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A strong female character who is not an iron lady?


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Raftina



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:16 am Reply with quote
I acknowledge the double standard of not considering male on the scale of strong to weak unless he is really weak--like Shinji Ikari. I would like to ask participants to refrain from going on that tangent further than is absolutely necessary.

The question: How do you think a strong female character could be characterized without simultaneously making her iron lady?

Let me illustrate what I mean by "iron lady" with an example. The following spoilers all concern Moribito's first episode.

Strong: spoiler[At one point, a potential employer of a much higher social station offers Balsa a dangerous job. Balsa notes the danger and the inherent unfairness of the proposition. She impresses upon her employer (and the audience) her perception by raising the danger.] This shows that she is firm and intelligent of mind. Of course, earlier in the episode, she demonstrated ample physical strength.

Middle ground: In the same scene, spoiler[she appears to have made the decision to accept the offer. However, because there were guards in a threatening position, she takes the same opportunity to physically threaten the employer, making it clear that she accepts the job of her own free will.] While this does demonstrate her courage, it is redundant with the first scene. What it does is show the audience her motive, so the scene concerns the core of her character. However, her motive may have been disclosed to the audience at a later time without this confrontational scene.

Iron lady territory: In the beginning of the episode, spoiler[a imperial procession passes by. The locals, by custom, bow as the procession passes. She refuses to do so, citing the fact that she owes them nothing.] This seems to be a gratuitous flaunting of conventions that may be a part of her character, but it does not appear to be necessary for strength.

Combine these scenes, and you have a character who is unrelenting in almost everything. They no doubt establish that she is strong and firm--mentally and physically--, but they also show her to be prickly and completely uncompromising--an iron lady, if you will. This completely inflexible characterization is duplicated in other notable strong female characters--Motoko Kusanagi of Ghost in the Shell, Admiral Spoor of Crest of the Stars, Balalaika of Black Lagoon, etc. It is almost as of the author is going through a checklist: physically strong; mentally resilient; intelligent; does not take liberties from ones of inferior station; beats at least one other of equal position; and humiliates at least one other of supposedly higher position; etc etc. Balsa seems to be one of the better ones--some of her uncompromising character traits appear to tie integrally into her back story, as opposed to being there for the sake of strength.

There is another extreme of the strong female character: those like Touru Honda of Fruits Basket. Females of this category tend to lack any obviously observable strengths: They are not particularly intelligent; they are not particularly wise; they are shown to do no feats of physical strength; and they are not in a position of power. They are strong because of mental fortitude: They come out of a relentless stream of torture with a sunny attitude, even becoming the strength of those around them--a sharp contrast with the iron lady indeed.

Which brings me to the question: Have you noted any female character whom you would describe as well characterized and strong, but is neither an iron lady nor someone who endured a lot of the worst of ordinary life?
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WhiteHairGirls



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:24 am Reply with quote
Raftina wrote:
Which brings me to the question: Have you noted any female character whom you would describe as well characterized and strong, but is neither an iron lady nor someone who endured a lot of the worst of ordinary life?


I think Maka Albarn from Soul Eater can be characterized as a strong female lead who is neither an iron lady or an endurer of bad luck. She is a strong willed and intelligent, who also had to deal with her own weaknesses throughout the anime.
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Yttrbio
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:35 am Reply with quote
Having just read the part 2 review, I'm inclined to throw Shana in there. You get the impression she's trying to be the iron lady, but isn't doing a very good job at it. I'd probably put Real from Ergo Proxy in the same category.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "strong" here. Like, does Rahzel from Hatenkou Yuugi count? She is either incredibly powerful or utterly helpless, depending on what she's doing at the time. (although I could see her as a bizarre variant on the iron lady, too)
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Key
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:37 am Reply with quote
There are two that immediately spring to mind concerning your criteria:

Lafiel, Crest/Banner of the Stars - Though she is definitely a strong, willful personality and often takes the lead in actions, she is not beyond compromise and does, at times, show vulnerability.

Shurei Hong, The Story of Saiunkoku - Also possessed of an indomitable will and keen wit, but she works within the system to force change and advancement and doesn't so much defeat opponents as succeed despite them.

I'm tempted to say that Honoka from The Third: The Girl With The Blue Eye also fits your description, but I suspect that you'd probably classify her as a softer version of an "iron lady."
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Vaisaga



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:56 am Reply with quote
I think you'll find your criteria excludes most leading characters, particularly that 2nd one. Going through hardships is what main characters do, after all. You'll mostly find what you want in secondary characters who play a supporting role, being the ones who provide the mains with a sense of stability. I can't think of anyone specific at the moment, though...

I'm not very fond of the iron lady type myself. Some authors seem to think that 'strong female' = 'total bitch.' I much prefer the latter type, ones with mental and emotional strength to endure what life throws at them. I'm fond of using Sakura from Fate/Stay Night as an example of this. Being 'strong' isn't just about how many dudes you can beat up.

But one character I think goes vastly underappreciated is Kuro from Kurokami. She can throw down with the best of them but she's one of the sweetest girls around. Unlike other Shana clones there's not a trace of tsundere in her. She treats everyone around her nicely, Keita most of all, and is open about mostly everything. She does have a traumatic past (her brother killed the rest of her clan) but that's fairly reserved compared to what you mentioned.
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willag
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:05 am Reply with quote
Despite playing the role of the damsel in distress later on in the series, little Neese from Record of Lodoss War left a pretty strong impression on me, more so than what Deedlit did. That's not to say that I disliked Deedlit, but the fandom has a much stronger preference for the elf than it does for the priestess (probably largely due to the preference for the OVA than the TV series).

While Deedlit was the better fighter, had magic, and fought with a sword (and had cool ears), she was always overshadowed by Parn and often relied upon his decisions and assistance. It really weakened her character in my eyes, being the one better suited for battle and more equipped to take care of herself and yet always playing the supporter role who needs to be saved by the man she loves.

Neese, on the other hand, is defined by her strong convictions and willingness to do what she thinks is right even if it puts her in danger. She willfully left behind her home and traveled across the land to find a way to confront her destiny despite it being dangerous and her having no fighting abilities. As a priestess, she can go on the offensive or defensive using her prayers, but she's not a fighter. When she comes across Spark's group, she refuses to just let them do all of the work and at one point demands to take part in the battle. I was quite impressed with her fortitude and determination.

She gets kidnapped and goes through a personal struggle that increases her self-doubts, but she overcomes it in the end.


I also strongly agree with Shurei Hong and Maka.


I'd also include the manga-version of Rosette from Chrono Crusade, Youko from The Twelve Kingdoms, and Ahiru from Princess Tutu.


And how about an iron lady that gets softer as time goes on but rarely ever loses her mental fortitude? Oscar from Rose of Versailles. I have a hard, mad crush for her.
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Raftina



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:34 am Reply with quote
Yttrbio wrote:
I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "strong" here. Like, does Rahzel from Hatenkou Yuugi count? She is either incredibly powerful or utterly helpless, depending on what she's doing at the time.

I tend to split strength into two categories:

1. inner strength, i.e. mental fortitude--the ability to endure a lot of hardships without flinching.

2. outer strength--pretty much everything besides mental fortitude. This category are traits that are outwardly observable within a relatively short interval. Thus, it includes traits that are generally considered mental, such as intelligence, perceptiveness, ability to impose one's will, etc in addition to physical strength and accomplishments.

A strong character is one who has inner and/or outer strength in sufficient quantities and does lack too much inner and/or outer strength. What is sufficient and what is too much? That is something that is personal to the viewer--hence why I phrased the question in terms of "you would describe as..."

Key wrote:
I'm tempted to say that Honoka from The Third: The Girl With The Blue Eye also fits your description, but I suspect that you'd probably classify her as a softer version of an "iron lady."

I find it against inclination to apply strong to Honoka because she is initially really silly to a disarming extent, rather jarring for a character who relies on outer strength. However, if I look back and examine closely, I don't think she's an iron lady--her interaction with Bogey deflates the invulnerable image quite a bit.

Vaisaga wrote:
I think you'll find your criteria excludes most leading characters, particularly that 2nd one. Going through hardships is what main characters do, after all. You'll mostly find what you want in secondary characters who play a supporting role, being the ones who provide the mains with a sense of stability. I can't think of anyone specific at the moment, though...

The second category not only requires the mental attitude to endure hardships but also requires that the character lacks outer strengths--not necessarily to the point of being weak in those categories, but sufficiently so that the character would not come to mind for praise in those categories. A character with strong mental fortitude, who is competent in mental and/or physical activities but is not utterly uncompromising would not fall into either category. Juliet from Romeo x Juliet is a reasonable example of such a character--skilled enough at her mission to be impressive and possesses enough conviction to carry it through in her own way.
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classicalzawa
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:41 am Reply with quote
I think I'm going to make a suggestion for most of the girls from Simoun. First off, since everyone is born female in this world and they do not choose a gender until 16 or 17, it makes sense for there to be a variety of female characters and essentially no guys. Even then, all the "males" are voiced by females, so it took me a while to realize there were male characters. And since the changes don't happen instantly, the head maintenance tech, is a male, but has breasts until the very end of the series.
So, there's a wide variety of different strong female characters, which is nice. There are some bubbly girls too (like Floe), but the sheer variety is just so nice!
Neviril is the head of the Chor, and though she does experience a bit of heroic blue screen of death, she's definitely the leader and the group really does function far better with her as the head.
Aer joins as a replacement and is both bubbly and aggressive. She probably likes fighting the most out of all the characters, but isn't the least bit cold hearted about it and she regularly chats with the other Chor members. Unlike many who signed up, she purposely signed up to fight (sometimes people signed up for a family history of doing it, and when they take to the sky in their Simoun, it's called "praying", so it's meant to be religious) and she's perfectly ok with being in a war.
Paraietta is the one strong of heart. She clearly has an unrequited crush on spoiler[Neviril] but will still do anything she can to help her. She took over as leader while Neviril was heroic BSOD, but that clearly was not her strength.
All of the characters are unique and many of them are strong in their own way, definitely a series to check out if you want strong female characters, and lots of them. And the yuri elements are pretty light, so don't let that make you avoid a $20 awesome series.

Ok, so this one is a manga, but I did recently read Basara and was just more than impressed with the cast
The first obvious one is Sarasa, the "child of destiny" who will lead Japan to freedom of its fantasy monarchy. At the same time that she leads troops to fight, she's also a shy and confused 15 year-old who fell in love with the mysterious man she keeps meeting at the hotspring. I feel like that added another dimension to her character and made her only more awesome
Chacha is a character Sarasa meets early on, runs a pirate ship and routinely seems to fight potential defectors. In some ways, she acts like a sister figure to Sarasa sometimes, but any time a ship combat (or sword combat) comes up, she's amazing.
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naninanino



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:24 am Reply with quote
This is one thing that has been bugging me for a long time. I like strong females, but not the ones like Balsa, Motoko Kusanagi or Revy. Lady Oscar seemes somewhat humane enough to be justified, but most of the time I just find them boring and unrelatable. Strong males tend to be more like caricatures and have camp appeal that the women lack. It's not fun watching them.

I like them more like Naegino Sora from Kaleido Star. She is certainly skilled and has mental strenght as well, but she isn't perfect. There is always a challenge to overcome, but it's not solved by mere power of will and friendship, but also not just by physique alone. It is a combination of all of these. I feel like success and determination has a basis there.
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vanfanel



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:25 am Reply with quote
Nausicaa comes to mind big time, contrasted with her opposite number Kushana, who is a textbook 'strong iron lady' type.

And a bunch of other Ghibli characters: Kiki, Shizuku, Chihiro, Fio, Gina...

Erin from "Kemono no Souja Erin."

Fujiko from "Lupin III" maybe?

Also, the mother in "Wolf Children."

Noa Izumi from "Patlabor."

And Nadia.

[EDIT: This is listing, and that isn't allowed. In the future please keep in mind that things like this must be animated. - Key]
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Kelly



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:31 am Reply with quote
Considering the specs you've laid out, that knocks out alot of female characters in anime. Two characters that do spring to mind are Riza Hawkeye and Maria Ross from Fullmetal Alchemist. They're both physically and mentally strong women with good heads on their shoulders who help out alot of characters through the series and aren't overly traumatized by what they've seen considering that Hawkeye was at Ishval.
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Surrender Artist
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 7:30 am Reply with quote
This is an interesting question. I really love the kind of characters Raftina seems to be looking for, but I appreciate those who fall outside of the archetype. Curiously, I can't abide male characters who follow these patterns, yet find female one highly appealing. Yonsa Balsa is one of my favorite characters of all time, but I think I can name a few good characters who take different approaches.

Sarah Ringwalt, from Now and Then, Here and There: Sarah is my favorite character in the series; it's a shame that its lead is Shu rather than her, or anybody else, really. Sarah shows enormous perseverance through the course of the series, but with great fear, weakness and vulnerability too. When we first see her, she's obvious terrified and destitute at having been wrenched from her life, forcibly, inexplicably and suddenly captured and imprisoned in a strange place. Whereas Shu is implausibly upbeat, she acts with a more believable sense of fear and hopelessness. Despite this, she doesn't break down, even after she is sent off to be used by Hamdo's soldiers. In episode five, in what is perhaps one of my favorite scenes of all time, spoiler[we are shown what was strongly suggested before as she is taken to a room to be, if I may be forgiven for not beating around the bush, raped by a soldier who postures about his virility. Instead of cowering or baring aggression, she desperate seeks a way out and when he soldier looks away, grabs a water jug and bashes him on the head with it. This doesn't knock him out, but in the ensuing struggle, she manages to render him unconscious and escape into a sandstorm. In harrowing scene, standing against the pale desert moonlight, she cuts her hair roughly with a knife and strips away the uniform she had stolen to escape. It's not at all sexualized or exploitative, instead being about her emotional experience.] That went on long, but I love the scene. She makes a hard, mature choice in the end, always human, but one who has developed remarkable resilience and maturity.

Mireille Bouquet, from Noir:I got here before errinundra, so I get to make this case! Mireille is an extremely skilled assassin and often projects confidence, yet a recurrent theme of the series is that she's often frightened or insecure within and it repeatedly forces her to confront her limitations. She is an extraordinary, but very mortal woman who ends up in a world of monsters, so to speak, dealing with the inhuman killings skills of Kirika and Chloe. As her relationship with Kirika matures, she shows emotional vulnerability and uncertainty about it. Yet, she too perseveres and endures doubts, never bowing out permanently or giving up despite facing profound psychological pressure. It's why I find her one of the most compelling and interesting characters in anime.

In fact, all three of Kōichi Mashimo’s girls-with-guns shows feature characters who might be what Raftina is looking for. His female leads, though often deadly and impressive, seldom act in the 'iron lady' archetype.

I also think that Duck, from Princess Tutu, who was mentioned above is an excellent example of what Raftina is looking for. She's clumsy, awkward, silly and develops anxieties about her identity, but endures her limitations and doubts. She develops a subtle, deep personal integrity by the end, which is vindicated, I think, by how she spoiler[contends with the final confrontation as neither the girl Duck, nor Princess Tutu, but as the small, actual duck that she began as.].

classicalzawa has made an excellent case for the cast of Simoun.

Remy from GoShogun: The Time Étranger might be what you're looking for, but I'd have to think about that one, it's been a while since I saw it.

I'm sure that I have others, but those are the two that immediately came to mind.
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Maidenoftheredhand



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 8:53 am Reply with quote
Kelly wrote:
Considering the specs you've laid out, that knocks out alot of female characters in anime. Two characters that do spring to mind are Riza Hawkeye and Maria Ross from Fullmetal Alchemist. They're both physically and mentally strong women with good heads on their shoulders who help out alot of characters through the series and aren't overly traumatized by what they've seen considering that Hawkeye was at Ishval.


Agree, actually it is not just Riza & Maria but all the female characters in Fullmetal Alchemist. It's one of the many reasons it's my favorite action/adventure story.

Although some of the female characters might be described as iron lady (Olivier..although she has a soft side too). I think Arakawa shows strength comes in many forms and there are many different female characters in the series of all ages and backgrounds from young girls to grandmothers.


Anyways I also strongly agree with the inclusion of Shuurei Kou, Ahiru, Youko, Oscar, and many of the ghibli heroines.

I am going to also add Kino from Kino no Tabi. I think the strength of her character is her gender doesn't define her at all, but her role as a traveler.

And then there is a Nodame from Nodame Cantabile. Nodame first is interested in pursuing music because of her feelings for Chiaki but spoiler[later comes to pursue music for herself and realizes that she can be more than she originally saw herself as. Nodame always had talent but it was only when she put forth the effort did her talent shine through.]

As for my definition of a strong female character it would be "strongly written". It should be a character with flaws to overcome and their own dreams to pursue.
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Shenl742
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 9:25 am Reply with quote
Tokine from Kekkaishi comes to mind. She's intelligent, strong and (to my memory at least) never oversexualised, and yet keeps a strong air of femininity around her without seeming like she's pandering to anyone or conforming to strongly to any otaku-friendly stereotypes. She can show a bit of a vicious side from time to time, but I think that's just because she's rather pragmatic, like once when she fights monster possessing a citizen. She's perfectly fine with giving the poor guy a few bumps and scrapes if it means saving his life.

Most of all though, for a female character in a shonen action/fantasy manga, she actually manages to pretty much equal billing with the lead male character. Yoshimori may be the star of the series, and he may be the "chosen one" (or at least, more chosen then her), yet she contiously pulls her weight throughout, all the way to the end.


Last edited by Shenl742 on Thu Feb 07, 2013 10:06 am; edited 1 time in total
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yuna49



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 9:59 am Reply with quote
I think your characterization of Balsa is much too narrow, based as it seems to be on how she is presented in the first episode. Later on she displays a wider range of emotions like self-doubt, loyalty, friendship, and even a maternal side. She's not a romantic spoiler[much to Tanda's dismay], but her life did not contain many opportunities to develop that side of her personality. If you are criticizing her for not being "lady-like" enough, it's hard to see how she would have developed such a personality given her life story,

Uehashi's other major heroine, Erin from Kemono no Sou-ja Erin, is perhaps closer to what you are looking for. But we see her from eight to eighteen, not as a fully mature woman of thirty. And Erin's power has a more supernatural origin, not the result of years of hard training and conflict as in Balsa's case.

I think It is generally easier to portray a girl with a mixture of masculine and feminine traits than a mature woman, since the story has more room for personal development. The young lady in my avatar, Shion of Shion no Ou, was forced to watch as her parents were brutally murdered (not a spoiler; it happens right at the outset), yet when we see her at thirteen, she is a demure, rather modest girl who happens to possess a talent for Shougi ("Japanese chess"). She seems a rather ordinary girl in most other respects spoiler[except that she is mute]. In that regard she resembles Kaminogi Haruka of Noein, another fairly ordinary girl who happens to be thrust into the center of a major conflict. As the show develops we see the depths of her personality, especially things like loyalty and caring. My only criticism of the portrayal of Haruka is that she does not develop enough, but that is not really the focus of Noein.

I'll also second Kou Shurrei of Saiunkoku Monogatari who can be more "lady-like" but still strong-willed. She is not physically strong like Balsa but attains her goals by intelligence, persuasion, and perseverance. Her speech in episode eight of season two where she excoriates the assembled nobles, all men, for their indifference to the peoples' suffering shows Shurrei at the top of her form. She is humanized by her temper and her occasional blindness to her effect on others around her. When we first see Shurrei she is sixteen which again gives her more room for personal development.

Nina Fortner from Monster has some similarities to Shurrei. She's a young law student without physical strength but displays incredible bravery at times spoiler[for example, when she goes to see Baby and later when she revisits her childhood home], a keen mind, and a devotion to uncovering the truth.

Young girls can still have something of an "iron lady" character, though. Chizuko, the "daughter of Twenty Faces," (Nijuu Mensou no Musume) has a toughness which is further developed during the time she spends with the master thief. An even better example might be Yukio, the central character in the final arc of Black Lagoon, "Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise." Her transformation from a demure bookworm into a spoiler[mafia boss] is stunning.
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