When you think of shoujo anime, what are the first features that come to your mind? The usual suspects are, but not limited to, distinct attractive art style with piercing big eyes and long eyelashes. The main characters are usually female, majority of the male cast are hunky bishounen types, and stories are primarily focused on romance and slice of life with an emphasis on drama, and sometimes with magical or occult themes.
While these do make the shoujo genre distinct from seinen, and shounen, some shoujo anime do cross into other genres that offer a different experience. This is by no means an uncommon thing, and there are a few of these shows that stand out, and, well, you guessed it, this list is gonna give you one of the best examples of action-based shoujo anime with thrills, excitement, and good old fashioned kicking ass.
There are only two rules for this list: one the anime must be categorized as “shoujo” by Western categorization, and two, the anime has a good helping of combat scenes. Now then, if you want to get your heart pumping with excitement with that shoujo taste, then look no further!
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2003-September 2003
It doesn’t happen every day when you discover that your family bloodline carries the DNA to the world’s most notorious phantom thief and our hero Niwa Daisuke found out the hard way. Daisuke is your average teenage boy who is clumsy and wimpy and has a huge crush on Harada Risa, but his life changed after he turned 14 when the blood of Phantom Thief Dark Mousy manifested within him and turned our wimpy guy to one of the most prolific thieves in history. The story focuses more on the sorta-love-triangle-ish story between Daisuke and the twin siblings, Risa and Riku, and living his life as a normal boy by day and a phantom thief by night.
Like a majority of the anime these days, D.N.Angel has some magical elements that turn stealing valuable artifacts, evading the police, and fighting powerful foes into a sort of art form that is one of a kind.
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2009-September 2009
Despite having no memories of his childhood, Klein Teito is a promising young student of Barsburg Empire's Military Academy, specializing in training elite soldiers to serve, fight and bring glory to the empire. The elite soldiers have the ability to use the energy called “Zaiphon” and use it to battle, but ultimately the Zaiphon’s power entirely depends on the wielder’s personality.
On graduation day at the academy, Teito’s memories are slowly coming back and discovered that one of the top elites of the empire killed his father. In a fit of rage, he tried but failed to kill the elite and got thrown into the dungeon awaiting death. With a help of a friend, Teito escapes the academy and the quest for Teito’s vengeance begins.
The majority of the story focuses on Teito making new friends and unraveling the mystery of her father’s death, but there’s a good helping of fight scenes that involve the magical power known as Zaiphon. The fights aren’t really as flashy or as lengthy, but they’re plenty to break the tedium.
8. Fushigi Yuugi (Mysterious Play)
- Episodes: 52
- Aired: April 1995-March 1996
You follow the story of two best friends Yuuki Miaka and Hongo Yui are transported from Japan’s National Library into the world of a mysterious book set in ancient China, "The Universe of The Four Gods." There Miaka was destined to become the priestess of Suzaku and must find all of her celestial warriors to help her summon Suzaku for three wishes.
Yui was teleported to rival nation Seiryuu and unfortunately, Yui was treated as kindly as Miaka was. Yui was manipulated by the people of Seiryuu to become a priestess of Seiryuu. With both girls in nations striving for power, the former best friends will battle each other not only for the wishes but also for love.
The anime has everything from love triangles, betrayals, magic, and... uh, cross-dressing that is set in a mythical ancient China. There’s a healthy dose of action scenes to keep the pace going, and hearts thumping. And while the battles aren’t exactly shounen-tier, the battles of the warriors of Miaka and the warriors of Yui are spectacular in their own right. If you want to win the hearts of the priestesses, what’s wrong getting all bruised up in a tough battle, and show off your manliness?
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2013-June 2013
Gareki is a professional thief that broke into a mansion of a wealthy woman. There he finds a captive boy named Nai and while he was trying to find something valuable to steal, the woman returned and then transformed into a horrible abomination called a Varuga. The two escaped the mansion only to end getting involved with a mysterious group called Circus who specializes in cases involving the Varuga. Gareki and Nai ended up joining Circus because Nai believes he can find his missing friend.
The first thing you’ll notice when watching Karneval is the beautiful art and character design. The fight scenes are your usual magical types like weapons that materializing out of thin air and superhuman acrobatics, but adding the already attractive characters, watching each battle is like watching the eye-catching acrobatics you find in, well, a circus.
6. Hakuouki (Hakuoki ~Demon of the Fleeting Blossom~)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2010-June 2010
Edo Period, Japan, Yukimura Chizuru, 16 years of age living a simple life as the daughter of a doctor. And like every tragic war-torn story, Chizuru was left alone by her father because his profession was needed in the capital city of Kyoto, and the only means of keeping in touch is through periodic written mail.
When Chizuru’s father stopped sending letters and fearing the worst, Chizuru travels to Kyoto to find him and found herself attacked by a group of samurai and a strange, almost-inhuman-like, man. Chizuru was then rescued by the Shinsengumi and was taken back to their base because of what she has witnessed. Will Chizuru find her father? And why did the Shinsengumi take her in instead of killing her and eliminate the witness? Is there a possibility he’s involved in this somehow?
What’s up with ancient Japan and ancient China settings found in this list? Maybe the atmosphere, the art of sword fighting and lack of a smartphone and internet may sound romantic? Chances are the reasons are all of them. The main girl Chizuru is a helpless girl and she is protected by her hunky warriors and that feeling of security and knowing the boys will die protecting her has a special charm the female viewers might find appealing. Even if you don’t like Chizuru for being, well, useless, the huge cast of interesting hunky men and lots of samurai action make this show a worthwhile experience.
5. Akatsuki no Yona (Yona of the Dawn)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2014-March 2015
The Kingdom of Kouka is a peaceful and prosperous king being led by a kind king who detested weapons. That’s what the sheltered and spoiled Princess of Kouka Yona believed until her father, the king, was murdered right in front of her eyes by the hands of her childhood friend and admiration, Su-won. Rescued by her childhood friend and bodyguard Son Hak, the two escaped the castle and the princess soon discovered that her idyllic kingdom is rife with poverty, strife and corruption. Akatsuki no Yona is a coming-of-age story of Yona as she faces the harsh reality of her kingdom, and must find a way to bring the Kingdom of Kouka to its former glory, and face her childhood friend, and her father’s murderer Su-won.
Akatsuki no Yona has a similar vibe to Fushigi Yuugi with a huge cast of characters, a strong female lead, and a bunch of hunky boys that you could consider Yona’s own harem. Jokes aside, the series has a ton of humor to keep you laughing and while the action scenes aren’t the highlight, the battles are very detailed with smooth animation and topped with magic to punctuate the mystical feel of the anime.
4. Magic Knight Rayearth
- Episodes: 20
- Aired: October 1994-March 1995
Hikaru, Umi, Fuu from three different schools went to Tokyo Tower on a field trip, and then suddenly a pillar of light blinded the tower and the three are teleported to a mystical land called Cephiro. There, they met the mage Clef and told the girls they were summoned by Princess Emeraude to become her Magic Knights and save the land from the clutches of the evil priest, Zagato.
Back in the 90s, stories of kids being teleported to an alternate or parallel universe were the most popular type of stories in anime, and CLAMP’s Magic Knight Rayearth series fit right in. The story mainly revolves around the three school girls as they travel the land of Cephiro as they look for a way to return home, gain friendship, honor, fighting evil, and find love with a good topping of mecha action.
3. Tenkuu no Escaflowne (The Vision of Escaflowne)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1996-September 1996
After meeting a young warrior killing a dragon, Kanzaki Hitomi and the warrior were teleported to the war-torn world of Gaea. The warrior Hitomi went with is Van Fanel, a prince to a small nation protected by dragons. Hitomi follows Van and his mysterious giant suit of armor called Escaflowne, on a quest to unite the countries of Gaea against the ominous Zaibach empire. Little does Hitomi know, she possesses the power that would lead Gaea to peace or to utter destruction.
If Magic Knights Rayearth is shoujo for super robot fans, then Vision of Escaflowne is shoujo for the real robot fans. Shoujo and Mecha are rarely a good mix, but Vision of Escaflowne pulled it off thanks to its storytelling, pacing, music, and an excellent cast of characters. At one part the story slows down to give Hitomi and gang some story and another part is Hitomi helping out Van and Allen as they fight the Zaibach empire using their gigantic suits of armor. The music helps to punctuate certain battles that will leave you wanted for more or completely stunned.
2. Futari wa Precure (Pretty Cure)
- Episodes: 49
- Aired: February 2004-January 2005
The Garden of Light has been taken over by the evil forces of the Dark Zone. Fearing the Dark Zone will set their sights on the Garden of Rainbows, the planet Earth, Mipple and Mepple, the residents of the Garden of Light escape to Earth and bumped into Misumi Nagisa and Yukishiro, Honoka are school girls with different personalities and different hobbies. With the power of light, the girls transform into Precure, defenders of light, enemies of the dark.
Don’t be fooled at the cute characters and magical girls because Precure has the fighting pedigree of a shounen anime. Magical girls tend to use magical staffs and the power of love to beat these vile monsters, but Precure prefers a more physical approach. While there are the usual magical girl cliches, combat is usually about beating the crap out of each other using the good old fists and legs. And due to this perfect blend of shoujo charm and shounen vigor, Pretty Cure has gained a lot of male audiences, and the anime series went on in becoming one of the most successful franchise in anime with a ton of spin-offs, sequels, and alternate settings.
1. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon)
- Episodes: 43
- Aired: March 1992-February 1993
Tsukino Usagi is a 14-year-old blonde girl who is the typical ditzy, crybaby type who isn’t particularly smart, like, she doesn’t know how to use a computer. Usagi’s life turned upside down one fateful evening when she encountered a talking cat named Luna. The cat granted Usagi the power to transform into Sailor Moon, a warrior who is to save the world from doom.
You can tell combat is the main emphasis here because the show follows the monster-of-the-week formula like shounen anime and shows at the time like Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and popular mech shows like the Mazinger series and GaoGaiGar.
Sailor Moon is popular for a lot of things and what made the show stand out from the rest of the shoujo anime of the time is it introduced the idea of magical girls kicking ass and inspired a new generation of anime like Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha and the Pretty Cure series.
There are many shoujo anime and manga with an emphasis on combat during the time of Sailor Moon, and yes, Sailor Moon wasn’t the first to do this, but it was Sailor Moon that popularized the combination of shoujo and shounen elements.
The Pretty Cure series is more combat-oriented with fighting scenes that could rival shounen anime like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, it was Sailor Moon who started it all. And looking back, without Sailor Moon, shoujo anime could have been stuck with sappy romance stories, and never dared to experiment new ideas.
That’s our opinion at least. What do you think of our Top 10 Action Shoujo Anime? Do you agree with our picks? If you know other shoujo anime with a good helping of ass-whooping, please share it with us in the comments section below!