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  • Attack on Titan's Levi is beloved by the fanbase, even more so than the main characters. Thanks to his incredible fighting prowess and ability to curbstomp some of the strongest Titans, along with his monotonic insulting voice, Levi started appearing on just about every piece of AoT merchandise, got his own light novel spinoff, and most likely will stick around as one of the franchise's most popular characters.
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  • Heavy Cruiser Takao from Arpeggio of Blue Steel proved so popular that along with Iona she's pretty much the face of the series (from promotional materials, you'd be fooled into thinking she was the main character). In fact, her massive popularity surprised even the manga's creators and they had to radically change their plans for her as a result. It's gotten to the point that she even has her own spin-off (Salty Road), which chronicles her misadventures while she's separated from the main plot.
  • Due to the nature of Axis Powers Hetalia, this also happens considerably with a good chunk of the Loads and Loads of Characters. Overlaps with Ascended Extra and Ensemble Dark Horse.
  • Osaka from Azumanga Daioh got considerably less focus than the other main characters in the first volume of the manga, mostly due to being introduced towards the tail end of the book. Compare now where she's pretty much the face of the series.
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  • Fan favourite Dazai Osamu in the anime adaptation of Bungou Stray Dogs, where he has almost as much screentime as the protagonist, Atsushi. It even adapted his light novel-only backstory, taking up four entire episodes (of twelve) of the second cour.
  • Syaoran Li of Cardcaptor Sakura. Originally a secondary character, Syaoran became a more prominant friend (and later love interest) for Sakura, with some later episodes revolving more around his perspective than the title character. Like Sakura, Syaoran also provided the basis for several other CLAMP characters, many of them just as (or more) prominant than the former. Somewhat ironically, Nelvana and Kids' WB attempted to endorse Syaoran as co-lead for the Cardcaptors dub to appeal to male audiences early on in its run.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Accelerator was a villain who slaughtered 10,031 clones and was eventually stopped by the protagonist, but he was so popular with the fanbase that he was given a chance to atone for it. Ever since then, he's become one of the three protagonists of the series. He later got his own spin-off series, A Certain Scientific Accelerator.
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    • Mikoto Misaka even got her own spin-off series, A Certain Scientific Railgun, that is arguably more popular than the original one.
    • Then there's Junko Hokaze, a supporting character for Misaki Shokuhou (herself a secondary character in A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun). Despite starting out in such a minor position - for a long time even her name wasn't revealed - she was popular enough to get a spinoff of her own, A Certain Scientific Railgun Gaiden: Astral Buddy.
  • Code Geass: Jeremiah Gottwald was supposed to die early in the series' run, but proved to be so popular that he was allowed to survive and become a more important character than originally planned.
  • Kurumi in Date A Live. Although she was always intended as a major character, being one of the Spirits around which the plot revolves, she is arguably the series' most popular character. She has her own spinoff Date A Live Fragment: Date A Bullet.
  • Detective Conan:
    • Ai Haibara. Introduced later in the manga than other characters, Ai quickly became one of the most important characters in the series, and gained more screentime as a result. She is also very well-loved by fans thanks to her personality and the Ship Tease with Conan.
    • Tooru Amuro. He was introduced Chapter 793 of the manga but since then gained a huge fanbase on his own. He now has his own Spin-Off manga and a movie with him as the central character.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Vegeta was originally supposed to be just the Big Bad for the Saiyan saga, but proved to be so popular among the fans that Toriyama continued using him and turned him into the Anti-Hero as a result.
    • Frieza. He is often cited as one of the best and most important villains in the franchise. His popularity has reached such a point that is remembered on several occasions, including in the film Battle of Gods. He would later take center stage as the villain of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’, and then brought back for the Universe Survival arc of Dragon Ball Super.
    • Speaking of Battle of Gods, the movie's antagonist, Beerus, has become a recurring character, with him having an important role in the story of Dragon Ball Xenoverse: the first Dragon Ball Z game to feature an original story in a while. He also plays a role in the next movie Resurrection 'F'. He also plays a role in Super as pretty much the main character.
    • Cooler is a breakout movie character, and shares his brothers' popularity. He is the first Non-Serial Movie villain to be brought back for a second film and appears in a large number of Video Games and fan work. The fact that he is a Benevolent Boss, a rarity for a Dragon Ball villain, sure helps.
    • Broly surpasses even Cooler in this regard. The non-(manga) canon Monster of the Week in one of the movies proved so popular that not only did he get two more movies as the antagonist, but is now practically guaranteed to show up in every tie-in video game, regardless of whether or not he fits into the story. He eventually became a Canon Immigrant and was made the villain of Dragon Ball Super: Broly. His English voice actor, Vic Mignogna, has a love-hate relationship with this. He likes Broly as a character, but doing the voice is hell on his vocal chords.
    • Bardock, father of Goku, was an anime creation for a special going into detail the events that led up to the destruction of Planet Vegeta. The special was well received, and Bardock was actually so well liked by Toriyama that he actually included him in the manga. Years down the line, Bardock became more heavily featured in the video games and eventually got a spinoff manga and OVA where he got to turn Super Saiyan too.
    • Future Trunks was a well-received combination of badass and Pretty Boy, but was only featured in one arc. To compensate, he was given his own origin story film and allowed to star in several non-serial movies, and Dragon Ball GT had present-day Trunks at the same age as Future Trunks as one of the main characters. He later got his own Spin-Off game Shin Budokai: Another Road, which wasn't very well received, but then became the Deuteragonist of the much more deserving Dragon Ball Online and Dragon Ball Xenoverse, complete with a new sword. In Dragon Ball Super, he gets his own arc and an unique transformation.
  • Mavis Vermillion from Fairy Tail. Right out of the gate from her introduction, she was loved for being a Little Miss Badass with an amusing personality, and frequently being a topic of Wild Mass Guessing in the series (especially with her implied connection to Zeref) only increased interest in her, until she became a central character in the series starting with the revelation that she's a Living MacGuffin in the Tartaros arc. Eventually, she received her own Origin Story Spin-Off called Fairy Tail Zero, which itself became so popular that it received its own anime adaptation. By the time the Alvarez Empire arc rolled around and her tragic history with Zeref was revealed, she's gotten almost as much screen time as the main characters.
  • Yomi from Ga-Rei, enough that a prequel anime was created to chronicle her Start of Darkness.
  • Inori and her fictional band, EGOIST, ended up singing more songs for other unrelated shows such as Psycho-Pass. Though most people today would recognize it as part of Supercell rather than Guilty Crown and knew that Chelly is the singer not the character she's singing. In fact, a lot of people don't know who that pink-haired girl is unless they found out that she's an anime character from that show.
  • Gundam:
  • In Gunslinger Girl, Triela. Originally a secondary character, she replaces Henrietta as the central character in season 2 of the anime. She even outlives Henrietta in the manga.
  • For Hayate the Combat Butler, Hinagiku Katsura is pretty much the most dominating force in the series. In both official and unofficial popularity polls, she has routinely trounced the entire cast - she was once only a dozen or so votes short of beating second, third, and fourth place combined. It was considered a huge upset when a character in the third official manga poll actually got just half the votes Hinagiku got. In addition to a lot of character development and truly massive amounts of Ship Tease with Hayate, Hinagiku has become more woven into the serious plot of the story and her birthday arc gave her one of the longer and more emotive story arcs of the manga. By now she is considered a main character in her own right and is the go-to character when Hayate needs help.
    • Hinagiku managed to be the most popular character of the first anime as well despite it having little relation to the manga and keeping her in a supportive role with much more focus on the wackier characters of the series. The second anime even returned to the manga story to cover her birthday arc, with her VA Shizuka Ito getting to sing the ending theme. It's since been pretty much a tradition to use Hinagiku and her Will They or Won't They? with Hayate to market for the series, even for the movie and third anime where she was left Out of Focus. Her one episode in the third anime had the characters saying it was the episode all the fans were waiting for. The fourth anime even went so far as to have Shizuka Ito sing the opening theme with the animation essentially billing Hinagiku as the main character, appearing more than the actual main characters and beginning and ending with her, and she was given scenes that weren't in the chapters being covered.
    • Generally, if there is merchandise of a character, Hinagiku's version always comes out first or there only exists a Hinagiku version of it. While every character got one or two image songs for the anime, Hinagiku got that and three full character albums with Shizuka Ito even doing special live performances and doing a full cover of Cruel Angel's Thesis inserted into the episode where Hinagiku had to sing it in the manga. The actual Idol Singer introduced later in the series only got one after Hina's third album came out, and both were given a Crossover album with The World God Only Knows (represented by their Tsundere and Idol Singer Haqua and Kanon).
  • Lyu from Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? has her own spinoff. It's only one volume, but it is still much more than expected considering the fact that Lyu was just one of Bell's mentors and the Girl of the Week. She's become an Honorary True Companion, too.
  • Most people equate JoJo's Bizarre Adventure with Jotaro Kujo, Joseph Joestar, Dio Brando, and the psychic powers known as Stands (most importantly THE WORLD), without realizing that Jotaro is only the protagonist of Part 3. Of 8. And that the parts that preceded Part 3 featured no Stands at all, and instead a martial art that emulates sunlight so you can fight immortal vampires.
  • Konosuba has Megumin. Originally just another quirky addition to Kazuma's party, Megumin's cute design, chuunibyou personality, and meme-worthy quotes allowed her popularity to skyrocket past every other character, paving the way for her own spinoff series and feature film.
  • Mutsumi Otohime from Love Hina. Originally introduced as a one-shot character, she would later go on to become the tritagonist and the one responsible for Keitaro and Naru's Childhood Marriage Promise.
  • Lyrical Nanoha
  • In-universe example: in Macross Frontier, Ranka manages to pull this off in a movie adaptation of the events of Macross Zero, playing the role of Mao.
  • Made In Abyss: Nanachi the snarky genderless rabbit-person was introduced as something of a diversion when the manga's popularity was waning. Their tragic backstory and general quirkiness not only made them a big hit with the fans, but also revived sales of the manga. When the anime adaptation came out, Nanachi got three official figurines before either of the original protagonists got one.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico had Ruri "Former Trope Namer for Little Miss Snarker" Hoshino, a Bridge Bunny whose popularity was such that it was even noted in the anime itself (Ruri figure doll by the in-universe otaku, anyone?). Once The Movie rolled around, guess which character had replaced Akito as the main character?
  • Medaka Box:
    • Kumagawa Misogi is a truly outstanding example of this. Introduced as The Dreaded several chapters before his appearance as the second big bad, he then proceeds to be essentially the biggest, most destructively psychopathic troll the series had seen up to that point. However, through a combination of interesting character traits and fourth wall breaking humor he rocketed to the top of the second character poll, beating out the second place character (Kurokami Medaka, the main character) by several times the amount votes. His pinup in the poll results has him crying tears of joy at finally winning (and, probably, achieving his wish to see all the female characters in naked aprons). He's even getting his own spin-off!
    • Naze Youka also qualifies to a lesser extent. Originally just a member of the Class 13, once it was revealed she was the older sister to the titular character, her significance continued to increase, as well as her popularity. She's now Vice-President of the Student Council.
  • My Hero Academia: Tsuyu Asui immediately won over fans because of her cute looks, her blunt personality, and her Big Damn Heroes moment during the USJ Arc. Her popularity gave her a bonus chapter of the manga going into her backstory, gave her some Ship Tease with Deku in the first OVA, and got her a focus episode in the anime's second season, showcasing her internship that was only mentioned in the manga.
    • Hitoshi Shinsou, a character who only played a small role as Midoriya's first opponent during the Sports Festival, became very popular thanks to his cool, highly useful Quirk, sympathetic backstory and motives and his Creepy Good appeal. He placed twelfth and fourteenth in the first and second popularity poll, respectively, despite the fact he's only made a cameo or two since the Sports Festival. Word of God has hinted Shinsou will be back in future updates, with a major part to play.
  • Naruto:
    • Hinata's popularity was so great that she got a ton of focus in the anime, both canon and filler, and became increasingly important as the manga neared its end. She's also Naruto's preferred love interest, her popularity exceeding Sakura's and making her the most popular female character in the entire franchise. All of it culminated in her getting promoted to main character and Naruto's main love interest in The Last: Naruto the Movie, the Grand Finale to the original Naruto manga.
    • Shikamaru Nara started off the series as being one of the definitive darkhorses. Following the surge of popularity, Shikamaru was given more prominence and Character Development in the series. After the Time Skip, he finally was upgraded to being somewhat of a main character, and even had an entire arc dedicated to him.
    • Rock Lee's popularity eventually grew to him getting his own spin-off: Rock Lee's Springtime of Youth, which even got an anime adaptation, which replaced Bleach.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley Soryu. The story centers around Shinji, and is told from his point of view. However, Rei and Asuka were popular and attractive enough to inspire a whole bunch of similar characters in anime and manga, and have become the most prominently marketed human characters for the series and possibly for Gainax as a whole.
  • In One Piece, Chopper. Most likely due to him being the most marketable character. (So much that some believe 4kids skipped arcs just to get to Chopper so they could rake in the cash.) What really brought him out was the Chopperman bits. So much so that he now has his own spinoff manga series! He's a relatively mild example, as he was intended to be one of the (currently) 9 main characters from the start. But the author probably didn't expect him to become that iconic. And the irony is that in-universe, he is merely thought of as the Straw Hat Crew's pet, only getting a bounty after Enies Lobby of 50 berries, later raised to an equally unimpressive 100 berries, highlighting how unimportant the Marines consider him.note  If only they knew...
    • The bizarre and funny Wholesome Crossdresser Bentham (aka Mr. 2, Bon Clay) was a big hit for the show, earning him a major supporting role in the Impel Down arc and being spared from his Bolivian Army Ending. His voice actor was also such a big hit, Franky was specifically created so they could keep using his voice.
  • Osu! Karate Bu: Anti-Hero Yoshiyuki Takagi from the manga was originally the mentor of the original main character, Tadashi Matsushita. Takagi became so popular with readers, that the author decided to make him the main character, reducing Matsushita to a supporting role.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has the witch Charlotte. She only appeared in one episode...but what an episode it was. This, and her general cuteness, made her extremely popular among the fans to the point where she was even included in group shots as an unofficial extra mascot character. The creators noticed this and gave her an expanded role in Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion. In fact, she changes back to her original human form and joins the other characters as a Sixth Ranger.
  • Rem from Re:Zero is beloved by the fans for her more-flesh out personality when compared to main heroine, Emilia and her cuteness. Her loyalty and unconditional love for main protagonist has make many consider the relationship between Rem and Subaru as the Fan-Preferred Couple. In fact, despite the apparent Ship Sinking when Subaru admits that he loves Emilia following Rem's own confession, Rem might not end up as a Romantic Runner-Up as Subaru mentions he wants to marry both girls in the novel. There is also a "What If" chapter featuring Rem and Subaru becoming a couple. Rem is so popular that a hug pillow of her has to be delayed due to unanticipated demand. She also has won multiple character popularity polls, earning 50% of the votes in Crunchyroll.
  • The Gold Saints, from Saint Seiya, serve primarily as the ultimate obstacles for the heroes in the Twelve Houses Arc but, due to their popularity, their roles started to become more important as time passed by and more prequels where created to the point that they have perhaps surpassed the heroes in terms of screen-time (anime and manga combined) and became the protagonists of their own manga in Episode G (and Lost Canvas to some extent).
  • Not many knew about Shimoneta during its original 2015 release. But after Anna's (now) infamous "cookie" scene began circulating around the internet, she and her "Love Nectar" quickly gained meme status; which garnered awareness for the series as a result. She's now one of its most popular characters.
  • Yun of Simoun. Originally tripping all of the Sacrificial Lamb flags (not in the OP when the character that's introduced alongside her is, portrayed as a prideful, somewhat antisocial fool who refuses to listen to the wisdom of others, etc.), creators reacted to her unexpected popularity by giving her one of the most important roles in the story.
  • Slayers:
    • Zelgadis the chimera and Amelia the princess were protagonist duo Gourry and Lina's allies for a couple of novels and were eventually replaced. When the anime began branching off from the novels, chimera and princess had proven popular enough to become as major characters and as integral to the story as Lina and Gourry. All adaptations of manga and games have followed suit with this. The replacements, on the other hand, are virtually unknown.
    • Xellos the demonic priest is also this combined with Ensemble Dark Horse; he only appears in five books (cameoing in the last one); like Zelgadis and Amelia above, he became more integral as the franchise evolved.
  • In 2006 Tsuji Santa drew an illustration of a busty pink-haired girl wearing headphones and sporting a guitar, that was just a poster to promote Nitro + Music Festival, nothing more. That poster grew to be immensely popular and Super Sonico was born, Nitro + saw marketing potential in her and started to invest in the character, figures, posters, music, manga, video games and anime were made, Super Sonico became one of Nitro + greatest brands, making her the official mascot for their music festivals, and made Tsuji Santa a more renowned artist who went on to create more characters in the same vein as Super Sonico.
  • The To Love-Ru sequel, To Love Ru Darkness, took the secondary character and fan favorite Golden Darkness and promoted her to the co-protagonist position, alongside with Momo (character introduced more later in the first series) the steal the main heroine role to her big sister Lala.
  • Lum in Urusei Yatsura was supposed to be an One-Shot Character, but fans (and Takahashi's editor) loved her so she returned in the third chapter and became a Deuteragonist, love interest, and poster girl for the series. She is often believed to be the protagonist of the series due to her iconic status. In the Real Life she is become one of the most beloved and representative characters in the manga world.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • A non-character example: the Duel Monsters card game, which was originally meant as just one of many games played throughout the series, but eventually became so popular that the series was given a Retool to make it the only game that mattered- even the few games played that weren't Duel Monsters were still about battling monsters. This carried over to the sequel series, where there's barely a hint of any other games.
    • For a character example, Kaiba, who was made to be a one use enemy for the Duel Monsters chapter and got to come back as a larger villain due to popularity, then as one of the most important characters after that, tied to the Pharaoh's backstory itself.
    • Pegasus. Despite being dead in the original manga, in the anime he was so popular that they kept him alive. He returns in several cameo appearances in GX, even getting to duel again, he's the Big Bad of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction video game, and he features in both mainstream movies. By contrast, Yami Bakura and Marik tend to get plot-irrelevant fights or cameos in video games.
    • The most famous card is the Dark Magician Girl. She became one of Dark Yugi's key cards, she makes appearances in all the spin-offs in some way or another, and has a lot of alternate art cards and Expies. No other card aside from the Dark Magician or Blue Eyes can make such boasts, and even then, they never got to be a playable character in some of the video games, but she did, and in some others merchants in card store chains dress as her.
  • Hiei from YuYu Hakusho was originally meant to be a one-shot character (this is clear in his first appearance), but he proved so popular with fans that he was given another appearance - and continued to prove popular enough with fans to make him a main character, complete with his own plotlines and backstory.

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