13 Female Characters In Shonen Anime Who Are Actually Well-Written

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Vote up the most compelling female characters in shonen anime.

Shonen anime has a lot of amazing things going for it, but when it comes to well-written female characters, it sometimes falls down on the job. Too many characters adhere to shallow stereotypes or are written less like individual people and more like objects. Luckily, the women of shonen aren't all poorly written. There are plenty of well-written shonen female anime characters too. For this list, we'll be taking a look at a few that are especially awesome.

Some of these great female characters are tough women with interesting pasts and dynamic personalities. Izumi Curtis from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood can bend her enemies into a pretzel, but there's more to her than just strength - she also has a painful past that she's learned from. Others aren't particularly strong but have surprisingly realistic or finely detailed personalities. Haru from Beastars is different from most other anime characters, and it's not because she's a rabbit. It's because she's complex enough that she'd fit right into a literary novel. No matter what they're like, these characters feel like fully realized, complete characters with unique traits.


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    Izumi Curtis - 'Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood'

    It's hard to say which female character from Fullmetal Alchemist is the best when they're all so great. For now, we're going to focus on Izumi Curtis, but that doesn't mean that characters like Riza Hawkeye and Olivier Armstrong aren't just as deserving. 

    Izumi Curtis once made the exact same mistake that Ed and Al did - she tried to use alchemy to bring a loved one back to life. In her case, it was a stillborn baby. As a consequence, several of her organs were damaged. She manages to not just survive, but retain her amazing alchemy skills and fighting abilities. She needs to rest a bit more often than she used to, but she can still defeat an opponent with no problem. She can also teach Ed and Al how to use alchemy, which she does, with all the harshness and care she can combine for them. Besides teaching skills, she also shows them empathy - she understands why they tried to bring their mother back because she resorted to the same thing in her grief.

    Still, she holds them accountable for it. They're her students, and in some ways, they're also her replacement children. She doesn't let empathy stand in the way of helping them become the best versions of themselves, any more than she lets self-pity stand in the way of her own strength. 

    • Appears In: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa
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    The Zenin Sisters - 'Jujutsu Kaisen' 

    The Zenin Sisters - 'Jujutsu Kaisen' 
    Photo: Jujutsu Kaisen / MAPPA

    It's hard to talk about one sister without the other, so this entry goes out to both of the Zenin sisters. 

    Maki and Mai Zenin both had low levels of cursed energy, which meant that their powerful clan assumed that they'd never make it as Sorcerers. For Mai, being looked down on by her family was painful, but the one saving grace was that she had her sister. As long as they had each other, they'd be able to survive. It's not like Mai even wanted to be a Sorcerer anyway - the idea terrified her. 

    But Maki wasn't satisfied with a marginal life. She decided to leave home and try to become a Sorcerer despite the odds. Her lack of cursed energy put her at a major disadvantage, but she worked her butt off to make it happen. 

    Mai felt like she had no choice but to follow her sister. She did not want to be a Sorcerer, but since Maki proved that a lack of curse energy wasn't going to stop her, Mai would look even worse to the rest of the Zenin clan if she didn't do the same. 

    Maki is a great character because of how hard she works to achieve her goals despite being an underdog. She's straightforwardly awesome and strong. But Mai is a great character too. She might be weak, but her interior and exterior conflicts make her a fascinating character. The two sisters care deeply about each other, but also need to separate for their own good - their dynamic adds to the depth of their characters. 

    Also, while we're focusing on the Zenin sisters for now, Nobara also totally rules. 

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    Kagura - 'Gintama'

    Kagura - 'Gintama'
    Photo: Gintama / Sunrise

    The female characters in Gintama are just as bizarre as the male ones, and as the female protagonist, Kagura is one of the weirdest. When presented with food, she devours it with the intensity of a shonen protagonist. She lays around picking her nose, rides around on her giant dog, and does things like fake her own demise for attention. In some anime, female characters aren't allowed to be like this - they're supposed to be beautiful, and their quirks are cute, not gross. 

    This alone makes Kagura stand out, but there's more to her than just wacky antics and questionable hygiene. She also has a fascinating backstory involving the expectations placed on her as a member of the bloodthirsty, power-hungry Yato tribe. Kagura doesn't want to be like that, so she has to actively fight against other tribe members and even leave her home planet in order to be true to herself. She might seem like a gag character at first, but she's deceptively complex.

  • Nico Robin - 'One Piece'
    Photo: One Piece / Toei Animation

    One Piece has a bit of a problem with oversexualizing its female characters, but at the same time, those characters are often extremely well-written. One of the stand-out examples is Nico Robin, who joins the crew at the end of the Alabasta arc. Her story is a well-told and touching one about an intelligent woman trying to find light in the darkness. 

    Nico Robin grew up in a community of archeologists. Like her mother and the other people around her, she's fascinated by the Poneglyphs and what they have to say about the history of the world. Unfortunately, that knowledge is strictly prohibited by the World Government, which decides to put a stop to the research going on at Ohara in order to destroy it.

    Robin escapes with her life but must find a way to support herself. She does so by aligning herself with various pirate groups. All the while, she keeps hope alive by trying to find more Poneglyphs. Ultimately, though, none of that is enough to make her want to keep living - what she really needs is another community to belong to, which she finds with the Straw Hats. 

    • Appears In: One Piece
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    Genkai - 'Yu Yu Hakusho'

    Genkai - 'Yu Yu Hakusho'
    Photo: Yu Yu Hakusho / Studio Pierrot

    Genkai is a tough old woman who is one of the most powerful people in Yu Yu Hakusho. She's a harsh teacher who refuses to allow her student Yusuke to slack off for even a minute. But underneath all the yelling, she obviously cares about him deeply - and she's exactly what Yusuke, a neglected kid whose only parent is an alcoholic, needs. 

    But Genkai's character doesn't totally revolve around Yusuke's growth. She has her own life and her own past. She was once part of a team that competed in the Dark Tournament, and when her team won, her teammate turned himself into a demon and she refused to do the same. Her humanity was too important to her. She allowed herself to grow old - something that's arguably even more threatening for women than for men given how misogyny functions - and stayed amazing the whole time.

    Still, her complex feelings about her relationship with Toguro and what he became remained within her. Genkai isn't one-note, and that's part of what makes her so interesting.

  • A burning desire for revenge is something that tends to be attributed to male characters rather than female characters. That's part of what makes Shinobu Kocho so great. While she appears to be relaxed and friendly, on the inside she's a roiling bundle of rage. Like many characters in Demon Slayer - including the protagonist Tanjiro - Shinobu's family was brutally wiped out by demons. But while Tanjiro is extremely empathetic towards demons who were forced to become that way, Shinobu isn't. She's so enraged by her loss that all she wants is to take it out on every demon she sees.

    This kind of rage is rarely seen in female characters. Why? Because it's rarely permissible for real women. Women are often expected to swallow their pain and turn it inwards. Shinobu tries to mask her rage, both because of societal expectations and because she's trying to carry some of her late sister's gentleness with her. But ultimately, her feelings still rise to the surface. 

    • Appears In: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba