Each anime character, main or secondary, has something that sets them apart from everybody else. Sometimes it’s a unique fighting technique that no one else uses. Sometimes it’s just a character’s personality that makes them more noticeable. Even the characters that exist for a single episode or are secondary to the secondary characters usually have one quirk that defines them in terms of a contribution to the larger story. Despite these unique traits, however, sometimes it can just be as simple having a physical difference that sets a character apart. It can be someone’s height, their eyes, or even their hair color. In most cases, physical traits usually serve just to assist in identifying the character; they don’t really get much deeper than the surface in regards to who the character themselves is. A tattoo, though, is one of if not the best physical trait that can tell so much more about a character.
Tattoos can be very impressive in regard to their design, their color, and how they complement the character that got them, but there’s more to them than that. Above all else, tattoos tell a story; there is almost always a deeper meaning behind the character’s motivations as to why they got the tattoo as well as a connection to the current story being unfolded. Based on all these reasons, here are the top 10 anime tattoos.
10. Tatsumi Oga (Beelzebub)
- Episodes: 60
- Aired: Jan 9, 2011 – Mar 25, 2012
The main protagonist of the series, Tatsumi Oga is a delinquent high school student that is sadistic, self-centered, and very strong. As it turns out, these qualities are considered necessary to raise the newborn son of the great Demon King, and Oga is charged (along with Hilda) with taking care of Beel. As Oga tries to shirk the responsibilities to someone else, Beel becomes more attached to Oga to the point where a Zebul Spell is put on Oga, forming a human-demon contract between them. This results in a tattoo of the Zebul emblem (also seen as Hilda’s family crest) being created on the back of Oga’s right hand. The cool thing about this tattoo is that in addition to the simplistic design that we originally see, we learn from Hilda that the tattoo will become more complicated in design and grow across Oda’s body the more evil he becomes. As a result, we actually get to see the tattoo become more intricately designed throughout Oda’s body as the series progresses. Definitely a unique twist to the tattoo concept in anime.
9. Dino Cavallone (Reborn)
- Episodes: 203
- Aired: Oct 7, 2006 - Sep 25, 2010
The 10th boss of the Chiavarone Famiglia at the age of 22, Dino Cavallone is incredibly devoted to making his Famiglia great again. With the repairing of his Famiglia’s financial troubles, Dino is able to succeed in making the Famiglia the 3rd most influential Famiglia among the Vongola Alliance. Unfortunately, unaware to Dino himself, his combat skills with his bullwhip greatly diminish in the absence of his Famiglia members, suggesting how much he truly needs them in order to be an effective fighter. Dino’s tattoo is a rather large one, covering both his left hand and most of his arm. His tattoo consists of 4 main designs. The first is an orange sun with the letter C in it and the banner with the word “Famiglia” on it, indicating his commitment to the family. The second is of a black horse immersed in blue and green flames, which makes sense not only because of “Bucking Horse Dino” being his nickname, but also because of the types of attacks he uses in battle. The last 2 are of a small skull also immersed in blue flame and the word “Baracca”. All in all, it’s pretty clear that Dino defines his life by his ability as a fighter as well as the Chiavarone Famiglia, and his tattoo clearly represents his devotion to both.
8. Allen Walker (D.Gray-Man)
- Episodes: 103
- Aired: Oct 3, 2006 - Sep 30, 2008
Allen Walker is the main protagonist of D. Gray-Man whose purpose is to defeat the Millennium Earl and the Akuma he creates before the Earl destroys humanity. Allen’s unique talent in destroying Akuma lies in being able to turn his left hand into a powerful monstrous claw. As if Allen needed any more reminder about how different his left hand is, it is entirely encased in a unique tattoo design that gives off an appearance of making the appendage almost not part of Allen’s body. The entirety of Allen’s lower left arm appears black, but a white emblem resembling a compass rose is on the back of his left hand. Several black lines that appear like the hands of a clock and have black circles on the end are pointed towards his chest, forming a column that encircles the front of his shoulder. There are a couple vertical black wavy lines that on Allen’s upper arm that appear to separate the unique black points with circles from the rest of his upper arm that appears normal. All in all, it’s no secret as to what this tattoo represents.
7. Shura Kirigakure (Blue Exorcist)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr 17, 2011 – Oct 2, 2011
Shura Kirigakure is an Exorcist who serves as mentor to Rin Okumura, the protagonist. An Upper-Class Exorcist, Shura is talented enough to be both a Knight and a Doctor, and teaches Rin sword techniques as well as other invaluable skills. Shura’s tattoo is unique in the sense that it not only appears fairly different from most tattoos, as it mainly consists of a red line that goes from her abdomen up to her chest, but also serves as a seal. On her stomach, the line splits into 2 diverging lines that mirror each other as they jaggedly come closer again to the point of almost joining again, forming a unique enclosed shape around her belly button. Right underneath this enclosure is a small symbol that resembles the letter V, but with the ends more curved. On Shura’s chest, the line splits into 2 jagged lines that mirror each other as they grow farther away, with Japanese characters in the space between. The meaning of these symbols appear to be random words; the meaning of the tattoo as a whole, however, is to serve as a powerful sealing technique. Shura uses this seal to keep Karikura (the demon sealing sword) sealed in her abdomen and her own personal sword sealed in her chest. As a result, this tattoo has an important meaning for Shura, as she carries around with her not just some powerful weapons, but a heavy sense of responsibility as well.
6. Medusa Gorgon (Soul Eater)
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: Apr 7, 2008 - Mar 30, 2009
A powerful witch that the main protagonists come up against, Medusa is one of the series’ main antagonists. If she can be summed up in a single word, it would be manipulative. Beginning the series as a nurse that actually helps Maka and other students at the academy, Medusa soon reveals her true nature in terms of sparing no expense with the experiments she carries out, including experimenting on Crona, her own daughter. Medusa’s tattoos are more symbolic to us the audience as opposed to the character herself. On both of her arms, a long, black, and spotted snake winds around and around up until her shoulders, opening its jaws wide as if it’s about to strike. These tattoo snakes best reflect how Medusa’s namesake alludes to the Medusa of Greek mythology, best known for having her hair turned into venomous snakes as well as turning people to stone upon any who look at her. Medusa definitely stands out among the tattooed anime characters as having dual tattoos that mirror each other as well as catching your attention with just a minimal approach to the design.
5. Renji Abarai (Bleach)
- Episodes: 366
- Aired: Oct 5, 2004 - Mar 27, 2012
A lieutenant of the 6th Division under Captain Byakuya Kuchiki, Renji Abarai is one of the more energetic characters in the series. Renji is very much willing to fight and die for whatever he believes in, making him a dangerous opponent. A big motivator that drives him to grow stronger is his goal to ultimately surpass his captain. Renji’s origins regarding his tribal tattoos are a mystery, resulting in many fans forming their own theories as to what they mean. Initially covering his upper body, Renji’s tattoos have grown over the series’ progression to covering his entire back, his extremities, and even his forehead. Because his earliest known tattoos were present during his time as an academy student and the appearances of newer tattoos come at significant times in the series, some say the tattoos are connected to Renji’s growing stronger, possibly even in relation to Zabimaru. Others say it may be he likes getting larger tattoos done in segments. Even others say it’s simply because Tite Kubo has yet to reveal the real reason or just likes changing things up every now and then. Whatever the reason may be, Renji still looks pretty awesome with said tattoos, and they definitely reflect his character very well.
4. Scar (Fullmetal Alchemist)
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: Oct 4, 2003 – Oct 2, 2004
There are quite a few FMA characters that either have tattoos or unique emblems. However, if there had to be a definitive tattooed character in the series, it would have to be Scar. Scar’s tattoo definitely has a very unique origin story that most others can’t match. During the Ishbal Civil War, Scar ended up losing his right arm, and was close to death because of this mortal wound. However, his older brother, who had the marking for the Grand Arcanum tattooed all over his entire body, was able to sacrifice his life in order to transfer his right arm to Scar. The tattoo sleeve engraved on Scar’s new right arm, consisting of words, circles, and unique mirrored designs, ends up being a Transmutation Array. This allows Scar to conduct alchemy in a non-traditional sense by physically breaking down his target but not reshaping it, which Scar chooses to use for revenge against the State Alchemists. Not all tattoos bring closure for people, and Scar serves as a great example for those who still suffer the consequences.
3. Alviss (MAR)
- Episodes: 102
- Aired: Apr 3, 2005 – Mar 25, 2007
Alviss is a young boy that fights as part of Team MAR as they try to prevent the Chess Pieces from taking over MAR Heaven. As a young boy, Alviss was given the Zombie Tattoo by the main antagonist Phantom, stating that he gives it to people that are close to him (such as Roland and Peta) and who he wishes to reside in the future MAR Heaven. Alviss is who we see the tattoo grow from start to near completion as well as experience the psychological toll it can have. Alviss reveals how the tattoo’s curse is that it makes the person immortal, but it also turns them into the type of creature Phantom has begun. The tattoo itself starts as a small flame on Alviss’ chest, but when we are first introduced to Alviss in the present day, we can see a multitude of jagged black flame like patterns across his back surrounding a giant black cross. We also see Alviss throughout the series check on its growth by checking his arms, as a singular jagged black line ending in a pitchfork slowly grows closer to his hands. Although the tattoo design itself looks impressive, the toll of counting down when the effect is complete is evident in Alviss’ personality, whose seriousness and focus concerning the defeat of Phantom is almost absolute. One can only imagine the relief Alviss feels at the end of the series when the tattoo is neutralized once and for all.
2. Revy (Black Lagoon)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 9, 2006 – Jun 25, 2006
Most people usually associate tattoos with people that are complete badasses and have led a rough life, and there’s no better person who exemplifies that thinking better than Revy. Born in New York City, Revy was raised by a father who was both alcoholic and abusive. After trying to flee her father only to be beaten up and raped by a corrupt policeman, Revy ends up shooting her father, and eventually, through some twists and turns, becomes a member of the Lagoon Company. Revy has a tribal tattoo that covers her upper right arm that reaches her neck, and it certainly complements not only the rest of her outfit, but her attitude as well. Revy is tough, loves fighting, and has a lot of psychological issues, all things that people sometimes stereotypically associate with someone who chooses to have a tattoo. However, the tattoo definitely suits the type of business Revy engages in and strikes the right impression to those that come across her. Revy is definitely the go to character to represent the typical tough character that has a tattoo.
1. Trafalgar Law (One Piece)
- Episodes: 737 (as of now)
- Aired: Oct 20, 1999 - present
Many One Piece characters have tattoos throughout the series to show either which pirate crew they’re apart of or to intimidate others. Trafalgar Law, however, has the best tattoos by far. Not only does Law have his Jolly Roger (a cool design in itself) tattooed on his back, he also has the word DEATH spelled out on the back of his fingers on both hands. Law also has a black cross on the backs of both his hands that resembles his Jolly Roger, a simple heart tattoo on both his shoulders, and a tribal-style heart tattoo with his Jolly Roger inside on his chest. Law by far shows his dedication to not only showing that he’s not someone to mess with, but also his loyalty to his crew. Law by far has the perfect balance with his tattoos in terms of both appearing awesome as well as personal connection.
Whatever our preferences may be when it comes to tattoos, we can all agree on one thing: tattoos are yet another way for the character to be further developed. It can serve as a reminder to the character to remember a certain person, it can represent a horrible event in that character’s life, and it can be a symbol used as part of a group or team. Regardless of why they get one, a tattoo is a permanent part of that character’s life, and they will be defined by it numerous times in their lives, as is the case with these 10 characters. Who else should have been on the list instead? Should there have been more One Piece or FMA characters? Let us know in the comments!