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The List
7 Female Anime Directors Worth Checking Out

by Lynzee Loveridge,

The anime industry, not unlike Hollywood, is widely a male-dominated business outside of certain roles. Plenty of women fill artistic roles like colorists and animators, and to some degree script writing, but few actually direct anime series. Even shōjo and jōsei adaptations, whose target audiences are women, are mostly directed by men. However, there are a few women among these ranks leaving a unique mark on the work they touch and developing a name for themselves.

7. Kotomi Deai (Silver Spoon, Natsume's Book of Friends) Deai is a director unafraid to take risks, although the results so far are uneven. She took over for Tomohiko Ito in the second season of Wit Studio's Silver Spoon anime series to positive feedback, earning her a spot directing the studio's first original anime series The Rolling Girls. The latter unfortunately had more style than substance, suffering from incoherent storytelling. However, Deai is back after a year-long directorial hiatus to add her particular flair to the latest season of Natsume's Book of Friends, a series with well-established characters and story.

6. Soubi Yamamoto (This Boy Can..., Meganebu!) Soubi Yamamoto has established herself as a one-woman show, writing and directing the minimally animated yaoi series Kono Danshi. The series first started with This Boy Can Fight Aliens! and has grown to include mermen, wizards, and a guy turning into a rock. Yamamoto was finally given the reins to a full-fledged series in 2013, Meganebu!, a fujoshi-targeted series about guys wearing glasses. The show cemented Yamamoto's penchant for bright, contrasting color palettes but perhaps predated anime's stronger predilection to court the fujoshi market.

5. Chiaki Kon (When They Cry - Higurashi, Junjō Romantica, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal: Season III) Chiaki Kon's resume runs the gamut of well-established franchises but there's a common thread between them. Her shows often target female audiences, be they yaoi (Junjō Romantica, Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi), bishōnen-centric (Devils and Realist, La storia della Arcana Famiglia, Zakuro) or aisle-crossing jōsei (Nodame Cantabile). Audiences can look to Kon for entertaining romances, and the lady deserves a medal for helping turn Toei's Sailor Moon reboot into something watchable.

4. Hiroko Utsumi (Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club) Utsumi made her directorial debut with the highly successful Free! swimming anime and its sequel, Free! Eternal Summer. A long-time fixture at Kyoto Animation, Utsumi previously worked as an episode director on Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! and Hyōka before helming the studio's first female audience-oriented work. Both Free! series mix a perfect blend of muscular fanservice, emotional storytelling, and a sprinkle of pulse-pounding sportsmanship. Interestingly, Utsumi wasn't tapped to direct the franchise's prequel film, but hopefully KyoAni turns to her again soon.

3. Rie Matsumoto (Kyousogiga, Blood Blockade Battlefront) Matsumoto is an up-and-comer, being relatively young for an anime director. She first worked as an assistant director on Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star and remained with the franchise until 2012. After making her foray as a director on HeartCatch PreCure The Movie, she moved to her first original work, Kyousogiga. The colorful, high-energy web series mostly flew under the radar, as did its subsequent TV adaptation until Crunchyroll picked it up for streaming. Kyousogiga has earned praise both for its unique artistic sensibilities and emotional core. She would again bring a unique world to life in the anime adaptation of Blood Blockade Battlefront.

2. Naoko Yamada (K-ON!, Sound! Euphonium) Yamada first got attention for directing Kyoto Animation's beloved K-On! anime series and bolstering the "cute girls doing cute things" trend, which has only recently started to wane even seven years later. Since then, she's continued to direct series that resonate with fans. Sound! Euphonium's relationship-centered drama between Kumiko and Reina set fans' hearts aflutter, securing its sequel as one of this season's most anticipated shows. Yamada also helmed the film adaptation of A Silent Voice, about a bully and his victim coming to terms with one another, which has been a financial success although reviews have been mixed.

1. Sayo Yamamoto (Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, Michiko & Hatchin) Sayo Yamamoto blesses us with her unique vision of sexiness about every four years. Michiko & Hatchin was her debut work after cutting her teeth on episodes of Ergo Proxy and Samurai Champloo. She leaves an unabashedly stylish mark on whatever she touches, even when its just the opening and ending credits. Her last work, Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, re-examined Lupin's lovely lady thief as a cold-blooded murderer that revels in her crimes. Yamamoto can go light just as well as dark; check out her episode of Space Dandy for comparison. If there's one continuous thread throughout her work, it's an interest in the sensuality of the human form. We'll be getting plenty of that in this season's Yuri!! On Ice.

The new poll: Which shōjo manga would you recommend to a male reader?

The old poll: Which robot pilot is the strongest?

  1. Simon (Gurren Lagann) 27.8%
  2. Suzaku (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion) 14.3%
  3. Kira (Mobile Suit Gundam SEED) 12.6%
  4. Amuro (Mobile Suit Gundam) 10.5%
  5. Sohryu Asuka Langely (Neon Genesis Evangelion) 10.2%
  6. Lelouch (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion) 9.9%
  7. Char (Mobile Suit Gundam) 9.1%
  8. Inaho (Aldnoah.Zero) 8.3%
  9. Setsuna (Mobile Suit Gundam 00) 8.0%
  10. Heero (Mobile Suit Gundam Wing) 6.7%
  11. Mikazuki (Mobile Suit Gundam IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS) 6.3%
  12. Domon (Mobile Fighter G Gundam) 5.5%
  13. Shinji (Neon Genesis Evangelion) 4.8%
  14. Guy (GaoGaiGar: King of the Braves) 4.5%
  15. Chirico (Armored Trooper Votoms) 3.8%
  16. Kaworu (Neon Genesis Evangelion) 3.8%
  17. Master Asia (Mobile Fighter G Gundam) 3.7%
  18. Athrun (Mobile Suit Gundam SEED) 2.2%
  19. Hikaru (The Super Dimension Fortress Macross) 2.1%
  20. Kamille (Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam) 1.9%

When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

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