Every story is a journey, and along that journey, there is an unending variety of people a protagonist might find waiting by the roadside. The role these strangers play in the journey to come can be anything, but more often than not, it falls in line with their archetype.
Anime is rife with archetypes, many of which it has personally popularized, from the edgy rival to the tsundere. However, it also features several time-worn archetypes, like the sage. Historically, the sage has been a character of great wisdom and power/influence who plays the role of a teacher/guide, and anime is rife with sage-like figures.
7/7 Moro – Princess Mononoke
While presented as rather violent and dangerous during the events of the movie, Moro’s main role in the world of Princess Mononoke is that of a protector. She is a goddess who is hundreds of years old and uses her vast wisdom to protect the forest and its inhabitants from human influence.
Despite her hatred for humans, she did raise San, a human girl as her own daughter, showing that her motherly instincts apply to even the thing she hates most in the world. She’s certainly quite unconventional, but still meets many of the requirements of a sage character.
6/7 Kagaya Ubayashiki – Demon Slayer
While there are well-defined features that usually make up a sage character, there is also a sort of unspoken energy about them. Comparable to a religious figure, sages are often characters who attract great respect and adoration from those around them. This is something exemplified by Ubayashiki.
As the current leader of the demon slayer corps, one might expect him to be akin to an army general. Instead, Ubayashiki’s strength as a leader comes from his unending aura of kindness that causes even the strongest warriors to almost worship him. In turn, he acts as the guide and surrogate father for all demon slayers, despite being quite young himself.
5/7 Isaac Netero – Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x Hunter’s “Nen” is easily one of the most detailed and complex power systems in all of anime. Even using it is no small feat, and mastering it requires years of commitment. So, as the greatest Nen user in the world and the chairman of the hunter association, Netero is easily the wisest character in Hunter x Hunter.
Despite his extreme wisdom and power, he is shown to still encourage and teach newcomers like Gon and Killua when he can. His design and powers also draw inspiration from Buddhist mythology and iconography, adding a religious element to his character.
4/7 Kisuke Urahara – Bleach
Urahara is a surprisingly untraditional mentor character. While he does tutor Ichigo in the ways of a soul reaper, he never quite commits to his role as hard as the likes of All Might or the other members of this list. He generally prefers to be left alone, setting up others to do the important work while he watches from the sidelines.
While he still appears quite young, Urahara fits the sage title through his almost boundless wisdom, and his will to teach and guide others throughout the story. Healing abilities are also common amongst sage-like characters, and his rarely used bankai does allow him to reconstruct things, including his own body parts.
3/7 Enya – Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
Enya the hag is likely one of the most subtly influential characters in all of Jojo. Having purchased several stand arrows from Diavolo, she is responsible for the proliferation of stands throughout Parts 3 and 4 and directly advised Dio himself.
Interestingly, Enya is a rare case of a villainous sage. She has all the sagely features like age, wisdom, and a guiding purpose, but uses them for Dio’s sake, in order to make him as powerful as possible. She is even shown directly teaching Dio about stands and his own ability to stop time.
2/7 Jiraiya – Naruto
In the world of Naruto, “sage” is actually a title that is awarded to several characters over the course of the series. Similar to the classic definition, it is awarded based on wisdom, power, or holy standing. While even Naruto himself eventually obtains the title of sage, Jiraiya starts the series as a sage and is much more in line with what one might expect a sage to be.
As one of Konohagakure’s three great ninjas, Jiraiya is more than experienced in the various ninja arts. He’s been teaching young ninjas for many years, having personally tutored both Naruto and his father, Minato. While his lechery is a far cry from typical sage behavior, nobody can doubt Jiraiya’s credentials as a mentor and a guide.
1/7 Master Roshi – Dragon Ball
Easily one of the most recognizable anime characters ever, Roshi easily deserves the top spot. He’s everything one would expect from a sage, wise elder, or mentor character. He’s old, wise, and dedicated to teaching and guidance. Specifically when it comes to passing down his self-made fighting style and techniques.
He is Goku and Krillin’s original martial arts teacher and contributed greatly to the future hero’s development as martial artists and as people. He is also the source of the iconic Dragon Ball technique, the kamehameha. The only thing unsagely about Roshi, much like Jiraiya, is his long history of being an unashamed sex pest.
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