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Women in Anime: Bungou Stray Dogs


In anime (mainly shonen and seinen), it is not uncommon for female characters to solely exist to further the character development for “more important” male main characters, as well as to serve as love interests for the main characters. These female characters also usually have bodies that are way too developed for their age, but somehow still manage to sound like 6-year olds. Bungou Stray Dogs does a fantastic job at avoiding these tropes, by giving their female characters depth and rich backstories that make them unique individuals with their own set of struggles. They also have more natural-sounding voices and are barely ever sexualised (their sexiness comes from within).

Yosano Akiko 

Yosano is an extremely capable doctor who has seen her fair share of battles. She worked under Mori Ougai’s supervision as a clinical assistant from the young age of 11, attending to injured soldiers at war. Yosano is usually calm and composed, carrying herself with grace and dignity, but as soon as she is belittled in any way, she has no qualms about starting a fight and standing up for herself. There was a scene in the anime where she accidentally knocks into a man, causing him to fall. Being a considerate and well-mannered member of society, Yosano apologises and asks if he is okay. Instead of accepting her apology like a real man, he degrades her by implying that she should apologise to him through sexual favours. Yosano’s reaction is priceless, and she defends herself in the best way possible.

Ozaki Kouyou 

Kouyou is cynical – she believes that people who belong in the darkness cannot escape from it, and are doomed to live in it forever. In her youth, she attempted to escape from the Port Mafia, hoping to live a more meaningful and honest life with her lover, but failed, which resulted in her hatred for the “light”, as it provided her false hope that she had a second chance at life outside of the vicious cycle of suffering within the Port Mafia. Because of this, she is extremely protective of Kyouka, perhaps because she sees a previous, more innocent and hopeful version of herself in her, and is afraid that Kyouka will be easily tempted by the “light”, only to be hurt and jaded just like Kouyou herself. Kouyou truly loves and cares for Kyouka – she took it upon herself to take Kyouka under her wing, playing an important, parental role in the child’s life. Her obsessive need to protect Kyouka from the world outside the Port Mafia, while well-intended, is unhealthy and detrimental to her upbringing. 

Nevertheless, while we see Kouyou’s faults, her actions are fairly justified considering her brutal history with the Port Mafia, making her an interesting character worthy of redemption.

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Izumi Kyouka 

Kyouka is only 14 years old, yet she is one of the main characters in the anime, and for good reason. When she was just a child (she still is), her parents were murdered right in front of her eyes, by her own ability, Demon Snow. This, along with other lies that the Port Mafia fed to her, led Kyouka to believe that she was a murderer undeserving of love, hope, and even life. Kyouka was emotionally manipulated into working for the mafia, and her ability was heavily exploited, turning her a killing machine void of emotion. Within 6 months of being in the Port Mafia, she had killed 35 people. 

By age 14, she is desensitised to death and struggles to empathise with her victims – she merely sees her assassinations as tasks that she is obliged to fulfil for the Port Mafia. However, her life changes when she meets Atsushi and the rest of the Armed Detective Agency. They made her realise that there is still hope for her to change her ways and turn to the light. Unlike the Port Mafia, the ADA treats and respects her as a human being rather than a powerful weapon of destruction. We see her grow and learn to love again in the agency, living the life that she truly deserves, and it is very emotionally gratifying to witness as an audience.

Akutagawa Gin 

Nobody even knew Gin was a girl from the start. She was known to be a skilled assassin and her peers in the Port Mafia always thought she was a man. Her work outfit doesn’t give anything away, a mask covering half of her face. However, she does look like she could kill with a single swift flick of her knife. It was only after Dazai exposed the truth that Gin timidly blushes in protest, revealing her voice to be sweet and gentle. 

In an episode where she is spotted in civilian clothing on the streets of Yokohama, she looked so demure and dainty that she made Katai fall in love with her. Even after Higuchi knew about Gin’s real gender, it never once crossed her mind that this beautiful young lady was Gin, because of how differently she acts in the Port Mafia. Gin fully embraces her femininity while maintaining her reputation as a revered assassin – what a strong, competent woman.

There are other female characters in the anime who are also brave, loyal and intelligent, such as Higuchi Ichiyo, Lucy Maud Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott, which makes Bungou Stray Dogs a great anime to watch because it pays a lot of attention to character development, not only to the main characters, but to supporting ones as well. If you haven’t gotten to it, I highly recommend this anime as it explores rather important themes such as redemption and recovery, and most of the characters are morally grey, struggling to find their place in life. It’s a little depressing, but watching the characters grow throughout the anime is very emotionally rewarding.

Written by yin
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