What makes an anime character a protagonist? Strength? Friendships? Amount of screen time? Or maybe it’s whether or not they were born between June 22 and July 22. While researching which anime characters fall under this water sign, I immediately noticed that a ton of them were the main characters of their respective series. Thus, instead of my usual “12 [Zodiac Sign] Anime Characters,” this month’s listicle will focus exclusively on protagonists!
Cancers are known for being very sensitive. On the one hand, this can make them empathetic and nurturing by nature; but on the other hand, they can also be moody and overprotective of both themselves and others. I’ve found from personal experience with Cancers in my life that they also tend to be unwittingly manipulative, like a puppy getting whatever it wants just because it’s so cute and pitiable. Nevertheless, Cancers usually have hearts of gold, which is perhaps what makes this sign so fitting for anime protagonists. Here are 12 examples!
Tsukune Aono (Rosario + Vampire) – June 22
How does an average-looking, relatively uninteresting human boy win the love and attention of several beautiful monster girls? If not his appearance or talents, then it must be because of his personality. At a school where violence is the norm, Tsukune’s preference for friendship over fighting is a welcome surprise for most of the people he meets. He is so pure-hearted that he easily forgives those who have wronged him. That heart of gold is often what makes an anime protagonist stand out from the rest of the cast, and it’s also one of the best features a Cancer can have.
Takemichi “Takemitchy” Hanagaki (Tokyo Revengers) – June 25
Takemitchy is called a “Crybaby Hero,” which is the perfect moniker for a Cancer: after all, they are known for being A) sensitive and B) protective. Takemitchy is so sensitive that he’s easily brought to tears, and also so protective of his friends that he goes to great lengths to defend them. He may not be very physically strong, but his ability to take a beating is impressive in its own right. What greater display of loyalty is there than constantly getting beaten within an inch of your life for your friends’ sake? Although crying is often seen as a weakness, especially in boys, Takemitchy’s candid expressiveness of his emotions earns him the respect of some of the toughest gang members in Tokyo.
Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop) – June 26
Some people go so far as to say Cancers are lazy, and Spike is proof that this can be true. Despite being a talented bounty hunter and spaceship pilot, Spike would prefer to do little more than smoke cigarettes and watch TV. He has far more dislikes than likes, and can easily get on people’s nerves with his sarcasm and lack of ambition. Nevertheless, he’s surprisingly a romantic and refuses to give up on being reunited with the woman he loves. He also often shows more compassion than one would expect from someone who kills people for a living and seems so nonchalant about everything.
Hiyori Iki (Noragami) – June 28
Even though Cancers tend to be pessimists, Hiyori is the type of person who can see the good in everyone regardless of how terrible they seem. This is an extension of her most positive Cancer trait, which is her determination to protect those around her no matter what. She also has a kind, nurturing personality, as we see through her willingness to take care of the stubborn Yukine and irresponsible Yato.
Haruka Nanase (Free!) – June 30
I’ll start with the obvious: Cancer is a water sign, and Haru is obsessed with swimming. Beyond that, though, Haru also has the gloomy aura that surrounds many Cancers. He’s usually pretty quiet, and seems uncaring about most things; however, he secretly cares very much about friendship. He manages to reunite and re-befriend all of his close friends from middle school, and the period when he was distant from one of them (Rin) causes him great strife. His fellow members of the Iwatobi High School swim team are particularly important to him.
Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon) – June 30
Once again, we have a protagonist who is a known crybaby. To be fair, saving the world from evil forces is a lot of responsibility for a clumsy 14-year-old girl; but a lot of the stuff Usagi cries about is far less dire than the fate of humanity, such as boy troubles or gaining weight. She’s also a perfect example of a Cancer who is just plain lazy. Still, her heart is in the right place, and in true magical girl fashion, she derives strength from the power of love and friendship.
Takashi Natsume (Natsume’s Book of Friends) – July 1
As a misunderstood orphan who can never stay in one home for too long, it’s no surprise that Natsume is a little gloomy. But instead of hating everyone and everything as a result of his trauma, he cares deeply about the few people that are kind to him. Unfortunately, this often leads to him keeping his ability to see Yokai a secret from the people he cares about since he doesn’t want to lose them. Closing oneself off from others and not allowing anyone to get too close is pretty common in Cancers.
Lucy (Elfen Lied) – July 2
Remember my metaphor about Cancers being sad little puppies? Well, after Lucy lost her memories, Kouta and Yuka take her home quite like a lost puppy. She adores her rescuers and protects them when they’re in danger, despite not knowing her own strength. She is sweet, innocent, and kindhearted. Interestingly, her former self before she became an amnesiac embodied a lot of the less desirable Cancer qualities. Due to a traumatic childhood, she hated herself and hated humanity even more. Rather than expressing her frustrations with tears, however, she used violence. Moodiness can be unpleasant enough, but hers left mounds of dead bodies in her wake. Yikes.
Tanjiro Kamado (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba) – July 14
Tanjiro is perhaps too empathetic. Even though a demon slaughtered his family and turned his only surviving sister into a monster like them, he still doesn’t feel resentment for their whole species. He is easily moved by the tragic backstories of the demons he has to kill as a Demon Slayer, and although he does get the job done, he cries and feels bad while doing it. His nurturing and protective nature does make him an excellent friend and brother, though. I just wish saving his sister didn’t have to involve so much bloodshed, because he’s really too good-natured for that.
Izuku Midoriya (My Hero Academia) – July 15
When it came time to choose his superhero name, Midoriya went with the nickname given to him by his childhood bully/”best friend” Bakugo: “Deku,” which literally means “useless.” To openly own his shortcomings and insecurities like that is SUCH a Cancer move. In addition to that paradoxical optimistic pessimism, Midoriya also embodies the Cancer spirit of deeply caring for others. He is selfless to a fault, constantly putting himself in harm’s way and pushing his body to the absolute brink for the sake of saving people. Plus, he cries quite a bit.
Ichigo Kurosaki (Bleach) – July 15
I confess that I’ve only ever watched about three episodes of Bleach (it’s on my watchlist and I’ll get to it eventually, okay?), so I don’t personally know Ichigo very well. From what I do know about him, however, he doesn’t seem very Cancer-like on the surface: he gives more of an Aries vibe. But he is true to his Cancer nature in how extremely protective of others he is, whether they be his loved ones, strangers, or even ghosts. Some Cancers become overprotective and clingy, but Ichigo has a genuine desire to use his strength to help people.
Nagisa Shiota (Assassination Classroom) – July 20
I know it’s not very original of me to keep going back to the accidentally-manipulative-puppy metaphor, but it just fits so many Cancers so well. Nagisa may not seem like a cold-blooded killer, with his small stature and gentle personality, but out of everyone in his class, he is the most adept at assassination. Although he is too polite and insecure to directly manipulate people, he uses his unassuming appearance and personality to his advantage. Nobody—himself included—expects much from him, so it’s a shock for everyone when this cutie unleashes intense bloodlust.