In our recent series of top 10 female leads from whatever genre you can think of, a considerable fraction of our selections happen to be teenagers who are extraordinary, and to say that’s pretty awesome doesn’t do them justice. In Japanese pop culture, the use of teenagers as heroes comes from an actual cultural norm in order to connect with audiences domestically, and yet incidentally connect with international audiences for other distinguishing reasons that were maybe unintentional. In the case of the Japanese, they view their teenage years as the final lap of freedom before they enter the real world. It’s a precious time to discover who you are and what you’re capable of.
Beyond having teenagers as mech pilots, superheroes, soldiers, or whatever, there are instances of when anime just simply portrays everyday life for a teenager (but with some sugar, spice, and other ingredients to make things more exciting). Through such anime, international audiences can get some idea as to what school is like in Japan. However, for today’s list, we want to explore some female leads from school related anime. Do they represent the average Japanese high school student? Or do they not? Either way, read our top 10 to find out!
10. Tsukushi Makino from Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers)
- Episodes: 51
- Air Dates: September 8, 1996 – August 31, 1997
From this modern day classic, we have Tsukushi from Hana Yori Dango. Tsukushi is an average teenage girl from an average family, but she was always an academic achiever and had plenty of friends during her compulsory education years. When she entered the elite world of Eitoku Academy, ruled by the F4 (or Flower 4 for short), 4 sons to Japan’s richest, things turned upside down for her, but right back up again due to her persistence.
Since she didn’t grow up as a materialistic person, she developed a strong personality where she doesn’t have to comply with what everyone’s doing, and that includes worshipping F4. This makes her come across as stubborn, but she’s a young lady who will never compromise her principles. As opposed to becoming a further target of F4’s teasing, she eventually comes to be respected and loved by them. Sometimes, people from the higher class need exposure to everyday people in order to humble them, and Tsukushi’s tough exterior (which can crack at the right moments, but she can fix them) helps bring her peers down to Earth. Even today, average girls like her find their ways to the best schools with most of the student body being supported by the richest parents, and those kids need someone like Tsukushi to show them how spoiled they are and that strong working class girls can kick ass.
9. Anne Hanakoizumi from Anne Happy (Unhappy Go Lucky!)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: April 7, 2016 – June 23, 2016
Anne may not be the luckiest girl on the planet, but she never lets that keep her down. She’s so unlucky to the point that she’s assigned to a class specialized for people like her so they can be assisted in finding their true talents. Yes, the way her situations are expressed can make people say kawaii, but it’s only because she’s so optimistic as to why audiences can react that way. Are some people really born unlucky? While some people don’t believe in such superstitions, at the same time, no one can believe in coincidences. Anne may have been put in a “special” class, but on the same token, she found some really good friends and she does what she can to be there for them and sometimes, being a friend to someone or having that friend is the luckiest thing that could ever happen, and that’s what Anne’s presence best represents.
8. Chio Miyamo from Chio-Chan no Tsuugakuro (Chio’s School Road)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: July 6, 2018 – September 21, 2018
Some of you readers probably drive through heavy traffic to get to work (or school), or some of you ride your bike, walk, or use public transportation. During that commute, you probably spend that time listening to music, watching videos, listening to some podcasts, or reading a book depending on whatever you use (if you’re driving, walking, or riding a bike, Honey’s Anime would like to tell you to please concentrate on the road and not look at your phone, book, or anything distracting). Some of you have to be careful of certain streets at certain times, or maybe you have to sneak through certain places as to not be detected. And sometimes, your way to school can be an adventure in itself and that’s what Chio’s story represents.
Chio is just an average girl who just wants to get to school and not be punished for being late, but on her way, it tends to be filled with some believable obstacles such as construction, and some out of the ordinary such as biker gangs who are hogging the road. But for some reason, she equates her troubles as a video game level and manages to come out on top. While the concept and execution ridiculous, sometimes, when you have trouble and can’t find another way, you have to get creative and Chio finds always ways to overcome.
7. Aki Mikage from Gin no Saji (Silver Spoon)
- Episodes: 11
- Air Dates: July 12, 2013 – September 20, 2013
We know this may sound crazy to some of you readers, but there are some high schools around the world dedicated to agriculture and they exist in Japan as well, most notably in Japan’s northern Hokkaido Prefecture, where a great percentage of their industry is. In this series, we have Aki. Just like how some little girls asked their parents for a pony at some point in their lives, Aki gets to have one courtesy of her school. She’s not academically gifted and she’s socially awkward, but put her on a saddle and she’s queen of the world.
As the only child of her family’s farm, she’s naturally expected to take over. However, she wants to pursue a career in taking care of horses instead. Her situation doesn’t just apply to Japan, but to other cultures as well where children are expected to take over the family business, and we anticipate that some of you readers can relate to that. And taking over the family business is great if you want to do that. However, what if you have your own dreams you want to pursue? Through Aki, audiences can learn that just because you have your future set for you, it doesn’t mean you want to try other things or find other interests. Eventually, Aki finds the courage to tell her parents that she wants to pursue caring for horses and after considerable discussion, they come to a compromise where she can pursue her own dreams.
6. Mai Sakurajima from Seishun Buta Yarou Wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai (Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai)
- Episodes: 13
- Air Dates: October 4, 2018 – December 27, 2018
High school can be tough, and it can be tougher while also pursuing a career in the entertainment industry to the point that Mai puts her career on hold to finish high school. What’s even crazier, not many people seem to notice her! She goes as far to the point by dressing like a playboy bunny to school and is only seen by one kid, Sakuta, the resident bad boy! So, what’s the cause of all this? A mysterious disease known as Adolescence Syndrome, with various symptoms and effects.
Thanks to Sakuta’s help (meaning declaring that he loves her in front of the school), she comes back from her situation. However, her personal/professional dilemma is still a hurdle she has to jump over. With the recent Hollywood sexual harassment scandals that were in the news these past few years which sparked the #metoo movement, her decision to leave entertainment is rather realistic and understandable because the unfortunate reality is, even minors have been victims to the industry’s big wigs. However, she overcomes her past issues and finds her place in the world again.
5. Chitoge Kirisaki from Nisekoi (False Love)
- Episodes: 20
- Air Dates: January 11, 2014 – May 24, 2014
On the outside, Chitoge can come across as your typical ditzy blonde, but her upbringing in organized crime hasn’t exactly been easy on her. Thanks to her American father, he arranged a fake relationship with Raku, the son of a rival gang, in order to maintain peace. Due to her background, not many people want much to do with her as her complications at home made her a difficult person to get along with. However, Chitoge is the classic example of you really need to get to know her first to see how much of a wonderful person she is. While she doesn’t like the idea of being in a fake relationship with Raku, their relationship develops into something real.
During our teenage years, sometimes we feel the people around us are “fake,” and Chitoge’s upbringing is a great example of that. Some people may put up a front just to look cool, and there are others who are authentically trying to be themselves, but the people around them still see them as fake. While the causes of Chitoge’s initial problems are out of the ordinary, trying to interact with your peers at such a vulnerable age can be a struggle, but once we open up to each other, we can see who we are and be more accepting of one another.
4. Fumino Furuhashi from Boku-tachi Wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (We Never Learn)
- Episodes: 13
- Air Dates: April 7, 2019 - Ongoing
Whether you’re in school now or in the past, there were things we were good at, and things we weren’t so good at. Some people are good at math, others at literature, music, arts, or whatever and that’s ok. For those who are long past high school or presently in high school now, you probably want to be an engineer, an actor, or maybe even the president or prime minister of your respective nation of residence, and your school can give you the skills necessary to make those dreams come true. But in the case of Fumino, one of the female leads of Boku-tachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai, she’s great at literature and art, but she’s not so great at math despite being the daughter of math professors and wanting to get into astronomy.
Beyond her unbalanced academic abilities, she’s a rather sensitive young lady and for good reasons. Due to a past incident with her father, she’s not good with men (except for Nariyuki). While she isn’t great at applying astronomy from a mathematical standpoint, when it comes to astrology, she does get pretty excited in that sense. We understand that high school is an important part of our lives and we question whether or not what we learn can be applicable in the real world, especially let's say the Pythagorean theorem. While we aren’t trying to discourage any readers who are presently between elementary and junior high age when we say this but all we can say is, whatever grades you had in such subject during that time is awesome, but it doesn’t really matter in the real world if you got an A or an F on some algebra test. Yes, it instills discipline, but just because you’re not good at something doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world and whatever skills you develop now while in school, will have some kind of benefit when you enter the real world.
3. Juliet Persia from Kishuku Gakkou no Juliet (Boarding School Juliet)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: October 6, 2018 – December 22, 2018
What if Romeo and Juliet was retrofitted to take place in a boarding school with two separate dorms housing students from opposing nations? That’s pretty much the plot of Kishuku Gakkou no Juliet as its titular lead, who is the leader of the House White Cat dorms falls in love with Romio, who is the leader of the Black Doggies dorm. While the presentation of her character being short in stature and having a strong personality can be trendy these days, there’s never too much of something that continues to work. Putting that aside, she’s a very capable leader, and is actually a fierce fighter. In addition, she has some excellent acting skills since there are instances when she has to pretend she’s a boy, and can convince observers that she is one when necessary.
2. Konata Izumi from Lucky Star
- Episodes: 24
- Air Dates: April 8, 2007 – September 17, 2007
Konata may be your typical hyperactive teenager in anime, but she does have qualities that make her very relatable to all audiences. For starters, she’s a fellow otaku just like us since she enjoys anime and video games (which tend to be spoofed throughout this series), and just likes to mess around. She has the potential to be an academic achiever and excel at sports, but she’d rather attend to her hobbies and there are people like that in reality. As a result, she has bad grades and always pulls an all-nighter the night before her homework is due. We don’t know how it is with you readers, but we’re sure that some of you who are presently students or were students in the past, most likely skipped homework and studying just to enjoy your hobbies instead and paid the price. Some of you probably care, some of you didn’t, and Konata more or less represents that line of thinking.
Despite not being academically focused, she still shows her spirit by teasing her friends (though some may not always like it), and when she applies herself, she can do just about almost anything. But when it came to her cheer performance for her school’s festival, she poured her heart out showing that she does want to graduate with some valuable memories just like any teenager wants to.
1. Rinko Yamato from Ore Monogatari!!! (My Love Story!!)
- Episodes: 24
- Air Dates: April 9, 2015 – September 24, 2015
Rinko is the ultimate dream girl for just about any teenage boy, and who could never love a girl who is skilled at making sweets? Rinko’s role on the surface is being the love interest, but there’s more to her than that. A lot of her complexes in relation to her relationship with Takeo, the main lead can be relatable to some teenage relationships. It’s still a time for awkwardness especially with how Rinko is smaller than average and Takeo being bigger than average for their ages. What makes Rinko special is that she sees Takeo for who he really is, and not entirely judging him for his straightforward personality and being built like a prime Schwarzenegger.
Despite Japanese society being polite, they’re not exactly friendly since people aren’t exactly open with their feelings, especially with strangers. Rinko in some ways represents that aspect but after her initial encounter with Takeo who saved her from a groper, she saw that deep down inside, he’s a true teddy bear. As her relationship with Takeo developers, she even starts to grow some confidence of her own and on the same token, supports Takeo in everything that he does. There are instances where a love interest can be a turn off, but in this instance Rinko can be just about any girl in the real world and with the right people supporting her, she can find her true self. Some people say no man is an island and that applies to the ladies as well as we see with Rinko, and how she also supports Takeo in that regard.
The world of pop culture can romanticize the teenage experience in many ways, but anime being of Japanese origin, where education is different from many nations, takes it to a different kind of level of creativity. Yes, academics and participation in club activities are highly emphasized to a higher standard, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is a straight-A student. In some ways, high school students can be like any other students around the world. They can be great at one thing, or terrible at another and in the end, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Through these anime, we learn that certain talents or lack of talents in a certain area can be properly nurtured, and that friendships are certainly important for both the good times and the bad. And not only friendships, we can also probably find true love and that’s what we feel that our top 10 represents.