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TOP 5 Greatest Anime Detectives

Get out your thinkin' caps, 'cause this week we're counting down the five best detectives in all of anime!

Previous Lists... Top 2D Fighting Games *** Top Soundtracks *** Top Miyazaki Movies *** Top Forgotten Fighting Games***Top Manliest Men *** Top Ninjas *** Top Mecha *** Most Awful Anime *** Most Awful Dubs *** Wimpiest Guys *** Top Intros *** Top Anti-Heroes *** Best Ultraviolent Anime *** Top Sci-fi Anime *** Top Overlooked Sci-fi *** Top Intros (Part 2)

Welcome back yet again, Vice-squad.

This week we’re rolling up our sleeves, furrowing our brows and searching for the mysterious identities of anime’s finest detectives...

NUMBER FIVE == Yusuke Urameshi (YU YU HAKUSHO)

Yusuke is a Spirit Detective. Sure, arguably he’s only a detective by title, and he solves cases the only way he knows how - - with his fists. But really, would using his smarts be any better?

I'd say he's like any classic noir hero. He's a rough kid from the wrong side of the tracks, he's approached by a beautiful woman who gets him into trouble, and he’s always got his trusty gun with him at all times (even If they are just his fingers). In many ways, Yusuke's your quintessential detective fiction gumshoe. In most other ways.... he’s a demon king with super powers.


A case can be made that Zenigata is, in fact, a terrible detective since he never seems to get his man. Still, his tireless efforts and admirable motivations earn him a spot on the list. In the annals of anime detecting, this guy’s one of the most lovable and memorable - - a pillar of cartoon police buffoonery!

His unending pursuit of Lupin aside, Zenigata does manage to do some good, solving some crimes, and putting a few nefarious baddies behind bars. In CAGLIOSTRO, he is instrumental in exposing an enormous counterfeiting ring; going against direct orders to do so, no less. He’s a man who lives by a code - - a true servant of justice and truth!

Basically, Zenigata is a good dude, and he does always manage to track down his man (even if he never actually catches him). He’s easily fooled, but tends to do the right thing in the end. He’s slavishly devoted, with a heart of gold and a determined face. That’s the kind of man I want on the case!


This is almost a cheat since SHERLOCK HOUND is obviously just an doggy version of Sherlock Holmes. He’s also got the extreme advantage of being directed by the big catbus himself, Hayao Miyazaki (on occasion, anyway).

Not every episode of this show is a winner, of course, and only six were directed by Miyazaki (those six are pretty damn perfect, though). There’s a Victorian-era steampunk element to the show that’s not overbearing, but actually quite charming. And yes, Hound himself is as adept at crime solving and detection as the original Mr.Holmes. In fact, he's so similar that the show was forced to halt production because of complaints from Conan Doyle’s estate.

More the point, Hound is is a perfect “all ages” anime lead. His show's perfect for kids, but never pandering or patronizing. It’s a mix of European and Japanese sensibilities, with nice, approachable designs that don’t feel creepy the way some anthro stuff can. This is a must-see for any fans of Miyazaki, Sherlock Holmes, or whimsy of any sort. Any of you guys into whimsy?


This is the anime detective series, a huge, huge franchise in Japan (and kind of a flop here, sadly). CASE CLOSED is also packed full of Sherlock Holmes references, but it really has more in common with MURDER SHE WROTE. Every week, there’s a new improbable mystery for Conan to stumble across, and every week, it’s solved by the end of 21 minutes.

Jimmy Kudo is a gifted teenage super-sleuth, trapped in the body of a child with super-human kicking powers named Conan… If you’re still reading then you’re willing to suspend your disbelief admirably and CASE CLOSED just might be your new favorite show. Conan/Jimmy have sleuthing abilities that border on the realm of super power. What's more, he has to keep his adult brain secret from his friends and colleagues, deal with annoying brats as best friends, and little girls trying to smooch him. He’s got a lot on his plate.

The fun of CASE CLOSED is partly in watching Conan/Jimmy solve the increasingly convoluted murder mysteries, and avoid giving away his secret. It’s a bit like how Ranma has to fight off enemies while keeping his gender-swapping secret. And much like Ranma, this eventually becomes too tiresome for the writers and it all comes out into the open. Either way, the ride is a fun one.

Jimmy's also got a scientist friend who looks an awful lot like Dr. Light from MEGAMAN. And just like Mega Man, this professor gives him all kinds of gadgets to aid his perilous exploits. Things like wrist-watch voice mimic technology, and kick-enhancing leg braces. Can't argue with anybody who uses such over-the-top, cartoony ideas to tackle some surprisingly grizzly murders.


Basically anime’s Batman, L is a monster of a detective with a mind that always seems a couple steps ahead of both the other characters and the viewer! In fact, he knows what you’re thinking right now and he’s not impressed.

L is the perfect foil for Light Yagami, and an interesting weirdo in his own right, as well. Much of the thrill of DEATH NOTE comes from the dramatic back and forth and one-ups-manship of these two characters. L is neurotic, suspicious, analytic paranoid, and even frustrating at times... but nothing gets past him.

L also stands in stark contrast to the rest of our TOP 5 detectives. Most of them are dapper, refined, even dashing. L is a mess with a sweet tooth. He slumps, shoeless, with bags under his eyes at all times. He is unconcerned with his appearance, or really much of anything beyond finding the truth. He is something of a psychopath, but he’s on the side of justice, at least (perhaps only by chance). He’s likable despite it all.

The viewer jumps back and forth between wanting L to succeed in solving the Kira mystery, and hoping Light gets away with it. I suppose you could think of L as the villain (in some sense). This kind of ambiguity is what makes L our number one anime detective!

There they are, folks, the sleuthing-est, brainy lot of detectives that anime has to offer! Feel free to weigh in on which of our grievous oversights offended you the most this week by leaving a comment in the section below. But don’t expect an apology.

Alex Eckman-Lawn is an illustrator and comic artists from Philadelphia. Check out his site - - - - rumble with his Tumblr - - - and hit up his Twitter: @alexeckmanlawn

Fehafareon May 20, 2013 at 2:39 p.m.

L over Conan?

Can't picture that at all.

phantomranton May 20, 2013 at 3:08 p.m.

Surprised that Yusuke was mentioned while Lunge or Richard from Monster wasn't.

Other than that, this is rather nice.

Marshal Victoryon May 20, 2013 at 3:53 p.m.

@Fehafare: ya me either.Considering Conan Edogawa/Jimmy Kudo is his own robin to his own batman.

Zenigata tho entertaining really isnt that great of a detective .Better than average but top 5 in anime ehh.. He mostly gets credit for swing an miss .He comes close alot .But any thing non Lupin he is better average at best.Heart of gold seems to have a weekenss for spitoons. Tho i will say vs lupin he would be on the list. As lupin is the focus of his life.

Of Young Kindaichi Files Hajime Kindaichi is a better over all detective than Zenigata. Young Kindaichi Files is old an hard to find tho but good stuff a more odd even blooder high school detective show.

Kyu of Detective Academy Q is a better detective to.

heck Heiji Hattori is near as good as Conan Edogawa/Jimmy Kudo an a rival turned some time parter of him.

lets not forget "The Defeated Detective" Shijuuro Yuuki from Un-Go an Yakumo Saitou from Psychic Detective Yakumo. Tho magic beings an psycic powers are cheeting me thinks.

Also as a master mind type criminal i would rather face Zenigata than Kiichi Goto from Patlabor . Sherlock Hound i know nothing of but if the production was halted by the Conan Doyle’s estate. Then that should knock it from the main list.

Kuro_Sanon May 20, 2013 at 4:18 p.m.
Gesicht is the man.....robot.....bah! you get the point....
Gesicht is the man.....robot.....bah! you get the point....

The protagonist of Pluto, the marvel of German Robotics, the European Robotic Detective Gesicht, capable not only of having intuition like a man, but is capable to do on-site analysis and can shoot the shit out anything, not to mention he is tougher to kill that a catchy song thanks to his Zeronium alloy chassis.

All bow down to the might of Gesicht... In Urasawa we Trust..

Zenigata shouldnt even be in the least, poor Zenigata....

Yusuke aint even a Detective so he also should take a hike

YotaruVegetaon May 20, 2013 at 4:38 p.m.

If L is anime's Batman, then who the hell is this?

mooned_knight staff on May 20, 2013 at 5:01 p.m.

@YotaruVegeta: OCD Tony Stark?

Kuma_From_Argentinaon May 20, 2013 at 5:22 p.m.

@YotaruVegeta: A Negotiatior... with a kick-ass mecha that haves a BFG mounted in its chest

The Stegmanon May 21, 2013 at 5:52 a.m.

We all knew the answer would be L as soon as we clicked on the page.

SamJazon May 21, 2013 at 8:59 a.m.

I actually completely forgot about L until half-way through reading conan. Whoops to me.

Marshal Victoryon May 21, 2013 at 9:36 a.m.

@The Stegman said:

We all knew the answer would be L as soon as we clicked on the page.

Nope . No we all didn't. If you go by tv series , ratings , ova's an movies... Conan pwns L ... Not starting a fight but Conan geting close to 700 episodes now an still hits top 10 for ratings.Many times top 3.

YotaruVegetaon May 21, 2013 at 4:56 p.m.

@Kuma_From_Argentina: Also, piston fists. That's why I'm so excited for Pacific Rim!

DocHauson May 22, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.

I'd give this guy an honorable mention, even if it was his assistant/boss who did most of the work.

Fighting for truth and justice, even if no one gives him any respect for it. Yuuki Shinjuro.

YotaruVegetaon May 22, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.

@DocHaus: Nah. When you have a supernatural assistant who can force information out of people, it lessens the power of just an intelligent detective.

I kinda liked Un-Go (especially the music themes), but I don't like when a normal premise leans on the supernatural when it's unnecessary.

zaldaron May 26, 2013 at 10:10 a.m.

Really the persona female detective isn't on here and the crazy spirit "detective" who simply beat people up is? List looses all credibility...

YotaruVegetaon May 28, 2013 at 7:33 p.m.

@zaldar: Naoto's detective skills are on better display in the game than in the anime. It's hard to put her up as one of the greatest detectives in anime.

zaldaron May 30, 2013 at 5:22 p.m.

This may be true having played the game as well as seen the anime I may be relying on her skills shown there. Differentiateng them would likely require more direct analysis of just the anime than I want to do. Still I think including the spirt "detective" is simply a sop to Tom's addiction to shonen. (Which I would say is even worse than an addiction to hentai..)

Kobra678on Oct. 12, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.

Woot Woot L!

JimeeJoon Jan. 17, 2014 at 6:05 p.m.

L is totally the batman of anime! so awesome

Dig Deeper into Lupin III

Created in 1967 by mangaka Monkey Punch, the wildly successful Lupin III features the "gentleman thief" Arsène Lupin III. Lupin III is the grandson of Arsène Lupin, the fictional lead character of Maurice Leblanc's French novel series, published in the early 20th century.

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