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Top 10 Anime With Normal Protagonists Facing Superhuman Odds

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Self proclaimed dark writer, mad scientist, anime fanboy, and gaming enthusiast. Witness the latest creation from my lab, and enjoy ^_^.

It's tough being squishy when your opponent is as tough as a tank or as abstract as a death-curse.  But heroes gotta hero, I guess.

It's tough being squishy when your opponent is as tough as a tank or as abstract as a death-curse. But heroes gotta hero, I guess.

Anime exists as the ultimate power-fantasy for their fans. From muscle-bound meat-heads who can swing around huge swords like army knives (Berserk), to cute girls transforming into beautiful women with magical powers (Sailor Moon), to the classic super heroes (One Punch Man), a viewer has a plethora of abilities and alter-egos to lose oneself in, making us fantasize about transporting to such worlds with a matching power-set of our own.

However, I would argue such “power trips” are not realistic. For the thousands of super-humans saving the day in My Hero Academia, there are millions of people slightly gifted, but without any accolades to show for it. In reality, there often are no mentors, no saving grace, no “chosen one,” just people gifted with abilities or knowledge making them slightly better than the average person. It’s what they choose to do with that knowledge or power that makes them a hero.

These are the types of heroes I’ve always related to the most. I doubt I’ll get bit by a radioactive spider and gain the ability to dodge bullets. But, I could see myself using my knowledge to survive a death game until I get tired and Jason-mask-archetype #1200305 slashes my ankles. And if the ghost of my dead granddad gives me a hint or two? Well… I guess that’s the best I could hope for.

So, here are the top ten anime with the type of heroes I look up to: anime with regular human protagonists facing super-human odds.


The Rules

Note: When I was fishing for anime to fit this list, I got more people than normal trying to disqualify the qualifications. So let me be as crystal clear as possible:

1. Having super strength, endurance, or any skill that boosts physical skills from the protagonist will disqualify an anime

2. Taking into account rule #1, the protagonist can have a super power, as long as it doesn't make them immune/resistant to anything that would kill a normal person. Therefore, dying and resetting counts since the hero died and came back, but being a zombie who isn't "technically dead" but still falls apart does not.

3. Even if the character is normal, if they pilot a mecha with "space magic," it also doesn't qualify. This includes quantizing BS, New-Type BS, or precognition BS. As a matter of fact, precognition is broken strategically period, so none of that. And speaking of hax powers:

4. Even if the character doesn't have a physical-augmenting power, any skill that is hax also disqualifies them. So no eye power that controls minds, abilities that see the future, fire/ice/weather powers, or the ability to turn people into jelly filled donuts. And finally:

5. The character has to be squishy, but also must be up against superhuman odds that can one-shot him/her/them/whatever, noticeably something that is not human or considered superhuman (a.k.a something non-squishy). So no dual wielding bad-asses against drug-smuggling nuns or historical-fiction samurai tales, even if they have one chapter of Feng-Shui BS.

10. King’s Game

I said the list was in no particular order, but let’s be honest here: King’s Game would be at the bottom of any anime list. Set in modern day Japan, the story takes the classic Japanese Simone Says game and turns it bloody by having mysterious caller give a high school class crazy orders, and if they can’t complete the order a mysterious force unleashes deadly consequences on the losers.

Our protagonist is a survivor from a previous game, and all he has is his wits to survive the commands from the mysterious caller and his classmates turning on each other. Despite the anime being well-paced, most give it a pass due to the despairing plot that ends tragically. If you’re like me and love a good tragedy, a fan of Saw, or don’t mind Horror-movie logic, then you might be interested.

However, if you’re the pedantic type who lets common sense dictate your enjoyment (We all know in horror movies police don’t exist :P), then you’ll want to pass this quicker than a anonymous text telling you to sleep with your best friend’s girl or you’ll die by self-immolation. But at least download the opening song, because Feed the Fire is a banger.

9. Corpse Party

There are anime that present themselves as Darker than Black (heh) that are actually a gunmetal gray, then there are shows that are dark and edgy and try add “cool” factor with black leather, large guns, and dog-toothed rape-faces, then, at the deepest pits of those lists, you have Corpse Party.

In a horror anime, trying to do a ritual to remain friends forever awards you with a trip to a demonic version of your school where the wraiths of the deceased try to murder you in the worst way possible. Yeah, it sounds pretty bleak and depressing, but let me offer you light at end of this abyss of death and despair: All the heroes are completely human, so it definitely qualifies for this list. Good for you! Yay!

8. Talentless Nana

Okay… I promise I’ll lighten the tone with this one. During a time period where super heroes dominate our movies, popular culture, and anime, Talentless Nana appears to follow the trend of a girl with psychic powers attending a school for superheroes in training. Until it is revealed that she actually has no super powers, and is a trained assassin sent to murder all the students.

Despite Nana being a villain protagonist, she not having any powers of her own means she’d be deader than Kamen Rider facing Doomsday if her classmates discovered her evil antics, making her a solid protagonist facing super-human odds to survive.

7. Shiki

Horror anime are usually sure-winners for this list’s trend, so we’ll flow back to it with Shiki. If you like Vampire anime for the sexy, undead, sanguineous monsters you wish to have a blood orgy with, then Shiki isn’t the show for you (Dance in the Vampire Bund or Seraph of the End, perhaps?).

However, if you want a Vampire anime focusing on the horror of vampirism as normal humans struggle to survive, then you’ve come to the right blood kingdom. Even though some humans do abandon their feeble ways to join the vampire nation, a few of our protagonists stick to their human wits and ingenuity to outsmart their undead, Darwinian counterparts, as any good human vs monster romp should.

6. School-Live!

I had conflict when including this one, for it was in competition with everyone’s favorite assault-rifle totting, jump-somersault-spinning, bullet-boob-dodging zombie anime: High School of the Dead. Then I put my libido aside and thought to myself: Which best zombie anime doesn’t have high schoolers performing feats matching Chris Redfield punching boulders in a volcano?

School-Live! is about a team of high school girls barricaded inside their school due to a zombie apocalypse raging outside while one of their classmates is so mentally scarred she imagines her friends are still living a normal life. A recipe for annoying actually becomes endearing, making School Live! one of my top picks for the zombie-anime genre. None of the protagonists having super-kung-fu or kendo skills also helps.

5. Umineko no Naku Koro ni (When the Seagulls Cry)

Put you’re pitchforks down, folks. Yes, I know When the Seagulls Cry is one of the worst anime on this list, given its inconclusive ending and the show neutering its male lead when compared to the manga; however, it earns a high slot due to the odds our unfortunate hero, Battler, has to endure when facing the Endless Witch Beatrice.

When the Seagulls Cry features a genius premise: An alchemist makes a deal with a witch to amass his family’s massive fortune, but when the witch comes to collect the souls of his family as payment, his grandson must disapprove all her magic with logic to save his entire family line. Fans of this anime’s parent series, When the Cicadas Cry, know how gory and dark the plot can progress.

Unfortunately, unlike everyone’s favorite blue-haired loli, Battler’s return-by-death ability is dependent on how well he amuses Beatrice while disproving her power. Also unfortunately, When the Seagulls Cry never got its “Answer Arc” (Season 2 for all you non-When They Cry-verse plebeians) due to weak reception. Fortunately, Battler is normal enough to include his anime on this list.

4. Re-Zero

Despite how you may feel about Re-Zero (I for one love the anime), Subaru Natsuki, aka The Prince of Simps, definitely qualifies as a normal protagonist. For a silver-haired girl he just met in fantasy world he was mysteriously thrown into, he will use his unique brand of return-by-death powers to save her.

Yes, many consider his power a “broken” ability, yet Subaru is still a human with average strength and fighting prowess, meaning if he can’t form a strategy against whatever magical being, monster, or circumstance is impeding his progression, he’ll easily die and start over again from another point in time.

If Re-Zero wasn’t a horror/Shonen disguised as a deep, dramatic piece, views on it wouldn’t be so polarizing, yet there is one thing fans and haters alike can agree on: When asked what Isekai power most people would want, you won’t hear them shouting “Subaru’s return-by-death,” meaning there isn’t enough edge in Subaru’s abilities to make him enviable to the average Joe, meaning he’s a normal enough protagonist to be included here.

3. Another

We shall now bow to the best horror anime on this list. In Another, Koichi Sakakibara transfers to Yomiyama North Junior High. He arrives to an exciting, new place, makes a new friend with a deadpan girl wearing an eye-patch the rest of class ignores, and just in time for a mysterious curse to start killing his classmates one-by-one in Final Destination-style.

Our protagonist must not must only discover the secret behind the curse before it catches up to him, but he also must do so with no supernatural abilities granting any hints or edge while he has a weak heart. So yeah, a horror movie hero who might have a heart attack from a black cat jumping from a bush definitely qualifies for a normal vs supernatural list.

2. Made in Abyss

I am personally not a fan of Made in Abyss, but I can’t deny the quality of the show or how it places a regular human against horrifying, super-human odds. In the aforementioned title, Riko, our normal heroine, is a Diver who’s living centers on exploring the resources of a mysterious pit (actually, more like a Mariana Trench) called The Abyss.

Eventually, her life takes a turn for the crazy upon discovering a robot boy nearly indistinguishable from a human. His birthplace? The deepest depths of the Abyss, so of course Riko ventures there to uncover his memories, and perhaps to discover the whereabouts of her mother, hailed as one of the greatest Divers in existence. As you can imagine, she encounters some creepy secrets and obstacles along the way, with only her resourcefulness and her robot ally as a crutch. (Which, when facing the horrifying realities of an Abyss, aren’t much of a crutch at all).

Despite the intrigue, I can’t help but think there’s something missing from Made in Abyss, similar to When They Cry lacking flare or Steins;Gate not going balls-to-the-wall. But, I can’t deny it’s a decent show and worth your time if your looking at this list.

1. Mieruko-chan

And of course the anime that inspired me to make this list is at the top. In Mieruko-chan, our horror-loving female protagonist wakes up one day to discover she can see ghosts, the trick being if they recognize she can see them, she has no idea what would happen. Seems harmless enough, until you see these apparitions aren’t Casper the Friendly Ghost, but eldritch horrors that probably give Freddy Kruger nightmares.

If the anime toned down its ecchi moments, I'd probably give it a 9 out of 10. For now, considering Mieruko has only her intelligence and mental constitution to stay hidden from the spirits haunting her, it reigns as the best example of a normal protagonist surviving super-human circumstances.

© 2022 Zeron87