Ask John: How Many Girls with Guns Anime are There?

Question:
Do you know of any anime based on the theme of “girls with guns” other than Noir and Gunsmith Cats?

Answer:
It’s ironic, or possibly a testament to its archetypal efficacy, that the reputation of the girls with guns genre label actually far outdistances its specific examples. Perhaps because the concept of trigger happy females is such a distinctly anime convention, it has become a stereotypical character of anime, even though, in fact, there aren’t actually that many true “girls with guns” anime. Asian, and especially Hong Kong cinema, famous for its love affair with gunplay, doesn’t really champion that many films featuring women with guns blazing. The Hong Kong film industry came close with numerous 1980s action films starring Cynthia Kahn, Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Jade Leung, and Michelle Yeoh. However, this sub-genre of Chinese movies saw both its rise and fall in the 80s, and never made much of a mainstream impact outside of Hong Kong. Korean and Japanese films including Gun Crazy, Killers, Avalon and Shiri have focused on female assassins, but none of these films have been catalysts for new genre waves. Likewise, Western cinema has seen women shooters dating back to at least the 1970s Charlie’s Angels TV series, but like the Chinese film industry dominated by male oriented gunplay films, Western cinema has never shown much devotion to films that emphasized women sharpshooters. Anime, on the other hand, seems to be the world’s singular cinematic bastion of females that eagerly shoot first and ask questions later. Rather than women forced into circumstances or women reservedly relying on guns, anime includes one of the world’s few cinematic canons (no pun intended) of females that energetically and excessively brandish firearms.

However, there seem to be more singular girls with guns than actual girls with guns series, and what’s more, it seems as though a handful of examples have established a virtual legend. The most famous of all girls with guns shows is, of course, Dirty Pair, although it’s arguably not the first example of “girls with guns.” The original Dirty Pair, which debuted in its own anime TV series in 1985, presented a pair of smart, witty and competent special agents who weren’t afraid of a firefight and were perpetually cursed by bad luck. (Dirty Pair Flash sadly transformed the Lovely Angels into ditzy, incompetent and maliciously destructive brats.) During the golden period of anime, Dirty Pair epitomized everything that anime stood for. It was smart, sexy, exciting and empowering. In fact, Dirty Pair was so influential that it single handedly created the anime stereotype of well endowed, scantily clad gun toting gals (AKA: male wish fulfillment fantasy).

The first famous anime lady with gun in hand would probably be Lupin the 3rd’s Fujiko Mine. However, the first true over-the-top girl with guns are probably Urusei Yatsura’s Ran-chan and Benten, dating back to roughly 1982. Especially Ran, like her descendants Lunch from Dragonball and Kaori Makimura of City Hunter, had a magical ability to materialize ridiculous amounts of firepower which she’d use indiscriminately. More girls with guns then appeared in anime titles including Gall Force: Eternal Story, Shooting Photon Zillion, Appleseed, and Dream Hunter Rem. However, what may have done as much, if not more than actual animation, to establish the convention of anime girls carrying heavy weapons was the proliferation of original illustrations, doujinshi and magazine images common throughout the 1980s and early 90s that nearly always seemed to place a gun in the hand of an attractive young anime girl, often for no other reason than because it looked cool.

Following Dirty Pair, the most prominent girls with guns anime would probably include the original 1991 Burn-Up OAV, the 1994 Dirty Pair Flash, the 1995 Gunsmith Cats OAV series, 2000’s Miami Guns (although Miami Guns is arguably more comedy than action), the 2001 Noir and Najica Blitz Tactics TV series, and the 2003 Gunslinger Girl TV series. That’s actually not very many titles at all. As of this writing, two more girls with guns titles are on the horizon: the Chrno Crusade anime TV series, and the Phantom OAV series, based on the interactive DVD game Phantom of Inferno. So on close examination, there actually aren’t really that many true “girls with guns” anime shows, but the ones that exist have been so influential and famous that they’ve created an entire thematic genre and stereotype of anime.

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