(Amazing fanart above by pearsfears)
I don’t think it’s an unknown fact that I, Ashley Glenn, am a huge women’s rights activist. I mean, one of my majors is Gender and Sexuality, it’s the most cliche thing I can do. So I’m sure you were assuming that this article would be about how women are misrepresented in anime and how horrible anime is for drawing girls as sex objects with unrealistic figures. While I can agree with some of those statements to an extent, I figured it was time to showcase some of the anime women that have really done it right!
There are plenty of women in anime who haven’t played self conscious school girls or fought to win over affections. So, in honor of Women’s History Month and in no particular order, here are my top five strong women in anime.
1. Olivier Mira Armstrong from Full Metal Alchemist
Seriously, “strong” is literally her name. Who doesn’t love Olivier? Every time I think of a strong woman, I think of her. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Ashley, why do you think of an anime woman before other historical icons in women’s history?” and to that I say, “Eh.” and shrug with no emotion. Olivier is tough and the way she handles situations and just gets things done has always been a quality I admire a lot. I mean even her buff brother is terrified of her and the amount of respect she gains is just… Whew. I wanna be that chick! She’s constantly being herself and not afraid to take matters into her own hands or even step back when necessary . The thing about Olivier is that she isn’t trying to be a likable character. She has qualities about her that our society often condemns about women, but you can tell she’s not there to make friends. She’s there to do her job and ultimately save lives; as long as everyone under her command respects her, she could care less. I can’t describe the sort of crush I have on Olivier, but I can assure you it’s a major one.
2. Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail
Erza is something else altogether and there are very serious reasons I like her. Joking aside, the reality Erza faced during her childhood and the emotional trauma she’s had to overcome is a testament to variety in anime characters. I like that she has a very dark past and still struggles with fears while being one of the toughest girls in the guild. And while she’s often put in roles of leadership or given the task of saving her guild mate’s hides, at the end of the day Erza still sees herself as just a normal member with no extra baggage. Sure, she wants to protect the people she loves and she often demonstrates her strength, but when she does this there’s never any additional weight to her words. She simply does what any other member in the guild would do. I don’t know how someone couldn’t admire Erza. I believe what the kids would call her these days is referred to as, ehem, “bae”.
3. Madoka Kaname from Magi Madoka
You guys had to see this one coming, I mean… The amount of love I have for Magi Madoka is borderline obsession. But there’s something I like about Madoka that we don’t really talk about in the anime community (or even just the community in general) as much as we should, in my humble opinion. You see, lil Kaname isn’t your typical thought when you think of a “tough” or “strong” girl. She’s so young, soft-spoken and kind. I think we often refer to women like Olivier or Erza who have a certain edge to them. But that doesn’t always make you strong, just like being considered “feminine” or “gentle” makes you weak! In fact, it’s these silly terms that can make a strong woman. Madoka is a very selfless person who makes sacrifices for the people she loves and is willing to do whatever it takes to resolve conflict (no wonder Homura wants to wife her). I think it’s these qualities that I admire most about her character and I think should be celebrated more as a sign of strength.
4. Diane from The Seven Deadly Sins
Oh goodness, I cannot wait to write my thoughts on The Seven Deadly Sins, but for now let’s just talk about this gorgeous giant with a hammer. Diane reflects what I think a lot of women feel about themselves; they want the same thing that every girl does even if it’s unrealistic. For those of you who don’t know, Diane is a giant. With a major crush on the captain of their group, we often see Diane question if he isn’t attracted to her because of her size. I really do believe Diane embodies the insecurities modern girls feel about themselves, even if that wasn’t her intent. She overcomes things, and it’s not really ever for the guy she likes either, despite her major crush on the captain. Usually she just does it because she wants to. And eventually, I think we see that she really comes around to see her size will never be an issue and, in fact, it’s an awesome advantage. Even though she’s very overly affectionate and jealous (hence her sin) I love that she can have these “flaws” and still be an independent person when it comes down to it. Her spirit is really what gets me.
5. Bellemere from One Piece
You should have also seen this one coming! How can I live without something One Piece related in this post? Honestly, I admire all of the women in One Piece as much as I admire all the girls in Magi Madoka, however I think Bellemere takes the cake. She not only was a tough marine, she saved two girls and chose to raise them as a single parent despite living in poverty herself. That my friends is something to admire. Not to mention, raising Nami is enough for any mother to get a gold star in my book (’cause what a handful that was #amiright?). I can’t express how important this character is and I think it’s obvious why. But other than the things she did in her life, Bellemere stood for a lot too. A lot of terrible things happened to her but she never backed down and fought until the very end. That fighting spirit is something we see a lot of in anime, but when I saw Bellemere show just how far a mother goes for her children, I cried. If you don’t see the reason why she’s important… Well… I don’t know what to say to you.
There are a lot of women to admire in anime. People always talk about the nervous school girl stereotype with boobs that seem to defy the laws of physics when it comes to women in these shows. But I think the women I’ve talked about today are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the really realistic, female characters we can find in amazing anime that aren’t made purely for fan service. I agree that I think women could be a lot more, don’t get me wrong, but at the end of the day I still love the characters I’ve seen myself or other women I admire in.
Tell me which women you admire in the comment section! Come on, we can make this list longer!