Dragon Pilot makes me wish for more assertive women in anime


#1

For those not in the know, the Netflix dubbed series Dragon Pilot, or Hisone to Masotan, is a show with the most anime ass concepts ever: Dragons transforming into fighter jets and swallowing their fighter pilots in order to fly them

I will delve slightly into spoilers but it’s more of me realizing that the show isn’t doing what I thought it’d with a character trait expressed in the first episode.

Essentially, there’s a character in the show who’s quirk is that she isn’t able to hold back what she thinks, leading her to be more assertive and truthful than she gives herself credit for. Sadly, though, the show seems intent on her development being “I need to be less mean” vs showing us an awesome chick that speaks her mind and doesn’t take any shit or allow being treated as lesser.

I could delve deeper into a specific example in episode 4 but my main point stands without it. It just doesn’t feel like I find that many anime with women actively calling out bullshit (in ways that frame them as valid vs just being “mean”) Have you guys come across this or is it just me?


#2

There’s more stuff like what you’re after in josei manga/light novels, but those are far less likely to get turned into anime, unfortunately.
I also think that if the conflict a character is frequently getting involved in is “people treat her poorly because of sexism” then it essentially becomes a show about that, and that kind of story is just less likely to come up.

It might be worth looking at Shirobako, Aggretsuko, Hataraki Man, Paradise Kiss, Nana and The Woman Called Fujiko Mine.
I’ll confess, I’m a little hazy on some of these, so they aren’t unqualified recommendations, but worth examining if that’s the kind of thing you’re after.


#3

Interestingly - at least a couple of those are from the same writer as Dragon Pilot (Mari Okada).


#4

I actually had to stop watching Dragon Pilot, it was just making me mad at so many different things haha. Idk how it counts as commentary of the plight of women in the airforce in japan


#5

You need Michiko and Hatchin in your life!


#6

As far as anime where women have agency, I really love Kino’s Journey. It’s from 2003 and it only got one 13-episode season, but it’s excellent. I highly recommend it.


#7

Just to throw in a handful of recommendations off the top of my head…

Seirei no Moribito
The GITS Stand Alone Complexes
Twelve Kingdoms
Ouran
Black Lagoon(?)
Ergo Proxy(??)

Been a while for some of these, so…


#8

Oh, and as far as characters who meet these criteria - would Lina Inverse from Slayers work?


#9

While I agree that the conversation over empowered women or lack there of in anime is important, at some point can we come back to the bit about dragons turning into fighter jets? Aren’t dragons already nature’s fighter jet?


#10

Black Lagoon has strong female characters, but I’d put a content warning on that. It’s not just the violence that could be triggering, but there’s some allusions made to some child abuse both in one main character’s past and then in the 2nd season there’s twin children assassins that were themselves abused.
I’d recommend Psycho Pass. It’s about cops having a device that measures something that indicates whether or not you will commit a crime and at a certain point on the scale they arrest you. It’s one of those philosophy anime.
Ergo Proxy is good? bad? All I remember is the phrase “reson detra” was used way too much.
Soul Eater is alright. What if kids were learning to become the grim reaper. One of the characters holds dual pistols upside down.


#11

It’s been so long since I last watched it but I really like Kino’s Journey as well! There’s a new series from last year that is more or less half remake, half new stories (Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World) but I personally couldn’t get into it because the vibe and tone of the stories felt very different from the slow, contemplative and generally thoughtful style of the original, so I would recommend people to skip it and go with the 2003 version as dang recommended it.

Also, Graham Smith from RPS did a write-up about the original series a few years ago that might be of interest.


#12

My first line suggestions have already been mentioned (Shirobako, Kino’s Journey) so I’m going with one of my problematic faves.

As much as Kill la Kill fumbles some important messages, I definitely respect the way that character development was never about sanding off the rough edges. Ryuko, or Satsuki, or Nonon do grow, but they don’t stop being angry. It’s all about figuring out what you care about, what’s worth getting mad over, and realising that yeah, you’re totally right to be stubborn about this. It’s a big part of why the conclusion of that show is as cathartic as it is, I think.


#13

…eh. I don’t think Kill la Kill has much value anymore now that FLCL Alternative is airing. Progressive was an absolute garbage fire outside the second to last episode, but Alternative actually takes the themes of the first series and applies them in new and interesting ways with a complex cast of female characters.

Kill la Kill starts to fall apart through the fanservice and when you finally meet the big bad and the show just sort of changes into something much more stupid (fun, but stupid and with some good character arcs). This comes at the cost of a lot of VERY out of character moments for Ryuko, and the big message about finding your own way in life is undercut by Trigger being Trigger (and it honestly may have been completely insincere after the absolute BREED NOW YOUNG PEOPLE mess that was Franxx good lord), but I haven’t seen this sort of issue with another team taking an old Gainax property and putting their own spin on it.

It’s less about being angry and being a strong female character bang bang titty shot sexism is over and more about four teenage girls figuring things out and learning more about themselves as they grow up instead of just being about the idea of growing up. Like, there’s depth and nuance in the theme work instead of just saying “that’s the theme” and fumbling with it.

As for OP’s ask, you can usually find good stuff if you just look up what a show was based on. If it was a light novel with any hint of harem elements, AVOID. YOU RUN FROM THAT SHOW AND NEVER LOOK BACK. Except Log Horizon.

For hard recs, I can double recommend GITS, Ouran, Black Lagoon, and Ergo Proxy for sure. I’d throw in Witch Craft Works for sure, criminally overlooked show that takes the magical princess and knight formula, switches the roles, and plays EVERYTHING for gags and it is beyond amazing. The cast is 90% women, they’re all freakishly powerful, and just watching them bounce off each other is endlessly entertaining.

Highlights include:

-The main villain’s plan being completely destroyed halfway through the series due to wacky shenanigans that had absolutely nothing to do with them
-The alligator in the mafia suit interrogates a witch by shaving their head
-The starting five girl band of evil witches become such a non-threat that they just start living in the main character’s house and casually hang around with the leads for no apparent reason
-The army of delinquent girls in animal pajamas take over the school and cover it in graffiti
-There’s a guy in the first episode named Obama who says an Obama quote who looks nothing like Obama and has no importance to anything whatsoever


#14

Surprised there hasn’t been a mention yet of Revolutionary Girl Utena, a series that practically revolves around a girl who wants to become a prince; tons of really interesting subversion and challenging of traditional gender roles, and some surprisingly nuanced takes on emotionally abusive/manipulative relationships - one thing I really enjoyed about it was how it grapples with the systemic nature of toxic masculinity - in striving to be a prince, Utena subconsciously adopts some of the toxic attitudes of some of the men she duels, and the show doesn’t shy away from examining that.