TOP 10 GIRLS OF ANIME (SPECIAL MENTION)
In my top tens, I reserve special mention for a category of entries that are typically iconic or noteworthy but have some special quality that sets them apart from the top ten (or honorable mentions). Obviously.
What is that special quality? Well it varies, although it tends to be thematic or idiosyncratic (but I make my own rules and break them anyway).
(1) LUCY – ELFEN LIED (2005)
A special mention for Lucy, the protagonist from my second favorite anime (after Neon Genesis Evangelion), Elfen Lied. She earns only special mention because she and the anime itself are somewhat disturbing.
The anime (and its original manga) earned something of a reputation for shock value for graphic bloody violence and female nudity – something perfectly captured in the first ten minutes of the anime, which gained notoriety for the blood-soaked way in which Lucy, naked but for some strange restraining helmet, literally slaughters her way out of the institute in which she is imprisoned. So if you survive those first ten minutes, you might survive the rest of the anime – we’re a long way from Sailor Moon here and it’s definitely one for adult viewing. Needless to say, Hollywood probably won’t be adapting this one any time soon, despite its status as a cult classic. In fairness, it did have a mixed reception – naturally I found it intriguing, even to the point of hunting down the original manga online (because the anime was a truncated and inconclusive version of the expanded manga storyline).
In the words of TV Tropes, “it’s a twisted mixture of mutant battles, psychic powers, split personalities, pseudo-harem antics, cute girls, the male lead who discovers that the person whom he interacted during that person’s childhood is evil, and of course, bucketloads of gorn – and it’s more than happy to swing between comedy and horror at the drop of a hat. It has also been compared to I Dream of Jeannie as done by David Lynch and Wes Craven”.
As for Lucy herself, she is imprisoned in a secret institute, because she is a Diclonius – a new mutant species of humanity originating from a virus. The large majority of them are female, resembling nothing so much as devil girls with shades of hair from pink through red to purple and cute little horns (which might be mistaken for cat girl ears in the art). More dangerous are their ‘vectors’ – multiple invisible telekinetic ‘arms’, ranging in number and length between individuals, capable of extreme violence. Contact with the ‘vectors’ is also how they reproduce, spreading the ‘vector virus’. Perhaps most dangerous is an apparent genetic imperative to wipe out humanity. Or not – it’s not entirely clear, as it might also be due, at least in part, to their brutalization at the hands of humanity (particularly in the Institute itself), most of whom have it coming. One might compare it to a warped version of the X-men, but with pink-haired devil girls.
And Lucy is perhaps the most dangerous Diclonius of all, filled with a hatred of humanity (and in fairness she has not been exposed to its best examples, although that doesn’t quite account for her body count) – except for her childhood love Kouta, with whom she has a complicated and unbearably tragic history. She and Kouta are star-crossed lovers – if by star, one means an asteroid screaming from the sky. Lucy is reminiscent of my other favorite anime hot slice of crazy, Yuno Gasai from Future Diary – similar not only in appearance (and crazy eyes), but also that they are both ultimately capable of destruction on a planetary scale (albeit more in the manga for Lucy), but for the object of their obsessive love.
In the anime, Lucy develops a split personality known as Nyu – cute, childlike and good-natured. Nyu is arguably a reversion to what Lucy might have been but for her brutalization at the hands of humanity – and also reflective of the part of her that seeks atonement and redemption. (She also has a third personality, which is even more dangerous and psychotic, reflecting her racial consciousness or genetic imperative to kill all humans – ultimately her other two personalities unite against the third).
Oh – and her real name isn’t actually Lucy, it’s Kaede.
I have generally relied on fan art and cosplay through this feature – which was complicated as her iconic appearance is that from those equally iconic first ten minutes of the anime, as translated into promotional art. That is to say, naked – but for bandages and helmet.
(2) YUNO GASAI – FUTURE DIARY (2011)
I do like my bad girls and they don’t come badder than Yuno Gasai in Future Diary (Mirai Nikki in Japanese), or more precisely madder, because Yuno is one hot slice of crazy. Indeed, she brought all the crazy to Future Diary, and fans loved her for it. She might look cute on the surface, with that bubble-gum pink hair (because anime hair is simply fabulous) and those pink-purple eyes, but oh boy – come between her and the object of her obsessive love, Yuki, and there will be trouble. Of the sharp, stabby kind.
She is the embodiment, indeed the epitome, of the so-called yandere character type – sweet on the outside, crazy on the inside. A term from anime fandom, it refers to a character who is crazy about someone else… often literally and violently. “The character almost always appears perfectly cute and harmless on the surface… but underneath they may be obsessive, controlling, and sometimes just plain insane. This is bad news for anyone unfortunate enough to be the object of a Yandere’s obsession, as nothing will dissuade the Yandere from the notion that they are theirs and theirs alone. But even more pity should be saved for anyone who gets in the way, as this psycho-obsessive is amazingly unwilling to put up with any rivals to their often genuine affection…If a Yandere ever goes off the deep end, they are likely to go Ax-Crazy, taking up the psycho weapon of their choice and doing things to people straight out of a horror movie. Usually their target is whoever they perceive to be in the way, but if the person they love rejects them or leaves them, they may well decide that they would rather see the person dead than with another”.
Yeah – Yuno ticks all the yandere boxes. She will do anything for Yuki. Anything.
Up to and including multiverse murder. Indeed, murder tends to be her default setting. Really, I could have filled up all the images in this entry from Yuno Gasai’s crazy-eyed looks alone.
As for the anime itself, it’s that common anime type of a bizarre game, but in this case taken to the nth level of a winner-takes-all gladiatorial battle royale to the death for the position of God, as in the literal God of Time and Space (styled as Deus Ex Machina). In other words, a “there can only be one” Highlander contest for survival, fought amongst twelve ‘future diary’ holders – contestants gifted with future-telling ‘diaries’ by Deus Ex Machina for that purpose (hunting down and killing each other). As a bonus, the twelve diary holders are styled after the twelve Olympian gods and goddesses, although that is often not clear, except perhaps from their names – Yuno is Juno (or Hera) and Yuki is Jupiter (or Zeus), which is clearer from his full name Yukiteru. Yukitero or Yukitero Amano is the male protagonist of the series, as is somewhat obvious from his (deliberate) status as the First diary holder, although he wouldn’t have made it past the first round of Future Diary’s slaughterbowl but for his psychotic guardian angel in the form of Yuno, the Second diary holder. And she’s prepared to kill the whole world to keep him safe and together with her (not necessarily in that order).
Indeed, the character of Yuno is what makes this reasonably average anime interesting. I tend to agree with the Nihon Review, which identified her as the focus of the anime – the cute girl with a frighteningly unhinged world view that sends chills right down to the bone, the volatile ball of insanity that pushes the show from “meh” to “unforgettable.” And as the series unfolds, you find out just how deep down the rabbit hole she has gone, down to the very heart of the Future Diary game itself, and just how dark her secrets are in what she has been prepared to do to be with Yuki – secrets which even she has for the most part repressed from her memory.
All hail Yuno Gasai – the yandere queen of anime! And we love her for it.
(3) SHIMUKAZE (IOWA) – KANTAI COLLECTION (2015)
“The oceans of the world are under threat! Strange beings coming from its depths, tentatively codenamed the Abyssal Fleet, are attacking the shipping lanes, wreaking havoc on the economies of countries that are dependent on imports. The only ones that can seemingly stop these things are the Fleet Girls, who are apparently the ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, reincarnated into the present day in the forms of girls and young women”.
Anime is weird.
Even more so as there is anime about virtually everything. In this case, Kantai Collection (or KanColle as it is often shortened) is about girls literally personifying or incarnating Second World War naval vessels against a mysterious abyssal opponent – as is evident from its English title of Combined Fleet Girls Collection (or simply Fleet Girls). Well, I suppose that’s one way of running with the convention of identifying ships as female by the use of pronouns.
Of course, arguably this entry should be in my girls of video games, as it apparently originated as some sort of game – and indeed an insanely popular game at that. Insanely popular, as in at all, given the premise of the Imperial Japanese Navy as girls. In the words of TV Tropes, “it was supposed to appeal to Imperial Japanese Navy Otaku, which is a really small fanbase.”
The gameplay is centered upon a card battle game, with individual characters – the eponymous Fleet girls (or literally ‘ship girls’) – represented by various cards with different attributes, which players acquire and equip. These personified warships are based on historical vessels – the physical characteristics, appearances and personalities of each of the girls correlate in some way to the real-life vessel. For example, ships with a larger displacement tonnage (notably battleships) tend to be depicted as older girls with larger, well, tonnage, if you know what I mean, while smaller vessels (notably destroyers) tend to be depicted as schoolgirls.
However, I make my own rules and break them anyway – with some fairness here as the popularity of the game arose only when “the manga and anime industry took tentative notice of the game, partly due to the designs it used for its characters, and partly for the voice cast hired to voice these”. And also that the game has expanded into a media franchise, notably including its own anime (and various spin-offs).
There is something problematic with a franchise that adapts the Imperial Japanese Navy into female protagonists, or indeed, any sort of protagonists, given its role in the Second World War – not least, even from a Japanese perspective, the grim casualties of its own personnel, let alone the wider casualties inflicted by it and the Imperial Japanese Army. Although it is arguable that perhaps they are better remembered this way rather than the historical ships. The franchise is gradually broadening to female personifications of ships from the other navies.
Anyway, the protagonist in the series is Fubuki – a young, ah, destroyer girl. That’s not a sentence I thought I would ever write.
However, Fubuki tends to be overshadowed by more popular, ah, ship girls – and when it comes to the most popular character, at least in terms of cosplay, that would be Shimakaze, hands down. Or perhaps all hands on deck. Shimakaze is the personification or incarnation of the historical destroyer, by reputation one of the fastest in the fleet.
“I’m Destroyer Shimakaze. I won’t lose to anyone in speed. Swiftly like the island breeze.”
Which naturally translates into a hyperactive personality (or attention deficit) and a tendency to jump around rooms like a rabbit between missions.
Which in turn naturally translates into an iconic outfit, which combines Playboy bunny ears with a dangerously skimpy outfit.
Which in turn naturally translates into her popularity with fans and cosplayers.
“Who wears a sleeveless sailor top, elbow gloves, a hair ribbon tied like rabbit ears, a microskirt and a very visible thong? That’s Shimakaze, alright”