There have been many female leads throughout the history of anime. They are primarily featured in romance anime, though they have been known to appear in action anime or sub-genres like Mahou Shoujo anime. However, a distressing trend that appears throughout that very same history is how pathetic many female anime leads are.
While the aforementioned leads definitely have their good and bad points, many of them end up being completely reliant on another character, a white knight character, to save them from their distress. While this is fine in moderate doses, it is an overindulgence that happens more often than not within the industry. How often have we seen a female that’s the top tier badass at the start of the anime need saving by the second half of it?
That’s why, here at Honey’s Anime we want to discuss the Lack of Strong Female Leads in Anime.
You might be impassioned at this point to point out how wrong the premise of this article is. Haven’t there been strong females who can more or less stand on their own? Haven’t their desperate struggles reached the hearts of thousands? That is definitely true. However, the problem here is that they are the exception to the rule. The rule being that a female will need to be saved at some point and be completely helpless while that’s happening.
This isn’t the worst thing ever though. While they are currently a minority, they do present a good example of what a strong female lead can contribute to the overall narrative of the story. Take for example Akane Tsunemori from the anime Psycho Pass. While Akane does have support throughout the movie, whether emotional or physical, her character is fleshed out enough that she is able to stand on her own.
As a strong female lead, she is able to lend her own perspective to the situation and the way she reacts is significantly different from the male lead, Shinya Kogami. While Akane takes her time to consider the matter, Shinya is more head strong in the way he does things. That is not to say that a female lead is better than a male one, her patience could be interpreted as indecisiveness in the appropriate situation after all. All it means is that there is something different, and variety is the spice to life.
Side Characters Who Could Have Been
There are many good female characters, not leads, that frequent the sphere of anime and some of them could have easily been made into very strong female leads that would lead the anime into a much different direction than the one it had taken. Take for example Shana of Shakugan no Shana. While the show is named after her, the main character of the series is decidedly Yuuji Sakai.
At the start, while Yuuji is weak and feeble, Shana is the one who has to save the day while he uselessly stands at the side cheering her on. As the show goes on and Yuuji gets stronger, while Shana becomes more and more side lined until the end, where she is so weak that Yuuji completely tears her apart and takes her to a faraway place. That’s quite a waste of a good character right there. While Shana could suffer defeat, it could be better served to make her stronger.
This would lead to her being on par with the power level of Yuuji, or at least close. This would lend to her character being able to act as a direct roadblock to his ambitions, or if she chooses to side with him, lend synergy to their characters being able to fight side by side. Shana doesn’t have to replace him, but her role could’ve been larger and closer to being the female lead rather than a damsel in distress.
Change in Dynamics
So how different would it be if the main character of an anime is a female character instead of a male? Wouldn’t the outcome be basically the same if their circumstances were the same, except they had a male love interest? That’s not entirely true. While many of their actions could be motivated by the same things, such as rejection by their peers, family getting killed etc, the way they ultimately react could be different.
At the end of the day, males and females are fundamentally different. One is not better than the other. Each has their own strengths and flaws. In a strictly biological sense, a male is strong than a female, but a female is more flexible. A female has a better pain tolerance, but a male has more physical stamina. Small differences such as this can ultimately change the character that is presented, in a very butterfly effect kind of way.
While not a perfect example of the above, season 2 of Sword Art Online presents a good dichotomy between males and females. In the first half of the season, it follows Kirito as he solves the mystery of the killings in Gun Gale Online. In the second half, it follows Asuna as she travels Alfheim Online by herself. While the situations and the character’s backgrounds are different, how they react on their own shows how differently a male and female can react when a situation is presented to them. Remember, it’s not about which is better, but increasing the variety that we get from our characters.
Emasculation not Required
So what does this mean for the future of anime? Should emasculation not be implemented? Are we to shift the “balance of power” towards the females and make males a minority when it comes to having strong leads? That’s not the case at all. In fact, such thinking is very narrow minded in the grand scheme of things. As it is stated multiple times, males and females are very different, but one is not better than the other overall.
Each of them has their strengths to present and characters to develop. Rather than to cut out males completely or to reduce their appearances, it would be better if female leads could be developed to the level of male characters and worked side by side with them. It doesn’t have to be a male lead always saving the day; let the girls save them once in awhile. That’s what friends are for, aren’t they?
Just imagine how amazing the chemistry of Kirito and Asuna would be if they both fought against Kayaba at the end of the Sword Art Online arc? Rather than Kirito fighting by himself, or even Asuna being the one fighting him, they stood side by side as a couple and defeated the final boss together, giving their lives with a smile on a face for the greater good, knowing that they could go into heaven together. Having a female lead doesn’t mean not having a male lead, we can always have both.
Opening the Door
Should the climate of anime ever change, think about how many new stories we could get in the future! If strong female leads are ever introduced into the mainstream of anime, it would open the door to so many more varieties of narratives. We’ve gotten used to many types of stories that circulate the current industry. How many have groaned in annoyance whenever they hear the words “adapted from the popular light novel”?
What about the predictions that many otakus can make whenever they watch a new shounen-like anime, simply because they’ve seen the same type of male character being rehashed over and over? Now imagine if we ever included a strong female lead in the mix! That would mean that there are more parts to the show and the amount of combinations we can experience have increased two fold.
Variety is the spice to life, and that is something that the industry sorely needs right now. So many stories simply rethread old tropes that they almost get an automatic miss from the veterans of anime, even if the anime itself is executed well. The injection of more strong female leads like Akane Tsunemori, Mikasa Ackerman, or Riza Hawkeye could revitalise the current climate that perpetuates throughout the industry that we know and love.
At the end of the day, this is just one suggestion of many that can be made to improve that narratives of the many anime that come out each and every year. This suggestion isn’t one of exclusion but inclusion. It isn’t about cutting out the male leads and putting the female leads in their place, but to include them into the narrative. Cutting out male leads would defeat the point of the suggestion completely and cripple the narrative as a whole.
Of course, there are many issues that can come with introducing female leads, like the pacing of the story being divided between two leads, but without risks we can’t reap the rewards right?