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The Top 50 Cartoon Characters - They Aren't Your Favourite, They're Just Drawn That Way

ThornGhost

lofi posts to relax/study to
(he/him)
Desmond Fishman had a rough upbringing, ok? That should at least tip the...scales.
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
Zoidberg's a classic and if he was any higher than #47 it would be a betrayal of his nature. Good job everyone!
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)

46. Totoro




62 Points, 3 Lists, #4 WildcatJF

“MMMM-rah!”

Source Material: My Neighbor Totoro

Voice Actor: Hitoshi Takagi, Frank Welker (in English)

Totoro (or Big Totoro or King Totoro) is a woodland creature living in the forests of the Saitama prefecture. It is a large grey beast covered in gray and white fur with a round body and large rabbit-like ears. The creature lives a quiet light in the forest with other strange creatures such as the Catbus and Little and Middle Totoro. Totoro seems not to interact with humans much but he does make friends with the human children Mei and Satsuki. Totoro has many magical powers at its disposal, including a magic top and the ability to control plants.


Totoro is a largely quiet, friendly and gentle creature, who is willing to use share its magic to make Satsuki and Mei’s world a little better. It leads a solitary life but also can be quite playful and is willing to help others. It is unclear weather other people aside from Satsuki or Mei can perceive Totoro and his magic and perhaps it takes a child’s eyes to see and understand him. Though its size is imposing and it is in many ways more like an animal than a person in its mentality, it is completely benevolent and sweet-hearted.


My Neighbor Totoro is a film that is rare in it’s slow approach and quiet pacing and the fact that it can be enjoyed by very young children. Totoro is kind of a perfect marriage of a sort of natural spiritualism and childlike wonder. The film is much inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s childhood and the character itself reflects that. It’s presence brings a sense of wonder but also true comfort. People are often afraid of the unknown but even though there is a mysterious quality to the character, there is no sense of fear about it. There’s also something perfect about it’s design, being an unspecific animal with a specific look and a mouth that sometimes has a manic, chesire-cat smile that looks weird in a film where the there’s a grounded style to the backgrounds.


Plaintiffs:


Defense:

“This is another weak case based on foreign language trivia. No, I’m not going to explain it. I’ll just say that while a specific troll product can be copyrighted, the word itself cannot be. Sorry, Norwegia.”
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Zoidberg was originally my only pick from Futurama, but I relented and added a second one.

“Incompetent Doctor” is another character type I always took an immediate liking to and the crab is in the top of that particular field.

Ain’t never seen Totoro, but I have watched the episode of Bobs Burgers with a Totoro reference a lot, so that’s got to be worth some credit
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Oh hey, Totoro was on my list, and one I wasn't sure would show up, since despite the movie's popularity the title creature itself is almost less of a character and more of an abstract spirit of nature made (very fuzzy) flesh. It's cuddly and helpful but also has an air of mystery and unpredictability that can be a little unsettling. And its design is just a triumph of incredibly expressive minimalism.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
I know the movie is named after Totoro but I always thought of it as a minor element of a story about two girls growing up.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I had some Futurama characters on my long list, but I did eventually cut them. Nevertheless the show was hugely important to me. I saw the whole thing (at least the original run) at least twice when it was airing on Adult Swim and it became part of my nightly ritual. Even though I didn't consider Zoidberg in my list he's one of the most quoted characters for me and my friends who watched the show. A good bad doctor.

Totoro was probably the first anime I ever saw. I saw the dubbed VHS release that came out in in the US in the 90s. Loved it, adored it, but it wouldn't be until 2001 or so that I recognized what a "Ghibli" was or how Totoro connected to it.
 
Oh man I didn't think to vote for the Catbus from Totoro. Probably wouldn't have made my final list but wish I'd at least considered it.
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
I've loved what I've watched of Futurama, but I haven't seen enough of it to consider any of its cast for my 25. Maybe my Top 50.

Totoro's a great pick, unfortunately there just wasn't enough room for them.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
45. Haman Karn



66 Points, 2 Lists, #1 Peklo

“Not all humanity can become Newtypes, as you’ve shown me! They’ll devour the Earth long before that.”​

Source Material
: Gundam Z, Gundam ZZ, Gundam ZZZ (pending)

Voice Actor(s): Yoshiko Sakakibara, Valerie Howell (English)

Apologies in advance because I don’t know the character (this is literally the only character to make the list that I haven’t consumed their media!) and looking stuff up on the Gundam wiki is… impenetrable to me. Like, I have to figure out the exodus of the Zeon Axis and she’s a Newtype whose goal is the revival of the Zabi Royal Family utilizing the ideology of Zeon Zum Deikun and my brain just turned off. This is not a criticism of the character but I feel like you already need to know everything about this world to learn about this world. Oof.


OK, what I can gather is she’s a secondary villain in the series Gundam Z and the main villain in the sequel series Gundam ZZ. Good thing she’s in both because if she’s in the one that we are told “THIS ISN’T ANIME”, she would not be allowable. But the “personality and character” is a lot more helpful in describing who this character is… a powerful and charismatic military leader who is ambition incarnate and is willing to throw away anyone as pawns, even those she’s personally taught and trained. She strives to battle a very real evil on Earth but herself uses very evil methods to do so.


Clearly, I’m not the one to discuss the character.

Wisteria Hysteria

One of only two villains on my list. Haman Karn is larger than life. She's the perfect villain. She is powerful, striking, magnetic, and manipulative. And she looks fuckin' fabulous while doing it. She's also got a decent amount of depth as a character too. She's the heir to a dictatorial military force, and grew up surrounded by murderous, evil people who would have killed her had she let her guard down for even a moment. She hates her own faction and wants to see them destroyed, but will callously use them to further her ideologcal goals of also taking out the demonstrably corrupt and evil Earth Federation as well that oppresses and exploits humanity to see them mutually annhilated. She's wonderful, I love her. Haman banzai!


Plaintiffs:



Defense:

“Though she did manipulate and kill Pino Pino to fulfill her ideological goal, she isn’t a Zeon Axis Newtype Gundam Wing so I think we are in the clear.”
 

WildcatJF

Red After Image
(he / his / him)

Totoro is such a wonderful side character in a movie named after it, lol. But it's a testament to Studio Ghibli's stunning animation and Hayao Miyazaki's skills as a storyteller that a fantastical movie about cat-esque creatures are the subplot to a narrative about two young girls experiencing a move, a mother in the hospital, and a shift in lifestyle.

That being said, Totoro is so expressive and delightful and a big ol' furry huggie machine I LOVE IT
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Don't worry, JU. I have seen Zeta Gundam and I still don't understand it. It's impenetrable, which is why it's all the gundam grognards' favorite show. Haman was pretty cool, though.
 
Zoidberg is a solid get. If I had made my list with western toons, I would have strongly considered him at the least. I generally hold Futurama in high esteem, much higher than the Simpsons. It might be my favorite western toon of all time, and Zoidberg's antics are a big part of my adoration.

Totoro was #23 on my list. There were other characters I had more personal affinity for, but I felt like Totoro deserved the representation based on just how iconic and important the character is to cartoons in general. The only genuine mascot on my list, Totoro is a lot more than just a cute guy made to sell plushies, considering the rich themes he embodies and enables in his film.

I was the other vote for Haman Karn, and she is #5 on my list. The highest ranking Gundam character I've got on mine.



She is simply the best. I'm glad I squeezed my list in at the last second because Haman Karn deserved to be here. On a weird side note: whoever is doing the English dub for her does her a huge disservice because her original Seiyuu just nails the character extra hard and helps to give her so much presence.



This is the first thing to ever make me actually want to watch a Gundam.
She's incredible! But if you're slogging through Zeta and ZZ Gundam just for her, it's gonna be a bad time. She shows up in the back half of Zeta, and is absent from the majority of ZZ Gundam as well. I am still an apologist for both shows, but despite all the various criticisms you can level at the show, I've got no excuse for how criminally she is underused in it. I would love it if ZZ got a remake like the New Translation films did so that Haman Karn could get her screen time readjusted to what she deserves.



LEGENDARY

Don't worry, JU. I have seen Zeta Gundam and I still don't understand it. It's impenetrable, which is why it's all the gundam grognards' favorite show. Haman was pretty cool, though.
There are a lot of [Proper Noun]s that get thrown about in Zeta, and there's a relatively complex weave of dozens of characters that all have various motivations and allegiances that you need to keep track of. But Zeta Gundam is fundamentally a very simple story. It's about Space Nazis staging a Space Reichstag Fire in order to justify usurping power and committing genocide. And the Good Guys go around trying to blow them all up.

I think the characterizations of its story frequently get blown out of proportion by fans and critics alike, but at the end of the day, it's a pretty engaging, and extremely well made and stylish space opera. And to those of us who old fashioned space operas tickle their fancy, this one stands out as the Zenith of its franchise. It's not really more complicated than that. It looks and sounds fantastic. I mean, listen to this battle music and try not to get amped up:

 
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Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)

I voted for Haman as my #1 because she is from a show that I don't like and think I actually hate on a lot of levels. It's a reciprocal relationship in a way because Zeta is hateful to women on an extremely consistent basis: even for a series that's regularly highlighted for its downcast and cynical view on humanity and their relationships, the misogynistic streak stands out in how often women in it are characterized arbitrarily, slotted into "hysteric" molds, made into passive nurturers and endurers, or serially exploited and sacrificed for men's development. Gundam in the hands of Tomino however still manages to make it feel like all of the sordid shit that happens and that it can justly be criticized for is in service of some inherent drive to say something and reach for meaning with the material that's put through the ringer--the issue is just that while most of us have the luxury of privately working out our own evolving ethics and the way we express ourselves according to them, creative people who live public lives through what's reflected in their work constantly have to put themselves on display as part of their livelihood, and that's largely been the inconsistent career trajectory that makes up who "Yoshiyuki Tomino" as a storyteller is. We take the big leaps into the unknown with him and sometimes something beautifully resonant manifests, and at other times it's just fumbling in the dark.




Haman is that light in the dark for me because she eclipses anything Zeta or ZZ could hope to offer for the roles their women are otherwise allowed to play; she eclipses both shows entirely through force of will and gesture. She walks in and takes control of the narrative, wrests it from its Amuro and Char-defined dynamics and ousts both away from the spotlight, freeing the larger Gundam story to become about something else than that personal feud. She's the Bret Hart of space opera: the best there ever was and the best there ever will be; the pink and black attack--though she cuts a better promo. But like the Hitman, Haman possesses an uncanny ability to convincingly sell anything that she wants to, through expertise and gravitas, and so much of that is conveyed in Sakakibara's performance--icy, detached, sardonic and powerful all at once. It's the crux of why she is so unforgettable, in that she has the ability to insert herself into the narrative structure of a serial deep into its complications and overtake it through personal charisma; it is her essence to the audience and the people within the story both. No one needs to be told why Haman must be taken seriously, and she doesn't demand it herself--it's just how people reflexively conform to her presence, and is an integral part of the personality cult that forms around her. The utter commitment to always remaining in control--of a scene, of her goals, of her bearing--in her portrayal also creates depth and levity in Haman, where that impervious nature is effectively wielded as a point of comedic contrast if she happens to be caught up in anything resembling mundane or leisurely activity--it's instantly humanizing and funny that Haman remains Haman, even in those intermissions or in the delusions of her underlings, but she never becomes the butt of any joke even if she's the funniest person in the shot. That's what drives perceptions of this character, even in derivative works: she is an attractive character in animation who's existed for over 35 years, so porn of her exists, but it's very difficult to come across pornographic material featuring her where she isn't topping her partner, for example. The impression of who she is is just that firmly rooted that it cannot be removed from the fundamental definition of who she is, even in contexts that owe nothing to remaining true to the text. It's just something that Haman instills in people and who try their hand at portraying her for their own. There is nothing in either Zeta or ZZ that reduces her to be lesser than she is, and from beginning to end it plays out on her terms, up to her exit from the story, and it's why I love her.



 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
I've watched a lot of Gundam over the years, but Z and ZZ are still the big holes I've missed, so I haven't had a chance to watch Haman do her thing. She seems pretty damn awesome, though.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I like her machine, the Qubeley, quite a lot.



It feels like it's moonlighting from Dunbine with its big beetle shoulderpads. Also its butt is full of funnels. The white/pink/purple color scheme is also a favorite. It has long dainty fingers, pointy shoes, and beam cannons in its palms. It's a very good boss mecha. Befitting of Haman.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
44. Skeletor



67 Points, 2 Lists, #2 Dracula

“Well, I don't like to feel good. I like to feel evil.”​

Source Material: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Voice Actor(s): Alan Oppenheimer, Keith Scott, Campbell Lane, Brian Dobson, Jeff Bennett, Mark Hamill, Benjamin Diskin

Hey, we have yet another beloved villain, albeit one far less complex. Skeletor is a wizard tyrant located in Snake Mountain on the planet Eternia. As the name suggests, he has a skeletal visage and has the ability to wield dark magics. His ultimate goal is the conquest of Eternia, usually through one of two methods: conquering the capital city Eternos or Castle Grayskull, a seemingly abandoned castle in the middle of nowhere said to hold magic powers and secrets. Both are protected by the warrior He-Man, who is constantly thwarting Skeletor’s plans.


Skeletor rules over the evil warriors, a motley army of villains from across Eternia. He also has no shortage of henchmen and robots and monsters (controlled by his animal tamer Beast Man). Skeletor’s backstory varies across media. In the original mini-comics preceding the cartoon, he appeared through a portal following The Great Wars (a concept ignored in most versions of He-Man lore), in the cartoon itself it is revealed he was the pupil of the villain Hordak and in later comics (and the 2000s cartoon) he is revealed to be He-Man’s uncle Keldor, who was terribly scarred.


David Wise admits that he found He-Man and Skeletor to be rather generic hero/villain archetypes and while that is damning for He-Man, it’s a suit that fits nice of Skeletor. He is very much the archetypical Saturday morning villain and like a lot of the villains at the time, he’s much more fun than the heroes (like, does anyone give a crap about Duke from GI Joe?). Skeletor is a hi note because of his very unique voice but also because his cool skull face. Most important, though is just how much this guy likes being evil, ranting and raving about it whenever he can. He works both in a context of being menacing, particularly in later incarnations, but even there, there is a sense of fun and style to his villainy, like no matter how serious the story, the guy takes childlike glee in his evil.

Plaintiffs:

The Nazgul


Defense:

“They are skeletalish but not really wizards, so thankfully they only have half a case. Unfortunately, Skeletor will take credit for stealing anything so probably best to keep this out of the public eye if at all possible.”
 

Falselogic

Techno-Threadcromancer
(they/them)
Damn, another great character I forgot about. Imma feel real bad when Cobra Commander shows up now...
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I think a key point in Skeletor's favour is that despite touting the already strong concept of a skeleton warlock, he's also visibly built as buff as the rest of the series characters; a true muscle magician. It lends additional contrast to his sneering voice, and shuffles up expected archetypes and niches just enough to be interesting--if it's the result of the toy figures's molds having to be shared between all and perpetuating a cast of bodybuilders, then all the better. He ends up subscribing to the Doctor Doom school of villainy where speciality in just one field isn't enough to contain the depths of his dastardly deeds, and the portrayal is better for it.
 
There's a very memorable moment to me early on in Zeta Gundam where Capt Bright Noa comments (or maybe it's some other similarly stodgy Old Type character, I forget, but still) about how times have changed, and now women demand to work alongside men as equals, and how that is just a paradigm shift he isn't completely comfortable with but has to live with now as the way things are. And that small, blink-and-you'll-miss-it-moment always felt very instructional for Zeta Gundam and its relationship with women. Like Tomino was using Bright as a mouthpiece for himself. I think Peklo's characterization of how women get treated in Zeta Gundam is mostly on point. I also think a lot of it comes from Tomino's weird, warped, "I'm a feminist, actually" brain where to him, he probably saw it as progressive to have a bunch of female characters make war with the boys and be just as flawed and messed up in the head as the rest of the cast. (An idea I think he was a lot more successful carrying out in Dunbine and ZZ Gundam, but never actually comes close to getting things right/escaping his own problematic views on gender roles.)

And that's part of why Haman Karn is so wonderful because she just invades this show like she came from a better one and just immediately shows everybody how it's done. At the end of Zeta Gundam, it's not the good guys who win, It's Haman Karn. It's awesome. I can only imagine how crazy it was back in 1987 to watch the series finale, without hindsight, where she was having her final dual with Char and then appears to have just straight murdered him. Char, the most popular and beloved character in the franchise.

Legend

Apparently, He-Man was my favorite show as a 3-4 year old. I do not remember that, or anything about the show really. The entirely of my exposure to Skeletor as a character, was growing up a skinny kid and getting called Skeletor on the playground a lot. Which never made a lot of sense considering how buff he is!
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
My note on Skeletor from my list submittal:

The pack-in comics and marketing material behind the MOTU toyline paints Skeletor as a dark-hearted sorcerer, but in the cartoon, he’s high camp. I love Allen Oppenheimer’s sneering voice work for him. He’s as delightful as he is ineffectual as a villain. “I don’t want to feel good! I want to feel evil!”

I generally prefer the versions of Skeletor that play up his campiness. I want him to chew scenery and call his henchmen cretins and buffoons. The original 80s MOTU cartoon was amazingly soft, practically a teddy bear, especially compared to the reputation it gained among hardline fundamentalists and gullible evangelicals. It's often criticized as being nothing more than a 22-minute toy commercial, but Filmation head Lou Scheimer was cognizant of this possibility, which was why he pushed for the after-episode morals. For all its faults and limitations, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe tried to be more than what it was designed to accomplish, and it kept a lot of US-based animators working in an era when the majority of that work was outsourced to cheap overseas studios.

Anyway if you love camp Skeletor, you've gotta check out the new CGI He-Man and the Masters of the Universe on Netflix. Benjamin Diskin's performance is pitch perfect and exactly what I want out of a 21st century buff skeleton wizard.
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
Skeletor is fun but I could not in good conscience put anyone from the cartoons I loved as a tiny person because Saturday morning fare in the early 80s does not hold up well at all.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Skeletor was the very first character I considered for my list, even if I ultimately had two other to put above him.

He's a character with very clear desires (to have power), and who has no problem with making sure everyone knows what those desires are, and how he will fulfill them (evil).

Calling him "cartoonish" doesn't begin to do him justice (injustice?); cartoons are Skeletorish
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
I think a key point in Skeletor's favour is that despite touting the already strong concept of a skeleton warlock, he's also visibly built as buff as the rest of the series characters; a true muscle magician.
"Nya ha. First I'm going to blast my quads and then I'm going to blast you with a fireball, He-Man!"

Calling him "cartoonish" doesn't begin to do him justice (injustice?); cartoons are Skeletorish
So I guess this should have been called the Top 50 Skeletors instead.
 
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