Hurting for summer shows? Your backlog’s about to be spoiled for choice.
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.
Because it aired late in June, and because this season was so packed with good titles, Ooku: the Inner Chambers will be considered as part of the summer recommendations.
Here’s what the team thought—let us know your picks in the comments!
Recommended by: Dee, Vrai
What’s it about? 15-year-old Eve is an amnesiac who provides for her found family by playing golf, betting against rich creeps and skirting the mob. Her job brings her into a chance meeting with Amawashi Aoi, a prodigy and idealist on track to be the youngest pro ever. Their toe-to-toe match lights a fire that will turn both of their worlds upside down.
Content warnings: Sexual menace/threats of assault, police harassment, and light fanservice (episodes 1-4 only); gun violence; nonsexualized nudity (bathing); student crushing on a teacher (unrequited).
Do NOT watch Birdie Wing if you are a serious golfer who takes golfing very seriously, because boy howdy is this series uninterested in realism. DO watch Birdie Wing if you enjoy bombastic anime where characters have special abilities and secret pasts and follow the Yu-Gi-Oh! logic of settling mob disputes with a children’s card game—or in this case, a golf match.
In addition to its confident silliness, Birdie Wing also follows that time-honored sports anime tradition of being gay-coded as all get-out. The two leading ladies are extremely shippable and the series knows it, playing up the romantic tension with as much reckless abandon as it does its buck-wild plot twists. While their relationship anchors the show and Aoi at least is pretty vocal about her attraction to Eve, viewers looking for a kiss or confession will come away disappointed. That said, if you temper your expectations, you’re in for a good time.
It’s so rare to get a lady-led sports anime that treats its girls like dedicated, talented athletes instead of eye candy or cutesy klutzes, and even rarer to find one that’s as delightfully off-the-wall as this one. I won’t pretend it’s deep or progressive—it is, in fact, 95% nonsense—but I had a blast watching it each week and would love to get more girls’ sports series like it in the future.
Recommended by: Alex, Dee, Peter, Toni, Vrai
What’s it about? Suletta Mercury is a shy, anxious girl from the outer reaches of space—so how is it that when she’s finally able to go to school, she immediately ends up caught in a duel and engaged to the daughter of a powerful CEO? As she and her new fiancee slowly become closer, a web of political intrigue and corporate warfare begins to tighten around them.
Content Warnings: Depictions of ableism, gun violence, police brutality against protestors, war crimes, child soldiers, terrorism, child death, gore, gaslighting, genocide.
The Witch from Mercury hit the ground running with tremendous ambition, carrying both Gundam’s long-standing critiques about the horrors of war and its status as the first franchise entry with a female pilot protagonist on its shoulders. To that, it elected to add a central queer romance and a story that dealt with the appropriation of medical and assistive technology by the military industrial complex and exploitation of colonial labor and resources. It would have to do all of this, it turns out, with a runtime less than half that of almost every other Gundam series—and with the additional anticipatory build-up caused by a five-year gap since the last mainline entry finished airing. The glass cliff is a hell of a thing.
With all that on its shoulders, it’s incredible how much the affectionately dubbed “GWitch” succeeds. Its central romance is gripping, to be sure, but just as compelling is the twisted and complex mother/daughter relationship that forms the show’s other central pillar. Propsera makes for a wonderful villain, as layered and sympathetic as she is single-mindedly dangerous. The sins of previous generations echo from character to character, and the show has a skilled eye for making characters double and triple foils for each other. It’s also just a plain delight to see the focus on diversity in character design, whether it’s through race, disability, or a dedication to designing some extremely cute and cool fat characters.
There’s no getting around the fact that GWitch needed to be, at minimum, a full 12 episodes longer. It introduces a fantastic supporting cast only to have to shelve most of them during the “everything happens so much” second half. It casts a critical eye on the military industrial complex, but events that feel like set-up to dismantle the corporatocracy at work are necessarily set aside in order to have enough time to pay off the show’s emotional ends. It struggles with all its might to resist pat solutions to its problems, particularly in the subplots involving the exploited Earth colonies, and the ultimate result is less that it dropped the ball and more that it passed it off-stage into the hands of waiting fanfic writers.
Even with those caveats, GWitch is still a very special show. Its ambition is laudable, its characters compelling, and its heart enormous. It felt like truly communal appointment viewing in a way that’s rare these days. And, as a little middle finger to those who might have expected it to fail, it sold the fuck out of those model kits. Double the success on half the resources, that’s the GWitch way.
Recommended by: Alex, Dee
What’s it about? After her boyfriend breaks up with her, college disaster Akane finds solace and community with her new MMO guild—and a budding romance with Yamada Akito, a gamer who’s much kinder and more thoughtful than his brusque demeanor suggests.
Content Warnings: Occasional moments of gender essentialism and queerphobia; a frightening scene where Akane thinks she’s about to be assaulted (she isn’t); allonormativity; drinking; slow-burn romance between a college and high school student (they’re 18 and 20-ish, so I’m not personally fussed about it, but YMMV).
As noted in our
three four-episode review, the first half of Yamada999 is a bumpy ride with a bit of a mean streak—Akane is a self-involved, heartbroken mess, and the tone of the series matches her mood. Fortunately, the second half smoothes out into a charming sit-com that seeks to humanize its cast as more than a collection of quips and quirks. As the characters grow closer and begin to look beyond their own hang-ups, the show’s warm core shines through.
Akane’s clumsy sympathy and heart-on-sleeve sincerity (along with her tendency to get sloppy drunk at parties) make her an endearing protagonist you can both groan over and root for. That said, it’s often the love interest who makes or breaks a shoujo rom-com, and happily Yamada is a winner. He provides a refreshing example of someone who’s stoic and blunt without being cruel—and in fact consistently proves to be the most considerate member of the cast. (There’s probably an entire article you could write on Yamada as an autistic-coded romantic interest, but I’ll defer to an autistic writer on that point.)
It’s also worth noting that Yamada999 is a terrific adaptation, thanks to the iconic joseimuke duo of studio Madhouse and director Asaka Morio. It’s well-animated and creatively storyboarded, dexterously shifts between emotional and comedic beats, and features Morio’s trademark usage of on-screen text to create layers of storytelling and humor. The rocky start puts it a level below Morio’s other series with “my love story” in the title, but if you can get past the initial hiccups, this is a series worth adding to your Watch More Shoujo list.
Recommended by: Chiaki, Lizzie, Toni, Vrai
What’s it about? Doctor Amemiya Goro is a huge fan of Hoshino Ai, a small-time idol whom one of his late patients idolized before she passed away. Who would have guessed that one day she would show up at his practice, wanting him to help her through her pregnancy and deliver the baby? On the day of the delivery, however, he is brutally killed—only to wake up in the body of her newborn baby named Aqua. And that late patient who first got him into Ai? She’s his twin, Ruby! What will life be like as the child of an up-and-coming idol?
Content Warnings: Depictions of violence against women, suicidality, cyberbullying, stalking, labor/financial exploitation of minors; jokes about pedophilia and reincarnation breastfeeding (limited to episode 1).
While the hype for this show has largely died down, the series has remained as it was from the beginning: an incisive critique of how the idol and entertainment industries treat young women that is undermined by its edgelord tendencies that contribute to the exploitation the show is intending to critique.
These edgelord tendencies mostly come from our antihero protagonist, Aqua, who has grown up to be a revenge-obsessed manipulator we are supposed to read as having good intentions at heart. This assumption of good intentions is stretched to incredulity by all the ways he manipulates the girls around him, sometimes sabotaging careers, sometimes pushing them into becoming idols, and, most egregiously, leaking the story of a co-star’s suicide to the press to control the narrative around it. (The mother of suicide victim Kimura Hana criticized the production’s ethics for failing to contact her despite the storyline drawing heavily from Hana’s very public harassment and death).
The show seems to want us to view Aqua as some kind of Genius For Good, who sees past the façade of the industry and whose actions are extreme but justified. Instead, he comes across as infantilizing the girls around him, who all seem to conveniently fall in love with him. It honestly feels like this show may turn into a surprise harem show, and while harems are not inherently bad, this one would be centered around a truly dull boy.
But. But. The girls surrounding Aqua are so compelling that, for me, the show remains worth watching. Ai is a nuanced portrait of a girl struggling to maintain her privacy and inner life in the midst of a system designed to exploit her. Ai’s arc compellingly lays out the thesis of the show: the only way to protect one’s self as a woman in entertainment is to guard one’s true emotions, to never let one’s true self be commodified—and the girls who come after her all wrestle with this struggle.
Ruby is a perfect foil for Aqua, taking the exact opposite message from Ai’s story: that she must embrace her love of music and dance now that she has the chance. Her arc of having a new life after illness is one that spoke deeply to me, and the series never trashes on her hopes and dreams.
Kana and Akane provide the brilliant exploration of the psychology of acting that I was looking for after World Dai Star flopped, and the show always respects their intellect and artistry. Rather than viewing the work of acting through a lens of mystique and talent, the show is thoroughly committed to honoring the hard work of acting—and how that hard work falls disproportionately on women. The artifice of acting serves as both a literal mechanism and a metaphorical symbol for how these young women protect themselves from the male gaze of the public.
Overall, Oshi no Ko is a compelling drama that I can recommend with significant caveats, almost all due to Aqua’s edgelord vibes. The amazingly written female characters, critique of the entertainment industry, and animation and art that made me want to immediately put on Scum’s Wish, made this a show I’m still glad I watched.
Recommended by: Alex, Chiaki
What’s it about? Koito has just turned 16 and taken on the role of miko at her family’s shrine. But the goddess she has to attend to is a little unconventional: she’s Elda, a 621-year-old elf summoned from another world, who wants nothing more than to spend her days playing video games and painting figurines.
Content considerations: Grief; dead parents; mild existential dread; one character’s gambling addiction played for laughs.
Usually when anime put otaku and elves together, there’s some sort of isekai fantasy harem shenanigans going on, so I don’t blame people for skimming over (or outright being put off) this one because of the title. In reality, though, this is the sweet-natured chill-out show of the season. It’s a light-hearted supernatural comedy based around a fun relationship dynamic, showcasing a variety of female characters with different strengths and interests.
There’s even a bit of an edutainment aspect, since Elda’s immortality means she can provide fun facts about everything from daily life in the Edo Period to the Betamax. The narrative has a lot of fun drawing connections between the historical past and Elda’s nerdy present—for example, suggesting that the women of Edo teahouses, immortalized in ukiyo-e artworks and often the subject of popularity polls, were basically the idols of their day; or pointing out that merchants have been encouraging customers with collectible bonus items for at least four-hundred years. It’s silly, but hey, it’s also a very humanizing way to look at history!
There’s plenty of comedy here, but there’s also a bittersweet undercurrent. Elda’s lived for centuries in a rapidly changing world, and has outlived all the friends she’s ever made—as she will inevitably outlive Koito, too. Moments that acknowledge this imbue the show with a sense of melancholy that adds some depth, goes a long way to explaining Elda’s personality, and gives emotional weight to the deepening friendship between elf and shrine maiden.
The show’s philosophy seems to be “maybe all this will not last, in the grand scheme of things, but isn’t that all the more reason to seek joy and companionship wherever you can?” It’s a moving message I didn’t expect from a chill show about an elf who got reverse-isekai’d by Tokugawa Ieyasu and now loves playing video games. Otaku Elf has plenty of light-hearted goofs, but it also left me with my heart warmed.
Recommended by: Alex, Dee, Lizzie, Peter, Vrai
What’s it about? Mitsumi moves from a tiny town in Ishikawa Prefecture to bustling big city Tokyo for high school, with grand ambitions of graduating top of her class, studying law, and saving rural Japan from decline. Despite being so sure of her life goals, Mitsumi’s first day of school doesn’t exactly go to plan. But a laid-back, sweet-natured boy steps in to help her—so maybe, even if things don’t stay perfectly on track, they might just end up okay.
Content considerations: Depictions of social anxiety and (briefly) transphobia; allusions to the lingering social trauma of being a child actor; one character’s backstory involves fatphobic bullying.
Skip and Loafer expertly balances its tone and subject matter, touching on many issues that affect young people—social anxiety, body image, and the pressure to please parents, among others—while still ensuring that you come away with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Mitsumi is an endearing protagonist who’s goofy and flawed without ever being reduced to the butt of a joke. It’s rewarding watching her navigate high school life: learning to chase her ambitions without running herself into the ground, working out the weird balancing act of a teen social life, and serving as a shining beacon of hope to love interest Shima without her own character depth being reduced.
As a nice bonus, this series also features some good-natured and matter-of-fact queer representation. In a media climate where trans women are being treated with such vitriol, it was lovely to see Nao-chan presented not only as a likeable, sympathetic character, but as a respected guardian, mentor, and certified Cool Aunty. Drama Club President Kanechika is also fun—though he may read a little stereotypical to some viewers, extroverted gender non-conforming Theater Kid™ that he is, like all the characters he feels familiar and authentic when the initial first impressions are peeled away. Skip and Loafer is a lovely little character study with a nuanced cast of messy teens, and I can’t wait to watch more.
Recommended By: Vrai
What’s it about? Momomiya Ichigo’s plans to enter high school and woo sensitive popular boy Aoyama are thrown into chaos when she’s chosen for the mysterious Project Mew Mew. Now she and four other girls have been transformed into heroes in order to protect the Earth from aliens seeking to destroy it—not that humanity isn’t doing a good job all on its own.
Content considerations: Love interest possessiveness/non-consensual (cheek) kisses; natural disaster imagery; stereotypes; brief flashing lights (episode 23).
While I was always a casual reader of the original manga and missed the original 2002 anime entirely (as it was only partially released, in heavily edited form, in English language markets), I’m nonetheless happy to mark TMMN as the rare successful legacy remake.
Its updates to a modern setting fit smoothly into the plot (cough); it wisely dials down the Chinese stereotyping around Bu Ling (though she still has an occasional propensity toward Ancient Secret Techniques); and its vocal focus on the harms of climate change and pollution ring even truer in 2023 than they did in 1998. It’s a slight disappointment that the update doesn’t take the opportunity to make Mint’s always-canonical crush on cool girl Zakuro more overtly requited, though the two are often framed in parallel with the show’s boy/girl couples.
Then again, overt romance is the place where the series is often weakest. Particularly early on, all of Ichigo’s prospective suitors kind of suck, with even nice boy (but not Nice Guy) Aoyama throwing out some unpleasantly possessive comments. It doesn’t help that the girls are all voiced by newcomers while the male cast is stacked with industry veterans, and the aural difference is stark until everyone settles into their roles (though teen genius Shirogane sounds like a 35-year-old smoker from beginning to end).
After the first six episodes or so, to the show’s credit, it gets a much better grasp on writing the boys: villainous Kish is clearly meant to have “I can fix him” appeal for the reader, but Ichigo herself is steadfastly appalled by his pushiness; and Aoyama’s flaw becomes his need to protect Ichigo from fighting even when it’s vocally against what she wants. The restricted runtime does mean that Ichigo needs rescuing with frustrating frequency in the back half for the sake of advancing the “Blue Knight” storyline, but the show does its best to counteract that with the other girls, and the show’s friendship storylines shine strong throughout the entire series.
Even with the growing pains, the last arc crescendos with all the sparkles, anguish, and powerful emotions that the best magical girl shows have to offer. It feels sincere despite inevitably money-making origins, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t walk away a little wibbly from the big finale. It’s a crying shame that the release is sub-only, as this would be a perfect show to share with the older kids in your life.
Recommended By: Alex, Chiaki, Toni, Vrai
What’s it about? Determined to be loved by everyone she meets and to eventually land herself a comfortable life married to a rich man, Hime puts on a cute, angelic façade. When she stumbles into a job at Liebe Girls Academy, a café where the wait staff roleplay as dainty young ladies from an old-fashioned girls’ private school, Hime should be right at home. But try as she might, no matter how much effort she puts into acting adorable, she can’t charm her co-worker Mitsuki—who claims to despise Hime as soon as she switches off her sweet, elegant work persona.
Content Warnings: Depictions of stalking, internalized queerphobia, heteronormativity, ableism, bullying; exaggerated boob-jiggle physics (episode 12 only).
We’ve already gone on at length about Yuri is my Job! here at AniFem. To me, it’s the best schoolgirl yuri manga currently running. This anime adaptation only scratches the surface of what makes the series so compelling, but even that small taste provides a lot to chew on. This is a smart, affectionate but also unflinching take on the tropes popularly found in Class-S and “pure” yuri. The girls of Café Liebe are all grappling with social expectations and their own identities, and the café and its “sisterhood” kayfabe are a safe place to explore intimacy while also lacking the vocabulary for sapphic identity—a dichotomy that becomes more apparent as various relationships flourish, wilt, and flounder.
YIMJ’s cast of disaster teens are worthy of an Ikuhara anime with the amount of baggage and bad decisions they carry around, each drawing from a common archetype (the cute princess, the elegant older sister, the pining best friend)and then throwing additional layers of depth and complication onto those familiar outlines. They’re often frustrating, but in a way that’s painfully human, and the script has a strong eye for writing miscommunication in a way that doesn’t feel trite or solvable in one conversation.
The adaptation itself is solid enough, a colorful and modest production whose biggest flaw is attempting to recreate the status quo at the end when the manga is interested in no such thing. Still, it makes for a fine introduction to a wonderful work.