As some of you may know, a good percentage of nations allow their women to serve in their armed forces. Gal Gadot, the star of Wonder Woman, served time as a combat instructor for Israel’s army. Bea Arthur of the Golden Girls served as a Marine reservist during World War II, and Queen Elizabeth II performed duties as a truck driver for England’s military and is still the only female royal family member to this day to have served.
As for Japan, as we have shared in some articles in the past, though on the surface, they do seem to have something of a military, they technically don’t have one due to Article 9 of their constitution. Instead, they have the Jieitai, or the Japan Self Defense Force, which is something akin to Costa Rica’s national police force and can only be used for defending the homeland, and can’t be deployed internationally. And yes, women can join and that applies in the world of anime as well. So, who are some unique female leads from military themed anime? Read our top 10 to find out!
10. Sabera from Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2202: Ai no Senshi-Tachibana (Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Warriors of Love)
- Episodes: 26
- Air Dates: February 25, 2017 – March 1, 2019
In this remake to the second season of the original Space Battleship Yamato, we would like to start off this list with its co-villain, Sabera, who’s largely repacked from her original counterpart. She may not be a soldier, but she does play her part in this military-themed series. As an empress, she can be appropriately ruthless but in the end, it is thanks to her presence that Zordar can regain whatever soul he has left. In the Vietnam War, the hippies used to say “make love, not war,” and when Sabera regains memories of her previous incarnations, she demonstrates that without love, there can be no life. So in a world where violence is everywhere, we all need someone to remind us that love can be possible anywhere and anytime, especially in the world of anime and in the real world.
9. Misaki Akeno from High School Fleet
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: April 10, 2016 – June 26, 2016
While there are academies around the world that offer the equivalent to a university degree, what if you could attend a high school equivalent? Then that’s what the Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School is for and that is where Misaki Akeno attends as the assigned captain to the Hakarekaze warship. As captain, she likes to see herself more as a paternal figure as opposed to a maternal figure to her crew members and genuinely cares about them and has given each member their own nicknames. She may not be academically the best student, and she always faces numerous struggles. In the end, she understands that a leader needs to maintain composure and stay positive because in the end, they’ll figure things out which they tend to do.
8. Yoshika Miyafuji from Strike Witches: 501. Butai Hasshin Shimazu!
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: April 10, 2019 - Ongoing
So instead of using fighter jets, what if your air support came in the form of witches? Well, that’s what the Strike Witches franchise has to offer and it’s back against through its latest edition. Yoshika, the main character, is certainly a textbook definition of a country girl upon her introduction as she has trouble adjusting to life outside of it, which makes her rather cute to viewers. However, she became a natural witch/soldier who puts others before herself. Due to her upbringing of working in her grandmother’s clinic, she has a sense of duty that is ideal for a soldier, but comes from a different sense of origin that requires no modifications. At times, her simple upbringing has benefitted her in more ways than one as it allows her to look at things from a perspective where there’s always an answer to everything. And coming from a small community, she understands the value of friendship and family in a way that motivates her to keep on fighting.
7. Kirie from Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai (The Magnificent Kotobuki)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: January 13, 2019 – March 31, 2019
The Kotobuki Squadron is an all-female private Air Force, and Kirie, one of its latest recruits, is also an accomplished pilot. She’s just like any other pilot not in combat, and loves to have her fun when she gets her R&R. She is friendly, but she is also highly competitive which can sometimes blind her to the bigger picture. However, those are natural qualities most pilots may have either in real life, or just something you see in pop culture which was popularized by Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun. In the end, she is someone who cares about her fellow wing women and whenever they may be in trouble, she’ll be there to back them up and vice-versa.
6. Gripen from Girly Air Force
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: January 10, 2019 – March 28, 2019
Gripen, or Barbie 01, is an enigma who more or less may be stereotypical (or archetypical depending on your point of view) of some pilots in anime, but that doesn’t mean she has her own story to tell. Upon her introduction, she does have some “defects” which have led her to be dependent on Kei, the male co-lead. But thanks to her story, audiences can get an idea on the theme(s) of if you make something look like human, does it make it human? As Gripen comes to terms with her “condition,” forget about the question of whether or not what she expresses defines her as human, but even if she were, are those emotions ultimately a good thing or bad thing? Yes, it can mess her up, but the fact that she does feel and genuinely wants to make a difference for everyone should demonstrate that she is human in her own way, which is why her journey is very unique.
5. Rory Mercury from Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kanu Tatakaeri (Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There!)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: July 4, 2015 – September 19, 2015
Ok, so she may not be a member of any of our world’s armed forces, but she is the co-lead of a military-themed anime, GATE. She is an apostle for Emory, her world’s god of some of the bad things you can think of, including war. Don’t let her cute looks fool you because if you provoke her, then you better have your will prepared and have life insurance. Despite how vicious she can be, deep down inside, she’s a nice girl who is friendly to people who don’t mess with her. Though she isn’t a soldier, she’s still a warrior and that’s enough for her to qualify for this list. She’s more like an old school ideal samurai with her code to protect the innocent, and to show no mercy to her enemies. In contradiction to her position/role in her world, she wants to be part of the regular folk and be a positive force of influence. Some soldiers unfortunately can have ruthless commanders, and just because a commander is bad doesn’t mean that their subordinates are, which is what we see with Rory.
4. Miho Nishizumi from Girls & Panzer
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: October 9, 2012 – March 25, 2013
Ok, so Girls & Panzer isn’t exactly about an actual military, but explores it more as a hobby, especially as it pertains to playing with tanks, or Senshadou (The Way of the Tank). If anything, the world of this respective anime sees tank warfare more as a sport to the point that there are schools dedicated to it! Miho, one of the leading characters, is the captain of her school’s tank team. She’s an example of maybe in the end, we can’t escape our destiny. Or, she can be a case of just because you had a bad experience with something, it doesn’t mean it should forever define you in relation to it, and that you can rise above it. She comes a family known for its distinguishing style of tank warfare, but wants to avoid it as much as possible. However, she’s forced into it by circumstances and eventually finds success with it, and form some unbreakable bonds. While Miho may not officially be a soldier, the fact that she cares about her subordinates demonstrates what it takes to be a real one, and that is don’t leave a fellow soldier behind! Even with her school at risk of being shut down if her team were to lose, she will put her loyalty to her friends first.
3. Leila Malcal from Code Geass : Boukoku no Akito (Code Geass: Akito the Exiled)
- Episodes: 5
- Air Dates: July 16, 2012 - February 6, 2016
At 17-years-old Leila is already a Lieutenant Colonel in the forces of the EU and has field command of the W-0 Unit, consisting of soldiers who are of Japanese descent. Thanks to exposing the corruption of her predecessor, she gained her present position, which shows that at a young age, she demonstrates admirable principles beyond her age and fellow senior officers. What ultimately makes her a worthy addition to this list is that she’s a leader by example. She’s not the type to sit in a wagon full of cargo and have her men pull her. Instead, she will pull with them as she leads from the front. While she is also a charismatic strategist, she can hold her own in a fight though she’s not up to the level of Akito, who she has feelings for. If anyone has a bright future in both the military and politics, it is certainly Leila with her words, mind, and heart.
2. Teletha Testarossa from Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: April 13, 2018 – July 18, 2018
Also coming from the private sector is Teletha Testarossa, the commanding officer of Mithril’s ground forces. At 16-years-old, she is already a captain of her company’s submarine, the Tuatha de Danaan. Due to the nature of her position, she is very intelligent as she has spent most of her life in a military environment. As captain, she is a master strategist and takes her position with wisdom and maturity that are beyond not just her age, but even amongst her fellow submarine captains. Putting her professionalism aside, she does demonstrate that she can be just like any other teenage girl through her upbeat personality, such as her crush on Sousuke. What makes Teletha, or Tessa, a distinguishing choice is that she’s someone who leads by example. When someone tells her she can’t do something, she goes out of her way to prove them wrong.
1. Asuka Souryuu Langley from Shin Seiki Evangelion (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
- Episodes: 26
- Air Dates: October 4, 1995 – March 27, 1996
We can admit our number pick is very controversial for every the reason you can think of but on that same token, the controversy she has generated for the past 25 years is what largely contributes as to why she gained her spot. Asuka can be bratty just like your average 14-year-old, but what she makes up for in her general teenage qualities, she can make it up as a soldier for NERV. In her debut as an EVA pilot, she didn’t have a freak accident like Rei, or panic like Shinji. She demonstrates that she’s a natural with cowboy skills like Maverick from Top Gun. Not only is she a hot shot pilot, she already graduated from university (and still attends junior high in Japan)! However, thanks to Asuka, we can still get a feeling that even as a teenager, people who serve despite the risk they put themselves through are still like regular people and they have to make greater sacrifices than usual. She has her moments in the series and through her experiences, you get a very a realistic view of the trauma soldiers can go through and unfortunately, the results of her battles can be applied in real life so through Asuka, we can gain a better appreciation for those who put themselves in harm’s way.
As you readers can tell, a majority of who we have listed are still teenagers. Some are members of an actual military, and there are others that fight under private military contracting companies. And there are those that are training in an academic setting. Just because a series deals with military related issues doesn’t mean it always has to be about war. Top Gun was largely a military movie that has nothing to do with war, and same with A Few Good Men. Through these movies and our selections for this list, sometimes the process of how someone becomes part of the military, and/or learns a certain skill can be just as interesting as soldiers who engage in war. Through some of our selections, we feel we can get an excellent overall view of females who serve in uniform and how their roles are universally vital.