Celebrating Some of my Favourite Women in Anime
Sumaya lists some badass female anime characters and explains why she thinks they’re all absolute Goddesses
Anime shaped my childhood quite a bit. Sometimes the only thing getting me through my school day was knowing that I’d soon be snug at home, huddled round a screen with my brothers continuing our Naruto binge. Whilst I loved the range of personalities, fashions and hair colours of each character, I often felt strong, interesting female characters (that weren’t annoying as shit [Sakura, please kindly get in the bin]) were missing from my screen. Since then, I’ve come across a bunch that have stuck with me, and deserve some time in the limelight.
The following are listed in no particular order. All these characters hold very different personalities and aesthetics, and are each champions in their own right. While I know I’m only writing about fictional characters (however real they may be in my heart), in a non-fictional reality, women are always either being compared to or comparing ourselves to other women. I believe an important part of womanhood is to lift each other up, and try not to feed into the idea that we should be competing against one another. So, in the same way I deal with the amazing gals I know in real life, I’m going to be hyping up what I like about these characters without ranking them. Let’sa gooo…
Revy – Black Lagoon
I love Revy because she combats everything we’re told to be as ‘ladies.’ In a city running rampant with pirates, mercenaries and pimps, she somehow manages to be recognised as one of the maddest (both in terms of being a badass and a wee bit psychotic). She’s not one to play the damsel in distress or shy away from violence – her solution to most things usually involving whipping out some guns and successfully taking down all desired targets. She has the pottiest of mouths, a rich flow of sarcasm running through her veins, and I live for every word that comes out her mouth. Built from a traumatic past, Revy is an extremely complex character, but one that doesn’t allow herself to be defeated or defined by her tragedies. She’s confident, unapologetic in all aspects of her being, and doesn’t stress over being misunderstood. While she does and says some questionable things, I think in some regard, we could all learn from Revy on the art of not giving a shit.
Yona – Yona of the Dawn
Finding an anime that has a woman as the main protagonist is relatively rare – especially if you like your characters with some actual substance. A lot of series that do provide a woman as the main character often fill their episodes with excessive amounts of fan service (oversexualised content). This anime drives right past that stop and instead offers some strong character development, fed to us organically and gradually over the duration of the series. Though Yona begins as a pampered princess who is ignorant to the harsh realities beyond the walls of her castle, tragedy and betrayal quickly force her to adapt and grow if she’s to overcome the grave circumstances that now confront her. The evolution of her character is one realised by sheer determination and hard work to never again reach the level of helplessness she once felt. She is transformed into a strong, independent woman and warrior.
Canary – Hunter x Hunter
Canary’s appearances in Hunter x Hunter are fairly brief but very memorable. Serving as an apprentice butler and bodyguard to the family of one of the main characters, Killua, she removes all trespassers from their property by force. When offered a bit of insight into her backstory, we see an undeniably skilful fighter taking on tens of full-grown men as young girl. Her talents only grow, and she demonstrates a strong capability to pick up new abilities at an impressive rate. Though she’s initially presented as a ruthless guardian, she fluctuates in her ability to maintain her faux callous demeanour. When the main character, Gon, shows up at the residence claiming he’s there to help Killua – who’s in a tricky situation with his rather messed up fam – Canary’s forced to fight him though she’s inclined to believe his intentions are pure. The conflict she displays between integrity, loyalty and compassion as an employee, friend and human being is a difficult one to watch. While I support a woman’s right to choose who she dedicates her life to, if there’s something I’d wish for this character it would be to devote more of it to herself. She’s often treated as disposable, and I can’t help but see her willingness to sacrifice herself for others as an adoption of this mentality.
Emma – The Promised Neverland
Emma’s one third of one of the most heart-warming, lovable trios I’ve come across in a while (shout out to former Rifer Mikael for the recommendation, check out all his amazing work here). This one’s a little difficult to contextualise without spoiling the concept. In a nutshell, it’s set at a shady school within a dystopian reality filled with death and deceit. Something I like about the character of Emma is that she embodies a number of attributes women are often told they can’t possess simultaneously. Though only eleven years old, Emma demonstrates maternal qualities – she’s extremely protective over those she cares for and always does all in her power to aid their comfort and safety. Although she’s often considered too compassionate for her own good, she continually offers others kindness and generosity, knowing that’s what’s needed most in the world. Achieving some of the highest marks in her class, she’s also highly intelligent and is not without athletic talent too. Her criticised capacity for empathy is in the end the thing that really fuels her motivation to push her mind and body. She exercises strength in all its forms in attempt to save as many lives as she can, better her enemies and not take no for an answer.
And there you kind of have it, because it wouldn’t be a good ol’ anime list without some honourable mentions. I’d also recommend checking out: Winry and Riza from Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood – both strong, capable characters, thriving within lines of work that are considered masculine. Bulma, Videl and Android 18 from Dragon Ball Z – all intelligent, headstrong, fiery forces to be reckoned with. Whilst I’m aware Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are Western productions and don’t technically count as anime, they’re still great shows filled with some great female roles. Toph, Korra, Azula and Katara are all characters I connected with to some degree, and I’m sure you will too.
There are so many characters that deserve to be on this list – let us know in the comments which ones are missing.