Anime as a genre isn’t always known for its strong female characters. In fact, it may be better known for its scantily clad female characters and their impossible anatomy! However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of incredible badass women in this world. From warriors to princesses, classic film to new series, we’ve got some of the strongest (and best loved) female characters in the world of Japanese animation for you.
[source: Sword Art Online]
Yuuki Asuna, Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online exists in the world of an MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role-playing game), created with ‘"full dive" technology — a helmet that allows users to become completely immersed in the world of the game. But it also traps the first round of players there until they beat the game! While most of the frontline fighters are male players, there is one female player who become famous in the world of Sword Art — Asuna, aka The Flash, a nickname that comes from the sheer speed at which she fights. She’s not just a powerful fighter, though. She’s loyal, kind, and an incredible cook, on top of it all.
Serena Tsukino, Sailor Moon
Originally called Tsukino Usagi in the Japanese version of this anime series, this character became Serena for an American audience. She also became one of the most loved anime characters for young girls in the nineties. A relatable (and slightly ditzy) young girl, she is also the reincarnation of the Princess of the Moon Kingdom, and uses her powers to transform into the heroic Sailor Moon. Of course, everyone who loves Sailor Moon has their own favorite Sailor Scout, but there’s little doubt that Serena is probably the most recognizable.
Erza, Fairy Tail
In this fantasy universe, magic users separate themselves into guilds, and one of the strongest members of the Fairy Tail guild is Erza Scarlet. Another incredibly powerful fighter, this mage uses requip magic to change weapons and armor — even mid-fight! She’s the definition of a badass, and her sword magic is near-unparalleled. She’s also able to make even the wildest members of this wildest guild behave (which may be why she even served as Guild Master for a while).
[source: Rooster Teeth Animation]
Ruby Rose, RWBY
Although this one is technically American-made, RWBY is a favorite anime for fans of the style who are looking for strong female characters because the core four characters and main antagonist are all women. And they're training as Huntresses to protect their world from the monsters called Grimm! All four of the titular characters (Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang) are incredible examples of women warriors, but Ruby, with her High Caliber Sniper Scythe named Crescent Rose, may just be the strongest of them all.
[source: Studio Ghibli]
San, Princess Mononoke
In the classic Studio Ghibli film, Princess Mononoke, San is also known as the Wolf Princess and Wolf Girl because she was raised by the Wolf Goddess Moro. She considers herself more wolf than human. As such, she is a fearless fighter, but she is a powerful female character for so much more than that; for her devotion to her people, for her willingness to give others a chance despite their humanity, and finally, for her refusal to back down and change who she really is throughout the film.
[source: Studio Ghibli]
Sophie Hatter, Howl's Moving Castle
Unlike the rest of the characters on this list, Sophie isn’t a warrior woman — but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t a strong female character! She is an example of a very different kind of strength, the kind that comes from developing self confidence, and from remaining faithful to her duty and to her desire to help others. Throughout her adventures with Howl, she proves herself to be smart, capable, and cool in a crisis…and that is as much strength as the ability to swing a sword is.
Major Motko Kusanagi, Ghost in the Shell
Movie fans who didn’t watch the original Ghost in the Shell may still be somewhat familiar with the character of Major from Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of her in live action (even if the film was a bit of a flop!). Major is a cyborg, working for the government in a future world and using her incredible skills to bring criminals to justice. However, she struggles with the concept of her own humanity, and it’s in this search for self (as much as her fight scenes) that Major’s strength really shines through.
Mikasa Ackerman, Attack on Titan
In the world of Attack on Titan, humanity lives in walled cities, attempting to survive the ravages of the monsters known as Titans — monsters who would eat any human that they can. Mikasa is one of the soldiers who battles the Titans to protect the city, and although she would rather live peacefully, she rose through the ranks to become an incredible soldier. She is stoic, patient, and incredibly strong, yet still loves and balances her cynicism with a desire to see the beauty in the world.
If you're looking for more strong female protagonists in the Attack on Titan universe, pick up a copy of Garrison Girl, the first full-length, totally original English language novel by Rachel Aaron, out now!