Watching an anime that doesn’t have queer characters often leaves viewers imagining what could have been. Sadly, it’s rare for anime to feature gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or queer characters without relying on harmful stereotypes that turn them into a joke instead of a character with authentic queer representation.
If this year’s Pride month has you longing for an anime to watch that does justice to its queer characters, here is a list of some anime with well-written queer characters you should check out.
Suletta and Miorine in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury
What’s it about: Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury centres on the technology behind the mechanical behemoths being intergalactically outlawed despite their therapeutic uses, but the real heart of Gundam’s drama is the romantic relationship between Suletta Mercury and Miorine Rembran. Much like in Revolutionary Girl Utena, Suletta and Miorine’s relationship is routinely put to the test in a series of duels for Miorine’s hand in marriage. Instead of fighting for love like Suletta, Marine’s would-be suitors fight for the lofty prize of marrying into Miorine’s tech-giant family. Basically, G Witch is Succession but with mechs and gay girls.
Suletta and Mioirine’s blossoming romance is often called into question because of the larger political drama at play between their out-of-touch parents in G Witch. Really, that’s the prevalent struggle in every queer relationship. Luckily, Gundam even fed viewers with illustrations of the two going on dates accompanied by audio of their Japanese voice actors to tide viewers over before the series descends further into the pain and heartache of its mecha-melodramatic second season.
Eiji and Ash In Banana Fish
What’s it about: Banana Fish is a crime drama about a guy named Ash who, after witnessing his brother’s murder, scours the streets for information on his brother’s final words: “banana fish.” Ash teams up with a photojournalist named Eiji along the way and the two grow to depend on each other to solve the larger mystery. Their trust in each other develops to the point where they banter like a married couple and have no problem smooching each other in front of a crowd. Just crime boys doing what crime boys do.
Alluka in Hunter x Hunter
What’s it about: Hunter x Hunter follows a boy named Gon as he fights to become a skilled hunter just like his deadbeat dad who walked out on him when he was a child to become one of the world’s best hunters. Yeah, Gon’s dad sucks. But Gon’s estranged relationship with his father has nothing on the kinship his best friend’s little sister, Alluka Zoldyck has with her family.
Despite using female pronouns, the rest of the Zoldyck clan (save for her brother, Killua) routinely misgender her. Their passive act of cruelty is made worse when Allucka is kept in the basement of the family’s estate out of fear of the all-powerful dark spirit that resides inside of her. Instead of joining in on his family’s mistreatment of Allucka, Killua respects his sister’s pronouns and will risk life and limb to keep her happy even if that means fighting his family. Although this is the bare minimum anyone can do for someone, it speaks volumes that a protagonist in one of the most popular anime in the world says trans rights so fervently.
Utena and Anthy in Revolutionary Girl Utena
What’s it about: Revolutionary Girl Utena is about a girl named Utena Tenjou who must battle the elite members of her prestigious school in a sequence of duels, all for the right to marry the rose bride, Anthy Himemiya. Y’know, just like in real life. While most of the men gunning to court Anthy treat her like an object to satisfy their own ends, Utena fosters a doting relationship with Anthy, allowing both characters to discover more about themselves as they grow closer to one another. Aside from having a gay as fuck premise, RGU’s Utena has also become a symbol for positive gender-nonconforming representation. Utena routinely rejects traditional female roles, and on top of that, her peers chastise her for striving to become the prince charming in her own story and sporting a male school uniform while doing so.
Nao-chan in Skip and Loafer
What’s it about: Skip and Loafer is a slice-of-life anime about an ambitious country girl named Mitsumi Iwakura and her blossoming romance with a city boy named Sousuke Shima. Mitsumi’s emotional rock and resident adult, while she attends the Tokyo school, is her auntie Nao-chan. What makes Nao-chan so captivating to watch is that she is perfectly comfortable with herself as a trans woman and doesn’t feel the need to make herself smaller for her colleagues or Mitsumi’s friends. In fact, it’s her same sure-fire sense of self that turns her into a mentor to Mitsumi’s self-conscious rival-in-love-turned-bestie, Mika Egashira. Nao-chan and Mika’s friendship is as heartwarming to watch play out as the show’s primary romance.
Yuu and Touko in Bloom Into You
What’s it about: Bloom Into You is a yuri (girls love) high school romance about a girl named Yuu Koito and her upperclassman, Touko Nanami. While most yuri anime like Citrus fetishise lesbian romance by rushing into depicting the physical aspect of a relationship, Bloom Into You instead tells a thoughtful, slow-burn romance. The more methodical approach highlights how rushing into love isn’t healthy. Bloom Into You also doesn’t fetishise lesbian relationships either, which is just wonderful.
Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune in Sailor Moon
What’s it about: I can’t explain the plot of the hit magical girl anime any better than its opening theme song can, but basically a bunch of sailor scouts named after the planets in our solar system battle evil demons to save humanity from ruin. Protag Usagi Tsukino’s fight to punish evil-doers in the name of the moon is aided by the arrival of Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus. Sailor Neptune and Uranus are lesbians. However, the original English anime of Sailor Moon censored their relationship by famously rewriting the pair’s romantic closeness as a close familial bond between cousins. This bizarre form of censorship is made all the more peculiar when you consider the fact that the anime already has a bunch of gay and nonbinary characters supporting characters and villains. Sailor Moon even has a crush on Sailor Uranus for crying out loud.
Kurako In Princess Jellyfish
What’s it about: Princess Jellyfish is about an aspiring illustrator named Tsukimi Kurashita who, after trying to rescue a pet jellyfish outside of a pet store, becomes roommates with a stylish cross-dresser named Kuranosuke Koibuchi. After becoming fast friends with Kuranosuke, who goes by the nickname Kurako, Tsukimi discovers that he is the son of a wealthy political family who doesn’t approve of his lifestyle. What makes Kurako such a refreshing character is that his love for fashion and cross-dressing isn’t mistakenly confused for him being trans which is often misinterpreted both in anime and in real life.
Momoe Sawaki in Wonder Egg Priority
What’s it about: Wonder Egg Priority is about a group of magical girls fighting to free their loved ones by battling demonic personifications of their insecurities. Momoe Sawaki is not only a lesbian character, she’s also trans. While trans characters are often used for visual gags in anime, Wonder Egg Priority is equally subtle and authentic in how it portrays Momoe’s queerness. What makes Momoe so interesting is that instead of having a throwaway line that reveals her gender as an afterthought, has an entire episode that explores how she feels about her gender identity. She even gets to take down a bigoted demon in the process as a cherry on top.
Isabella in Paradise Kiss
What’s it about: While creator Ai Yazawa’s hit-shojo manga, Nana, flirts dangerously close to being read as a story about two roommates that are secretly in love with each other, her previous series, Paradise Kiss, explicitly features queer and trans characters who are thoughtfully written. Paradise Kiss centres on how the relationship between a cocky fashion designer named Jōji Koizumi (who’s bisexual, btw) and his muse, Yukari Hayasaka, makes for a bumpy walk on the runway. But we’re not here to talk about them. We’re here to talk about how well-written Paradise Kiss’ Isabella Yamamoto is.
As a child, Isabella never felt comfortable unless she wore beautiful dresses. After being encouraged to model a new modelling dress for Joji, Isabella learns to accept herself as a girl and becomes one of his most-trusted seamstresses and the mother hen of their friend group.
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