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13 Poorly Written Female Anime Characters Who Could Have Been Way Better

February 9, 2021 2.1k votes 542 voters 18.5k views13 items

What does it mean to be a badly written character? It's not the same as being unlikeable. Even characters who commit atrocities with glee or are incredibly annoying can still be well-written if they feel like a real person and have a compelling arc. On the flip side, characters who are delightful in some ways can be failures from a story and characterization perspective. Bad writing can mean a lot of things. Maybe the character's real potential goes to waste, maybe they embody toxic stereotypes, or maybe they create plot holes and inconsistencies within the rest of the story.  

For this list, we'll be looking at poorly written female anime characters. They can pop up in every genre from shonen to romance. Female characters can be poorly written in ways that have little to do with gender - for example, Carly Nagisa from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds was poorly written because the creators retconned everything they already established about her midway through the series, creating massive inconsistencies. But there are also plenty of female characters who are poorly written in ways that a male character probably wouldn't be, like Miki Kazaki from Yowamushi Pedal who embodies a specific trope about female managers in sports anime. 

Vote up the characters that you think need some serious revision, and vote down the ones that you think deserve more credit. 

  • When she's first introduced, Karin's personality is almost entirely centered around Sasuke. She'll do anything for him, even literally let him bite her flesh in order to recover from his wounds. Her reasons for pining after him aren't explored in much detail, which is frustrating because it's the centerpiece of her character. It's not great when a female character's world revolves around a man, but that trope can be executed in both nuanced and shallow ways. Here, it's shallower than the wound Sasuke leaves in her when he stabs her. By the way, did we mention that he does that, and she forgives him almost immediately? Because that's a thing. 

    Things get even worse in Boruto. While she's cooled down about the whole Sasuke thing, she's still working for Orochimaru. Though Orochimaru is supposedly at least somewhat reformed, the fact that Karin still works for the man who held her captive and performed painful and unethical experiments on her and her friends is appalling. This could have been okay if the series explored her reasons for staying loyal, but it doesn't. It's presented as a matter of course.

    Basically, Karin has little to no agency throughout the entire series and continues serving men who hurt her. That's a devastating situation that requires far more careful handling than Naruto has to offer.

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  • 2

    Suguha Kirigaya - Sword Art Online

    Photo: A-1 Pictures

    Suguha Kirigaya is Kazuto Kirigaya's sister. Well, technically she's his cousin, but they were raised as siblings and didn't know anything different throughout most of their childhoods. Propelled by her feelings around the revelation and her concern for Kirito while he's comatose and trapped in a video game, she ends up developing a crush on him. She tries to get over her crush by forgiving a connection with Kirito, who she doesn't realize is Kazuto's online avatar.

    Awkward, right? Well, it's also bad writing. It's not inherently bad for anime to address taboo topics like romantic bonds between siblings, but Suguha's arc is not believable. She was raised with Kazuto as if they were siblings, and they're still related by blood. The series depicts her feelings as a normal unrequited crush, but they aren't even close. Worse, she tells Kazuto how she feels, and then gets mad at him about it as if he did anything to encourage those feelings. That's cruel, but it's not treated that way by the narrative.

    Yes, it's tough to come to the realization that your family is not what you thought, and yes, unexpected and confusing emotions do happen, but this is far too complex a topic to be dealt with in such a shallow manner. If Suguha's arc was going to be this dark and intense, it needed far more careful storytelling to do it justice. 

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  • Photo: Madhouse

    Death Note is a great show in many ways, but one area where it falls apart is with its female characters. While there's something to say about pretty much all of them, this time around we're going to focus on Kiyomi Takada.

    When Takada first appears, she comes across as an extremely intelligent young woman, but it takes almost no effort for Light to manipulate her into doing basically anything he wants. While it's clear based on their backstories and personalities why Misa and Mikami are vulnerable to Light's control, the same isn't really true of Takada. The series loosely implies that the reason is that she thinks too highly of herself, but that's kind of a sexist message to send considering how difficult it can be for professional women in early 2000s Japan to build that confidence in the first place.

    But maybe that's not her reasoning - the series just doesn't focus enough on developing her to know for sure. She's less a fully developed character and more an attractive tool for Light's convenience. While not every character needs to have the same level of development for a story to work, Takada still doesn't have nearly enough.

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  • 4

    Mika Shimotsuki - Psycho-Pass

    For reasons that are never explained, Mika Shimotsuki is hired by the Public Safety Bureau at the tender age of seventeen. She's obsessed with obeying the rules, and frequently threatens to rat out her superior Akane Tsunemori when she questions the system's more horrifying requirements. It kind of makes sense that a younger character might struggle to sort out complex moral questions, but the series doesn't link her behavior to her youth or to anything else about her. She's just like that. When she discovers the truth about the Sybil system, she continues to uphold it out of fear. 

    Here's the thing - the series actually already did this storyline in Season 1. Nobuchika Ginoza had the same rigid attitude towards the system he worked for, but he had a damn good reason that was based on his backstory. It's clear why Ginoza feels the way he does, and it's hard to blame him. When he overcomes those feelings and finally does what he knows is right, it's one of the greatest moments in the series.

    Shimotsuki's story is like Ginoza's, minus the character development. If her character arc was going to exist at all, it should have been a real counterpart, and that means fully exploring Shimotsuki's motivation with the same energy that was applied to Ginoza. Shimotsuki doesn't have to do the right thing in the end, but her arc needs to be treated with equal care, or it's just a poorly executed rehash of a concept that was already done beautifully.

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