Cartoons with stereotypically weak female leads are hardly unique to anime. Even in anime, strong female characters are hard to come by, especially ones who keep their wits about them after falling in love. We’re all familiar with Mikasa, Rem, and Erza, but how often do we actually admire strong female characters who aren’t part of a massively popular shounen franchise?
Now, without further ado, here are ten of anime’s most underappreciated female protagonists. Please keep in mind that this is merely a list of strong female characters and not a critique of the anime in which they appear.
1. Clare From Claymore
Claymore is an action anime starring Clare and a bunch of other female fighters who are half-human and half-youma (flesh-eating demons). Clare is a lone wolf of the Claymore family, having been born into the 78th generation. She is a low-ranking employee who does not let her lack of authority stop her from getting things done.
Even though she occasionally shows her softer side, Clare is physically and psychologically powerful, tenacious, and highly stubborn. Clare, the female protagonist, also rescues Raki, a boy who is practically worthless and who is constantly worried, from a youma. What a reversal of roles depending on gender!
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2. Michiko From Michiko & Hatchin
The theme of female independence runs throughout the entire anime. Michiko has everything a reader might want in a strong female protagonist, including being a badass biker chick with a dark skin tone who breaks out of jail to exact vengeance on an abusive boyfriend.
She’s a terrible badass who hates kids, but for some reason, she takes in a little girl named Hatchin and grows up as a result of it. It’s unusual to see women in the starring roles and males in the supporting roles in an anime, but that’s exactly what happens here.
3. Hinako From Kenka Bancho Otome: Girl Beats Boys
Hinako is a blessing because she is part of a rare reverse harem in which the female isn’t a complete pushover. She has no choice but to attend Shishiku Academy disguised as a boy (who looks very much like her). The troubled male students at this school waste no time picking on Hinako.
After that, where does she go from here? That’s right, she’s going to beat the crap out of all these lads and become the school’s number one delinquent without anyone ever suspecting she’s a girl.
4. Misaki Kirihara From Darker Than Black
Being the protagonist, Yin gets most of the attention in Darker than Black. However, one could argue that police officer Misaki Kirihara is a much better-written character. Misaki is not only an extraordinarily strong-willed and self-reliant young woman but also a very perceptive and capable officer.
Misaki’s motives for becoming a police officer are admirable: she wants to help the helpless and rectify wrongs done to others. It’s disappointing that there aren’t more strong female characters like Misaki in fiction; she’s like how Akane from Psycho-Pass could have been written.
5. Shirayuki From Snow White With The Red Hair
When a particular lecherous prince discovers he wants to make the protagonist his concubine, how often do we see her uproot her entire life? You’re about to meet Shirayuki, a woman who not only travels all the way there on her own but also decides to shave off the gorgeous red hair that initially drew the attention of the prince.
The independent and fiercely feminine girl’s only desires are independence and respect. She takes a job as a court herbalist in another prince’s kingdom, and the best thing is that she not only doesn’t fall in love with him right away, but she also saves his life several times (a rarity in shoujo)
6. Riza Hawkeye From Fullmetal Alchemist
Fans have a lot of affection for the Elric brothers, Winry, Roy Mustang, and a few more random characters. But when it comes to praise from the public, Riza Hawkeye is often overlooked.
She is not only an officer in the Amestrian State Military but also a very skilled markswoman. She is also Mustang’s bodyguard and, in his words, a “huge help” to the team. Riza will sacrifice her principles in order to support Mustang and his mission.
7. Krul Tepes From Seraph of The End
Krul’s followers and her vampire allies have a hard time taking her seriously because she looks like a child. On the other hand, she is a Third Progenitor and a very powerful Progenitor Council member. It says a lot that even Ferid Bathory is intimidated by her might.
Krul is vicious and dishonest, but deep down she just wants to be reunited with her brother, who she lost as a human child and never got over being separated from.
8. Erika From Wolf Girl & Black Prince
In a lot of shoujo stories, the female protagonists are criticized for being passive and submissive, and for misinterpreting violent or otherwise abusive male conduct as romantic. And while Erika is just one shoujo lead who doesn’t blend in with the crowd of doormats, it’s easy to see why people hate her.
She’s the first to dump jerk Kyouya when he won’t stop making fun of her, and she’s the first to go on a date with the nice guy who’s been crushing on her from the start. Erika isn’t afraid to tell Kyouya where he stands if she has to, and she should be appreciated more for her courage in the face of an annoying snob.
9. Yuu Kashima From Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun
Yuu is the type of girl who receives more female attention than male due to her incredibly androgynous features. She’s charming because she’s able to attract the attention of the one guy she likes without changing a bit.
It’s refreshing to see the anime’s producers not imposing the sexist cliche of a girl being “transformed” into someone prettier or more conventionally attractive on Yuu.
10. Elizabeth From Black Butler: Book of The Atlantic
Elizabeth was an instantly despised figure, and with good reason. She had a lot of feelings, was far too attractive and clumsy for her own good, and placed a premium on appearances at social events and the wearing of fashionable garments. This all changed, however, when it was shown in The Book of the Atlantic that Elizabeth is, in Sebastian’s own words, “very proficient” with a sword (for a human).
By slicing and dicing her way through hordes of zombies like they were made of butter, Elizabeth rescues Ciel from certain death, turning the “damsel in distress” stereotype on its head.
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