Anime is a very diverse genre, so why are the female characters so badly written?
Shonen anime is a genre of anime directed to boys and young men. It is one of the most popular genres of anime and enjoyed by a large audience. Anime has so many characters with amazing stories, but when it comes to the women and girls in the story, they are boiled down to bland shells of a character.
For the sake of this article I will mostly be referring to Shonen anime. Seventy-seven percent of mangaka (a person who writes manga), the book form of anime are women. Knowing that statistic, it is shocking that men enjoy anime and manga more than women on average. Female characters in anime are often written in a way that is harmful to both the story and the consumers by portraying them with stereotypical behaviors and underdeveloped storylines, if given a story at all. This can be easily remedied by not reducing the female characters to a nuisance or a damsel in distress. Giving them their own motivations beyond pursuing the male characters would help a lot.
The biggest reason why the female characters are written so poorly is because they are made to be attractive to men. This is more obvious because most woman characters are written to be the love interest to the male protagonists. An example of this is that almost the entire female cast in “Naruto” is written to have a crush on one or more male character, some for no apparent reason. This is a major part of, if not their entire motivation. In most anime: The girls are also often drawn to have small waists, large breasts and hips, and pale skin to be stereotypically attractive, like the women in “One Piece.”
There’s nothing wrong with drawing a character that looks like that, but it is overdone, especially when the male characters can look any way. Again this is shown in “One Piece” best. The female characters are also often drawn with revealing and uncomfortable looking clothing, making them look out of place. No matter how good her personality is, she always gets reduced to her body.
Some people will go as far as disliking a character just for not looking conventionally attractive. These female characters are also not allowed to have their own three-dimensional personalities. You will often see an anime where the male characters are deeply developed as people with their own struggles and motivations, but then the women will be reduced to someone who nags the main male character or one that’s just there for him to ogle at.
People often use the excuse that women are written that way because Shonen is for boys. That is a terrible excuse. Boys aren’t the only people watching Shonen anime. I even asked a teen girl what she thought of women in Shonen anime, and she replied: “It’s kinda bad. I hate the fanservice.” Fanservice is referring to the way a character is sexualized to appeal to the audience, in this case, men. If a writer can craft compelling, amazing, likable stories for their male characters, they can do the same for female characters. Gender should have next to nothing to do with how a character is written. People like it when a character has a personality and likable quirks. Female characters can be so much more than an annoying nuisance or a love sick damsel. If you humanize your women with the writing, your characters will be more memorable and impactful.
You should never write a character so awkwardly to the point where it damages the story. An example of this is in a popular Shonen anime series “Fire Force. ” One of the main girl characters from “Fire Force” is Tamaki Kotatsu. In the show, her role is a friend of the main male character, Shinra Kusakabe. Tamaki has fire-based superpowers and is a very powerful character. She goes around fighting the villains of the show who also have fire powers. The show often uses this as an excuse to burn her clothes off. If that wasn’t terrible enough, probably the most memorable part of her character is her Lucky Lecher Curse. This curse makes it so that she is prone to having her clothes come off for no reason at all, have her body contort into nonsensical positions so that her bottom or breasts are in someone’s face, or slip so that someone’s hand gets under her undergarments in a shallow attempt for comedy.
In “Fire Force,” there was a scene when Tamaki had to fight a serial killer alone. This could have been a big moment for her ,considering the fact that she had never finished off an antagonist on her own. She tried to fight the villain but for seemingly no reason she gets very badly beaten by him, despite being a very powerful character. This causes her to call Shinra for help. As Shinra defeats the villain for her, he ends up burning her clothes off in the process. Tamaki is then left crying and naked. This even upset the target demographic. People were rightfully annoyed when they saw the weird objectification getting in the way of the plot. This scene was even more absurd and uncomfortable considering the fact that she is only 17 years old. This is just one example of many anime girls being objectified in Shonen anime.
Knowing all of this, it’s no wonder typically men like anime more than women. It is difficult for women and girls to enjoy anime when every female character is an overused cliche. Women and girls want to see anime characters representative of them. That means diversity in personality, character motives, body type, race, and age. A very common gripe and probably the most common is the over sexualization of female characters — just stop doing it. Diversity in characters leads to more creative writing. People crave new and inventive writing. Relying on tired stereotypes will only do damage to the overall future of the Shonen genre.