Recommendations for anime without sexism?
December 30, 2017 8:43 PM   Subscribe

I've been wanting to watch some good anime, but most of what I've seen is pretty misogynistic, both in terms of all the boob/butt shots and portraying female characters as less capable/sillier than their male counterparts. Probably the only anime I've watched in which I haven't been bothered by this is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I've also started Silver Spoon and I like it so far. I'm open to pretty much any genre, but I do like good characterization and interesting plot development.
posted by Lurch to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Off the top of my head...

Princess Tutu (the heroine uses dance and empathy to achieve her goals).
Yona of the Dawn (the heroine starts out 'silly' before reforging herself into a badass).
Magic Knight Rayearth (three girls are tossed into an imperiled alternate world and use swords and sorcery to save it).
Inuyasha (starts out as a typical boy-saves-girl type of story but ultimately has all the female characters kicking ass on their own. Goes on forever before anything gets resolved, though).
Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, etc, all have cool, non-sexualized female characters (Studio Ghibli is generally pretty sexism-free).

I'm sure there are more... there's a few like Sailor Moon or Utena where there are Powerful Women but also lots of objectification and/or regressive tropes.
posted by space snail at 9:35 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

"The Major" Motoko Kusanagi is physically sexualized (choice of costume, angles) but never portrayed as anything but brilliant, capable and efficient in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Her skills as a detective, fighter and genius-level hacker are without parallel in her universe. She handpicks a team of male/cyborg soldiers and they follow her orders without question.
posted by fritillary at 9:44 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

-Little Witch Academia (all girls witch school where they come into their own. Really fun.)
-Madoka (this one gets dark, but is an interesting twist on magical girls)
-Sailor Moon (a classic! It does start out with guy rescue girl but the main character also grows into her own, and it’s all about the power of their female friendships and love for each other. The transformations could be seen as a bit sexualizing, but I find them beautiful.)
-Mysterious Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (a weird comedy about a girl who is bent on finding supernatural phenomena)
-Yakitate Japan (hilarious, silly show about cooking school. Really over the top.)
-Revolutionary Girl Utena (truly a favorite. A girl becomes a prince of sorts and defends her dear friend/love interest. I don’t know how else to explain but she’s a badass.)
-Summer Wars (fun and cute movie about a virtual world and family!)
-Girls Last Tour (two girls travel the ruins of a post-apocalypse world. They have to rely on each other and it’s interesting to see them sift through the world. Drawn super cute, but not a super cute story.)
-Neon Genesis Evangelion (have never watched, but I know it’s a classic and also features strong female protagonists.)
-Cowboy Bebop (classic, Edward and Faye will always be some of my favorite women in anime.)
-Baccano! (Excellent anime. Told from different points of views in different time periods, everyone ties together in this crazy story after an immortality elixir is created. I don’t remember there being anything majorly sexist, besides some flappers or a character dressed in a tight fitting ball gown.)
posted by buttonedup at 10:35 PM on December 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

-Samurai Champloo. Short, beautifully animated, and another classic.
-MP100. I think it's really charming (although more character development happens in the manga) and is relatively character-centered.
-Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei. My friend really likes this because of the interest setting, plot, and art, and I have to agree.
-Barakamon. It cheers me up, and is about a guy in an artistic slump.
posted by typify at 10:43 PM on December 30, 2017

From newer stuff, Yuri on Ice!! - the main characters are male ice skaters, but the female supporting cast is important, competent and never shown in an exploitative way.

Ancient Magus's Bride has a few bit iffy visual moments (occasional characters with gravity-defying bosoms and some comic nudity), but thus far it's been a great exploration of a seriously traumatised girl exploring recovery and new relationships, in a magical context.

And yes on everything by Studio Ghibli.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:39 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

there's a few like Sailor Moon or Utena where there are Powerful Women but also lots of objectification and/or regressive tropes.

I can't speak for Sailor Moon, but Utena (the series) is basically all about young adults adopting, rebelling against, and trying to figure out how or if they fit in given the existence of objectifying/regressive gender roles (with sexual identity as a further complication). It's both satirical and very earnest.

Some more that come to mind are
Haibane Renmei
Kino no Tabi
Millennium Actress
(I watched these long enough ago that I don't remember enough to guarantee anything but enough to recommend giving a try. I do remember being worried about sexism in Planetes when I started watching it (the main female character is new on the job and kind of stereotypically something at first? Someone who remembers better might correct me) but I was pretty impressed with it by the end.)
posted by trig at 12:23 AM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Psycho-Pass has a female lead who isn't sexualized. Just a warning, the first series is much better than the second.

You can find lots of recommendations at Anime Feminist.
posted by neushoorn at 1:27 AM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

On Crunchyroll I can recommend:

Mushi Shi (although the first series is missing, I think)
Erased (grim but good - but female characters are victims/potential victims of a murderer)
Attack On Titan (some very strong, smart female characters)
Poyo Poyo
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! (awful, but shows what happens when male characters are portrayed like magical girls and my wife likes it)
Polar Bear Cafe
Space Brothers
Sweetness and Lightning
Non Non Biyori
The Eccentric Family
Beautiful Bones
Kino's Journey

Sometimes I'll watch a few episodes of a new anime and thing "That was good, nothing cringeworthy" and then they'll start putting up almost subliminal still images of a good female character bending over at after the credits. Grrr.
posted by BinaryApe at 2:24 AM on December 31, 2017

The classic, Serial Experiments: Lain fits the bill.
posted by shalom at 2:50 AM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Recommending Rurouni Kenshin, which has some very strong female characters.

Also seconding Cowboy Bebop, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Millennium Actress (film).
posted by heatherlogan at 5:55 AM on December 31, 2017

Monster is awesome, and seems to fit your criteria.

(Actually, anything by Naoki Urasawa is awesome, but I think Monster is the only manga of his that’s been adapted into an anime.)
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 6:17 AM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Recommendations are hard, there are around 40-ish or so new shows every three months on Crunchyroll alone. There's a bit of everything and plenty that are mostly not fan service.

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life - HS guy moves into an apartment building inhabited by ghosts and spirits. Bonus: the cook is the cutest pair of disembodied hands you'll ever see.

Konohana Kitan - fox spirit girl attendants at an inn between this world and the next.

Recovery of an MMO Junkie - 30-something offlice lady goes elite-NEET and plays games, happens to unknowingly bump into her online partner.

Kino's Journey - Girl? on a talking motorcycle visits new city/country each episode.

March Comes In Like A Lion - lonely middle school boy and his harrowing climb into the world of professional shogi (Japanese chess).

The Ancient Magus' Bride - watch the OVA. The first couple of episodes may be trigger warning-ish, but the rest is good.

Restaurant to Another World - Fantasy world food porn without the Food Wars exploding clothing orgasmic tasting rounds.

Sakura Quest - wannabe actress gets roped into being the Queen of a city for a year, collects her court of other capable women and proceeds to try and revitalize the economy of a small town. Sorta Silver Spoons-ish slice of life type of thing.

Alice & Zoroku - reality bending little girl escapes lab and lives with grumpy old man.

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. - weird political intrigue.

Kemono Friends - Bland cute little animal girls that's a bit more interesting and darker than one would expect.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid - sorta fan servicey but a lot of sweet moments.

That's from the past year. Basically you just have to avoid teenage boy wank fest anime and then watch a few episodes to see if you like something.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:31 AM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I recommend Azumanga Daioh. It's a goofy slice-of-life anime about high school girls who actually act like real high school girls--weird, funny, and with very active inner lives. It's based on a four-panel gag manga so it doesn't build up much of an overarching plot, but it's weirdly addictive and I wish there were more anime that portrayed girls the way it does.
posted by honey wheat at 7:00 AM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Seconding Madoka. There are no major male characters, and the entire show is about normal girls coming to terms with being thrust in to positions of extraordinary power and responsibility, both for good and bad. It can be pretty heavy (though not in, like, an assault-y way), but it’s a great watch that treats its characters with respect and intelligence.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:47 AM on December 31, 2017

The interesting plot development requirement immediately removes about 99% of the anime I watch, because I usually only watch slice of life stuff. For the full list, look at my MeFi profile to find the link to my MAL (My Anime List) profile, but here are a few that might work. To find where these are streaming, use
  • Sakura Quest - country girl turned city girl ends up back in the country to help revitalize a dying town. Strong female cast, interesting supporting cast, and good character development
  • Shirobako - five high school friends who all want to work together making anime. The main character finds herself taking on more responsibility and sometimes has trouble keeping up the the demands placed on her and has to grow and become stronger as a person.
  • Tsuki ga Kirei - probably one of my favorite love stories. Make sure to watch all the way through the end credits in the last episode for a massive payoff.
  • Hibike! Euphonium - two seasons and some specials, plus more coming out in 2018. High school band geek drama, if you like that sort of thing.
A problematic pick: Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid - someone described this as "interspecies lesbians and their adopted multi-dimensional immigrant child," and I don't think that's too far off the mark. One of the side characters is pretty much nothing but walking fan service, although it's implied that among other things she's the literal inspiration for the Venus of Willendorf (and this character is handled differently in the manga where more of her backstory is explained). The character growth of Miss Kobayashi from stoic loner to coming to love and accept and even fight for her very unique family of choice makes this one of the best anime I've seen, but I can easily see how the fan service-y elements would turn others off. There is some good writing and discussion on Anime Feminist about this.

And now for some more slice of life stuff, because that's what I like.
  • Nichjou - easily one of my top 5 anime. Weird, non-linear, sometimes non-sensical. "That's one hard pumpkin" is one of my favorite scenes of all time. The animation in Nichijou never ceases to amaze me.
  • Non Non Biyori - there are two seasons, two OVAs, and there is a movie coming out in 2018. School girls in the countryside of rural Japan, doing kid things and having fun, like playing with rulers. Also, the relationship between Renge and Candy Store is one of my favorite things in the world. Non Non Biyori is also one of my top 5 anime.
Here are three that aren't out yet, but will be streaming in 2018. Again, more slice of life stuff, but that's what I watch.
  • Mistuboshi Colors - three girls who are sworn to protect the peace of their town. This is from the manga by the same name which is frequently just laugh out loud funny, and I'm hoping the anime manages to capture some of that.
  • Yurucamp - girls going camping. The artwork in the manga is beautiful and so far the PVs for the anime seem to be just as amazing.
  • Hakumei to Mikochi - "tiny girls in the big woods" is the tagline for the manga. The artwork in the manga reminds me of the illustrations in the fantasy novels I read as a kid in the 70s and I'm hoping the anime is able to keep that same style.

posted by ralan at 8:13 AM on December 31, 2017

Another for Attack on Titan: a show about soldiers fighting monsters in which men and women are treated absolutely equally, and nobody even remarks on this--it's just generally accepted as how things are. Zero fanservice, and multiple extremely competent female characters. (There's one tiny, dewy-eyed blonde that you might think is questionable, but give her until the second season.)

Also agreeing on anything by Studio Ghibli.
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 3:39 PM on December 31, 2017

Check out the anime_club tag in FanFare, which includes posts in which MeFites discuss what they liked (and didn't like) each season.

I highly, highly recommend Death Parade.

If you're into wacky shounen series, Blood Blockade Battlefront and Bungou Stray Dogs are a lot of fun. Rie Matsumoto, one of the few female anime directors around, helmed the visually gorgeous Kyousou Giga as well as the first season of Blood Blockade Battlefront.

Katanagatari has an intriguing female protagonist and a distinctive visual style.

Shinsekai Yori has a strong female protagonist and an intriguing story. It's an adaptation of a Japanese sci fi novel.
posted by needled at 6:02 PM on December 31, 2017

From memory I think Girls Und Panzer fits the bill.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:26 AM on January 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Legend of Korra, if an American anime-inspired show is OK.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:16 PM on January 4, 2018

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