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They say that the best way to understand others is to walk a mile in their shoes. This is one of the main themes in gender bender stories, where the main character wakes up one day in a different gender than when they went to sleep. The genre isn't new, we can trace its way back to Greek mythology, which means that when it comes to stories where a girl turns into a boy or vice-versa, we have a lot to choose from.
Anime has taken to this plot like a fish to water. We can find it in comedies and dramas and it can be due to magic, some new technology, or never be quite explained. And because we have so many to choose from, it's about time we reviewed our old list of recommendations to give you some new choices to enjoy.
10. Maze * Bakunetsu Jikuu (Maze: The Mega-burst Space)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 1997 – September 1997
When Maze woke up with amnesia and her room half-destroyed, she couldn't know that was not to be the worst part of her day. No, she had also been transported to a magical realm where she had accidentally saved runaway princess Mills from the minions of the Dark Lord who destroyed her kingdom. Sure, she also has magical light powers that beam their enemies away, and can also summon a huge mecha that belonged to Mills’ family, but that doesn't really improve the situation, especially when, at night, she turns into a man who is far more interested in sex than in trying to find the way back home and their memories.
Maze*Bakunetsu Jikuu is a very nineties comedy. The fanservice scenes are constant, but that doesn't mean the story isn't also intriguing. One of the most interesting parts, especially in the gender-bending part is that both girl Maze and boy Maze have very different personalities and tastes. We can see them as distinct personalities, and not just as a person who happens to change genders depending on the hour of the day. The reason behind that is a good way to solve the plot, so it is definitely a series you have to watch if you like the gender bender genre.
9. Cinderella Boy
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: June 2003 – September 2003
Ranma Hinamatsuri and Rella "Cindy" Shirayuki have a private detective agency in the futuristic but dangerous Kirin Town. Ranma has many issues due to his tendency to take on cases not because they pay, but because he is a gentleman while Rella is quite wealthy and tends to love getting into dangerous situations. But ever since a car accident, neither has seen the other and, even more worrisome, they both have 24-hour blackouts where they can't remember anything they did, but end up waking up in really strange situations. What they don't know is that, after their accident, the doctor that saved their lives ended up putting them both in the same body: so when midnight chimes, they change places without any memory of what the other did.
Cinderella Boy is a very fun anime based on a one-shot manga by Monkey Punch. Ironically, despite what one may think given the main character name, it was written long before the famous Ranma ½ even if the anime was made much, much later. It's a very amusing take on the genre as while their body changes gender, Ranma and Rella were different people, and thus, they react very differently at how they wake up, usually in the other's clothes. A very funny series, that is short, sweet, and will make you laugh at least once every episode.
8. Tenshi na Konamaiki (Cheeky Angel)
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: April 2002 – March2003
Megumi is one of the most popular girls at her new school. She has gorgeous long hair, is taller than most, athletic, thin, and quite the looker. So much, that both boys and girls throw themselves at her, including Genzo, the school's bad boy, and, at times, even Miki, her best friend. But the thing is, Megumi wasn't born a girl: Up until she was 9, he was a very rough boy who wished to be a man among men. Unfortunately, the genie he asked her wish to was a very tricky spirit who instead changed him into a girl, making everyone but him and Miki forget he was ever a boy. Since then, he's been trying to find the way to reverse the spell, but every day his goal seems to be farther and farther.
Tenshi na Konamaiki is a funny story that also works as a deconstruction of the way Japanese society tends to see gender. Megumi doesn't change the way he behaves upon his body being changed into a girl's, and that is why a lot of boys at school love "her", as they see how she doesn't act like a demure doormat. Miki is a bit more traditional, and in fact, the one who insists that Megumi shouldn't change her hair, but she also helps to deconstruct gender roles. While the ending may be a bit of a deconstruction, it's still a great story about how people react when their whole world is turned upside down.
7. Kokoro Connect
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2012 – September 2012
The Yamaboshi High's Student Cultural Society Club doesn't have many members. But the truth is that they don't really care. After all, Taichi, Iori, Himeko, Yoshifumi, and Yui formed the club because they didn't fit in any of the other clubs at the academy. However, things aren't quite that simple there. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, they start changing bodies without warning. It starts when Yui and Aoki switch, but soon, they all have been in the other's shoes at least once. However, this doesn't help bring them closer, as they all have their own dark sides, and no one wants their secrets known by everyone.
Kokoro Connect takes a bit of a more serious turn than the previous entries on the list. It deals both with the problematic parts of waking up one day to find out that your body is no longer the gender you identify with, but also it's not your actual body. You're in someone else's life, and that someone else is a friend of yours. This is taken in some very interesting directions, which make all 13 episodes of the series a real treat.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2006 – September 2006
In the kingdom of Simulicram, every child is born female. This doesn't mean that there are no men: when they reach their 17 birthday, the girls have the right to undergo a special religious ceremony where they're allowed to go into a magical spring that turns them into men if they wish to become one. However, there's a small catch: The kingdom is protected by machines called Simoun, which can only be piloted by those who haven't chosen a definite sex, and so, their military is really young. When war breaks with a neighbor kingdom, however, they grant the current Simoun pilots permission to avoid the springs as long as they want to keep protecting the kingdom.
While it would be easy to dismiss Simoun as just another series that looks for an excuse to have a mostly female cast in short skirts, the story tackles a lot of very interesting genre issues, as well as the idea of choice and how hard some choices may be. We also have more than one character that chooses to become male and get to see them change physically slowly during the story. It comes to a point in which the war plot becomes secondary because the series gives us a lot of world building that is very interesting on its own.
5. Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo (Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2015 – June 2015
Ryuu Yamada really wanted to make a change when he entered high school. Sure, in junior high he was a delinquent, but he knew he could turn a new page in a new school. Unfortunately, by the second year, he had gotten bored of it so he was back to being the school bad boy, getting called to the principal's office every day. However, after a bad tumble makes him kiss Urara Shiraishi, one of the honor studies, they each discover that they have switched bodies. While they're trying to figure what they can do with this power, they're recruited into the Supernatural Studies Club and are tasked with the mission to find others with similar powers that can activate with a kiss.
We're back in the comedies, and Yamada-Kun does deliver a lot of good jokes. It also is light on the fan service, which can be difficult with a premise where a guy has to go around kissing people left and right. One of the most interesting parts of the story is that Shiraishi and Yamada are falling in love, and yet are the ones who change bodies the most. This gives their romance a completely different angle from other anime and makes Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo a very good enjoyable gender bender anime for you to watch.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2009 – December 2009
Natsuru Senou didn't want a life where he had to fight for his life every day, much less being involved in a strange battle royale scenario where he is led by a stuffed tiger into fighting girls. And yet, that's the life he has. Or rather, "she" has, because while he was selected to become a Kampfer, there's a rule that Kampfers are only female. Sure, he can change back into a boy, but that doesn't mean he won't change again when it's necessary for him to fight. To add to his problems, some of the Kampfers want to kill him, but others, like his best friend, want to date him. With those problems, is no wonder that some days Natsuru wishes he hadn't gotten out of bed the morning he discovered his new body.
Kampfer is one of the most famous gender bender anime today and with good reason. The animation is gorgeous, the characters are very likable, and we can feel poor Natsuru's pain at the crazy situation he is in. While the final resolution may not be to everyone's tastes, what matters in this anime is how they get to that situation. And between the fights, the power-ups, and the characters’ relationship to each other, you will have no time to wonder if they could've ended the series in a better way.
3. Mahou Shoujo Ore
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2018 – ongoing
When asked to take her mom's part-time job –after her mom can't do it due to a back injury- Saki Uno wasn't sure of what she expected. But it surely wasn't to be told by a Yakuza with the unlikely name of Kokoro (heart in Japanese) that she was now a Magical Girl and had to fight demons. She definitely didn't expect that she'd turn into a muscular man with a cute pink dress, or that the demons would have cute bear faces and muscular bodybuilder bodies. But that's what she has to do now, especially if she wants to save the boy she likes from the demons, and her own dying career as an idol singer.
Mahou Shoujo Ore is a very fun series. It parodies every single thing that we love about Magical Girls and takes things to the craziest extreme possible. Saki is more often than not the only sane person in the room, and it's her constant surprise at how everyone seems to take the craziness for granted what makes the series even more enjoyable. While it's still airing, and thus we won't know yet if it sticks the landing, for now, it's one of the best new gender bender anime that you can find on air.
2. Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2016 – March 2016
When one wishes upon a falling star, there are some risks. But Hazumu Osaragi wasn't really expecting to be killed by a UFO when he was trying to mend his broken heart. Fortunately for him, the alien piloting the ship, Hitoshi Sora, decides to bring him back to life, although Hitoshi makes a small mistake: instead of regenerating him as a boy, they turn Hazumu into a girl. And that's when Hazumu's troubles really begin, as now, the very same girl who broke his heart, is completely in love with "her" and Tomari, Hazumu's childhood friend, is none too happy about the change at all.
Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, is one of the few gender-bender anime where the gender change is not kept a secret. Hazumu doesn't seem too bothered about the change, and in fact, doesn't try to look for a cure, but at the same time, has no idea how to behave like a girl. Because every character knows she used to be a boy, that makes their interactions with her very different, something Hazumu notices and doesn't quite understand. It makes this an interesting study on gender roles and how people see gender presentation, with some comedy in between.
1. Ranma 1/2
- Episodes: 161
- Aired: April 1989 – September 1992
Ranma Saotome has been trained from birth to be a man among men. Since he was a child, every single interaction with his father Genma has been training different martial arts, as the one true heir of the Saotome's Anything Goes Martial Art School. The drive to be the best is such that Genma took Ranma in a life-long training trip, promising his wife that they wouldn't be back until Ranma was the manliest man on the planet. There's only one little problem: While on said trip, they fell into a cursed spring. And now, whenever Ranma is hit with cold water, he turns into a girl.
Ranma ½ is probably the best-known gender bender anime around the world. As one of Rumiko Takahashi's best selling manga, it was the backbone of Viz Media when they started importing anime, and that made it even more well known and popular. But it's not only its popularity what makes it be the first place on our list: The series is that funny. Every character has their special charisma, and the action is fast-paced. So even if it’s one of the older titles on the list, it’s still the undisputed champion of the Gender Bender genre, and one no anime fan should miss.
Gender is a complex subject, even more now than before. But there are still some artists that want to tackle the challenge and give us stories that are both entertaining and can make us think about what the characters are going through at any given moment. Not only that, they also give us a small peek at how Japanese people view gender, something that we do not often get the chance to see examined.
So please, lets us know what you think of the genre, and what are your favorite gender bender anime while you're at it! Do you like the premise? Who is your favorite character in these stories? We'd love to know in the comments below.
Yamada-kun to Nananin no Majo
You walk down a hallway one day, and a cute boy or girl says hi to you. You are flustered but manage to say hi back to them. With a smile you move on. Moving into your classroom, you tell your friends what has happened. They all laugh at you and you wonder why? They explain that the person you just talked to isn’t the gender that you assumed they were. Turns out they are gender bending or dressing/acting as a member of the opposite sex!
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, gender bending characters have been around for a very long time. They were introduced, for the most part, with a very famous anime made by a very famous author. Sometimes it’s well known to everyone that this person isn’t they gender they are portraying, and sometimes it’s a secret. One thing is for sure, usually someone has no clue what is going on and it’s rather hilarious! Let’s take a look at some shows as we round up the top 10 anime with gender bending characters!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
Here is your slice-of life, student council anime complete with a cross-dressing character? Hmm? Hime Arikawa is a second year student at a high school. His parents left him an obscene amount of debt and he is now being hunted by debt collectors. Fortunately for him, the student council saves him one day. When they do, they tell him that they can get rid of his debt … for a price. He will not have to dress as and pose as a girl for the next two years and serve the student council!
For all intents and purposes, Hime Arikawa looks like a girl to begin with. He even has a feminine personality to boot! What’s not helping him is being at the mercy of three women! He’s constantly forced to be a part of their antics including the bathing suit fiasco. He is even inappropriately touched by boys who are interested in him while he/she is trying to run away! Poor Hime! He/she even passes for a woman most of the time so it’s great! This is a great show to dip your toe into the pool of what it means to be a gender bender. Enjoy!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2009 – December 2009
How would you feel one day if you went to bed as a boy the night before, and you woke up as a girl the next day? Not only that but some stuffed doll comes to life and tells you that you are now destined to fight? What? Well this is what happens to Natsuru one day. Now he has long hair and is being attacked by other Kampfer. Welcome to Kampfer!
The thing with most gender bender characters is that they tend to not have people throwing themselves at the character. With poor Natsuru, people, including his best friend, who previously had no interest in him, are now all about him. The entire female student body, along with the male one, are suddenly now obsessed with him. Oh and don’t forget too this is a fighting anime! There’s actually plenty of action to keep things going and never a dull moment. Check it out to learn more!
8. Gunna be the Twin-tail (Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2014 – December 2014
Twin-tails or twin pigtails are probably right next to the heavenly beings of the purple-haired race on the Moe scale of things. When an otaku is obsessed with twin-tails enough to the point that he starts his own club to celebrate them, what’s a guy to do? Well, Souji, the guy, is now approached by a being named Twoearle who insists that he fight for their cause; to save twin-tails from being absorbed by evil aliens. He’s onboard and away he goes to save them all!
Twoearle gives him asset of armor to help him fight but there is one small problem… he transforms into a girl! Now he has to fight these evil aliens from absorbing all the spiritual energy of the world! The most refreshing thing about this gender bender anime is that while he does transform, becoming a girl doesn’t make him weaker. He is the same and in fact, his attacks (or is it her attacks?) become stronger! It was a big hit on the screen when it aired and it still fairly is. Check it out because you won’t be disappointed!
7. The Minami Family (Minami-ke)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2007 – December 2007
Minami-ke follows three sisters, Chiaki, Kana, and Haruka in their everyday lives. A majority of this show takes place in their residence or at school. Haruka is the slightly out-of-the-loop sister, due to her being in high school, Kana, the crazy sister who oddly can be very conniving at the same time, and then good ole, Chiaki who is the most calculating and probably smart sister of the group. Their friends come over often to help study with them but the star of this show, is Makoto.
Makoto or Mako-chan is a fellow elementary school classmate of Chiaki. He comes over to meet Haruka because he has a crush on her, and Kana decides to hide him from Chiaki. How you ask? With hair clips and girls clothing. Because that will disguise anyone from everyone when they already know what he looks like as a boy. Mako-chan now blends in with only Kana and two others knowing his secret. In this type of gender bender setting, it’s more of a humorous role as he is forced to wear the clothes the first few times, but eventually Makoto gets into it and starts buying his own girl clothes to wear over to the Minami house.
6. Ouran High School Host Club
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2006 – September 2006
What if you could go to school with the elites? What if that also meant, that as a girl, you could stop a certain room after school and be entertained by a swath of attractive, bishounen (pretty boys) as they showered you with compliments and attention? Life would be pretty sweet eh? Haruhi Fujioka isn’t the richest individual at this school of the elites, but she tries. One day, unfortunately, she stumbles into this club. Backing away in disgust/terror she knocks over a vase worth over $80,000! The group decides to blackmail her into being their servant while she pays off the debt.
An outfit upgrade later, some of the clients are now realizing that Haruhi is actually really cute and she is mistaken for a boy frequently. Female clients start to request her, and the club offers to put her to work as a host to help pay off the debt faster. Haruhi in this series is the first of this list where a girl now is playing a boy. This has a very similar feel to Himegoto (or vice versa) and shows the rarer part of a girl playing a guy. Somehow though, with her wits and charm, she is able to dress as a boy and still maintain female clients. The difference though is that Haruhi here keeps up the charade. However, just like with Himegoto and Kampfer, EVERYONE is in love with him/her.
5. To Love-ru
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2008 – September 2008
Yuuki Rito is this awkward boy who cannot get the nerve to confess to his love, Haruna. He eventually gives up one day and in a bad mood begins to sulk in the bathtub. He doesn’t have long though because this strange nude girl barges in. Her name is Lala and while she is being pursued hotly by a suitor, she has come to Earth. She is here to get away from the rules of her own society as well as marry Rito in order to stay on Earth.
The actual gender bender character of this show is Ren and his alter ego Run. Ren is male and Run is female. They are quite possibly and most likely a nod towards a show farther down and you’ll see why down there! The thing is that for a rare gender bender character, they are not merely cross-dressing; Ren and Run are the same person. They just happen to switch personalities and bodies as a whole. How do they do it? With a sneeze. As a male, Ren is in a hilariously, one-sided pursuit of Lala while as a girl, Run is in love with Rito and constantly wants him. The great part about To Love-ru is that this show is an ecchi rather than a straight comedy or a slice of life.
4. Birdy the Mighty: Decode
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2008 – September 2008
Tsutomu is walking home one day when something comes out of the sky and kills him. This is super anti-climactic for a series opener right!? I mean the main character is now dead. Or is he? It turns out that space police agent Birdy Cephon Altera was in hot pursuit of a criminal and accidentally killed him. To punish her and help him, the police force offers to regenerate, or in a sense, grow him another body. Tsutomu agrees and for the meantime, he and Birdy have to share a body while she investigates the evil aliens on Earth.
Something unique about this show and it seems like a mistake someone missed, is that Tsutomu will show up as a boy in his body when his personality is in control! Wasn’t it destroyed?? Birdy is inside of him as well but when she is in control, you see her body! This kind of gender flip flopping or complete and total gender bending, it similar to Ren/Run from To Love-Ru. It’s funny because Tsutomu has to keep all of this a secret from his friends and family, yet somehow help Birdy while flip flopping bodies in the same situation. Check it out not only for the gender bender, but because the fight scenes are pretty great too!
3. Aoharu x Machinegun (Aoharu x Kikanjuu)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
Aoharu x Kikanjuu was a little gem from the summer that hopefully you were able to catch! It follows Hotaru Tachibana, a seemingly masculine passing girl as she somehow gets talked into joining an airsoft team called the Toy Guns. It comprises of three members per team and she travels with them to so called “survival games” to compete.
The problem is though, is that due to her uniform and looks, the other two guys assume that she’s a guy! Not only that, before Tachibana can even correct them, they talk about how girls are banned from their team and they will never accept them! Whoops! She’s in over her head. Somehow she’s between a rock and a hard place when it comes to being true to herself and still playing these “survival games” that she loves so much. Tachibana does blend in perfectly though a as guy, so there is that part to love too!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2009 – March 2009
Kanako is finally realizing her dream of going to an all-girls school! Because she hates boys? Maybe. Because boys scare her? No. Because she breaks out in hives when a boy touches her? Possibly. Because she’s a secret lesbian with dirty perverted fantasies of doing things with high school girls her age? Yes! (No joke. That’s why she’s at the school.) From day one, everything seems to be perfect at Kanako’s new school. Then Kanako moves into her room. A female vision of loveliness turns around to greet her as her new roommate! Kanako is in heaven. Till she discovers that Mariya, her new roommate is actually an extremely mean guy in drag! What the heck! Kanako is going to expose her but Mariya threatens to tell everyone that Kanako is a perverted lesbian. Mariya also comes equipped with a sassy maid Matsurika. The dorm has multiple unique characters that will butt into her attempts at love for sure! Will Kanako ever find love?
Mariya has to be one of the funniest characters around who is in drag. In fact, until she/he flat out expresses it, you don’t really know! Not to mention, Mariya’s older sister cross-dresses as and passes for a boy at an all boys-school! There’s also the silver tongued Matsurika who does not hold back at all when it comes to Kanako. This show will make you laugh so hard you’ll cry.
1. Ranma 1/2
- Episodes: 161
- Aired: October 1989 – September 1992
Yeah that number of episodes is a bit daunting isn’t it? Welcome to the final entry on this list of Top 10 Gender Bender Anime! Ranma 1/2 was a very successful manga written by the infamous Rumiko Takahashi (Rinne, Inuyasha, Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku), and it is argued to be one of the first anime to really start to make anime popular in the U.S.! Ren/Run from To Love-ru is the character that is a nod towards this show!
Ranma 1/2 is a martial arts manga that opens with Ranma and his father Genma in China. They both fall into cursed springs and as such, whenever Ranma is hit with cold water he turns into a girl! No joke, he physically turns into a girl! His mind stays the same but his entire physical appearance is altered. How does she change back? A splash of cold water does it. Ranma has no couth about using this form to his advantage on multiple occasions which leads to some rather funny outcomes. He trains at a dojo in Tokyo and goes to high school full time, so there is a school aspect to Ranma1/2 as well.
What’s so wonderful about Ranma 1/2 is that is really encompasses the whole thing about being a gender bender while wrapping it up in other genres. While yes, changing clothes is still okay for gender bendering, Ranma fully changes physically. There’s comedy, martial arts, and this show has romance/harem going on with Akane as his main love interest/rival. (You will have to watch the show to find out more about that one, but it is good.) Another great aspect of this show is that other people transform too. For example, Shampoo turns into a cat, Mousse into a duck, and Ryoga into a black pig. However Ranma is the only one to actually change gender. For laughs, romance, martial arts, and just an overall good show with gender bending, check out Ranma 1/2!
Whew! Here we are at the end again. I really hope you enjoyed this list of gender bender shows! What’s great about gender bender anime is that it isn’t always boy to girl or girl to boy. As this list shows, while it can learn one way more than other, it’s not an absolute. Anime is diverse and interesting and there’s not a dull aspect about it since there’s a show for everyone. Let’s talk about them in the comments below! As always, till next time!