Who run the world? Girls! Who are the strongest? Girls! Powerful and intellectual girls! March 8th is International Women’s Day, and we thought it would be a great idea to highlight some of the most influential and passionate female protagonists of all time to celebrate. Beware of spoilers for your favorite series.
10. Towa, Setsuna, Moroha - Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon
Starting right off the bat with the latest spin-off series from the acclaimed series Inuyasha, Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon features not one, not two, but three iconic girls who are prepared to take down any demon who threatens their mission. Towa and Setsuna are the twin daughters of Sessohomaru, while Moroha is the daughter of Kagome and Inuyasha. Taking lessons from their parents who fought the fearsome Naraku, this balanced trio travel between eras to recover Setsuna’s memories of her older twin sister, Towa. With this series hyping up any long-time fan, including yours truly, we are extremely excited to see the journey the trio will take us on.
9. Haruhi Fujioka - Ouran High School Host Club
Haruhi Fujioka is a character that knows how to roll with the punches. Her excellent grades earned her a place in the prestigious Ouran Academy, but her family’s lower-income background causes her to stick out among her extremely wealthy classmates. After accidentally breaking a vase worth over 8 million yen, she is wrangled into joining Ouran’s Host Club. First, she started as an errand boy, but her charm and easy-going nature showcased her potential as a full-fledged host. It should also be mentioned that at this time, no one knows that Haruhi isn’t a Haru-he. Her short hair and disheveled appearance came out of convenience, and the idea of looking masculine or feminine never crossed her mind. She isn’t an apathetic person, but she knows when to go with the flow. Whether it’s personal expression, handling the host club’s hijinks, or helping those in need, Haruhi is able to tackle anything life throws her way.
8. Ninny Spangcole & Noel Niihashi - Burn the Witch
Burn the Witch is another popular anime from the Fall 2020 Simulcast, next to Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon. Created by the famous Tite Kubo (who also created one of the Big Three, Bleach), Burn the Witch follows two witches, Ninny Spangcol & Noel Niihashi, as they protect the Human World city of London from an onslaught of dragons. Hiding secrets from the people of London through Reverse London, Ninny and Noel fearlessly take on terrifyingly powerful dragons. Another interesting feature of Reverse London is it’s hidden right under the public’s nose. Unless you have a wand to reveal Reverse London, you wouldn’t know about it.
Ninny is illustrated as a very vocal and loud woman who refuses to back down from a challenge. Noel can be described as a calm, stoic woman who has her eye a little more on the reward. Overall, this dynamic duo complements each other very well and are always there for each other.
7. Erza Scarlet - Fairy Tail
Erza Scarlet, also known as Titania, serves as one of the strongest Fairy Tail guild members, rivaling that of Guild Master Markov! Possessing the Requip magic, she is prepared for any and ALL enemies. In a world where everyone controls an infinite variety of magic, this is a useful magic skill to have. Seen as strict and terrifying on the surface, Erza Scarlet has a pure heart full of warmth to her Fairy Tail family. Not only that, she is always reliable and refuses to back down when her back is against the wall. Cater that with an overwhelmingly dark childhood, Erza has become a beacon of hope when times are tough.
6. Utena Tenjo - Revolutionary Girl Utena
Stepping back to the past, Revolutionary Girl Utena is an iconic Nozomi title that features a strong female protagonist. Wanting to be a Prince but born as a female, Utena breaks the mold of gender stereotypes to rescue her beloved Anthy Himemiya. Utena Tenjo is best described as a passionate and intelligent woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in. But she does have her own flaws. She can be impulsive and assume what one is feeling, which can complicate things if you are as complicated as Anthy. Breaking out in 1997, this progressive anime was one of the first female-orientated anime to push the boundaries for the LGBTQ+ communities and unify women alike.
5. Ryuko Matoi - Kill La Kill
Cutting down the middle of our list is the unforgettable Ryuko Matoi from Kill La Kill. Investigating the murder of her father and finding the other half to her red Scissorblade, Ryuko follows the blood-soaked trail to Honnōji Academy. Being the protagonist she is, we watched Ryuko mature as the series progresses. Shown as a stubborn, rowdy teenager on the surface, we see Ryuko break down her walls and become more polite and heartwarming with the Mankanshoku family. Ryuko is a strong female protagonist because she shows that when women are determined, they can achieve whatever they set their minds to.
We can’t keep talking about Kill La Kill without mentioning one of the most infamous aspects of the shows, its over-the-top wardrobe and its use of fan service. Ryuko’s abilities come from her Kamui, magical clothes that are as powerful as they are revealing. And surprise surprise, the less she wears the more powerful she becomes. Although she is nervous about her outfit, she comes to both accept the situation she is in and find power in it. On the surface, Kill La Kill can be seen as an over the top fan service anime, but if you look a little deeper you can see that its use of satire is there to poke fun at its predecessors and show that empowerment comes in many forms.
4. Tohru Honda - Fruits Basket
On the surface, Tohru Honda can seem pretty generic. She’s not the smartest kid in class, but she’s not the worst (that title would probably go to her friend Hanajima). She’s clumsy, a complete airhead, but is notably one of the nicest characters in anime. But is that it? How can one of shoujo manga’s household names be famous for just being nice? There’s a complexity to Tohru’s personality that can easily go unnoticed. Selflessness and kindness are still her core traits, but they are fostered out of a place of insecurity and low self-worth that becomes more apparent as the series progresses. She dedicates her life to helping her friends because she believes that’s all she can offer. She would rather live in a tent than even think about asking for help, not out of stubbornness or the desire to be self-reliant, but because she can’t see herself as anything but a burden to those around her. Her unending kindness changes the lives of the Soma clan in ways that they never thought possible, but they aren’t the only ones who begin to change. Tohru shows the Somas that they are worthy of love, and the Somas reciprocate those sentiments back at her. Tohru is here to remind the audience that it’s important to care for others, but to also care for yourself.
3. Emma - The Promised Neverland
The Promised Neverland is a very popular anime that follows one of the most optimistic protagonists you’ll ever meet, next to Gon from Hunter X Hunter. Taking place in a small orphanage with acres of green fields and forestry, the children are able to play and live carefree lives until they are old enough to be adopted into a loving family. As you might have guessed, this facade is quickly broken down within the first episode and the children are actually raised to be food for these demonic monsters.
With the facade faded and the overwhelming danger drawing closer, Emma isn’t beaten. She is determined to help everyone escape what appears to be a hopeless situation. Even with all this negativity surrounding her existence and being deceived by people she trusted, Emma still holds onto hope that she will escape to freedom with all of her family. This overpowering optimism is spread to the rest of her family and friends as she stays resilient in any terrifying situation.
Emma stands out as a character in The Promised Neverland, but also in the anime/manga world as a whole. She is a dynamic, strong, well thought out character and is on a shortlist of female protagonists in modern shonen manga (a genre targeted to adolescent boys) that is never used as eye candy. Although the manga is finished and the anime has been taking some...interesting directions, Emma from The Promised Neverland will leave a lasting impact on the industry.
2. Saber - Fate Series
The Fate series can be very complicated depending on which path you want to follow in the games. With that being said, there is one character who has been a staple in the series, Saber! Battling alongside their masters for the right over the Holy Grail, Saber has unwavering courage to protect the ones close to her. Another defining trait of Saber is her strong will. It is very difficult to steer her off the path of honor and will ignore any underhand tactics. Saber does struggle with being brought down because she is a woman, but holds her head even higher because she possesses even more strength than the male servants.
1. Sailor Moon - Sailor Moon
Whenever a strong female protagonist comes to mind, the one that everyone thinks of is the one named Sailor Moon. Debuting in 1992, Sailor Moon follows the titular protagonist Usagi Tsukino, also known as Serena Tsukino to the English audience, as she fights evil by moonlight and winning love by daylight, she is the one named Sailor Moon. Tsukino begins the story as a loveable, immature teenager, but transforms into a pure-hearted woman who fights for what is right. She does have some flaws, such as being jealous of her love interest Mamoru. But deep down, she is the most caring person in the universe. And this is why we have to place her on top of the list.
There is no cookie-cutter way to write awesome women, and these characters prove that point. They’re strong, they’re flawed, a little hot-headed, goofy, and everything in between. We gave some of our favorite leading ladies, but now we want to hear yours! Let us know who else should be added to the list on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!