We all know that one character. The one that isn’t as plot-significant as the hero or is in a more supporting role. The character that barely gets any screen time, or only gets one single appearance and is never heard from again. And that character is the one the fanbase loves the most, the character that grows in the fandom’s hearts the most. The dark horses, if you will. They’re everywhere, and as said before, their fanbases are among the biggest. And some of them can come from places you’d never expect. That one-time background character could become popular enough that it wouldn’t be wrong to lump said character with the main cast in popularity. And we’ll be looking at some of the best!
1. Charlotte Dunois – Infinite Stratos
In a society where the IS technology, armored mech suits being wearable only by women, was developed, changing the society as a whole completely, Ichika Orimura stands as the only male able to operate an IS, and is sent to IS Academy as one of Japan’s representatives. Later on, we are introduced to the French rep. Charles Dunois, another IS operating male that gets roomed with Ichika. Only…Charles turns out to be a girl named Charlotte, that was meant to be a spy for her father’s corporation. After the cat is out of the bag, her mission fails and she becomes a part of Ichika’s harem/group of friends.
She’s also the most popular character in the series. Whether you root for her to end with Ichika or not, everyone loves Char. Charlotte stands out for not being a Tsundere, an archetype that could be pretty much traced to every other member of Ichika’s harem, and also being the kindest, nicest character in the show, as well as an excellent IS pilot. Her interactions with local eccentric loner Laura only helps her case.
Vive la France indeed!
2. Jeremiah “Orange” Gottwald – Code Geass
Also known as “Orange”, a name given to him by Lelouch as a taunt at first, Jeremiah started out as a minor racist villain from the Brittanian Empire. However, his crushing defeat at Lelouch’s hands endeared him to the fans, to the point that their outcry saved his life, as he was originally planned to be killed off later. The outcry caused the producers to not only rewrite Jeremiah’s plot completely, turning him into a major threat for Lelouch after his defeat, but have him turn into a good guy eventually and give him one of the happiest endings of the series overall. Given how much of a flamboyant and hammy badass he is, it is very easy to see why the fans love him so much. And that was BEFORE he became one of the good guys after hearing Lelouch is opposing Brittania to avenge the death of his mother, Empress Marianne, someone Jeremiah held great respect for. Said respect would be the kick-off for his change of sides. And then he embraces the name Orange as an indicator of his loyalty to Lelouch.
You know you’re a fan-favorite when their love for you spare you from in-series death.
3. Midna – The Legend of Zelda
Midna. Whether you like Twilight Princess or not, pretty much everyone loves Midna.
And it is little wonder that she is so popular. Contrary to other characters under the “Exposition Fairy” archetype, like Navi, Midna has a lot more backstory and personality to her. She starts as a rude imp only wanting to help you because she has no other choice. She has business needing to be done, and you need her help to rescue your friends. And then, more of her backstory gets revealed after clearing the 3rd and 4th temples. She turns out to be from the same realm the villain you’re opposing, and plans on overthrowing the tyrant so the Twilight Realm and Hyrule aren’t lost to the Twilight King. She becomes kinder and more helpful, but never losing her trademark sassiness and sense of humor. She warmed up to the fans really quick as a result, resulting in her becoming one of the most popular characters in the franchise, and among the most popular Nintendo characters overall. So much so that, after Twilight Princess‘ release, pretty much EVERYONE was clamoring for her return, and when Midna was confirmed both as an Assist Trophy in Smash Bros. 4 and a playable character in Hyrule Warriors, the fandom went NUTS.
4. “Toshiaki” – Lucky*Star
Lucky*Star: The daily lives and hijinks of high school girls (and Konata’s dad, as well as her cousins and teacher). Among the cast of girls, one lone male stands out. An unnamed character that’s part of a one-time joke. The ONLY time this dude ever appeared was in the 7th volume of the manga in one single strip where he’s saying his goodbyes to Kuroi-sensei and then expressing his one single regret about his school life:
As you may most have most likely guessed, Fanon took this and ran with it. This unnamed, one-time character would be given the name “Toshiaki” and given tons of fan art with him and Miyuki, most of them portraying him as successfully confessing to Miyuki and dating her, based solely on the depicted appearance where he is graduating with the regret of never getting to confess to her.
5. Kurumi Tokisaki – Date A Live
Date A Live had a lot of criticisms, usually in regards to the anime’s poor start and the series’ clichéd Harem premise. But then everything changed when Kurumi appeared. People have claimed the first 6 episodes, despite being the poor start they judge it to be, was worth enduring for Kurumi’s appearance. And it’s easy to see why. She’s has a sweet, lady-like front that hides one of the hammiest psychos you’ll ever see in anime, displaying over 9,000 gallons of sheer ass-kickery. She’s also immensely flirtatious and has a soft spot for cats. Later on she also becomes one of the good guys, often helping the protagonist and slowly becoming nicer after falling for him. Not that she was a villain, per se. The reason for her high body count is because that’s how her powers get boosted, and she needs that boost to go back in time to prevent a catastrophe that took 150 million lives. So on top of all that, she’s one of the good guys all along.
After her appearance, the general consensus is that the entire anime, as a whole, became a lot better. That’s how much of a fan-favorite Kurumi is.
6. Koopalings – Super Mario Bros.
The Koopalings were first introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3 as Bowser’s children, and showed up again in Super Mario World and later in Mario & Luigi : Superstar Saga, all with the same role: a colorful squad of bosses you have to defeat to get to the final boss. The Ginyu Force of the Mario games, this squad of quirky koopas were fan-favorites for a long time. Then Bowser Jr. came, and he wasn’t all that liked because he didn’t have as much appeal as the Koopalings, who would later be revealed to not be Bowser’s actual children. It turns out that Bowser Jr. was the only child related to Bowser by blood, much to the fandom’s displeasure. It didn’t help that the Koopalings weren’t seen for a while after Superstar Saga, while Bowser Jr. kept getting more appearances in later games. That is…until they were brought back in New Super Mario Bros Wii along with Bowser Jr. And since then, they’ve pretty much established themselves as major characters alongside their “Daddy”, returning in New Super Mario Bros 2 and as playable characters in Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros. 4. And the audience gladly welcomed their return.
7. The Merchant – Resident Evil 4
This guy. This helpful brother from another mother. The merchant that sold you weapons in Resident Evil 4 while you mauled your way through parasite-controlled villagers, zealots and soldiers. Aside from his cool voice, catchphrases, appearance and importance to the plot as the Item Shop, nothing is known about this guy. What’s his story? Why is he helping you? How did he get to the island level when you needed a boat to get there? This guy is a mystery, and that’s why he is so loved. And sadly, he’s remained a mystery, as he hasn’t had any more appearances in the Resident Evil games after 4. A shame.
8. Takasugi Shinsuke – Gintama
Takasugi, the main villain of Gintama. Whenever he appears, you can be sure there’ll be no comedy in effect, which is Gintama‘s calling card. Takasugi, unlike most of the cast, has no comedic quirks. He’s there when the plot needs to be serious. He’s the dark and troubled villain fan girls fall for. He’s the guy that is guaranteed to be awesome onscreen. He has very few appearances, and yet he always ranks high in popularity polls. Everyone looks forward to see him again and whenever he shows up, something epic is about to happen. Whether you love him or love to hate him, Takasugi stands firm as one of Gintama‘s dark horses.
Anyone that was left out? Any dark horse you feel deserves special mention? Let your voice be known in the comments!
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