By Claire Graman
These 10 Feminist Anime for Teen Girls were chosen for focusing on girls and women and their struggles. While there still may be some problematic aspects, for the most part these shows critique gender roles and present strong heroines you can root for. Most entries on this list were also written and/or directed by women.
While a lot of shows about high-school girls focus on romance, these girls aim for more. After her scientist mother disappears on an expedition to Antarctica, teenage Shirase makes it her goal to go there herself. Fate leads her to Mari, a classmate who wants to make the most of her youth. The two embark on the seemingly impossible quest. With a focus on female friendship, exploration, and a ton of heart, A Place Further Than the Universe is a great place to start with feminist anime.
You’ve probably heard of Hayao Miyazaki and his films, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, etc. (If not, stop reading and go check those out ASAP). But you may not have heard of Mamoru Hosoda, another acclaimed anime director. His films often use fantasy as a way to explore complex themes and relationships, like friendship and high school in Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, or family and growing up in Wolf Children and Mirai. Teaming up with female screenwriter, Satoko Okudera, Mamoru crafts touching tales with compelling and strong female characters.
This parody of shoujo (romance aimed for teenage girls) begins in the typical way, an adorable heroine confesses her love to a handsome upper classman. What happens next is unexpected. He misunderstands and gives her an autograph. Turns out, he’s secretly a shoujo comic book artist. What follows is a meta-commentary of the genre, comparing the tropes of romance and romantic comedy to real-life high schoolers who don’t fit neatly into gender roles and relationship goals. You’ll breeze through this sweet and hilarious anime.
Unlike most anime, Moribito comes from a young adult novel instead of manga. Written by an anthropology professor, this anime shows an alternate version of medieval Japan where a young prince has been possessed by a mysterious spirit and is targeted for assassination by his own father, the emperor. It is up to Balsa, a female bodyguard, to protect the prince against all odds. Combining action with compassion, Moribito is a rare anime that shows a competent and unobjectified female warrior.
This unique anime centers on Tsukimi, a young woman who moved to Tokyo to make it big… and failed. Painfully shy and obsessed with jellyfish, she happily lives in an all-female apartment complex with other nerds who have neither careers nor men. But her life is turned upside down when a beautiful cross-dressing man enters her life determined to help save her home from redevelopers. A rare anime to depict diverse body types, Princess Jellyfish is a charming underdog story.
At first glance, Princess Tutu seems unbearably cute, following the adventures of a big-eyed girl who attends a ballet academy and transforms into a magical ballerina princess to save the day. But this cuteness belies an appealing strangeness and philosophical depth as the series blends and critiques anime and ballet motifs and tropes. Not to mention an incredible soundtrack with classical ballet music. In this fairy tale, it is the prince that needs saving and people aren’t always what they seem.
This surreal anime takes place in a high school where the popular kids regularly have sword fighting duels to somehow bring about a “world revolution,” but all this is simply background to a touching lesbian romance and powerful tale of overcoming abuse. With a badass, crossdressing heroine and a critique of damsel in distress narratives, Revolutionary Girl Utena is a classic for a reason and inspired many other cartoons, like Steven Universe.
Much like J.K. Rowling, the creator of Sailor Moon, Naoko Takeuchi, was a struggling artist before making this enormous hit. This classic anime is prime example of the “magical girl” genre in which young women use their femininity to fight evil and save the world. While Sailor Moon has its issues, mainly sexualizing its 14-year-old protagonists, it gets a lot right, including female friendship, strong characters, and a flawed protagonist who grows into her heroic role.
This unique anime takes place in an alternate world roughly equivalent to post-WWI Europe. It focuses on the titular heroine, a former soldier, who adjusts to civilian life by working as a letter-writer. Most episodes frame Violet’s own growth as she helps her clients cope with life after war. Violet is a unique character in anime who can be read as on the autism spectrum in addition to recovering from trauma, making her an important figure for representation and a compelling heroine.
Much like Nozaki-kun, Yona of the Dawn begins with a story we think we know: a princess is in love with a kind, handsome man, but her father, the king, forbids the union. Then things suddenly shift, the love interest starts a coup, assassinating the king and turning his sword on Princess Yona. She escapes beginning an epic tale of vengeance and destiny, centered on character growth and friendship.
We hope you find this list of 10 Feminist Anime for Teen Girls helpful! You might also enjoy our blog post, Ten Coming of Age Games Starring Strong Girls and Women!