Usually in political, mech, sports, and action anime, the hero or villain always gives a speech in order to demonstrate why they are right. In most speeches, the audience knows that the villain is full of crap, and/or that the hero is righteous. Some speeches are about never giving up, others are about revenge, and others are about wanting to kick ass and take names. In the end, I feel that a good percentage of them serve very relatable messages and others are to get under your skin. Here I share some of my personal favorite speeches in anime.
Warning! There will be spoilers!!!
10. Cowboy Bebop - The Tiger Striped Cat Story
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1998 – April 1999
“I hate that story. I hate cats.”
As Jet and Spike share a final meal, Spike tells Jet a famous Japanese tale about a tiger striped cat. The tiger striped cat was reborn many times, had many owners, became a stray cat, meets the love of his life, she dies, then the tiger striped cat dies one last time to never be born again. Spike then tells Jet he doesn't like cats after Jet says he thought it was a good story.
Once you finish Cowboy Bebop and revisit this scene, you can conclude what Spike is foreshadowing by telling this story. From the beginning of this series, Spike claims that he has previously died. Though Spike does not die a million deaths, as a living dead man, he was living free until he re-discovers the woman he loves. Spike may have closure when the story he shares starts to make sense, but by claiming he hates cats. I think it was his way of conveying he does not want to die but knows he must face his unique destiny.
I believe that both Yamadera Kouichi and Steven Blum give equal performances of conveying this story, but I think they do bring different atmospheres. I feel through Yamadera Kouichi, by using a Japanese story in the Japanese version, he brings an authentic sense of romanticism and I feel more of the tragedy behind it, even with the I hate cats punch line. With the English version, Steve Blum feels a bit more deadpan with the tone of his voice and I could find myself laughing at the part where he says he hates cats. I feel the performances both bring a definition of communication/culture differences between Japan and the west. Japanese and western humor is very different and I think the writer’s and voice director’s direction for the English version wanted to make you feel better after listening to such a tragic tale which I couldn’t bring myself to laugh ever in the Japanese version.
9. Death Note - L’s Challenge
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: October 2006 – June 2007
“I AM JUSTICE!”
Unable to catch Kira, the moniker of Yagami Light, INTERPOL and the Japanese police hire the services of L, a detective whose skills rivals that of Tim Drake from the Batman comics. Being able to conclude that Kira/Light was in the East Japan area based on the origins of the criminals that originally died, L sets up a trap by using a prisoner set for execution (whose info was under heavy lock and key) pretending to be him under the pretense that the broadcast was worldwide.
Without knowing the truth and showing he was too relaxed for his own good, Light gave away the scope of his location in narrowing the search when he kills that man on TV pretending to be L. The real L cleverly conceals himself and modulates his voice proving that Light needs to know the face and real name of the person he is going to kill off. This grand scale performance allows Light to show that he can be challenged and was also the first big blow to his expanding ego.
I like this speech because it establishes that Light can have a rival in terms of his intellect, his sense of justice, and if he can really get away with what he is doing. Light believes what he is doing is right because he is doing the world away with criminals. L believes he is right because humans live in a society of laws and that all criminals should be judged under a system. This speech is just the beginning of the mind games of cat and mouse between these two geniuses.
Even though L does not agree with Light playing judge, jury and ultimately as executioner, he still shows that he is not at all opposed to a legal death penalty by using a death row inmate as a sacrifice (just to let you know, upon the publication of this list, Japan does have a death penalty) and that he wants Light to be executed under the law.
I always felt the music in Death Note was too much over the top, but this is one instance that I can enjoy it.
8. Hokuto no Ken - Raoh’s Farewell Speech
- Episodes: 152
- Aired: October 1984 – February 1988
“In this life, I do not have a single regret.”
Though the final battle between Kenshiro and Raoh was a fight to the death, it was not necessarily a typical battle between good vs. evil. Raoh did a lot of bad things, but I think a lot of hardcore Hokuto no Ken fans would not 100% label him as a villain. In my opinion, his conqueror mentality in the post-nuclear war situation is possibly a realistic mindset for survival, and he just happened to be one of the strongest men on the planet. He wasn’t like the other common outlaws who commit terrible atrocities for the thrill of it, just to ensure his survival. Later after his death in the Ashura story arc, Raoh is seen as a hero and Kenshiro raises Raoh’s son telling him that he was a great man. If anything, Raoh lives by an old school warrior’s code in wanting to prove his own manhood.
In the end, Raoh accepts Kenshiro as the better warrior and finally expresses his own love for him as a brother. He sees the light on why Kenshiro is the superior fighter because of his heart, and not because of his physical strength. For his final act in redeeming himself, Raoh gives his remaining life to Yuria (who is dying of radiation sickness), Kenshiro’s fiancee for both out of the love he has for Yuria and for his brother. With the last of his strength, he claims that he has no regrets and will take his place in Heaven.
Utsumi Kenji’s performance truly makes this speech beautiful and you feel Raoh’s pain and his resolve. Despite his deep and trembling voice, he demonstrates a sense of emotion and control to those emotions as he accepts defeat and maintains his dignity as a man’s man.
Coming from a family of three brothers such as myself, I understand the issues that come with it though none of my brothers are like Raoh and/or Jagi. Despite all the things that happen, Raoh makes peace with Kenshiro, and dies on his feet like a true warrior.
7. Rurouni Kenshin - Hiko’s Pep Talk to Fuji
- Episodes: 94
- Aired: January 1996 – September 1998
“You are a martial artist. Regain your pride.”
Anybody who looks at Fuji can naturally assume he is a monster. Due to his unrealistic gigantic size, society made him an outcast and his sole companion only sees him as a tool for destruction. However, Hiko, Kenshin’s bad ass of a master, is the first to acknowledge Fuji not only as a true warrior but as a man and appeals to his humanity to accept not only him as an opponent but to accept himself as a person, too.
Another reason to love Hiko is that he is voiced by Ikeda Shuuichi, most famous as the voice of Char from the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise and as Shanks in One Piece. Ikeda Shuuichi always has this overwhelming sense of charisma and comes across as being a legitimate strategic intellect. He uses his wonderful talent through his character to not just to get Fuji to listen to him, but getting the whole town listening to him and being captivated by his charm and his awesomeness. He made our heroes more scared of him as opposed to Fuji by saying that he could kick Fuji’s ass.
Even though the purpose of this on-going fight at this point of the story was to stop the Juppongatana, Hiko teaches the audience that discrimination is not cool and that everybody has an inner beauty that we should all embrace.
6. Hajime no Ippo - New Challenger - Father to Son Pep Talk
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: January 2009 – June 2009
“There is no such thing as a lucky punch.”
In the beginning of the second installment of the hit boxing series, Ippo’s rival Miyata Ichiro finally gets his shot at the Oriental-Pacific featherweight title. It is the same belt that his father once held and defended six times many years ago. But in his seventh and final defense, despite having the lead on the scorecards going into the final round, he ends up getting knocked out. To make things worse, his jaw also ends up shattered. When Miyata-san (despite the manga being in publication for 25 years, Miyata’s father has never been given a first name so must fans just refer to him as Miyata-san) hears his son Ichiro that he will go for a lucky punch to win as he falls behind on the score cards, he tells him that miracles are born from hard work and not luck. This speech is not just for own son’s benefit, but it is also showing that he has finally come to terms with his final defeat as a boxer. As a result, Miyata goes out to the ring and wins based on his own skills.
Even though I read that part in the manga long before it was animated, I always read it with Miyata-san’s seiyuu, Ishizuka Unshou’s voice in my head. Accompanied by a calm and yet dramatic background orchestras by Hirano Yoshihisa, who is also the composer of Death Note, Ishizuka’s performance brings a perfect balance of the character’s authority as a trainer, his love as a father, and his experiences as a boxer to share his message.
I think people who do sports can relate to this because no matter what goals they have, everybody has to put in their time at the gym. I have done martial arts my whole life and I understand. If a fighter is aiming to get the knock out and ends up getting it, they were simply doing what they were intending to do and not as a result of luck. This speech was an old school and masculine way of saying, if you can put your mind to it, you can achieve anything.
5. Zeta Gundam - The Dakar Speech
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: March 1985 – February 1986
“I am also the man who was known as Char Aznable.”
Throughout the events of “Zeta Gundam,” the Titans who are meant to protect the people are committing sick atrocities on civilian populations. The big wigs want more power while the grunts do it for the thrills. No one wants to take their brutality anymore and it is up to the former Red Comet himself to expose them. He does not do it through his ace piloting skills, but through his words.
The Dakar Speech is Char’s (going under the name Quattro Bajeena, but the spelling of the last name varies in official source material such as games suggesting to the female anatomy) chance to expose the Titans for the tyrants they truly are. Hell, they were fighting just right outside giving solid proof of his case.
In addition to exposing the Titans, Char admits his identity of who he was during the events of the original Gundam series and that he is also Casval Rem Daikun, the son of Zeon Daikun, the original founder of the Zeon nation. Despite taking place seven years after the events of the first Gundam, Char denounces the actions of the Zabi family, and uses his speech as a platform of what his father believed in that mankind was meant to migrate to space to “evolve.”
After seeing the terrorist acts the Titans commit, you will naturally want to be on Char’s side as he denounces them. But when he talks about his identity and about his father, he turns the focus to himself like it’s his own political campaign. His views come across as extreme, but he brilliantly makes his points with on-point metaphors such as “Earth will no longer be a planet of water. Even the city of Dakar is being engulfed by the deserts. This is how exhausted the Earth is!”
In some ways, I still get the impression that Char is blaming the earth for humanity’s problems when ultimately humanity itself is the problem. He is forcing his views on others and I see this speech to be the beginning of who he becomes in Char’s Counterattack. He uses other metaphors such as “our souls being bounded by gravity,” in both the Dakar Speech and again in Char’s Counterattack to justify his actions by the events of that movie.
The speech is beautifully worded but because of how I personally feel about politics, Char was all about selling himself and he does a good job of that. And everything I can say about Ikeda Shuuichi, I already covered in Hiko’s speech.
4. Dragon Ball Z - Goku Turns Super Saiya-jin for the first time
- Episodes: 291
- Aired: April 1989 – January 1996
“Ally to good. Nightmare to you.”
For the longest time, people have been disputing between English and Japanese versions of anime and this argument applies very much to Dragon Ball. Many people prefer the English version because they can’t stand Goku’s high pitched and scratchy voice in the Japanese version. Others like the Japanese version because of lines in the English version that came across as corny such as “I’m going to send you to the next dimension,” as opposed to saying “I’m going to f@(king kill you!!!!!!!” (Who remembers all the swearing in DBZ VHS fan subs?)
This is probably the only speech on my list that will be in relation to exclusively the English dub of the anime. This was from when Goku goes Super Saiya-Jin the first time when Freeza kills Kuririn. When Goku emerges from the clouds, he gives this really bad ass introduction in the English version while the Japanese version does not feel memorable I felt that this speech was an excellent mix of heroic rhetoric (I am the hope of the universe. I am the answer to all living this that cry out for peace), his inner rage, and his declaration that he is going to kick some ass (I am the light in the darkness. Ally to good. Nightmare to you.).
All that anybody can take out of this speech is that Goku is going to kick Freeza’s ass and have some fun doing it.
3. Code Geass - All Hail Britannia
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2006 – July 2007
“All Men Are Not Created Equal”
For Americans such as myself, this line really gets to me because it is the opposite of my country philosophy that All Men Are Equal. What gets the audience’s attention is that he justifies that claim by using legitimate and real life examples such as some people are born and healthy, while others are born poor and frail and that because of these situations, inequality is not evil. This speech was the perfect platform in representing Britannia’s fascist rule. But the audience is intelligent enough to know it’s just merely a pathetic attempt to justify his conquests.
I say both English and Japanese performances were equal. Wakamoto Norio and Michael McConnohie captivate a tone that reflects his intimidating physique, his stern face, and his authority as King. His frame, his heavy clothing and hair limit his movement showing he doesn't need to use gestures to get his point across with the exception of All Hail Britannia. He's the damn Emperor! The accompanying majestic chorus also gives chills down his spine and the deep voices that are used in it perfectly serve as an extension of that character.
Even though the audience knows that Britannia is full of it, for a moment, he does have you thinking he does have a point. But the Japanese philosophy of “gaman” or perseverance shows that all men are equal and surpass his twisted views.
2. Ashita no Joe 2 - Joe and Noriko at the Bridges
- Episodes: 47
- Aired: October 1980 – August 1981
“Burnt Up Like Pure White Ashes”
Shortly before Noriko marries Nishi, Joe’s best friend, Joe and Noriko have one last conversation together on a bridge. Noriko questions why Joe wants to continue boxing despite the consequences. She questions why he trains so hard, why he cuts weight, and why he always takes the hits and if he wants his youth to be defined by that. Joe says that he simply loves it and despite everything that happens to him and some of his opponents, he answers when it is all said is done all that is left is burnt up white ashes.
This speech is important to the series because it is the beginning of the end. It tells the audience everything about Joe and what will happen to him. Joe makes countless sacrifices to get where he is by the end of the series and is saying he knows where it all ends up, but expresses that he will have no excuses or regrets. At the same time, Joe does have his flaws and he can be emotional when he channels it wrong and that is what never changes about him. This is one of the few instances that he can channel his emotions and his masculinity like a philosophical poet. As the series ends in one of the most iconic scenes to Japanese fans, the burnt up like pure white ashes comes full circle.
I feel that if you want to do something despite knowing there will be consequences, then it is ok to do it. Just don't make any excuses and you better look cool when it is all said and done.
1. Mobile Suit Gundam - Garma’s Funeral
- Episodes: 43
- Aired: April 1979 – January 1980
Sieg Zeon! Sieg Zeon! Sieg Zeon! Sieg Zeon!
As the oldest brother brother of the Zabi’s, the ruling family for the Principality of Zeon, Giren gives an iconic speech for Garma, his fallen brother at his televised funeral (Garma was killed by the White Base crew but was also a trap set up by Char Aznable, the man he believed to be his best friend). Giren appeals to his fellow Zeeks to take arms and seek justice for Garma as the Federation knows that this is all propaganda. To make things less tense for the audience who are aware why Garma dies, as Char watches the speech at a bar, in a troll-like manner, he answers “because he was a brat,” (or more beautifully in the Japanese version “bouya dakara sa”) when Giren screams why his brother had to die.
Audience members will be taken by this speech because it is easy to conclude the character is inspired by Adolf Hitler. His posture, gestures, how he speaks from higher grounds and how he uses a loud voice all elude back to him. By the climax of the series, even his own father compares him to Hitler and takes it as a mere compliment.
Banjou Ginga’s performance in this speech is superb and I don't think this speech could have worked without him. He demonstrates a commanding presence and instill fear. His voice just spills this dude is pure evil and has unquestionable leadership. When he ends the speech by screaming Sieg Zeon and getting the audience in attendance to repeat it amplifies all those qualities. Plus, there is a video on YouTube of just Banjo Ginga performing the speech to a live audience. Despite the passage of 35 years, he still captures the very same performance as if it was still 1979. Also, if you want to see it with updated animation, check out the “Giren’s Greed” (available for Saturn, Dreamcast, Playstation 1 and 2, and PSP) version and it also shows other Gundam characters like Chris from 0080 watching on it TV as well as the Delaz Fleet from 0083.
To be honest, there is so much more that I want to share. Heck, I can do a top 25 list if possible but with 10, this was very difficult to do with all the anime I have personally watched the last 20 years. Some of these speeches touch your soul, while others just simply get under your skin, and there are others that inspire you to take up arms. I feel a lot of these speeches apply to reality and that’s what I loved about them. So please tell me what you think is your best.