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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.