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You walk down a hallway one day, and a cute boy or girl says hi to you. You are flustered but manage to say hi back to them. With a smile you move on. Moving into your classroom, you tell your friends what has happened. They all laugh at you and you wonder why? They explain that the person you just talked to isn’t the gender that you assumed they were. Turns out they are gender bending or dressing/acting as a member of the opposite sex!
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, gender bending characters have been around for a very long time. They were introduced, for the most part, with a very famous anime made by a very famous author. Sometimes it’s well known to everyone that this person isn’t they gender they are portraying, and sometimes it’s a secret. One thing is for sure, usually someone has no clue what is going on and it’s rather hilarious! Let’s take a look at some shows as we round up the top 10 anime with gender bending characters!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
Here is your slice-of life, student council anime complete with a cross-dressing character? Hmm? Hime Arikawa is a second year student at a high school. His parents left him an obscene amount of debt and he is now being hunted by debt collectors. Fortunately for him, the student council saves him one day. When they do, they tell him that they can get rid of his debt … for a price. He will not have to dress as and pose as a girl for the next two years and serve the student council!
For all intents and purposes, Hime Arikawa looks like a girl to begin with. He even has a feminine personality to boot! What’s not helping him is being at the mercy of three women! He’s constantly forced to be a part of their antics including the bathing suit fiasco. He is even inappropriately touched by boys who are interested in him while he/she is trying to run away! Poor Hime! He/she even passes for a woman most of the time so it’s great! This is a great show to dip your toe into the pool of what it means to be a gender bender. Enjoy!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2009 – December 2009
How would you feel one day if you went to bed as a boy the night before, and you woke up as a girl the next day? Not only that but some stuffed doll comes to life and tells you that you are now destined to fight? What? Well this is what happens to Natsuru one day. Now he has long hair and is being attacked by other Kampfer. Welcome to Kampfer!
The thing with most gender bender characters is that they tend to not have people throwing themselves at the character. With poor Natsuru, people, including his best friend, who previously had no interest in him, are now all about him. The entire female student body, along with the male one, are suddenly now obsessed with him. Oh and don’t forget too this is a fighting anime! There’s actually plenty of action to keep things going and never a dull moment. Check it out to learn more!
8. Gunna be the Twin-tail (Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2014 – December 2014
Twin-tails or twin pigtails are probably right next to the heavenly beings of the purple-haired race on the Moe scale of things. When an otaku is obsessed with twin-tails enough to the point that he starts his own club to celebrate them, what’s a guy to do? Well, Souji, the guy, is now approached by a being named Twoearle who insists that he fight for their cause; to save twin-tails from being absorbed by evil aliens. He’s onboard and away he goes to save them all!
Twoearle gives him asset of armor to help him fight but there is one small problem… he transforms into a girl! Now he has to fight these evil aliens from absorbing all the spiritual energy of the world! The most refreshing thing about this gender bender anime is that while he does transform, becoming a girl doesn’t make him weaker. He is the same and in fact, his attacks (or is it her attacks?) become stronger! It was a big hit on the screen when it aired and it still fairly is. Check it out because you won’t be disappointed!
7. The Minami Family (Minami-ke)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2007 – December 2007
Minami-ke follows three sisters, Chiaki, Kana, and Haruka in their everyday lives. A majority of this show takes place in their residence or at school. Haruka is the slightly out-of-the-loop sister, due to her being in high school, Kana, the crazy sister who oddly can be very conniving at the same time, and then good ole, Chiaki who is the most calculating and probably smart sister of the group. Their friends come over often to help study with them but the star of this show, is Makoto.
Makoto or Mako-chan is a fellow elementary school classmate of Chiaki. He comes over to meet Haruka because he has a crush on her, and Kana decides to hide him from Chiaki. How you ask? With hair clips and girls clothing. Because that will disguise anyone from everyone when they already know what he looks like as a boy. Mako-chan now blends in with only Kana and two others knowing his secret. In this type of gender bender setting, it’s more of a humorous role as he is forced to wear the clothes the first few times, but eventually Makoto gets into it and starts buying his own girl clothes to wear over to the Minami house.
6. Ouran High School Host Club
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2006 – September 2006
What if you could go to school with the elites? What if that also meant, that as a girl, you could stop a certain room after school and be entertained by a swath of attractive, bishounen (pretty boys) as they showered you with compliments and attention? Life would be pretty sweet eh? Haruhi Fujioka isn’t the richest individual at this school of the elites, but she tries. One day, unfortunately, she stumbles into this club. Backing away in disgust/terror she knocks over a vase worth over $80,000! The group decides to blackmail her into being their servant while she pays off the debt.
An outfit upgrade later, some of the clients are now realizing that Haruhi is actually really cute and she is mistaken for a boy frequently. Female clients start to request her, and the club offers to put her to work as a host to help pay off the debt faster. Haruhi in this series is the first of this list where a girl now is playing a boy. This has a very similar feel to Himegoto (or vice versa) and shows the rarer part of a girl playing a guy. Somehow though, with her wits and charm, she is able to dress as a boy and still maintain female clients. The difference though is that Haruhi here keeps up the charade. However, just like with Himegoto and Kampfer, EVERYONE is in love with him/her.
5. To Love-ru
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2008 – September 2008
Yuuki Rito is this awkward boy who cannot get the nerve to confess to his love, Haruna. He eventually gives up one day and in a bad mood begins to sulk in the bathtub. He doesn’t have long though because this strange nude girl barges in. Her name is Lala and while she is being pursued hotly by a suitor, she has come to Earth. She is here to get away from the rules of her own society as well as marry Rito in order to stay on Earth.
The actual gender bender character of this show is Ren and his alter ego Run. Ren is male and Run is female. They are quite possibly and most likely a nod towards a show farther down and you’ll see why down there! The thing is that for a rare gender bender character, they are not merely cross-dressing; Ren and Run are the same person. They just happen to switch personalities and bodies as a whole. How do they do it? With a sneeze. As a male, Ren is in a hilariously, one-sided pursuit of Lala while as a girl, Run is in love with Rito and constantly wants him. The great part about To Love-ru is that this show is an ecchi rather than a straight comedy or a slice of life.
4. Birdy the Mighty: Decode
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2008 – September 2008
Tsutomu is walking home one day when something comes out of the sky and kills him. This is super anti-climactic for a series opener right!? I mean the main character is now dead. Or is he? It turns out that space police agent Birdy Cephon Altera was in hot pursuit of a criminal and accidentally killed him. To punish her and help him, the police force offers to regenerate, or in a sense, grow him another body. Tsutomu agrees and for the meantime, he and Birdy have to share a body while she investigates the evil aliens on Earth.
Something unique about this show and it seems like a mistake someone missed, is that Tsutomu will show up as a boy in his body when his personality is in control! Wasn’t it destroyed?? Birdy is inside of him as well but when she is in control, you see her body! This kind of gender flip flopping or complete and total gender bending, it similar to Ren/Run from To Love-Ru. It’s funny because Tsutomu has to keep all of this a secret from his friends and family, yet somehow help Birdy while flip flopping bodies in the same situation. Check it out not only for the gender bender, but because the fight scenes are pretty great too!
3. Aoharu x Machinegun (Aoharu x Kikanjuu)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
Aoharu x Kikanjuu was a little gem from the summer that hopefully you were able to catch! It follows Hotaru Tachibana, a seemingly masculine passing girl as she somehow gets talked into joining an airsoft team called the Toy Guns. It comprises of three members per team and she travels with them to so called “survival games” to compete.
The problem is though, is that due to her uniform and looks, the other two guys assume that she’s a guy! Not only that, before Tachibana can even correct them, they talk about how girls are banned from their team and they will never accept them! Whoops! She’s in over her head. Somehow she’s between a rock and a hard place when it comes to being true to herself and still playing these “survival games” that she loves so much. Tachibana does blend in perfectly though a as guy, so there is that part to love too!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2009 – March 2009
Kanako is finally realizing her dream of going to an all-girls school! Because she hates boys? Maybe. Because boys scare her? No. Because she breaks out in hives when a boy touches her? Possibly. Because she’s a secret lesbian with dirty perverted fantasies of doing things with high school girls her age? Yes! (No joke. That’s why she’s at the school.) From day one, everything seems to be perfect at Kanako’s new school. Then Kanako moves into her room. A female vision of loveliness turns around to greet her as her new roommate! Kanako is in heaven. Till she discovers that Mariya, her new roommate is actually an extremely mean guy in drag! What the heck! Kanako is going to expose her but Mariya threatens to tell everyone that Kanako is a perverted lesbian. Mariya also comes equipped with a sassy maid Matsurika. The dorm has multiple unique characters that will butt into her attempts at love for sure! Will Kanako ever find love?
Mariya has to be one of the funniest characters around who is in drag. In fact, until she/he flat out expresses it, you don’t really know! Not to mention, Mariya’s older sister cross-dresses as and passes for a boy at an all boys-school! There’s also the silver tongued Matsurika who does not hold back at all when it comes to Kanako. This show will make you laugh so hard you’ll cry.
1. Ranma 1/2
- Episodes: 161
- Aired: October 1989 – September 1992
Yeah that number of episodes is a bit daunting isn’t it? Welcome to the final entry on this list of Top 10 Gender Bender Anime! Ranma 1/2 was a very successful manga written by the infamous Rumiko Takahashi (Rinne, Inuyasha, Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku), and it is argued to be one of the first anime to really start to make anime popular in the U.S.! Ren/Run from To Love-ru is the character that is a nod towards this show!
Ranma 1/2 is a martial arts manga that opens with Ranma and his father Genma in China. They both fall into cursed springs and as such, whenever Ranma is hit with cold water he turns into a girl! No joke, he physically turns into a girl! His mind stays the same but his entire physical appearance is altered. How does she change back? A splash of cold water does it. Ranma has no couth about using this form to his advantage on multiple occasions which leads to some rather funny outcomes. He trains at a dojo in Tokyo and goes to high school full time, so there is a school aspect to Ranma1/2 as well.
What’s so wonderful about Ranma 1/2 is that is really encompasses the whole thing about being a gender bender while wrapping it up in other genres. While yes, changing clothes is still okay for gender bendering, Ranma fully changes physically. There’s comedy, martial arts, and this show has romance/harem going on with Akane as his main love interest/rival. (You will have to watch the show to find out more about that one, but it is good.) Another great aspect of this show is that other people transform too. For example, Shampoo turns into a cat, Mousse into a duck, and Ryoga into a black pig. However Ranma is the only one to actually change gender. For laughs, romance, martial arts, and just an overall good show with gender bending, check out Ranma 1/2!
Whew! Here we are at the end again. I really hope you enjoyed this list of gender bender shows! What’s great about gender bender anime is that it isn’t always boy to girl or girl to boy. As this list shows, while it can learn one way more than other, it’s not an absolute. Anime is diverse and interesting and there’s not a dull aspect about it since there’s a show for everyone. Let’s talk about them in the comments below! As always, till next time!