Look, is it weird that whenever we see brown or black anime characters, we get hyped? Absolutely not. Black female anime characters, in particular, feel like such a rare thing to experience in something as insular as the medium they feature in. But to be honest, there have been diverse characters in anime and manga long before it became a thing in the West. I’m talking back to the 90s. Or, hell, even the 80s if you count Robotech!
That said, it was still a surprise when I first saw Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender, a dark-skinned animated character that was drawn in a style clearly inspired by anime. From there, black female anime characters just became more and more ubiquitous to me, and it felt amazing to see the diversity going forward. I mean, the love for anime is global, right? So why shouldn’t that be reflected in the characters and stories as well? Even Japan, anime’s main frontier, is slowly becoming home to mixed ethnicities.
So, it’s no wonder we have grown accustomed to a variation in character designs as well. But again, this isn’t all that recent. Contrary to popular belief, characters with different skin tones in anime existed before the dawn of the internet and the ‘Anime Boom’ of the 2000s. Sure, a lot of times they were subject to some questionable stereotypes. But then you had characters like Mila Rose from Bleach and there was a substantial shift. Various ambiguous characters became much more stylized, to represent their ethnicities.
And now, here we are. Black women in anime are more widespread than ever before, with a black female main character being the first of her kind to feature in something as classic as Shonen Jump. But before we can discuss that, let’s pay homage to some of the amazing black female anime characters before her. Here are our top 10 beautiful black babes in another segment of Get Ranked!
Caldina – Magic Knight Rayearth
This is a blast from the past, all the way from the early 90s! Magic Knight Rayearth was a CLAMP original that was adapted into an anime in 1994.
Caldina was one of the many fantastical women in the series. She is a dancer by day, and an assassin by night that uses hypnotic powers to seduce her unsuspecting victims. And Caldina does not hide her femme fatale side at all, rarely dressing in modest clothing. She also happens to be quite the adept gambler, with a slight chance. All in all, a class act!
Sister Krone – The Promised Neverland
Finally, a genuinely unnerving villain, if not a little tragic. But Sister Krone from The Promised Neverland comes with the added benefit of not looking vaguely ethnic either.
With her afro-esque hairdo and plump lips, some might even say she looks too stereotypical but I honestly welcome anything different in anime. Thankfully, her character isn’t as exaggerated, even holding a little sadness in her past. The reason she’s a villain at all isn’t because of some deep-seated need to be evil, but rather trying to save herself from a terrible situation.
Iris – Pokémon Journeys: The Series
Yes, Pokémon did that! Not only was this probably a lot of people’s very first anime, but it also happened to be one of the few series that gave us a darker-skinned female character without it being a huge deal.
And it’s not like Miss Iris is some naïve new trainer in awe of Ash Ketchum. In the series, she’s quite critical of him and constantly nags him about everything. Some people might feel offended by that, but it was nice to see a character hold their ground. She later goes on to become a Gym Leader of Opelucid City, so she had the skills to back it up!
Urd – Oh My Goddess
Ah, Oh, My Goddess. This was one of the first anime I watched that was genuinely spearheaded by its female cast. Though, I’d say Urd was the girl that carried the show through.
You never really see Urd being portrayed as this perfect protagonist. Like her half-demon, half-angel genes, she is both good and imperfect. And the reason she is so memorable is that she doesn’t get stuck in either hero or anti-hero connotations. There is a lot of personality and spunk to her that makes her appearances in the anime so entertaining.
Rei Hououmaru – Kill La Kill
For a while, dark skin and plump lips were the only giveaways in anime when it came to black female anime characters. But Kill La Kill actually took it a step further here.
Rei Hououmaru is one of the few black characters in anime to be canonically from Africa. Her backstory of being a child of conflict due to her homeland going through a civil war is surprisingly complex and it shows in her character arc. She goes from destitute to being Ragyo’s right hand at Revocs Corporation after he rescued her as a child. And hey, love seeing a black girl boss it up in a classy suit!
Coffee – Cowboy Bebop
Foxy, stunning, and with a penchant for grenades, it’s no wonder Coffee became an icon despite her short cameo in Cowboy Bebop.
I mean, it’s not like supporting characters return in the show, with its episodic nature that tells a different story every time. But Coffee was just so damn memorable that she became a fan favorite. Unique and refreshing, she was a baddie in the making. We might have only had her for a short appearance, but what an appearance it was!
Canary – Hunter X Hunter
Hunter X Hunter is another of those Shonen anime that did things way before they became trendy. And this black female anime character’s introduction in the story is just one of them.
Canary might fool you with her relatively innocent vibe, but she is not to be underestimated. After all, she does work as a bodyguard for the Zoldyck family, which is known for being deadly assassins. So, you need to be formidable to keep up with employers like that. And Canary certainly steps up to that challenge. But just because she’s an amazing fighter, doesn’t mean she doesn’t hide a softer side.
Yoruichi Shihoin – Bleach
Just when you think Shonen might end up feeling stale, Bleach comes in to remind you that it was serving diversity without sacrificing good characterization.
And Yoruichi Shihoin is no exception. The best part about her is that she doesn’t follow some of the tropes that anime might’ve exaggerated when it came to characters like her. Nope, Yoruichi wasn’t some damsel with a terrible childhood. She was from a noble family, brought up proud of wealth. But none of that turns her insufferable or spoiled. Instead, she is this keen warrior, with a sharpness that rivals her superiors and a tough-as-nails vibe that can’t be beaten. And she carried all that skill with an effortless attitude.
Carole Stanley – Carole And Tuesday
When Carole and Tuesday came out, it was all the rage. And I didn’t understand why a musical anime was getting this popular until I came across Carole Stanley.
Despite her being only one half of the musical duo, Carole is just such a cool character on her own. Music is truly her passion, with her icons being crooners of old like Aretha Franklin and newer powerhouses like Beyoncé. And she makes it a point to further excel in it. But her ambition never makes her feel unattainable or unapproachable. She is funny and down-to-earth, with a humbleness that makes her so relatable.
Casca – Berserk
The story of Guts and Griffith is so intense, that one can feel lost in their complicated relationship. But somehow, this black female anime character made a name for herself and stood out in Berserk.
I’m not going to lie to you, Casca goes through far too much trauma for my taste. But her journey both before it and afterward is just so poignant. We see her as a supporter, a leader, and a fighter at her strongest. But Casca is also loving, and so caring, that you can’t help but feel strongly about her arc in the series. Truly a well-rounded character, no matter how you view it.
So, these were just a few of our favorite black female anime characters. But suffice it to say, there are so many, many more that we could talk about all day. Representation matters in every media form we experience but seeing it in anime is truly heart-warming.