When it comes to animation, there’s nothing quite like Studio Ghibli. If you ask the average person to name a work of anime, chances are they’ll name
Pokémon a film by the Tokyo production house: something like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, or The One With the Big Rabbit Thing With the Umbrella.
Their movies are cultural touchstones that have set a huge precedent in imaginative storytelling and artwork, not to mention profit—they've produced some of Japan's highest-grossing films. This is why it’s so disappointing that the Oscar-winning lead producer at Studio Ghibli has some pretty absurd and sexist views about women.
It depends on what kind of a film it would be. Unlike live action, with animation we have to simplify the real world. Women tend to be more realistic and manage day-to-day lives very well. Men on the other hand tend to be more idealistic—and fantasy films need that idealistic approach. I don’t think it’s a coincidence men are picked.
Funny, I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that men are consistently picked to be in positions of power, but I assure you it’s not because women are less idealistic than men.
Japan is ranked 101 out of 145 countries in gender equality, a gap that's reflected in the depressing fact that the vast majority of anime directors are male. In a way, Nishimura is following in the unfortunate footsteps of Hayao Miyazaki, visionary cofounder of Studio Ghibli, who has previously suggested that the increased number of women artists applying for jobs at his studio is proof of his oft-spouted theory that the end of anime is nigh.
Even geniuses can be wrong. Very, very wrong. To cleanse your palate of the truly depressing sexism that continues to permeate the minds of even the most creative and inspiring artists, here are six women anime directors who are kicking ass and taking names.
Yoshimura is best known for My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (2013-2014), but she's also directed other school-set series like Blue Spring Ride (2014) and the currently airing Cheer Boys!!, about a cheerleading squad at an all-male university.
This veteran artist has been in the industry for decades, having directed episodes of a number of mecha anime shows (think bigass robots fighting each other) like Invincible Robo Trider G7 (1980-1981), Combat Mecha Xabungle (1982-1983), Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory (1991), and Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry (2006-2007). But in case you didn't think she was versatile AF, Kase was also the series director of Saikano: The Last Love Song on This Little Planet (2002), the restaurant slice-of-life show Ristorante Paradiso (2009), and the medical drama Young Black Jack (2015).
You can't make a list of women in anime without any reference to yaoi/Boys' Love/BL—that is, media that spotlights gay relationships between men but is marketed to women. Soubi Yamamoto created the short films This Boy Can Fight Aliens and This Boy Caught a Merman (which is visually gorgeous) almost entirely on her own. The 25-year-old indie artist is also responsible for Meganebu!, about a high school club of boys who wear glasses. Yes, that’s an actual trope in anime/manga.
Speaking of BL, Chiaki Kon directed a couple of successful BL series like Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi (2011) and Junjō Romantica (2012) before going on to direct Golden Time (2013-2014), but today she’s probably best known for directing the third season of Sailor Moon Crystal.
Noriko Takao cut her teeth doing in-between animation for the acclaimed series Inuyasha and went on to direct Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls, about four girls’ journey to become Japanese pop stars, and Saint Young Men, a super fun show about Jesus and Buddha living together in 21st-century Tokyo.
Yamamoto has worked on some of the most popular and recognizable anime shows, including Gunslinger Girl, Psycho Pass, and Shinchiro Watanabe’s Samurai Champloo and Space Dandy. Her directorial debut was Michiko & Hatachin (2008), which she specifically geared towards women, and which features dark-skinned Afro-Latina characters (it’s set in a fictional country inspired by Brazil). She also directed the acclaimed Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (2012), which won the Rookie of the Year Award at the Japan Media Arts Festival.
Honorable mentions: Shinobu Tagashira, who directed Diabolik Lovers. Kikoko Sayama, who directed Vampire Knight. Rie Matsumoto, who directed the internet-released animation (2011-2012) and eventual TV version (2013) of Kyōsōgiga.