Japan is a male dominated society. You can see this in the small percentage of women in leadership or important roles. Prime Minister Abe is trying to integrate more women into the work force in senior positions and in general, but there was the famous heckling case of a female assemblywoman in their legislative chamber casting a shadow on that. One hopes that women will play more senior and vital roles in their society in the years to come. However, in anime, even though there are anime with a great deal of fan service, there are also very tough female characters that could grind most tough guys into the dirt.
So, this list is not a survey or complete list of tough female characters. Series like Ghost in the Shell with Major Kusanagi, or 009, or Fujiko Mine from Lupin more than qualify, but I wanted to focus on some other shows that might not be as well known. Even as I write this there are newer shows with tough females such as Blade and Soul and The World is Still Beautiful and many others. All of the shows mentioned have been released in English.
This was one of the early anime I saw when I first got back into anime. It was pretty entertaining with an experienced female assassin Mirielle Bouquet taking a younger girl as a ward. The younger girl, Kirika Yuumira, turns out to also be a very lethal child assassin. The two become friends, and begin to unwind the conspiracy and destiny that surrounds them in the form of a global religious orgranization. Mirielle is a sophisticated, resilient, and very capable killer who leaves a trail of bodies behind her when necessary. She is a master of the gun who fights for what is right in the end. I also really like the classical type music score that accompanies this anime - such as the song Coppelia's Casket.
This is an anime produced after Noir by the same studio, Bee Train. It is the second of three guns and girls anime series produced by them. Again, this anime has two women, one of whom is an elite mercenary and assassin named Madlax. She doesn't remember her past and eventually teams up with a girl named Margaret Burton. Together the two begin to discover their true histories and fight another conspiracy that will threaten the world. I didn't think this one was quite as good as Noir, but it was still entertaining.
El Cazador de la Bruja
This series is the third installment of guns and girls from Bee Train. It is the most light hearted of the three, but there is still an impressive body count. Nadie, an independent bounty hunter is tasked with finding and escorting a young girl named Ellis who has a mysterious past again. The story plays out as one long road trip to find the truth, with numerous fights against another super assassin and other obstacles. Nadie and Ellis become friends and Nadie has to make the tough decisions to make money or to be loyal to her friend. I probably liked this one better than Madlax because of the characters.
This is a really gritty show and manga about Lagoon Company, a small smuggling operation with a torpedo boat, run out of the fictional country of Roanapur. It centers on Rock, a straight-laced Japanese salaryman, who ends up joining them out of necessity and there are many stories with assassins, smuggling, betrayal, former Spetznatz, and gang wars. Revy, who is Lagoon Company's main enforcer, is a chain smoking wielder of two custom Beretta 92 handguns. She is the bullet time queen with an attitude, foul mouth, and is survivor of the mean streets. Still, she seems to develop a soft spot for Rock and the series has them meet a variety of underworld characters. Lots of fun and bullets in this show, and it isn't for little kids.
Moving away from guns, there are also many women with blades that are really strong characters. Claymore is an interesting show and manga about demon hunting women warriors who have superhuman abilities as they have given up part of their humanity. These women are hybrids who have been infused with Yoma tissue to gain their powers to fight against the same shape-shifting Yoma demons. Eventually this process turn the women into monsters, who then need to be put down, but until that day, they are known as Claymores who wield massive swords and wear their distinctive silver armour. One Claymore known as Clare permits a young boy who is the only survivor of a Yoma attack to accompany her against her best judgement. The two then develop a deep bond and the boy proves his worth in his trust and loyalty to her. It is a harsh world in this series and of course there are mysteries to be solved and a great rising evil to fight.
This show had me blitz through it as I really liked the main character, Balsa. She is a spear wielding bodyguard who is atoning for an incident in which she caused eight deaths. She rescues a young prince and then has to protect him from assassins sent by his own father who believes he will bring about the destruction of the kingdom. The boy prince is a bit spoiled, but develops character as a ward under Balsa who basically has to change her whole life for him. The world building and plotting of this show was also really well done.
That's all for now, so enjoy that anime.
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