If there is one genre where females tend to dominantly be the lead, it is without a doubt romance, and romance can be expressed in many ways. Some romance is dramatic and serious, and there are some titles that are comedic or filled with adventure. Either way, this is where audiences can see females shine the most as the main lead, or as a co-lead. Through the ladies we are about to list, we see how their personalities can be the same, and how they can differ. In the end, you see how being in love or with someone special can motivate them to become a stronger person and at the same time, see their vulnerabilities. So, who are some female leads from romance anime that signify that? Read our top 10 to find out!
10. Madoka Ayukawa from Kimagure Orange Road
- Episodes: 48
- Air Dates: April 6, 1987 – March 7, 1988
We’re kicking things off with an oldie but a goodie. While romance tends to dominate the Shoujo category, Kimagure Orange Road is one example of how Shounen can produce quality romance, and we feel that Madoka, the female co-lead, is a great way of starting off this list. She has a mature sense of beauty for her age, but she’s got a bad rep for being her school’s top delinquent. She has broken every rule you can think of. She gets into fights, she ditches her classes, and she illegally works part-time at a café. But through Kyousuke’s stubbornness and determination of wanting to be Madoka’s friend, audiences and Kyousuke get to see the true Madoka. Deep down inside, she’s just about as feminine as you could ask for.
She’s not someone who wants to break the rules for the sake of it, she’s someone who really wants to express herself for who she is, and whatever rules that are placed for her, doesn’t allow her to be herself. Through Madoka’s relationship with Kyousuke, audiences can learn that love is about accepting people for who they are, and encouraging them to be themselves. While Madoka may not come across as feminine on the outside, sometimes a girl just being herself in whatever way she wants to be can be feminine in its own right, and she does an excellent job of demonstrating that and we should be careful of how we judge others.
9. Miki Koishikawa from Marmalade Boy
- Episodes: 76
- Air Dates: March 13, 1994 – September 3, 1995
For some long-time anime fans, they probably consider Marmalade Boy the best romantic comedy of the 1990s with its complicated tree of who’s in love with who (which qualifies as its own unique article). Its main lead is Miki Koishikawa, a neurotic and reactionary school girl. She believes she has the perfect life until her parents divorce upon their return from a vacation in Hawaii because they met and fell in love with another couple, the Matsuuras. To make things awkward, they are going through with swapping partners, and they’re going to move into one big house. To make things crazier, she finds herself falling in love with the Matsuura’s good-looking and charismatic son, Yuu, who loves teasing her but deep down inside, has his own feelings for her as well.
We understand how some viewers might find her to be a cry baby, but her vulnerabilities are relatable and realistic. How would you react if your parents just casually said they’re going to get a divorce because they wanted to marry other people? Her situation is just too illogical and she knows it, and isn’t afraid to express her opinion on certain things. However, people tend to manipulate how she can be and it can have negative effects. Thanks to Yuu’s support, Miki comes to terms with her situation and eventually falls in love with him despite being step-siblings. However, her love for him is tested throughout the series and eventually comes to see that he’s the one for her.
8. Akira Tachibana from Koi wa Ameagari no You ni (After the Rain)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: January 12, 2018 – March 30, 2018
Through Akira’s story in Koi wa Ameagari no You ni, it tests the boundaries in terms of age of consent as the 17-year-old Akira is in love with Masami, her 45-year-old boss at the restaurant she’s a waitress at. She’s a young lady of few words but when she speaks, it’s with purpose and it gives some people the wrong impression about her. After meeting Masami the first time at his restaurant on a rainy day while she was feeling down, she couldn’t help but feel attracted to him.
While this seems gross and creepy to discuss this, but by Japan’s national age of consent laws, it happens to be 14 but municipal governments are at liberty to have them up to 18. Yes, there is a considerable age gap, but these things can happen though they aren’t necessarily between a 17-year-old and a 45-year-old. As for Akira’s infatuation with Masami, we can’t exactly say we’re psychological experts, but she obviously has some dependency issues once you put everything together. She meets him at a time when she’s frustrated in her life due to giving up on track, and Masami cheers her up without making any judgement. For a girl her age, it’s understandable to find such qualities attractive under her circumstances. While anime can romanticize it, in the real world, yeah, such a thing can happen but in the end, it could be an infatuation, or a phase. How does this anime end with it? Watch to find out!
7. Shirayuki from Akagami no Shirayuki-hime (Snow White With the Red Hair)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: July 7, 2015 – September 22, 2015
In case some of you (probably) didn’t know, Shirayuki pretty much means Snow White. However, as the title suggests, this Snow White happens to have red hair and it makes her stand out. To make matters worse, the prince of the kingdom she resides in wants her as a concubine. Not willing to surrender herself to him, she decides to flee the kingdom and on her journey, meets a group of travelers. She falls in love with Zen, one of the travelers she befriends who happens to be a prince of another kingdom. However, she is a commoner and him being a prince, it causes some natural obstacles in wanting to express themselves and pursuing a relationship.
Shirayuki, with or without Zen, is the kind of character who can make it on her own. She’s physically strong, is an expert at making herbal medicine (since that was her business before she left her previous kingdom), and is more than capable of taking care of herself. Though she is capable of being independent, she wants to prove her worth to her comrades. She’s always willing to put herself before others to the point it can affect her health. It’s not that she does it for love but because she feels it’s the right thing to do.
6. Misaki Takasaki from Koi to Uso (Love and Lies)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: July 4, 2017 – September 19, 2017
If you’re into Japanese sociology, then you already know that for the past 20+ years, Japan has had a declining birth rate. In the world of Koi to Uso, the government implements a program where when people turn 16, they are assigned a partner designated by compatibility to produce children. Failure to comply comes with severe penalties. For Misaki Takasaki, she’s been in love with Yukari, her childhood friend since the fifth grade. However, things turn upside down when Yukari is given a different girl by the government, Ririna. However, Ririna is willing to let Yukari pursue a relationship with Misaki out of respect of their true feelings.
What makes Misaki a great character is that she’s genuinely a nice girl. Despite Ririna’s insistence that she can have Yukari, Misaki feels uncomfortable with the thought of trying to pursue a relationship with him. Misaki is in a situation where she wants to be honest with her feelings, but also not be selfish due to the rules of her society. Sometimes, even without government assistance, people are in such bizarre situations. To see it happen among teenagers just adds a different level of awkwardness than already necessary and through Misaki’s view point, we can see how true love is the answer to the problem, as opposed to being forced into a relationship and procreate. At the same time, we also see how nobody wants their feelings hurt nor do they want to disrupt the system, which is something you’re likely to see in Japanese culture. Can true love conquer all? Through Misaki’s situation in her respective series, we can get an idea of that.
5. Chise Hatori from Mahoutsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus' Bride)
- Episodes: 24
- Air Dates: October 8, 2017 – March 25, 2018
Imagine yourself as just a kid. You got no immediate family and no one is willing to take you in, what do you do? In the case of Chise, she sells herself into slavery and is bought by Elias Ainsworth, a mysterious mage who also becomes her fiancée. During the first part of her journey, she feels no sense of self-worth to the point she’s willing to be a slave. Eventually, her issues and dependency on Elias further affect her to the point that she wonders what she would do if Elias would abandon her. Though she is introduced to her situation through desperate means, it takes a while for her to embrace her new surroundings. However, through Elias’ guidance, she discovers new meaning in her life.
Eventually, she wants to also be worthy of Elias, but first she has to be worthy for her own sake and live life on her own terms. Though Elias and Chise’s relationship is founded under harsh conditions, there are times where you hit the jackpot. Even so, just because you get lucky, doesn’t mean your problems go away overnight and with the right people, you’ll come to find the true value of not just love, but also your true self.
4. Rui Tachibana from Domestic na Kanojo (Domestic Girlfriend)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: January 12, 2019 – March 30, 2019
Like Miki from Marmalade Boy, Rui is in a complicated situation with her step-brother, but it is taken to a different direction. Unlike Miki and Yuu who met after their parents decided to divorce and remarry each other, Rui had a prior one night stand with Natsuo, shortly before she knew they were going to be step-siblings. To make things crazier, Natsuo even had a fling with Hina, her older sister, who just also happens to be his teacher back in high school. Eventually, she attempts to make things serious with Natsuo despite his prior relationship to Hina.
We can understand a lot of viewers may not like Rui. She’s very vulnerable and flawed, and we have to admit, sometimes just being not perfect makes characters relatable, especially when they’re still young and inexperienced in life and in love. Naturally, she has her insecurities and we’re sure every young lady has gone through such things in their love life, though probably not to the same levels of insanity as Rui. She represents a concerning side to how being in love with someone and being dependent can have unintended effects.
3. Kouko Kaga from Golden Time
- Episodes: 24
- Air Dates: October 4, 2013 – March 28, 2014
Like some characters on this list, Kouko is initially torn between two men. Upon her introduction into Golden Time, she has a thing for Matsuo, but eventually finds that she has feelings for Banri, an amnesiac who can’t remember anything prior to an accident he had in his high school years. Some experts and general people like to say it’s best to be with someone who lets you be yourself, and accepts you as who you are. Kouko excellently expresses this when she’s around Banri. However, she can be dependent and it’s nice to have people depend on you, but due to Kouko’s lack of experience in relationships, we can’t exactly diagnose her fixation with Banri as unhealthy, but sometimes, her dependency due to her upbringing does raise some concerns.
Putting that aside, her feelings come from a good place and all she needed was to confront her issues in an open manner. We understand that this may not solve everyone’s problems in the real world, but in some instances, it’s a good first step. Ultimately, what makes her a great character is that she is very accepting of not just Banri’s feelings, but his personal situation and does what she can to support him.
2. Nana Komatsu from Nana
- Episodes: 47
- Air Dates: April 6, 2006 – March 28, 2007
In this slice-of-life/romance series, we have Nana Komatsu, one of the two Nana’s from this series. She’s a country girl living in the big city, and it shows upon her introduction. There’s a saying that “love is blind,” and in many ways, Nana tends to embody this cliché, but for understandable reasons due to her upbringing. Throughout the duration of the series, Nana tries to explore more of big city life as she pursues numerous relationships after she ends things with her boyfriend from her hometown. A lot of how she deals with her feelings can be understandable for an individual in her vulnerable position. She’s largely been sheltered her whole life, she’s on her own in a world different from her own, and chooses to explore her freedom and loneliness in ways that can be beautiful, and yet potentially destructive.
Eventually, she comes to fall in love with Takumi, but for reasons that audiences can debate over. However, she doesn’t really get a 100% happy ending or beginning due to Takumi’s career taking him to London. Still, her upbringing has made her naïve and in the end, she chooses not to give up on Takumi despite their relationship being put on hold for understandable reasons that would break up almost any couple. In many strange ways, compared to the young ladies listed here, Nana’s life can happen to just about almost any girl, which is why she is a worthy addition to this list.
1. Mitsuha Miyamizu from Kimi no Na Wa (Your Name)
- Episodes: 1 (feature film)
- Air Dates: August 26, 2016
Teenage years and exploring the opposite gender or pursuing relationships can be awkward as it gets. But what if you met the person of your dreams by body swapping? As insane as this sounds, that’s pretty much the basis to the plot of Makoto Shinkai’s most successful movie in anime history, Your Name. Whenever Mitsuha (a country girl from Gifu Prefecture) and Taki (a city boy from Tokyo) fall asleep, they wake up in each other’s bodies and experience each other’s lives for a day due to a crazy wish she made. Taki is just an average boy, and Mitsuha is from a well-respected family. As they experience each other’s lives, they set ground rules and have an indirect long distance relationship by leaving notes for each other.
After learning the truth about Mitsuha, she works with Taki in order to prevent the tragedy of her hometown from ever happening. Putting the happy ending aside, through Mitsuha, audiences can learn that love can happen in the least likeliest of situations. Perhaps by experiencing a person’s life in their shoes, we can gain a better appreciation of each other and form unbreakable bonds. Even when you lose your memories, sometimes destiny can draw you back showing that one day, you’ll still find that person you love.
Last, we’d like to make some honorable mentions to Ai from Video Girl Ai, Belldandy from Ah! Megami-same!, Chii from Chobits, Iori from I”s, and Yukino from KareKano. Some of the series we chose had elements of comedy, and some of our selections were rather dark. When it comes to pursuing love, it’s not always going to be easy for everyone. For some, there are some crazy obstacles such as that person could be your step-sibling, or that person was involved with someone you know and it could make things awkward. In other instances, especially in the comedy oriented ones, sometimes it’s just the person holding themselves back and all they need is some confidence, and that can happen in real life as well. In romance titles, the female leads come from various circumstances and backgrounds, but eventually come to learn that true love conquers all.