Article: Best Anime That Explores Gender Identity

Anime is unmatched by other mediums in its diverse range of storytelling. From having intricate character-driven plots to fantastical worlds that are brimming with magic, anime provides a space for those brave creators to explore unique viewpoints in their work. Such limitlessness lends to LGBTQIA+ themes and undercurrent of gender exploration running through anime’s past, present, and the future. While each new anime brings a different batch of shows showcasing identities across the queerness spectrum, results seem to vary regarding the grace with which these stories are being told. However, including queer characters alone doesn’t qualify as exploring or platforming their identities in earnest. There is still a bounty of queer-friendly anime series that tastefully explore trans and genderqueer perspectives, helping encourage and providing much-needed visibility to the communities depicted.

1. Moriarty The Patriot

The audiences always expected Moriarty, the Patriot to offer a unique point of view. Revisiting the Sherlock Holmes mythos through the lens of his enemy, Moriarty, promised a refreshing take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories. No one would have expected the length its creator took to deviate from his detective lore or how thrilling it would have been for both Sherlock aficionados and queer audiences alike. Moriarty is seen as one of Holmes’ most notable associates to come out as trans and assume the name James Bonde.

2. Paradise Kiss

It has plenty of overt queer themes and characters. Behind many of those cultural touchstones lies unsung queer genius, with the community’s androgyny and aesthetic serving as an inspiration for fashion and art of all kinds. Through Isabella and George’s characters set it apart. The main love interest, George, is an openly bisexual and self-described lover. He is a brilliant fashion designer proudly inspired by Isabella, a trans woman. Platforming a character like her and giving her the distinction of cultural influencer spotlights a little aspect of queer experience. She is rendered more than just his muse but also the ensemble cast’s most put-together member, acting as their voice of reason and a maternal backbone.

3. Tiger & Bunny

Nathan Seymour, aka the Fire Emblem, provides a standout portrayal of gender experimentation in anime. He challenges the traditional gender perception, embodying a mix of feminine elegance and masculine confidence. Despite encountering skepticism and misunderstanding at times, he remains true to himself, navigating their gender and hero’s journey with authenticity and unwavering determination. Their flexibility with gender presentation and pronouns reflects the living, ever-evolving state of one’s gender identity. It is a rare commodity and a welcome addition to the genre across all entertainment.

4. Stars Align

It is a sports drama that follows a fledgling boy’s tennis team trying to keep up with the excelling girls team. The institutional binary-minded competitiveness and gender politics are worth noting in their own right, but where Star Align shines brightest is in its providing sorely needed genderqueers visibility. Between all these endearing tales of forged friendships and dazzlingly animated tennis sequences, it takes ample screen time showcasing the tribulations and trials of Yuu, the nonbinary manager of the boy’s tennis team.

5. Princess Jellyfish

It is an emotional and under-appreciated queer anime classic. It deploys the familiar tropes to function as a backdrop to tell a story of how queer people change lives. In this it’s the cross-dressing Kuranosuke breathing new purpose into a group of otaku who reside in an all-female boarding house. Being surrounded by world-fearing and sheltered women, Kuranosuke prompts the girl’s overdue journey of self-discovery by being their impenitently feminine selves. Other than this the anime also provides insight into familial struggles, one of the queer community’s most sensitive subjects. Kuranosuke, like many trans folks and genderqueer, finds a second family in adulthood after being ostracized for being themselves.

6. Ouran Highschool Host Club

This anime fluctuated in its portrayal of gender queerness. Hopeful glimmers like challenging the gender binary and the earnest Haruhi Fujioka are present throughout but are often met by instances of more problematic depictions. Elements like outdated, prejudiced language and hypersexualization of queer characters used to describe queer or queer-coded characters add demerits to Host Club’s track record. Despite this, the series offered a joyful and positive exploration of queerness and gender fluidity as Haruhi adjusted to their new surroundings. Haruhi’s introduction still holds a place of reverence in the pantheon of genderqueer representation.

7. Sailor Moon

Haruka challenged the gender binary with proud displays of norm defiance, unapologetically dressing in masculine outfits and convincing schoolmates she is a boy. Later in the anime, the introduction of the Sailor Starlights shattered gender norms further. The final seasons introduced the analogous super-group captained by Sailor Star Fighter, aka Seiya. It assumed the appearance of male pop idols to stay safe when not in their Sailor form to protect themselves. Its gender exploration territory, with Seiya using their music as an outlet, while openly questioning their gender.

8. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

The exploration of the gender spectrum and gender identity are inherent to the anime. The unending Joestar lineage leaves no choice but to probe the themes of identity and also the blurred lines between femininity and masculinity, especially when considering Hirohiko Araki’s flamboyant character designs. Jolyne’s introduction as the first female Joestar challenges other characters to rethink their perceptions of identity. Her bizarre adventure is a gender-affirming journey.

9. Kino’s Journey

It showcases the chronicles of the adventures of the titular character and Hermes, their motorcycle, on their road trip around a fantasy world, refrains from explicitly defining its title characters’ gender identity. Sometimes such ambiguity offers the most sincere and productive portrayal of gender fluidity. With every stop on his journey takes them to a fantasy-tinged city with its own set of surreal circumstances. Audiences witness him embracing new encounters and companions, navigating each visit shrewdly and with boundless curiosity.

10. Land Of The Lustrous

With a diverse cast of fantastical characters, this anime offers an innovative exploration of gender fluidity and queer identities. Padparadscha, whose fluid androgyny challenges tradition, fluctuates along a spectrum of identities with complexity and grace. The transformative story of Pho, its protagonist, stands out as a poignant trans allegory at most and, at the very least, a tale of acceptance and self-discovery.