Anime and manga have both created some of the best examples of LGBTQ+ characters in modern media. While the medium has indeed had its problems in representation, there have been many notable examples throughout the years that positively portray members of the LGBTQ+ community. There have been countless examples of these characters that have become beloved by audiences and held up by LGBTQ+ people as some of the best displays of who they are in fiction.
What’s fascinating though is that anime and manga are also able to expand their representation with queer coding. Queer-coding is when a character or story is shown one way but coded through their story and themes to make them more in touch with LGBTQ+ messages. Queer-coding has been around for decades, especially in anime and manga, so they can tell the stories of people in the community without risking the tale being pulled by more conservative voices. With these ideas in mind, here are ten of the best LGBTQ+ characters in anime and manga whether they’re labeled as queer from the beginning or coded that way.
10 Najimi (Komi Can’t Communicate)
Najimi is a character from the hit Netflix series Komi Can’t Communicate. They became Komi’s second friend following an encounter with a stalker that Komi put a stop to accidentally. Najimi is a character that gives no qualms about how their gender is portrayed as they show up to school in both boys’ and girls’ school uniforms. While not confirmed, it’s heavily implied that they’re genderfluid, which is a gender identity that sees a person fluctuate their gender expression from day to day depending on how they feel inside. What makes Najimi a fairly positive portrayal of the queer community is how social they are in school. Everyone in school views Najimi for who they are and their social life thrives because of it, which is rare for LGBTQ+ representation since they can primarily be shown as outcasts and loners.
Joining Najimi in non-binary representation is Envy from the critically acclaimed series FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Unlike their other siblings in the Seven Deadly Sins, Envy is never given an explicitly implied gender. Their expression is purely androgynous, but this is never called into question by their enemies or allies. Their gender identity is just a part of them while they serve as a fairly interesting villain with the ability to shapeshift. Fans of the series that are non-binary themselves have expressed their love for the character over the years as one of the best portrayals of a non-binary character that still holds up today in an already great show.
8 Haruhi Fujioka (Ouran High School Host Club)
Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club is an interesting case here because they actually fit being an LGBTQ+ character in more ways than one. Perhaps the most notable thing fans know about them is that their gender expression is incredibly fluid. The very reason why they were even tasked with working at the host club in the first place was that the other guys mistook them for a boy as well with their short hair and gender-ambiguous demeanor. This has led fans to speculate that Haruhi is non-binary, but there has also been talk about them possibly being asexual as well. This is because they have shown very little interest in romantic or sexual attraction even with the Host Club’s advances to try and woo their heart.
7 Chiaki (To Strip the Flesh)
Debuting last year, To Strip the Flesh is a manga by Oto Toda that centers on a Trans man as he navigates his transition while walking a fine line due to his father being not very accepting. It’s already rare enough that Trans men get a chance to be the focus of a story, so to see a character like Chiaki is incredibly reassuring. His story is a fascinating character study that explores multiple points of his life before, during and after his transition as he makes the steps to becoming who he truly is. This made To Strip the Flesh one of the best new manga to hit shelves last year as it provided a huge step forward for Trans representation.
6 Dio (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure)
Dio from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is well-known to be canonically bisexual according to the creator of the series, Hirohiko Araki. Dio’s outlandishness has stood out to fans ever since he first appeared in the series. While Dio is easily JoJo’s cruelest villain, his flair made him absolutely iconic and beloved by the show’s viewers. Plus, the way that he would speak to his foes made him an absolute threat to be reckoned with by the series’ heroes. Years later, Dio still stands tall as one of the best villains in anime with some of his lines becoming popular on the internet including the infamous “It was me, Dio!“
5 Lily Hoshikawa (Zombie Land Saga)
Lily is a fascinating example of LGBTQ+ representation because the reveal of her gender identity actually made waves among members of the Trans community. Not only did she speak openly about it in the series in place of the show beating around the bush and making fans question if it was true, but she was met with such acceptance by her fellow Idol group members. This is a huge development in representation for the Trans community in any medium, not just anime, because it isn’t afraid to tackle this subject head-on. Plus, Lily is an adorable character to boot that pulls the band together as the Idols’ heart and soul.
4 Yuri K. & Victor (Yuri On Ice)
When Yuri on Ice first premiered in 2016, it was a huge talking point among anime fans. Not only was it an engaging sports anime that focused on figure skating, but it also provided an engaging gay relationship between Yuri and his instructor Victor. The chemistry between the two is absolutely endearing as they work together to help Yuri bring home the gold. In the end though, even when Yuri K. comes in second, the finale still made waves with a satisfying kiss between him and Victor. These two characters are as wholesome as it gets.
3 Shuichi & Yoshino (Wandering Son)
Takako Shimura’s masterpiece in gender exploration Wandering Son centers on two kids named Shuichi and Yoshino with one thing in common: they’re both Trans…or at least questioning their identities. This leads to the two experimenting in their presentation together as they figure out who they really are and develop a close friendship. What makes these characters work is making them a Trans girl and Trans boy to show differing experiences between the two. Yoshino is able to get away with being more masculine while Shuichi needs to hide her feelings, but this doesn’t mean that life is easy for Yoshino or impossible for Shuichi. Plus, the friendship between the two is so well-handled as they work together to bring their inner selves out.
2 Sailor Uranus & Neptune (Sailor Moon)
Sailor Uranus and Neptune’s Sailor Moon relationship has become well-known among fans for how American censors tried to hide the truth behind their affection. In an attempt to hide the fact that these two women are in love, the English translation infamously made them cousins without omitting the moments that showcased their romantic feelings. When looking at how their dialogue is supposed to be seen, however, Uranus and Neptune are an adorable pair. The two are absolutely infatuated with each other and use each other’s strengths to become excellent fighters as they defend the world from evil with the other Sailor Scouts. The story of the romance between these two may be mired in comical controversy, but that doesn’t stop them from being one of the best representations of lesbian love in media.
1 Ranma (Ranma 1/2)
Capping off this list is a character that ended up awakening so many people to the possibility of exploring their gender identity. Ranma is a boy who has become cursed with becoming a girl whenever they’re doused with cold water. The series plays around with his predicament with comedy in mind, but it also explores Ranma’s feminine side whenever they’re in their girl form. In fact, one episode from the anime actually looks at what his life would be like if they decided to remain a girl after getting amnesia while in this form. Ranma is a character that has become a symbol for the Trans community and is ultimately one of the best LGBTQ+ characters from anime and manga.