A complaint commonly lobbed against manga made for young men is that the main character is just a blank slate for the reader to project himself onto, allowing him to vicariously live out his fantasies. That may be oversimplifying things quite a bit, but it’s also hard to deny that many male Japanese comic heroes possess three traits that men almost universally aspire to, namely being strong, cool, and surrounded by women in incredibly short skirts.
But what about women who are manga fans? If given the chance, which female character would they like to be?
To answer that question, Internet portal My Navi Woman polled 341 ladies who love comics. The participants were all currently employed, which explains the relative lack of support for girls’ manga pioneers such as the 1970s’ The Rose of Versailles or Aim for the Ace!.
▼ Sorry, Lady Oscar, it looks like your time has passed.
The top four responses were all the stars of series which debuted between 1992 and 2005, with the newest being Sawako Kuronuma from the ongoing Kimi ni Todoke.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like Sawako’s got a lot going for her. She’s essentially an outcast at school, where her unnervingly quiet demeanor has her classmates in fear of her and calling her Sadako, after the terrifying ghost from classic Japanese horror movie The Ring.
Sawako isn’t actually trying to be creepy, though. She’s just painfully shy. All of this changes when she and Shota Kazehaya, the most popular boy in her class, start to develop romantic feelings for one another.
That fresh feeling of discovering more about yourself and how to connect to the world around you is what made Sawako a popular choice among the poll’s participants. “I want a boyfriend like Kazehaya,” pined one woman. Another was a bit more blunt in her ambitions, announcing, “I want to make out with Kazehaya.”
There was a similar rationale at work behind another popular selection, Hana Yori Dango’s Tsukushi Makino.
Once again, taking on Tsukushi’s life comes with plenty of drawbacks. She comes from a financially-strapped family, which early on makes her a frequent target for bullying at the elite-level high school she attends.
As time goes by, though, Tsukushi becomes romantically involved with fellow student Tsukasa Domyoji. Rich, handsome, and outwardly mean-spirited, Tsukasa checks all the boxes for a girls’ manga leading man, and Tsukushi’s increasingly close proximity throughout the series is a big reason she made the top four. “With that kind of life at that age, I’m sure she’ll be very happy in the future,” said one 37-year-old respondent. “I’d like to have that kind of relationship with Domyoji.”
The high school love story of another popular series, 1991’s Tenshi Nanka ja Nai, or I’m No Angel, was responsible for another top pick, Midori Saejima.
In many ways, Midori is the exact opposite of Sawako and Tsukushi. A bright and friendly go-getter, she’s extroverted and has no trouble finding friends at school. “She’s the kind of totally sincere, popular person I’ve never been able to be,” said one 31-year-old survey participant.
One thing she does have in common with the two above-mentioned protagonists is a dreamy boyfriend, in Midori’s case student body president Akira Sudo. “Midori is a nice and friendly girl, and I’d like to go on a date with Akira,” said one woman in regards to her response.
Finally, the final member of the top four is the only one who isn’t in high school. Instead, the honor goes to middle schooler Tsukino Usagi, better known as Sailor Moon.
Like the other lead characters she shares the top of the list with, Usagi has a dashing special guy in her life, the gallant and unconditionally impeccably dressed Tuxedo Mask.
That said, as the only character from an outright fantasy series, she’s also got an exciting life of battling otherworldly monsters in order to protect the people of Earth.
With an earlier debut than the above series, Sailor Moon benefits from a little nostalgia, as one respondent mentioned she’d admired the heroine since she was a little girl. “I want to be able to say, ‘In the name of the moon,’” said another, in reference to Usagi’s most famous catch phrase.
While some may have hoped for a stronger showing by action-oriented, tough as nails female manga characters like Attack on Titan’s Mikasa, we can’t completely deny the appeal of any of the top picks. While there’s a lot to be said for a woman who can take down a rampaging giant, a romantic partner you’re compatible with, plus a happy ending, is tough to beat.