When I look for a new manga to binge, one of my top priorities is a manga with strong female leads. What can I say? I like having a main character that I can look at and relate to. So often popular manga is usually male-centric, that the voice of any other character in it feels either muffled or lost. And it’s rare to find any manga with a female lead that isn’t Shojou in nature. Again, don’t get me wrong. I love Shojou anime and manga equally. But sometimes, we need just a little more than that.
There is probably a lot of top-rated manga out there with female leads, but strong ones? Well, for that I had to go back and research all of the series I’ve read in my lifetime. You’d think I wouldn’t come up with many, but the medium of both manga and anime has evolved so much, that there is a story out there for everyone. From Shojou romances to Shonen action, women are becoming more and more prominent as leads.
But I also see why we had that period in time where anime and manga felt like such a boys club. When Shojou Beat got discontinued from international circulation, only Shonen Jump remained. And that was known for putting its male heroes forward rather than many female ones. For a while, it felt like there were barely any good series where women were saving the day or having their perspectives shown. Of course, things have changed since.
Thanks to the global boom of anime and manga in general, we are now seeing a much more diverse roster of characters; men, women, and those that lie on the spectrum. But today, I want to specifically look at some of my favorite manga that has strong female leads, no matter what the genre may be. So, if you’re looking for some good female-led manga, you’ve come to the right place! Here are my top 10 favorite manga with strong female leads in another segment of Get Ranked!
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You know, when I first started Kakegurui, I didn’t think I’d end up liking it much. The overt sexualization of the female characters just put me off initially, just like with Akame Ga Kill. But I was surprised.
I like how the main character, Yumeko Jabami, isn’t a good guy or a bad one. When she starts, we are led to believe she is this naïve creature who is going to get eaten alive by the hierarchy at Hyakkaou Private Academy, becoming a human slave known as a Pet in no time. Of course, that is definitely not the case, because we see the monster that hides behind that aristocratic face. Yumeko is a compulsive gambler, with a pathologic need to risk it all on the highest bet. And she won’t stop until she absolutely obliterates her opponent, much to the chagrin of the Student Council as her existence means the dismantling of the system they had curated so carefully.
Look, is there a lot of fanservice in this series? Absolutely. But it doesn’t distract from how bonkers Yumeko can be. If anything, it adds to her character, making her feel like an otherworldly demon. More unhinged female leads, please!
The Saga Of Tanya The Evil
Does this one count when the main character in question was a salaryman who was born again as a little girl in an alternate world? I mean, I’ll make an exception here!
The Saga Of Tanya The Evil starts with a Japanese salaryman insulting God for the circumstances where he was fired from his job. Because yeah. Disgruntled at the show of disrespect, this God, known as Being X, decides to punish the man by making him reincarnate as Tanya Degurecheff, an orphan in Imperial Germany. But World War I is still happening, albeit delayed, and now we have magic in the mix too. To protect herself, Tanya joins the Mage Corps and aims to climb the ranks as fast as possible. In turn, she becomes this ruthless soldier that won’t hesitate in climbing over others, but with a baby face.
Look, maybe I do have a type. It’s tiny, cute girls being absolute monsters when it comes to combat and scaring the men around them. It just appeals to the chaos gremlin in me, and Tanya sells the act so well.
My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead To Doom!
My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead To Doom! is certainly a mouthful to say, but the anime itself is so chaotic and fun. Imagine being so into an Otome game, and then finding yourself as the main villain of the series! Well, that’s what happens to our protagonist when she hits her head and regains her memories of being a 17-year-old teenager in a different world. but right now, she is Catarina Claes, doomed to an end where she’s either exiled or dead. But that’s why she decides to change her ways early on and become good friends with everyone who would eventually lead her to her demise. Except she does too good of a job, and now everyone is in love with her!
Look, some people might not consider Catarina Claes a strong female lead. But hell, she is stronger than me. I would’ve collapsed from the anxiety of trying to avoid a doomed end long before I even reached a defining point. And frankly, I love how wholesome she ends up being, despite all the paranoia.
Battle Angel Alita
No, I’m not just talking about the live-action movie here. And if that is your only introduction to the dystopia that is Battle Angel Alita, you’re seriously missing out.
Alita, of course, is our titular main lead, who was discovered as a dismembered torso and head in a scrap yard by Daisuke Ido, an expert in Cybernetics. Upon reviving her, we quickly learn that not only is Alita a cyborg, but she also has amnesia about everything before her new awakening. But the one thing she does seem to recall is her proficiency in Panzer Kunst, a style of Martial Arts. Using her skills, she becomes a bounty hunter and then a star athlete in Motorball, a brutal sport that is known for its ‘last man standing’ stakes. Of course, Alita slowly remembers her past, which mingles with her new ties to Zalem, a floating city, and one Desty Nova, a mad genius who is fascinated by her.
Do you know why Battle Angel Alita works? Because it doesn’t treat Alita with the ‘Born yesterday’ trope you see with women in Sci-Fi settings. Think Leeloo in the Fifth Element. Alita isn’t a pushover to be exploited. She is as tough as her surroundings.
Made In Abyss
If you can stomach Made In Abyss, you’re already a stronger person than most. So, imagine what kind of strength the main character herself needs to have when dealing with the hellscape she is in.
Made In Abyss is the story of Riko, an orphaned child who dares to venture into the frightening Abyss, a giant hole in the ground that has uncharted depths and nightmare scenarios galore. Each level is more disturbing than the one before it, but Riko perseveres to be like her mother, Lyza, a White Whistle known for her legendary Cave Raiding skills. But soon, Riko realizes that the ‘Curse Of The Abyss’ is no mere myth and that the depths hold secrets that could lead a life on the surface to utter chaos. Her unlikely companion through it all? A half-cyborg who is known as Reg. Together, they descend to see if they can uncover what happened to Lyza.
This series isn’t for the faint-hearted, which you can’t say for much female-run manga series out there. The Eldritch horror setting here is so unnerving, so seeing Riko go from this bright-eyed child to a person that has experienced literal Hell? It’s a ride, for sure.
Also known as Hori-san To Miyamura-kun, this manga series had me in a chokehold because of how it subverted a lot of Shojou tropes and gave us a healthy relationship dynamic.
Kyoko Hori is a hardworking girl who is at the pinnacle of perfection in her grade. She’s smart, proactive, and pretty, to boot. So, you’d think that the girl has it all, right? But the truth is, Hori is an introvert who prefers staying home in her drabbiest clothing and has a ton of responsibilities to handle, leaving no time to socialize with peers her age. So, imagine her surprise when her brother stumbles in with a nosebleed, being taken care of by this heavily pierced dude who turns out to be the class wallflower, Izumi Miyamura. Realizing that they both hide their true personalities, the two find solidarity in each other.
Seeing a big sister character go through the motions of being responsible for the entire family, and the toll that might take is refreshing to see. Horimiya isn’t just about the romance either, with Hori’s struggles of being more carefree at the forefront instead. But the romance is cute.
Ouran High School Host Club
If I didn’t put Ouran High School Host Club on this list, someone was going to revoke my ‘feminist weeb’ card, I just know it. And as they should, because Haruhi Fujioka is a damn icon.
Haruhi is just your average middle-class girl, who finds herself in the prestigious Ouran Academy, thanks to a scholarship. And all she’s focusing on is her education. Except that doesn’t happen, because she manages to stumble upon the famed Ouran High School Host Club, goes millions of yen into debt over a vase, and is forced to become a Host herself. All in one day. And unless she wants to stay in debt forever, she should agree, according to Kyoya Ootori who is the secretary of the Host club. And so starts her chaotic time with the Host club, whose leader, Tamaki Suoh, doesn’t even realize that Haruhi is a girl! Cue the classism, the homoeroticism, and Haruhi losing her mind over these ‘damn rich brats’. But slowly, we see Haruhi warm up to the Host club and their antics, finding a camaraderie that she never expected.
This series was so progressive for its time with Haruhi being this gender non-conforming individual that truly didn’t care what people thought of her. And it came out in the early 2000s. Like, watch it for Haruhi alone because she is the dead-pan female protagonist done right.
Ah, Psycho-Pass. This is one of those rare instances where the anime comes out first. And seeing the success of that, we got some banger manga adaptations too.
The main perspective we see is that of Akane Tsunemori, a newly inducted Inspector with Division One. She works with the Ministry of Welfare Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Department, where the Division One task force set out to deal with those that don’t surrender when deemed as criminals by the Sibyl System. She is partnered with Shinya Kogami, an enforcer who doesn’t have the same faith in the Sibyl System as others when it comes to accurately deal and judging criminal activities. And when the pair come across Shogo Makishima, who is Criminally Asymptomatic and manages to slip by the Sibyl System to commit heinous crimes, everything Akane knows is thrown to the wind.
Part of why I love Akane as a protagonist, even if she isn’t the main figure the story revolves around, is her cool and calm demeanor. No matter what is happening, she keeps herself together. And that can seem stoic to some, but you see how her personality isn’t just being a cold character.
Peep the manga that styled a generation of kids from the 2000s to, well, even now. Stylish, and edgy but sensitive, Nana is one of the best female-led manga to come out in the past 3 decades.
Nana chronicles two girls who both share the same first name. Nana Osaki is an artist who moved to Tokyo to pursue a career in the music industry with her band, the Black Stones. Whereas Nana Komatsu arrives in Tokyo to move in with her boyfriend. Coincidentally, the two find themselves sharing an apartment, and they quickly become friends, despite having such opposing personalities. The two go through a budding adult life together, filled with love, loss, betrayal and so much more. But amidst all the chaos, they end up finding a sisterhood in each other that neither expected.
You can easily see why Nana is a bestseller, with its gorgeous aesthetic and an emotionally charged plot that makes you feel so much for these women growing up in a fast-paced world. It is close to my heart because it was one of the first manga I ever read.
I saved the best for last. And, no I will not be taking any critiques at this time. Sailor Moon redefined an entire generation. Of course, it’s getting the number 1 spot.
We all know who Usagi Tsukino is. She is a huge crybaby who hates carrots and is also, the reincarnation of Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom. Together with her cat, Luna, she moonlights as Sailor Moon, a soldier of love and justice. Eventually, she awakens the rest of the Sailor Scouts with her to help her deal with the extra-terrestrial threats that could put their home in danger. And in the middle of that lies the blossoming love between Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask, who happens to be the reincarnation of Princess Serenity’s lover, Prince Endymion.
Sailor Moon was the first superhero that girls could relate to. Usagi was pretty and girly, but she was a fighter too, who sacrificed so much for the ones she cares about. Sailor Moon isn’t just a beautiful manga to look at, the female characters genuinely took center stage. There was no damsel in distress here and the Magical Girl genre was never the same again.
I know we’re missing a lot of great manga on this list, but that’s where you guys come in. What do you think is your top manga with a strong female lead? Sound off below in the comments!