10) Nabeshin (Excel Saga)
Why he rocks: A true paragon of comic genius, Nabeshin is the afro-toting, machine-gun-wielding, car-racing, heroic personification of the insanity that is Excel Saga. Along with his comrades (including the likes of the gallant Space Butler), Nabeshin strives to protect the earth from the Pu-chuu invasion and aid Pedro in his quest to reclaim his cute son and sexy wife from the scheming clutches of That Guy. He deserves his own spinoff series.
9) Saito Hajime (Rurouni Kenshin)
Why he rocks: Saito is the character Kenshin needed lots more of. While principled, merciless and with a heart cold as ice, he uses his amazing sword skills to fight evil in his own way, according to the ancient motto of the Shinsengumi; 'Aku. Soku. Zan. (Evil must be slain immediately)'. Not only is he a great character by himself, but he makes a superb foil for the kind-hearted Kenshin and the hot-headed Sanosuke. He might be much higher on my list if he had gotten more screen time and character development.
8) Sanosuke Sagara (Rurouni Kenshin)
Why he rocks: While Kenshin is an idealist, Sanosuke is anything but. A self-admitted simpleton, his usual concerns involve little more than getting some good food to eat. However, when times get tough, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more loyal or passionate about defending his friends. With Kenshin's help, he's able to change his feelings about the past from bitterness and hate into acceptance, and find new meaning to his life. In much the same way, his dedication and friendship help the former Hitokiri Battousai rebuild his life from the ashes of the past.
7) Jet Black (Cowboy Bebop)
Why he rocks: Jet is the 'adult' in the dysfunctional family of the Bebop crew, and he plays the role to perfection. He is also the only passenger whose past is not shrouded in mystery, but that doesn't make him any less interesting of a character. Despite the 'tough guy' facade he puts up, it's plain to see he really cares for Spike and Faye, and takes care of them as best as he can. His true toughness though, is visible not from his constant grumbling, but from the way he confronts his own past after encountering it.
6) Gatts (Berserk)
Why he rocks: Gatts is a perfect example of the depth a good anime will bring to its characters. Pursued by the terrible memories of his childhood, willing to carry out the most brutal killings, and downright savage in the midst of battle, he is also fiercely loyal, capable of deep remorse, compassion and even love. All of Berserk could be seen as his own personal journey, as he struggles to find some meaning to his life, when violence and murder are all he has ever known.
5) Kazuma (Scryed)
Why he rocks: In many ways, Kazuma is very similar to Gatts. Indeed, I am quite sure that this similarity is not a coincidence, as several other parts of Scryed (particularly the way he first meets Ryuhou) bear a remarkably resemblance to Berserk. But that's not to say that he's a simple ripoff, far from it. While Gatts' story is one of a man trying to find his place in the world, Kazuma's is that of a boy trying hard to become a man. While Gatts often questions the principles that drive him to fight, Kazuma embraces them, lives by them, and thrives despite all adversity. The depth of his devotion to Yuta, in particular, was what helped him slightly edge out the Berserk lead for the #5 spot.
4) Ashram (Record of Lodoss War)
Why he rocks: This guy was the TRUE hero in Record of Lodoss War. Ashram fights for the sake of his people, and is willing to do anything to make sure that those who have entrusted their lives to him succeed. Unlike the other kings of Lodoss, who let their citizens suffer for the sake of peace, he goes out and takes what he has to for his people to thrive. Even when his kingdom is about to fall, he refuses to surrender and leads his people to a new land across the sea. And let's not forget his devotion to Pirotess, the love of his life (it's not really visible in the TV show, but very prominent in the OVA). The cure for the common king!
3) Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop)
Why he rocks: Calling Spike 'complex' is like calling that goddamn monkey from Vandread 'annoying'. I can only guess as what really drives a character as deep as this. Over and over, Cowboy Bebop asks the question: "What exactly is Spike?" Is he a principled warrior trying to defend the woman he loves and deal with a turbulent past? Or is he a lonely, confused guy who simply can't let go of what has already happened and move on with his life? Thankfully, the series doesn't force an answer to the question on to you, and lets you make up your own mind.
2) Griffith (Berserk)
Why he rocks: It's easy to make an anime 'bad guy'. Just have him slaughter some women and children, or something. However, it's hard as hell to make a character that is really EVIL. And this guy is it. Griffith is Satan in a Messiah's clothing, inspiring awe and worship from all those who meet him, and has absolutely no problem sacrificing them all on a whim to fulfill his ambitions. Everything he does is part of a grand, intricately thought out plan to get exactly what he wants. He does not regard even the people who consider him a close friend as anything more but pawns to be strategically used in his endeavours. The very last scene in Berserk is a horrifying capper on a character that chills my blood like none other ever has.
1) Dark Schneider (Bastard!!)
Why he rocks: My lord, how does he NOT rock? He's all-powerful, arrogant beyond words, absolutely unwilling to compromise with anyone in any way and does not even contemplate surrender in any situation. He wants to take over the world, sure... but why? Not to have ultimate power, or to create an ideal society, or to get revenge, or anything silly and cliche like that. He simply considers everyone else a lower form of life, ones who have no right to interfere or object to anything he might want. And man, can he back up the talk... but that's not all! He's also deeply loyal and protective of the women he cares about, and even displays some feelings of love and compassion (gasp!) towards his longtime lover Arshes Nei. If some sort of evil god was to turn me into an anime character of my choosing, I'd be Dark Schneider, no question about it.