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Old 2020-09-05, 05:02   Link #1
AndrewPayton
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Why so many strong female characters in anime?

It seems at odds with what I've read about Japanese society which seems to be quite conservative and where, I'm told, women find it difficult to get top positions in the workplace. Are there any theories why women are so often the strong character or heroine in anime?
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Old 2020-09-05, 05:33   Link #2
Obelisk ze Tormentor
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Anime is one form of escapism (among many), you know. Just like any other fiction.
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Old 2020-09-05, 09:52   Link #3
SeijiSensei
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I've thought about this question ever since I began watching anime. Here are few possible answers:

1) Often stories with strong heroines are adaptations of works by female authors. Juuni Kokuki, Seirei no Moribito, Kemono no Sou-ja Erin, and Saiunkoku Monogatari are all prime examples.

2) Like most artistic industries, anime production leans left. My bet is that people who work in the anime industry have more feminist tendencies than the Japanese workforce overall. This is likely especially true at the highest levels where men dominate. See Aggretsuko and Hataraki Man for examples.

3) Some men like shows with strong women. (I'm one of them.) Don't know how numerous such men are in Japan, but I'd have to think that it more true among younger men for whom most anime is made.

4) Some highly influential people, notably Miyazaki Hayao, have a distinct preference for heroines. "Many of my movies have strong female leads- 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 savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.”

5) There are still many shows with weak female characters, often in pursuit of "moe."
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Old 2020-09-05, 11:29   Link #4
Magin
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At least part of it is probably due to a strange male fantasy- in reality, you've definitely got a lot of sexism going on in Japan, though my understanding is that this is (slowly) changing. But sometimes guys do want to see a badass chick... scantily clad about half the time, unfortunately.

Then you've got the fact that there are women who are anime fans- it may be mostly relegated to the extremely mainstream/popular shounen, but I can tell you for a fact that Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer) remains HUGE in Japan. And there's the love/hate with SAO.

Also, don't underestimate the amount of women who also work in the industry itself, and I'm sure that provides a ton of influence too.
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Old 2020-09-05, 11:36   Link #5
Obelisk ze Tormentor
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Yeah, like I said above, Anime basically become an escapism medium where people can channel their fantasy of watching & making empowered/powerful girls & women that's simply rare IRL Japan.
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Old 2020-09-05, 16:58   Link #6
TheForsaken
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There are three reasons:

1/ The main target audience of anime is men, and men like women. Therefore, in many anime female characters are more important than male characters. Some even go to the extreme of reducing the male protagonist to a self-insert with no personality. Since there are many female characters (especially in a harem), they should be different from each other. So some strong, some weak, some mature, some childish, some sexy, some cute.

And no, female audience do not have any effect on this. Because the majority of female audience want a show with many hot guys, not a show with "strong women".

Also no, women who work in the industry is not a factor. They want to create something that sells, not something that promotes their personal belief. You know what, there are many female authors who draw H-manga in which the portrayal of women could make any Western feminist vomit blood if they ever see one.


2/ The taste in the East is different from the West. Putting aside the shows that cater to male audience where every character is a hot girl, or the shows that cater to female audience where every character is a hot guy, there is always a variety in the cast: male and female, old and young, strong and weak.

This is very different from the comics in the West, where everyone is a male muscled action hero (or occasionally, female muscled action heroine). If you are a superhero, it doesn't matter what superpower you have, you should be good at punching people. Even if you are a "normal" smart guy or rich guy, you should be able to punch and take punches from people with superhuman strength.


3/ Political correctness is not a thing in Japan. The whole thing about "strong female characters" or "empowering women" is that they are concepts created by the West. People in the West are surprised by "strong female characters" in anime because, for some weird reasons, they think that "empowering fictional women" is some kinds of revolution They think that just because they didn't have "strong female characters" until recently (a change that was brought by political correctness), Japan shouldn't as well, since, you know, the West should be the best and the first in everything.

No no no, we don't talk politics in anime. Characters are created to make the story more interesting, not to advance someone's political agenda.

By the way, Japan is not an exception in this matter. There are many Chinese wuxia novels that were written half a century ago that have tons of strong female characters.
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Old 2020-09-05, 17:07   Link #7
GendoAizenPig
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I don't really personally feel like there are a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. They're usually outdone by their male companions in practically all series written by or aimed at the male audience. Some other ones are in series with a full female cast to completely avoid being compared at all. There are exceptions to this of course as was mentioned above, but on the whole female characters are still for the most part eye candy or just love interests for male characters in the medium. If anything the medium could definitely use more of them.
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Old 2020-09-06, 03:54   Link #8
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The reason is pretty straightforward. Anime is for men and men like to watch beautiful women. It's quite easy to find anime with weak, unattractive male protagonists, but it is extremely hard to find anime with ugly female protagonists.

Tangentially related, I found it amusing that even in anime for girls, like Sailor Moon, the girl gets herself in trouble and has to be saved by a guy in every episode.
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Old 2020-09-06, 09:02   Link #9
SeijiSensei
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I found it amusing that in Saiunkoku Monogatari and Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, both shows with strong heroines, the (female) novelists felt compelled to include a "damsel-in-distress" sequence early in the story. They quickly disposed of such nonsense in the remainder of the story. I suspect it might have to do with conforming to the expectations of shoujo readers.
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Old 2020-09-06, 10:18   Link #10
0cean
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I realized that I didn't answer the strong part and only the female part. That one is easy, too. If they portrayed the female protagonist like an actual woman it would be boring, like all those slice-of-life anime that don't even have quirky characters. The protagonist has to act like a man for things to be interesting and the protagonist sometimes is female for eye candy.
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Old 2020-09-06, 12:25   Link #11
SeijiSensei
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Shurrei in Saiunkoku Monogatari doesn't act like a man. She's just strong-willed and knows what she wants to accomplish in her life. Balsa in Moribito is perhaps the most "masculine" heroine I know of, but her maternal side becomes activated as she protects Chagum. I don't consider someone like Revy in Black Lagoon as a heroine; she's just a punk who happens to be on the right side in most cases.

Hiroko in Hataraki Man is called a "man" because of her work ethic. Otherwise she seems pretty womanly to me. Kawamoto Akari in 3-gatsu no Lion is another strong, yet womanly character. At just 21, she's taken it upon herself to maintain a home for her two younger sisters even if it means working as a hostess in her aunt's club. Chise in Mahoutsukai no Yome has lived a horrendous life and developed great inner strength as a result. Otherwise she seems like a pretty normal young adult woman.
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Old 2020-09-06, 14:15   Link #12
Lex79
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In almost all the series I watch (which admittedly make for a quite biased selection given they are mostly shounen, ecchi and harem) the strong females are there not to appeal to female audience or to show women empowerment but for eye candy and fanservice.
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Old 2020-09-06, 16:25   Link #13
0cean
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Obviously there are also a bunch of anime for women, but I was thinking more along the lines of Youjo Senki, Juuni Taisen, Killing Bites, Ghost in the Shell, Punch Line, Kyousougiga, Yozakura Quartet, Jormungand, ... not to mention all the Shounen stuff with strong females in supporting roles that are just supposed to be eye candy.

And personally, I find anime for women rather boring. I've dropped all the anime you've mentioned because of that.
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Old 2020-09-07, 10:33   Link #14
Tenzen12
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Youjo Senki: MC doesn't just "act" as men he is one.

Killing bites: Hitomi doesn't act as man, but as wild animal.

Punch Line, Kyousougiga, Yozakura Quarte: those don't have any main heroine particularly "manly".


Jormungand, Ghost in the Shell: Arguably true, but that mostly due setting and story rather then due adhering some weird trend.

In general anime female always require at least some amount of feminity, because that's what makes them attractive. Sometimes it's hidden for sake of gap moe, but that's about it.

As for why are strong females popular in anime, it's because it's fiction. Regular Yamada may want Yamato Nadeshiko to cook his diner, but doesn't mean he doesn't enjoy dreaming about busty dragon girl warrior. Regardless of culture reason why we read fiction is same to get some adventures we don't get and probably don't want (well I would take busty dragon girl warrior at least) in real life. That and strong women are simply attractive.
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Last edited by Tenzen12; 2020-09-07 at 10:43.
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Old 2020-09-07, 21:26   Link #15
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You see a guy get punched into the stars by a girl. Feel anything?
You see a girl get punched into the stars by a guy. Feel anything?

Yeah.
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Old 2020-09-12, 23:20   Link #16
BWTraveller
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There's also the fact that, while Japan may be excessively conservative in some areas and particularly in terms of things like who they choose for top positions, their traditional view of the ideal woman is actually pretty strong. A Yamato Nadeshiko is certainly supposed to recognize "authority", submitting to elders and to men that outrank her, but at the same time she's most certainly not supposed to be a pushover. When something is important she's supposed to be at least as capable of fighting to defend it as her brothers, father and husband in her own way. Sometimes this comes through manipulation, or through hard determination, but it also comes through simple badassery. Women traditionally were, after all, expected to personally fight to defend the household while their husbands were away, and were trained in combat from an early age. So a woman who's powerful in a fight and ready to put her life on the line for what she knows is right is still quite in line with traditional ideals.
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Old 2020-09-17, 20:17   Link #17
mangamuscle
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeijiSensei View Post
I've thought about this question ever since I began watching anime. Here are few possible answers:

1) Often stories with strong heroines are adaptations of works by female authors. Juuni Kokuki, Seirei no Moribito, Kemono no Sou-ja Erin, and Saiunkoku Monogatari are all prime examples.
This ignores a very simple fact, the author can be whatever gender, skin color, nationality or political leaning; what really matters are the readers, if they disliked the idea of strong girls they would simple not buy or vote for them. This is something very relevant atm, because in american comics some writers are pushing some so called "progressive" ideas that have been received with very few buyers of the comics, no matter how much the authors get praised on social media for said ideas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lex79 View Post
In almost all the series I watch (which admittedly make for a quite biased selection given they are mostly shounen, ecchi and harem) the strong females are there not to appeal to female audience or to show women empowerment but for eye candy and fanservice.
That does not explain why they are strong, we have plenty of examples of female characters that are pretty but weak. Just look at american comics, if the formula as you stated is almost unknown in comics, so much that both Marvel & DC have had a very limited cast to give strong female lead superheroines their own movie.

As a side note, She-Hulk was created because there was a rumor that in the TV series (starring Lou Ferrigno) they would cast a female hulk (they already had cast an old man as a grey hulk) and they feared they would not have the copyright of said character. Wonder Woman, let's be honest, was born out of an S&M fetish, her character was not about being empowered, but about sexual fantasies about being tied and punished by a woman.

So basically in the west few females are written to be strong as part of their basic traits, strength is a by product, i.e. "to be in a fight with spider-man, she should at least be this strong or dexterous".
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Old 2020-09-18, 03:01   Link #18
0cean
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Not all girls in anime are strong, but the ones that are usually fill a role that traditionally would have been the job of a man. Like Akane from Ranma 1/2, who is supposed to inherit a Dojo, when traditionally girls never were allowed to do something like that, as far as I know. Or Saber from Fate/ stay night, who is a male character from history. Or Celty from Durarara, who is a Dullahan, which is a traditionally male monster.

The only reasons these characters are female are for eye candy, fanservice and so that straight relationships will work. Yes, these characters obviously also have femininity, but they fill a traditionally male role.
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Old 2020-09-18, 04:45   Link #19
Tenzen12
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Yet, Ranma has also Champoo and her kins a who are basically amazons (I believe they were even translated as such). In Fate you have Rin, Medusa and Medea who are without doubt strong women yet they don't have any male counterpart to be easily replaced by.

You have it in wrong order. Those female characters are strong and that's why they can fit tradionaly male role. Proof is basically infinite number of strong females that dont't fit your narrative.
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Old 2020-09-18, 06:45   Link #20
Lex79
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Quote:
That does not explain why they are strong, we have plenty of examples of female characters that are pretty but weak. Just look at american comics, if the formula as you stated is almost unknown in comics, so much that both Marvel & DC have had a very limited cast to give strong female lead superheroines their own movie.
Most of the series I'm referring to involve fighting and battles, so the girls have to be strong in order to be part of the story. Basically authors need characters that can fight, provide fanservice and be love interests for the protagonist, so they end up being strong females.
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