20 Iconic Gay & LGBT Anime Characters: The Ultimate ListThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
The last few decades have seen tremendous advances in gay visibility in media.
Not only are gay characters a much more common sight, but they’re also much more realistic with more human depictions, rather than low-effort bundles of stereotypes.
Japanese culture is in a constant struggle between ancient tradition and new ideas. Like Western media, they’ve gradually introduced more healthy depictions of gay characters – even if they’re not always the most notorious.
But here I’d like to take a look at some of my favorite depictions of LGBTQ+ characters in anime. For convenience’s sake, I’ll be including couples along with individuals when possible.
20. Ryo Asuka
Anime: Devilman: Crybaby
Ryo Asuka isn’t the most likable character by a long shot.
But he’s fantastic for subverting stereotypes of agreeable and meek gay characters in anime.
On the contrary, this guy is dangerous.
He’s a force to be reckoned with that tends to assert dominance everywhere he goes. Of course, that has to do with the fact that he’s literally Satan.
And as Satan, he also takes on an androgynous look with intersex characteristics like a female chest and a male groin. Gender must be a bit less rigid by that point.
19. Fumi Manjoume
Anime: Sweet Blue Flowers
Sweet Blue Flowers is the show to watch when you just need a sweet yet delicate romance to slowly but surely melt away the stress of our complex daily lives.
It’s a show about young love and learning about yourself.
Fumi’s character is a bit of an everywoman – a perfect vehicle for the viewer’s self-insertion. Her issues related to being a lesbian in an old-fashioned society are relatable, and the brave serenity with which she faces them is inspiring.
I love this show because it isn’t some sexualized yuri meant for male audiences’ sexual titillation, but rather a realistic and even wholesome show with healthy lesbian relationships.
Anime: Attack on Titan
One of AoT’s second and third seasons’ most interesting characters is Ymir, an inspiring warrior with a tragic past and more than a little crush on Christa, also known as Historia Reiss.
And these two characters were opposite reflections of each other.
Whereas Ymir had pretended to have royal blood before the cult that adored her in Marley was broken up, Historia took on the name Christa and pretended to be just another girl.
As if Ymir’s devotion to Christa didn’t make it obvious, series producer George Wada has previously confirmed Ymir & Christa as a lesbian couple.
Thanks George, but the longing looks these two gave each other were all the confirmation I needed.
17. Yuzu Aihara
Not every character has to take a deep look into some aspect of the LGBTQ+ experience.
Some gay characters are just a pleasure to watch, like Yuzu from Citrus.
For this self-proclaimed gyaru, being gay doesn’t necessarily have to mean a lot of drama.
At first, she just rolls with it in pursuit of love and happiness.
She faltered for a bit when it became evident that not everyone in Japan finds lesbian relationships appropriate. Still, with a little encouragement from her beloved Mei, she remembers what’s most important and moves on.
16. Makoto Sunakawa
Anime: My Love Story
It’s never addressed directly in the show, but Makoto Sunakawa’s attitude toward romance has led many to see him as an asexual icon.
Countless girls (and presumably guys) throw themselves at him every day, and he just doesn’t care.
His love is of the pure, fraternal kind. And it’s directed entirely toward his friends – especially Takeo Gouda and his girlfriend Rinko Yamato.
Like many aces, Suna is open to a relationship if anyone were to pique his interest.
Still, in years of the masses fawning over his good looks and aloof personality, it just hasn’t happened.
15. Luka Urushibara
Luka Urushibara – more commonly known as Rukako – is the most feminine human being on Earth.
They have the grace and elegance of a nymph, delicate features, and a soft voice.
It’s the Japanese ideal of a perfect woman – except he’s a guy.
Luka goes as far as to send a message to his mom’s pager in the past so that he’d be born a girl – all so she could get closer to the main character. Upon finding out that wasn’t going to work, it was reversed.
It’s clear that Luka is going through a lot. But it’s a great example of the kind of struggle some people have when trying to understand their identity and sexuality.
14. Motoko Kusanagi
Anime: Ghost in the Shell
The classic bad-ass cyborg Motoko Kusanagi makes it into the list both as a lesbian and as someone who might understand trans struggles.
Her body was fully replaced by prosthesis when she was only six – and she’s had to come to terms with her body throughout the years.
She’s probably not trans, though.
She remains attached to her female personality, and continues to request female bodies whenever she gets them replaced.
While the anime only hints at her sexuality here and there, the manga is considerably more detailed – featuring several steamy scenes with women.
13. Tiziano & Squalo
Anime: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
Tiziano & Squalo don’t get that much screen-time.
But every second they get, they spend it in PDA mode.
Nobody says anything about it. But these two members of Diavolo’s Unitá Speziale are clearly a gay couple.
What makes them so special is that they’re the only two openly gay characters in a show where everyone looks like their only sustenance are Chromatica Oreos.
Diavolo’s entire organization – including Bucciarati’s faction – seems to be a twink mafia, but only Tiziano and Squalo are so open about it.
Anime: Tokyo Godfathers
Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers takes a hard look at some of the ugliest aspects of modern society, while also telling an endearing story about an unorthodox reconstituted family.
One of the most interesting characters is Hana, a former drag queen down on her luck.
Despite her current state of deprivation, she’s still a smart gal with a solid moral code.
And despite the church’s historical mistreatment of the LGBTQ+ community at large, Hana remains a devout Christian, believing in her God’s message of love over the actions of his flawed herd.
Her devout nature and kind disposition make her as good a mother as any abandoned child could wish for.
11. Hange Zoë
Anime: Attack on Titan
You may not have given it much thought while watching the show, but there’s more to Hange’s androgynous look than meets the eye.
The Commander of the Survey Corps has no defined genre in the manga. And while the anime paints them as female for the most part, it’s safe to say Hange stands somewhere in the middle.
Nobody seems to care much about this titan researcher’s gender.
She’s valued for her curious mind and the fundamentally good heart that leads her to oppose Eren in his war against the world.
The world of Attack of Titan is bleak, but at least in this regard, it’s not so bad.
10. Sailor Neptune & Sailor Uranus
Anime: Sailor Moon
Considering it was released in 1992, you might be surprised to learn there was a lesbian couple in Sailor Moon.
Surely you missed it if you didn’t pay that much attention.
Still, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune fit the shojo-ai trope of a princely character (Uranus) with a traditionally feminine and delicate one (Neptune) to a T.
Funimation made some small changes to the original English Sailor Moon dub’s script to make the couple into cousins – but honestly, I think that backfired.
Now it’s gay and a bit weird too.
The tension is clearly still there!
9. Kaworu Nagisa
Anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
It’s hard to say whether we can classify a transcendentally different creature such as an angel as “gay”.
But every second of screen-time Kaworu gets with Shinji is rich in homosexual subtext.
Shinji is head over heels for Kaworu from the second the Fourth Child looks his way, and Kaworu reciprocates.
The time they spend together is the only time we see Shinji being truly happy, leading us to question whether his whole deal wasn’t just uncertainty about his sexuality.
This state of affairs is expanded upon by the third Rebuild of Evangelion film, where Kaworu once again brightens Shinji’s dark days and genuinely attempts to help him – unlike everyone else in the movie.
8. Haruhi Fujioka
Anime: Ouran High School Host Club
Some people can’t be categorized as a man or a woman. For some people, it’s more fluid than that.
Haruhi Fujioka seems to be the perfect example.
While she identifies as female, Haruhi has said she doesn’t care what others acknowledge her gender to be.
That’s not what her relationships with the people around her are about. Instead, it’s about the bonds they share.
In general, she doesn’t believe gender norms should be so rigid (after all, her father is a cross-dresser too).
She even had her first kiss with a girl, and she was fine with it.
She’s queer, but it’s more like she doesn’t care one bit.
7. Yuri Katsuki & Viktor Nikiforov
Anime: Yuri on Ice
Many romances start with admiration.
And the one between Yuri and Viktor from the ice-skating masterpiece Yuri on Ice is a perfect example.
Yuri began chasing after Viktor due to his admiration of his skating skills, while Viktor was rushed by love at first sight – eventually accepting to become Yuri’s coach. Their relationship develops organically along with the plot rather than the plot revolving around their romance.
It’s also nice that their romance is right there on screen, with them kissing and getting engaged rather than the show baiting us with “implications,” as it so often happens.
These two could become gay symbols for younger generations, both in Japan and abroad.
6. Tomoyo Daidouji
Anime: Card Captor Sakura
I was more than a little surprised looking back at just how many gay themes were in the original Card Captor Sakura animation.
It’s almost like the only straight character is Sakura herself!
Let’s start with Tomoyo.
Despite living a life of wealth, she doesn’t seem to care much for the pleasures her money could bring her.
Instead, she’s devoted to Sakura – her good friend and the girl she loves.
You may have glossed over it if you watched this as a kid. But Tomoyo’s passionate support of her friend is clearly romantically motivated, even though Tomoyo has never acted on her feelings.
5. Toya Kinomoto & Yukito Tsukihiro
Anime: Card Captor Sakura
Even if you were watching a particularly censored dub or paying zero attention, you’ll remember Toya and Yukito’s relationship.
I remember being a bit taken aback whenever they interacted in the show.
It was the first time I saw such a normalized portrayal of a gay relationship, which speaks volumes about how scarce representation used to be for the LGBTQ+ community.
Honestly, anything involving Yukito was gay and unashamed. Even Syaoran gets nervous and blushes whenever he’s around!
4. Leeron Littner
Anime: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
You wouldn’t expect to find a particularly good gay character on a show where 50% of the plot hinges on the power of hypermasculinity – but TTGL is all about exceeding your expectations.
With an androgynous look and a campy drag queen personality, Leeron serves as Team Gurren’s main mechanic since very early on in the series.
They’re caring, mature, innovative, and often serve as the voice of reason despite having such a playful disposition.
Criticism may be leveled at Leeron being a bit stereotypical.
But Gurren Lagann’s characters are all drawn in bold strokes.
The team behind TTGL did a fantastic job with Leeron’s character development, and they’re just a pleasure to watch whenever they’re on screen.
3. Utena Tenjou
Anime: Revolutionary Girl Utena
Sailor Uranus is hardly the only powerful butch lesbian icon in classic anime.
There’s also Utena Tenjou, a dashing princely character in a relationship with her Rose Bride, Anthy Himemiya.
Utena is passionate and intelligent, but also short-tempered and impulsive. She’s a force to be reckoned with – a flawed but inspiring character just doing her best.
In addition to Utena, most other characters in the story are either gay or bisexual.
So the show is a total queer classic.
2. Akemi Homura
Anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Homura did nothing wrong.
If you watched the PMMM: Rebellion movie, you know what I’m talking about.
In all of anime, you’ll struggle to find someone as dedicated to the one they love as Homura – who’ll go as far as to mess with the rules of the universe just to give them a happy ending.
Sure, Homura is a bit pushy and fails to take Madoka’s feelings into account sometimes.
But she loves the pink-haired protagonist more than anything. And she’s willing to sacrifice it all to protect her smile.
1. Yoshino Takatsuki & Shuichi Nitori
Anime: Wandering Son
Few anime have been as daring when it comes to tackling the trans experience as Wandering Son, a show about two trans friends discovering their gender identities and growing through the years.
Growing up is hard.
But it can be doubly hard in a world that doesn’t always understand you.
Wandering Son tackles difficult themes like body dysmorphia and the struggle to find your place in a world full of gender norms that don’t necessarily apply to you.
Yoshino and Shuichi can be profoundly relatable for both trans people, and almost everyone else, but for different reasons.
They’re both very human. And they remind us of the importance of having someone close who cares and tries to understand what you’re going through.