Female representation in shounen and seinen

I have a bee in my bonnet about how women are portrayed in manga and anime. Allow me to get a few things off my chest.

Shounen and seinen are my favourite genres of animanga. I read some shojo, but I prefer the high fantasy and awesome battles you get with stories that are written for a dominate male audience.

BUT the aspect that annoys be most about manga that is written by and tailored for men is that women are not represented enough, or properly.

There is a type of girl who has become a cliche in shounen, especially in the manga and anime of the late 80s and early 90s. This woman is the “love interest” who’s only purpose is to be the damsel in distress for the male protagonist to save. She is often powerless, screams a lot and always asks the main character to save her when she’s in danger.

Yu Yu Hakusho, Yoshihiro Togashi
Yu Yu Hakusho, Yoshihiro Togashi

Thank you, Keiko, you have proved my point exactly (you do realise that Yusuke is in another dimension fighting his own battle – he can hardly help you right now).

Things have improved a lot over the last couple of years as more and more women are reading and watching shounen, and also writing it. The diversity of women characters has grown. We are seeing less and less of this weak female character who raises their head just to have a romantic moment with the main character, and then disappears again, and we’re seeing more female characters who can hold their own in a battle and who get more screen time.

BUT there are still a lot of problems.

Generally there is a lack of female/female interaction in shounen animanga, because there are so few females to begin with. A few months ago I asked my housemate on Tumblr what her top 5 male/male and female/female ships were. She could easily come up with her male ships, but struggled to think of female ones because there is a lack of female/female chemistry and interaction in animanga.

Even in shojo the female lead interacts with the male characters more than she does with other females (at least this is the case in few shojo I have watched/read). Shojo is all about the female’s interaction with her love interest, or about the reverse harem. Take Akatsuki no Yona for example, Yona is such a strong female lead, but she’s surrounded by men!!! The only interaction she has with another female character is with Lady Lili (they haven’t got this far in the anime yet).

Even in their own genre women are being underrepresented.

Toyko Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul, Studio Pierrot

Touka from Tokyo Ghoul was a boss in the first series. A freakin’ bitch boss.

She was awesome in battle, had a badass-take-no-prisoners-I-don’t-have-time-for-your-bullshit type of personality, which i loved because it suited the setting of the anime so well, but she also had softer sides which could be seen with her relationship with Hinami and her school friend.

What happened to her at the start of the second series was just awful – on the same level of tragedy as what happened to Keneki. For the record, her brother ate her kagune, which was basically on the same level as rape. And then instead of using the second season to really explore Touka’s character, how she had become something between a human and a ghoul the same as Keneki, they spent the whole of the bloody season making her mope after Keneki.


There was so much potential with Touka’s character. She wanted to become a human – that’s why she was forcing down human food all the time, and when she lost her kagune she basically lost one of the defining factors that made her a ghoul, making her closer to humans. Once Keneki became strong enough to look after himself they threw Touka away and made her into this pathetic stereotypical shounen/seinen female protagonist who did everything she did because she wanted to catch up to the main character.


Inuyasha, Sunrise
Inuyasha, Sunrise

I can’t believe this manga was written by a woman because of how pathetic Kagome is.

Kagome had a strong personality. She had a lot of spunk to her. She also possessed some really awesome powers, BUT SHE NEVER BLOODY USED THEM!

That girl was in possession of some super strong spirit energy. With her bow and arrow she was perfectly capable of holding her own in battle.

But she never used them!

Inuyasha was always in the fray, chopping up demons along with Miroku and Sango, but Kagome never seemed to do anything. She wasn’t shown on screen half the time the battles were raging. She would sometimes appear right at the end when they needed an arrow shot at someone, but that was it. She had one one-on-one battle right at the end of the series, and that was it – for the rest of the series Inuyasha was always hogging the spotlight. And she always needed saving. Inuyasha basically became her full-time bodyguard because she could never get herself out of a scrape.

Come on women! Show some pride in your gender!!

I was talking to my housemate about Kagome and how she could she have been made such a wet rag when the writer of Inuyasha was a women, and she is of the opinion that because Rumiko Takahashi is older that she has traditional opinions of gender roles – that men do all the fighting, and that women take a back seat.

Puff! Fuck that shit.

Rokka no Yuusha

Rokka no Yuusha, Passione
Rokka no Yuusha, Passione

Fremy is an awesome character.

She has a complicated backstory, a complicated personality, strong battle skills and she’s the Saint of Gunpowder.

But the author just had to create an amazing female character and then stick her in a skimpy outfit.

I mean COME ON!

The braves are going into battle constantly, they need good armour that will protect them while they fight. But in typical shounen/seinen style the girl is wearing a strip of cloth around her boobs, which isn’t even covering all of them. It’s basically a nipple protector, because God forbid that a nipple be shown when you are already showing that much boobage.

I would like to raise my hand at this point and say that I am not a prude. I believe that anyone can wear whatever they want – women should be allowed to wear revealing clothes if that is what they want – but I am getting so fed up with women being dressed in skimpy clothing just because it serves as fan service to male readers.

One Piece

One Piece, Oda Eiichiro (fanart by solitude4eva)
One Piece, Oda Eiichiro (fanart by solitude4eva)

Continuing with the theme of women’s appearances in shounen, One Piece is the perfect example.

Before the timeskip Nami and Robin were two strong female characters. They were 2D and had defining appearances. Nami was small and boyish, and Robin more curvy. But post timeskip they morphed into typical shounen female characters with lots of cleavage and big boobs. (Ps. Nami was already 18 at the start of the series – unless you put on a lot of weight everywhere else women’s boobs don’t grow anymore past the age of like 14).

I don’t understand why Oda felt he had to change their appearances to look like this. Both of them were great the way they were. Their redesigned became so typically male focused that they lost their individuality – they just became eye candy for male readers.

And in the One Piece anime the animators were ruthless with how big they drew Robin’s boobs during the Dressrosa arc. I swear they became bigger every episode, which was totally unnecessary and really degrading.

I could also rant here about Rebecca’s outfit, but I’m not going to, because I hope that the majority of people out there feel the same way I do about it. (SHE’S A GLADIATOR FOR GOD’S SAKE! GIVE HER SOME BLOODY ARMOUR!!).


Having finished my rant there are a lot of female characters in shounen and seinen who are written brilliantly.

Owari no Seraph

Owari no Seraph, Wit Studio
Owari no Seraph, Wit Studio

Shinoa from Owari no Seraph is the perfect example of a strong female lead.

I love Shinoa. She’s such a fun and crazy character.

If Yuu and Mika don’t end up together, I will be satisfied if she and Yuu do.

She’s capable of holding her own in battle, she has a backstory and is a little shit to Guren.

I love her slightly unhinged, teasing personality:

Owari no Seraph, Wit Studio
Owari no Seraph, Wit Studio


Charlotte, P.A. Works
Charlotte, P.A. Works

Tomori is my soul queen. Shizuru from Yu Yu Hakusho is my soul sister, but Tomori from Charlotte shall reign over me eternal.

She’s the ring leader of the party. She’s kind, but also firm. She has a tragic backstory and an agenda – to create a safe place for adolescents like herself to live away from the risk of being caught and experimented on by the government.

She’s kickass and a little crazy.

I adore her.


Magi, A-1 Pictures
Magi, A-1 Pictures

Morgiana is another perfect example of a strong female character.

Kickass, with a dream of her own and strong battle skills.

But she’s also kind hearted, in totally in love with Alibaba and has silly moments:

Magi, A-1 Pictures
Magi, A-1 Pictures

Just look at that cute face!!


Noragami, Bones
Noragami, Bones

Hiyori is the modern shounen female lead character.

She loves to watch wrestling, and in the anime she is asked by her friends if she was up all night playing video games. At long last the female readers of shounen are being represented in the gender they love to read!!

Even though she hasn’t done much fighting yet – Yato has an annoying habit of pulling her away from any danger in case she gets her lifeline cut off (fair beans I guess) – she proved early on that she can hold her own against the ayakashi. She copies the fighting style of her favourite wrestler to show the ayakashi (and often Yato) who is boss.


For all your budding shounen/seinen mangakas out there – for the love of all that is good PLEASE write some strong female characters in your mangas!!

If you’re writing a battle manga make sure your females can hold their own as well as any of the men; make sure you have plenty of women in your manga, especially in the main party; don’t just have your female lead there as a love interest for your male protagonist – give her her own story line!; give your females the appropriate amount of clothing for the situation they are in; make your women real with their own dreams and interests, and make sure your female characters interact with each other!

Give them the same amount of respect you give your male characters!


3 thoughts on “Female representation in shounen and seinen

  1. Uhhh, while I generally agree that yes, there should be more female characters I’m afraid you are looking at it from a very subjective angle. Unfortunately, you are utterly ignoring demographic. Shounens are (as their name suggests) written for teenage boys, who (surprise, surprise) mostly wanted to read about guys doing cool stuff. Authors are drawing to make a living and they put in their manga things that are supposed to draw the audience. Female friendships weren’t high on the list of demands of teenage boys as you can probably imagine.

    And as you mentioned the demography of shonen manga readers has actually changed a lot during the past 20 years, so I don’t think one should compare. 20 years ago there were much less female readers that are today. You are criticizing Takahashi for how Kagome is portrayed in “Inuyasha”, but please remember she was the only female mangaka who at that time achieved any sort of recognition in the field of shounen manga. It’s hardly fair to criticize her for the fact that she adhered to the trends of that time to make a living.

    As I mentioned right now there is much bigger female redearship of shounen titles and there are actually several recognizible female mangakas in the field. Still, you can’t expect the change to be overnight. Those were the mangas written by men for boys. And the main audience are still mainly boys. Shouting at mangakas probably won’t help, since they are very much constricted by expectations of the readers, editors and publishers. If they don’t meet them their story won’t be serialized.

    Also, you are slightly unfair to Rokka no Yuusha. Sure, Fremy’s outfit is ridiculous, but there is male character, Goldof, in almost exactly the same ridiculous outfit. Most of the series don’t manage to achieve that kind of equality when it comes to revealing clothing. Skimpy outfits are not sexist if they are equally distributed.

    Sorry, if I sound too accusotory, but honestly shonens aren’t good places to expect an abundance of well written females, but they do happen. However, if you expected female friendships I’m afraid I can only give you a “what did you expect” glance. That being said I can probably suggest some titles if you haven’t checked them out already. “Lucifer and the Biscuit hammer” has great and varied cast and the most powerful character is a girl. “Hatenkou Yuugi” has a really badass main heroine (anime is good, but manga, despite rather painful artwork in the first volume, is better). “Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou desu yo?” has three main protagonists – two girls and a boy, who become friends and have no romantic subtext. “Ga-Rei Zero” anime concentrated on the friendship between two girls (but I suggest NOT checking the manga, it’s not nearly as good).

    Sorry, if I came out slightly disjointed. It’s late. I hope, you find some good series. 😀


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