Recently here on PopLurker, we started counting down the Top 20 Most Important Manga and Anime Characters. Now, we’re finishing up in Part Two of this incredible list!
Claudine de Montesse/Oscar François de Jarjayes
It’s important to recognize that not all depictions of transgender people in anime and manga are of transgender women. No author makes this point more clear than the classic manga creator Riyoko Ikeda. Ikeda is famous throughout her work for her shojo stories, and the masculinity of many of her characters who were assigned female at birth. Two prime example of her usage of trans-masculine characters are Oscar from Rose of Versailles and even more so Claudine the title character of the manga Claudine. These characters are important to the representation of trans-masculine peoples.
Both these characters are interesting and relatable characters because they don’t fit into the gender identity and within societies they are a part of. Oscar is raised as a boy, and despite being a woman dresses, behaves, and plays the part of a man. This creates confusion in her life as she has feelings for childhood friend, but is also sworn to duty as a royal guard of the Marie Antoinette and loves her as well. Oscar is constantly torn between her identities, though she is raised to behave like a man she also seeks out the love of her male working class childhood friend. This conflict between her gender and sexuality (as well as class) was ground-breaking for its time, and helped to depict conflicts many non-binary and masculine transgender people feel.
Claudine is a character that represents transgender men and masculinity even more than Oscar. Claudine specifically identifies as a transman and struggles with his body not matching who he is within. After many failed romances and struggles, he ultimately is rejected by the woman he loves who marries Claudine’s brother instead. All these struggles cause Claudine to blames his body for his losses and leading to him to fall into a deep depression. Both Claudine and Oscar are portrayed as tragic trans-masculine characters that don’t fit into the strictly gendered worlds they inhabit, leading to their struggles.
While I am not a transgender man and these representations are very early ones, I feel that many transmen and masculine people could relate to these two characters and their struggles. Suicide, sexuality and body image are very real issues that effect all transgender people. It is remarkable how difficult it is as transgender people to convey the most simple concepts to non-transgender people (such as that transmen are men, transwomen are women, no I’m not going to whip out my genitals or breasts for you etc…).
As a trans person all these ignorant question and statements do take a toll. I personal can’t even begin to tell you how many stupid questions I’ve been asked (such as: are you a dude?) and stupid things I’ve been told (Such as: you look good for a transgender, I would have never know you weren’t a real woman). All these questions and statements do wear on your self-esteem and at times have led me to feelings that you are inadequate or abnormal, which is something no one but Nazis should feel (it’s an ongoing theme).
Transmen also often face erasure as most representation of transgender people (both the good and especially the shitty) are directed at transwomen. People often ignore or pretend that transmen and trans-masculine people don’t exist or that they are just super butch lesbians (despite the obvious fact that non-straight trans men exist). While I don’t want to speak for trans-masculine and transmen people, I personally know that if one of my key identities were erased I would have trouble affirming my identity and I would feel erased as a person. I think that having characters with similar identities and facing similar struggles is important for all transgender people, but especially transmen because of this constant erasure.
D’oen/Lia de Beaumont
Le Chavalier D’oen is an unusual anime that mixes historical intrigue with the supernatural and zombies. Set in pre-revolutionary France the story focuses on D’eon Beaumont, a secret knight and agent of the French royal family. When D’eon sister Lia washes up on a river shore dead in a coffin with strange markings, D’oen is sent out by the king to discover the cause of his sister’s mysterious death and how it connects with the magical religious psalms and alchemy. Accompanied by a party of other heroes and knights, D’eon seeks out vengeance for his sister’s death and uncovers a secret plot involving dark magic that is designed to destabilize France’s royalty.
What makes D’oen and Lia such important role models is that despite the era of the show, Lia is an even bigger bad ass then her brother is. After being murdered, Lia is so enraged with her death and her inability to move on that her spirit swears vengeance. She goes as far as to possess her brother’s body in order to help him seek her revenge using her knowledge and sword skills. Lia ends up becoming a part of D’eon and the two end up sharing a body throughout the rest of the series. She also ends up playing an important role in the story as a brave and powerful woman on a quest to fuck up all the people that betrayed her.
The relationship between Lia and D’eon, and Lia ability as a spy and as a master fencer defines both her and D’eon as inspiring, super cool, and competent heroes. It’s hard not to admire their loyalty to one another, but I especially admire how they hack and slash up zombies and their enemies. The concept of a woman during this period being a bigger badass then her brother, and sharing a body with him is almost as remarkable as the actual Chevalier d’Éon, one of the first famous transgender and intersex figures. Transgender women (or any women for that matter) rarely get to be both main characters and bad asses in a realistic historical drama, so it is incredibly awesome that this series allows for these two to kick asses and take names.
Fish Eye/Sailor Starlights/Sailor Uranus
Outside of Wandering Son, Sailor Moon offers probably the most transgender characters within any anime and manga series. From the transwoman villain Fish Eye, to the sexy in both sexes Sailor Starlights, to the gender queer Senshi Sailor Uranus, Sailor moon offers some of the most diverse, cool, and positive representation of transgender and LGBTQIA people of all mainstream anime. Each of these characters represent a different, but important form of representation in the show.
Sometimes it’s nice to have a representation of a transgender woman as a villain. While the psychotic mentally unstable transwoman/crossdresser is sadly stupidly common cliché (find a new plot point that isn’t stupid please), it is interesting to have transgender woman who is detailed and empathetic, while still acting as a worthy antagonist. While Fish Eye does fall into Japan’s frequent connection of transgender people with feminine gay men, Fisheye is a fun, unique looking and sympathetic villain. She ultimately cares for people, and despite starting as a villain develops an attachment to both the main heroes Mamaru and Usagi. Unlike the gay male couple Zoisite and Kunzite though, Fish Eye dresses as a woman and in production notes for the manga it is specifically confirmed to also identify as a woman. Fish Eye is a lot of fun as a character and eventually even becomes an anti-hero who helps Usagi and her friends.
The Sailor Starlights are hot, whether they are men or women. While in the manga they are merely crossdressing, the anime presents them as gender fluid antiheroes who are hot male idols while not transformed and sexy women when they transform into their sailor forms. The Sailor Starlights play a key role in Sailor Moon Sailor Stars as they search for their princess and help in the battle against Sailor Galaxia the series antagonist. What is so cool is how little the senshi seem to bat an eyelash over their identities. Seiya eagerly continues to courts Usagi, and Minako falls head over heels for Yaten and continues to feel that way even after their secret is revealed. As Mako puts it when asked about what they should do about Taiki Kou one of the Sailor Starlights, “…Taiki is Taiki! We should hang around as we did before!” It is this type of support is really heart-warming, especially considering the general attitude during the time period that this series was made in.
Sailor Uranus may be one of our favourite hot lesbian heroines, but they also are a great representation for gender queer character. It is noted in the manga and Sailor Moon Crystal that Haruka identifies specifically as both male and female. While there is some speculation that Haruka may be intersex, it is confirmed by their actions, style of dress, and identity that they are without a doubt gender queer. Haruka does what they want in society where that is generally frowned upon, and does it all in a suave smooth way. Haruka has no problem dressing in male clothing, driving fast vehicles, and punching people in the face like a boss. Haruka is also often a dominant flirt, going so far as to kiss and flirt with Usagi, despite their soul mate being Michiru. Haruka is a very cool and very freeing character for those who are non-binary, because they live their life by their own rules and don’t let the world define style their style of hotness.
Early in the episode Jupiter Jazz which features Gren it would be easy to dismiss Cowboy Bebop’s attitude toward transpeople as extremely negative. The representation of gender non-conforming people early in the episode seems to be limited to the dreaded gay Okama stereotype, with these characters lack of “presenting as female,” used as a joke. This turns out to be a major bait and switch though, as the show actually has a much more complicated depiction of gender and sex when the Gren is introduced.
Gren has complex identity and relationship to the cast. They originally appear to be a Jazz local musician living on Callisto an almost exclusively male populated and freezing cold moon of Jupiter. It is later revealed though that Gren is different than what they first seem. The anti-hero Faye ends up finding out that Gren is sexually ambiguous, and also has connections to the series antagonist Vicious. Gren’s revels that although saving his life in a war Vicious went on to frame them as a spy. This caused them to be sent to a prison where Gren was given an experimental drug, which effected their hormones causing them to develop female body traits, and also has caused them internal bleeding.
Gren is not only an intersex character, but also someone who identifies as gender queer. As Gren states when asked about their gender, “I am both at once and I am neither one.” Even before this gender reveal the show gives an interesting look into Gren’s personality as they speak with Faye before their secrets are revealed. Gren seems to be one of the few people that understands Faye in the show, as they engage in a cat and mouse dialogue about fear of abandonment and belonging. In this discussion Gren seem to display an insight on both traditional male and female conversation styles. In this scene Gren shows an understanding of Faye’s struggles, and is presented as complex and important character through this dialogue.
Despite only being in two episodes Gren becomes one of the most highlighted characters within these two episode. I admire how I got to learn more about them, and invest in their character in such a short time on an emotional level more than with some main characters of other series. Gren is a character I love, because of the way they are presented and detailed. They are driven by a strong and complex motive that extends beyond just revenge. I’ve personally ball every time I witness the two Jupiter Jazz episodes, and of all the amazing Cowboy Bebop episodes there are I feel the ones with Gren have the biggest impact on me.
Elendira the Crimsonnail
Elendira is another transgender woman you wouldn’t want to piss off. Though she only appears in the manga Trigun Maximum it is clear that she is a force to be reckoned with. As the most powerful member of the sinister Gun-Ho Gun’s organization, her powerful speed and nail launching crossbow suitcase rivals the strength of the sinister psychic puppeteer and head henchman Legato Bluesummer’s (who is far scarier than his boss). Despite her resentment towards Legato she is shown to be one of the most dangerous and loyal members of the villainous Knive’s crew, and one not to be underestimated.
Elendira is another example of a badass transgender person that can kickass and take names. While being trans is clearly a part of her identity, it is her ability to stand above her enemies that is most impressive. In a series filled with super human assassins and Plant aliens with the power to destroy cities Elendira not only holds her own, but stands near the top of the pack. She isn’t a joke character or someone that the characters in the story would want to mock (if they value their life). It’s really awesome that this series presents such a powerful trans character, since most transgender characters are not depicted as particularly strong or serious. Usually the only trans characters depicted that are physically strong are mentally ill serial kills, so it’s amazing to have a trans character who is depicted as elegant, thoughtful, and suave assassin. It’s a shame she wasn’t added to the anime series, but I’m glad her depiction in the manga is as a strong powerful woman who can stand alone.
Jeanne Hishida is a great example of a transgender character that is given a realistic story arc within the manga series Genkaku Picasso. For those are unfamiliar with the title Genkaku Picasso, it is a strange story that blends the realistic and supernatural together. After being saved from death during a freak helicopter accident Hikari Hamura who is nicknamed Picasso is forced (despite resenting the idea completely) to use his art skills and abilities to help others, along with his friend who also passed away. Jeanne’s arc begins when the handsome student “Yosuke,” is spotted in the girl’s bathroom and discovered with feminine objects in their bag. Yosuke’s classmates accuses them of being a pervert, but when Picasso is sent into Yosuke’s mind through a picture he finds that Yosuke is actually struggling with complex issues. Picasso and his friend Chiaki find out “Yosuke,” is actually a transgender woman and identifies as Jeanne. Meanwhile Yosuke and Picasso’s friend Sugiura follows Yosuke as they flee the classroom, supporting and affirming them despite the rest classes’ accusations.
Genkaku Picasso does its best to seriously address Jeanne’s character arc, as their backstory and struggles are revealed. Though some aspects of this story might seem dated by modern US standards (being trans is no longer seen as a mental disorder in the US), the story does its best to present Jeanne’s struggles with her identity, having her explain challenges disclosing to her class, and dealing with her parents who disapproved of her gender and mark her as mentally ill. What is really interesting about Jeanne is how she relates with Joan of Arc, and how metaphorical her conflict is portrayed as a battle against empty armour.
Getting to see Jeanne’s inner and outer conflict, and the reveal of their issue reminded me a lot about the struggles I face when I was disclosing. I ended up coming out to my parents about my identity by accident when I was walking to school one day in full makeup and a strapless sundress, and my father drove by in his car and chatted. That was one of the scariest and most awkward situation of my life (though now I see it as really funny because of how surreal it was). Disclosing to my parents though did help me a lot through my inner struggles. I no longer felt like I had to try to be or appear to be someone I was not. This is also true of Jeanne’s whose gender is supported and affirmed by her classmates when she is forced to reveal her identity to them through an embarrassing situation. After Jeanne’s confession her classmates apologize to her and get her a female uniform, and show caring and support for her throughout the rest of the series. While this is the best case scenario it’s really heart-warming to see as a transgender person that people do support, love and care for you, and that disclosing does help even when it is unexpected and at first awkward.
After School Nightmare is one of the most unusual manga series I have ever read. It is the story of trouble teens seeking out a mysterious graduation through shared dreams where their inner selves are projected. The series protagonist Mashiro is an intersex character who is seeking to discover an identity that fits with their body. At first they believe that they need to prove themselves male. As the series progresses however, it becomes clear that this identity doesn’t fit for them as they struggle with their relationship with their girlfriend Kureha Fujishima and develop strong feelings for Sou Mizuhashi, another troubled teen with a sister complex. Eventually Mashiro comes to realize that they identify as a woman, and that they need to do what they can to save Sou from his unhealthy relationship with his sister.
What I really admire about After School Nightmare (besides it’s trippy surrealistic dream therapy) is that it does a good job of presenting the inner conflict many transgender people feel about trying to fit into a role that is uncomfortable and impossible to maintain. I also had these struggles with my identity, as it wasn’t okay culturally when I was young to be trans (not that it is always accepted now either). Despite knowing that it was foolish and not working, I tried hard to be the male person I thought people wanted me to be. This resulted in me developing a number of odd habits like covering my body in big coats even during the summer in order to hide the shame I felt about my body (this obviously didn’t work, but I tried it anyways). It was so freeing when I gave up on wearing clothes that didn’t suit me and trying fool myself and others, and then embraced who I actually was. Mashiro’s struggle to discover themselves and the way that their transition was eventual portrayed felt tasteful, and was also empowering because it reflected my own journey of becoming who I was meant to be.
Tooru Mutsuki is an important character and role model for many trans-masculine viewers. As a major character within Tokyo Ghoul, Tooru plays a key role as a Ghoul Investigator with a strong conscious. Although shy throughout the series he is an important figure within a number of the series major conflicts and is a valuable ally to the series lead. Tooru is shown also to be willing to put his own life at risk to help others. While eventually he does ends up having a mental break down, originally he is a brave person who seeks to help others even when it puts him at risk.
Tooru is interesting in that he doesn’t over compensate for masculinity. He’s not the strongest or most muscle bound person, instead being openly gay and willing to cross-dress to disguise himself when necessary. Tooru is a character that is strong not because of his physical body, but because of his willingness to do what it takes to help others. He strongly believes in helping others and is often placed in dangerous situations facing a variety of cruel serial killers. While Tooru often has to get assistance he learns to hold his own despite not being the traditional male badass. While his ending arc is poorly done and reinforces negative mentally ill trans person stereotypes, his previous positive representation of masculinity is something that should be applauded. Tooru often tries to help people and genuinely do the right thing, even when it is very hard for him to do so. If that isn’t heroic then I don’t know what is.
While not definitively a transgender character, La Pucelle is at the very least gender non-conforming. La Pucelle is a magical girl from Magical Girl Raising Project that was originally a boy. As a boy he became close friends with the main character Koyuki before they both became magical girls. He would secretly share his love of magical girls with Koyuki, despite knowing that loving magical girl shows was something that is frowned upon for young boys. Though he later got into football (the real type of football not the American fake version) he still continued to carry a strong love for magical girls and jumped at the chance to become the beautiful magical girl knight La Pucelle when he was offered the chance.
While it is unclear what gender La Pucelle identifies in general with, it is clear that at least in magical girl form that she considers herself at least physically entirely a woman. Her magical girl form like the rest of the cast is defined by the character she originally created within a mobile game before getting a chance to become that character. While La Pucelle’s life is sadly cut shockingly short before her identity could be explored further, it is clear that she was excited to meet with her past friend. She continues to care deeply for Koyuki who is now the magical girl Snow White and acts as her knight, trying to defend her from other magical girls when it is revealed that to stay alive the magical girls need to battle for candy points.
What is really interesting about La Pucelle is that regardless of her identified gender she clearly is not upset about her body being transformed, and that she is more than happy to play the part of a female knight with a powerful giant sword that fucks up her enemies. Her gender is shown to be less important to her than her role as a magical girl and her ability to kick ass, both of which she cherishes.
As I got to know more about her, the more I enjoyed her as a character, and wanted her to develop a deeper friendship or even a romance with Snow White. Unlike some of the characters in Raising Project who are designed to be minor or dislikeable characters, La Lucelle is set up to be a major character and it seems at first that she will be around for a while. This is what makes her sudden death so effecting and tragic, and made me cry my eyes out. La Lucelle is the perfect example of a character who died too soon, and despite their short life was one of the most meaningful and interesting characters in the series.
Anri Wakamiya/Cure Infini
Anri Wakamiya (also known as Cure Infini) has been heralded as the first magical boy character in the PreCure series. While this is somewhat true, this statement erases many of the elements that make Anri such a special character. In addition to being a figure skater and model (and hot hero), Anri is also one of the first and rare depictions of a bi-racial (they are half French half Japanese) and gender queer anime character. Having such a diverse character, especially in a popular young girls anime series is unheard of, and something that I initially thought would result in a problematic representation. I was shocked though when I found out just how well PreCure was representing such a complex character.
Anri is awesome because they live their own way, and do their best to encourage others to succeed and the do the same. When they are teased for wearing a dress they often just ignore the criticism. During a fashion show when they are wearing a dress and teased once again by one of their classmates they just give this reply before walking away, “Living one’s life with unwanted restrictions is a waste.”
They are so calm that they even are able to later banish an evil being summoned through the classmate’s resentment by calming them through showing care and concern for them. Anri is a character that is not afraid to embrace the aspects of both a positive expansive view of masculinity, as well as traditionally feminine elements of compassion and caring making them a wonderful role model for people of any gender identity (or lack thereof). It also helps that in addition to being a well written character they have an androgynous highschool Bowie like charm to them that is hot (or would be if I was a teenager at least).