2020 has certainly been a year to remember, for better or for worse (it’s definitely for worse), but at least the anime was pretty great! Along with a smattering of sequels and remakes, we also got a wide variety of new tales to sink our teeth into – including some with highly memorable main characters who haven’t left our minds since they were introduced to us many far-flung months ago. To that end, we’ve gathered five of our favorite leading ladies from 2020 so we can gush about how outstanding they are! If you also enjoy simping over emotionally complex anime girls, please join us!
5. Nana Hiiragi from Munou na Nana (Talentless Nana)
Superpowers known as “talents” have been deemed too dangerous for people to wield in normal society, so those born with them must be sent to an island to “train” as teens... where they are covertly killed by a talentless undercover agent posing as their classmate. Nana is devoted to her job and dutifully kills many members of her class with just her wits and a few poisoned needles, but when she starts to genuinely care for one of them (an airheaded, but sweet girl named Inukai who helps her process her childhood trauma), she begins to doubt her mysterious employer who sent her on this mission in the first place. It’s a delicate dance to portray a character who wears so many masks, both to throw prying eyes off of her trail and to protect herself from catching feelings for anyone, but Talentless Nana pulls it off!
4. Elaina from Majo no Tabitabi (Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina)
Elaina is a confident young witch who travels around the world, seeing the sights and earning a living through magical requests. Unfortunately, her adventures aren’t always as wholesome as those of a certain Ghibli heroine – she has to deal with monstrous transformations, flesh-eating plants, sex trafficking, serial killers, and more on her journey to become even half the witch that her idol Niké was. Suffering isn’t always necessarily for character growth, but Elaina’s harrowing experiences certainly change her worldview and make her a stronger person for having gone through them. They also burden her with inescapable trauma, though, echoing the recurring theme that power comes at a hefty price... we can only hope that she’ll be able to move on and keep pushing toward her goal.
3. Arte from Arte
As a young noblewoman in 16th century Italy, it wouldn’t be proper for Arte to pursue her goal of becoming a painter. But this talented girl is nothing if not determined, so she chops her hair short and renounces her previous life to study under the master artist Leo (no, not that one). She doesn’t shy away from hard work and even dresses up as a boy to attend a human dissection so she can study the organs, surprising her mentor and slowly but surely earning the respect of those around her. If you’ve been feeling a little low on motivation this year, let Arte show you that passion and perseverance can make even the wildest dreams come true!
2. Katarina Claes from Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shiteshimatta... (My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!)
When a ditsy otaku suddenly finds herself reincarnated as the villainess from her favorite otome game, she has only one goal in mind: survive! The envious bully Katarina ends up dead or exiled at the end of every route she’s played, so the new Katarina decides that she’ll make friends with the other characters to guarantee her safety and develop farming skills that will help her live on her own if the worst still happens. She actually does such a good job that everyone falls in love with her, but she’s too dense to figure that out. We can never get enough of Katarina’s oblivious charm and genuine care for her friends (even those from her previous life, as a dramatic moment in episode 11 shows), and she’s also a refreshingly positive example of a (most likely) bisexual character in anime! You’d better believe we’re tuning in once season 2 hits in 2021.
1. Midori Asakusa, Tsubame Mizusaki, and Sayaka Kanamori from Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na! (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!)
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken is all about the art and business of anime production, and the three lead members of the film club are perfect vehicles to show just how passionate people in the industry can be. Asakusa and Mizusaki treat their art as an extension of themselves, pouring countless hours into creating vivid fantasy worlds and expressive character movements, while Kanamori wrestles their ideas into reality by organizing production timelines and securing funds. Each of their backstories emphasizes how their quick thinking and creativity got them to where they are today and watching them accomplish such insane feats as mere high schoolers is downright inspiring. Asakusa, Mizusaki, and Kanamori feel so innately human and remind us that we all have a spark of genius inside that’s just waiting to get out, so they are our favorite leading ladies of 2020!
We also can’t forget to include Tooru Honda from Fruits Basket Season 2, Chizuru Mizuhara from Rent-a-Girlfriend, Maple from Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt So I’ll Max Out My Defense, Minare Koda from Wave Listen to Me, and Sakura Adachi and Hogetsu Shimamura from Adachi and Shimamura! But who were your favorite female main characters of 2020? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!