The best female anime characters of all time

Anime has truly gifted us with some of the strongest, deadliest and most loveable female characters. Not all of them fight the good fight, but every one of them has a uniquely special talent or attractive personality that has stolen the hearts of anime fans everywhere. Obviously, it should be expected that the best female characters appear in the most popular anime — think about One Piece, My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan, some of the most critically and commercially successful anime, and consider the leading ladies, who are infinitely known and loved within the anime community.

Sometimes, the anime ladies don’t get enough praise and respect for everything they do, especially when they occasionally bail the male leads out of some tight spots. It’s a hard job to narrow down the best female characters, because what exactly defines “the best” anyway? It’s a broad topic when you think about it; best dressed, best looking, best personality, best powers, best presence? Let’s take every attribute into account and narrow down to, in no particular order, the best female anime characters of all time.

Usagi Tsukino / Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon)

Tsukino, otherwise known as Sailor Moon, is one of nine Sailor Guardians, all of which represent different properties. Sailor Moon — the reborn leader of the Sailor Senshi — acts on behalf of love and justice. Possibly derived from her zodiac sign, which is Cancer, Tsukino can be extremely empathetic and — in the Sailor Moon series — is often overcome with emotion and cries easily. She always sees the good in others and possesses a kind heart, believing that everyone deserves love, including her enemies.

As the fearless leader of the Sailor Senshi, Sailor Moon bears the burden of responsibility, but she carries it well. Her powers have moonlight, love, healing, and purification attributes, which is both adorable and admirable, considering Sailor Moon is a pacifist who prefers not to fight or incite violence. Not only is Sailor Moon one of the most instantly recognizable anime characters of all time, she also pledges her allegiance to all things good and just, which makes her the perfect role model for peace and compassion.

Asuna (Sword Art Online)

Tomohiko Itō’s Sword Art Online, which was originally written by Reki Kawahara, rose to prominence after debuting in 2012 and has quickly become one of the most renowned anime series of all time. Divided into the “Aincrad” and “Fairy Dance” arcs, which were respectively adapted from the first two volumes of the manga, Sword Art Online follows Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya and Asuna Yuuki, two players trapped in the virtual world of “Sword Art Online.” Kirito and Asuna must work together to complete all 100 Floors and defeat the final boss in order to be freed from the game.

Sword Art Online‘s main heroine, Asuna, has earned herself celebrity status within the anime community. Asuna is the embodiment of female empowerment, acting as a symbol for self-preservation, independence, and survival despite difficult plights. Before meeting Kirito, Asuna could be careless and competitive, focused only on beating “Sword Art Online” and escaping. However, after some insightful guidance from Kirito, she learns to let loose and enjoy the experience more. Eventually, although high-strung and proud at times, Asuna softens and becomes selfless, sacrificing herself for others on numerous occasions. Due to her valor and self-determination, Asuna became not only the inspiration for countless cosplayers and artists, but proof that women can fight for themselves.

Zero Two (Darling in the Franxx)

Human-klaxo sapien hybrid and elite Parasite, Zero Two, otherwise known as the “Partner Killer,” meets Hiro, an underachieving pilot who longs to operate a FRANXX mecha. Initially, Zero Two is resentful towards humans for mistreating her during her childhood, but she takes a liking to Hiro and the pair become inseparable. Afterwards, they are assigned to operate the powerful FRANXX Strelizia, ultimately sacrificing themselves to save humanity. In the beginning, Zero Two had always been alone, outcast due to her Klaxosaur roots and unnatural appearance; others had labeled her dangerous, ruthless, and alluring, but she often showed playfulness towards Hiro.

Although initially cynical towards life, Zero Two finds a new purpose in Hiro and ditches her dream to become human in order to fight alongside him. Somehow, a character as volatile and unpredictable as Zero Two became somewhat relatable, especially in regard to her insecurities about being a “monster” and her distrust towards humankind. Due to her child-like nature and immaturity, Zero Two provided comic relief in times where tensions were high and the soul-seeking journey she undergoes to develop her character is not just fascinating but also heartwarming and moving. Honestly, Zero Two probably has one of the greatest character arcs in any anime series.

Nezuko Kamado (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba)

Formerly a human, Nezuko Kamado was transformed into a demon by Muzan Kibutsuji, the Demon King and progenitor of all other demons. Before becoming a demon, Nezuko was a kind and caring person, but the alterations made her bloodthirsty and vicious toward humans. At times, Nezuko’s personality is akin to that of a child, but the regression can be deceiving, especially since Nezuko holds harmful intentions toward those she doesn’t trust. She is brazen, unafraid of a fight, and willing to do whatever it takes to protect her loved ones, specifically family members.

Again, Nezuko is highly distinguishable and one of Demon Slayers‘ best selling points. She has been the basis of many internet memes, mostly due to her extreme and explosive range of emotions, namely uncontrollable anger in immediate contrast to unnerving calm. Fiercely protective over others, Nezuko is an all-around likeable leading lady who exhibits so many different traits it would be impossible not to sympathize with her in one way or another. Plus, the deadly combination of sweet and innocent versus lethal and flesh-starved is too exciting to resist.

Himiko Toga (My Hero Academia)

My Hero Academia needs no introduction; it really is one of the best-selling anime and a tough one to beat. Its popularity is attested by its casual readability, especially in regard to superhero fans — My Hero Academia seems like anime meets Marvel. Among its many favorable characters, Himiko Toga, one of many major antagonists in the series, continues to win over the dedicated fanbase. Formerly a member of the League of Villains (which sounds like DC Comics’ Rogues Gallery, hence the superhero tie-ins), then later one of the nine lieutenants of the Paranormal Liberation Front, Himiko displays sadistic and psychotic tendencies, often reacting inappropriately to scenarios — such a smiling after killing or attempting to kill someone.

Himiko is — inside and out — the stereotypical supervillain who relishes in the torment of others, which is precisely what makes her so enjoyable to watch. Who doesn’t love a good villain? Much like Darling in the Franxx‘s Zero Two, Himiko has shown a comedic and childlike demeanor, often providing not only the conflict but also the humor. Himiko’s mood swings make her erratic and unstable, which prevents the storyline from turning dull and monotonous with unexpected twists and turns. There are too many My Hero Academia characters to count, so Himiko might not win the popularity contest, but she radiates excitement and flair whenever she does appear.

Yumeko Jabami (Kakegurui)

Kakegurui revolves around Hyakkaou Private Academy, a prestigious school run by a student council hierarchy determined by gambling. Yumeko Jabami joins Hyakkaou as a second-year transfer student who — after adapting to the system and developing skills of her own — becomes one of the best compulsive gamblers. Yumeko is a charismatic, optimistic, and competitive gambler who learns to manipulate those around her as she becomes power-hungry and unstoppable. Despite this, she is generally friendly and prioritizes honestly and politeness, especially shown when she condemns her competitors for cheating.

Although Kakegurui isn’t as popular in mainstream as other anime, it stands apart from the crowd as a uniquely engaging concept. Not many anime series would use gambling as a basis, especially since it isn’t as interesting on the surface as the superhero-inspired My Hero Academia. There are instances where Yumeko is hard to relate to and sympathize with, especially since her obsession and drive towards gambling feels one-sided due to her overpowered and heightened senses for cheating and foul play. She might not be as three-dimensional as some of the other ladies on the list, but Yumeko is a delight to watch, even if she does effortlessly annihilate anyone who dares to oppose her.

Mai Sakurajima (Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai / Bunny Girl Senpai)

Young adult Mai Sakurajima is a noteworthy actress at Minegahara High School who notices that her existence has become subjective. Only Sakuta Azusagawa is able to see her — a theory which she tests out by wearing a bunny girl outfit to school — and the duo join forces to figure out the cause. While she isn’t inherently irritable, Mai does come across as short-tempered at times where lewd comments are made, especially toward herself. Overall, Mai is emotional and sensitive, harboring a crippling anxiety surrounding the fear of being forgotten. She can be very reserved and pessimistic, but cares deeply about Sakuta, striving to be a kind-hearted person foremost.

Not only is Mai considered physically attractive — which adds to her popularity — but she has a complex, multi-layered personality that unravels slowly throughout Bunny Girl Senpai. In 2019, Mai was declared “Best Girl” by Crunchyroll, so if there were ever a testament to her likability, that would be it. Bunny Girl Senpai is a touching tale of love and loss in its purest form, but Mai’s complexity makes it so much more than a generic romance; she brings passion, hilarity and authenticity to the trials and tribulations of navigating high school while apparently invisible.

Sasha Braus (Attack on Titan)

Affectionately named “Potato Girl,” Attack on Titan‘s Sasha Braus was a member of the Scout Regiment and one of the few former members of the 104th Cadet Corps, who (SPOILER!) at the hands of Gabi Braun, an Eldian girl serving under Captain Magath. The death of Potato Girl shocked the whole Attack on Titan community, deeply humbling them with the devastating loss. Sasha was fun-loving, friendly and personable, initially timid and prone to clumsiness. Somehow, these qualities became part of her charm and she resonated with a lot of Attack on Titan fans.

One of the biggest reasons behind her popularity came from Sasha’s love for food; there rarely came a scene where Sasha wasn’t chowing down on some grub. Eating provided her with considerable gratification and relief, as it does most of us in real life. Sasha was the anime equivalent of “eating your emotions” and everyone loved her for it. She would often steal food from pantries and hoard it, making her not only extremely lovable but also downright hilarious. Sasha would always fight for the greater good and only ever fought when it was necessary. She really was the epitome of courage and virtue.

Ochaco Uraraka (My Hero Academia)

It should come as no surprise that My Hero Academia has yet another entry on the list; its vast multiverse of characters makes it hard to not pick more than one. Ochaco Uraraka, a student in Class 1-A at U.A. High School, is a complete airhead whose bubbly disposition is relentlessly endearing. Most of the time, Ochaco is trying not to laugh at some antics from her classmates, exhibiting her sense of humor at all times. She is warm, lively and optimistic, always looking to help others in need and expressing empathy where needed. Despite her ditzy demeanor, Ochaco has steely focus that can be somewhat intimidating when the situation calls for it. She has unwavering determination and dislikes being underestimated, making her a fierce opponent and dedicated hero.

Coming from a humble background, Ochaco wishes to earn enough money to give her family a comfortable life, especially her parents, who are her main source of motivation. Despite her small stature, Ochaco is a formidable heroine and lacks the capacity to truly despise someone, even if she feels strong hostility towards them. Despite being undervalued, Ochaco proves herself as a level-headed and competent individual and it goes without saying that a lot of people can relate when eventually overcoming that feeling of inferiority.

Nami (One Piece)

There are so many good One Piece characters, but Nami wins it for the females. As a notorious cat burglar, Nami initially encountered the Straw Hat Pirates to rob them, but when they rebelled against and defeated Arlong, she joined legitimately and become their trusted navigator. Nami is unequivocally intelligent as one of the smartest of the Straw Hat Pirates. Originally, she viewed all pirates as universally corrupt and immoral, but eventually softened upon meeting the Straw Hats. Although she may appear to be a coward, Nami is an exceptionally bold and bright woman, perhaps the most level-headed and reasonable of the Straw Hats. Like many women, Nami enjoys her luxuries and engages in leisurely activities from time to time, enjoying the royal treatment and being pampered.

Nami is greedy and obsessed with treasure and money — as most pirates are — which stems from a childhood of poverty and depravity. Despite this, Nami “treasures” (pun intended) friendship and camaraderie much more than gold and jewels. As a wise woman once said, “What good is treasure if I’m all alone? I’d rather have nothing at all.” Nami is especially relatable for older women, certainly those with wisdom and experience, but even younger audiences can admire her ambition.