You are probably enjoying the many great anime shows that are currently on Netflix without even realizing that some pretty great women were behind their creation. In fact, some of the biggest titles in anime have been created by incredible manga artists starting years ago! When some of these women first began their craft, they were not taken as seriously when vying for recognition for their writings. Here, we’re going to dive into popular anime titles written by women and some of the manga titles that are linked to them!
Rumiko Takahashi is, without a doubt, one of the top mangaka out there! Inuyasha was a huge success in all formats and is still wildly popular today! Did you know that Rumiko was also the author of other great anime such as Ranma ½ (my all-time favorite), Urusei Yatsuri (which was her first big success), Rin-Ne, and Maison Ikkoku?! Despite stereotypes that women could never make it as successful manga artists, Rumiko became (undoubtedly) the most important female artist of her generation! She was one of the first to use gender-bending twists in her stories and those stories quickly gained in popularity in many countries. Many of today's works would not be a reality if she had not come first and paved the way.
Naoko Takeuchi was popular when I was younger for creating Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Her second trip to the top, in my humble opinion, came when she married the creator of Yu Yu Hakusho, Yoshihiro Togashi. He is also the creator of Hunter x Hunter, if that makes any difference to you. Two top mangaka (at the time) getting married was awfully romantic. While Sailor Moon was her only real claim to fame as an artist, it has lasted and flourished for many decades! Sailor Moon got a facelift recently with the introduction of Sailor Moon Crystal and the remake of Sailor Moon Eternal, both of which have garnered a new generation of fans and span many merchandising options.
An anime that has been “Goated” in recent years is Full Metal Alchemist (FMA), written by Hiromu Arakawa. A chillingly good story about two brothers’ journey to find “The Philosophers Stone” to return the younger of the two back to his own body after being placed in a metal suit of armor. She more recently wrote Silver Spoon, a tale of a young boy's journey to escape his problems, but instead, finds his own way in the world to become a man. Hiromu has a way with words that can pull you deep into the story and feel things you really didn’t expect to feel. Have your tissues at the ready before you start FMA because you will most definitely need them!
Fruits Basket (FB), written by Natsuki Takaya, hasn’t always had the strongest of fanbases but it most definitely has some of the most loyal. When I was first introduced to it, I was not all that impressed with the traditional idea of one main character having a small army of characters that are interested in them AND ONLY THEM. I was extremely traumatized by this premise while watching older anime like Fushigi Yugi and Tenchi Muyo. However, FB has a decidedly loyal fanbase and was readapted recently to accommodate their pension for buying up everything about the anime. It looks like a very cute tale but has its dark moments in the series which make it a series that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Nanase Okawa, Mokono Apapa, Tsubaki Nekoi, and Satsuki Igarashi make up CLAMP, a Japanese-based all-female manga artist group. Their manga has been at the top of young fans' hearts for many years so I will not be able to only list one. Here are a few you might recognize:
Kore Yamazaki created The Ancient Magus Bride, a story about an ostracized young woman who sells herself to the highest bidder in a desperate bid to find a new place to belong. The winner just happens to be a humanoid who makes her experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The original manga was first published in a magazine from 2013 to 2014 where it was then picked up and licensed for publication in North America. Although it is a couple of years old at this point, its fans have kept it in the top spots of greatest anime to get into, even now.
Demon Slayer is WILDLY popular with a variety of fans and is currently on Netflix. I have seen fanfics, fan art, and fan cosplays of this anime (more than any other) in recent years. Koyoharu Gotouge was really able to speak to many hearts with this one and has many fans wishing that the characters were real. It is a very heart-wrenching story about a young man in pursuit of a cure for the “demon” that infected his younger sister and killed his family. There are many twists and turns that make this anime one of the greatest of all time and definitely one you need to put on your “to-watch” list.
Blue Exorcist, written by Kazue Kato, is about a young man who finds out he has demon blood inside him and has to join an exorcist academy to try to find a way to get rid of the demon, all while trying to keep his bloodline a secret. This anime has a fanbase unlike any other. Their intense love of the series is shown in Kazue’s Wikipage where they have designed it like no other I have seen; The overall tone of the page conveying the darkness of the show and the depths of love that the fans have for it.
Yana Toboso has 3 claims to fame, although you may only recognize one. Black Butler is an anime that is still currently on Netflix. The series follows Ciel, a thirteen-year-old boy, and his demon butler Sebastian as they attempt to get revenge on the people who killed his family. Sebastian must follow the orders of Ciel until his revenge is complete as they made a contract with each other upon the death of Ciel’s twin brother (which they DO NOT show in the anime adaptation). Yana follows Victorian-style dressing mixed with occasional steampunk elements that bring a breath of fresh air to the flaunty character designs that some anime have nowadays. Yana also worked on the game Disney: Twisted Wonderland in 2020, coming up with the main concept, character designs, and scenario.
There are many more anime/manga that have been introduced to us by up-and-coming women in the industry, but I will leave that up to you, the reader, to discover and fall in love with them. The anime on this list can no doubt be debated to the high heavens on whether or not they are actually the greatest, but they have definitely earned their spots amongst the pantheon of others out there. Women have too often been seen as second fiddle, but those listed here have proved many people wrong time and time again.
What are your favorite anime? Do you agree with the titles on this list?
This blog was written by Crystal M. and first appeared in July 2021.