What are some of the best sci-fi anime with a female lead? There are more and more options to look out for, and we're here to help you with a few of our favorites!
For a long time, science fiction had been a male-dominated genre that focused primarily on solid technological advancements and action - what is now mostly known as "hard" sci-fi.
Increasingly, science fiction is understood as a genre that can broaden our understanding of current and future social issues, and, at times, warn of all sorts of crises.
Science fiction is, moreover, increasingly appealing to all genders due to its potential to imagine new societies, in which some of our current problems have been surpassed - not to mention, that it can just be fun.
Check out some of our favorite science fiction anime with a female lead:
Ghost in the Shell
Now a big sci-fi franchise that influenced and helped shape the genre as we know it, Ghost in the Shell surely owes a large part of its popularity to its interesting female lead.
Major Motoko Kusanagi commands Public Security Section 9, a futuristic organization that concerns itself with cybercrime.
Kusanagi is a cyborg who inhabits an entirely prosthetic body, and she's quite iconic for her reasoning skills and hacking abilities.
Her personality does change a bit depending on which part of the franchise you tackle, but she's a consistently intriguing female character.
The Promised Neverland
Not only does The Promised Neverland have some of the smartest anime characters of all time, but it also has a decent gender ratio, an iconic female villain, and a rocking female lead.
Emma is a 12-year-old girl who will do anything to protect her family in a futuristic world where everything is against her.
Emma is stubborn, smart, loving, and compassionate. Her insistence to save everyone in such a grueling dystopian anime does become a bit repetitive, but it also colors her as a consistent character who will mercilessly plot until her family is safe, without compromising aspects of her identity that would be considered traditionally female.
In the bleak world of Claymore, humans coexist with shapeshifting, flesh-eating demons known as the yoma.
Claire is a “Claymore”; a half-human, half-yoma woman dedicated to exterminating the monsters.
Claymores are despised by humans due to their supernatural qualities, although they are admittedly necessary to keep humanity alive.
Claire is an interesting main character; she starts off as a lowly ranked Claymore, and she's unique in that she willingly chose the harrowing path of a Claymore for herself.
Her main driving force is revenge against a particular yoma, but she's not without compassion as, early in the series, she saves a child who reminds her of her younger self.
If you're looking for a futuristic work on the dystopian side, check this one out!
If space operas or extremely technocratic futuristic societies are not for you, you might want to go for Violet Evergarden, a "soft" sci-fi that features impossible technological advancements in a world that otherwise resembles early 20th-century Europe.
Violet Evergarden grew up as a child soldier who only ever knew affection from her Major, Gilbert.
Towards the end of the war that constitutes part of her backstory, Violet loses her Major and both her arms.
Violet, who has only ever seen herself as a weapon, struggles to define herself outside of her fighting skills and meaningfully connect with others.
After acquiring advanced prosthetics, Violet finds a job as a ghostwriter and travels around the country meeting people who need her services. She discovers all sorts of emotions that she previously considered unavailable to her.
With her awkward charm, unexpected sass, and indomitable desire to live and learn, Violet has become one of the most beloved characters in recent anime!
86 is a bit of a stretch as it has both a female and male protagonist, but the first course of the sci-fi anime feels primarily like the story of Lena.
Lena is an elite soldier who is assigned to handle a division of young people like herself. However, they are marked for death unbeknownst to her society, which thinks their mecha battles are casualty-free.
Lena is initially the only character who views the young soldiers of area 86 as humans, but she has a lot of her own preconceptions she has to unlearn in order to truly understand or help them.
Eventually, Lena's efforts amount to something, but it takes a demotion, unspeakable grief, and hard character development for her to see the fruit of her efforts, making for a hell of a character journey.
Serial Experiments Lain
If you're looking for a horror anime with sci-fi elements, Serial Experiments Lain is a classic that delivers some excellent cyber horror.
The show begins with Lain, a girl who dislikes technology, receiving an unsettling email that many other classmates received; a letter from a classmate who committed suicide.
Once the email has been opened, Lain is dragged into the world of Wired, a network that resembles the internet in principle.
There, she's faced with one mystery after another and comes across men in black who always want to interrogate her but seem to know more than she does.
A lot of anime fans count Lain amongst their favorite characters, and she might become one of your favorites too if you give the anime a chance!
Fantasy and sci-fi occasionally meet in works that are best understood as "science fantasy", and there's no better female-driven science fantasy than RWBY.
In the world of the Remnant, where monsters called Grimm are attracted to humanity's negative emotions, Ruby and her teammates - three equally rocking female characters - navigate training as huntresses in a world that is increasingly falling apart.
Related: Can Salem Be Killed in RWBY?
The show features interesting sci-fi elements, including extremely advanced weapons, prosthetics, and a sentient robot girl who becomes increasingly human.
At its core, RWBY is a show about female friendship, with characters who try their best to look out for each other.
The anime features Akane Tsunemori, a young, idealistic Inspector, with a firm belief in the government and its surveillance system, a futuristic test called Psycho-Pass, which catches and punishes what's deemed a criminal mindset before a crime is even committed.
If this sounds sketchy, it's because it is, and Tsunemori learns this the hard way.
A large part of her character arc is understanding that the system she glorified is actually corrupt.
From there on, she becomes less rigid about rules and begins to trust her own conscience a bit more, bending the rules to do what she knows is right.
A bit more clearly on the sci-fi side, Ergo Proxy features a mysterious robotic disease in a futuristic world that is struggling to survive after an ecological catastrophe.
In the city of Romdo, one of the last human civilizations, "AutoReivs," that is, humanoid-like robots, are key in humanity's day-to-day life.
When these robots contract a virus that grants them self-awareness and renders them potentially violent, it falls on Re-L Mayer, the granddaughter of Romdo's ruler, to investigate.
Re-L is an iconic character with a no-nonsense personality, strong analytical skills, and a killer fashion sense. If this sounds great to you, you might want to give Ergo Proxy a try.
From the New World
From the New World is a great example of a utopia that soon proves itself to be anything but.
The anime tells the coming-of-age story of a friend group in a futuristic land where children develop psychic powers when they hit puberty.
Main character Saki is relieved for hers to awaken so that she can join her friends in middle school.
However, those who never develop such powers don't turn out to be so lucky. When Saki starts to question their fates, she and her friends uncover sinister truths about their seemingly perfect society.
Saki might seem a little passive at times, but anyone would be in a society like hers.
Her inquisitive spirit is interesting to watch, and, as we follow her from childhood to young adulthood, it's hard not to care about her by the end.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is very iconic as 2000s anime go.
Main character Haruhi Suzumiya is excitable, energetic, and deeply interested in the supernatural; aliens, time travelers, espers - you name it!
Since an incident in her childhood fired this interest in paranormal phenomena, Haruhi has grown into an eccentric teenager who can drag you to all sorts of adventures.
Even more, interestingly, her overenthusiastic personality isn't revealed to everyone from the beginning. It takes some time for others to get to know her and experience her overactive, paranormal-loving side.
Modern anime fans are likely to find a number of issues with the anime, but it's still quite iconic!
For those looking for something a little bit more lighthearted, Mouretsu Pirates features pirates in space - not a bad combination, if you ask us!
In the distant future, main character Marika is a first-year student at Hakuhou Girls Academy.
She is a member of the Space Yacht Club and holds a part-time job as a waitress, but her normal high school life is disrupted when she's presented with the opportunity to be a captain for the pirate ship Benten Maru which belonged to her late father.
While Marika tries to figure out a course of action, the situation begins to concern everyone, from government agencies to a mysterious transfer student who all wish to see if the new captain will live up to the old one's reputation!