Anime cliches 4 : Onna Bugeisha/Warrior Girls

Type:Character Cliché

What made it popular: Japanese Culture and History

Cliche Level: Medium

Where can you find it: Usually in action based shows, also in harem type shows they can be one of the token girl archetypes



Onne Bugeisha ( Meaning: Female Weapon-master) were female samurai warriors during feudal Japan, who as strange as it may sound to westerns, donned samurai armour and charged into battle with other samurai, to slay their clan’s foes. This was obviously still not a common thing, even in Japan, it was a mostly a privilege of the Japanese Nobility, who trained these daughters like they would train a samurai, in order to protect their family and honour in times of war. They typically wielded naginatas in battle, which is a long spear. And have actually led successful conquests in times of war. You can find many famous onna bugeisha in Japanese history such as Tomoe Gozen, Nakano Takeko, and Hōjō Masako etc.

As a cliché in Anime, Onna Bugeisha appear as strong willed female warriors usually with even more skill than their male counterparts. Unlike what the common anime fan thinks, female warriors in anime is not necessarily a form of sexualization or fanservice, it is part of Japan’s culture. But despite their superiority in skill and strength, in anime these girls often feel ashamed of their gender and may even attempt to hide it, if this doesn’t not happens, other characters within the show may attempt to shame and demean her for being a woman, thus it is also used a tool for drama. Due to western influence, it is not strange for Japan to get inspired and gender bend the European knights into females such as what happened with King Arthur, Mordred and many other characters that were clearly of western origin and should be traditionally male.  Because of this we can either talk about classic Onna-Bugeisha or Western Warrior Women in anime.

The main characteristics of the characters falling into this archetype is as it follows (All or only some may apply):

1.They follow a code of honor that they rarely ever break and it dictates some or most of their actions.

2.They always wield some kind of weapon usually a naginata, katana or a sword but bows and other weapons might also happen.

3.They usually do not think themselves as a woman, but more of a weapon or a genderless  warrior, so they dislike when they are treated like one. (When in a romance scenario, this usually involves making the protag help them find their happiness as women and come to terms with their own gender.)

4.Usually from a high class or a noble family

5.Tend to have sad past like family forcing them to become a male heir or they decided to become warriors to take revenge for some reason.

6.Almost all that fall into this category tend to have unusually long hair, especially if we are talking about classic Onna-Bugeisha, as it is a popular combination with dark hair.

7.They also tend to use old” japanese dialect and dated words” like what would be thou and thy for english.

Why it’s bad: Most of the series they appear in are unfortunately fanservice/harem shows and serve as simply the token strong girl like character and receive little to no development, they may also be simple plot devices that are used when convenient for the writer, for example the protagonist is weak and people are after his life, just introduce an Onna Bugeisha to protect him while he gets stronger and also gain a possible love interest. I view these butchering as slaughtering the badass legends of real Onna Bugeisha that were known for their historic deeds and valour, not for their sexuality. Another bad thing about them is that they tend to have no character to speak of, but simply “act on their code of honour” which is bad since you can usually tell everything that they are gonna do from miles away leading them to become awfully predictable characters.

Examples of Classic Onna Bugeisha in Anime: Tsukikage Ran, Uesugi Kenshin, Saeko Bushujima

Examples of Western Warrior Girl or Knights: Saber, Erza Scarlet, characters from Queen’s Blade etc.



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