The loss of a beloved anime character never gets easier. Denial. Anger. Resentment. All stages of grief that many of us experience when we’re forced to sever a connection with our fictional companions.
The idea of losing a crucial piece to our favorite story results in a range of emotions, but luckily things aren’t always so permanent in the vast world of storytelling.
The notion of resurrection in anime has been explored in just about every light imaginable. There are instances where it adds some levity to a feel-good series, and conversely, there are moments where a character comes back changed.
Regardless of your own feelings about if a character should make a comeback or not, there’s no denying that the act of coming back plays a pivotal role in several beloved series.
Anime like Dragon Ball Z, Yu Yu Hakusho and the very literal That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime are a few of the major titles that relish in the idea of a second (or in some cases third) chance at living.
With life after death being a recurring theme in anime—which characters have come back with more than a few changes?
Yusuke Urameshi (Yu Yu Hakusho)
Due to his two drastically different deaths in Yu Yu Hakusho, the Spirit Detective is a must-have for a second chances list. His first demise in the anime’s premiere episode was the catalyst for a new life-altering existence as the Spirit Detective, giving Yusuke Urameshi newfound responsibility.
After that altruistic act leading to a new lease on life, Yusuke was required to fight for the safety of the human race. The teen protagonist quickly matured and drastically grew in power, but his death when battling former Spirit Detective (and the iconic villain) Shinobu Sensui was another turning point for our hero.
When returning in an emotionally exhausting story arc, Yusuke comes back and goes on to discover his real origin. The Spirit Detective’s abilities surpass all expectations but it also issues a broader understanding of what that could mean for the future of two worlds.
Yes, the death of Yusuke is pretty heavy, but the return of Yusuke is something truly marvelous.
Watch Yu Yu Hakusho on Funimation!
Satoru Mikami (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime)
From his everyday, normal life to transitioning into a powerful leader, there aren’t many characters whose lives have changed as drastically as Satoru’s.
When we first meet the lonely Satoru Mikami in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, he’s undoubtedly in a rut. Feeling lonely and unhappy with his life, Satoru is immediately someone you can tell desperately desires change. Granted, that change was unpredictable in the sense that becoming a slime in a fantasy world is a new addition to the anime resurrection bingo card.
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After Satoru’s human life came to an end at the hands of an attacker, it kicks off his rebirth as a slime eventually known as the reputable Rimuru Tempest. His new form absorbs the qualities of a dragon he quickly befriends, and things escalate quickly for the human turned to slime.
The progression into a leadership role helps him evolve as something entirely different, with the experiences of two lives in direct opposition of each other. How many people can go from feeling stagnant, to dying, and later coming back to becoming a ruler? Exactly.
Watch That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime on Funimation!
Ciel Phantomhive (Black Butler)
There have been a few incarnations of Black Butler throughout the years, but one storyline brought the brief demise of a fan-favorite character, Ciel Phantomhive.
In the second season of Black Butler, Ciel and rival Alois Trancy both are teetering on the edge of death, but this isn’t exactly wrapped up casually in the overall arc conclusion. After pulling the strings in a very underrated, mastermind-style boss move, Alois jeopardizes the exact thing that both butlers desire. The reveal occurs post-death to make the power move even more impressive, preventing the consumption of Ciel’s soul upon death like Sebastian had been anticipating.
The outcome causes Ciel to be reborn as a demon, undoubtedly altering the course of his post-life revival. Also, this unforgettable finale resurrection reshaped Sebastian’s purpose with a twist that kept the two side by side into the depths of the underworld.
I suppose, in the end, Alois made the most of Ciel’s new life for him!
Watch Black Butler on Funimation!
Goku (Dragon Ball Z)
Goku is practically a professional at coming back to life, and his departures have proven to be a momentary fixture in the Dragon Ball franchise. Sure, he’s died a couple of times, but one thing that’s certain about Goku is that he’ll always be back. Not only does he come back, but he’ll likely achieve new, unforeseen levels of power and make his enemies regret their life choices.
The first death Goku faced was with a sacrifice to defeat his evil brother Raditz, showing his core selflessness. The second time around, the power-absorbing villain Cell planned to self-destruct, and Goku seemingly passed the torch to Gohan by sacrificing himself once again, but this time directly for the entire planet.
Turns out, death didn’t work out for Goku and he came back, having achieved Super Saiyan 3. He might not have taken the time to get to know his youngest son Goten immediately…but he definitely aimed to level up!
Obviously, fans know that Goku has since surpassed that and achieved the legendary Ultra Instinct in Dragon Ball Super, so for Goku, the third time is clearly the charm.
Watch Dragon Ball Z on Funimation!
Ken Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul)
The protagonist of Tokyo Ghoul is another character who has evolved through several encounters with death.
The central hero begins as a victim of an attack, ending his human life and leaving him in-between two starkly different worlds. The influences of his partial humanity and ghoul identity are ramifications of his grisly almost-death early into the series when he becomes a Ghoul, and that makes this particular return different from the standard ghouls introduced.
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Kaneki later experiences yet another life-changing blow that grounds him as a character simultaneously touched by life and death. In many ways, there are several “deaths” and “revivals” for Kaneki, with his character showing so much variation as he’s thrown into a world of constant trauma.
Our protagonist in Tokyo Ghoul is one that understands the idea of rebirth, but in a much darker way than many series might attempt to depict.
Watch Tokyo Ghoul on Funimation!