When talking about the greatest fighters in history, a name that is sure to come up is definitely 'the ninja.' Known as skilled assassins and masters of espionage, stories of the ninja have been passed down through antiquity. Stories of their agile movement, skills with concealed weapons, and daring escapes are known to many.
What is often overlooked when talking about ninja are the young girls and women, who carried out the same tasks at the same level as their male counterparts: the Kunoichi. Manga has displayed the kunoichi in many different lights, but in every iteration, it's been clear that they are an entire beast of their own.
Here are the Top 10 Kunoichi in Manga! Enjoy!
10. Usagi Momochi from Tail of the Moon (Tsuki no Shippo)
- Authors: Ueda, Rinko
- Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Romance, Shoujo
- Volumes: 15
- Published: March 2003
Usagi Momochi starts off as one of the last ninjas you'd like to have a mission done for you. Her inability to show any discernible progress has caused many in her village to view her –quite simply– as a failure. Due to her inability to show any promise in any ninja fields except medicine, she receives a special mission from her grandfather: she must travel to Segachi, marry Hattori Hanzo, the leader of the Hanzo clan, and bear his child.
Over the course of her mission, thanks to the help of Hanzo, Usagi becomes more adept in her in her use of ninjutsu. Through her training with Hattori Hanzo, Usagi is able to become a competent ninja, marked by her skills. The truest sign of a kunoichi, however, is their ability to successfully carry out a mission...
9. Otonashi Fuka from High School Ninja Girl, Otonashi-san (Kunoichi Joshikousei Otonashi san)
- Authors: Watabe, Masami
- Genres: Comedy, School
- Volumes: 3
- Published: December 2013
Ninja are supposed to be unseen. Trained assassins, they live in the shadows, ready to strike their opponent when the opportunity arises. It's a little hard to keep your identity as a ninja secret as a high school student. As far as ninja go, Otonashi Fuka does a horrible job of hiding the fact that she's a ninja.
Completely decked out in leggings, tenugui, and a headband, it's hard to ignore the fact that she is very obviously a ninja. Despite her inability to hide her identity as a ninja, Otonashi proves herself to actually be a fairly competent ninja. She's extremely agile, being able to seemingly disappear as she moves around, silent, speaking only hand seals, and skilled with her ninja tools. Otonashi doesn't have to prove any combat prowess, but still has a range of ninja abilities at her disposal. Still, her trap-laden house and mastery of her tools and skills prove that she is more than just another imitator.
8. Shinobu from Shinobu's Pure Heart (Ninja Shinobu no Junjou)
- Authors: Yuzuchiri
- Genres: Comedy, School
- Volumes: 5
- Published: November 2014
Shinobu is another kunoichi that has to keep her identity a secret while living her life as a high school student. Despite her secret being known to one classmate, Shinobu continues to claim that she is not a ninja. On the few occasions where she is forced to use her skills as a ninja, Shinobu does a good job of using her "substitution jutsu" to ensure that her secret is not revealed.
Shinobu is almost too committed to the rules that ninja live by. Just like any regular high school student who is "definitely not a ninja," Shinobu has a cell phone for the purpose of contacting her friends. Ninja are not supposed to leave behind any trace of their existence. Because of this, she has a rule of no texting or phone calls. When she does send messages, she uses a coded message, because one can never be too safe.
7. Kisarabi from Ninja Girls (Rappi Rangai)
- Authors: Tanaka, Hosana
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Ecchi, Harem, Shounen
- Volumes: 9
- Published: August 2005
An outcast since birth, due to the horn on his head, Raizou Katana learns he is the heir of the Katana clan. With the assistance of three kunoichi, Kagari, Kisarabi, and Himemaru, Raizou must restore his family clan to its rightful place in the world.
Kisarabi, one of the kunoichi tasked with helping Raizou, specializes in guns and explosives. Her penchant for modern and more flashy tools might lose her ninja points in some people's books. Despite this Kisarabi proves herself to be more than a formidable ninja. Her special ninja ability makes Kisarabi, an already skilled sniper, never miss her target. Kisarabi's excellent sniping and explosives handling ability, allow her to succeed at one of the ninja and kunoichi's greatest goal: disposing of a target without them even knowing they're there.
6. Chidori from Nobunaga no Shinobi
- Authors: Shigeno, Naoki
- Genres: Ongoing
- Volumes: Ongoing
- Published: June 2008
Chidori is a very skilled and talented kunoichi. So much so, that she is tasked with protecting Oda Nobunaga, the first Daimyo to unify Japan. Chidori has shown her skill in battle by going handling herself against even the best of the Koga's male ninja. Her clumsiness and idiocy, however, have proved to get the best of her in battle, just as often as her skill has prevailed.
Chidori's abilities as a ninja lie not only in her skills but in her ability to support Nobunaga. Throughout the series, Chidori manages to persuade many political leaders to join Nobunaga's cause. Though she might not be the most graceful ninja, Chidori proves over and over that's she's a top-notch kunoichi. Now, only if she weren't so clumsy.
5. Hibiki and Tomoe from BLAZE
- Authors: Sasameyuki, Jun
- Genres: Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 2
- Published: May 2006
Hibike and Tomoe Kazema are twins tasked with killing akuma, demons target and are born from the corrupted hearts of humans. During the day, they masquerade as typical high school students, even joining clubs to further blend in. If duty calls, however, the two girls quickly spring into action to exterminate the akuma they encounter, regardless of whose heart the akuma are born from.
During a battle, Hibiki and Tomoe prove to be more than formidable opponents for the akuma. Using their blades and a seal spell, the twins cut down any akuma that stands in their way. As two of the few akuma slaying ninja, Hibiki and Tomoe must be skilled and well-honed in their craft in order to continue to protect the world from the akuma and their ever-growing power.
4. Tsubaki from Soul Eater
- Authors: Ookubo, Atsushi
- Genres: Action, Fantasy, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 25
- Published: June 2003
In the world of Soul Eater, Tsubaki technically isn't a kunoichi. She's the descendant of a long line of Demon Weapons and member of an ancient weapons clan. Still, you'd be pretty hard pressed to convince anyone that has any knowledge of ninja and kunoichi that Tsubaki is not worthy of the title.
For starters, Tsubaki dons clothing that is very typical of your image of a female ninja. Of course, it's not only the clothes that make a woman, and Tsubaki has the skills to back it up. In Tsubaki's clan, descendants are able to inherit the weapons of their ancestors. Being an actual weapon, this means that Tsubaki is able to transform into a slew of ninja weapons, ranging from a smoke bomb to a large shuriken.
In addition to her mastery of ninja tools, Tsubaki also has the physical prowess to stand toe to toe with the best kunoichi. Tsubaki has lightning fast reflexes which allow her to dodge bullets from point-blank range. When you combine her speed, expertise in hand to hand combat, and her ability to disguise herself as anyone, like a true master of the shadow, you get a truly formidable ninja.
A traditional mantra among blade masters is to "be one with the blade." With her ability to transform into an assortment of ninja tools, Tsubaki is definitely a kunoichi that is one with the blade.
3. Henpukumaru from A Bat in Blue Sky (Souten no Koumori)
- Authors: Arakawa, Hiromu
- Genres: Action, Historical, Shounen
- Volumes: 1
- Published: 2006
To become a ninja, one must be willing to do any and everything for the sake of the mission. Henpukumaru, was once a member of the Iron Demons, a group of highly skilled ninja assassins. Henpukumaru was not just a member of the Iron Demons, according to the leader of the assassin group, and the man who trained her, Henpukumaru was one of the best. She proves this quite easily when she finds herself up against her old allies. Henpukumaru skills surpass even the best ninja by such a large margin that she was able to sneak up on strike them down with them even knowing she was there.
A Bat in the Blue Sky is a short manga, with Henpukumaru not being one for many words. Still, in this one-shot manga, Henpukumaru shows herself to be swift, agile, and extremely quick with a weapon. At the end of the manga, Henpukumaru is still something of a mystery, but what else would you expect from one of the top kunoichi in manga?
2. Azumi from Azumi
- Authors: Koyama, Yuu
- Genres: Action, Drama, Historical, Seinen
- Volumes: 48
- Published: 1994
If you ask people to think of ninja and kunoichi and describe the life of a ninja, their description will almost certainly reflect that of Azumi. Azumi represents the cold, calculated killer that many people imagine when they summon the idea of a ninja to mind. Throughout Azumi's life and time as a kunoichi, she has racked up a formidable body count. Her kill list includes an entire village of peaceful ninja, countless bandits, as well as many dissidents of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Azumi's life as a kunoichi started off bathed in blood, so it's no wonder that she is so accustomed to the murderous life of a ninja. In fact, the first mission for the ten ninja, among which Azumi was the only girl, was to kill the person among the ten to which they felt closest. Azumi was able to hide her feelings regarding the traumatizing experience, and save for one other occasion, never hesitated when it came to carrying out her mission and assassinating her targets.
Far from the excessively fictionalized idea of ninja and kunoichi, Azumi is probably the most historically accurate depiction of kunoichi. A cold-blooded killer, capable of murdering anyone for the mission, Azumi is a true kunoichi if there ever were in manga.
1. Tsunade from Naruto
- Authors: Kishimoto, Masashi
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Shounen
- Volumes: 72
- Published: September 1999
To be the best kunoichi, you'd have to be a warrior of legends. Known as the Sannin, three ninja from the Hidden Leaf Village are hailed as being the greatest ninja of their generation. The lone kunoichi among the Sannin, Tsunade, is, if not the strongest, definitely the most accomplished kunoichi.
Tsunade, while great in combat, will definitely be remembered for radically changing the role of the medical-ninja. During the Second Shinobi War, Tsunade made a name for herself, by being the only ninja able to create antidotes for Chiyo's poisons of the Hidden Sand Village. An act which is to have been vital in securing Konoha's victory in the war. In addition to essentially rewriting the rules for medical ninja, Tsunade also trained several skilled kunoichi, including Sakura Haruno, in the field.
Tsunade's ultimate control of her chakra helps to even further herself from other ninja and kunoichi alike. One clear example of this is her transformation jutsu, a constant exertion of her chakra, which she uses to have the appearance of being in her twenties, despite actually being in her fifties. She has also been storing chakra in the Strength of a Hundred Seal on her head which, when released, increases her accessible chakra hundredfold. She also channels her chakra to increase her already incredible strength.
A master on the battlefield, both as a medical ninja and in combat, Tsunade exemplifies what it is to be a great kunoichi. Going toe to toe with the best kunoichi and ninja, Tsunade earned the title of Fifth Hokage, a title saved for the strongest and most respected ninja of the Hidden Leaf Village. As the first kunoichi in her village and one of few to ever hold the title of Kage, Tsunade has more than the sufficient credentials to claim the title of greatest kunoichi.
Whether historically accurate, transplanted into the modern day, or truly fantastical representations of the ancient warrior, the kunoichi of manga continue to showcase the skills that made the ninja and kunoichi the topic of legends. Let us know in the comments below what you think of the list, where would you place your favorite kunoichi?
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