TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIME (HONORABLE MENTION)
These are the honorable mentions for my Top 10 Girls of Anime in chronological order. As usual, I reserve honorable mention for entries of ongoing or at least prolific interest – which in this case involves ongoing or prolific art or cosplay.
(1) MOTOKO KUSANAGI – GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995)
Motoko Kusanagi, or more precisely, Major Motoko Kusanagi (or just the Major), is the focal character of the Ghost in the Shell manga and anime franchise – a franchise that, particularly with the original 1995 film (adapted from the manga), “all but defined Western conceptions of anime for the better part of a decade”. (Well, it and Akira). The franchise has had a number of incarnations in film and television series, with different narrative continuities and versions of Kusanagi (including the live screen adaptation with Scarlett Johansson, which was sadly underwhelming)
Major Motoko Kusanagi is a cyborg police officer leading the counter-cyberterrorist organization (and cyborg SWAT team) Public Security Section 9 in a post-cyberpunk Japan. The cyberpunk or post-cyberpunk of the film’s story arises from a future in which computer technology has advanced to the point that it allows members of the public to interface their biological brain or mind (as the titular ghost in the shell) with various networks, varying from simple minimal interfaces to almost complete replacement of the brain with cybernetic parts, and with varying levels of body prostheses, extending to fully prosthetic bodies or cyborgs (being the titular shell) – with the primary example being Kusanagi herself. Of course, this high level of cybernetic interfacing opens the brain up to attacks from highly skilled hackers, with the most dangerous being those who can ‘hack’ a person to bend to their whims – such as the Puppet-Master in the original film. Hence the need for Public Security Section 9.
And of course, being anime, she’s a hot cyborg – which is further enhanced by her most definitive costume from the original film, her “thermoptic camouflage suit” which is essentially a skin tight body suit.
Or just, you know, being plugged in and naked, as in some of her most iconic images.
In fairness, she does have different costumes (or bodies) in different incarnations of the franchise. And it’s not all about appearance – her prosthetic body makes her effectively superhuman, capable of physical feats beyond more biological human bodies, while her mind-body interface allows for powerful feats of hacking.
Of course, the franchise’s enduring influence and popularity have inspired cosplayers, typically of her definitive body suit costume.
Or just, you know, being plugged in and naked.
(2) FAYE VALENTINE – COWBOY BEBOP (1998)
See you space cowboy!
Cowboy Bebop is a classic anime series, which does indeed involve space cowboys after a fashion – a fusion of space Western and film noir (through the films of John Woo and other stylistic influences, not to mention the music or jazz ‘bebop’ of the title.
It’s set in the late twenty-first century, as the remnants of humanity have spread throughout the solar system using hyperspace gates, and terraforming to the extent that other planets resemble cities or settings on Earth – which seems a little ambitious, even for its late 21st century setting. Earth itself has been devastated by some hyperspace gate accident, which is not entirely clear as “the show partially defines itself by the thematic choice to give everything a rich backstory but explain almost nothing in full”.
Its protagonists are the space cowboys suggested by the title – or more precisely space bounty hunters, as the Space Police have reinstated the bounty system of the Wild West. However, despite collecting some impressive bounties, the protagonists seemingly remain in perpetual poverty, partly as they have to pay for their ship and all the collateral damage caused in collecting the bounties in the first place.
Violet-haired, green eyed Faye Valentine is the original femme fatale of anime. As for what exactly she is wearing in her signature outfit, I’m not entirely sure, but it seems to be the jumpsuit style of the future – to enhance her charms of course. She was the first addition (other than the enhanced corgi Ein) to the male protagonist duo of Spike and Jet. They first encountered her as she was working in a smuggling operation posing as a dealer in a casino and where she slipped the special subject poker chip to Spike by mistake. They cross paths with her again before she ultimately ended up part of their crew, although she never seemed entirely trustworthy.
TV Tropes sums her up best:
“Faye always approaches the world from an angle: she believes the world and other people are out to hurt, use and exploit you, so it’s best if you do it to them first. Anything is fair game to be used to get an advantage on people, including cunning, trickery, abusing the trust of others, her sexy good looks, and when all else fails, a ship loaded with machine guns and missiles…Her exact background is mysterious, and when pressed for answers about it she simply throws out one story after another, each more improbable than the last. When not taking down bounties, she tends to waste all her money gambling in an effort to get rich quick and pay off the ridiculously large debts that she has, which is just as mysterious as anything else about her past.”
It might be noted that much of her past, including her real name, remains mysterious even to her – due to amnesia from cryonic suspension from the twentieth century, her century of origin (so that she is chronologically – 77 years – much older than her biological age of 23 years).
And despite her jaded outlook on life, she has a softer heart than she likes to let on – including a touching heartfelt moment as she attempts to dissuade Spike from seeking his own doom (for his lost love and perhaps the ultimate femme fatale of the series, Julia). After all, who can forget that final scene?
(3) CC & KALLEN KOZUKI – CODE GEASS (2006)
CC is the green-haired and golden-eyed immortal ‘witch’ responsible for the titular geass in the popular anime Code Geass.
You get used to such eccentric hues of hair or eyes in anime. I assume that all anime, no matter how mundane or apparently based in our world, actually exists in an unspoken alternate history where Japan, somewhat like the United States, opened itself up to large-scale immigration, but that the European or mixed population has otherwise assimilated to Japanese culture.
In fairness, I don’t think CC is of Japanese origin – indeed, her origin is mysterious, at least in the anime itself. Also in fairness, Code Geass is actually set in an alternate history, in which Japan has been conquered by the Holy Britannian Empire, which is so dismissive of the conquered country that it has renamed Japan as Area 11 and the Japanese accordingly as Elevens. This being anime, the war-winning weapon is of course humongous mecha suits, known as Armored Knights or Knightmare frames, given the deliberately retro-futuristic tone of the Empire. The Holy Britannian Empire is apparently what evolved from the British winning the American War of Independence and retaining North America, but then subsequently losing the Napoleonic Wars and Britain itself.
Interestingly, the world is contested by three superpowers that bear an uncanny resemblance to those in Orwell’s 1984 – the Holy Britannian Empire substituting for Oceania (with Japan perhaps substituting for Britain’s Airstrip One), the Chinese Federation for Eastasia and the European Union for Eurasia.
That is of course just the (mostly unspoken) backdrop for the plot of the anime – a disaffected former Britannian prince, Lelouch vi Britannia (no seriously, that’s his name), exiled to Japan as Lelouch Lamperouge, conflates his own personal vendetta against his imperial father with the Japanese revolutionary insurgency against the Britannian empire. All of which would have just amounted to a hissy fit in his palatial estate and prestige high school Ashford Academy, but for the Geass power given to him by the mysterious CC.
CC is a pseudonym, as her real name is never revealed to the audience (although she does tell Lelouch). By pure coincidence, Lelouch, while half-assing it around with the Japanese rebellion, rescues her as a captive from some sort of mysterious pod (from some equally mysterious Britannian research project or something). Her name and origin remains mysterious, as is the power (and its source) that she bestows upon Lelouch – the Geass power. Presumably it derives its name from the Celtic geas, a magical taboo in the form of obligation or prohibition, as it is somewhat similar, at least in the form possessed by Lelouch – he has the power to give irresistible commands, but can only ever do so once for each person. Armed with this power, he hams it up as the masked vigilante Zero, akin to a Japanese V for Vendetta, but also leader of the so-called Black Knights rebellion, who use captured mecha suits.
As for CC, she spends most of her time lounging around his estate, wearing his shirts and not much else while eating pizza as a running gag – from Pizza Hut, which has somehow remained the same in this alternate history (perhaps because Pizza Hut sponsored the anime). Perhaps more importantly, she is second to Zero in the rebellion (being of course aware of his identity), while also attending Lelouch’s school, because anime! (No seriously, most anime is set in some school or other). Despite her apparent familiarity with Lelouch, he never becomes attached to her (or any of the female cast), presumably because he is too caught up with his, ahem, best friend, Suzuki – ironically a Japanese national but Empire loyalist. (They’re not actually gay. It just seems that way and would arguably be much cooler if they were. ).
CC is the ‘fanservice’ girl of the anime, from her initial appearance is in a straitjacket thingy (matching her captivity), which she then seems to retain as a stylish outfit. In fairness, the girl can rock a straitjacket.
Although…the girl can also rock her weird pseudo-aristocratic Black Knights uniform, complete with hot pants and thigh high white boots.
The other notorious ‘fanservice’ girl for the anime is Kallen Stadfeld, or to use her Japanese name, Kallen Kozuki.
Her names originate in that she is half-Britannian and half-Japanese, although fortunately has the privileged status of her Britannian father. However, like Lelouch, she is disaffected with the Britannian empire (due to the poor treatment of her Japanese mother) and joins the Black Knights Rebellion, while posing as a sickly student at Ashford Academy – because, being anime, most of the main characters are students and indeed students at the same school. O well – I suppose it’s just as credible as the focus of a Galactic Empire and Rebellion being the one Skywalker family.
Kallen was quite the action girl, being the ace pilot of the Black Knights. So naturally they ramped up her other, ah , attributes for the fans – with close-ups of her posterior while climbing in and out of her mecha suit (leading to a fan meme Code Ge-ASS). And of course, she had an undercover mission in a Playboy bunny suit – which like Pizza Hut also survived the transition between alternate histories, although I like to think of Playboy bunny suits (and bunnies) as something of a universal (or mutiversal) constant.
Although…the girl can also rock her weird pseudo-aristocratic Black Knights uniform, complete with hot pants and thigh-high boots. Now that’s a revolution!
(4) LUCY HEARTFILIA & ERZA SCARLET – FAIRY TAIL (2009)
I’m only slightly familiar with the anime for my next place entry, Fairy Tail – which has proved itself to be the more successful long-running Japanese comic or manga series since its debut in 2006 and adaption to anime in 2009. The premise does appear to be interesting, in which ‘wizards’ band together in guilds rather than schools, and as the highest practitioners of the art in a fantasy world where magic is widespread and functional (“found in every home, bought and sold in every marketplace”). So essentially an anime version of Harry Potter, but with a much hotter protagonist – Lucy Heartfilia, a girl seeking to become a fully-fledged wizard through the titular Fairy Tail guild.
Apparently named after the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Lucy’s primary magic ability is her use of a set of magical Keys of the Zodiac to summon celestial spirits (the signs of the Zodiac) to fight alongside her or empower her.
Apart from her Keys, she also whips it good – her weapon of choice is a whip, a suitably non-lethal weapon for her good-natured personality. And titillating – for the kinky-minded.
Speaking of titillating, she commonly appears in different or exotic costumes, including as a cat girl, because it is anime after all. Meow! Or more precisely, in Japanese – Nyan!
And because it is anime, she also appears in the obligatory anime bikini or beach scene. There is a beach scene in virtually every anime, no matter where the anime is actually set.
And also because it is anime, there is of course cosplay of her.
The other major female protagonist for the Fairy Tail guild is Erza Scarlet.
Indeed, at times she eclipses Lucy, if only because she’s yet another redhead, that recurring fetish of animators and comics artists, and a badass swordswoman to boot – reminiscent of one of my comics favorites, Red Sonja.
In short, she is apparently the strongest woman in Fairy Tail, both physically and in terms of her combat magic – through her magical ‘Knight’ ability, she can conjure armor and weapons. She also has an artificial magical eye (having lost one in her youth) that grants her immunity to illusions and optical magic. It also makes her one of the hottest one-eyed female characters in fiction – although to be fair, I can only think of one other (Rhona Mitra’s character in the film Doomsday).
And of course, she’s in the obligatory anime beach scene as well.
She also is a popular choice for cosplay, particularly given the variety of her costumes or magical armor