First of all, let me just say that in my personal experience, anime as a medium is fairly equal opportunity when it comes to gender roles. There are tons of amazing classic anime female characters.

I’m not trying to suggests that there is anything sexist about the fact that these archetypes seem to be mostly boys. I just thought it was a bit interesting since I can’t quite figure out the reason for it.

So these are 5 types of characters that I usually see as boys in anime, for no particular reason:

anime mlooser

5) The Loser/ The Unlucky

I’m using the term in the most loving way possible. You know what I mean right? It’s those guys that are perfectly nice people but somehow it just doesn’t quite work out for them. They get picked on for no reason or just have the worst possible luck and end up being the butt of all the jokes. It’s like the show itself is picking on them.

In series with all-girl casts, you do occasionally see them but otherwise, they almost always seem to be some poor dude. Sometimes, they are even the main character so at least it works out in the end. Still, there’s no reason a girl couldn’t just have unfortunate random things happen to her all the time.

4) The Shonen Hero

There are some female shonen heroes. And my hero I do mean the main character. A good efficient main character. And I’m sure if I account for lesser-known series, there are probably a lot of female shonen leads. But for I long time I was baffled that there weren’t more. Aside from Maka up there, the only other one I can think of off the top of my head would be Emma from promised Neverland. I’m not even sure she actually qualifies but she does in my books. 

You see, I was under the mistaken impression that there was a huge demographic overlap between shonen and CGDCT audiences. Therefore if the audience already enjoyed series full of only adorable girls, why not combine the two and make adorable girl action heroes. Yeah, yeah, magical girls…not the same thing OK! Turns out, the audiences are in fact quite different and few people regularly watch both genres in equal quantities. So it was a misunderstanding on my part for this one!

3) The Harem Protag

Now there are such things as reverse harems with a female central figure being the object of many hot guys’ attention. But those are completely different archetypes. Trust me, I’ve watched them all! Lok, there’s a sort of general bias when it comes to Harem protags. Anime fans immediately expect something. These are vanilla characters that are also generally overpowered and almost perfect. I like harems and I also know that for the most part, even if the protag is the most boring character in the show, they remain the driving force of the plot. Their actions and decisions move the events along.  

Not so for reverse harem protags. Most of the time they are reduced to rarely seen ladies that offer support to the guys between their adventures and occasionally serve coffee or tea. I’m not kidding! Part of the issue is that these shows are so often adapted from otome were the MC is essentially a framing device and self insert-character for every single girl playing so they are completely devoid of personality on purpose. There’s not even enough substance to these characters to be called plot devices, let alone people. Their actions if they have any have little consequence and I don’t think they make decisions. Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club is an exception as she is a full-fledged and lovely character but most of the plot isn’t actually driven by her but by the drama of all the male leads. The only real exception I could think of is Yona. 

2) The Mad Scientist

I have only seen a few lady mad scientists and I have loved them all… I think this character type should become a staple of CGDCT shows. It’s awesome and highly relatable.

You must all know at least one girl who is all about science books and experiments and the discovery channel. I know 13 of those at least. And they happen to be great in real life too so we should see them more in shows. 

Actually, you know what, I think I just want to see more Mad Scientist archetypes regardless of gender. I just love the lunatics, what can I say?

1) The Crackpot Conspiracy Theorist

I think this might once again be a case of I would like to see more of these in anime. Conspiracy theorists are actually fairly common in Western media so it’s interesting n itself that we see so few in anime. However, whenever I have seen one, it’s always a boy.

The irony here is that all the paranoid folks I know in real life are pretty much all girls. Telling me how companies put stuff in chapstick to dry out your lips and make you buy more or how stores are changing the labels in their clothes and that’s why the same sizes don’t fit you. Ok, that one may be true… In any case, girls are complete crackpots and I bet they would be adorable in cute anime conspiracy theorist form!

Well there you have it, thee are 5 character types that I rarely see cast as female characters and I’m not sure why. In fact, I’m not entirely sure there is a reason at all. It might just be a mix of coincidence and force of habit.

More embarrassingly, it may just be a case of me not having watched the right anime and there are tons of female characters of these types… oops…

26 thoughts

  1. A very fun post! The conspiracy theorist one is definitely a good one—I can’t think of even one female character!

    I still have, like, 12 posts are yours to go through, so excuse me while I make my way around your archives.

  2. This somehow gives me the urge to write a short story for each of your main characters here. Just to give them some love and because it might be fun!

  3. Well, for bad luck there’s the main character from Anne-Happy, where the whole running joke with her is her relentlessly positive attitude in the face of her relentlessly terrible luck. Yoshiko from Love Live Sunshine also has perpetually rotten luck as one of her defining traits

    Female shonen protags, Misaki from Angelic Layer is always the first one who comes to mind for me in that area, but they are definitely the minority. But Emma’s a good one (Neverland is in WSJ so she absolutely counts!), and also Clare from Claymore.

    Mad scientists: Nina from Code Geass, and Precia Testarossa from Lyrical Nanoha. Though it’s noteworthy that both of them are also among the most hated characters in their respective fandoms. Not for their scientific inclinations, for…other reasons.

    Can’t think of any examples of the other two. Actually can’t really think of any conspiracy theorist characters I’ve seen in anime, period, though I’m sure there are some (the MC from Welcome to the NHK is one I’m sure, but I haven’t seen that). Then again, I’m not sure there’ll ever be a better female conspiracy theorist character than Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter anyway.

    Cool topic!

  4. Good finds.. I mean the Shonen protagonist is oftenly designed to be a self insert character/blank sheet type thing and since Shonen means young boy.. I can guess why they don’t make females in that role to often.

    I do think Railgun comes close.. Maka comes close.. but I think a few traits we push on the Shonen protag is that young boy vibe.. I think girls and boys are at their most “different” when they are in their teens. Of course not everyone.. but peer pressure in general does take care of the rest.

    Female Mad Scientists .. in general are rare I think.. the only one I know is the female Dr Octopus from Into the Spiderverse. Maybe Medusa from Soul Eater and the good Scientist girl from Attack on Titan.. she is still crazy.. just not “evil crazy”.

    Arguably the female version of the Crackpot Conspiracy theorist is the Yandere!
    Who sees her love interest with another and comes up with crazy theories on how someone is trying to steal their guy. So I think the main difference between Paranoid males and Paranoid girls is that guys in anime and media seem to work on a more marco level caring about the big things of everyone… while girls function on a Micro-level caring more about the small things within her live.

    The loser/unlucky one I think has the Dojiko as it’s counter part. I think it’s in part because of the vision that when a girl falls on the street with her groceries you pick her up and help her out of that puddle.. while when a guy falls in a puddle you kinda laugh and think.. he must be misserable.. Not sure.. but Watamote does pretty much feature a female loser… Tomoko is pretty unlucky troughout the show and it’s not played of as endearing as a Dojiko.

  5. I seem to recall most creatives in the anime and related industries are guys, despite there being entire demographics aimed at other genders, and that’s probably where the imbalance in a bunch of places comes from. Some women like to deal in things about dude characters but not female characters, which might also skew things.

    Shonen hero: I count Misaki from Angelic Layer as this type due to the manga’s demographic. In pre-Maka times, she was the only example I had…

    Harem protag: The only way I can see that working with the definition of “harem” as it stands in anime is a lesbian harem…so, uh, basically Valkyrie Drive, but with romance instead of ecchi…? I haven’t seen a gay harem either (maybe there’s one in the BL section…?), although the Villainess anime from spring gave a bisexual harem IIRC.

    Mad scientist: Shinawa from Kado and Mayoi from Acchi Kocchi come to mind. From experience, girls normally gravitate towards biology and health subjects in the sciences, if at all.

    Conspiracy theorist: For some reason, I’ve always thought it was dudes who wore tinfoil hats like that, but now that you make me think of it, female-skewing fandoms, with their fanfic, analysis and speculation posts, might be on par with that. Then again, as a Tumblr user, I might be heavily biased towards seeing female-skewing fandoms…

    1. The latest industry demos have seen a huge increase in women. I was so surprised. It’s still not even but it’s getting there much faster than other industries. This really surprised me and I’m not sure why.

  6. @Shonen Hero: That ones a little difficult, IMO. There’s character type and narrative role, and in many shonen the same character types fill the narrative role, and so we can refer to the character type by the usual role. In Soul Eater Maka is definitely the protagonist, but I feel she isn’t really the character type (that’d be Black Star, IMO, in that show). Emma on the other hand is definitely the type, and she has the narrative role, too.

    There are action shows with female protagonists and male characters that serve both as identification figures and side kicks, but they tend to be seinen (just like CGDCT shows). Think Shakugan no Shana, Hidan no Aria, or Zero no Tsukaima.

    So, yeah, I can’t think of many either, here.

    1. Why isn’t Maka the character type? She’s stoic, strong and stubborn. Genki is a bit more common I guess but I think it still fits. Obviously the actual definition of the archetypes are not set in stone.

      1. You probably have a point there. I think I’m just not used to stoic shounen mains, but there are definitely examples I can think of. I’m not sure I’d count strength; not because I think shounen heroes aren’t strong, but because strength is a little vague, and because shounen tend to be full of strong characters anyway, and it’s often hard to compare. Definitely the stuborness is right on the mark, though.

        Shounen fighters aren’t really my preferred genre, so there might be pretty heavy selection bias as in what shows I drop, or what I consider the prototype. It’s interesting to think about.

        1. It is. Ultimately Shonen fighters are a fairly loosely defined genre that’s wide enough to accommodate a lot of archetypes and tropes

    1. You think? Maybe. There are tons of anime ladies I really like but I’m probably not representative.

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