Ask John: How Many Girl Duo Anime Exist?
Although modern anime began in 1958, the first girl duo anime didn’t appear until twenty years later. Go Nagai’s March 1978 television series Majokko Tickle introduced the teen witch Tickle and her Japanese girl “sister.” While Majokko Tickle was inspired by real-life Japanese pop duo Pink Lady, the musical duet actually got its own Pink Lady Monogatari: Eiko no Tenshi-tachi television series in October 1978. The female duo subsequently disappeared again, excepting a Dirty Pair cameo appearance in the 1983 Crusher Joe movie, until the Dirty Pair got their own television series in 1985. Despite being an initial commercial failure, the ’85 Dirty Pair TV series quickly became a cult hit and kicked open the floodgates for female pairing anime. Dirty Pair was quickly followed by the Iczer-One OVA series. The Wanna-Bes female pro-wrestling OVA premiered in December 1986. Gainax’s 1988 Gunbuster OVA series illustrates the slow and rocky formation of a female duo. The 1988 Dominion OVA introduced the twin Puma sisters as supporting characters. Likewise, 1989’s Explorer Woman Ray OVA and Jushin Liger television series both feature pairs of twin sisters as supporting characters. Strictly speaking, the 1985 Cream Lemon OVA 10: Star Trap was the first obvious homage to Dirty Pair. 1990’s Gude no Monsho OVA was the first mainstream anime to unofficially reimagine the Dirty Pair in a sword & sorcery setting. Yuzo Takada’s now forgotten 1990 female police-woman duo OVA series Mainichi ga Nichiyobi (Everyday is Sunday) actually pre-dates Kosuke Fujishima’s better known Taiho Shichauzo (You’re Under Arrest) anime that premiered in 1994. The 1991 Mamano Hunter Yoko OVA series didn’t premiere as a girl pair series, but heroine Yoko did get a younger girl partner from the series’ second installment onward. 1991’s Watashi to Watashi ~ Futari no Lotte is an adaptation of Erich Kästner’s 1949 novel Lisa and Lottie about twin sisters reuniting.
Girl duo anime then seemingly took a short hiatus until reappearing in 1993’s Miracle Girls television series, a shoujo comedy about telepathic twin sisters. Whether or not 1994’s Compiler OVA really counts as having a female duo or just two female lead characters is probably a matter of subjective interpretation. Not to exclude adult anime, the Seijuden Twin Dolls OVA series premiered in 1994 as well. The Slayers TV and movie franchises debuted near simultaneously in 1995. While the TV series didn’t feature a conventional girl pair, the movie franchise did partner Lina Inverse with Naga the Serpent. 1995’s Bakuretsu Hunter television series may possibly be considered since it featured sisters Tira and Chocolate Misu; the girls were partnered with three additional men. 1995’s Kaitou St. Tail television series depicted two young girls working as a pair, although one was active while the other served a back-up support role. The Gunsmith Cats spin-off from Riding Bean premiered in anime form in 1995. The March 1995 Makeruna! Makendo OVA is a stylistic predecessor of the Rakusho! Hyper Doll OVA series that premiered in September 1995. Girl duos then took a short break until reappearing in the 1997 Aika OVA series and Hyper Police TV series. 1998’s Trigun is not a girl-duo anime, but it does include a female partnership as supporting characters. 1998’s Super Doll Ricca-chan, similar to 2001’s Angelic Layer, depicted a human girl partnered with an animated female doll, so whether that counts as a “female combo” depends on subjective perspective. Hyatt was never an especially active character in 1999’s Heppoko Jikken Anime Excel Saga, but she is officially Excel’s partner in crime.
Moving into the 2000’s, the Kaze Makase Tsukikage Ran samurai anime was the decade’s first girl duo anime. It was quickly followed by the policewoman pair parody series Miami Guns. Although Initial D is not a girl duo anime series, the 2000 Initial D: Extra Stage OVA did star the franchise’s “Impact Blue” female driving team. The 2000 eX-Driver OVA series also focused on a female driving pair. The 2000 television series Strange Dawn depicted two Japanese high school girls stranded on an alternate world, so whether it qualifies as a girl partnership anime or simply an anime that happened to star two girls is a matter for debate. 2001’s Noir remains one of anime’s best girl duo anime. It’s spiritual successor, Najica Dengeki Sakusen, premiered later the same year. The Figure 17 Tsubasa & Hikaru television series premiered in May 2001. Monkey Punch’s obscure female spy duo adventure movie Siam Neko: First Mission hit Japanese theaters in October 2001. Studio Gonzo’s re-imagining of the Dirty Pair, Kiddy Grade, premiered in October 2002. The 2003 Mouse television anime wasn’t primarily a girl duo anime but did prominently feature a girl pair as supporting characters. 2004’s original Futari wa Pretty Cure was strictly a girl duo series. While the series’ second season expanded to three girls, the third series, Pretty Cure Spash Star, contracted back to only two girls. Every Pretty Cure series since 2007 has included more than just two girls. 2004’s Bakuretsu Tenshi may or may not qualify as a girl duo anime because the foremost characters are a girl pair, but they’re part of a four-woman team. The year’s Futakoi television series is unique in the respect that it focused on multiple pairs of identical female twins. The Uta~Kata and Akane Maniax anime series revolve around pairs of close female friends, but whether these should be considered “girl duo” anime is arguable. 2005’s Fushigi Hoshi no Futago Hime is clearly a girl duo anime starring twin magical sisters. The Sugar Sugar Rune television series also stars a pair of magical sisters, but whether or not it constitutes a “girl duo” anime isn’t as easily determined. The 2005 Futakoi Alternative series arguably isn’t primarily a girl duo anime but does revolve around a pair of twin sisters. 2006’s Simoun television series stars a number of female partners. 2007’s Venus Versus Virus and Wellber no Monogatari ~Sisters of Wellber~ television series are distinctly female pair shows. Although 2007’s Code:E television series was not a girl duo series, its 2008 sequel, Mission:E, is a girl partners action anime. Noir creator Koichi Mashimo’s comparable series El Cazador premiered in 2007. The 2008 Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel OVA eventually spawned a 2011 television series. 2008’s Michiko to Hatchin can be equally considered a female partnership anime as a woman kidnapping a girl anime.
The current decade has had an unusually sparse number of genuine girl duo anime, seeing only Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt in 2010, Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel ~Kyun Kyun Tokimeki Paradise~ in 2011, and Senki Zesshou Symphogear in 2012.
Doubtlessly I’ve overlooked for forgotten some examples. I want to specify that I’ve consciously excluded girl trio or girl team anime such as Cat’s Eye, Rayearth, Gall Force, Desert Rose, Taiman Blues, Bubblegum Crisis, Sailor Moon, and Taisho Yakyuu Musume. I’ve chosen to exclude anime like XXXHolic and Tactical Roar that include pairs of twin girls in very minor roles. And I’ve chosen to exclude series including Momoiro Sisters, Tenjho Tenge, Kurau: Phantom Memory, Mokke, and Binbou Shimai Monogatari that include sisters but aren’t usually considered “female duo” anime. I’ve also excluded yuri anime such as Strawberry Panic, Sasameki Koto, and Candy Boy because female romantic relationships aren’t quite the same conceptually or thematically as other varieties of female partners.