When it comes to performance art, everybody has to admit that comedy isn’t as easy as it looks, which is why it’s one of the best. It takes a special kind of skill and talent that only few people have. Thankfully, it can be expressed in many ways whether it would be in movies, television, stand up, literature, and especially in animation. In the world of animation where the imagination has no limits, comedy can be portrayed in ways that no average person can think of. Classic programs from the U.S. such as The Simpsons, Beavis & Butt-Head, South Park, and Family Guy have proven that animation can express comedy in fresh ways. So, that leads us to Japanese anime, a different culture with a different sense of humor.
For long time anime fans current reading this article, their first forays into comedy anime were probably Ranma ½ and/or Excel Saga. Through those two classics, we can get a foundational understanding of how humor works in context to anime and Japan. Just like how Family Guy relies a lot on American pop culture to express its humor, Excel Saga does the same for Japan and has a kick ass female lead, Excel. So, this leads us to today’s list, who are some of the top 10 female leads in comedy anime?
10. Akira Oono from High Score Girl
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: July 14, 2018 – September 28, 2018
Kicking off this list is Akira, the titular High Score Girl. On the surface, she’s the perfect girl. She’s rich and academically gifted. However, she’s pretty much a wizard when it comes to Street Fighter II and becomes Haruo’s, the male co-lead’s rival. What makes Akira hilarious is that other than making grunt noises, she NEVER speaks throughout the duration of the first season! In conjunction to the women of comedy paved way by Rumiko Takahashi, Akira expresses her feelings in over dramatic and aggressive means through comedic violence. While some people in real life say people act violently towards someone as a way of saying they like them, it may not be true in reality, but in the world of anime, it’s something you can get away with and Akira is a modern example of that. Though Akira never uses speech, she can still convey her thoughts and feelings through her grunts, actions, and facial expressions that tend to be used for maximum comedic effect, but at the same time, she shows she’s capable of showing care and affection.
9. Chio Miyamo from Chio-Chan no Tsuugakuro (Chio’s School Road)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: July 6, 2018 – September 21, 2018
Yes, we already used her in our Top 10 Female Leads in School Anime, but it was too hard to resist not using her again for this list. As we shared on that respective list, Chio just has the craziest luck as she finds her way to school. What makes her funny is that she’s a self-proclaimed underachiever, but she somehow finds creative solutions to her problems. Despite her meek looking frame, we see her do death defying stunts just to overcome her obstacles whether it would be construction or dealing with hooligans. So, what is the source of her creativity? It happens to be playing video games, mostly stealth games, and she applies what she does in gaming into her problems and for some crazy reason, they just happen to work! As opposed to asking for an adult or a law enforcement officer for assistance with what she has to deal with, she’d rather just go all out and then just have a regular day at school! Some people say it’s more about the journey than the destination, and Chio’s predicament is certainly a creative take on that for some unique laughs.
8. Ao Horie from Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (Ao-Chan Can’t Study!)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: April 6, 2019 – June 22, 2019
To some of the ladies here reading, what if your father wrote erotic novels? Would it affect your perceptions of men and relationships? That’s what Ao Horie can hypothetically give one answer to as she wants to avoid boys due to her father’s influence. However, she keeps running into Takumi, her classmate, who just wants to be her friend, but Ao feels more than that when it comes to him, and she thinks that her feelings can also be an influence of her father . Much of the humor is genuinely juvenile in nature, especially when it comes to coming terms with your own emotions and sexuality and gives it a sense of innocence from Ao’s perspectives.
We can’t say Ao is a representation of how a teenage lady would turn out if she was raised by a perverted old man, but she can still be a general representation of just how teenage girls are going through changes and noticing boys, but she has her own reasons for how she handles those changes and they pave way for laughs that are relatable to some of our adult readers who understand what it’s like to go through that. Through Ao, we can learn that it’s ok for young ladies to be open with understanding their feelings and sexuality, and the laughs are there to remind us that there’s no shame in it.
7. Arisa Ahokainen from Akiba’s Trip The Animation
- Episodes: 13
- Air Dates: January 4, 2017 – March 29, 2017
While Tamotsu and Matome have their powers as bugged ones to fight other bugged ones plaguing the streets of Akihabara, Arisa is the only regular human capable of combating them thanks to years of martial arts training. Though skills are excellently utilized in a comedic sense, Arisa’s other qualities are expressed in making her one of the funniest leads in this leading trio. In the original Japanese version, her actress portrays her using a broken accent to convey that she’s a foreigner. While English speakers like to make fun of the accents of other nation’s, this notion is expressed in the Japanese version when you hear with Arisa speak, the voice actress uses a broken accent in a way that Japanese people perceive how all foreigners talk in Japanese.
In the English dub, she is portrayed with a Finnish accent to authenticate her background, and of course, this is also hilarious to those who choose to watch the dub since it adds a flavor of cuteness to the comedy aspect of Akiba’s Trip. Other than that, what also makes her funny is that she’s just a beautiful girl who is over the top with not what she does, but who she is. At 18, she’s already a college graduate and the heiress to a multi-billionaire dollar fortune, and she’s just so casual within tough situations, which is why she’s so funny.
6. Hanako Honda from Asobi Asobase (Workshop of Fun)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: July 8, 2028 – September 23, 2018
Hanako is one of the main characters of the trio, or the Pastime Club, and tends to be the driving force of all the shenanigans they all get into. To put Hanako in a nutshell, one has to wonder if she needs Ritalin, Adderall, or some kind of medication because her behavior is akin to ADHD (or maybe she needs to cut back on sugar?). But once you put her on meds, then you’re pretty much taking away who she is and why she’s so funny. Putting aside her over the top behavior, she’s actually pretty good at academics (and she trained a stag beetle to do math!). She’s a class clown and a prankster. She loves to mess around and do insane stuff just for the sake of it.
A lot of what she does is hard to put into words, you have to see for yourself to see how insane she is and wonder what you would do if you had a girl like this as your classmate back in high school (or if she were your daughter or student for readers that are parents or educators). But putting aside her bizarre behavior, deep down inside, she really cares about her friends and can show restraint when it counts. In addition, she also wants what a good number of average school girls wants, she would like to explore romance and go on dates in trendy districts like Shibuya.
5. Hina from Hinamatsuri
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: April 6, 2018 – June 22, 2018
Just imagine you’re an assassin for the mafia and all of a sudden, some crazy girl with psychic powers shows up, and that girl happens to be Hina, who is from the future and there are other ladies who are out to eliminate her. What makes her hilarious in her own way is that she is rather lazy and is casual to the point of obliviousness to her situation. Whenever something’s going on, she kind of acts like it’s not a big deal and as opposed to getting angry at her, audiences can’t feel but laugh at her sense of apathy and aloofness. Due to her “upbringing” in the future and her society, a certain portion of her behavior can be explained in lets say that she’s a reverse Archie Bunker (but not as politically incorrect as him). As opposed to being stuck in her ways in the past like the classic sitcom character from All in the Family, she’s stuck in her ways in the matter that she’s from the future, and was raised to use crazy powers and that adds a new spin to such characters.
4. Panty Anarchy from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
- Episodes: 13
- Air Dates: October 2, 2010 – December 25, 2010
With a name like Panty Anarchy, you’re in for a world of God knows only what because she’s an angel who was kicked out of Heaven due to mischief, which she doesn’t give up upon and after her exile. She may look like jailbait on the outside, but she’s 1800 years old and exploits her age and looks to maximum comedic effect as she is about as promiscuous as an acid tripping hippie at Woodstock (with the goal to sleep with 1,000 men). Her shameless personality is pretty much what leads to how she’s funny in her respective series. But not only that, it gives audiences of all backgrounds a realistic re-evaluation of how there’s a double standard between men and women when it comes to sexuality and/or promiscuity. Last, did we mention that she can turn her panties into a gun? The things she does will keep you not only laughing, but thinking as well.
3. Ueno from Ueno-san Wa Bukiyou (How clumsy you are, Miss Ueno)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: January 7, 2019 – March 25, 2019
Junior high can be an awkward time, even more so than high school since that’s the beginning of puberty. It’s a time you’re going through changes and this is certainly expressed to new extremes with the titular Ueno, the president of her school’s science club, and is quite the inventor. If there was a Japanese school girl version to Steve Urkel from the hit 90s sit-com Family Matters, Ueno is the closest you’re going to get. Like Urkel, when it comes to love, she’s not so lucky. She might have a brain, but she’s still trying to figure out love like her fellow peers, but to a different extremity. She likes to exploit certain tropes such as panty shots but instead of showing panties, she tends to wear PE bloomers to show she can be a tease.
2. Chiyo Mihama from Azumanga Daioh
- Episodes: 26
- Air Dates: April 9, 2002 – October 1, 2002
Azumanga Daioh is certainly one comedy anime that opened the doors for this generation, and if any lead helped define the charm of this series, it is certainly Chiyo. Despite being only 10 years old, she’s already in high school due to being a super genius. But just because she’s a super genius doesn’t mean she’s mature for her age, and the fact that she still maintains the personality of your average 10 year old girl adds a flavor of cuteness that cements the humor of Azumanga Daioh. This is certainly emphasized in the first episode whenever something insane happens, the series cuts to a bizarre clip of her cooking as she sings this cute song that just makes you laugh your head off (and it turns out she cooked toys).
Her size and age are the source of the comedy, but as we said before, it just adds the cuteness that defines her role and how she’s subjected to not being athletically adept due to being smaller than everyone else.
1. Popuko from Poputepipikku (Pop Team Epic)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: January 7, 2018 – March 25, 2018
Though the episodes are short and the manga chapters are a few panels, think of them as an anime equivalent to a classic sketch like you’d see on SNL or Key & Peele. Yes, the art is silly and simple, but it’s there to tell you that it’s not intended to be taken seriously, and to make the audience laugh. If Seth MacFarlane were Japanese, than Poputepipikku is certainly the equivalent to his works, which largely spoofs pop culture. Popuko, one of the main leads, is certainly similar to hyperactive small girls you can find in a good majority of anime, but she takes it to a whole dimension that you have to see to believe. The great thing about comedy is how it is expressed through verbal communication and visually like in stand-up, or through performance like in skits, and Popuko is a character that needs to be seen as opposed to explained as to why she makes number one on this list.
The nature of this series is a must see for pop culture buffs such as how she portrays Rambo in a parody skit to the climax of the first movie, and makes subliminal references to Dragon Ball Z through its use of multiple voice actors in conjunction with the episode. In the end, she has no major development but she’s certainly a break out character for those that love comedy for the sake of laugh that will make your cheeks cramp up. We can’t really say anymore than just check out Poputepipikku.
Lastly, in addition to Excel from Excel Saga, we have the need to give one more honorable mention to who is the true female OG comedy lead in anime, and that’s Lum from Urusei Yatsura. While there have been others before her, she certainly cemented the path for leading ladies in comedy anime with how she reacts violently out of some sort of jealousy, and such characteristics have since been implemented in Takahashi’s other works, or other characters like Kaori from City Hunter, and some of the characters listed here. So if it weren’t for Lum, maybe we wouldn’t have this list.