As we have stated in previous articles here on Honey’s Anime, sci-fi from the perspective of Japanese pop culture is creative in context to its culture and society, and yet finds ways to be universally appealing and relatable. Beyond their captivating stories within their distinguishing sub-genres, they manage to be that way thanks not just to the world they present but the characters who live in that world, and that notably includes females. And we’re not just talking about supporting characters, but those who have a leading role. Japan is a male dominated society, but thanks to the progressive medium of anime, domestic and international audiences can get a view of some kick ass female leads, and that they are capable of being of contribution to the establishment and progression of the story. So, who are some top 10 female leads from the world of anime in Sci-Fi? Read our list to find out!
10. Haruko Haruhara from Fooly Cooly (FLCL)
- Episodes: 6
- Air Dates: April 26, 2000 – March 16, 2001
Kicking off this list is Haruko Haruhara, one of the most unassuming characters in not just sci-fi, but anime as a whole. Depending on your personality type, she can be the ultimate roommate, or your worst nightmare. The extremities to how she expresses herself are all over the place to the point that you feel the need to duct tape her to a chair and force a bottle of Ritalin down her throat. In the original series and in Progressive, she can really be a tease and should be kept away from minors. But in the world of anime, where’s the fun in that? That’s pretty much who Haruko is in a nutshell.
She can be rough and manipulative, but in the end, she’s the kind of person you have to give time to grow fond of. Despite Haruko’s crazy antics that can only be found in the world of anime, there is something in her personality that some people may not be able to identify with first hand, but viewers can feel that they’ve had to deal with someone along the likes of her and she’s indirectly relatable in that kind of way. While serious people like Naoto tend to find her annoying, those with a mellower personality can easily enjoy her company like his father does. In the end, Naoto comes to find that despite all the hardship Haruko puts him through, she’s really a well intended person and that sometimes, there’s a lot to learn from young ladies like her.
9. Miyuki Shiba from Mahouka Koukou No Rettousei (The Irregular in Magic High School)
- Episodes: 26
- Air Dates: April 6, 2014 – September 28, 2014
On the outside, Miyuki can be seen as her school’s respective idol. She’s pretty, well-mannered, and friendly. If anything, she can be referred to as a Yamato Nadeshiko, a Japanese term to mean the perfect woman. However, her value goes beyond being eye candy. She is a modest combatant and a master magician. She’s considered great to the point that she surpasses most of her peers. But what ultimately makes her a noteworthy addition to this list is that she’s pretty much the perfect sister any brother could ask for. While most of the family’s expectations are placed on her with her brother seen nothing more as a side piece, she still cares for her brother for who he is. When someone speaks ill of him, it gravely offends her. Though her feelings for her brother are questionable, nothing can be stronger than loyalty to family no matter what.
8. Karen Kohiruimaki from Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: April 8, 2018 – July 1, 2018
Like many of the ladies presented on this list, Karen is a character relatable to everyone to all gender identifications alike, but in her own unique way. In the real world, Karen is a tall young lady who has lived in Aomori, Hokkaido, and Tokyo. After facing a quarter life crisis, she finds herself in the world of virtual MMORPGs through Gun Gale Online. In a world of fantasy, she can be anything she wants, so she decides to become LLENN, or the Pink Devil, who is intentionally designed to be a short and cute little girl. Through Gun Gale Online, she can express who she wants to be and kick ass doing it. In the wise words of Norm MacDonald, a good way to know the difference between reality and fantasy is to think of fantasy as good, and reality as bad, and Karen in her own way expresses that.
Gaming can get a bad rap for making players addicted and Gun Gale Online isn’t afraid to admit that. Through Karen, there are instances where absorbing yourself into something to take your mind off your troubles can have its own unique rewards. It’s undeniable we have to deal with reality, but sometimes, enjoying a few hours in a virtual world of war can give you that spark of motivation you need to deal with your problems, and that has been very productive with Karen as her time allows her to open up a bit more and deal with her own complexes.
7. Akane Tsunemori from Psycho-Pass
- Episodes: 22
- Air Dates: October 12, 2012 – March 22, 2014
In the early 22nd century, Japan has pretty much become the Minority Report. Tasked with protecting the public trust and enforcing the Sibyl System, its crime prevention software within Division 1 of the Public Safety Bureau, is Akane Tsunemori, an up-and-coming investigator. What she makes up with in lack of experience, is her brains and her academic achievements. When it comes to the nature of her job, she shows some genuine human qualities when she questions not just the nature of the reality she lives in, but just her life overall. In the end, she pulls through and doesn’t allow herself to be morally compromised.
When she learns the truth of the Sibyl System, she does show contempt towards it, but she knows she’s just one woman against the entire system. She could still persist, but she comes to see it as a necessary evil in the world she lives in, but still has hope that it will naturally phase out. As the series progresses, she comes to develop into her role and becomes an upstanding law enforcement officer who will always go beyond the call of duty. Through Akane, audiences can also see that women can be successful not just in the field of law enforcement but in its administrative roles as well.
6. Mikumo Guynemer from Macross Delta
- Episodes: 26
- Air Dates: April 3, 2016 – September 25, 2016
Mikumo is the lead singer of the idol paramilitary unit, Walkure, meaning she’s got top talent and guts to make a difference in the UN Spacy’s war against Windermere. Compared to her peers, she’s a woman of mystery until the truth of her origins are revealed. When it is revealed why she’s rather private, that is when her true value comes to develop. Towards the end of the series, Mikumo is revealed to be a clone of Windemere’s Star Singer meaning she was created to be the ultimate singer. In the wise words of Mewtwo, her peers just that aside and thought it didn’t matter what the circumstances of her birth were, and what she does with the gift of life matters most.
Mikumo can be pretty strict, but she has high hopes and expectations of her singing mates, especially Freyja, who has so much potential. Through Mikumo’s example, audiences can learn what it truly means to be in control of what your destiny regardless of your background and she continues to share her gift of singing with the galaxy, knowing she can make a difference not for the sake of that she was created to do it, but because she chooses to.
5. Kudelia Aina Bernstein from Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphan (Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans)
- Episodes: 50
- Air Dates: October 4, 2015 – April 2, 2017
Kudelia grew up sheltered and privileged, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about the less fortunate. A lot of people are judgmental about her and due to her lack of experience in the reality of what the orphans of Mars has to go through, nobody takes her seriously at first. After showing her resolve to see things through and that she genuinely wants to do her part, Tekkadan makes it their mission to make sure that Mars can be liberated. As she starts to interact more with the crew of Tekkadan, she gains a better understanding of the difficulties that the child soldiers have to go through to provide for themselves and whatever families they have left.
Throughout her journey, Kudelia uses her free time to teach the illiterate members how to read, and plans on how to get them better educated and find them real jobs that don’t involve war. By the end of the first half when she gives her speech to Earth’s parliament, you see how Kudelia’s journey mixes well with her education showing her charisma and principles. Through her efforts, Kudelia does what she can to make sure that no sacrifice as in vain, which is why she’s a worthy addition to this list.
4. Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Air Dates: April 3, 1998 – April 24, 1999
Faye is one of the original modern femme fatales in the world of anime. Despite her tough exterior and her love for money, deep down inside, she’s really a fragile amnesiac who does have legitimate motivations to why she exhibits herself that way. We’re not saying it’s wrong to put up a tough front, but we have to admit what lead to her the way Faye is is certainly a cautionary tale of America’s health care system. We’re also saying stealing and scamming aren’t right either, but when you’re forced into a situation far beyond your control no thanks to how obscene the system is, how do you take care of it?
Through Faye’s story, audiences can learn that when you lose everything, it all can’t be replaced, but you can still find something as equally valuable. Faye may not have her memories prior to her accident, but she still went out and acquired unique skills. Maybe not the greatest of skills, but she learned how to take care of herself when she started with not just about nothing. Then with the crew of the Bebop, Faye re-discovered what it meant to be part of a family and find value in her life again. Through Faye’s story, sometimes life isn’t about finding yourself, but about creating yourself and that’s what Faye does not just on her own but on her own wild adventure across the galaxy with a rag tag group of bounty hunters who never had any business with each other.
3. Carole from Carole & Tuesday
- Episodes: 24
- Air Dates: April 11, 2019 – ongoing
From Cowboy Bebop, we go to the music oriented (and its presently speculated spin-off) Carole & Tuesday. For this list, we chose Carole, one of its titular co-leads. She’s a big city girl with big dreams. Despite living on Mars (which can happen in the next 10 years thanks to the efforts of Elon Musk) she struggles to maintain a job. However, her story goes beyond that. She was an orphan who grew up in the system and aged out, which is unfortunately a reality we now have here on Earth. But what makes Carole a grew addition to this list despite being 6 episodes in upon the writing of this list is how she never complains about her situation or blames everyone. If something goes wrong, yes, Carole does show some frustration, but she’s quick to let it go and move on.
Carole never lets the fact that she grew up without a family within a very flawed system keep her down. She can’t maintain a job for a day but she still persists knowing one day that she can make her dreams come true. With her relationship with Tuesday, who comes from a rich family, we can see that she doesn’t judge people who come from different backgrounds than her. As opposed to seeing what makes Tuesday different from her, Carole is drawn to how similar they are and if they work together, they can make anything possible. Through Carole’s example, we can learn to not make any excuses, never give up, and to learn how to get along.
2. Kurisu Makise from Steins;Gate
- Episodes: 24
- Air Dates: April 6, 2011 – September 14, 2011
Just like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, Kurisu Makise is a teen prodigy who already has a PhD, but like his girlfriend Amy, specializes more in neuroscience. Thanks to her contributions, Okabe, the main male lead, finds the final piece of his puzzle of figuring out time travel. In today’s world, being a successful woman will make you stand out, but can also be difficult, and we get to see that through Kurisu’s story. Taking into consideration she’s only 18, we see that many of her older male peers are very jealous of her, including her own father. For spoiler’s sake, we can’t say exactly how far that jealousy goes, but her situation is unfortunately relatable to women in the real world. Some men just don’t like the idea of being outdone by a woman, especially as someone as unique as Kurisu.
In addition to how Kurisu’s a one of a kind genius, she does have her interests and she’s capable of showing everyday qualities. Naturally, Kurisu does what she can to keep portions of her emotions in check, but just like any other human being, she does have her fun side despite being uptight like Sheldon (but in a different kind of way). Though she initially sees Daru and Okabe as silly boys chasing ridiculous dreams, she later comes to appreciate and respect them as equals and develops feelings for Okabe, who is still trying to get a BS at a science college in Akihabara.
1. Motoko Kusanagi from (Koukaku Kidoutai) Ghost in the Shell
- Episodes: 1 (movie)
- Air Dates: November 18, 1995
There is no denying at number 1, we have to give it to the original modern female lead of sci-fi, Motoko Kusanagi, or The Major. Despite the franchise being around for the past 30 years, it has managed to re-incarnate itself over and over despite how the original manages to still hold up. Thanks to the anime being ahead of its time in more ways than one, it can be re-told for modern audiences. Beyond its progressive themes, a lot of it can be expressed through its main character, Motoko Kusanagi. Not only is she the leader, she’s the sole female field officer of Section 9’s assault team. Between then and now, Motoko has been a natural at leading a group of men with special skills, and also be a lady of action herself.
However, Motoko’s not number one because she’s a badass, but just how overall the progressive the character is dating back to her manga debut. She’s an overall symbol of women’s liberation and female empowerment. Not only can she kick ass, when necessary, Motoko has a strong moral compass and will never compromise to do what’s right and question authority when she sees the bigger picture. Shortly before the LGBT movement became a thing, she was one of the rare icons in pop culture upon her debut who was bi-sexual (though in other versions, she can be straight or asexual), which further solidifies to why she’s number one.
Sci-fi whether it would be through the novels of Jules Verne, American cinema, or Japanese anime, have largely dealt not just with the future, but also be a critique of the times they take place in. With Ghost in the Shell, audiences can learn about how the internet was going to play a huge part in society. Through Cowboy Bebop, Carole & Tuesday, and Gundam we are now closer than ever to finally sending humans to Mars. What was once fiction is now progressively becoming reality, and we have to admit that women are always going to be a part of our society whether it dates back to ancient Egypt, to over 1,000 years in the future. Some females can be musicians, academic achievers, law enforcement officers, con artists, or magicians. Either way, as our reality becomes akin to what we see in modern day and even past anime, without the contribution of great women, our achievements are almost next to impossible and the sci-fi female leads in anime are great examples to how those achievements can become reality.