As an anime fan, we've all come across androgynous characters. They have become more and more common in anime and we love it. We're not talking about characters who cross-dress on the regular or identify specifically as the opposite sex, or even those who look like their opposite sex. Today we're focusing on the top 10 ambiguous characters whose personality and attitude don't conform to specific gender norms.
Of course, anime conveys these traits physically to illustrate the character's personality, but this type of characters are also psychologically androgynous. Being psychologically androgynous is believed by some to be a type of evolution towards becoming well-rounded human beings. People who can be sensitive and caring, as well as, tough and aggressive; feminine and masculine, strong and wise. Some of these characters portray this balance beautifully.
To hell with gender norms and fitting into one of two categories! These characters embrace who they are and showcase the best of both worlds. Let's get to know them!
10. Nagisa Shiota from Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: Jan. 2015 – Jun 2015
Class 3-E in Kunugigaoka Middle School is far from a regular one. These kids are charged with the task of assassinating a monster that blew up the moon and can move at Mach 20, within their final school year. Oh, and he's their teacher! This group of misfit middle schoolers will find out if they've got what it takes to be assassins, and maybe even heroes.
One of the incredibly unique characters in this show is the lead, Nagisa Shiota. Even his name is androgynous, as it is used for either gender. The reason for Nagisa's androgynous look and demeanor is unfortunately not a happy one. His mother always wanted a girl so she forced him to keep his hair long and to wear girls' clothes.
His mother's bullying, along with Nagisa's inherent passive nature, have made him a very docile boy. Unless he's focused on his prey. Despite his difficult upbringing and being teased for being so feminine, he embraces who he is and is, in fact, the most talented assassin in the class. A perfect balance between being a soft, gentle person and a cold killing machine if needed.
9. Saika Totsuka from My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru.)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr. 2013 – Jun. 2013
When nihilist Hachiman Hikigaya is punished for writing an essay about how fake human relations are, he is sent to join the Volunteer Service Club, which dedicates itself to helping students with their problems. The only other member is Yukino, who is known as an ice queen. Together, they meet tons of new people, make friends and toy with the possibility of overcoming their cynical attitudes.
One of the people Hachiman and Yukino meet is Saika Totsuka, the captain of the tennis club, a.k.a. the “Prince”, which his fangirls call him because of his beautiful feminine looks and gentle demeanor. Though he is a boy - and an excellent athlete at that, - Saika wears his heart on his sleeve and hates conflict, showing that androgyny can bring out the best in people.
Like other charismatic characters in this list, Saika is popular with both boys and girls for his personality, abilities and looks. While sweet little Saika is true to himself, it still does bother him when his gender is confused by others. Then again, this is a group of kids helping each other find their true nature, so he's surely on his way to just being himself and not letting what others say bother him!
8. Crona from Soul Eater
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: Apr. 2008 – Mar. 2009
Shibusen is an academy in Death City, where talented young Shinigami called “Meisters” learn how to wield their Demon Scythe partners, with the goal of becoming the best Shinigami and Death Scythe duo. To do this, they must consume 99 souls and 1 witch's soul. Maka the Meister and Soul Eater, the Demon Scythe are our main protagonists.
One of the first enemies Maka and Soul come across, is the Sword Master, Crona. Crona is one of the few anime characters whose gender is officially unknown and undisclosed. At the time, they were being controlled by their evil mother who forced them to fight and constantly bullied them. This made them very strong and powerful, but also unbalanced and gave them low self-esteem, which they battle throughout the series.
The ambiguity Crona shows in their dress and speech reflects the ambiguity inside them overall. Always feeling like conflicted about their mother and their destiny. Fortunately, all ambiguity about their self-worth is slowly erased by making friends at the academy who care for Crona for who they are.
7. Envy from Fullmetal Alchemist
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: Oct. 2003 – Oct. 2004
In a world where alchemy exists, two boys attempt the forbidden - human transmutation. After losing their mother, Edward and Alphonse Elric decide to try to bring her back. Because of the law of equal exchange, Ed loses some limbs, Al loses his entire body and ends up with his soul attached to a full body armor. But they're not the only ones to ever attempt human transmutation. Someone else has too, and these successful attempts are known as Homunculi.
One such Homunculus is Envy. Envy is, very fittingly, a shapeshifter. They can be whoever they want to be and Envy puts all the best of both worlds in their mannerisms, physical appearance, and overall personality. Envy is young and beautiful, but the most ruthless killer of the bunch; playful and flirty, but lethal and full of hate.
As the sin they represent, Envy wants everything and has it. Envy hates humans because they have fraternal love, something Envy can never experience with his kin, the other Homunculi. It's something Envy can't have. There is no official gender for Envy since they can choose either, both or none. Envy's just who they want to be! We couldn't leave them out.
6. Haku from Naruto
- Episodes: 220
- Aired: Oct. 2002 - Feb. 2007
To save the village of Konoha, the rampaging nine-tailed fox demon, or Kyuubi, was sealed inside a newborn baby; that baby is Naruto Uzumaki. Ostracized and desperate for love and approval from his village, he rebels but also aims to become a skilled shinobi, and eventually the Hokage, leader of Konoha. In his team's first important mission, they meet a young ninja named Haku.
Haku was rescued as a child by Zabuza and now has devoted his life to serving him in any way possible. Haku's ideals and integrity are his main concern, not what gender people think he is or matching those expectations. His androgyny, in fact, is useful to him as a ninja, since he can easily pass for a beautiful girl. Even Naruto himself tells Haku he's beautiful, already aware that he's a boy!
Whether his androgyny is a product of his life experiences, or just his nature, Haku's gentle “feminine” side is his default, but it seems to shine brighter when he's with or speaks about Zabuza, his protector, and teammate. As for his “masculine” side, he is a highly talented shinobi, counting with incredible speed and strength, abilities to manipulate ice and frightening accuracy. Like many others on the list, Haku is highly intelligent and is able to balance all of these traits with a beautiful elegance.
5. Griffith from Berserk
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct. 1997 – Apr. 1998
Guts is a mercenary who has known nothing but death since the moment of his birth. Roaming alone and doing little more than murdering, he meets a band of mercenaries; the Band of the Hawk, headed by the beautiful and charismatic Griffith. Guts climbs the ranks and gets closer to Griffith, but things are even darker than they seem...
Like others in this list, Griffith seems to embody the “next evolution” aspect of androgyny. He is intelligent, educated, refined and strong. All of these next-level traits, along with his beautiful features and charisma make him an exemplary leader, which catapults him forward as he endeavors to have his own kingdom.
Griffith has other shared traits of our favorite androgynous characters, like containing and expressing completely opposing feelings and attitudes without hesitation. Griffith can be smiling and looking innocent one second, and go into full sadistic killer mode the next. He can act sweet and flirty now, then defeat an army without batting a beautifully curled eyelash. This is the kind of balance only one whose mind is free from societal guidelines can fully master. He eventually goes a bit too far into the dark side... but he's certainly a memorable character!
4. Hotaru Tachibana from Aoharu x Machinegun (Aouharu x Kikanjuu)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul. 2015 – Sep. 20115
Hotaru's story is similar to that of Haruhi in OHSHC; she's very androgynous, dresses in gender neutral and boy clothes and ends up in a host club where she makes a mistake that leaves her indebted her to the blond-headed host, Masamune. Masamune thinks she's a boy and invites Hotaru to play in his air-soft team to pay off the debt. Never turning back from responsibility, Hotaru keeps her biological gender quiet and works to become the player the team needs.
Hotaru is one of the 2 androgynous main characters in our list. She has strong “masculine” traits, like wanting to fight evil and picking fights with delinquents, as well as wanting to protect her best friend's integrity. This does't mean she's not caring and cheerful and in certain situations, even “girlishly” shy. She also endures a lot, both physically and mentally, like others on the list, she's certainly a tough cookie.
Hotaru is another androgynous character that seems to prioritize her beliefs and being true to herself above abiding by gender norms. She is more interested in doing the right thing and being a decent human being than behaving or looking “the way a girl should”. Which tears her apart a bit, since, even though her gender isn't important to her, Hotaru wants to be honest with her friends but can't.
3. Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club (Ouran Koukou Host Club)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr. 2006 – Sep. 2006
Much like in our previous entry, the entire premise of Ouran is centered on the fact that Haruhi is an androgynous person. She doesn't get mistaken for a boy only because of her appearance, Haruhi doesn't really adhere to any gender norms when she speaks or in the way she carries herself. This makes it (somewhat) easier to pay her debt back after breaking a ridiculously expensive vase, by working as a host in the club!
The beauty of Haruhi in Ouran is that she is perfectly comfortable in her skin, and doesn't believe that gender dictates one's life choices. In fact, she doesn't correct the boys when they mistake her gender, and while it may be because of her debt, it just doesn't seem to be a big deal for her at all. She knows what women want and she can be a perfect gentleman at the same time, making her a hit as a host.
Not every girl goes boy-crazy at the first sight of a pretty face, just as not every girl has to dress in pink. Haruhi embraces who she is and even proudly states it. It's this self confidence, and the way she is true to herself, that attract everybody to her over and over, regardless of gender. This is why we love Haruhi!
2. Hange Zoë from Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr. 2013 – Sep. 2013
For one hundred years, after being slaughtered almost to extinction by giant humanoid creatures, the remnants of humankind found shelter within concentric walls. That is until an especially colossal Titan broke the outermost barrier. This breach left many orphans looking to get even; Eren, Mikasa, and Armin join the Survey Corps to fight the Titans.
Hange is without question, one of the most memorable and intriguing characters in AOT. While Hange has no official gender in the AOT manga, she is a female in the anime, so we'll be referring to her as she in this article. Like others in this list, Hange has an above average intelligence and an androgynous look which mainly comes from her having more important things to worry about than dolling herself up. She also balances opposite traits, like being a scientist who does anything for knowledge, while at the same time feeling sympathy for her Titan test subjects.
Her obsession with the Titans and learning everything she can about them, along with her strong commitment to her role as Commander, are her most important aspects as a person. Who she is as a person and her life path are much more important to the story – and herself - than what gender she identifies as, if any. Hange is yet another character that shows what happens when you don't deny who you are based on what others think is “the way things should be”. She simply does what makes her happy, is herself and always shows her full range of emotions.
1. Haruka Tenou from Sailor Moon (Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon)
- Episodes: 46
- Aired: Mar. 1992 – Feb. 1993
We all know Sailor Moon; whiny junior high schooler, Usagi Tsukino, encounters Luna, the talking cat, and is given the power to transform into a magical fighter of justice. Luckily, she's not the only magical girl in town, so she'll face and battle evil along with the other Sailor Scouts. One mold-shattering scout is Haruka Tenou.
Haruka is Sailor Uranus and the girlfriend of Michiru (Sailor Neptune) – though in the English dub they made them cousins because cousins acting like lovers is better than just two women in love?? (smh). But I digress... Haruka finds the perfect balance once again, a “masculine” strong and protective personality, and a “feminine” sensitivity. Also, we can't ignore that she's constantly confused for a gorgeous man when in a suit, but can rock a dress and the sailor uniform just as comfortably, and look amazing doing it. She can make any man or woman fall for her, and who can blame them!?
Haruka and Michiru's relationship made Sailor Moon one of the pioneers of challenging gender norms in the anime world. While androgynous and ambiguous characters existed - mostly in manga - in the late 80s, they usually lived tragic, confusing lives. But not Haruka. Haruka is strong and self-assured, caring, romantic, tough, happy and quite frankly, possibly the perfect romantic partner. She also never corrects people or gets upset when they confuse her gender. She's a classic androgynous beauty that couldn't possibly not be at #1.
Many fans can identify with these characters' personalities, philosophies and even the insecurities they face. If there is something we can all learn from them, it's how liberating it is to let go of “how men / women should act and look”. One can best reach their true potential when they are true to who they are, regardless of the “rules”.
Being androgynous doesn't have to manifest physically, it can also be solely in your mind and heart. Not being a boy or a girl, but a person, simply being. Most of the characters on our list would never think “oh, I want to do this, but that's not something a girl / boy does...”. Doesn't that sound great?
When you're able to see life and points of view from opposing perspectives it makes it easier to understand others. This level of empathy usually makes androgynous characters (and real people!) charismatic and able to communicate with pretty much anybody, thus making for better relationships and a better society. Perhaps we should all take a cue from them!
Let us know who your favorite androgynous anime character is and why in the comments below! Also, did we miss your favorite? Join the discussion below in the comments!