Top 10 Strong Female Characters in Anime [Updated]

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Anime is filled with powerful guys. But what about girls in anime?

If you think female characters are only there to look cute and be rescued, think again, because female characters are easily as strong (if not even stronger) as male characters in anime. A while ago, we introduced you to some of our favorite strong female characters. But one list isn’t enough to cover the whole anime universe, and that is why today we have a brand new line-up of strong anime girls for you.

To mix things up, we have decided not to include any women from the original list, so head on over there if you need more recommendations. That being said, let’s jump right into our Top 10 Strong Female Characters in Anime - enjoy!

10. Kagura from Gintama

  • Episodes: 201
  • Aired: April 2006 - March 2010

First up on our list is a lady from one of the most ridiculous comedy shows out there: Kagura from Gintama.

For those of you that don’t know, Gintama is a parody that makes fun of everything related to Japanese pop culture. Set in an alternate reality where aliens have invaded feudal Japan, the story focuses on Gintoki Sakata. Once a samurai, he is now without a job and takes on any task in order to get by. He isn’t alone on his journey and together with his friends (if you want to call them that) he encounters more than just a few eccentric characters.

Kagura is the main female protagonist of Gintama and usually by Gintoki’s side. The young girl might look petite and helpless, but she is actually one of the strongest characters in the show. As part of a special race, she has superhuman strength and can take on almost anyone in a fight. Not only does she have great physical strength, but Kagura isn’t afraid to speak her mind or do things considered “unladylike”. As a strong, fearless and brave character, she deserves the first spot on our list.


9. Kagome Higurashi from Inuyasha

  • Episodes: 167
  • Aired: October 2000 - September 2004

Next up is a heroine from a show that many of you probably grew up with: Kagome from Inuyasha.

Kagome’s life changes when she is dragged into a cursed well belonging to her family’s shrine and lands in an alternate reality inhabited by demons. She meets Inuyasha, half-demon/half-human, and despite her initial shock she soon becomes close to him as well as his friends. Together they embark on a journey Kagome could have never dreamed of and face new challenges on a daily basis.

Kagome’s strength isn’t a physical, but a mental one. Not only does she get thrown into a different world filled with demons and monsters, but she also encounters more than just a few situations that greatly endanger her. Nevertheless, she doesn’t give up and keeps going. On top of that, she tries to be there for Inuyasha and her other friends and supports them in any way she can. Kagome teaches us that you don’t have to be strong to be brave, and that is why we included her on our list.


8. Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail

  • Episodes: 175
  • Aired: October 2009 - March 2013

Many of you were surprised that we didn’t include Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail on our original list, and we agree that the powerful Titania deserves a quick shout out.

Fiore is a mythical country filled with all forms of magic and in order to control and organize this form of power, magic guilds are formed all throughout the country. One of these guilds is Fairy Tail. Its members love each other like family and embark on all kinds of adventures together. This anime tells the story of Natsu, Lucy, Gray, and Erza as well as all the people they encounter on their journeys.

Erza Scarlet is often seen as one of the most powerful magicians of the show. Even her looks are intimidating, starting from her fierce eyes and ending in her metal armor and dangerous weapons. Not only is Erza physically powerful, but she is also courageous, committed and would never leave someone close to her behind. She has come a long way in order to become the loyal and brave character she is today - reason enough for us to include her on our updated list.


7. Saya Kisaragi from Blood-C

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: July 2011 - September 2011

Moving on we have another girl who knows how to handle dangerous weapons: Saya Kisaragi from Blood-C.

Saya might look and act like an innocent schoolgirl, but she has a dark secret. Once the sun sets, she takes on her role as a demon slayer and gets rid of evil spirits threatening her village. Her task is an important one and has been handed over to her by her father. Now she has to not only protect her loved ones but also hold onto her sanity before her actions get the best of her.

Blood-C is a (you might have guessed it) bloody show that is not for the faint-hearted. What better show to include a powerful female as the lead? In the very first episode already you can watch Saya wielding a katana like it’s no big deal and slicing through one enemy after the other. What makes her truly powerful, however, is her sense of duty as well as her ability to handle two identities at the same time. She is strong enough to not only fight demons but also to keep a sense of reality and continue her life as a normal schoolgirl. Saya is an admirable character and easily deserves the seventh spot on this list.


6. Shiro from Deadman Wonderland

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: April 2011 - July 2011

Talking about bloody shows, let’s keep this theme going and talk about Shiro from Deadman Wonderland next.

Ganta Igarashi’s life changes from one day to the other. What should have been a normal school day turns into the worst day of his life when his classmates are brutally murdered in front of his eyes. Even worse, Ganta is convicted of the crime and sent to a prison of the special kind. Deadman Wonderland turns criminal activities into amusement as it forces prisoners to participate in deadly games to entertain the population. Will Ganta be able to survive and get revenge on the man who killed his friends?

What a perfect setting for a strong female to appear. Shiro is a unique character that first surprises viewers with her childlike mentality. She doesn’t seem to care that she’s trapped in a deadly amusement park and is only interested in playing games with her new friend Ganta. It seems like Shiro wouldn’t be able to harm a fly, but the moment you push her too far she turns into a killing machine. If you follow the story of Deadman Wonderland you’ll also get to find out more about Shiro’s past and understand just how strong she really is. Shiro is an easy choice for our sixth recommendation.


5. Esdeath from Akame ga Kill!

  • Episodes: 24
  • Aired: July 2014 - December 2014

Coming in at number five we have a character who is beautiful yet strong, committed yet cold-hearted. It’s Esdeath from Akame ga Kill!

The setting of Akame ga Kill is a country suffering from uprisings and political unrest. To save the population from a malicious leader, an assassination group called Night Raid sets out to eliminate anyone standing in their way. While trying to keep the greater good in mind, they have to face moral dilemmas on a daily basis and decide whether killing people can really return peace and safety to their country.

The strong character in question, Esdeath, is a general working for the Empire and leader of a special police squad named the Jaegers. What makes her so suitable for this role is her sadistic and cold-hearted nature. Esdeath doesn’t feel any sympathy for her enemies and doesn’t mind hunting or torturing them if it gets the job done. She is a born leader who isn’t afraid of stepping up for what she believes in. Being able to use her sadistic side to her full advantage makes Esdeath truly powerful and there was no way we couldn’t include her on today’s list.


4. Touka Kirishima from Tokyo Ghoul

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: July 2014 - September 2014

You haven’t forgotten about Tokyo Ghoul, the hit show of summer 2014 yet, have you? If so, allow us to refresh your mind real quick.

Life in Tokyo is already stressful enough, but imagine how it would be like if you also had to be afraid of bloodthirsty ghouls attacking and eating you. This scenario becomes reality in Tokyo Ghoul where ghouls and humans live side by side. But while some ghouls are nothing more than monsters, others are forced to live in the underground in fear of being killed by humans. In the middle of this war between two races stands Kaneki, a human/ghoul hybrid who has to find a place for himself.

Our powerful female character is Touka, a ghoul waitress who helps Kaneki get used to his new life. Touka has been through great hardships herself but still, manages to keep going somehow. And while she might seem cold and distanced at first, deep inside her there is still a caring and loving side. Being able to not become completely detached or cold-hearted after facing so much tragedy is a true strength in our eyes. This fact combined with her physical strength earns Touka the fourth spot on our list.


3. Madoka Kaname from Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: January 2011 - April 2011

If you haven’t watched Madoka Magica, you might be confused to see such a cute magical girl as our next recommendation. But if you know what this show is about, you will understand when we say that Madoka is one tough girl.

Madoka’s life is like that of any regular middle school girl: she loves her family, cares about her friends and her biggest problems are related to school and boys. But this is about to change when she encounters a mythical being named Kyuubey. Kyuubey teaches Madoka about a world she wasn’t aware of. If she promises to fight witches and protect innocent people as a magical girl, Kyuubey can grant her any wish her heart desires. Will Madoka agree to this trade?

Madoka Magica is a show that turns from adorable to sinister real quick. What starts out as a cute show soon shows the dark side of being a magical girl. Similarly, innocent Madoka has to face a whole new world and make decisions she could have never expected. She might have been a helpless girl at the beginning of the anime, but by the end of it, Madoka shows her true strength. A combination of courage, determination, and love, makes Madoka powerful and that is why she deserves the first spot in our Top 3.


2. Mikoto Misaka from Toaru Majutsu no Index (A Certain Magical Index)

  • Episodes: 24
  • Aired: October 2008 - March 2009

Only two characters are left on our updated list; who could they be? First up on our final spurt is Mikoto Misaka from the action show Toaru Majutsu no Index.

Academy City is a futuristic city filled with both technology and supernatural powers. Students in this city have psychic abilities that they train in order to become the strongest versions of themselves. Touma Kamijou is one of those students, but he seems to be a black sheep. He has a psychic rank of zero, and his only ability is to negate supernatural abilities of his opponents. That doesn’t stop him from stepping into action when a peculiar girl named Index requires his help. How will his story continue?

Mikoto is the main heroine of the series and protagonist of Toaru Kagaku no Railgun, her own side story. Unlike Touma, she is a skilled psychic user and one of the strongest students in Academy City. She might seem like any other girl at first glance, but Touma is strong in every way imaginable. Not only are her psychic abilities impressive, but she also has a strong sense of justice and isn’t afraid to step up and start a fight. Mikoto is an inspiring character and we couldn’t end this list without including her.


1. Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell

  • Episodes: 1
  • Aired: November 1995

Last, but definitely not least on our list, is a powerful woman who has been with us for a while and will soon make a comeback on Hollywood’s screens. Our final spot belongs to Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell!

In the universe of Ghost in the Shell, humanity has progressed enough to allow humans to replace any body part with modern technology. Now, humans, cyborgs and everything in between, have to learn to coexist. That this doesn’t always work out is to expect and it’s up to Motoko Kusanagi and her team of special forces to investigate and end crimes on the streets of the future.

Despite being the protagonist of Ghost in the Shell, not much is known about Motoko at first. Her body has been replaced by a cybernetic body, leaving only her mind completely human, she doesn’t talk much about herself, but never fails to perform her job. We didn’t necessarily include Motoko because of her physical strength - after all her body is basically a cyborg - but because of her great mental strength. Nothing seems to be able to derail her and she tackles any problem with her sharp mind and great intellect. Motoko is strong while also making us question our humanity and that is why she deserves the final spot in this line-up.


Final Thoughts

That concludes our list! Thanks for sticking through until the end.

If you’re not that much into anime, it’s easy to believe that female characters are always portrayed as weak and helpless. And while it’s true that those characters exist, there are so many others out there that are not afraid to speak their mind and step into action. The girls we have presented above are such women and if you’re looking for empowering shows to watch we’d suggest you give their shows a try.

No list is ever perfect and there are so many other strong female characters out there. Let us know who we missed out on and what you think of our updated recommendations. Leave a comment down below!

Cornelia Wagner

Writer

Author: Cornelia Wagner

Coffee enthusiast, world traveler and writer at heart. Left Europe to live and study in the insanity called Tokyo.

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The phrase "anime girls" conjures up images of scantily-clad bodies, cute but ditzy women, complete with gratuitous cleavage and panty-shots. Many series feature female characters with a focus on sex appeal to pander to a male audience. In light of this, it would surprise some to hear that anime is full of strong women. So many of them, in fact, that selecting only ten for this article was a challenge. Setting the record straight, here is a list of the top ten strong female characters in anime.

10. Akane Tsunemori from Psycho-Pass

  • Episodes: 22
  • Aired: October 2012 - March 2013

Akane enters the Public Safety Bureau as a recent graduate at the top of her class. Though intellectually prepared, she is inexperienced. Doe-eyed, compassionate, and small in stature, she would seem an unlikely candidate for this role. In spite of this all it turns out she is capable of resilience even in the face of tragedy and adversity.

While she retains her strong initial moral inclination as a facet of her character, she adapts and becomes stronger as a valued member of her team. Despite the challenges she faces she uses these experiences to grow, and more than holds her own. Akane is made of tougher stuff than most and hangs on where others might falter, receiving a spot on this list.


9. Riza Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist

  • Episodes: 51
  • Aired: October 2003 - October 2004

Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye is a highly respected soldier and firearm specialist. She is a successful woman in an arena dominated by men. Though her rank is First Lieutenant, she is often the voice of reason for her superiors. While respectful she doesn't tolerate any kind of nonsense, even from those who outrank her.

She is passionate and focused - after all, it requires tremendous discipline to learn to shoot the way she does, and her reputation for deadly accuracy is unmatched. She is quiet, though not un-opinionated. She treats her words like her bullets - firing them only when needed and with precision. She holds her own, commands respect, and earns a place on this list.


8. Re-L Mayer from Ergo Proxy

  • Episodes: 23
  • Aired: February 2006 - August 2006

Re-L Mayer works for the Intelligence Bureau as an investigator, and a very capable one. She has a very serious personality, which can likely be attributed to her extensive government training. Though she typically presents a cold exterior she is extremely intelligent and curious, often pushing rigid societal boundaries.

In a city where most people are mindlessly compliant, she is unafraid to be a black sheep. She dares to challenge the world around her, ask questions, and seek out answers to them. When she commits to something she has a steel resolve, and it is this tenacity and innate inquisitiveness that puts her on this list.


7. San from Mononoke Hime / Princess Mononoke

  • Episodes: 1
  • Aired: July 1997

No article on strong female anime characters would be complete without mentioning Studio Ghibli. Almost every film I can think of that they have produced features a strong female protagonist from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, to Howl’s Moving Castle. The most exemplary and possibly most famous is San from Princess Mononoke, the wolf princess.

San’s origins are unknown. She lives in the woods where she was raised by wolves and considers herself to be one of them. This upbringing shaped her into a loyal guardian of nature. On many occasions she demonstrates her willingness to guard the forest at the peril of her own life. Her dedication to what she believes in and the ferocity with which she protects it earn her a spot here.


6. Teresa from Claymore

  • Episodes: 26
  • Aired: April 2007 - September 2007

Teresa is considered to be the strongest of her kind. As a Claymore, she possesses exceptional combat abilities in as well as unique sensory aptitudes. In addition to possessing a tremendous amount of power, she initially wields it with a total lack of consciousness, until she begins to gain a different perspective.

Teresa is arguably one of the strongest female characters of all time in terms of combat abilities and raw power. Initially, she wields this power remorselessly. However, the development her character undergoes also shows her potential for moral fortitude, which secures her place on this list.


5. Sarasa from the Legend of Basara

  • Episodes: 13
  • Aired: April 1998 - June 1998

Sarasa loses everything when her village is destroyed in a single day. In the destruction that ensues, her brother also loses his life. The boy who was prophesized to be the last hope of the people is dead. This would be devastating, if anyone were to find out. In an act of tremendous bravery, Sarasa cuts her hair, assumes her brother’s identity, and never looks back.

Sarasa is a complex character. She is forced to live as her brother in what starts out as an effort to protect the ones she loves, but eventually turns into a full on assault against a corrupt government regime. At the same time, she is still a teenage girl. She is strong and endlessly compassionate, remaining a very relatable character and putting her on this list.


4. Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing from Hellsing Ultimate

  • Episodes: 10
  • Aired: February 2006 - December 2012

Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing could easily be dead. And after seeing the most imaginable thing a child could see, she could have given up. Instead she turned adversity into advantage, taking over her late father’s position as head of the Hellsing Organization, and turned her subjugation into justice.

While she accepted her position of power at a young age, she has risen to command the respect of those around her. In addition to her leadership role, she also happens to be the master of one of the most powerful vampires on earth. She is intelligent, resourceful, and determined having easily secured a place on this list.


3. Mikasa Ackerman from Shingeki no Kyojin / Attack On Titan

  • Episodes: 25
  • Aired: April 2013 - September 2013

Mikasa Ackerman, though peaceful and calm by nature, was considered to be the strongest, most combat-proficient member of her trainee squad. She is extremely loyal to her friends and surrogate family, and would risk her life to protect them without a second thought. This extreme loyalty is the primary reason she joined the fight against the Titans.

Mikasa’s life was shaped by trauma and tragedy well before she encountered the Titans. Even after being stripped of everything and witnessing true atrocity, she emerged from the ashes and took up arms to protect humanity. This determination and strength of character make her one of the strongest female characters in anime.


2. Revy from Black Lagoon

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: April 2006 - June 2006

Revy is a mercenary for the Lagoon Company. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, and this brand of honesty sometimes gets her in a bit of trouble. She has a tremendous amount of self-respect, bordering on arrogance. She is also quite a force to be reckoned with if you ever find yourself unlucky enough to be on the wrong side of the barrels of her guns.

Initially, not much is known about Revy’s past. This becomes a little clearer over the course of the series, which only further serves to prove her strong resolve. As her character develops throughout the series, her faults are explored through introspection. It is this combination of brash charisma, determination, and character depth that earn her the number two spot on this list.


1. Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

  • Episodes: 26
  • Aired: October 2002 - March 2003

Major Motoko Kunasagi, a female cyborg, is the protagonist of the Ghost in the Shell series. As a result of her extensive military and martial arts training along with her cyberization, her physical and intellectual capabilities exceed the average human’s. Little is known about her background, which is shrouded in a great deal of mystery.

She is a strong and effective leader, commanding respect of through her competency and strong sense of independence. In addition to being a formidable and highly experienced opponent in combat, her abilities as a hacker are legendary. Her strength, determination, and intellect are awe-inspiring, putting her at the top spot on this list.


Contrary to popular belief, anime is full of strong female role models. These characters are admirable, overcome challenges, and display remarkable determination and fortitude. There are many series where female characters are depicted as highly sexualized objects, creating the unfortunate but popular false perception that this is the only way women are portrayed in anime.

Hopefully this article sheds some light on this misconception! Many noteworthy characters didn't make the cut, so feel free to share your favorite characters in the comments below.

Abbie

Writer

Author: Abbie

Aspiring writer and music enthusiast with ridiculously bright hair, currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Likes cats, loves dogs, prefers ferrets. I've been a fan of anime and manga since my kindergarten dreams of being a Sailor Scout. In my free time, I'm usually working on some kind of creative project. Most nights I can be found out dancing somewhere in the city.

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