Top Anime On Netflix With Strong Female Characters

Feeling the need to watch some strong female characters in action? Take a minute to get to know these amazing anime women on Netflix.
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Something that is sometimes lacking from media is a strong female character for girls to look up to and for women to respect.  They don't have to have powerful physical abilities, although that may be part of it. 

Strong female characters are simply three-dimensional, complex characters, who have been written to have their own beliefs and philosophies, strengths and weaknesses, and who are interesting to watch.  People others can identify with, who aren't just there to fill a particular role or provide an incentive for other characters to act-no more fridging women, please!

I have scoured Netflix (UK) to compose a list of Anime that have some strong female characters, who are a joy to watch. They are not necessarily the protagonists of the series but have a significant impact nonetheless. 

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1. Violet Evergarden - 2018

Duration: 13 episodes

Starring: Yui Ishikawa/Erika Harlacher, Takehito Koyasu/Kyle McCarley,
Daisuke Namikawa/Tony Azzolino

Violet Evergarden, as you might expect, centres around Violet (Yui Ishikawa/ Erika Harlacher) an ex-child soldier who struggles to find her place in the world after the war is over and she no longer has Major Bougainvillea (Daisuke Namikawa/Tony Azzolino) to guide her and give her orders.  

The series follows Violet as she begins working as an Auto Memory Doll, a job that consists of writing letters for people who can’t read or those struggling to put what they want to convey into words.  In order to carry out the work successfully Violet has to learn to tap into other people’s emotions while struggling to come to terms with her own feelings about the part she played in the war and trying to figure out what the Major meant when he said ‘I love you.’

Through her work as a Doll, Violet is able to learn about and encounter many forms of love, and you get to witness her become more emotional and less like the expressionless ‘Doll’ of war that she was brought up to be.  She has to deal with so many new feelings: grief, regret, compassion, loneliness, happiness, all without the person she relied on for most of her life, but she gets through it.  

The series also does a good job with her transition from military to civilian life and I liked that although she was in the military she is not depicted as being very masculine, as though she can’t be tough without behaving like a man, or going too far the other way, being overtly feminine and constantly highlighting her curves and breasts.  

She wears beautiful flowing dresses, but still has practical boots for the job with her hair tied back.  The female side characters that Violet meets also grow in their own ways as well, proving that it’s not just physical strength that can make you strong.

2. Spirited Away – 2001

Duration – 2hr 5 mins

Starring: Rumi Hiiragi/Daveigh Chase, Miyu Orino/ Jason Marsden,
Mari Natsuki/Suzanne Pleshette.

After taking a wrong turn on the way to their new house, Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi/Daveigh Chase) and her parents end up at an abandoned amusement park.  While Chihiro has a bad feeling about the place, her parents are eager to explore and, not wanting to be left alone, Chihiro goes with them.  As they’re looking around, they come across a banquet and her parents dig in.  Feeling more nervous than ever, Chihiro wanders off and when she comes back her parents are gone.  

In her search for them, Chihiro accidentally crosses over into the spirit world and discovers that her parents have been taken by the spirit Yubaba (Mari Natsuki/Suzanne Pleshette) as punishment for eating the banquet laid out for the spirits staying at her resort.  With the help of a spirit called Haku (Miyu Orino/ Jason Marsden) and some others, Chihiro manages to secure a job working for Yubaba so she can free her parents and return home.

Although initially Chihiro is scared and misses her parents, (who wouldn’t break down in those conditions?) she quickly adjusts to her new circumstances and works hard at her job at the bathhouse, even managing to help out a spirit or two along the way.  

Considering she is only ten years old, her resolve is strong and she is able to keep a level head in various stressful situations.  The film does a great job of reinforcing the fact that Chihiro is just a ten-year-old girl, she doesn’t have any special powers or skills, she doesn’t have any training of any kind to fall back on, she just works with what she’s got.

Aside from Chihiro, you have Lin (Yumi Tamai/Susan Egan) the spirit who is put in charge of her.  She’s a hard worker with a sassy attitude and, although she complains and can seem uncaring, she looks out for Chihiro and cares about her wellbeing.  

Then there’s Yubaba herself.  While she is the antagonist, you have to appreciate her commitment to the bathhouse and its guests, she goes above and beyond to ensure everything runs smoothly and her customers leave satisfied, a real career woman who no doubt worked her way up from the bottom.

3. Fullmetal Alchemist – 2003

Duration: 51 episodes

Starring: Romi Pak/Vic Mignogna, Rie Kugimiya/Aaron Dismuke,
Megumi Toyoguchi/Caitlin Glasse

In a world where alchemy exists and anything can be transmuted as long as the rules of equivalent exchange are abided by, Edward (Romi Pak/Vic Mignogna) and Alphonse Elric (Rie Kugimiya/Aaron Dismuke) attempt to bring their mother back to life through human transmutation, something that is illegal and taboo in alchemical circles.

 Unfortunately, the transmutation fails with Edward losing an arm and a leg and Alphonse losing his whole body.  Now, with Edward having become a state alchemist, the brothers scour the world in search of the philosopher’s stone, an object that would allow them to restore their bodies and live normal lives.

Despite this adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist not being as accurate as of the subsequent anime, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, it still has a host of great female characters for you to enjoy.  Because there are so many, I can only tell you about three right now, sorry about that.

First up there’s the Elric Brothers’ childhood friend Winry Rockbell.  Winry (Megumi Toyoguchi/Caitlin Glasse) was brought up by her grandmother after her parents died in the war and, following in her Grandmother’s footsteps, becomes an automail mechanic, frequently having to fix Ed’s automail arm after he breaks it fighting.  

Later on, Winry goes to Rush Valley-the centre of automail and gets an apprenticeship there, soon becoming one of the most sought-after mechanics by customers-an amazing achievement, especially due to the male-dominant nature of the industry.  

She is also not afraid to take up more feminine hobbies, learning cooking from Gracia so that she will be able to cook Al’s favourite dishes once he gets his body back.  Winry acts as the brothers’ rock, supporting them when they need it and always making sure to let them know when they’re being idiots.

Another woman who has to look out for an idiot, and does so masterfully, is Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye (Michiko Neya/Colleen Clinkenbeard).  Tasked with protecting and watching over the lazy Colonel Roy Mustang (Tôru Ohkawa/Travis Willingham), Lieutenant Hawkeye is probably the best shot in Amestris and always has the Colonel’s back-especially when it rains-and puts up with his reckless behaviour.  

She is able to hold her own against alchemists and homunculi alike, despite being a normal human, and trains a dog to the point where it is suitable for combat.  I don’t know if anyone could get more badass than that.

strong female characters from Fullmetal Alchemist anime
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Having said that, it would be a close match between Hawkeye and Izumi Curtis (Shouko Tsuda/Christine M. Auten).  Izumi is a highly accomplished alchemist and the Elric Brothers’ master who, like Ed, has seen the Truth and can transmute without a transmutation circle.  After performing human transmutation in an attempt to bring her baby back to life, Izumi loses her internal organs; however this doesn’t stop her, and she can still hold her own against the homunculi.  

More than that, despite the trauma caused by the loss of her child she still agrees to take on Ed and Al as students, becoming a mother figure for them. Having said all this, what Izumi is most proud of is her status as a housewife, advocating for women who want to support their families at home and still be viewed as strong and capable.

Of course, these aren’t the only women proving themselves, if you want to witness more women kicking ass go ahead and check out Fullmetal Alchemist on Netflix (and Brotherhood too if you can).

4. Howl’s Moving Castle – 2004

Duration: 1 hrs 59 mins

Starring: Chieko Baishô/Emily Mortimer (young)/Jean Simmons (old),
Takuya Kimura/Christian Bale,Tatsuya Gashûin/Billy Crystal

The story of Howl’s Moving Castle starts with Sophie (Chieko Baishô/Emily Mortimer (young)/Jean Simmons (old)), a shy young woman who believes herself to be nothing special, an ordinary, plain-looking girl.  She spends her days working at her father’s hat shop until she happens to befriend a wizard called Howl (Takuya Kimura/Christian Bale).  

Unbeknownst to Sophie, the Witch of the Waste becomes jealous of Sophie and Howl’s budding friendship and curses her, transforming her into a ninety-year-old woman.  To search for a way to break the curse, Sophie leaves home and comes across a moving castle belonging to Howl, hoping that this might provide some answers she climbs aboard.

I think Sophie is a great protagonist and very relatable, she starts off as shy and introverted, not thinking very highly of herself, but the events she experiences throughout the film reveal an inner strength she didn’t know she had.  

Because of the curse, she no longer worries about how she looks or how others perceive her, by letting all of her unnecessary anxieties go she is able to accomplish amazing feats and become more confident in herself.  I think the film has a lot to say about how women are perceived by society and men.

5. Tokyo Ghoul – 2014

Duration: 60 episodes (only 48 on Netflix)

Starring: Natsuke Hanae/Austin Tindle, Sora Amamiya/Brina Palencia,
Mamoru Miyano/J. Michael Tatum

In a world where ghouls-beings that eat humans to survive exist, Ken Kaneki (Natsuke Hanae/Austin Tindle) is just another normal introverted university student until he plucks up the courage to ask Rize (Kana Hanazawa/Monica Rial) out.  Rize happens to be a ghoul, and unfortunately for Kaneki she was attracted to him not because of his taste in books but because of his taste. Period.  

By sheer luck, as Kaneki is trying to escape from Rize, some loose scaffolding falls on top of them and Kaneki survives the encounter-but only just.  He wakes up in hospital a week later and is told that in order to save his life he had an organ transplant, but the donor is none other than Rize the ghoul who tried to eat him!  Now half-ghoul and craving human flesh Kaneki struggles to survive in a world where he is not quite human and not quite a ghoul.

I know she’s a ghoul and brutally murders people before eating them, but Rize is a woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to hunt it down.  Despite being criticised by other ghouls for her gluttonous nature and drawing the attention of the CCG (Commission of Counter Ghoul), Rize sticks to her guns and cuts down anyone, ghoul or human, that gets in her way.  Not only is she a powerful ghoul but she’s also a great actress able to lure in her prey without creating suspicion.

A character who can’t hide her emotions, as well as Rize, is Touka (Sora Amamiya/Brina Palencia), a ghoul who is part of Café Anteiku, a group that strives to have humans and ghouls live to co-exist with each other, and therefore no longer kill people to survive.  

Seemingly cold at first, once you get to know Touka you realise that she wears her emotions on her sleeve and cares deeply about all her friends, even going so far as to eat human food and make herself ill just because her human friend made it for her.  The other side of this is that because Touka is fiercely loyal if her friends are hurt in any way she will go after the perpetrator and ruthlessly take them down.

strong female characters from tokyo ghoul anime

The final character I’ll mention is Hinami (Sumire Morohoshi/Lara Woodhull), a young ghoul whose father and mother are both killed, leaving her orphaned.  The CCG uses her father’s scent to trap her and her mother and then uses her mother’s scent to lure Hinami to them again just when she is coming to terms with her mother’s death.  

Even in the face of such tragedy Hinami doesn’t give up, honing her abilities and becoming a strong ghoul who’s difficult to contend with.  Yet through all of it she remains kind and caring (possibly partly due to Touka’s influence), looking out for her new family first.

6. Princess Mononoke – 1997

Duration 2 hrs 14 mins

Starring: Yôji Matsuda/Billy Crudup, Yuriko Ishida/Claire Danes,
Yûko Tanaka/Minnie Driver

Ashitaka (Yôji Matsuda/Billy Crudup), prince of Emishi village, is infected by a demon while battling against it to save his people.  Though he defeats it, he is told the infection will spread and ultimately kill him; in order to find a cure, he leaves the village to search for the Forest Spirit.  

Along the way, he meets both the princess of the forest, San (Yuriko Ishida/Claire Danes ) adopted daughter of the wolf god, and Lady Eboshi (Yûko Tanaka/Minnie Driver), leader of the mining village Irontown, and gets drawn into their war.  

San wishes to protect the forest and its creatures, while Eboshi wants to destroy the forest to mine for iron ore and support her people.  Having spent time among both groups and unable to choose whose cause is right, Ashitaka tries to minimalise the casualties on both sides.

She might seem like more of an Antagonist at times, however, Lady Eboshi is a fierce and benevolent leader protecting her people not only from samurai and forest spirits but also from a society that does not accept them.  

The majority of women in the village are those who have been saved by Eboshi, previously having to work in brothels Lady Eboshi gives them purpose and shelter-even insisting that the rifles be made lighter so that the women can use them not just the men.  

She also rescues lepers who had been shunned by society, treating them and giving them somewhere safe to live.  She is also ruthless on the battlefield always fighting on the frontlines and making quick decisions when needed.

Similarly, San maintains authority over her wolf siblings, constantly giving orders while on the move.  She is a highly skilled warrior specialising in close combat and frequently takes on multiple opponents at once with only a knife or her bare hands.  

Having said that, she repays kindness with kindness saving Ashitaka’s life after he saves hers.  She also acts in a more diplomatic role trying to keep the peace between the different spirits who want to start wars and is extremely loyal to her mother and the forest, going to any length to protect it.

7. No Game No Life – 2014

Duration: 12 episodes

Starring: Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Scott Gibbs, Ai Kayano/Caitlynn French

After unknowingly beating God in a game of online chess, siblings Sora (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Scott Gibbs) and Shiro (Ai Kayano/Caitlynn French) are sent to another world where wars no longer exist, and all conflicts are settled with games.  It’s the perfect place for the siblings who, in their world, had been anti-social pro-gamers who never left the house as they were scared of the outside world and the interactions they would have there.  They quickly start playing various games, gaining notoriety as they do so.

While Shiro is the younger of the two siblings, she is arguably the more intelligent when basing it on pure quantitative intellect and IQ.  She may seem shy and quiet, but when action is required Shiro doesn’t hesitate, developing and carrying out plans flawlessly-often saving her brother and the other characters in the process. She doesn’t hesitate to convey what’s on her mind either, although Shiro rarely speaks, when she does, she doesn’t hold back saying exactly what she thinks regardless of how others may take it.

8. Your Lie in April – 2014

Duration: 22 episodes

Starring: Risa Taneda/Erica Lindbeck, Natsuki Hanae/Max Mittelman

Kousei (Natsuki Hanae/Max Mittelman) was a piano child prodigy, however, he lost his ability to play after he experienced a traumatic event, as the psychological effects meant that he was unable to hear the notes.  Now in Junior High, Kousei hasn’t played piano in two years; this all changes when he meets Kaori (Risa Taneda/Erica Lindbeck) a spirited violinist who reignites his love of music and pushes him to start playing piano again.  

After convincing Kousei to be her accompanist they enter competitions and Kousei, with Kaori’s help, starts being able to play the piano again.  However, Kaori has a secret of her own and the friends will be faced with more challenges down the road.

Kaori is a non-conformist, refusing to play the classical pieces in a way that is technically correct but giving them a unique flare that touches the hearts of those who hear her play-especially Kousei.  Kaori always looks on the positive side of things and in doing so encourages the people around her to do the same.

 Moreover, she does all this while having to deal with something that would ordinarily prevent her from performing and acting the way she does.  Kaori doesn’t let anything get in her way, possessing a determination that allows her to get things done even if they seem impossible.

9. Avatar the Last Airbender – 2005

Duration: 54 episodes

Starring: Zach Tyler, Mae Whitman, Jack De Sena

In the world of Avatar the Last Air Bender, select humans have the ability to harness one of the four elements: earth, air, water, or fire, they are known as Benders, but there exists one person who can wield all four elements.  This person is called the Avatar and is reincarnated after the previous Avatar dies.  

However, the Avatar has not been seen for one hundred years, that is until two siblings from the Southern Water Tribe, Katara (Mae Whitman) and Sokka (Jack De Sena), discover him in the ice.  Now free, the Avatar-a twelve-year-old boy named Aang (Zach Tyler)-must master the four elements in time to defeat the Fire Nation who have been expanding their territory and invading other Nations in the Avatar’s absence.

Again, quite a few strong women to pick from in this series, but I will stick to three and you’ll have to watch it to get to know the rest (assuming you haven’t already!)

The first character is Katara, having grown up in the Southern Water tribe where all the men have left to fight and her mother has died, Katara had to grow up very quickly, so she is quite mature for her age acting as the mum of the group, trying to make sure everyone is alright (not that she doesn’t have outbursts when she is overwhelmed she's still only 14!).  

As the only water bender in her tribe, Katara is almost completely self-taught and takes on the role of teaching Aang as well.  Not only that, when she has the opportunity to be taught by a master but is refused solely because she is female she fights back and changes the master’s stance.

characters from avatar the last airbender anime
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 Like Katara, Aang's Earth-bending master Toph (Michaela Jill Murphy) taught herself how to earth bend, only Toph faced the additional challenge of being blind.  Due to her disability and young age Toph has to fight to be taken seriously, luckily, she has a no-nonsense attitude and a face-it-head-on approach to obstacles, so she is quickly able to prove herself to others.  Toph also doesn’t bother to censor what comes out of her mouth and will tell you exactly how it is and what she thinks of you, a lot of the time when you need it most.

Then there’s Azula (Grey Griffin), Princess of the Fire Nation and a Fire-bending prodigy, she is a megalomaniac obsessed with becoming the Fire Lord.  However, despite her achievements she is often overlooked with her father and mother giving more attention to her older brother Zuko (Dante Basco), even if the attention her father gives Zuko is negative.  Azula is relentless, sadistic, and power-hungry, but also intelligent, manipulative, and skilled, capable of taking on Aang and the rest of team Avatar single-handedly.

10. Akame Ga Kill! – 2014

Duration: 24 episodes

Starring: Sôma Saitô/Coret Hartzog, Sora Amamiya/Molly Searcy,
Satomi Akesaka/Christine M. Auten

Swordsman and country bumpkin Tatsumi (Sôma Saitô/Coret Hartzog) travels to the capital to make a name for himself; however, when he gets there, he is robbed and ends up being taken in by a kind noble girl named Aria.  During his stay at her manor, the residence is attacked by a group of assassins called Night Raid.  

Though Tatsumi protects Aria initially, Night Raid reveals that Aria and her family have been offering travellers shelter only to torture and murder them.  Without hesitation, Tatsumi kills Aria and joins Night Raid-though somewhat unwillingly-and trains under them.  

After joining Night Raid he becomes aware of Imperial Arms, powerful weapons that choose their wielders, and of Night Raid’s aim of gathering and using these weapons to overthrow the corrupt Empire and replace it with a Democratic Government.

Akame (Sora Amamiya/Molly Searcy) is the titular character in the series and as you might expect pretty much the strongest, not just in her impressive swordsmanship and agility, but also in her ability to keep a cool head when in battle, rarely allowing emotions to cloud her judgement.  

Although she may seem cold and quiet at first, Akame cares deeply about the members of Night Raid going so far as to strip them after battle to make sure they aren’t injured, and when she does speak it will always be to say something meaningful and helpful, with everything coming out of her mouth having been carefully considered.  Akame trusts in her instincts and is steadfast in her convictions, with unwavering loyalty to Night Raid’s cause.

Of course, the leader of Night Raid would have to be incredibly strong and that is exactly what Najenda (Risa Mizuno/Shelley Calene-Black) is; however, this doesn’t mean she isn’t kind, leading her group with a warm but firm hand.  Due to the loss of her right arm and eye Najenda generally doesn’t fight on the front lines, but she is level-headed and an excellent strategist, trusted by Night Raid’s members to make the tough decisions.

Night Raid from Akame Ga Kill! aniem
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The leader of the opposing side, fighting for the Empire, is General Esdeath (Satomi Akesaka/Christine M. Auten).  Like Najenda, Esdeath is a great leader and very charismatic.  However, contrary to Najenda, Esdeath is not always able to show restraint, often inflicting more harm than necessary and not caring about the damage she causes.  

She is one of the strongest Imperial Arms users, able to generate and control ice at will.  Believing in a head-on approach, Esdeath is usually on the frontlines inflicting as much damage as possible.  

Although a little unhinged, Esdeath also has an unexpectedly endearing and feminine side, wanting to get married and find a suitor who is worthy of her. Unfortunately, this doesn’t outweigh her lack of empathy, resulting in her barbaric, manipulative, and sadistic personality.

11. Castlevania – 2017

Duration: 32 episodes

Starring: Richard Armitage, Alejandra Reynoso, James Callis

When Dracula’s (Graham McTavish) wife is accused of being a witch and burned at the stake by the church, he turns his back on humanity, vowing that in a year’s time he will unleash an army to slaughter them all.  A year later and the army arrives, hordes of night creatures go from town-to-town slaughtering adults and children alike.

Meanwhile, all Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage) wants is alcohol and breakfast, the only survivor of the house of Belmont, Trevor has no interest in saving humanity after the church accused his family of practicing dark magic and working with Dracula, when in fact the Belmonts were a family of vampire hunters.  This changes when he meets Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso) a speaker with elemental powers determined to kill Dracula and rid the lands of his army of night creatures.

As a Speaker Sypha is extremely knowledgeable in almost everything and uses that knowledge to her advantage; she also refuses to back down, holding her own in a rather patriarchal society and even forcing Trevor to behave himself.  She also has good control over her elemental abilities, improving them as the seasons' progress, proving that she would probably be fine even without Trevor’s help.  She is sharp, witty, and confident, a perfect combination.

Carmilla (Jaime Murray) is essentially the villain of the series, but you have to admire how driven she is and her eye for the future, constantly trying to improve her and her sisters’ lives.  She may seem a little unhinged at times, but she gets things done and looks stunning while she does it.

Having already encountered Dracula and Carmilla, Lenore (Jessica Brown Findlay) might appear pretty tame, but you mustn’t be fooled.  As a diplomat Lenore uses her abilities to manipulate those around her, using a silky voice to achieve her goals; however, you shouldn’t think that Lenore lacks physical strength, her claws have proven to be quite deadly when she is provoked into using them.

I hope this list proves that power materialises in different forms, that masculinity doesn't equate to strength, and you don't necessarily have to be good at sports or work out to be considered strong.  

Enjoy watching all of these, and if you still want more check out all the other great anime Netflix has to offer.

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A graduate from UEA with a BA in English Lit. with Creative Writing. An aspiring writer and editor, loves anime/manga, films and books.

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