1994. The dawn of anime fandom. Huddled in my little ratbox NYC apartment, I sat down with a copy of the July/August issue of the now-defunct Anime UK, which sported none other than ur-fan Helen McCarthy in the editor’s chair. On page 27 I read Peter Evans’s “The Beautiful and the Terrible”, a paean to all strong female leads from Ellen Ripley on through Motoko Kusanagi and beyond. “I find it a constant joy that anime continues to give us a welter of strong, competent, sensible heroines who do not exist purely as a prize or objective for the male ‘hero’,” he wrote, and went on to ask why there were not only so many female leads, but all-female casts for so many shows (Knight Sabers, Eternal Story, et al.). He mused about biology and physiology, the sociological implications of “male” and “female” role behaviors, and in general found a lot to mull over apart from the fact that, yeah, hot chicks in armor kicking ass is a major ratings draw.
2009. The grand tradition of the Beautiful and the Terrible continues. Evidence for the defense: Claymore. Here, again, is another show where not only the lead character but the vast majority of the cast, period, is female — where they do not exist as objects of sexual conquest, and in fact dish out far more devastation and destruction than their generally genderless enemies. The Claymores are presented as chaste but powerful Joan of Arc-like figures — nominally female in form, but unmistakably female in the way they bond with each other and use both tenderness and strength to lift each other up. Clare and her friends may look good, but we’re never in doubt that it’s what on the inside that matters. This is a series about blood and guts, make no mistake, but it’s also about heart and soul, and how “please kill me” and “I love you” can both be words of tenderness. Read more