The shonen genre occasionally gets a bad rap for being an all-boys club. Even when prominent characters are women, they’re often relegated to waiting at home or being rescued all the time. At least that’s what the accusations are…

Today, we’re proving the naysayers wrong with these five epic shonen ladies who can stand next to the best of them. I dare you to try and rescue them!

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a rare instance of Alice not mad…


Alice (Pandora Hearts)

Pandora Hearts is a deeply flawed series that I enjoyed a whole lot. I wish they would redo it at some point. Now Alice, may stretch a bit the definition of lady as her true nature is a bit nebulous but she is definitely all hero…or possibly villain… In any case, she knows how to kick behind and look good doing it, thank you very much.

A fun and powerful character and the second most important protagonist in the series, Pandora Hearts is just as much her story as it is Oz’s and she was never going to sit around and wait to be rescued. If anything, Oz probably owes her more than a couple by now!

Image result for anime Tsuyu Asui
a standout character in an outstanding cast

Tsuyu Asui (My Hero Academia)

Possibly the most popular shonen to come out in recent years, My Hero Academia has mostly featured your traditional heroic young men on the forefront but nevertheless integrates more than a few fine and capable ladies in the cast. Although I could have easily chosen Ochako Uraraka, whose resourcefulness and optimistic good hearted nature make her a prime example of a shonen hero archetype, I chose to go with Tsuyu Asui whose been a surprising breakout character with fans.

Tsuyu’s very unusual design, coupled with her calm, analytical nature and her capacity to get out of tough situations by using all her skills in the most optimal way, makes her difficult to ignore in any scene. She’s a hero you can count on which is why most UA students are relieved to have her on their team.

Image result for anime Mikasa Ackerman
I love AoT eyes

 Mikasa Ackerman (Attack on Titan)

Before MHA took over the world, everyone was talking about Attack on Titan. It’s difficult to overestimate this anime or the impact its legacy has had in a few short years. Not that it’s over or anything. I’m just sayin, it’s a big deal… In the universe of Attack on Titan, humans no longer have the resources to spare on sexism, so gender is a non-issue. If you can fight – by all means fight. And Mikasa can fight!

One of the most talented warriors in the show, she’s regularly relied upon to save her comrades in arms and lives up to the task. A shining beacon of hope in very dark times, it’s impossible to deny her the hard-earned label of Hero.

Image result for anime Riza Hawkeye
extra points for putting up with Mustang

Riza Hawkeye (Fullmetal Alchemist)

Choosing just one of the fine women of Fullmetal Alchemist is a daunting task. Considered by many one of the finest shonen of all time, it sports a huge number of wonderfully complex and strong female characters. They All belong on the list. I chose Riza as she is one of the most prominent. A dedicated soldier, an amazing sniper and all around capable ally, you need Riza in your corner when times get rough and you want her there to celebrate when they get good.

But I really can’t say enough about the collection of best girls that is FMA. From Winry’s quiet and dignified strength, Izumi’s wild determination or Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong’s everything… this is how you write a strong female character without making her into a charicature.

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strong AND sweet

Maka Albarn (Soul Eater)

Of course, Maka! Soul Eater is an undeniable shonen, clearly embracing all the standard tropes and Maka is the main protagonist. She is the character granted the most screen time and development and the narrative rests squarely on her shoulders. She’s also the badass warrior, quick tempered yet studious, all around big fat hero of the story. She does not need to be saved.

I don’t know how many times we will dig up the issue of there being no market for female driven superhero stories. I’m not sure if it’s even an actual thing or do journalists and editorialists simply run out of ideas and put out a bunch of articles on the subject without any real-world data to support it. In any case, Maka clearly proves the opposite. She’s a feminine but not particularly sexualized lead in a very popular shonen and no one has a problem with it.

A fantastic character and a great point!

Who did I forget? Erza maybe? 

Image result for anime erza 


51 thoughts

    1. I recently read a post about there not being enough interesting complexe female charas in shonen and I must say – I really disagree….

    1. They can do both!! But seriously, with all the comments I realize how many fantastic female warriors we have!

      1. Ya. That’s another thing I need to get back to!! I think I’m going to stop taking reading requests one month this summer and just focus on the books and manga I WANT to get to!! Oooo… Now I’m excited!! 😄😄

  1. Hmm … Would Olivia in FMA also count? I’d say Revy (Black Lagoon) and maybe Naoto (Dogs Bullets and Carnage OVA) but I think they’re technically seinen.
    If we’re only including anime, I’m stumped. If manga too, then Sakurako and Matsuri from Psyren would also count, I think.

    1. Olivier would most certainly count…as i mentioned she’s everything!!-! People seem to love Revy. I should really watch black lagoon!

      1. It’s decent. Lots of top notch gun play if you want to just sit back and don’t mind fan service. There’s some existential philosophy in there too though if you listen to the conversations.

  2. It really is something about female characters in Shounen series that aren’t pushovers. It’s more attractive when they could fight side by side males instead of being the damsels in distress.

    Medaka from Medaka Box has to be one of the better Shounen MC’s out there. She was broken yet the villains she had to go up against were even more broken, resulting in her OPness being neutralized.

    Another notable example would probably be Mikoto Misaki from Scientific Railgun. It’s been awhile since I watched it and I plan on rewatching it some time this year, but I just recall her being a complete badass in both Magical Index and Scientific Railgun

      1. Medaka Box is good, I’d recommend it if you like the Monogatari series as it has the same author
        Railgun was a fun watch too even though it was lengthy

  3. Well, it’s a difficult topic. It’s often not about being “strong”, as in being able to hold your own. It’s often also about being “strong” in the sense of standing on your own as a character. For example, take away Eren and Mikasa is left completely without motivation, but the anime – while hinting at it now and then – doesn’t really do anything with that. Her importance to the plot is directly tied to Eren. Compare this to Maka from Soul Eater, and you get the complete picture of the difference.

    The other problem is that, often, authors seem to view boys as the default, and “girl” as some exotic character trait, which is what I suspect of MHA: you know, Mineta as the author’s id.

    I recently watched Shakugan no Shana, and found that the show generally wrote girls and women very well – even those that ultimately pledge allegiance to a man are characters in their own right. I was honestly impressed, also with sidecharacters like protagonist’s mum.

    Note that I find that Attack on Titan does write women/girls as well as the boys, and the criticism above levered against Mikasa’s character is probably the side-effect of a wide-spread story. I’m not sure I’d be saying the same thing about the manga, for example.

    I don’t always know where my subjective impressions come from, though. For example, I intuitively think Hunter X Hunter is a bit of boys-club, too, in the MHA sense, but far less pronounced. A sort of middle-ground. But if you asked me to tell you why, I draw a blank. The show has excellently written women (because pretty much all characters are excellently written). I’d have to a deep watch to get to the bottom of it, and then maybe I’d change my mind?

    Finally, I’ll have to give a shout-out to the often forgotten Kekkaishi. Yukimura Tokine is one of the few shounen shows I remember where the female main character is actually the main character’s most important foil. (The show also has a great opening song.)

    1. Adding to the list. Good point about mikasa. I enjoyed that her basic dependence on Eren’s character for definition was presented as a self imposed choice. It really doesn’t change anything in practice but for some reason made it more enjoyable for me personally. I didn’t expect such a generic subject to create such awesome conversation. This is great!

  4. I don’t know if she qualifies but I think Lacus Clyne from Gundam Seed/Destiny is a pretty great female character. Don’t let the affinity for pink and kind demeanor fool you. When things started going bad on the PLANTS, Lacus was straight up pirate radio spreading messages of revolution and resistance. For the entire second series, she, alongside another female BAMF, Captain Murrue Ramius, traveled around basically serving as hostile rebel combatants to both ZAFT and the Earth Forces. So much respect for women commanders! 😤

  5. Hm…
    Soul Eater’s always a weird one when I see someone mention it. Like, I can never decipher whether they mean the anime or the manga…
    I vote yes for the manga, no for the anime. She was still good in the anime, but not fantastic… like the end of the show. It felt kind of like a thematic screw you kind of moment…
    Also thumbs up for FMA! Armstrong was intimidating AF!

    Kinda wish I paid attention to genre distinctions when these types of lists come up- I can’t decide what counts and what doesn’t!

    1. I have little to no idea what fits into what genre to be honest. I just read somewhere – there are no good female shonen heroes and I said YEAH!!! tthen I said…wait a minute…then I made a random list.
      I like anime Maka but you are right the Soul Eater anime finale was innexcusable

  6. I’m not sure if Black Lagoon may count as shounen. Its essence is pure mindless action and I don’t think it’s that different from Attack on Titan judging by its grittiness. If that’s the case, Revy would deserve an inclusion. But maybe my definition of seinen as something that requires thinking is just a personal opinion.

      1. If you ever feel an urge for some over the top action and don’t particularly mind cursing, Black Lagoon is as good a choice as any. Revy kicks ass quite a bit.

  7. Gonna throw some votes out here for

    Saber – Fate/Stay franchise (especially Fate/Zero), since she doesn’t actually seem to be on the list
    Clare/Theresa – Claymore
    Saya Kisaragi – Blood-C/Blood-C: The Last Dark
    Videl – Dragon Ball Z (before Akria Toriyama ruined her character in GT and Super)

    Honorable Mentions – I do like Aishela in Grancrest Senki, but the series isn’t over yet, and she hasn’t gotten as much screen time as I’d like. Also, Android 18 (DBZ), Clementine (Overlord), Medusa (Soul Eater), Rei and Saeko (HOTD)

    Now, I think Shounen/Seinen have a great deal of overlap, and actually super broad, so despite the mature nature of some the series above, I’m still counting ’em as Shounen.

      1. Nooo. I’ll concede that the HOTD girls are unfairly objectified “as hot chicks holding weapons” by nature of being in ecchi shounen, but I think there are legit cases to be made for the Clare, Saber, Saya,Videl/18, Medusa, and even Clementine!

        1. I obviously thought of Saber (my header after all) but Saber is always Arthur to me and I consider Medusa a villain (fantastic chara though!)
          As for the rest ! I should probably make a second list!

  8. This list got me all fired up to rewatch all the shows! Well, except Pandora Hearts. I should probably get around to watching that for the first time…
    The writers need to do more with Froppy. Since she and Midoriya teamed up during the villains’ attack early in the series, I’ve loved her unflappable nature and her resourcefulness. As much as I like Iida, I’d like to see Asui replace him as one of the main characters along with Midoriya, Bakugou, and Todoroki.
    I really like the idea of Riza being an ambassador for FMA! “Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong’s everything…” You know, she’s one of the few characters in anime who, when they show up on screen, makes me feel like I need to sit up and mind my manners!
    “I’m not sure if it’s even an actual thing or do journalists and editorialists simply run out of ideas and put out a bunch of articles on the subject without any real-world data to support it.” Back when I was a journalist (and no, there were no dinosaurs roaming the Earth– just a few of the last mammoths), odds were that someone would try to print a contrarian article just for attention and sales. Nowadays, there’s a higher chance it’s to push an agenda and build the illusion that there’s a movement, or a conspiracy against the agenda, or whatever. Sad to say, female heroes are squarely in those folks’ sights. Articles like this are a pleasant counter-weight to that kind of nonsense. I mean, let’s face it: every series you mentioned was well regarded, wildly popular, or both.
    Do you think A Certain Scientific Railgun would qualify as shonen? I mean, I can live without Misaka being in the list, because I agree that everyone already there deserves to be there. But with just a small change to the title you could add one more!

    1. The 24 hour news cucle and the immediacy of information over the internet is rapidly changing not only how we take in news but even what it is… That sounded like I have smart thoughts on the subject – I do not. Fact is, even I get tricked into screaming – We Need More Strong Female Characters, then I sit down and do the list and have a though time narrowing it down cause too many come to mind…
      I’m more than happy to do a follow up list. There have been a few great names in the comments so far!

  9. Shounen is a fairly broad category. For example, did you know Your lie in April and The Ancient Magus’ Bride are both considered shounen for some reason? 😀

    Your list seems to be centered around shounen action though, and I was happy to see Maka top your list. The only addition that comes to mind is Bishamon from Noragami. She has some light stereotypes in the same way that Erza does, but the show does a good job with using her more traditionally feminine qualities to meaningful effect in the story without taking away from the fact that she’s earned the “god of war” moniker.

    1. Yes I did know and you’re right I was going for traditional action/fighting based shonen. My anime terminology is a bit lacking.
      Bishamon is awesome – although Kofuku steals the show and my heart…

  10. Totally agree with Asui. I mean, she’s voiced by Aoi Yuuki so….
    Also No. 0: Irina, everyone’s mom.
    Please tell me you not seriously declining to join because of that joke ;.;

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