Anime Vice: The Strongest Women of Anime
The Power of the "Fairer Sex" is Not to be Underestimated
Greetings Anime Vice Community, it's been some time since we've had a good percussion about the state of anime/manga characters in the broader sense. As a regular reader and commenter on the big-sister site Comic Vine. I remembered that it wasn't too long ago that G-Man brought up the topic of Marvel's most iconic women. It sort of inspired me for this article, but this isn't about being iconic. Anyone who has ever watched a shonen-style anime knows that they're pretty much power trip fantasies for boys. There is no shortage of that archetype, and that gives way to the stereotype that anime/manga is a boy's club. I have a lot of experience in a wide variety of series, and I can easily say that isn't true. No more so than any other comic or video game. I want to showcase some of the most powerful women in manga and anime for you to start the discussion.
This is all about the strong, but I'm not counting any series from hentai or over-the-top fan service series. Sorry, Strike Witches fans. This also is not some sort of "girl power" list of just being spunky or defiant in the face of artificial gender boundaries. That's not good enough. This list is all about women who are powerful enough to literally kick the asses of those around them. Chromosomes be damned. In order to avoid any dispute about placement. This list is in no particular order. I'm not gauging the power of these women. That's for you the readers to discuss. If you think I missed someone or you don't like my choices from a particular series. Let's hear from you in the comments.
Ghost in the Shell - Motoko Kusanagi
Easily, Motoko Kusanagi is my favorite female character in all of manga and anime. Though, I'm also just a huge fan of the collective works of Shirow Masamune. She's the main protagonist of the Ghost in the Shell series and has had some evolution in her appearance from that first movie. She's just such a cool character. She's the commanding officer for Section 9 in the Japanese government and all of those in her squad only refer to her as "The Major". She is a tactician and soldier extraordinaire. As a very young child, Motoko barely survived a terrible accident. To save her life, her brain was put into an artificial body. This was when such surgeries were in the early stages and control of the body was difficult. She trained herself and grew up to be one of the highest rated in artificial body control. In fighting and cyber warfare she has very few equals.
If you're looking for a anime series with a strong woman and an exciting story, I can't recommend the series GitS: Stand Alone Complex (I liked season 2 more) and the movie GitS: Solid State Society strongly enough.
Black Lagoon - Roberta
Roberta is the maid of the Lovelace Family in Venezuela, but do not mistake her as the weak, subservient type. She has a serious dark side. She was born as Rosarita Cisnaros and a former member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC). She was trained in Cuba as an assassin and was a true believer in the goals of revolution. Her reputation for following through with her missions earned her the nickname of "Bloodhound of Florencia". She left her post when she discovered that she wasn't fighting for revolution but as a tool for the drug cartels. The Black Lagoon series is all about seriously deadly women, and she's the most dangerous. She was taken in by Diego Lovelace to serves as a bodyguard in the guise of a maid for him and his young son, Gracia. She enjoyed her life there and grew especially close to Gracia. When the young master was kidnapped, she dipped into her past to get him back. It's hard for me to tell you in words just how deadly Roberta can be when she cuts loose. To put it this way, when she fights she could give the Terminator some serious trouble. No, not Arnold Swarchenegger. I'm talking about a literal T-800 Terminator.
Though she only appeared briefly in the first season, the entire third season of the Black Lagoon anime is based around her. It's titled Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail. This is a very mature series and NOT for the squeamish about blood and violence. In the story, Diego Lovelace is assassinated in a bombing and Roberta has gone all out to track down the killers. Last year, FUNimation announced they have the license for this third season and were aiming for a 2011 release. Delays in the Japanese production could have an effect on when it gets released here. Just check out the trailer for the third season below.
One Piece - Boa Hancock
The Pirate Empress - Boa Hancock is really not really even near one of my favorite female characters in One Piece series, but I can't dispute that she's easily one strongest that has been introduced, to date. Not only is she the only female member among the Shichibukai. She's also the captain of the Kuja Pirates and the empress of the Kuja Amazons. She also has some serious personality issues when it comes to being stuck up, but in a fight she's fierce and unforgiving. We got out best look at her abilities during the war between the Marines and the Whitebeard Pirates. Single handed she was taking out the best fighters in the world and destroying some of the PX-Series cyborgs. The entire Straw Hat Crew struggled to barely take out one of them.
When she was very little, her and her two sisters were abducted and sold into slavery. After their escape, they were able to make their way back home and she rose to the highest of the Kuja Amazon's ranks. As far as her powers go, Hancock ate the Love-Love Devil Fruit that gave her the ability to turn others into stone. If that wasn't enough for you, she's also a user of Haki, the ability that can cancel out Devil Fruit powers.
Naruto - Tsunade
Tsunade is quite easily the most powerful women in the Naruto series. Some may try and suggest Sakura Haruno, but what real battles has she really done since Kazekage Rescue Arc? Most all she does again is moan and cry about Sasuke. Tsunade is pretty much royalty in the Hidden Leaf Village. She's the grand daughter of the First Hokage. Not only is she monstrously strong in combat. She has the intellect in medicine that ranks her in the top of the Shinobi World. After she lost both her little brother, Nawaki; and lover, Dan, to war. She left the village but returned to take command as the Fifth Hokage. She hasn't been used in many fights, but that might be because she's so strong that they would be over too quickly if she got involved. Orochimaru once mentioned that if she got one good punch in with her strength it would be all over.
Dragon Ball Z - Android 18
Android 18 is clearly the hands down strongest of women in all of anime and I'll tell you why. She's from the Dragon Ball series that is infamous for all the over-powered male characters. When most people hear the name of Dragon Ball Z, they think of a lot of guys with big hair and crazy super powers. What many people might not realize is that at one point there was a woman who handed most of those guy's their ass. That was Android 18. The series also has other strong women, such as Videl and Chi Chi. None of them have ever taken on a Super Saiyan in battle. When 18 was first introduced, she was the latest in series of androids created by Dr. Gero with the intent of killing Goku. In her first fight against the uber-powerful Vegeta, she came out victorious and much later in the series took on both Trunks and Goten together. She was a seriously underused character.
Claymore - Clare
Clare I think is a pretty safe choice for the selection of the Claymore series. Claymore is the franchise that I have the least amount of experience with on this list. Not nearly as much as I'd like for such a well known series. Taking what I do know. Clare was initially thought to be the weakest of the Claymore, since she was injected with the blood of the claymore Teresa. That didn't stop her from cutting down anyone who gets in the path of her revenge, In a fight, she can read her enemies movements and finds their weakness. Kind of hard to win in a fight if you can't hit your opponent. Her goal is to find the killer of Teresa, who had taken Clare in when she was young and saved her life. This is another bloody violent series.
Fairy Tail - Erza Scarlet
Erza Scarlet is a strong fighter in the series Fairy Tail. I really enjoy reading this story, and it holds some of the themes that I really enjoy in One Piece. She's the kind of character that is both strong and still has a lady-like elegance. She's a mage who uses specialized armor and weapons that she summons at will. As the series has progressed, she has shown that she literally has an armor type for any situation. She's the person they pick for a team when a warrior is needed on a job. Even a powerhouse like Natsu thinks twice before defying her. That doesn't mean she's a cold, hard ass that no one likes. She will defend anyone of from the Fairy Tail Guild, and when she's in trouble. You wont find anyone who wouldn't come to her aid. In many ways they are like a family with Erza as their strict but loving big sister.
BLEACH - Yoruichi Shihouin
Yoruichi Shihouin is a lady in the giant cast that makes up the BLEACH series, similar to Dragon Ball. This series has quite a large amount of female characters with some real power, but they always seem to fall by the wayside in the story. I blame that on Tite Kubo for making such a large cast that he can't think up of more ways to use them. Yoruichi still manages to stand out. She was the commander of the Gotei 13's 2nd Division. They were basically the police of the Soul Society. Fans of this series would ask about Nel Tu, Tia Harribel, or even Soi Fon since we have seen them fight much more and we've seen the extent of their powers. That's the point. We have seen their powers. Yoruichi does all of her fighting using hand-to-hand and still manages to stay on equal footing with the series overpowered enemies. The extent of her powers haven't been shown yet. She has a zanpakuto and as a division commander she can use the Bankai ability. It's the fact that she's this awesome and still hasn't shown us her full strength is why I list her as the strongest of the BLEACH series.
Highschool of the Dead - Saeko Busujima
Saeko Busujima quickly became my favorite character in Highschool of the Dead. Her spreading popularity shows with readers as well. Though Rei is considered the female lead of the series, Saeko is the fan favorite in polls. Rika Minami I would say is a close second for toughest woman of this series. It's just hard to judge since we haven't had the chance to see her in too much action (less so in the anime). Saeko's the kind of character that stands out of the normal zombie series cliches. Everyone always thinks about guns. She's a sword fighter. Even when she was using a wooden sword she was slaughtering the undead. Once she got an actual katana, it was hot knife through butter time. She's the strongest fighter of Team Takashi, but they all depends on each other. Saeko is the one Takashi can always depend on in close quarters. Only problem she is that she knows that she enjoys the fighting a bit too much. Takashi's accepting her darkness has allowed her to show her potential without fear.
Fullmetal Alchemist - Izumi Curtis / Olivier Milla Armstrong
It was impossible for me to select between either Izumi Curtis or Olivier Milla Armstrong as the strongest out of the Fullmetal Alchemist series. The story has a lot of good choices. Trying to pick one over the other would just end up as a coin toss. On one hand, we have Izumi. She's the teacher who educated the Elric Brothers in alchemy, but her power isn't limited to that alone. She's also an incredible hand-to-hand fighter and a survivalist. She lived in the treacherous mountains of Briggs alone to make herself stronger during her training. She lived off the land and even raided the military soldiers for supplies without ever being caught. Though, that was before Olivier took command of Fort Briggs. Olivier is the eldest child from the Armstrong Family, and do they ever live up to that name. She commands the respect and utter fear of all under her command. This gives her a great strength of influence, but she's also strong enough to toss her younger brother, Alex, across the estate as if he was a rag doll. I was disappointed that she didn't have more of a part in that final fight with Sloth.
Code Geass - Kallen Kozuki
Kallen Kozuki often gets dismissed as just a fan service character in the Code Geass series. Those people must be blind. She's also the strongest KMF pilot the series has. Once she got her hands on the Guren Mk-II, the war against Britannia had a drastic shift. She's the ace pilot for the Black Knights. In the on and off battles with Suzaku, he only came out ahead because he was given some increase in technology. She would have killed him many times over if it hadn't been for that "Live" command Lelouch gave him. Even Suzaku recognized that in the final battle of the series. By that time Kallen was piloting the Guren SEITEN, the most powerful KMF ever designed.
Kallen was born from a Britannian father and a Japanese mother. Despite being of mixed blood, she sees herself as Japanese. She joined some a group of rebels, led by her older brother, after Japan was occupied. After he was killed, she kept on with the goal
of freeing her homeland. The Code Geass series is basically themed after chess. If the characters were piece on the board, Kallen is easily the Black Queen.
Evangelion - Misato Katsuragi
Misato Katsuragi I think will be my most controversial choice. Sure, Asuka is the pilot of the Eva Unit-02. Misato though is the strategic commander for the whole NERV Japan Branch. Many of the plans she makes holds the very fate of the world. When the Angels attack Tokyo-3, they never have any advance warning about the type of powers these creatures possess or a simple way to destroy them. It's up to her to formulate the plans on the fly using whatever tools, personnel, and troubled teens she has at her command. Doing all that at the age of 29 is no small feet. She still manages to keep her humanity and heart. If you think she can't kick some ass, you obviously never watched End of Evangelion (thought now it's not actually the end).
Gunsmith Cats - Irene "Rally" Vincent
Irene Vincent is the main protagonist of the Gunsmith Cats series. She's both a bounty hunter and owner of her own gun shop in Chicago. This woman loves her guns to the degree that she needs one under her pillow to sleep and has an arsenal at home. She's hunted down most of the dangerous psychos in her city and is a crack shot who specializes in shooting off the thumb if they are pointing a gun. This is a mature readers only series, so it's not for all audiences.
There are many more manga/anime series out there with strong female characters. You just need to look and you'll find something you like. Did I miss someone that you think belongs on the list? Leave a comment and tell me who you think belongs.