view and the “Heisei” view. The Showa era saw the modernization of Japan, World War II, and Japan’s most historic economic bubble. The Heisei era saw the collapse of Japan’s economic bubble, which left much of the modern Showa era generation nostalgic for the more profitable days of yesteryear.

In terms of pop culture, there is also a noticeable divide between Showa and Heisei. Showa era media is generally stricter in atmosphere with unyielding, tough-as-nails protagonists where Heisei era media feels more empathetic, exploring the emotions of characters and the emotional impact of events. In reality, this sort of change in the general feel of the cultural media is more gradual and influenced by various events and trends that crop up but, psychologically, it’s easier to divine the difference as a generational gap between the eras.

This sort of thought about the differences in the eras is reflected in the characters chosen as the top heroes and heroines for each era. 120 million people were asked for the “Strongest Heroes” and “Most Splendid Heroines.” The results are as follows.


Showa Era

Strongest Heroes

  • 20. Kinniku Suguru/Kinniku Man (Kinniku Man)
  • 19. Moonlight Mask (Moonlight Mask)
  • 18. Hanamichi Sakuragi (Slam Dunk)
  • 17. Tsubasa Oozora (Captain Tsubasa)
  • 16. Himura Kenshin (Rurouni Kenshin)
  • 15. Tastuya Uesugi (Touch)
  • 14. Ultra Seven (Ultra Seven)
  • 13. Char Aznable (Mobile Suit Gundam)
  • 12. Captain Harlock (Space Pirate Captain Harlock)
  • 11. Kamen Rider 1 (Kamen Rider)
  • 10. Ryo Saeba (City Hunter)
  • 9. Astro Boy (Astro Boy)
  • 8. Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece)
  • 7. Anpanman (Soreike! Anpanman)
  • 6. Kenshiro (Fist of the North Star)
  • 5. Joe Yabuki (Ahita no Joe)
  • 4. Doraemon (Doraemon)
  • 3. Ultraman (Ultraman)
  • 2. Lupin III (Lupin III)
  • 1. Son Goku (Dragon Ball)

Most Splendid Heroines

  • 20. Kyoko Otonashi (Maison Ikkoku)
  • 19. Anne Yuri (Ultra Seven)
  • 18. Sayla Mass (Mobile Suit Gundam)
  • 17. Saki Asamiya (Sukeban Deka)
  • 16. Doronjo (Yatterman)
  • 15. Arale Norimaki (Dr. Slump)
  • 14. Ayumi Himekawa (Glass Mask)
  • 13. Hitomi Kisugi (Cat’s Eye)
  • 12. Kozue Ayuhara (Attack No. 1)
  • 11. Rei Ayanami (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
  • 10. Yuki Mori (Space Battleship Yamato)
  • 9. Heidi (Heidi, Girl of the Alps)
  • 8. Nami (One Piece)
  • 7. Cutie Honey (Cutie Honey)
  • 6. Oscar François de Jarjayes (The Rose of Versailles)
  • 5. Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon)
  • 4. Lum (Urusei Yatsura)
  • 3. Maetel (Galaxy Express 999)
  • 2. Minami Asakura (Touch)
  • 1. Fujiko Mine (Lupin III)

Heisei Era

Strongest Heroes

  • 20. Kamen Rider Den-O (Kamen Rider Den-O)
  • 19. Jotaro Kujo (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
  • 18. Inuyasha (Inuyasha)
  • 17. Son Gohan (Dragon Ball)
  • 16. Kirito (Sword Art Online)
  • 15. Himura Kenshin (Rurouni Kenshin)
  • 14. Roronoa Zoro (One Piece)
  • 13. Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)
  • 12. Lupin III (Lupin III)
  • 11. Levi Ackerman (Attack on Titan)
  • 10. Sakata Gintoki (Gintama)
  • 9. Shinnosuke Nohara (Crayon Shin-chan)
  • 8. Kamen Rider Ex-Aid (Kamen Rider Ex-Aid)
  • 7. Saitama (One Punch Man)
  • 6. Koro Sensei (Assassination Classroom)
  • 5. Conan Edogawa (Case Closed)
  • 4. Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece)
  • 3. Anpanman (Soreike! Anpanman)
  • 2. Doraemon (Doraemon)
  • 1. Son Goku (Dragon Ball)

Most Splendid Heroines

  • 20. Kiriko Shijima (Kamen Rider Drive)
  • 19. Homura Akemi (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
  • 18. Sofia (Sofia the First)
  • 17. Minami Asakura (Touch)
  • 16. Tsukushi Makino (Boys Over Flowers)
  • 15. Asuna Karino/Poppy Pipopapo (Kamen Rider Ex-Aid)
  • 14. Yui Hirasawa (K-On!)
  • 13. Ichigo Hoshimiya (Aikatsu!)
  • 12. Asuna (Sword Art Online)
  • 11. Kagura (Gintama)
  • 10. Nico Robin (One Piece)
  • 9. Shizuka Minamoto (Doraemon)
  • 8. Sakura Kinomoto (Cardcaptor Sakura)
  • 7. Mikasa Ackerman (Attack on Titan)
  • 6. Cure Whip (Kirakira PreCure a la Mode)
  • 5. Ran Mori/Rachel Moore (Case Closed)
  • 4. Boa Hancock (One Piece)
  • 3. Fujiko Mine (Lupin III)
  • 2. Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon)
  • 1. Nami (One Piece)

Note that Dragon Ball’s Son Goku is the number one hero for both Showa and Heisei eras. This speaks to the generation bridging popularity of Dragon Ball.

The Heisei era is drawing to a close. The current emperor of Japan, Emperor Akihito, has expressed his desire to abdicate his throne, which means that soon a new imperial era is expected to begin, likely in 2019. Only time will tell what new heroes and heroines will be embraced by the new generation of the next era. But for now, it looks like the choice has been made for previous and current ones.

Comments (4)
  1. luffy is gonna be pissed to be on this list because heroes share the meat.
    he’d rather be the bad guy to eat all the meat to himself

    if u know what i mean 😉

  2. Here mines for my people in the USA based on American cartoons This is overall for 70’s, 80’s, 90’s to 2000’s but do a top 5 because of timing.
    I love for us Americans to do one like this but instead of anime but with American cartoons of Heroes .
    My list is based on American Cartoons characters only NOT Japanese anime.
    Comic or Game characters that becomes American cartoon show or movies will count on this list. Going with Top 5’s instead of 10 or 20 like there version.
    If you disagree comment below of your choice!
    MY PICK!
    TOP 5 Heroes.
    5. Batman
    4. Lion-O
    3. Optimus Prime
    2. He-Man
    1. Superman
    TOP 5 Female Heroes
    5. Teela
    4. Mother 1 (Bionic Six)
    3. Cheetara
    2. Batgirl
    1. She-Ra

    • I think I would have Put Lion-O and Cheetara in their respective #1 positions. You also forgot the Ghostbusters cartoon as well (80s..none of the newer crap (including the new tcats).

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