When I was new to anime I frequently caught myself thinking “What the hell is wrong with girls in anime?” due to the ubiquitous use of absolutely stupid or pointless female characters. It got to the point that I rejoiced whenever a female appeared to have some relevance to the plot, had opinions and wasn’t afraid to voice them (without being a noisy tsundere), was independent or strong mentally (while not being devoid of human emotions), or had more than just one brain cell powering her brain.
It’s possible that I just got unlucky and watched really shit shows at first, but even now I can see that the majority of female characters aren’t quite on par with their male counterparts. So I started searching for shows where females would have strong personalities, wouldn’t be portrayed as unrealistically “pure”, and wouldn’t be flawless or one-dimensional either. Also, I dislike moeblobs. Sorry to moe lovers out there, but I feel like moe characters are a cheap and shallow way to attract an audience without actually creating interesting characters.
Though if moe characters can be done right then I have no objection to them–but that’s another story. Okay I lied. Moe sucks.
For now I’m just going to try to compile a list of anime (some that I’ve watched and others that I haven’t) that have strong female leads or characters (please feel free to add to the list if anything comes to mind).
- Seirei no Moribito: An action-packed fantasy with Balsa as one of the main characters. She’s consistently intelligent, strong (physically and mentally), resourceful, reliable, cool-headed, mature, and highly capable of taking care of herself and others. Though the series is a bit long with its 26 episodes (with a couple of boring ones in between) this is one of the better anime with high production values and a pretty good cast of characters. (I preferred the English dub for it)
- The Twelve Kingdoms: Detailed and imaginative world-building plus tons of character development. Youko starts off as a relatively annoying female character with low self-esteem and a tendency to whine, but then character development kicks in and she really changes. Though I have to warn you that the series is a bit incomplete (since it was probably cancelled early due to low budget or the like), but it does have a total of 45 episodes.
- Claymore: Though I wouldn’t say the same for Clare, Teresa is a particularly strong (and likeable) character (not that Clare isn’t likable, it’s just that I wouldn’t define her as strong mentally since her mind is headed in only one direction and she can’t come to terms with her past) . Anyway, Teresa’s lingering presence is crucial to Clare’s personal development and she stands as the reason behind Clare’s heavy determination.
- Michiko to Hatchin: Wow, talk about flawed. Damn it Michiko, I think your flaws might possibly outweigh your better attributes. But who cares, she’s awesome despite (or perhaps because of) her stupid, obnoxious, rude, impulsive, irresponsible, and unapologetic behaviour. She’s also headstrong and an absolute badass with street smarts and a never-give-up attitude. And to balance out Michiko’s obstinate attitude is the calm, observant, and rational thinking Hatchin. The chemistry between Michiko and Hatchin is great and the banter never gets old. The first couple of episodes may not be that good, but the rest of the anime was.
- Nana: A romance. It’s probably the most “human” anime out there. It gives a fair share of screen time to all of its characters and the sheer amount of character development that goes to all of them leaves nearly no unlikable people in the cast. Nana Osaki really did it for me with her ambition and internal struggles.
- Kino no Tabi: I haven’t finished this one but Kino’s a pretty badass girl.
- Spirited Away (movie)
- Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind (movie)
- Attack on Titan: THE anime of 2013 (regardless of whether it was the best or not). Brilliant action series with top-notch animation and engaging plot line. Will not disappoint.
- Black Lagoon: Many people add Black Lagoon to this kind of list because of Revy, but I digress. It’s true that Revy’s undeniably badass, but she’s also pretty mentally unstable and probably even a bit psychotic with a dangerous and unpredictable attitude (not to mention a bit of an idiot). So I can’t say Revy’s a strong character because she’s not all there mentally (though physically she kicks ass).
- Oh no, the one to be scared of is Balalaika. The one you call Fry Face if you have a death wish. She’s a woman in power and she knows how to use it. She’s frightening, ruthless, brutal, highly intelligent, cold, calculating, and said to be capable of starting and winning another World War. The best thing is that she loves killing as much as the next person and garners the fear and respect of her subordinates, allies, and enemies alike. (The English dub for Black Lagoon is said to be superior to the Japanese one, to which I agree)
- Hellsing: Integra’s a woman, by the way. Just wanted to clear up any confusions, since I spent a good amount of the anime trying to figure out if she was a he. My favourite line from her: “SEARCH AND DESTROY!!!!”
- Ghost in the Shell: Haven’t watched it yet, but the Major’s said to be really cool.
- Gintama: Long comedy (that you shouldn’t watch if you’re easily offended). The women are always on par with their male counterparts. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Though none of them are the main characters, the series is chock full of strong female characters. Riza Hawkeye, for example, the highly competent soldier, or Izumi Curtis, the badass housewife, or even Winry, who’s proved to be capable of protecting herself on more than one occasion (though her psychopathic wrench-throwing and yelling at Ed might be a bit annoying). (The dub is preferred)
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: The latter half of the series focuses much less on Yoko, but when she is onscreen she’s generally an asset. She has a sweet attitude and is pretty likable and reliable altogether.
- Berserk: Casca
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Actually I think it might be a bit wrong to put this on the list, considering that Beatrice is insane and so is everyone else, but whatever. Jessica’s strong without being insane (I think).
I haven’t watched the following but they’re said to have strong female characters:
- Gunslinger Girl: Action
- Simoun: Action and character study.
- Haibane Renmei: An emotional slice-of-life with a unique setting.
- Pumpkin Scissors
- Skip Beat: Comedy and romance driven by an angry and revenge-thirsty girl.
- Occult Academy
- Revolutionary Girl Utena
So that’s pretty much it. I’ll probably continue adding to this list in the future. Please feel free to make suggestions.