Believe it or not, Naruto didn’t make the top cut.

Shonen Jump has long stood tall and proud as the veritable king of boys’ comics, though of course, young boys aren’t the only ones avidly flipping through the anthology’s pages every week. The Shonen Jump hall of fame includes legendary tales like the ones woven in Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho, and My Hero Academia, as well as darker tales like Death Note and sports/competition stories like Haikyuu and Hikaru no Go.

Every story has to have its protagonist, and Voice Note Magazine recently queried its readership on who they thought was the cream of the crop, the strongest of the strong when it came to Shonen Jump’s lengthy stable of main characters, and they gathered 1,217 responses to give us this list. The lower ranks contained many impressive figures — speedy ninja Naruto came in 13th, while Gintoki of Gintama tied with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure‘s Jotaro Kujo for 18th. Here’s the top ten, in all their narratively spotlit glory!

10 (tie). Light Yagami from Death Note (25 votes)

The anti-hero of Death Note still looms large in the public presence, with multiple movie adaptations, theatre productions, and a host of video game cameos to his name. To this day you’ll still find people muttering a sardonic “Keikaku doori…” (“Just as planned…”) in homage to this schoolboy who starred in one of the finest tragic downfalls recorded in manga.

10 (tie). Kusuo Saiki from The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (25 votes)

This pink-haired protagonist might look more at home in a Jet Set Radio game than an everyday high-school setting, but that’s part of the eponymous Saiki K’s charm. He may be psychic and capable of teleportation, transformation, and all manner of other super-powered abilities, but his goal is just to blend in and be a regular kid like any other.

9. Lucky Man from Tottemo! Lucky Man (31 votes)

Lucky Man was the star of his own manga that ran in Shonen Jump through the early to mid ’90s. He merely needs to chomp down on a garlic clove — they’re a portent of good luck in Japan — to turn into Lucky Man, the luckiest man in the universe. Despite his terrible physical strength and lack of speed, his luckiness allows him to defy even the most menacing of foes. We can see why such a hilarious hero stayed so popular!

8. Kenshin Himura from Rurouni Kenshin (40 votes)

Kenshin cuts an instantly recognizable figure 26 years after his original manga debut — any scarred, red-headed swordsmen created since lives entirely in his shadow. Stoic, brave, and with an eternal touch of the melancholy, Kenshin has been a source of inspiration to multiple generations of Shonen Jump readers, even after the murky facts that came to light in 2018 about the character’s creator.

7. Cobra from Cobra (46 votes)

Cobra started its Shonen Jump run in 1978, and the titular character immediately conjures up images of dashing leading men in classic Westerns of yore. His tale is similarly grandiose, as the hero is first introduced as an everyman living in the future who goes to a theatre to enjoy a “realistic dream”. There he adventures through space as the powerful Cobra, but the stakes rise when he finds characters and villains from his exploits in the waking world.

6. Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece (62 votes)

Monkey D. Luffy is the founder of the Straw Hat Pirates and a desperately wanted fugitive — his bounty stands at 1,500,000,000 Bellies at the time of writing. He wants to become king of the pirates, and his tales from the high seas have captivated both young and old throughout Japan. In fact, One Piece is so utterly adored that he seems to rank a little low on this list — perhaps people prefer Luffy when he’s surrounded by his faithful crew?

5. Ryotsu Kankichi from Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen Mae Hashutsujo (84 votes)

Ryotsu, often called just Ryo in his native manga (which is similarly abbreviated to Kochikame), is a policeman who is perpetually dissatisfied with his meager policeman’s salary. His manga revolves around his constant get-rich-quick schemes, which always end in failure and usually result in him owing more money than he had when he started! Ryo’s antics entertained Shonen Jump readers for over 40 years, so we can see why he’s the top pick for so many people.

4. Kinniku Man from Kinnikuman/Ultimate Muscle (92 votes)

Kinniku Man, whose name literally means “Muscle Man” and whose manga started in 1979, is a dopey, lackadaisical superhero who finds out he is the prince of an alien nation and must prove himself worthy of the throne. The series’ longevity, wacky sense of humor and bizzare merchandise have kept its iconic lead character flexing and grunting inside readers’ hearts for decades now!

3. Arale Norimaki from Dr. Slump (97 votes)

The only girl in the top ten line-up, Arale is a deeply-cherished character and one of Akira Toriyama’s most definitive designs. She’s a little robot girl built by Dr. Senbei, and often gets herself into comical situations due to her mix of extreme strength, strong sincerity, and unrelenting naivete. She’s also an important cornerstone of Toriyama’s illustrious career, and you can track many of his trademarks throughout her manga: for example, Arale is named after an arare is a toasted rice snack, just as many Dragon Ball characters are named for food and clothing.

2. Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star (181 votes)

Sporting spiked hair, an incredibly ’80s post-apocalyptic vest, and a set of bulging muscles, Kenshiro is still a source of great entertainment even to those who have never read a single page of his manga. If you’ve ever laughed at a video that announced “Omae wa mou shindeiru” (“You are already dead”) it’s likely Kenshiro’s booming voice that you heard.

Kenshiro is the last living student of an incredibly potent assassination style that makes use of pressure points on his enemies’ bodies. Since his 1983 manga debut, he’s gone on to star in live-action adaptations, video games and even pachinko machines…and of course, that evergreen meme.

So here we go! Who’s number one? Who did Voice Note Magazine vote as the best hero in the Shonen Jump roster?

Surely you can take a guess. You know him, you love him…

1. Son Goku from Dragon Ball (349 votes)

That’s right, Goku received almost double the votes for Kenshiro who came in second. And why shouldn’t he? Through series after series, he’s won over legions of fans determined to see Goku rise to the top and beat a bevy of brash, bulky bad guys. Whether that was in the original run of Dragon Ball back in 1984, or later parts of the manga that lay the basis for Dragon Ball Z, it’s easy to find tons of Shonen Jump fans who think Goku deserves the top spot. We even have a few here in our offices!

For more Shonen Jump countdowns, check out our report on beautiful boys here — as well as the top 10 most impressive fights in the manga’s back catalog!

Source: Voice Note Magazine via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso
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