the best anime with strong female leads according to reddit
Because Princess Mononoke slays.
Image from YouTube
Anime films have given us many strong female leads. While Disney princesses are often polite, soppy, and enthralled by men -- see The Little Mermaid’s Ariel literally giving away her voice to be with Prince Eric -- Japanese animation provides an entirely different image of women altogether; from ferocious warrior princesses to determined single mothers providing for their children (even when they’re half werewolf).
"Many of my movies have strong female leads," Studio Ghibli’s iconic director, Hayao Miyazaki, once said in an interview. "Brave, self-sufficient girls that don't think twice about fighting for what they believe with all their heart. They'll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a saviour. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man."
To find the best anime films featuring interesting female characters -- ones that don’t require a man with a sword to save them -- we scoured a number of reddit forums to see what anime superfans have been watching.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world where humans fight over the last known resources, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind tells the story of Nausicaä, a young princess embroiled in war. In place of fluttering princess dresses, Nausicaä wears a boiler suit and a gas mask. She’s a nature-loving eco-warrior, feverishly interested in science, and when she encounters a potential love interest, rather than flirting, she begins telling him about her extensive insect collection.
What reddit says: “Nausicaä is a warrior, but her greatest strength lies in her compassion.”
What Rotten Tomatoes says: 87%
Wolf Children follows young mother Hana as she’s left to raise two children following the death of their werewolf father. She might be bereaved by her loss, but Hana is tough: working hard to protect Yuki and Ame as they constantly switch between human and wolf forms, tirelessly repairing their derelict house and sustaining the family on their own crops. Watch if you want to become dehydrated from too many tears.
What reddit says: “I mostly cried because of the strength and love that Hana has for her children, and the lengths she goes to to provide them with good lives.”
What Rotten Tomatoes says: 94%
Princess Mononoke follows San, a human raised in a forest by a wolf goddess named Moro. She’s ferocious, and when she meets handsome prince Ashitaka, rather than going all gushy, she brusquely dismisses him and proceeds with her plan to kill Lady Eboshi -- an industrialist who is wreaking environmental havoc and manufacturing iron and guns. Eboshi is another interesting female character, considering she’s exploiting the landscape to expand her industry, she should be the villain. Yet within Eboshi’s fortress is a socialist collective led by freed slaves, lepers and women.
What reddit says: “Hands down best anime of all time.”
What Rotten Tomatoes says: 92%
A Letter to Momo
Hiroyuki Okiura’s A Letter to Momo explores the pain of loss and regret on a person too young to articulate them. After her father is lost at sea, a grieving 11 year old Momo moves from Tokyo to a remote island where her mother lives. She quickly becomes depressed and lonely, haunted by the nasty words she spoke to her father before he left. Unable to appreciate the mossy forests and turquoise seas of her new world, she obsesses over a letter her father started but never finished, reminding her of all that was left unsaid. But relief comes to Momo in the form of three goblins who are sentenced to watch over Momo and her mother until her father’s soul can take over. As Momo conquers her fears, averts a tragedy and finally sees the beauty of her surroundings, the movie wrenches at your heart with the softest of hands.
What reddit says: “The goblins are so cute, especially their little potbellies, I want one as a pet.”
What Rotten Tomatoes says: 80%
This pulpy thriller follows idolised female popstar Mima Kirigoe as her pursuit of an acting career spirals into a painful and bloody identity crisis. The blue-washed, melancholic imagery is matched by an equally depressing narrative. Mima is coaxed by a producer into taking part in an explicit gang rape scene that was never in the original script. "It's not as if I'm really getting raped," she explains to her assistant. Then there's the sleazy photographer who insists she take her clothes off. "Be more daring! Be more passionate!" he barks. Mima is exploited for her body to the point of traumatisation. Dead bodies start cropping up all around her, while her most private thoughts mysteriously find themselves aired publicly on her website. The movie's troubling subject matter is even more harrowing after the Harvey Weinstein revelations exposed how dark the industry really can be.
What reddit says: “Back Swan was inspired by Perfect Blue but doesn’t quite manage to encompass the suffocating darkness in the same way.”
What Rotten Tomatoes says: 73%
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
This bittersweet story follows a schoolgirl called Makoto who discovers she can go backwards in time. Makoto uses the ability as any typical teenager would: she resits exams, eats loads of food and embarks on marathon karaoke sessions. Importantly, Makoto attempts to prevent two guy friends from fancying her by undoing even the slightest signs of romance. The film looks at how one must learn to accept life as it comes and not dwell on past regrets.
What reddit says: "If you enjoy time-loop movies like Groundhog Day, coming-of-age stories like Your Name, and even do-over movies like 17 Again (you heard me), you will really enjoy this movie."
What Rotten Tomatoes says: 88%
Kiki's Delivery Service
In Kiki’s Delivery Service a 13-year-old witch is forced to leave home in order to undergo magic training. Could this be the Kiki Drake is singing about? Even if it was, she probably wouldn’t care, she’s too interested in casting spells. The headstrong Kiki eagerly flies off on her broomstick, but soon loses her magical powers: "Without even thinking about it, I used to be able to fly," she says in one scene. "Now I'm trying to look inside myself and find out how I did it." The plot might be meandering and loose, but beneath its sunny, gloriously animated surface, lies an unapologetic confrontation with the intricacies of growing up as a woman and those issues such as independence, insecurity and burgeoning sexuality.
What reddit says: “Kiki is one of my go-to happy anime for when I'm upset.”
What Rotten Tomatoes says: 97%
Howl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle is set in a fantasy European town, filled with retro-futurist ships and rolling green hills. After a witch transforms the heroine Sophie into a 90-year-old woman, the self-conscious character sets out on a quest to break the curse. She climbs on board a floating fortress, befriends a fire demon, impersonates a witch and stops a war from breaking out. Along the way she starts to feel confident in herself, obscurely relieved by her withered skin: "The good thing about being old is that you have so little to lose." It is only through a confrontation with her own decrepitness that the wrinkles begin to fade. As Peter Bradshaw noted in The Guardian: “One of the great truths of Howl's Moving Castle is that youth is not always an exquisite blessing wasted on the young. It is a torture which the young do not deserve.” In a world where women must remain young to retain cultural relevance, films like Howl’s Moving Castle and protagonists like Sophie show that growing older means growing wiser and youth is not all it is cracked up to be.
What reddit says: “Visually stunning”.
What Rotten Tomatoes says: 87%
Spirited Away follows sulky, chubby-cheeked 10-year-old Chihiro as she moves to a new neighbourhood and accidentally slips into the spirit world. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba, Chihiro is forced to venture further into the dream world, taking a job working in Yubaba's bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world. She fearlessly encounters a spidery boiler-room man with six arms, a faceless monster and a humongous "stink spirit" that vomits the slimey contents of a heavily polluted river over her. Facing shape-shifting monsters -- the stink spirit is revealed to be a river god, a raven is transformed into a fly, a giant baby becomes a mouse -- Chihiro is transformed from a playful child into an active, industrious protagonist.
What reddit says: “Every time I get drunk I go on and on to people about how they need to watch this film.”
What Rotten Tomatoes says: 97%
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.