Action anime, stereotypically, have been dominated by male characters fulfilling shounen stereotypes. However, when it comes to awesome fight scenes and incredible feats of strength, these action anime with badass female leads are a match for anyone!
These amazing shows and characters show that gender doesn’t matter when it comes to awesome fight scenes and unforgettable one-liners.
A Certain Scientific Railgun
This anime is a spin-off of A Certain Magical Index but is an excellent series in its own right.
The story takes place in the futuristic Academy City, where many people are espers with special psychic powers.
One of the seven most powerful espers in the city is Mikoto Misaka, known as the Railgun. As fans of the original series will know, Mikoto is not someone to be messed with!
This series follows her and her friends as they explore strange happenings in the utopian city.Advertisement
Kill la Kill
Arguably one of the most famous action series leads of all time is Ryuko Matoi, the protagonist of Kill la Kill on a mission to avenge her father’s death.
The story primarily takes place around Honnouji Academy, a high school ruled by its student council and special students whose unique clothes grant them special powers.
Ryuko, with half of her father’s special invention, the Scissor Blade, and special clothes of her own, takes the fight to the student council in this acclaimed action series.
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Lycoris Recoil takes place in a Tokyo where most crimes are kept hidden by a covert group known as Lycoris. Consisting of seemingly-innocent girls in school uniforms, these trained killers subjugate all wrong-doers before they can act.
Chisato, at first, appears to be a normal, fun-loving girl. However, put her in a gunfight and this bullet-dodging pacifist is almost unstoppable!
Land of the Lustrous
Land of the Lustrous is a fantasy anime taking place on earth long in the future, where the only remaining lifeform on land is the Lustrous, gems that take the form of human beings.
While the lead characters in this ambitious series are technically genderless, they are very much modelled physically and emotionally on females.
The lead, Phosphophyllite, is a clumsy and fragile gem that isn’t trusted in battles against the Lunarians that hunt them for their crystals but is desperate to prove her worth.
While not as loud and violent as other series on this list, this action series certainly delivers some exciting visuals and plenty of sword action!Advertisement
Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell is one of the most iconic anime movies of the 1990s, and Major Motoko Kusanagi is arguably one of the most famous female leads in any action anime movie!
That being said, whether she counts as a female lead can be debated. The original Ghost in the Shell takes place in a now-wishful 2029 where cybernetics are ingrained into society.
Motoko Kusanagi, leader of a special operations unit, has a wholly robotic body which makes her a ruthless fighter, both in combat and also in the world of hacking and cyberspace.
Still, Motoko very much considers herself human. Her emotions and self-discovery are key undertones throughout the series, which still ranks as one of the great anime movies of all time.
Yona of the Dawn
One of the most famous action shojo series of all time, Yona of the Dawn is a must-watch for anyone that enjoys great female lead characters.
Once a sheltered princess, Yona is betrayed by the new ruler and must fend for herself while on the run in her kingdom.
A coming-of-age story filled with action, comedy and romance, it’s one of the most-loved female-led series that you’ll find anywhere.
This original sci-fi anime came out in 2020 and takes place in a world in which 90% of humanity has been destroyed by lifeforms known as Gadolls. What’s left is forced to live in a giant mobile fortress called Deca-Dence.
The story follows Natsume, a girl who dreams of working as a warrior and fighting the Gadolls to avenge her father.
While initially held back by her prosthetic right arm, she is taken under the wing of the mysterious Kaburagi, who trains her to fight while teaching her the true reality of their existence.Advertisement
This is a show where the lead is technically shared. However, Fuu is technically in charge, so we’re allowing it to pass!
Samurai Champloo follows Fuu Kasumi, whose relatively simple life is upended when two incredibly strong samurai get into a fight where she works, bringing the building to the ground.
When the two of them are sentenced to death, Fuu rescues them and forces them to help her track down the ‘samurai who smells like sunflowers’.
The series follows the unlikely trio as they traverse through an alternate Edo Japan, with Fuu constantly reigning in the two hot-headed samurai.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean
The latest series of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure can be enjoyed all on its own, and features a super-cool lead that’s definitely worth watching!
Stone Ocean follows Jolyne Kuujou, a woman framed for a crime she didn’t commit and sentenced to a long sentence in the maximum-security Green Dolphin Street Prison.
Once inside, she is contacted by her estranged father Joutarou, who awakens her to a unique power. Despite her dislike for her father, she discovers that her sentence is about much more than just her, tying back into the whole JoJo storyline.
As with other seasons of JoJo, the show is filled with extravagant characters and extraordinary fight scenes, while Jolyne is an incredibly confident and snappy lead character that’s so fun to watch!
As the name might suggest, this show is excellent if you want a bit of psychological drama mixed with your action.
Psycho-Pass takes place in the 22nd century when a new system allows police to enforce judgment upon people based on their mental state and likeliness to commit crimes.
The lead, Akane Tsunemori, is a bright new member of the police service with an excellent academic record. However, joining a rough and combat-hardened squad, she soon discovers that the shiny utopia she’s enjoyed isn’t all it’s made up to be.
Related: The Best Dystopian Anime to WatchAdvertisement
Claymore is almost the epitome of the badass female lead, perfect for all action fans.
The story takes place in a medieval land where humans are under threat from shapeshifting demons called youma. Clare is a half-human, half-youma creation designed to eliminate the demons.
After saving a boy named Raki when his village is destroyed by a youma, he follows her through the land, learning about the organisation that built her and her vengeful mission.
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86 Eighty Six
This anime is another example of the lead being shared. However, Lena – commonly known as Handler One – is most certainly strong enough to stand her own here.
86 takes place in a futuristic kingdom where, according to the Republic of San Magnolia, an ongoing war against a neighbouring kingdom has yielded no casualties. The reality, however, is that they are commanding one district, known as the 86, to fight on their behalf.
Lena is one of the republic's best commanders, but her deepening attachment to a suicide squad of 86 known as Spearhead Squadron risks revealing a conspiracy bigger than anyone could imagine.
Lena is a fantastic example of how you don't need to be a giant, muscle-bulging monster to wield strength in an action anime. The series has a devoted fanbase thanks largely to Lena's portrayal, which many see as more realistic than some characters on this list.
Brand New Animal takes place in a world where Beastmen - people that can change into anthropomorphic beings - are discriminated against by humans. As a result, many live in Anima City, a haven separated from the world.
Michiru Kagemori suddenly turns into a tanuki and is forced to move to Anima City. At first, she sees a utopia, until she becomes wrapped up in a crime and meets Shirou Ogami, protector of the Beastmen, who believes her mysterious transformation and unique abilities might provide a clue to their salvation.
One of the first hugely popular isekai anime, InuYasha is a bonafide classic and a great example of a strong female lead.
The story follows Kagome Higurashi who, when living on her family’s Shinto shrine, is suddenly pulled through an old well and transported 500 years into the past. Here, she discovers that she contains the sacred Shikon Jewel that is being hunted by demons.
After the jewel is shattered into pieces, she teams up with Inuyasha, a demon-human hybrid that also wanted the jewel to regain the pieces.
Despite her situation, Kagome is incredibly strong and courageous while also being capable with an arrow.
This action tragedy follows girls that, as part of a government programme, have been brainwashed and trained into becoming the ultimate assassins.
Starring five such assassins, Gunslinger Girl is full of great action scenes, but also has a more emotional side than many shows on this list.
The melancholic story contrasts their conditioning with their souls as they crave the same things as normal people despite their responsibilities.
If you’re looking for a classic action series, Noir is a great example.
The story starts in Paris, where local gun-for-hire Mireille Bouquet is contacted by amnesiac Kirika Yuumura, who believes her missing memories may be connected to Mireille’s.
When Mireille discovers that Kirika is an adept killer herself, they decide to team up and seek answers to their shared past.
Noir has been praised for being a more realistic underworld crime story than seen in many anime series, so this is a great series for crime story fans.
Saga of Tanya the Evil
Tough and ruthless, Tanya Degurechaff is certainly one of the toughest female lead characters on the list, even if she’s technically a man reincarnated.
The story takes place in an alternate world where Tanya rises through the ranks as a soldier for the Empire as a world war breaks out. Cold, calculated and bloodthirsty on a battlefield fuelled by magic, she earns the nickname ‘Devil of the Rhine’ and is feared even by her comrades.
If you’re looking for a female lead that can more than hold her own, this is a show worth checking.
You can’t have a list about badass females in action series without mentioning Revy. similar to Champloo, while she’s not technically the lead on her own, she’s the centre of the show and has enough self-direction for it to be included on this list.
This series takes place in Roanapur, a crime-ridden coastal city ruled by gangs. The story follows the Black Lagoon mercenary group as they work between the major criminal gangs, taking whichever jobs will pay best.
Revy is Black Lagoon’s resident gunslinger. Known as Two Hands for her dual-wield pistols, she’s one of the most feared people in the city and a strong believer in actions over words. You won’t find many cooler, stronger lead characters than her!
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