One of the more notable tropes of mecha anime is the ability of a pilot to control a larger than life robot. Many times, the narratives in these anime attempt to answer the human condition, such as our relationship with machines, the Earth, and other humans or even beings. Many of the aforementioned pilots are generally determined young men fighting to preserve their beliefs and the people they love. This is no coincidence, as the genre has roots in appealing to a young male demographic, as well as producing an overwhelming line of toys for boys to support this claim.
Despite its traditional marketing towards a male audience, with the majority of pilot characters being male throughout its history, mecha anime does not have a shortage of female pilots. These characters range from providing fan service to serving space justice in a way only a woman would know how to. In fact, the female pilots and their respective series listed below are some of the best the genre has to offer!
10 Noa Izumi (Patlabor, 1989)
As a member of the Special Vehicles Unit Section 2, Noa Izumi is the pilot of the Ingram AV-98 Patrol Labor, and, alongside her coworkers, is her job to defend her community from criminals who rely on Patalabors to do their bidding. Noa, however, is of average ability compared to others in the field. She is not particularly the smartest, or the most talented in her unit, but is a successful pilot nonetheless due to her humanity and focus on doing the best she can. She names the Ingram AV-98 Alphonse after a pet she had, signifying her allegiance to her identity and purpose of protecting those from the series of comedic mischief that occurs in this series.
9 Haman Karn (Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, 1985/Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, 1986)
This list would certainly be remiss without the inclusion of Haman Karn. As the Supreme Leader of Neo-Zeon, Haman is a Newtype that pilots several Gundam, such as the Qubeley (AMX-004) and Psycommu Rick Dom (MS-09R4), among others. Her compatibility with the psycommu system is unmatched, as she confronts the “Red Comet” Char Aznable in his Hyaku Shiki at the end of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam during the Gryps Conflict. In ZZ, Haman takes a more central role, as she begins to conquer colonies under Neo-Zeon and takes over the Earth Federation’s capital of Dakar. She is cold and unnerving, which she attributes to her strength as both a pilot and politician.
8 Yoko Littner (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, 2007)
As the primary female protagonist of the series, Yoko carries some serious weight in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. First introduced as an outspoken, gun-wielding teenager chasing Gunmen on the surface, Yoko evolves later in the series to become an impressive pilot of one of these mechs, the Dayakkaiser.
The Dayakkaiser is believed to be destroyed during the Beastman War, but, Makken and Leite equipped it with Spiral-based technology, thus making it a successful piece of machinery against Anti-Spiral forces. Yoko is solely responsible for the demise of many Anti-Spiral ships while successfully defending civilization from destruction.
7 Milia Fallyna Jenius (Super Dimension Fortress Macross, 1981)
As Aviatrix 1st Class, Milia Fallyna Jenius is a formidable pilot of the Zentradi’s Queadlunn-Rau as well as the U.N. Spacey’s VF-1J Valkyrie. Although she falls madly in love with the former foe, human Maximillian Jenius, she is still able to retain her warrior-like nature and ability throughout the series. As the pilot of the Queadlunn-Rau, Milia is merciless and shows no regrets for the carnage her abilities have caused. When she joins the U.N. Spacey forces, her relationship with Max provides a sign of peace and hope of an ending to Space War I.
6 Four Murasame (Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, 1985)
As with Haman Karn, Four Murasame is a Newtype with exceptional abilities. However, she is also a Cyber Newtype, leading to more volatile and powerful abilities. Four is the pilot of the MRX-009 Psyco Gundam in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and was a war orphan until she was adopted by the Earth Federation Forces, who transformed her into an artificial Newtype. Due to the nature of her transformation, Four does not possess memories but has psychic powers and an unparalleled ability to pilot Gundams. To regain her lost past, Four is forced to assist the Titans in their battle against the AEUG, eventually gaining affection for their ace pilot, Kamille Bidan.
5 Asuka Langley Sohryu (Neon Genesis Evangelion, 1995)
Asuka is the Second Child and proud pilot of Evangelion Unit-02, often seen thinking highly of herself and her abilities. This is acceptable, however, and especially at the beginning of the series with her impressive compatibility with Unit- 02 and her aggressiveness during battle with the Angels.
In consideration of her portrayal in the original anime, her hardened attitude caused by much-unresolved trauma from her mother’s death and childhood further fuels her desire to pilot Unit-02, soon becoming the only thing she can live for. In End of Evangelion (1999), Asuka’s overwhelming abilities enable her to pilot a depleted Unit-02, albeit briefly and slightly, with her fury alone.
4 Kallen Kōzuki (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, 2006)
The ace pilot of the custom, but dated Knightmare, Burai, and later, the Guren MK-II of the Black Knights, Kallen is as impulsive and rebellious as she is determined, and eventually develops into a selfless character. While in battle, she utilizes close range weaponry and performs aggressively. The Guren MK-II main source of offense is a clawed, silver hand that stores the Radiant Wave Surger, a weapon that can destroy a Knightmare with the grasp of its palm. Kallen’s codename is “Q1” and has a combat score of 100 out of 100, often moving swiftly and intelligently in battle, regardless of the mech she uses.
3 Kazumi Amano (GunBuster, 1988)
As the pilot of the Buster Machine 2, Kazumi Amano is incredibly skilled and admired by the main character, Noriko Takaya, as well as the object of affection for Lt. Commander Koichiro Oota, many years her senior. While in training, Kazumi is the best student at Okinawa High School for Girls and does not let pride deplete her ability to outperform her peers in any way, as she remains diligent in developing her skills.
Since she earns the title “Rose Queen” as a top female pilot in Japan, she is bewildered when the inferior Noriko is chosen as her partner pilot. Despite this setback, the two become synched and, when combined, morph into the GunBuster. Eventually, she earns the title of colonel, returning to space with Noriko to defend Buster Machine 3 during the attack on the Space Monsters with the Black Hole Bomb.
2 Christina Mackenzie (Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, 1989)
Christina Mackenzie is one of the protagonists in the OVA series, Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket. As such, her interactions with other characters prove her to be fierce and determined in her mission, but also protective of those she loves. Unlike several of the other female Gundam pilots on this list, Christina is an Oldtype and has to prove her abilities as a pilot even more. She is the test pilot of the RX-78NT-1 Gundam (dubbed “Alex”), a custom Gundam originally developed for Newtype Amuro Ray, even though her real-time experience is minimal. Christina survives a surprise Zaku attack by thrusting a beam saber into the mech, but not without irreparable damage to Gundam “Alex”.
1 Allenby Beardsley (Mobile Fighter G Gundam, 1994)
Allenby Beardsley is a Gundam Fighter for Neo Sweden and the only female fighter in Mobile Fighter G Gundam’s tournament, piloting the GF13-050NSW Nobel Gundam much in a similar fashion to Four Murasame. As an orphan, Allenby was adopted by Neo Sweden and religiously trained to become the ultimate Gundam fighter. As part of Neo Sweden Forces training, Allenby possesses the ability to use a Berserker System, which makes her undeniably the best fighter, even though it causes her to experience uncontrollable fury. Just like the main protagonist, Domon Kasshu, Allenby was forced against her will to become a pilot, thus causing her to develop deeper feelings for the fighter from Neo Japan.
Females take flight in many mecha anime series. Here's a look at the 10 greatest female pilots in mecha anime programs.