Anime Feminist Recommendations of Fall 2023

By: Anime Feminist January 24, 20240 Comments
Momose and Shirosaki leaning in to look at the camera

We close out another Fall with something for just about everyone, from superheroes to work rom-coms to conspiracy thrillers.

How did we choose our recs?

Participating staff members can nominate up to three titles and can also co-sign other nominated shows. Rather than categorizing titles as “feminist-friendly” or “problematic,” they are simply listed in alphabetical order with relevant content warnings; doing otherwise ran the risk of folks seeing these staff recommendations as rubber stamps of unilateral “Feminist Approval,” which is something we try our hardest to avoid here.

The titles below are organized alphabetically. As a reminder, ongoing shows are NOT eligible for these lists. We’d rather wait until the series (or season) has finished up before recommending it to others, that way we can give you a more complete picture. This means we also leave out any unfinished split-cour shows, which we define as shows that air their second half within a year of the first.

Here’s what the team thought—let us know your picks in the comments!

Konoha tearfully looking back from a 90s computer screen

16bit Sensation: Another Layer

Recommended by: Alex

What’s it about? Meet Akisato Konoha, an illustrator that loves bishoujo games and beautiful girls more than anything in the world, so much so that her dream is to become a super-popular illustrator at a notable game company working with the genre. But reality is bittersweet, and she’s just a sub illustrator who spends most of her days working on the background characters. But when she’s mysteriously transported back in time to the 1990s, she finds a second chance to make her dreams come true…

Content considerations: brief discussions and depictions of fandom and games industry sexism; blasé treatment of development crunch, including casually depicting characters sleeping in the office and treating this as a normal, fine thing.

16bit Sensation is a series that never quite did what I expected it to, which is both a pro and a con when it comes to recommending it. Overall, it’s good fun: I love its highly specific setting and pop cultural niche, there are some sweet moments of solidarity between young women working in an industry (and fandom space) that wasn’t always friendly to them, and Konoha’s enthusiasm is always infectious.

Initially I thought this would be a period piece about game development, detailing the ins and outs of making eroge in the ‘90s. While it has elements of this, the series ultimately ends up being less New Game! and more Steins;Gate, quickly evolving into a time travel mystery that sees Konoha flung back and forth between the past and present, woven through with intrigue about what the impact of her meddling with history might be. The show, unfortunately, gets a little high-concept and high-stakes by its bizarre climax, and isn’t quite able to provide payoff for all the sci-fi mystery it tries to set up. It also plays out this finale in a way that drastically reduces Konoha’s agency, and she becomes a very reactive character—something that’s very disappointing given how she was introduced as such a driven, passionate, go-getter protagonist.

Still, while I have some 16bit frustrations with 16bit Sensation, ultimately I really enjoyed it. It’s nice to see a story that’s extremely matter-of-fact about women making and playing eroge, rejecting the notion that the genre consists of “weird horny games” and the notion that women are somehow odd or “rotten” for enjoying them. Combine this with the time travel element, and the whole thing does feel like a retrospective love letter to vintage VNs and their impact on pop culture and on the individual players (especially the girls) who love them. 


Tetsuo gesturing proudly at the Bullbuster


Recommended by: Caitlin

What’s it about? Hotshot young engineer Okino Tetsuo is transferring to a new company, bringing his passion project—the bipedal robot Bullbuster—with him. Unlike his old job, Namidome Industries is a ramshackle operation, tasked with doing “pest control” on the abandoned island of Ryugan. Running a business isn’t glamorous work, even when your job is taking down giant monsters.

Content warnings: Body horror, sexual harassment by an antagonist

Vrai’s reservations about Bullbuster in their premiere review based on its staff were completely justified, but I’m happy to say that they were completely disproven. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it, and I mean that in a good way… as opposed to Abunai Sisters, which I’d say the same thing about but in the worst way.

Bullbuster is by far the most grounded criticism of corporate capitalism I have seen in fiction. It started off as a corporate drama against a science fiction backdrop. Mecha battles were secondary to battles over the budget and resource management. The company’s rebrand is a major subplot, and Okino’s biggest mistakes have more to do with social media than piloting robots. Over time, it grew increasingly incisive toward the larger structures of capitalism, and the way it works primarily to serve the wealthy. Sure, there are ugly CG giant mutant beasts and bipedal robots, but there’s also corporate malpractice. There are mergers intended not to improve business but to stop smaller companies from uncovering inconvenient truths. Oh, was that reference to the Al Gore documentary? Yeah, because it also has a heavy environmental tinge because, surprise! Environmental devastation and capitalism are extremely closely linked.

If Bullbuster has a weakness, it’s that its characters don’t really stand on their own outside the ensemble. Okino is the ostensible protagonist, but he doesn’t get much to do in the latter half of the series. Happily, the female characters carry equal weight to the male cast, all the way through to the end. If anything, Arumi is the coolest and most competent member of the cast, and never overshadowed by that upstart Okino. In the end, it’s all about the fight for the soul of Ryugan Island. Normally I put characters first, but in this case, I’m fine with it. Bullbuster has a lot of big ideas, and says a lot of things that really need to be stated. 


A young woman with blonde curls of hair laughing haughtily, surrounded by ominous darkness. A shorter brunette is superimposed over the image, holding her face and gushing happily

I’m in Love with the Villainess

Recommended by: Cy

What’s it about? Overworked office employee Rei is playing her favorite otome game to unwind one night, when she suddenly wakes up inside the game’s world. This is excellent news: not because she gets to spend time with any of the male love interests, pah! It’s excellent news because she wakes up sitting next to her actual favorite character, the haughty yet adorable villainess Claire Francois.

Content warnings Depictions of queerphobia; fanservice, sexual harassment, romanticized incest (discussed)

There are a lot of things we often do for love. One of those things is consuming media for the sake of someone we care about, solely to add more joy to the light in their eyes when they talk about what they like.

Watching I’m in Love with the Villainess was initially done as an act of love for my roommate and one of my favorite family siblings, Kit Catwell. It was done because she’s one of the biggest fans of the series. It was done because I love her with all my heart and want to see her eyes light up when she talks about Villainess. I came to the series with very little knowledge beyond that there’s a primarily sapphic couple.

But that quickly changed as I found myself charmed by Rae Taylor and the authenticness of the reasons behind her initially quite off-putting behavior. And let me say: Rae’s behavior is off putting, channeling the worst hints of predatory lesbianism. That is until the narrative goes into the why and actually sits with the very really, incredibly painful feelings Rae has behind her initially over-the-top passion for her counterpart, Claire Francois. Once the show dove into that, I was hooked: it became something I, personally, looked forward to on a weekly basis.

Oh yeah, and honestly, the slime in the show hooked me too. But back to the queer part. 

As yuri evolves, we’re seeing more hybrid stories that are often classified as LGBTQ+ over yuri because of their direct engagement with real-world issues. Yet I think there’s beauty in seeing both demographics and genres attached to a title like Villainess: it is yuri, but it’s also a genuine sapphic story that I now understand on a new level. I can see why it has such a tight-knit fandom, and while I engage on the fringes via my sister, I also am so thoroughly glad this series exists. I’m glad that there’s shows exploring what it means to be queer using queer language; I don’t think I’ve ever heard an isekai (certainly not a modern one) talk frankly about female sexuality quite like this.

My wish for I’m in Love with the Villainess is that it gets a second season. The finale leaves us in a fascinating place, one part satisfying, one part cliffhanger, all parts a desire to see more of this series adapted to the digital screen.


two twins staring at each other, one kneeling on the floor and the other popping out of a moving box


Recommended By: Toni, Vrai

What’s it about? Hitori is the most perfect child a rich older couple looking to adopt could ask for: sweet, dutiful, and seemingly tireless in his desire to please. It’s a lot of work to be a perfect child, which is why Hitori is actually a pair of twins, Migi and Dali, who have created this deception in hopes of finding their mother’s murderer.

Content Warning: Depictions of child abuse (physical, emotional), kidnapping, forced infantilization of teenagers, sexual assault (coercion, rape by deception)

Out of the many excellent shows I watched this past Fall, only one left me ugly-crying on the couch as the end credits rolled. It wasn’t just because of the small, sweet dedication to original creator Sano Nami, though knowing we lost such a gifted creator so young in both her life and career was part of it. My heart was just too damn full from a finale that clicked every mystery and character beat together with a sense of thematic satisfaction that’s rare in its completeness.

Migi&Dali is a mish-mash of genres and completely confident in all of them, starting out as a deadpan satire that walks the tightrope of bewildered laughter and genuine unease better than any Ito Junji adaptation, following the two boys as they ascribe ominous meaning to their adoptive parents’ harmless quirks; and yet when the series does pivot into being a deliciously Gothic murder mystery, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. The characters are weird and hyper-exaggerated, but the writing steadfastly hooks you into their relationships and the solid emotional stakes underpinning the comedic weirdness.

That horror-comedy can be as cutting as it is bizarre: this is a show about parents and children, the way children are treated as props or extensions of adults (with particular disposability applied to adopted children); how suffocating expectations of perfection harm women, and how those wounds get passed down to the vulnerable in their care. The handling of infertility is somewhat thorny—multiple positive maternal figures either can’t or don’t have children through traditional means, but the show’s central thesis does end up meaning that every adult woman’s focus ends up revolving around children (in fairness, so does the only significant adult man’s).

Any show this devoted to its own confident weirdness is catnip to me, but Migi&Dali has appeal beyond that. If you’re willing to meet on its wavelength, you’ll find something as genuinely special as it is memorable.


Kinjo and Momose imagining a chibi version of Shirosaki walking to work on a rainbow

My New Boss is Goofy

Recommended by: Alex, Chiaki, Dee, Toni

What’s it about? Momose used to have a boss who was so abusive that he gave Momose stomach ulcers. Luckily, Momose has been assigned a new boss, Shirosaki. There’s only one problem: Shirosaki is the clumsiest and sweetest person Momose has ever seen! How will Momose adjust to this new boss-worker relationship when he can’t stop blushing?

Gwarsh, to start this off, Alex has a sound review and analysis of how this show works based on the first half of the series. I think going there really helps give you a measured look at what this show does well, while also addressing what it could do better. 

The latter half of the series settles into a new meta when Momose and Shirosaki move in together, as Shirosaki tries to help Momose recover from his trauma by going above and beyond as a boss. Meanwhile Kinjo, the fellow traumatized new hire, pairs off with Chief Aoyama. Overall, the cast’s chemistry is good, and Goofy Boss really was my comfort anime of the season during the busy end of the year while I was on non-stop overtime at my media-related desk job that almost canceled my pre-Christmas date plans because we almost missed a deadline. 

That is to say, My New Boss is Goofy really was just a pleasure to watch all season, whether it be the comfort it offers being a kind and caring world where your workplace is both invigorating and nurturing, or just over how adorably sweet the boys are with each other. While Momose and Shirosaki engage in a “will-they, won’t-they” game of “how married can you get without saying you’re married,” the show does not shy away from the reality that queer people exist as it casually notes Kinjo is openly bisexual to his coworkers.

At the end of the day, I just want to offer this reflection for this show: as someone with her own workplace PTSD, and as someone who has more-or-less resigned herself to knowing “good workplaces” don’t really exist under this hell of late-stage capitalism, this show offered a moment of contemplation that maybe there is something better without having to get isekai’d.

While I question the ethics of dating your boss, also I would never actually date my boss (but also I offer freelance services for my girlfriends), the relationship between Shirosaki and Momose is sweet. Furthermore, the workplace camaraderie is healthy and healing to someone who might be trapped in a bad workplace environment. 


Gesicht in a field of flowers


Recommended by: Vrai

What’s it about? Inspector Gesicht is called in to investigate a series of murders targeting robot activists, scientists, and a handful of the most advanced robots in the world—including Gesicht himself. As the clock ticks down and bodies pile up, Gesicht must unravel the killer’s motivations and the greater conspiracy behind them.  

Content warnings: Depictions of mutilation and murder of children (implied), war violence (bombings, mass death), flashing lights; gaslighting and PTSD; anti-Islamic violence; hate crimes; parental abuse

PLUTO is a lot of things: a murder mystery conspiracy thriller; a The Woman Called Fujiko Mine-esque remix of Astro Boy; a meditation on cycles of violence express themselves in the macro, as the horror of war, and micro, as passed from parent to child. It’s a series that’s compelling on its own but also a layer cake of context from over the decades: the 2003 manga reworks stories from the 1960s and 1980s, with another 20-year gap before it was animated. That sense of history carries through the series, and yet it still feels painfully contemporary. One needn’t know Tezuka’s work to enjoy the story, but if you do there are a wealth of thematic parallels to dive into. It’s crystal clear that the series draws its 39th Central Asian War directly from the US’s invasion of Iraq, down to the phrase “robots of mass destruction,” but it’s also hard not to look at the series’ recurrent motif of a flower that thrives by sucking the land around it dry without thinking of the most recent genocides in Gaza.

It’s impressive how well Urasawa’s writing interweaves the big, broad emotionality of its source material with a cast that are almost all the victims of or perpetrators of war crimes—often both, as grieving survivors fall into the cycle of violence anew. The story examines grief and hatred as fundamental shapers of human identity, but it also tempers that idea with the unkillable power of empathy and connection. 

The way the show’s gender politics intersect with those themes can be frustrating. Nearly every woman who appears is primarily characterized as a wife or mother/caretaker, with the sole exception of child robot Uran…who has no combat abilities but is gifted with super empathy. The writing repeatedly characterizes logic as masculine and empathy as feminine. It’s somewhat ameliorated by the story’s (at best) skepticism toward cold logic and masculine bravado, and the male characters most capable of overcoming the cycle of violence are ones infused with that “feminine” coding—sweet, prepubescent Atom and quiet pacifist Epsilon (who is universally noted for both his hatred of war and comparatively waifish build). The story does value these characteristics, which makes the decision to shuffle off its two most prominent female characters with downright condescending closing scenes all the more galling.

Despite that, it’s a stupendous character drama that nails its conclusion to a degree rarely seen in stories of this scope, and its excellent English dub (by the same team that worked on Monster) is the icing on the cake.


Cure Dream joining hands with her older self

Power of Hope ~Precure Full Bloom~

Recommended By: Dee, Vrai

What’s it about? As a middle-schooler, Yumehara Nozomi became a Pretty Cure and helped save the world alongside her friends. Now a teacher, Nozomi wants to keep that spirit alive by helping her students. But adulthood is complicated, and she and her fellow Cures often find themselves feeling helpless to solve the problems around them—until a new magical threat emerges.

Content Considerations: Depictions of alcohol abuse, burnout, environmental disasters; age-gap romance (kinda?)

Precure Full Bloom is the best kind of anniversary series. It’s a love letter to the fanbase, reuniting with the Yes! PreCure 5 and Splash Star girls at around the same age their original audience would be now. It also has something it wants to say and a sense of passion beyond the easy nostalgia bucks. Full Bloom is about grappling with the disappointments of new adulthood, valuing oneself in both career ambitions and personal relationships; it’s also about how climate change is killing us now, not later, and that without community organization we’re all screwed.

The early episodes focus heavily on the Cures connecting with girls of the next generation, often struggling against ossified or oppressive systems embodied by middle-aged men in power. It even works its decision to de-age the Cures when they transform (the better to reuse old stock footage) into a theme about the toxicity of overreliance on nostalgia.

Basically, Full Bloom is not pulling punches, standing proudly alongside other bold anniversary one-offs like DEVILMAN crybaby. It does have a slight barrier to entry compared to those series in that it’s technically a direct sequel, but I was able to follow along with the emotional beats despite not having seen the (unavailable in English) original shows. The show drops flashbacks to contextualize major moments, so if you’re familiar with the general tropes of magical girl shows you should be fine.

That lack of familiarity even turned out to be a roundabout boon in one regard: the show’s central romance. Intellectually I noted it was weird and kind of eyebrow raising that Nozomi has feelings for Coco, her one-time magical mascot who, apparently, used to disguise himself as her middle school teacher when not helping her in battle—like if Luna and Tuxedo Mask were the same person. But I was meeting these characters as two adults who hadn’t seen each other at all since those days, and had kept a platonic relationship all those years, so it was easy to simply buy into their immediate concerns as two adults conflicted over their feelings but also their very time-consuming jobs. It’s also, honestly, really funny to watch our heroine court a squeaky-voiced plushie. There are also nods to feelings between Urara and Syrup and Karen and Kurumi, but they remain contained to their focal episodes given the limited running time.

 This is the kind of storytelling that remakes or anniversary projects should aspire to. If you have any interest in magical girl shows at all, don’t miss this one.


Ramona in a fighting stance in front of an injured Scott

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

Recommended by: Alex, Caitlin, Dee, Toni

What’s it about? Scott Pilgrim is a 23-year-old slacker and bass guitarist living a precious little life in Toronto, Canada, when he meets the enigmatic Ramona Flowers rollerblading through his dreams. Their budding romance is interrupted when it transpires that Scott must battle the League of Evil Exes in order to win the right to date Ramona. Scott steps up to fight for his girl… and loses, exploding into a handful of coins. While the community mourns him, Ramona suspects that Scott’s not really dead, and sets off to unravel the mystery.

Rather than being a straightforward adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic series, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off uses its anime iteration to tell an alternate, self-aware and meta version of the story—a Rebuild of Scott, if you will, or perhaps an Adolescence of Ramona. While I think this can be enjoyed on its own merit and doesn’t need the context of the comics and movie (Toni certainly got a kick out of it), you’ll definitely get more out of this series if you can appreciate it as a new spin on existing material, given new life by a contemporary perspective.

No longer constrained within Scott’s point of view or positionality as protagonist, the other characters get to shine, especially the series’ women. Knives grieves and grows and develops sweet friendships with other bandmates, especially Kim. The Evil Exes no longer exist as obstacles to overcome/bosses to defeat, and so get to be their own messy people—most notably Roxy, Ramona’s sole ex-girlfriend, who gets the most loving and nuanced rewrite. Most importantly, Ramona herself gets to become the protagonist in her own story. The comics definitely took the time to unpack her sparkling persona and address her many issues, but the anime takes that one step further and brings her into the spotlight in a really rewarding way.

I still have some gripes: Gideon is dethroned as the villain and transformed into a pathetic wet cat of a character, a joke that ultimately sweeps his abusive tendencies under the rug; and I’m still not sure how I feel about Todd’s incredibly slapstick bisexual awakening plotline. But overall, the series is creative, compelling, and great fun: an energetic, quirky, and beautifully animated adventure through the mundane terror of grown-up relationships.


Shy standing in a cloud of smoke


Recommended by: Dee, Toni, Vrai

What’s it about? Sometime in the 21st century, humans with superpowers began to appear and an industry of costumed heroes soon followed. Anxious and awkward 14-year-old Teru, codename Shy, is Japan’s representative on the superheroic world stage. Can this extraordinary but perpetually nervous girl find the strength to be a true hero? And what does that really mean, anyway?

Content considerations: alcoholism as comedy, depictions of poverty, foster care system, ableism, social anxiety, singular instance of sexual teasing, survivor’s guilt

SHY is a magical girl show with a superhero mask on as a very thinly veiled disguise. Its core concerns—empathy, social injustice, empowerment—are all ones that are very familiar to anybody who has loved shows like Sailor Moon and Princess Tutu. And it doesn’t just succeed at capturing what made those shows good, but has its own things to say worth hearing.

There is so much to dig in thematically with this show, as it really wears its ideas on its sleeve. Much of the central relationship between Teru and Iko digs into survivor’s guilt, how those who have been saved from catastrophe can find themselves wracked with a deep sense of having been twice victimized: both by the situation and by being too helpless to save themselves. The show goes to great lengths to deconstruct the dichotomy between savior and saved and between victim and perpetrator—much of the structure of the show it seems will be contingent upon those who survived having to confront those who did not and learn that they can still love their deceased loved ones while also moving forward and embracing the life they are building with the living. It is a bittersweet lesson, and one that is particularly relevant to Pepesha’s arc.

Speaking of Pepesha, this is the second show this season to give us a strong critique of foster care as organized abandonment. While its rosy view of orphanages and group homes is largely in the realm of fantasy, it accurately shows how upon entering adulthood many former foster children are left in a situation with very few prospects for escaping poverty, given disruptions in education inherent to the foster system, a history of violent trauma, and the gutting of the social safety net. Pepesha’s arc comes to a conclusion that can only be described as revelatory, resisting pathologizing views of poverty and single parenthood and finding a balance between celebrating love born in the midst of hardship while also not romanticizing the power of individual efforts to nullify an exploitative system.

I’ve already written at length about how much I love the show’s treatment of Stardust, and his arc is part of a larger engagement this show has with disability. In general, the show is against any form of othering, and I think that that leads the show to deal better with neurological differences than with actual physical differences. The physically disabled character’s prostheses function almost like an invisible magical cure for disability more than a mobility aid, which undermines the show’s messages about accepting difference—is difference only acceptable when it is invisible? 

The show has other issues as well, the romanticization of Pepesha’s alcoholism among them, and a violent incident that serves as the climax of Pepesha’s flashback arc is a particular low point for the series, othering unhoused people in a way that severely undermines the show’s messages.

On the whole, however, SHY is a standout of the Fall 2023 season, pushing us towards deeper understanding of all people and brilliantly extending the magical girl formula into the realm of superheroes. I am extremely excited to see it is getting a second season!


a girl running away in terror from an anthropomorphized guillotine

Tearmoon Empire

Recommended by: Dee

What’s it about? The Tearmoon Empire has fallen into revolution, and its princess Mia Luna is being taken to the guillotine. Just as the blade falls, however, Mia is transported back in time and wakes up in the body of her 12-year-old self. Armed with the knowledge of her nation’s tragic future, can she use this opportunity to change her fate?

Content considerations: Depictions of violence, poverty, and illness; a time-travel age-gap relationship; pro-monarch undertones; an extended bathing scene in episode 3 (everyone is covered by steam and it’s not sexualized per se, but the “camera” does linger at times).

I hesitated over adding this one to the recs list, because no, Tearmoon Empire is not an ambitious work of art or a gem of progressivism; and yes, the third act leans a little too much into conspiracy theories and pro-monarch rhetoric. But I had fun, darn it. And really, what kind of feminist would I be if I didn’t give some love to my favorite disaster-gremlin female protagonist of the year? It is my privilege—nay, my duty—to support women’s rights and women’s wrongs.

I’m being silly, but honestly, there’s not much to add that I didn’t already say in the three-episode check-in. Tearmoon Empire was consistently entertaining, bolstered by a strong sense of comedic timing, some top-tier exaggerated faces, and a narrator who knew exactly when to undercut our protagonist. The final arc gets a little too serious for its own good, but it found its goofy roots again by the end, and it was still the show I most looked forward to every week (well, next to the excellent Apothecary Diaries, anyway).

I never got tired of watching Mia accidentally fumble her way into Winning Friends and Influencing People, and in fact only grew to like her more as she started to truly care about the people around her. As I said in the three-episode, Mia is fantastically human, which is where the show draws both its humor and charm. It’s not the Anime of the Year, but it got me to put the light novels on my wishlist, and that makes it recommendation-worthy in my book


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