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Anime with Strong Female Leads/Co-Leads?

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Joined: 14 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2014 9:11 pm Reply with quote
Because Ignatz posed a similar question, I'd like to start off a recommendation thread along similar lines.
What anime would you recommend that has strong female leads?
  • Shakugan no Shana
    The Flame-haired, Red-eyed Flame Haze is not to be messed around with!
  • El Cazador de la Bruja
    I never got around to finishing it, but I seem to recall that the two leads are women; someone else will have to clarify this for me.
  • Flowers of Evil
    The female antagonist is (in my opinion, anyway) a strong lead.
  • FLCL
    Anyone who's seen this classic Gainax production knows what character that I'm talking about!

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2014 9:49 pm Reply with quote
I think this is a worthwhile cross-genre category, so I sanction it as an officially-approved recommendation thread. Please use the format that nbahn does above, with including an encyclopedia link for any series mentioned. (And nbahn, can I prevail upon you to regularly update your OP with a summarized listing of the recommendations? Listing will be permissible for that purpose only.)

However, I am expanding this to include Co-Leads, as some otherwise-excellent options would be omitted if being a singular lead was a requirement.

And to be clear, being a lead protagonist definitely does not automatically make a female character a "strong" lead. You can exclude nearly all reverse-harem series, for instance.(although I would be particularly interested to see if someone can legitimately nominate a candidate from that genre).

I will later bring up a few titles myself, as this is a category near and dear to my heart.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2014 10:08 pm Reply with quote
No doubt someone will nominate Yoko from Twelve Kingdoms. Not me though.

Crest of the Stars, Banner of the Stars I, Banner of the Stars II and Banner of the Stars III
I recommend Lafiel. You know someone is strong when they can grin like a wolf at their enemies. She is highly competent and can be legitimately scary at times.


Beast Player Erin
Erin is perhaps a little too passive at times but she holds massive inner strength and really carries her show.


Hataraki Man
Finally, I am going to recommend a little-known woman called Hiroko Matsukata, who was the lead character from the also little-known series Hataraki Man. She's a stronger female lead than most of the badarses I suspect people will talk about. That's because despite her being just a normal person with realistic flaws (who can throw rather pathetic tantrums), she can still stand strong and forge her path in a male-dominated workplace. Some female characters are so masculine in their personality that they are basically men with breasts. Balsa could have been made a man and nothing would have changed about her personality, the way most characters treated her and even the entire show.

Hiroko on the other hand is different. Hiroko's femininity is utterly crucial for who she is and what she does. The entire plot of the show would have been different had Hiroko been a man, which is not something you can say about most female leads outside of romance shows. She's undeniably feminine despite her often masculine outlook on life and her occasional difficulty in bonding with other women. Yet she is so strong she still outshines all the men; she is successful not because of her masculine demeanour but because she is a strong person and a strong woman. She knows what it is like to be underestimated and treated as inferior just because of her gender but she's having none of that. She'll openly challenge anyone who looks down on her or her female colleagues. And besides giving her fortitude, her gender also motivates her and is a crucial part of her ambition.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2014 10:30 pm Reply with quote
Oh, I think you'll see a few more of that type than you might expect, dtm42.

Another outstanding example of a strong female lead whose femininity is crucial to her character is Shurei Hong from The Story of Saiunkoku (who is, incidentally, also one of the rare examples of a strong reverse harem lead). Physically she is quite vulnerable - in fact, she has to be rescued or protected by male characters on numerous occasions - but she has an indomitable determination and strength of will, coupled with substantial intelligence and resourcefulness, which allows her to not only win the right to enter a realm which had previously allowed no access to women but also prevail there, too. Even before that, she is able to bend the lackadaisical ruler of her country to a proper path through carefully-chosen words and examples. Probably the ultimate example of her strength comes from the late episodes of the firs series, where she spoiler[faces down the head of the Sa clan in his own lair and pretty much crushes him in a battle of wills]. She is, in my opinion, one of the best female role models in anime, as she accomplishes what she strives for without sacrificing being a woman.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2014 10:41 pm Reply with quote
Ranma 1/2 - With the Blu set hitting next week, now's a good time to reappreciate Akane. Smile

(Whose "violent temper" and martial-arts prowess that scared Ranma off wouldn't raise a single eyebrow in the US. Okay, 1-1/2 strong females if you count Ranma, and Shampoo wouldn't really be called a "lead".)

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2014 11:14 pm Reply with quote
Kurokami The Animation

Kuro can throw down with the best of them, and unlike other 'Shana clone' heroines, she's a sweet and kind girl. The show doesn't give her special treatment just because she's female, either. She'll take damage just like any other character but will still keep on fighting.


Strike the Blood

"No, senpai. This is our fight!" Yukina is constantly fighting shoulder to shoulder with the world's strongest vampire. He might have the raw power, but she is incredibly skilled with her spear and martial arts moves. She is often the one to finish off the arc boss.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 12:48 am Reply with quote
Kino's Journey] Kino is a pistol wielding badass that is on a lone journey with her talking motorcycle. One think I really liked about her was that she doesn't really intervene with other people's problems unless it is absolutely necessary.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 1:03 am Reply with quote
The problem I have with Kino is that though she's undoubtedly strong both physically and mentally, she is androgynous to the point where the fact that she's female has no bearing on her character. She's a strong character who just so happens to be female, rather than a strong woman. Apart from that king threatening to make her his wife, she's completely interchangeable with a male character. If people using this thread just want a strong character who happens to be female then Kino is fine, but if they want a strong female character then Kino doesn't really fit the bill.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 5:08 am Reply with quote
This topic zeroes in on my foremost reason for watching anime: its abundance of fantastic, strong female characters. Here are some of my favourites.

  • Noir, Mireille Bouquet. In a series, with no male characters of any import, that centres around four deadly female killers, Mireille stands out in the way she stares down the demons of her own DNA and, in the process, redeems both herself and her assassin partner Kirika. She goes to hell and, through sheer persistence and will, comes back again.

  • Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit, Balsa. Surely the the coolest, greatest female adventure hero ever created. She can outfight anyone, is as cunning as a fox, can't be diverted from her chosen path and has a heart of pure gold. She can beat off the Mikado's death squad yet she can also take a slave trader's prized horse with just a smile.

  • Fate / Stay Night, Rin Tohsaka. A character that is altogether too good for the so-so series she finds herself in. I like to think of her as an even smarter Hermione Granger but with attitude and a sense of humour as bonuses. Part of the reason Shirou Emiya seems so stupid is his inability to match her intellect in any meaningful way. That she is the goddess of the Zettai Ryouiki and one of the better tsundere characters around only elevate her standing further. Consolation prize to Sabre / Arturia who isn't too bad herself.

  • Princess Tutu, Duck / Tutu. Sweet, clumsy and stupendously awesome as the magical girl who gives hope to Fakir, redeems Mytho's heart and saves Gold Crown Town. She tied for the win in ANN's own best hero/heroine contest and, once you've seen it, you'll know why. Despite her pratfalls she is steadfast to the bitter end. Her final triumph comes at tremendous personal cost demonstrating her strength and her loyalty.

  • While I'm on the subject of magical girls, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura Akemi. It took one episode (the tenth) to turn a character I already thought was cool into one of the most awesome characters in anime. Her dedication, her sheer bloody-mindedness, her brilliance and her love for Madoka are central to why the series ends on such high note. Credit must be given to Madoka also, whose final choice is so wondrous, but Homura is the stronger - if flawed - character who does all the hard yards. (By the way, it's unforgiveable how the movie trashes her aura.)

  • Paprika, Dr Atsuko Chiba / Paprika. Ice queen scientist by day; dream goddess by night, she leaves all the male characters in her wake as she unravels the machinations of a dream terrorist bent on psychological domination of a world that can no longer distinguish dreams from reality. While all around her are losing their minds she is the one who saves the story from its postmodern absurdities, including the biggest plot hole ever created.

  • Galaxy Express 999 franchise, Maetel. Mysterious, icy, beautiful, vaguely menacing, melancholy yet kindly, Maetel accompanies the young hero, Tetsuro, as he seeks out Count Mecha. She has an agenda of her own with galactic implications. Maetel is a character type (with an unfashionable character design) you don't see much in anime these days, which is a shame because we could do with more thoughtful, quiet yet powerful female characters. Explore the Leijiverse and you'll encounter more of them, including Maetel's equally impressive sister, Queen Emeraldas.

  • Claymore, All the Claymores. Really, do any of them deserve to be left out? If you are looking for an anime with strong female characters this series has a surfeit of them.

  • Likewise, All the female Abh commanders in Crest / Banner of the Stars are exceptional. DTM42 mentioned Lafiel whose quiet nature can turn ferocious when required but she is completely outshone by Admiral Spoor who adds gleeful menace tempered with unceasing ennui to her offhand military genius. (Spoor does, admittedly, get much less screen time than Lafiel who, as the legitimate main character is pictured below.)

  • Spice and Wolf, Holo. Stand in her way and you may possibly be swallowed whole. Typically, Lawrence gets himself in a jam; typically, Holo gets him out again using her cunning, her charisma, her verbal acuity or, if necessary, turning into a two tonne wolf and just scaring the bejeesus out of the poor blighters. That she is fascinating is just another gloss on her character.

  • Kurau Phantom Memory, Kurau. The eponymous heroine is part alien / part human with supernatural powers and a steadfast heart motivated by a pure love for her other self, Christmas. The tomboyish Kurau is driven to find out what she is, fend of an array of forces against her, and protect her cherished Christmas. Despite the odds, and with some unexpected help, she prevails. A special mention to Ayaka Steiger, another of anime's Louise-Brooks-bobbed-hair women who transforms from villain to ally.

  • CANAAN, Canaan. The traditional Girls with Guns genre is arguably the anime genre with the most reliably strong female leads. I've got Noir in my #1 spot while Claymore simply replaces guns with swords; nbahn mentioned El Cazador de la Bruja in his OP and you could add Madlax, the Mezzo franchise, Black Lagoon, maybe even Gunsmith Cats and Dirty Pair. Even Kite has an incredibly powerful, but fragile, female lead. I list Canaan because, as with Rin Tohsaka, she deserves to be in a much better series than hers turned out to be. When she is on-screen, the show is always at its best. Her apparent ruthlessness and her acrobatic slaughterfests are tempered by her ever-present doubts; but her strengths, which include a wry resilience, allows her to overcome all hurdles.

  • Ghost in the Shell franchise, Major Motoko Kusanagi. She may dress like trash but surely the Major is the iconic strong woman of anime. She is smarter, tougher, stronger and more resourceful than everyone else around her - and her comrades aren't slouches either. Stand Alone Complex director Kenji Kamiyama gives us the best version, which isn't surprising as he also gave us Balsa from Moribito and his superb re-imagining of Françoise Arnoul in 009 Re:Cyborg, though he spoiled his copybook with Saki Morimi from Eden of the East. I'd rank him with Koichi Mashimo (who has his share of clangers as well), Junichi Sato and Hayao Miyazaki as the directors who most consistently give us strong female leads. (I'm deliberately leaving Miyazaki for others to do.)

  • Ergo Proxy, Re-l Mayer. Like Fate / Stay Night and Canaan, the heroine is better than the show she finds herself in. In fact, amongst Ergo Proxy's major flaws is how it spends altogether too much time on the forgettable male lead, Vincent Law (and two more are its inclination to meander pointlessly and the supernatural silliness at its core). But, like Canaan, when Re-l is on screen, the tension increases, the visuals get a boost - surely she has one of the outstanding character designs in anime - and the plot takes on purpose. Re-l starts off as self-entitled daughter of the elite but through courage and force of character becomes much, much more.

  • Angel Beats!, Yuri Nakamura. She may come across as a Haruhi clone at first blush but, while she isn’t as over-the-top, she is more layered. She has an innate understanding of the other students and how to motivate them, along with an inexhaustible well of protectiveness. Her judgement is usually acute and decisive even if she is as irascible as a mule and as sly as a fox. By the end of the third episode, there is no question any longer why so many people in her world follow her so loyally. Yuri is one impressive character. Best of all, she shows her true mettle when, finally realising she had got Angel and the entire purpose of the afterlife totally wrong, she has the strength to discard her misconceptions and help her fellow students move on.

  • Now that I've mentioned her, I am happy to admit to loving Haruhi Suzumiya's eponymous heroine. I see a lot of hate for Haruhi in these forums. It's understandable but I think it's missing the point. Haruhi is a comic, rather than a romantic, creation and carries some pretty sophisticated concepts on behalf of her creators. Her monstrosity is part of the joke. When all is said and done, though, she is most certainly strong - inescapably stong sometimes, like body odour - so she qualifies with ease in my assessment. Like Holo, she's fascinating.

Top row (l-r)
Noir, Mireille Bouquet
Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit, Balsa
Fate / Stay Night, Rin Tohsaka
Princess Tutu, Princess Tutu

2nd row (l-r)
Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura Akemi
Paprika, Dr Atsuko Chiba
Galaxy Express 999, Maetel
Claymore - Clare

3rd row (l-r)
Crest of the Stars, Princess Lafiel
Spice and Wolf, Holo
Kurau Phantom Memory, Kurau
CANAAN, Canaan

Bottom row (l-r)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, Major Motoko Kusanagi
Ergo Proxy, Re-l Mayer
Angel Beats!, Yuri Nakamura
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Haruhi Suzumiya

Just some of the strong anime female leads I love so much. Just look to your left - even a six year old (Rin Kaga from Bunny Drop) can be a strong lead character. (And I'll leave someone else to do Youko Nakajima from The Twelve Kingdoms.)

But, wait, what about Victorique Du Blois from Gosick? Or the eponymous Chihayafuru? The girls from Dennou Coil? Perhaps Shiki from The Garden of Sinners? Reki from Haibane Renmei? Ohana from Hanasaku Iroha? Yuka Kamitsuki from Kemonozume? Fujiko Mine from the latest Lupin III instalment? Noda Megumi from Nodame Cantabile? And, of course, Taiga Aisaka from Toradora!? This has become a list... gotta stop.

I might add that I think the strong can also refer to a character that is strongly presented without necessarily being physically or mentally tough. A good example would be Makoto Kanno from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. She may be a bit of a dill but she is a wonderful, independent creation. Strongly delineated, you might say.

Last edited by Errinundra on Thu Nov 28, 2019 2:54 pm; edited 24 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 6:11 am Reply with quote
What about Birdy the Mighty: Decode?

Birdy is physically very strong and she is strong-willed. She is also an investigator from space and kicks alien ass.

Edit: Sorry for the inconvenience, please don't eat me. Link added.

Last edited by Cam0 on Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:32 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 9:58 am Reply with quote
I would appreciate it very much if EricJ2, WhiteHairGirls and Cam0 would all edit their respective posts and include encyclopedia links! That would make my job much easier! Neutral Anime hyper

(I'll edit my OP later today)

EDIT: My thanks to EricJ2 and Cam0 for providing links! Cool Smile Very Happy

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:26 am Reply with quote
dtm42 wrote:
...Balsa could have been made a man and nothing would have changed about her personality, the way most characters treated her and even the entire show...

Totally wrong! She is mother-substitute to Chagum; daughter-substitute to Jiguro and love-object to Tanda. The smile she unleashes when she purloins the slave trader's horse is pure female.

She only lacks the worn out otaku fetish adornments to her appearance and personality. That makes her more realistically female to me than, say, someone like Ami Kawashima from Toradora!

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:30 am Reply with quote
Burst Angel has two female leads.
Jo is the one with incredible physical strength and fighting ability. I don't recall her showing any other type of strength except for her desire to protect Meg, at any cost.
Meg is somewhat more than a normal girl in terms of physical strength, though not nearly as strong as Jo, but she is not lacking in courage and dedication to her job and her friends, especially Jo. Meg has a reputation for being abducted and rescued by Jo, but that reputation is undeserved and exaggerated, in my opinion. Meg puts herself at great risk to do her job and to help others, and she can usually take care of herself.

Cardcaptor Sakura: She may not immediately come to mind when you think of "female" characters but I think that Sakura Kinomoto should qualify.
She definitely has strength of character. She always fights to help others, whether they are family, friends, or strangers. She even fights to save her cards.
Sakura may not have much physical strength in her body, but some of the cards that she controls could qualify as weapons of mass destruction.

Kiddy Grade
Eclair is the main character. At the start she is little more than a teenage girl with incredible physical strength and fighting ability. As the show progresses she develops doubts about herself, the job that she is doing and the people that she works for. She shows that she has more than just physical strength when she is willing to risk her career and even her life to try to correct what she sees as injustice.
Lumiere is Eclair's partner and co-lead character. She looks younger but is much more mature and reliable than Eclair. She provides stability and support for Eclair and shows her own strength of character.

Koihime Muso
Shin Koihime Muso
Shin Koihime Muso: Otome Tairan
Kan'u Uncho- (real name Aisha) is the lead character in all three shows.
She starts as an extremely strong and skilled warrior whose only goal is to get revenge on the bandits who killed her family. As she searches she realizes that many others have lost as much as she has, or more, and that it is still continuing. Her goal changes from getting revenge to helping to relieve the suffering of others.
During her journeys she gains the loyalty of many other strong women and builds a formidable army.

My-HiME has many strong female characters, with Mai Tokiha being the main character.
Aside from the physical powers that she develops her main strengths are shown first in her dedication to her little brother at the cost of her own happiness.
Later in the show as things start to fall apart she tries hard to be the one that holds them together. More than once she shows a willingness to sacrifice her life for others.

My-Otome is very much like My-HiME in terms of strong female characters, with
Arika Yumemiya being the lead.
As her physical powers develop she wants to use them to help others. More than once she is put in a situation where she has to take great risks to save her friends, and possibly the world.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:41 am Reply with quote
Touma, my opinion is that all strong female characters in anime spring from the original magical girl, Princess Knight, Sapphire. I think she revolutionised what a female character could be. And her creator would be none other than Osamu Tezuka, where everthing began. (Although Witch Girl Sally pre-dated Princess Knight in anime form, Tezuka's manga came first.)

After the Girls with Guns genre, I think the Magical Girl genre is the one most likely to present us with independent, strong female leads. Hence, I have two in my list.

By the way, I haven't previously mentioned Gunslinger Girl as I think all the girls are essentially slaves (which doesn't stop the first season from being magnificent).

More strong female leads / co-leads.

Top row (l-r)
El Cazador de la Bruja, Nadie
Madlax, Madlax
Mezzo Forte, Mikura Suzuki
Black Lagoon, Revy

2nd row (l-r)
Gunsmith Cats, Rally Vincent
Dirty Pair, Yuri & Kei
Kite, Sawa
009 Re:Cyborg, Françoise Arnoul (Cyborg 003)

3rd row (l-r)
Bunny Drop, Rin Kaga
The Twelve Kingdoms, Youko Nakajima
Gosick, Victorique de Blois
Chihayafuru 2, Chihaya Ayase

Bottom row (l-r)
Dennou Coil, Yūko "Isako" Amasawa
The Garden of Sinners, Shiki Ryougi
Haibane Renmei, Reki
Princess Knight, Sapphire

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:52 am Reply with quote
Psycho-Pass has Tsunemori Akane who possesses a certain kind of emotional/mental strength that uniquely qualifies her to become the hero within the show's universe. Fortunately, she also possesses the necessary amount of intelligence in order to put her gifts to use in order to serve society. Her journey from wide eyed rookie to seasoned leader is quite a pleasure to watch.
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