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Less Sakuras, More Izumis: The Representation of Female Anime Characters

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

At this point, I think it’s no secret that I love anime. I have several favourite anime along with several favourite anime characters. When I first became interested in anime, I didn’t really think much of how the females were portrayed. But the more I watched, the more I started to notice things about them. The representation of female anime characters varies from either really bland to really strong. I really love a strong female character, a woman that I can associate myself with or strive to be like. Unfortunately, I feel that several anime fail to portray female characters as interesting or strong. 

A very common example is Sakura Haruno from the popular anime series Naruto. Sakura is basically known as a universally hated character among the anime community. Honestly, I personally don’t dislike her (boy, am I going to get made fun of for saying that), but I am bothered by her portrayal. You see, the reason people hate her is because she’s seen as “useless.” You often see her towards the end of the series, saying that she finally caught up to her comrades, Naruto and Sasuke, in terms of strength. But the reality is, she isn’t nearly as strong as they are. Don’t get me wrong, she is physically strong, but the difference in power is pretty significant. 

But that’s not the reason I’m bothered by her character. When I say that I love a strong female character, I don’t necessarily mean physically strong. I don’t generally base my favourite characters off their physical strength – that’s just a plus. I wouldn’t expect her to be like Mikasa Ackerman from Attack on Titan (although I totally love her). What bothers me about Sakura is that she’s very bland as a character. In the first Naruto series, she’s completely boy-crazy over Sasuke, and that’s basically the only interesting thing about her. Afterwards, she just seems kind of mean towards Naruto. I generally see her as a character centered around love, relationships, and romance. While I enjoy those things, girls should not always be identified with romance – they’re a lot more than that. Sakura’s character had a lot of potential; it’s just disappointing that there wasn’t much more to her than this. She needed more personality, to be more than just the girl who’s in love with Sasuke. As much as I love Naruto, a lot of the female characters weren’t very fleshed out, which is disappointing because the idea of strong female ninjas is so exciting. 

Another representation of a female character who I thought was poorly portrayed is Misa Amane from Death Note. Like Sakura, I feel like there’s so much that could have been done with her. So much potential — gone to waste! When she introduces herself to the anime’s protagonist, Light Yagami, she gets annoying quickly. Her only care in life is that Light uses her and loves her. That’s it. If he’s happy, she’s happy. If he finds her useful, all is well. If they’re in a romantic relationship, let the confetti rain upon us. Seriously, that’s all there is to her character. The addition of her character was exciting at first, but then this was all we got – her obsession with the good-looking (and not to mention, evil) Light Yagami. She didn’t care that he was abusive and manipulative. In fact, she welcomed it. It’s very off-putting and disturbing. Personally, if I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t care if he looked like a young Leonardo Dicaprio; I’d be dumping his sorry behind. 

While I feel that a lot of anime don’t portray female anime characters as well as they should, there are still several that do! And I don’t just mean Mikasa Ackerman. I love her, but sometimes it gets a little irritating when her focus is almost always on Eren. I get it, she loves him, and I love the idea of them in a relationship, but I enjoy the moments when she’s more fleshed out and focused on other things. 

Here, in my opinion, is a perfect example of a strong female anime character: Izumi Curtis from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Who is Izumi Curtis? To put it simply, she is a housewife. No, scratch that. She’s a lot more than just a housewife. She’s the alchemist who taught the pair of brothers Edward and Alphonse everything she knows about alchemy. My girl Izumi is strong as heck, and I don’t just mean physically. She is the perfect definition of a mama bear. Edward and Alphonse are like sons to her, and she treats them as such — tough love. See that? A woman’s love doesn’t always have to be romantic! Hers is familial and motherly. If they need their butts kicked to get some sense knocked into them, you bet your sweet life that she will do it. Seriously, when we’re first introduced to her, she’s kicking the crap out of the brothers. And when she isn’t being tough towards them, she is often listening and very understanding. One such moment that sticks out to me is when she gently explains death to a little girl whose cat died. While this conversation wasn’t in association with the brothers, you can see how caring she is towards other children – she definitely loves kids. 

Another strong female anime character that I really love is Yuzuha Shiba from Tokyo Revengers. Yuzuha, the middle child of the Shiba family, is extremely brave. It is revealed (slight spoiler warning) that Taiju, the oldest of the Shiba family, is very abusive towards her and their little brother, Hakkai. Yuzuha, who loves her family more than anything, took it upon herself to receive Hakkai’s punishments for him – she was taking hits for two. For so long, she did everything in her power to protect Hakkai from Taiju’s abuse. Even after the dramatic events that follow, she expresses that she loves her family, including Taiju, no matter how messed up it may be. It’s not very often you see a female character protecting a male character from violence. It’s usually the other way around – the man saving the damsel in distress. This time, the roles were reversed, and it was done beautifully. Yuzuha maintained her strength as a character, with her love for both Taiju and Hakkai evident in spite of everything. It’s also refreshing to see a female expressing familial love to a man who’s related to her as opposed to romantic love towards someone else. Her character is consistent and not at all bland, which is why I love her. 

I think that the anime community has a long way to go in terms of female representation. As long as we keep receiving bland, uninteresting female characters, I don’t see much hope. But we have characters like Izumi and Yuzuha that keep the community alive, in my personal opinion. I’m certain I’m not the only one who loves a strong female character. So let’s keep the Izumis coming, because we can’t get enough of them!

Nawal Jasey

UWindsor '23

Hello! I'm Nawal! I'm in the English program, so it's needless to say that I am obsessed with reading and writing. I also enjoy playing the piano (not at all professionally), watching movies, listening to music, cuddling my adorable kitty, and hanging out with my friends and family.