The vast Asian continent is a major source of creative inspiration for artists all over the globe. The superhero sub-genre is one area where this creativity has truly been exercised and here, we will be taking a look at some of our favorite Asian (and Asian-inspired) superheroes. Let’s get right to it.
15. Akane Tsunemori – Psycho-Pass
Psycho-Pass is a whirlwind adventure through a world that lives and breathes algorithms.
As a futuristic Japanese society churns under the all-seeing Sybil System, life has become all-too-predictable. The system can even predict when people are most likely to commit crimes, which makes such an era seem like an unlikely place for a hero, let alone a superhero.
Enter Akane Tsunemori, a fresh-faced Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inspector who has no problem standing up to the “system”, and pointing out holes in Sybil. She, along with Enforcer colleague Shinya Kogami, employ incredible deduction and tactical skills to take down criminal mastermind Shogo Makishima, all before their investigations lead them to hints of corruption in the Sybil system itself…
Akane’s relatability and belief in humanity’s goodness are just a few qualities that make her character stand out in an almost machine-like society. Her bravery, loyalty, and never-say-die attitude also earn her the title of superheroine in my book.
14. Shinichi Izumi – Parasyte
I don’t know about you, but I hate when alien worms burrow up my nose and try to take over my brain.
Shinichi wasn’t too fond of the experience either, as his life was turned upside down. Luckily for him, though, the parasite only managed to enter his right hand, which saved his brain. However, the parasite had gained the ability to bend Shinichi’s arm to its will, which included turning the teen’s hand into a weapon.
The proximity eventually leads to an unusual friendship between Shinichi and the parasite (named “Migi”, which is Japanese for “right”) as they battle against other parasites and explore various life philosophies.
Shinichi’s character is fascinating mainly because of how relatable he is, especially when coming to grips with Migi’s existence and invasion. His clumsiness and sheer terror make him a loveable goofball, but the courage and determination he has to do the right thing make him a bona fide superhero.
13. Jake Long – American Dragon: Jake Long
A bit of a technicality, but we’ll count it.
While Jake Long is the American Dragon, he has Chinese ancestry on his mother’s side (the side with the dragon DNA). He also has the unenviable task of juggling his duties as a protector of America’s magical creatures and his role as a high school kid.
Jake uses his shapeshifting abilities to battle the Huntsclan, a secret society of bounty-hunter ninjas that specializes in capturing magical creatures…including the American Dragon. Jake is aided by several interesting characters, including his grandfather and dragon teacher, Luong Lao Shi.
Jake Long was created by author Jeff Goode and he first appeared in Goode’s American Dragon children’s books. Disney would later produce a two-season-long animated series based on the books, which took the character’s popularity to new heights.
12. Mikasa Ackerman – Attack on Titan
A certified co-star of the mega-hit Attack on Titan manga/anime series, Mikasa is one tough lady.
Famed for her bravery, leadership, and combat expertise, Mikasa can often be found zipping about with her vertical maneuvering equipment and taking down Titans hundreds of times her size. Mikasa is a proven genius in many areas, as shown by her near-flawless military academy results.
Her particular skills come in handy many times during missions for the Survey Corps alongside her lifelong friend Eren Yeager. Her loyalty to Eren is fierce and serves as constant motivation for her to keep the relentless Titan hordes at bay.
Mikasa’s quick thinking and calmness under pressure are the basis of her ability to evade and eliminate her enemies. These qualities, combined with the depth of her character, earn her a place in our hearts and on this list.
11. Kung Lao – Mortal Kombat
Everybody loves a gentleman…
But very few people ever want to see Kung Lao take his hat off for them.
As a Shaolin Master and co-champion of Mortal Kombat, Kung Lao is criminally underrated as a superhero, especially when you consider the fact that he saved the Earthrealm from Shao Khan’s slavedriver clutches.
Kung Lao is one of the most popular characters in the Mortal Kombat video game series, with his debut coming in 1993’s Mortal Kombat II. MK lore states that Kung Lao is a descendant of the Great Kung Lao, Earthrealm’s first Mortal Kombat champion. He is from the Earthrealm nation of China.
Kung Lao’s appearance in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is a particular standout among a series of highlights. Teaming up with fellow Shaolin monk and recent Mortal Kombat champion Liu Kang, Kung Lao ventures to the Outworld dimension to take down the interdimensional emperor Shao Khan and his sorcerer lieutenant, Shang Tsung, after they violate the terms of Mortal Kombat by attacking Earth.
Using his trusty blade hat, Kung Lao vanquishes opponents like Baraka, Reptile, Scorpion, and Goro before helping Liu Kang defeat Shang Tsung and Shao Khan. The duo also fight alongside Johnny Cage to defend the Wu Shi Shaolin temple when Baraka and his Tarkata legion invade.
Kung Lao boasts an incredible set of fighting skills that are based on Wushu postures. He can also teleport across short distances and pop up behind unsuspecting opponents. Kung Lao’s iconic hat is incorporated into many of his moves as either a melee weapon or a projectile. Most of his fatalities and multalities involve the hat in some fashion…no pun.
10. Liu Kang – Mortal Kombat
Liu Kang is arguably the face of the Mortal Kombat series, as he has been featured more than most other characters (only Sub-Zero has more appearances) and has won the Mortal Kombat tournament in different games.
Born to Lee Kang and Lin Kang in Henan Province, China, Liu Kang has gone on to prove himself as a humble hero, and a fearless warrior. Liu Kang employs extreme discipline, focus, magic, and incredible fighting skills to take down the worst Shao Khan and the Outworld dimension have to offer.
Liu Kang employs a Bruce Lee-inspired form of Kungfu, which includes a deadly assortment of kicks. He can also use magic to produce and hurl fireballs, as well as add flame to his punches and kicks.
Additionally, with enough will and concentration, Liu Kang can also transform into a dragon and devour his enemies. I’m also a massive fan of the high-pitched screams that accompany many of his attacks.
9. Ken Kaneki – Tokyo Ghoul
Tokyo Ghoul is Sui Ishida’s under-discussed masterpiece. The manga and anime series pack every little thing we love about dark sci-fi fantasy, including a captivating “protagonist”.
Ken Kaneki was just a simple college student when a date with his crush, Rize Kamishiro, went horribly wrong, resulting in him ending up in hospital. Doctors quickly transferred some of Rize’s organs to Kaneki’s body to save his life, which resulted in him developing ghoul attributes.
For those of you who don’t know, “ghoul attributes” consist of a biological extension known as a “kagune”, as well as a deep hunger for human flesh. Luckily, he encounters a band of ghouls who give him a job at a discreet coffee shop while teaching him to straddle the line between human and ghoul.
Ken Kaneki is not only captivating for the way he uses his newfound ability to destroy enemies but for how he endures the conflict within himself, as his ghoulish side seeks to take full-time control over him.
8. Guts – Berserk
The world that serves as the setting for Berserk is defined by gray areas rather than blacks or whites. No one is wholly good, and no one is wholly bad…with a few exceptions.
Guts is a man who perfectly embodies this rule, as the mercenary-turned hero uses his self-hatred as fuel for survival and, later, for gutsy heroics.
Born in utter misery and raised in hell, Guts was never meant to live the kind of life that gets articles written about you. Yet his raw will and talents in brutality have given him an edge over some of life’s worst tribulations.
In both the manga and anime versions of Berserk, we follow Guts as he goes from a directionless mercenary to a captain of the Band of the Falcon, under his “friend” Griffith. Using his iconic broadsword, Guts helps Griffith turn his dream into a reality…
Created by the late and great Kentaro Miura, Guts is one of Asia’s (and the world’s) most renowned anti-heroes and the central character of one of the best-selling manga series of all time.
7. Samurai Jack – Samurai Jack
The story of a young prince from feudal Japan being flung into an unrecognizable techno-dystopian future is one of those “it’s so ridiculous that it just might work” kind of ideas.
However, for Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Samurai Jack (and other classics like Dexter’s Laboratory), that kind of boldness is an essential element for creating something truly great.
It goes without saying that Samurai Jack is one of Cartoon Network’s greatest ever shows. From the unique animation style to the otherworldly environments, and the zany characters that fill them, Samurai Jack was way ahead of its time, so to speak.
Of course, the titular character is the main attraction. Jack’s skills and willpower are tested to their very limits by Aku and his endless barrage of minions and sorceries. Alone in a place, and time, he does not recognize, Jack has to adjust quickly to survive and get revenge on Aku for attacking his time and kingdom.
Jack is a versatile fighter well versed in a variety of fighting styles. He learns more styles during the series as well. However, Jack is most famous for his skills with his trusty samurai sword, one of the few weapons that can hurt the demon-god Aku. Jack is also very kind-hearted, and often goes out of his way to help allies or innocents in need…however his kindness can be a bit naïve, which can bring trouble.
6. L – Death Note
Light “Kira” Yagami, the high school student who finds the Death Note, could just as easily have ended up on this list…if he didn’t end up developing a psychotic god complex.
In Kira’s stead, we have placed his all-time nemesis, and all-time great detective, L.
While L might not have outlandish weapons, or fireballs and super strength, he does have one key advantage over Kira…no one knows his real name. This means simply writing “L” in the Death Note would not kill him since it requires a real birth name.
With no name, record, or any form of documented past, L is able to draw Kira into a psychological chess match like no other. Both men are always seemingly a step ahead of each other, but as Kira’s arrogance and paranoia grow, he makes more mistakes, which allows L to close in. As the story progresses, L begins to get strong inclinations that Kira might actually be Light, the son of detective superintendent Soichiro Yagami.
L’s cold reasoning skills and powers of deduction are a major factor behind the thrilling pace of the Death Note manga and anime series. Like most genii, L is flawed and often displays socially odd behaviors and observations. He seemingly regards fellow human beings as subjects to be observed and puzzles to be solved.
Despite his weaknesses, L’s sheer brainpower is a superpower in itself, and he could easily outfox most if not all other heroes on this list when it comes to pure intellect. One of his most fascinating moves is his selective TV broadcast, which allows him to determine that Kira is based somewhere in Kanto, Japan.
5. Eren Yeager – Attack on Titan
Eren Yeager has a sense of bitterness that kids his age simply should not have. However, with horrific flashbacks of his mother being devoured by a Titan constantly popping up in his mind, good moods are hard to come by. It is this attitude towards life that makes Eren the ideal protagonist of Hajime Isayama’s magnum opus, Attack on Titan.
Fueled by a desire for revenge, Eren signs up for the high-flying Survey Corps, a Paradis Island military division, alongside his best friends Armin Arlert and Mikasa Ackerman. As his young military career progresses, Eren soon learns that he is what he hates the most…a titan!
4. Edward Elric – Fullmetal Alchemist
The youngest ever State Alchemist in the nation of Amestris, Edward Elric is another level of hero, boasting an unrivaled aptitude and passion for alchemy. Just as well, because as the world faces another level of threat from the fearsome homunculi, it needs all the heroes Gluttony hasn’t eaten.
As the star of Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed goes through significant growing pains, although we’re still waiting on a growth spurt. He and his brother, Alphonse, face the daunting task of finding the Philosopher’s Stone, a key component to the restoration of their bodies. However, during this quest, the boys unearth an existential threat right under their noses.
Edward’s observation of the law of equivalent exchange serves as a central theme of his story. Hiromu Arakawa, the creator of the manga that inspires both Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood television series, does an excellent job of highlighting that even the noblest of acts can often require steep sacrifices.
3. Aang – Avatar: The Last Airbender
The Avatar has always been regarded as a symbol of hope and balance in all his/her iterations. However, there is something even more special about the bald boy who was literally frozen in time while the world waited for its elemental savior.
Aang, of the decimated Airbenders, represents the tiniest seed of hope planted in rubbles of futility. After such a long absence, the world has almost completely forgotten about the Avatar.
However, with his endearing childishness and unmistakable presence, Aang quickly makes lifelong friends, strategic political alliances, and deadly enemies.
Aang’s journey across the nations is both physical and metaphorical. As he learns of the elements, he also learns a lot about life, war, and love. However, with more knowledge comes more strain on a boy already carrying the world’s hopes.
With all this on his shoulders, Aang must maintain his balance when he finally confronts the ruthless Fire Lord Ozai, ruler of the Fire Nation.
2. Jin Kazama – Tekken
Blessed with a loving mother, but cursed with his father’s demon-infused DNA, life has always been a contradiction for Jin Kazama, the main protagonist of the Tekken fighting game series.
His mother’s brutal murder at the hands of Ogre leads him to an uneasy reunion with his paternal family, including his grandfather, Heihachi Mishima for training. Blinded by vengeance against Ogre, Jin fails to foresee his grandfather’s treachery and almost pays with his life.
Lucky for Jin, it’s almost impossible to kill him because of the infamous Devil gene, which he uses to smite overpowered opponents. However, and less luckily, the same Devil gene serves as a barrier to forming meaningful connections, and his quest to get rid of it (which has involved rousing ancient demons) seems to have no end in sight.
1. Goku – Dragon Ball
Goku is simply…Goku.
Arguably the most popular character in the manga/anime genre, Goku was first introduced to the world by creator Akira Toriyama way back in 1984. He has been the Dragon Ball franchise’s main protagonist for that whole time, taking center stage in the manga, the various television series, videogames, and beyond.
Goku is a descendant of the Saiyan race that is native to Planet Vegeta. He is sent to Earth to escape Planet Vegeta’s destruction at the hands of Frieza. Son Gohan, an elderly human finds the baby Goku and raises him as a grandson. As Goku grows, his powers develop and he soon shoulders the responsibility of protecting the earth from all manner of evil.
On earth, Goku is virtually unbeatable as he boasts a list of powers, skills, and abilities that place him among the most powerful mortal beings in the multiverse. His success in battle is the result of his Saiyan genetics and his superhuman willpower and determination to win.
Evolving to his base level Super Saiyan gives Goku enough power to destroy small planets. Highly in-tune beings can even sense his power from distant planets. That’s before we start talking about the higher Super Saiyan levels Goku can access, like Super Saiyan Blue and Autonomous Ultra Instinct, or the fusion Super Saiyans he can make with allies like Vegeta. Simply unbeatable.