FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIME
I’ve revised my Top 10 Girls of Anime to include new (and recent) entries for Kakegarui’s Yumeko Jabami (in tenth place), Akame ga Kill’s Esdeath (in ninth place) and Kill la Kill’s Ryuko Matoi (in eighth place) – with former entries Future Diary’s Yuno Gasai, Tiger & Bunny’s Blue Rose and the Ghost in the Shell herself, Major Motoko Kusanagi now as honorable or special mentions (although Yuno is still my feature image – I just can’t resist those crazy eyes!)
Talking of a top ten girls of comics and a top ten girls of animation leads naturally to the combination of the two in their Japanese form – a top ten girls of anime, or Japanese animation, much of which is in turn adapted from manga or Japanese comics.
As TV Tropes notes, animation is considered just another medium in Japan, lending itself to any story at any level, including erotica and horror. Yet much of it is directed at a similar audience to American comics. And so anime shares with American comics the idealization of its female figure, that uneasy dichotomy between fanboy male gaze and female characterization, although anime fanboys – or otaku – arguably take their, ah, enthusiasm, even further than their American counterparts. Such as dakimakura or body pillows with images of female anime characters…
Anyway, let’s celebrate my top ten girls of anime, with or without body pillows.
(10) YUMEKO JABAMI – KAKEGURUI (2017)
“Gambling is more fun the crazier it gets!”
— Yumeko Jabami
I always have a soft spot for a hot slice of crazy, such as my tenth place entry, Yumeko Jabami from Kagegurui or Compulsive Gambler, one of 2017’s most popular anime.
She’s even got classic crazy eyes – her red eyes are literally her crazy eyes as her natural eye color is brown and it’s only when she is consumed by her madness for gambling that her eyes glow red as artistic symbolism rather than a literal color change.
As in so many anime, the setting is high school (seriously, there are high schools even in anime set in the afterlife) – and not just any high school, but one of those fabulously weird schools that you only find in Japanese anime. In this case, it’s Hyakkaou Private Academy, school for the very richest students of Japan, numbering many future leaders and professionals among its graduates.
Unlike other schools, where the main curriculum is such mundane things as academic study or sport, the focus of Hyakkaou Private Academy – or at least its absurdly powerful student hierarchy – is on gambling. Or perhaps rather, the art of gambling – “the art of reading others and taking advantage of chaotic situations”. In fairness, I’ve had something of the same thought myself – that everyone should be taught the two games that are the best games of skills for life, chess and poker. However, at Hyakkaou, the stakes are absurdly high – students are encouraged to bet their fortunes against one another, with the losers becoming slaves or house ‘pets’ to the whims of those who hold their money (typically the student council, or its unscrupulous President, Kirari Momobami). And those are just the penny ante bets – as the series continues, students make bets that are distinctly hazardous to life and limb.
Enter the main protagonist (literally entering the school as a new transfer student) and titular compulsive gambler – Yumeko Jabami, who plays not so much for the win but for the thrill of putting everything on the line.
In the words of TV Tropes:
“Into this cutthroat environment, where survival of the fittest (and luckiest) is the law, enters Yumeko Jabami…whose disarmingly innocent facade belies a psychotic gambling addict, specializing in working around rigged schemes and beating her opponents at their own game, simply for the thrill of it all”.
As such, she actively begins to disrupt the hierarchy of the school, while the school council tries to find ways to shut her down – embarking on increasingly insane games with the movers and shakers of the school, working her way through the school council with her goal set on a match with the President.
I was particularly won over to Yumeko by recent lush cosplay of her, red eyes and all.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for red eyes!
(9) ESDEATH – AKAME GA KILL (2014)
Followers of my Fantasy Girls will know I have a soft spot for bad girls (or a hot slice of crazy). And what’s better than a bad girl? A bad girl in uniform! After all, who doesn’t love a woman in uniform? Even if it is a Nazi-esque uniform in this case – but then, Esdeath is the villain of the piece.
Akame ga Kill is an anime of a revolution against a corrupt and brutal fantasy empire (as opposed to the corrupt and brutal empires of reality). The protagonist Tatsumi nearly becomes a victim of its corruption and brutality in its beating heart of the Capitol, but instead finds himself recruited by Night Raid, a group of predominantly female assassins – including the titular heroine Akame:
As long as there is human nature, so too must there be malice. As long as there is malice, so too must there be evil. Evil beyond salvation. For those who don’t wield a sword, these vile demons are silenced in the darkness by a group of elite assassins.”
Of course, being anime, it’s not enough that Night Raid are predominantly female assassins (reminiscent of Kill Bill’s Deadly Viper Assassination Squad), but they are armed with magical totem weapons known as Teigu created in part from legendary animals known as Danger Beasts. (It is said that when two Teigu users fight each other, one must die – now that’s some danger beast action right there).
However, the Empire has a Night Raid or two of its own – primarily the Jaegers, led by the powerful and sadistic ice queen Esdeath. Of course again, being anime, she becomes infatuated with protagonist Tatsumi – although to his credit, he realizes that she is someone to run as far away from as possible, particularly given that her idea of a hot date is to chain him up by the neck.
That can’t end well – and it doesn’t – but needless to say, she was a favorite of fans and cosplay models, chains and all.
(8) RYUKO MATOI (SATSUKI KIRYUIN) – KILL LA KILL (2013)
“Fear is freedom! Subjugation is liberation! Contradiction is truth! Those are the facts of this world, and you will all surrender to them, you pigs in human clothing!”
— Satsuki Kiryuin, telling it like it is
Kill la Kill is a 2013 anime produced by Studio Trigger – the production’s director, writer, and lead character designer also worked together on the famously over-the-top Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and it shows. Except whereas Gurren Lagann featured giant mecha, Kill la Kill featured schoolgirls fighting each other in their super-powered school uniforms. No, seriously.
Ryuko Matoi is a girl on a roaring rampage of revenge in search of her father’s killer, which brings her into violent conflict (is there any other kind in anime?) with (honorable mention) Satsuki Kiryuin, president of the usual anime absurdly powerful student council at Honnouji Academy, ruling both it and the city it is located with an iron fist. “Satsuki maintains absolute control over the school using Goku Uniforms, which grant supernatural strength to their wearer and are distributed only to her most loyal students. When Ryuko shows up in search of her father’s murderer, she immediately suspects that Satsuki knows something and declares war on her. With the aid of a sentient uniform called Senketsu and a giant red half-scissor blade that can destroy Goku Uniforms, Ryuko fights to avenge her father and take down Honnouji Academy in the process while learning more about the mysterious Life Fibers woven into the Goku Uniforms that aid such power to the people who wear them and their origins”. Wait, what?!
As I said, schoolgirls fighting each other in their super-powered school uniforms (or in the words of an IGN reviewer, “magical girl anime on speed”). Except that those super-powered uniforms seem to transform into stripperiffic costumes or fetish lingerie – “Ryuko’s underboobs-revealing ass-exposing uniform is perhaps the most iconic element of the series” (which even I hesitate to include here) and “it doesn’t help that Satsuki has one of her own” (which such an extreme thong that I again hesitate to include it here). Apparently there is also an entire organization of nudist freedom fighters, because the true villain’s plot involves controlling people through their clothing. No, seriously.
(7) SAEKO BUSUJIMA – HIGHSCHOOL OF THE DEAD (2010)
Highschool of the Dead was a titillating zombie apocalypse anime, like The Walking Dead with breasts . The title is somewhat characteristic of anime, as it seems that the majority of anime are set in high school or at least have it as a substantial setting within their storyline (as well as having at least one beach episode, whatever the setting, leading to a particularly weird beach episode in this case).
So naturally Highschool of the Dead features a zombie apocalypse from the focus of high school protagonists and at least initially from the setting of the high school itself – although being anime, a school where the criteria of admission appears to be bra cup size, both for female students and female staff, with the school nurse (accompanying the student protagonists) as the most voluptuous of all. Seriously, to paraphrase TV Tropes, it’s a school of buxom. It is of course a Japanese high school typical of anime – that is to say, consistent with my theory of an unspoken alternative history of widespread immigration into Japan, including European immigrants who have otherwise adopted Japanese names and culture, hence the varied character features.
But back to the zombie apocalypse, a Japanese high school finds itself in the middle of an apparently global zombie outbreak – although no one actually uses the term zombie (as in The Walking Dead TV series) and instead refer to the zombie as “them”, a pronoun potentially lending itself to confusion (as opposed to The Walking Dead, which generally refers to its zombies as “walkers”). It’s also a little unclear how the zombie apocalypse could have spread across the globe – including to the American President on Air Force One – without becoming widely known, as in the opening episode a teacher is surprised and effectively ambushed by a zombie at the school gates, thereby spreading the pandemic within the titular school on an apparently otherwise normal school day. Maybe there’s something in the conspiracy theory by protestors subsequently in the anime that the zombie pandemic was a biological weapon of the US and Japanese governments. (Whatever the case, the world’s powers throw a little more apocalypse into the mix with other weapons of mass destruction, with nuclear strikes on each other).
Amidst all of this is our main male protagonist, Takashi Komuro, pining for his childhood sweetheart Rei Miyamoto as she is dating his best friend Hisashi, although Hisashi is conveniently zombified in the opening episode – conveniently, that is, for Takashi’s prospects of renewed romance for Rei, less so for Hisashi. However, I, like most of other fans, wanted Takashi to just get over Rei already and pair up with Saeko Busujima instead, because she was awesome.
Blue-eyed and literally violet-haired, Saeko was quite simply the most badass character in the anime. As president of the school kendo club, she was ready to fight off the zombie apocalypse with her wooden sword or bokken, which she subsequently upgraded to a katana for even more badassery (Everything’s better with a katana – just ask Michonne from The Walking Dead). She is always cool, calm and collected in poise, except when engaged in acts of violence, on which she seems to get off a little too much.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she was made for the male gaze. Seriously, the anime exploits its world of buxom to the fullest, combining bullet time with, ah, jiggle physics – particularly with Saeko, in a now memetic bullet time sequence, like Neo in the Matrix dodging bullets passing between her thighs and breasts. (It’s completely gratuitous, so of course I love it.)
*It also doesn’t hurt that she cooks breakfast looking like this.
Although I’m not sure how cooking breakfast in her apron and g-string tied into the plot…
(6) REVY – BLACK LAGOON (2006)
Black Lagoon is a not a fantasy anime, although in terms of realism the premise and setting are somewhat fantastic – akin to a Japanese fanboy’s or otaku’s fantasy of the world of international crime filtered through the films of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino. (Indeed, the author has admitted as much). That’s not to say it isn’t awesome, given suspension of disbelief – or morality. (Let’s just say that there’s not any good guys as such, just bad guys and less bad guys).
Anyway, the anime is set in the fictional city of Roanapur in Thailand in the 1990’s – a city whose economy and existence seems to be based on international crime. I’m not entirely sure how that would work in practice, but it is the base of operations for virtually every international criminal organization – the Russian Mafia or Hotel Moscow as they style themselves (consisting of ex-Special Force veterans from Afghanistan), Chinese Triad, Colombian cartels and Japanese Yakuza, as well as intelligence agencies (notably the Central Intelligence Agency), corrupt local police and various independent operators or criminals (who tend to make the cartels looks positively restrained and sane by comparison).
Among those independent operators, albeit boosted up the food chain by their good relations with Hotel Moscow, is the Lagoon Company of the title (although I am not sure that they are actually legally incorporated) – a team of American pirate mercenaries, led by Vietnam vet Dutch, named for their primary asset or patrol boat they use for smuggling. Essentially, they are couriers – ‘acquiring’ goods (legal or otherwise) or people and delivering them, no questions asked, on behalf of the various criminal elements who effectively run the city. The viewpoint character is a Japanese salaryman, Rokuro Okajima – soon nicknamed “Rock” – who originally was held hostage by the company and ends up joining it. See what I mean about otaku fantasy?
This brings us to our fantasy girl entry, Revy. Revy is the muscle of the Lagoon Company. And by muscle, I mean guns. And by guns, I mean actual guns. She seems to be proficient in any gun she gets in her hands (including high powered rifles and grenade launchers), but particularly her signature weapons of choice – a pair of modified Beretta pistols – which she uses in the guns akimbo style so loved in action films (but which would get you killed in real life, due to the improbable aiming skills involved) and which has earned her the nickname “Two Hand”. Indeed, she has a near superhuman ability with firearms (and dodging bullets) unmatched by all but a few characters (such as the Terminator-like maid Roberta, whose skill Revy takes as a personal affront – as Revy tends to with all her more skilled adversaries).
Her real name (occasionally referenced) is Rebecca Lee and she is Chinese-American, although we only see a few glimpses of her personal history and they’re not pleasant. She is easily the most foul-mouthed of the cast, no small feat in an anime in which the characters use the F-bomb as punctuation. Her mouth is matched by her vices as a heavy smoker and drinker, as well as her aggressive temper. Indeed, Revy tends to use force as her first and last resort, reveling in a love of violence bordering on sadistic glee (and characterized by what TV Tropes refers to as a Slasher Smile). She does seem to have an attraction to Rock (there’s that otaku fantasy again), which she keeps well hidden under a mask of belligerent sexual tension – and by belligerent, I mean threatening to kill him on more than one occasion (well, initially anyway).
As a result of her past and constantly living on the edge of life, Revy has developed a rather cynical outlook on life:
“Rock, if you think about it, other than this, what do we really value in life? God? Love? Don’t make me laugh. When I was a brat, crawling around in that shithole city, it seemed God and Love were always sold out when I went looking. Before I knew better, I clung to God and prayed to Him every single night — yeah, I believed in God right up until that night the cops beat the hell out of me for no reason at all. All they saw when they looked at me was another little ghetto rat. With no power and no God, what’s left for a poor little Chinese bitch to rely on? It’s money, of course, and guns. Fuckin’ A. With these two things, the world’s a great place.”
In short, in the words of TV Tropes, she is a “sociopathic, nihilistic, Chinese-American thug” – so of course being anime, she’s a hot slice of crazy, accentuated by her trademark Daisy Duke denim shorts and tank top.
(5) SUPER SONICO (2006)
Super Sonico is a J-pop star come to anime life, the focus of a media franchise – not bad for her origin as a promotional mascot.
She started as a promotional mascot in 2006 for an annual music concert festival sponsored by Nitroplus, a Japanese company which seems to specialize in somewhat disturbing computer games or manga. “Nitroplus artist Tsuji Santa provided an illustration for a poster depicting a pink-haired girl wearing headphones and sporting a guitar…reception to this poster was overwhelmingly positive, and so, Super Sonico was born”. Super Sonico went from being the mascot for their music festivals to something of a mascot for the company itself – which, realizing her marketability, made her the focus of a media franchise, and ultimately her own anime series from 2014.
As for the character herself, Super Sonico is a gravure idol (a Japanese female model primarily modelling in magazines) and pop star in band FAV or First Astronomical Velocity (with two other females) – she does main guitar and vocals (and she has a weirdly demon-masked manager). Indeed, as part of her media franchise, the ‘band’ released music prior to her anime.
Her appearance is that of voluptuous girl with pink eyes and hair – and voluptuous means voluptuous, something emphasized in her art and figurines or statues (yes – figurines or statues!). Perhaps her most distinctive feature is her perpetual headphones – perpetual in that she’s always wearing them, even in the bath, although it’s something people are prohibited from mentioning to her.
She’s a particularly popular subject of cosplay. For one thing, there’s the ease of depiction by pink hair (and contacts if you’re keen) and headphones, as well as, you know, a bikini or something.
And a guitar if you’re keen.
For another, the character is a cosplay model herself – appearing in the style of other anime characters (as in the above image) or in different costumes such as ‘nurse’.
Or pink space cop…?
And finally, the queen of cosplay, Jessica Nigri, not only modelled as Super Sonico (in quite a few of the images in this feature, including the above pink space cop) but was also cast as her voice actress for the English-dubbed anime.
(4) BOA HANCOCK (NAMI & NICO ROBIN) – ONE PIECE (1999)
“The world will never cease to forgive my actions! Why, you ask? Why, it is because I am beautiful!”
I am only slightly familiar with the anime One Piece, namely because it is one of the longest running (and best-selling) manga and anime series – originating in 1997 for the manga and 1999 for the anime. As such, it has accumulated a vast cast of characters and attracted prolific cosplay – indeed, for this entry I have featured the cosplay in preference to the anime’s art as it improves upon the latter, which is somewhat cartoonish in style (albeit it has evolved over time).
One Piece is an absurdist pirate fantasy (really) – with its protagonist Monkey D. Luffy (no, really) setting out to become the King of Pirates by finding the titular One Piece treasure with his crew of Straw Hat Pirates, and opposed by the World Government. It’s…that kind of series.
The world of One Piece is primarily an ocean world, inhabited by human and fantasy races, and with technology perhaps approaching steampunk levels – albeit with magical creatures replicating many modern conveniences, particularly electronic devices. And of course, there is magic – particularly the Devil Fruit, which give each person who takes it different magical powers.
But which One Piece girl to choose? The two female members of the Straw Hat Pirates, Nami and Nico Robin, get honorary mention, firstly because I can’t choose between them and secondly because there is one standout female character – renowned as the most beautiful woman in the world, the Pirate Empress and Snake Princess, Boa Hancock.
Boa Hancock is one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, powerful pirates that have allied themselves with the World Government and do its bidding in exchange for certain privileges.
Enslaved and branded (much to her enduring shame) in her youth (along with her two sisters), she rose up to become the empress of an Amazonian island – and renowned throughout the world for her beauty, ranked with that of mermaids. (Of course One Piece has mermaids).
However, that beauty is also her weapon. Apart of course from its usual effect on males and females (including her Amazonian subjects who adore her), her devil fruit ability allows her to petrify anyone who is attracted to her if she so chooses – which is to say virtually everyone, except for the obliviously love-blind series protagonist Luffy (and for whom she develops a hopelessly adolescent crush).
Apart from her beauty, she is also statuesque (at 6’3” or 191 cm) and is physically strong, consistent with her island’s Amazonian motto that beauty is strength, as well as being highly skilled in combat. She also has her, well, boa – a giant snake (which wears a wigged skull – it’s that kind of series) which serves as her companion, throne and weapon. (It’s that snake thing which features in some cosplay).
As I said, honorable mention goes to the two female members of the Straw Hat Pirates, Nami and Nico Robin respectively.
Which brings us to “cat burglar” Nami – originally a thief or pickpocket (who detested pirates), she is won over by Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates to become their navigator, motivated by her desire to map the world. Although her true love has tended to be money or treasure.
Her navigational ability is reinforced by a magical ability to read and control weather, albeit through magical device rather than Devil Fruit. She has a number of costumes, but perhaps her signature costume is her bikini top and jeans.
Nico Robin or “Devil Child” as she is known by her outlaw status to the World Government (derived from the ability to read things from the lost past censored by the World Government), is a subsequent addition to the Straw Hat Pirates, after they win her over with their crew loyalty as extended to her.
Her Devil Fruit Power is the ability to project extra limbs or body parts, most demonstrably in the form of sprouting extra arms. Ultimately, her power extends to projecting limbs or any part of her body (or indeed, her whole body) from any surface, not just her own body or anything connected to it.
(3) YOKO LITTNER – GURREN LAGANN (2007)
Yoko Littner is essentially the Red Sonja of anime – a similarly statuesque redhead, but with a massive sniper rifle (apparently modelled on the Barrett M82 anti-materiel rifle) instead of a sword. And just as Red Sonja fights in a chainmail bikini and boots, Yoko Littner shoots down giant mecha in the desert while wearing a bikini top, hot pants, pink stockings and boots. Indeed, when she wore a swimsuit to the beach, it actually covered more than her normal outfit. (It’s anime – of course, there’s a beach episode, even in a series about fighting giant mecha in the desert).
Any attempt at a short description of the plot of her anime series, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (or Gurren Lagann for short), doesn’t do justice to it, although as usual TV Tropes does it best – “a roller coaster ride of fan service” (primarily provided by Yoko herself), “over-the-top fight scenes between mecha, hot-bloodedness, epic sunglasses, massive badassery and mind-blowing heroism”. As TV Tropes observed, the series is what happens when Studio Gainax, the anime studio responsible for Neon Genesis Evangelion, is asked to create a Saturday morning cartoon. Indeed, the series could be described as the exact polar opposite of Neon Genesis Evangelion – similarly involving giant piloted mecha pitted against threats to humanity, but rarely taking itself as seriously and mixed with audacity rather than angst. Not to mention less of the “what the hell is going on?” mind-screw of Evangelion, although of course it is still present – it IS Studio Gainax after all.
As succinctly as possible, humanity has been virtually eliminated but for remnants in subterranean villages and some isolated surface villages, kept under the heel of ‘Beast-men’ (combining human and animal DNA) with giant mecha (large armored and powered robotic suits, controlled by operators inside them). And it just gets crazier from there, ultimately evolving to cosmic mecha IN SPACE fighting against eldritch abominations (so not too much different from Neon Genesis Evangelion).
After all, this is a series in which one of the main protagonists, Kamina, declares “Go beyond the impossible and kick reason to the curb! That’s how Team Gurren rolls!” And in which one of the other main protagonists, Simon, spontaneously invents teleportation just to punch someone in the face (and knock some sense into them). And in which the title refers to piercing the heavens. And in which the most common catchphrase is “Just who the hell do you think we are?”, perhaps to capture the audience’s puzzlement as well as the cast’s audacity.
Yoko herself literally bursts into the first episode as the main female protagonist (and eye candy) of the series – “a woman with a very big gun (and very little clothing)” firing at a beast-mecha as both collapse the roof of the subterranean village of the two male protagonists, Kamina and Simon. And that essentially defines her character for the balance of the series – “It can be a real pain being as tough as I am” as Yoko herself declares, as she continues to shoot down giant mecha through the series. As for her surname, that seems to derive from her surface village of origin.
Given that her outfit consists of bikini top and hot pants (not too different from Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn), Yoko is eminently cosplay-able, and has indeed been the subject of eminent (and prolific) cosplay
(2) REI AYANAMI – NEON GENESIS EVANGELION (1995)
And now the iconic girl from my favorite anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion or Evangelion in general (as a franchise) – in which traumatized teenagers in a post-apocalyptic Japan pilot giant mecha suits to fight eldritch abominations known as Angels. Which may actually be Angels in the Biblical sense – I’m not sure that anyone, including its creator, knew entirely what was going on. It…was that kind of anime. In the words of the Comic Buyer’s Guide, “this is a giant robot saga the way that Twin Peaks is a cop show”. Or in the simpler words of the caption for the TV Tropes page image – “Not pictured: Sanity”.
One might have expected that I might opt for the other female main character, fiery redhead Asuka Langly Soryu (and she is pretty cute), but mysterious blue-haired red-eyed waif Rei Ayanami is more popular and iconic. Also, she’s adorable – certainly to protagonist Shinji Ikari, although it may help that she was cloned from his mother. Again, it’s that kind of anime. Actually, there’s quite a few clones of Rei in the anime – “if I die, I can be replaced”.
Due to her iconic status, she became the origin of a recurring character type of emotionless and enigmatic girl – so much so that TV Tropes has the Rei Ayanami Expy trope page for it. Rei herself shows all the common characteristics of the type:
- Female Love Interest
- Mysterious Waif with a Dark and Troubled Past
- Pale skin
- Short, usually bobbed hair, with unnatural hair color, often in cold tones like blue, silver, grey or white (also occasionally pink) – with Rei herself having bobbed blue hair.
- Unnatural eye color, often red, blue, yellow, or even purple – with Rei herself having red eyes
- Appears emotionless, quiet, stoic, or otherwise odd.
- A tendency towards talking in a machine monotone or similarly emotionless tone.
- Is not quite human, such as a clone, alien or robot, explaining their odd behavior.
- Suffers a major injury or illness, or at least is frequently hospitalized (with Rei herself being quite the bandage babe)
- Occasionally has a strong connection to a parental figure, boss and/or antagonist, and may even display undying loyalty to them.
- Eventually becomes more emotional, such as by becoming a Real Girl (a la Pinocchio) or turning out to have a “sugar and ice” personality.
As for Rei herself, she is the “First Child…a Shy Blue-Haired Girl. She is beautiful, fey, and otherworldly, and has a Mysterious Past that is only partially revealed late in the series”. So of course, she was destined to appeal to anime fans – there’s just something about Rei.
In this feature, I have tended to prefer fan art to her more waif-like appearance in the anime.
And some of her cosplay is even more dazzling than her art – including some by one of my favorite cosplayers, Vampy Bit Me
(1) SAILOR MOON
“I am the sailor suited Pretty Guardian who fights for love and for justice — I am Sailor Moon! In the name of the moon, I’ll punish you!”
There could only be one girl for the top spot in my top ten girls of anime – the titular protagonist of the Sailor Moon anime franchise. The franchise and its protagonist are each one of the most famous beyond Japan or anime fandom. In the words of TV Tropes, “to this day, Sailor Moon remains one of the most recognized and mainstream anime titles in North America. If you approach anyone on the street and ask them to name a Japanese anime, Sailor Moon will almost certainly be one of the natural responses”.
And as for its protagonist, most, if not all, of my top ten girls of anime are not widely known beyond anime fandom – except for Sailor Moon, even if, like myself, those who know of her are not overly familiar with her role within her franchise itself. She also popularized the magical girl genre of anime and remains the most famous magical girl outside (and inside) Japan.
Created by pharmacist-turned-manga-author Naoko Takeuchi, Usagi Tsukino is a schoolgirl (albeit perhaps the blondest Japanese schoolgirl), whose life takes a turn for the unexpected when she discovers that she is the reincarnation of an ancient lunar warrior from the Moon Kingdom.
With the aid of a feline mentor called Luna, Usagi must take up the mission of defending the Earth from the various evils that threaten it while searching for the reincarnation of the Moon Kingdom’s princess (and ultimately destined to become neo-Queen Serenity). Usagi grows into her role as the magical girl Sailor Moon and greatly matures as a result, gathering a team of four other reincarnated warriors and realizing her true potential as a cosmic superhero. The anime series itself mostly follows a Monster of the Week format, with subsequent series introducing escalating foes and matching power-ups, and greatly expanding the mythos behind Usagi’s past life in the Moon Kingdom and her fated future in the utopian Crystal Tokyo.
Her iconic status is enhanced by the distinctive visual appearance of Usagi’s Sailor Guardian or Soldier identity, “Sailor Moon”. Throughout most the series, Sailor Moon wears a white and blue sailor fuku uniform, white and red gloves, red boots and crescent-moon earrings. And above all, there is her hair – o my goddess! Her hair! – her distinctive buns (odango) in their red hairpieces and those impossibly long tails. However, I have preferred fan art adaptations to her classic anime or manga style throughout this feature.
Indeed, there is some impressive fan art adaptations in different styles altogether.
Her top ranking is further secured as part of a team of cosmic magical girls – Sailors Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter – which evoke the style of a K-pop group. (Sailor Venus sometimes resembles Sailor Moon in art, but for the distinctive hair style and coloring).