Due to Japan’s differing history and modern values concerning LGBTQIA+ identities, watching anime as a member of the MOGAI (Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments and Intersex) community can be somewhat of a minefield. With 99% of non-straight characters only being found in BL and Yuri and the few transgender characters out there being used as a punchline, what might look promising on the outside is often full of sly digs about how our identities aren’t “normal” (whatever that means).
It's a tough world out there - both real and 2D - but fear not! We've scoured the anime globe to find ten anime characters that not only fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, but are more than just their identity - they're well-rounded characters with other traits and skills, and are actually (shock horror!) treated like real people. This list includes both characters that have explicitly stated their identities and those that haven't, but have all the signs. Whether you're part of the community yourself or an ally wanting to learn more, this list is for you!
Please note that although this list is numbered, it’s not a ranking - no identities are better than others, and all of these characters are amazing!
10. Shion Karanomori from Psycho-Pass
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 2012 – March 2013
Shion is a latent criminal and genius analyst for the Public Safety Bureau. Most often seen sat at her desk with a cigarette hanging from her mouth, she plays a vital role in supporting the members of Unit 1 as they go about their investigations. She’s also a total babe, forever glamorous and never seen without her bright red lipstick.
If you blinked, you might just have missed the scene in episode 22 which shows Shion lying naked in bed with the equally naked Enforcer Yayaoi Kunizuka as they reflect on the events that have happened in the series. It's brief and more importantly subtle - there's no other character suddenly barging in and being incredibly shocked, there's no deep and meaningful conversation between the two about how what they're doing is "wrong," and it's not yuri fanservice. It's just a regular part of their lives.
That’s why Shion is the first on our list. Yes, she’s in a relationship with a woman, but she’s also showing that it’s a completely normal thing. The fact that both Shion and Yayaoi are femme also works to break down the misconception that in a girl-on-girl couple, one of them has to be the “man.” Thanks, Psycho-Pass!
9. Umetarou Nozaki from Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 - September 2014
Umetarou Nozaki is a seventeen-year-old high school boy, who also just happens to write shoujo manga. You want fluffy storylines about teenage romance and heart-throbbing feels? This guy can whip you up a masterpiece in no time. If you want real-life romance with him, though... Well, that might be a little more difficult - just ask Chiyo Sakura!
That’s right, Nozaki-kun knows all the romantic tropes - and yet he doesn’t recognise them when they’re literally happening to himself. Chiyo confesses to him, Nozaki thinks she’s a fan of his work and gives her an autograph. Chiyo tries to initiate various romantic activities with Nozaki, but he quickly turns each and every one of them into an undeniably unromantic manga-making opportunity.
Nozaki himself admitted that he hasn’t experienced his first love yet - and he doesn’t show any desire to have one, either. His feelings towards romance are basically, “Can I use this in my next manga chapter?” - of course, this may change if we ever get more seasons of GSNK, but for the moment Nozaki-kun can definitely be read as being somewhere on the ace spectrum!
8. Mari Tsutsui from Nijiiro Days
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: January 2016 - Present
Mari Tsutsui, known as Mari-chan to her friends and as Spit Woman by Mattsun, is an aggressive tsundere with some clear issues when it comes to guys. She’s got quite the terrifying arsenal, too - whether it’s a death glare, a hit-’em-where-it-hurts insult or, well, there’s a reason why she’s called Spit Woman, you know?
There are several theories over Mari’s relationship with her best friend Anna, with some people believing Mari’s feelings are nothing more than extreme attachment and possessiveness towards her one and only friend. However, if an anime character says they’re in love with someone, it can’t really be denied - and Mari has admitted her feelings for Anna twice.
As an apparent man-hater, Mari might not seem like particularly positive representation, but it’s important to remember that some people do feel this way - and, well, she is a teenager after all! With some sort of relationship clearly in the works between her and Mattsun, many might dismiss her feelings for Anna as some kind of lesbian “phase” - but let’s put a stop to bi-erasure and remember that their are other sexualities, and Mari is just as deserving of a place on our LGBT list as any other anime character!
7. Haruta Kamijou from HaruChika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2016 - March 2016
Haruta Kamijou is a first-year high-school boy who’s not only skilled at playing the French Horn, he’s also incredibly intelligent and able to solve mysteries that stump those around him. In HaruChika, he spends his days alongside Chika and the other members of the club poking his nose in other people’s business and digging into issues that aren’t often talked about in Japan.
Many people probably started this series expecting Haruta and Chika to be the main pairing - it’s in the title, after all! But oh boy, were we pleasantly surprised. At the end of the very first episode, we learn, along with Chika, that the person Haruta actually has a crush on is none other than their club advisor Kusakabe-sensei, aka the guy that Chika also has a crush on.
The only reason Haruta admits his feelings is because Chika realises them and confronts him, making him an accurate representation of the way Japan sees sexuality - as something personal which you shouldn’t talk about unless necessary. However, Haruta is also a positive role model. He’s aware of the challenges he will face due to his homosexuality, but he’s strong and determined to get what he wants. While the fact that he’s gay isn’t the focus of the anime, it also isn’t ignored, making Haruta another well-rounded LGBT anime character!
6. Hange Zoë from Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2013 - September 2013
Hange Zoë, genius researcher and total Titan otaku. Energetic, enthusiastic, and obsessed with learning everything there is to know about the Titan species, Hange has been known to subject subordinates to long lectures and cry for the very subjects they’re experimenting on. That wasn’t a plural “they,” by the way. It was the singular “they” - and one of the gender-neutral pronouns which we should use to refer to Hange!
Everything about Hange is androgynous - although they’re voiced by a woman, their appearance and manner of speech in Japanese don’t conform to either binary gender (not that either of these things dictate gender identity, of course!) Although not as unusual in Japanese, they’re also not referred to in a gendered way at any point by the other characters in Shingeki no Kyojin.
Still not convinced? Well, then maybe you should ask Hajime Isayama himself! Two years ago, a spokesperson from Kodansha U.S.A. revealed that Isayama-sensei asked for English translators to not use gendered pronouns to refer to Hange, or at least use “he” and “she” with equal frequency. In other words, it’s up to you as the viewer to interpret Hange’s gender as you wish - but officially, they don’t have one!
5. Makoto Sunakawa from My Love Story!! (Ore Monogatari!!)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2015 - September 2015
Makoto Sunakawa, aka Suna to his giant of a best friend Takeo and therefore the rest of the Ore Monogatari!! fandom, is as caring as they come. Whether it’s third-wheeling to help Takeo feel comfortable on his dates with tiny princess Rinko or listening to both of their worries, Suna understands and supports relationships more than anyone in this anime. But does he want one himself? Hell no.
Now many of you will assume this to be a result of the millions (quite possibly not an exaggeration) of girls that have asked this boy out only to badmouth his best friend. I mean, Suna himself said he was interested in girls, right? As much sense as that makes, let’s think about this a bit deeper. Does being interested in someone mean you have to want a romantic relationship with them?
There’s one line in particular that rings the aromantic bell for Suna: “When I think about what I’d have to do if I ever dated anyone, it makes me tired.” It’s not that he hates the idea of romance - you all saw that adorable smile as he watched Takeo and Rinko being all cutesy couple-y. He just… Doesn’t want to date anyone. And that’s fine. After all, romance doesn’t equal happiness, and Suna seems quite content watching his two friends be romantic enough for him!
4. Usagi Tsukino from Sailor Moon Crystal (Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: July 2014 - July 2015
Many of you may be surprised that it’s Usagi on this list and not the classic Sailor Moon LGBT couple, Haruka and Michiru. Of course these two are incredible, but they’re also widely recognised and celebrated - now it’s Usagi’s turn. The cute and clutzy magical girl with the power to save the universe is more than a great role model - she’s great representation for the LGBTQIA+ community!
Usagi Tsukino, 14 years old, clumsy and a bit of a crybaby - everyone knows her classic self-introduction, but how many of you noticed the fact that Usagi isn’t straight? Yes, she may be in a loving and committed relationship with Mamoru, but those of you who have watched the reanimation Crystal in particular, which follows the manga more closely, must have noticed her eyes straying more than once.
The moment that solidifies this in Sailor Moon Crystal is when Usagi first sees Rei - and is instantly attracted to her. In the original anime, Usagi also finds herself drawn to Haruka despite being unsure of the other Sailor Scout’s gender, and then there’s the whole angsty business with Seiya in Sailor Stars... In other words, Usagi Tsukino is attracted to people regardless of their gender - she’s as pansexual as they come!
3. Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club (Ouran Koukou Host Club)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2006 - September 2006
At first glance, Ouran High School Host Club might seem like your typical gender-bender anime where everyone mistakes someone for being one gender when they’re another and this becomes the sole source of comedy - but luckily it’s not so simple. How? Well, Haruhi Fujioka isn’t a crossdresser for one! The comedy also doesn’t focus on her appearance, and the series works to make us question gender (hetero)norms!
Haruhi presents in a gender-neutral way, leaning towards the masculine, and doesn’t correct others when they treat her like a guy. Then, at the end of the first episode when Tamaki asks Haruhi if she’s a girl, what’s her response? “Biologically, kinda.” She goes on to say that she has less awareness of what it means to be a girl or a boy than other people and she doesn’t mind how people view her, something which is even reflected in the lyrics of the OP, “I don’t care if I’m a lady or a host.”
Basically, Haruhi Fujioka falls under the non binary spectrum. She’s also gender blind - she doesn’t understand why people should be treated differently because of their gender. Just look how frustrated Haruhi gets at Tamaki in episode eight when he tells her she shouldn’t have fought against guys! She also pays less attention to appearances than others - even when the boys succeed in their schemes to get her into traditionally feminine clothing, she doesn’t bat an eyelid!
2. Yoshino Takatsuki from Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: January 2011 - April 2011
Yoshino Takatsuki, known by most people in his class as Takatsuki-kun, is cool and handsome. He’s also transgender. That’s right, on top of all the usual teenage hormones, Takatsuki has to deal with the fact that society sees him as something he is not - a girl. His slowly-developing body certainly isn’t helping matters, either. But what makes Takatsuki so worthy of a place on our list?
The answer is simple. He’s one of the only canonically transgender boys in anime - and possibly the only accurately depicted one. We see him struggle with dysphoria, with trying to make people understand who he is, and the harassment and rejection he faces. We see and feel the microaggressions that most (if not all, let’s be honest) trans folk have to deal with on the daily.
More than that, we see him fighting. When his breasts begin to develop, he researches and buys a chest binder - that’s right, an actual binder! No ace bandages or other dangerous binding methods so often seen in the media here! He also gets up the courage to wear the boys’ uniform to school, and although this doesn’t exactly go to plan, this little warrior is an inspiration to trans boys everywhere.
1. Shuuichi Nitori from Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: January 2011 - April 2011
Two characters from the same anime?! you might ask. That’s right, Takatsuki-kun isn’t the only one who deserves a spot on this list from Hourou Musuko. If you’ve ever tried to find serious trans representation in anime before, you’ll know this is the sadly the only series around - and even then the language used is outdated by modern Western standards. But enough about that, let’s talk about Nitori!
Nitori is Takatsuki’s closest friend, a quiet and super cute trans girl. Much like Takatsuki, Nitori has to deal with the horror of going through puberty as a transgender teen. However, Nitori highlights how it is especially hard for young trans girls. When Takatsuki goes to school wearing the boys’ uniform he gets a bit of a telling off, but when Nitori goes to school in a girls’ uniform? She’s treated like she’s sick and her parents are called to come pick her up.
Nitori is also attracted to and dates other girls, meaning she not only belongs to two of the LGBT letters, but she’s also disproving the stereotype that transgender women are actually gay men (seriously, how does that work?) What’s more, like Takatsuki, Nitori is also a fighter, determined to be herself and carve her own path through life. She’s also sadly the last on our list!
So there we have it. We’re happy to say that these characters aren’t the only positive LGBT representation in anime, but we’ve tried to cover a good range of identities. Now we just need to wait for the anime industry to up its game and increase the representation - make some intersex characters and let them kick some butt as well, please!
Who are your favourite LGBTQIA+ anime characters? Have you got any MOGAI character headcanons? We’re dying to hear your thoughts, so let us know in the comments!