I looooooooooooooooove anime! I don’t know what it is, but the concepts, art, and storylines are all amazing. And, of course, as a kid, I enjoyed watching various anime shows on Toonami such as Rurouni Kenshin, Yu Yu Hakusho, and the infamous Dragonball Z.
But now that I’m older, I began discovering different anime for myself. So many animes that we are exposed to in the states are mainly male based and the female animes are somewhat girlie like Sailor Moon or centered in a high school like Card Captors. So I decided to share with some of you my favorite animes with strong female leads that are not only action-packed, but have awesome storylines. Let me know what you think!
If you’re looking for a story centered around a woman who is not only a badass assassin, but looks in depth at how war and relationships impact people on an individual basis, then this is the anime for you.
A 13-episode series, Canaan is named after its protagonist, a young white haired Middle Eastern girl whose village was attacked and the center of a chemical experiment where some of the residents gained super natural powers. Canaan has a synesthetic factor, and all 5 of her sense are tangled together, making her one hell of an assassin. Every person has a color and her eyes change when examining her surroundings.
Canaan and her best friend Maria, a Japanese reporter, are seen in this anime at odds with Alphard, the antagonist. Canaan and Alphard were trained by the same man, Siam, and after Alphard kills him, Canaan not only seeks to stop the terrorist organization Snake led by Alphard, but avenge his death all while stopping Snake’s attempt at spreading the Ua virus, a form of chemical warfare.
Canaan may have one female assassin, but Noir has two, and a killer storyline to match.
Noir takes a different approach from other animes because it not only tackles political corruption, but religious fraud as well. Japanese amnesiac Kirika and Corsican woman Mireille are the two protagonists of this 26 episode series. Both are assassins, with Mireille being from a crime family, but are also unknowingly at the center of a centuries long religious and criminal conspiracy. Noir is the name for two maidens who govern death and Kirika and Mireille are two of the candidates, along with a tomboyish redhead named Chloe. First partners, then friends, Kirika and Mireille make a living being assassins until they learn the truth about Noir and their pasts. And it’s not pretty.
Maybe assassins aren’t your thing. But if you’re still looking for action that doesn’t involve guns, but has an amazing story and awesome art, Claymore might be a good fit for you.
Claymore is pretty straightforward. It follows a woman named Clare, a Claymore (a half-human, half-yoma) and an orphaned boy named Rocky as she not only fights for survival in a world filled with purebred yoma’s, but also with the reality that she will never be accepted by humans. Yoma’s are shapeshifting demons who feed on humans and disguise themselves as such to get close to the human population. Claymores, like Clare, were created to fight yomas as humans are too weak and vulnerable.
All Claymores are blonde women with grey eyes, often called silver eyed witches by mankind. They are hired to kill yomas and travel from town to town to do so. But if a Claymore uses too much of her yoma strength in battle, she will turn into a yoma herself and is thus euthanized once she reaches her full potential. Pretty awesome, right?
It get better. All 26 episodes are currently available on Hulu in English (dubbed). You’re welcome.
Okay, so we’re back to the assassins again. If you watch Noir and like it, then you’ll like Madlax even better.
Directed by the same person as Noir, Madlax is a freelance mercenary in the war torn country of Gazth-Sonika and cannot remember her past. Her earliest memory is when she is 12 years old, searching for her father.
The other protagonist of the story is Margaret, a girl who lost her memory as well when the plane she and her mother were traveling on crashed in Gazth-Sonika. All the passengers, including her father, have been missing since then. Margaret somehow makes it back to her home of Nafrece with her memory in pieces. She only remembers one word from the day: “Madlax”, which creates the link between the girls. This link is the reason the two women, who initially don’t know that the other one exists, look into the criminal organization of Enfant.
Now, I’ll admit, while both Noir and Madlax are slow to start, it takes until about 5th or 6th episode for Madlax to begin making sense. But if you stick it out to the end, you’ll really be glad you did.
5. Elfen Lied
Last but not least is probably the most well-known on the list. It exams the ethical corruption behind human specimen experiments and the treatment of people who different while simultaneously exploring horrors that many young girls must endure during their lifetime. Identity, revenge, social prejudice, regret, and the value of each individual person are all major themes in this bloody anime.
The main character, Lucy, is a Diclonius, a mutant human species with two horns and “vectors”, invisible telekinetic arms that can block bullets, slice through objects, break bones, and are several meters long. Diclonius kill humans for seemingly no reason, including their own parents, and if found are either killed or captured by governmental science organizations. These traits are only native to female Diclonius while male Diclonius only have the horns. If you want action and gore, this is the anime for you as not only are bones broken, but heads ripped off and organs snatched from their host bodies.
However, there is extreme nudity, and that includes an episode of a girl who was sexually abused by her step father, a scene where a young boy bashes in the head of a young puppy, a Diclonius having all her limbs torn off, and the opening titles themselves, which is why it’s the only anime on this list whose opening pictures and episode scenes I didn't include, but the song above is the opening theme. However, you can view it on YouTube as well as some of the more violent scenes. But if that doesn’t bother you, then by all means, enjoy.
I’m sure there are more female led animes out there, but these happen to be my personal favorites. What’re yours?