History has always been a fascinating subject to me because it lets you learn about events from the very beginning of civilization until present day. It’s no wonder than historical anime enthralls me in a similar way, as it takes viewers to a time and place quite different from our current one.
There’s a wide variety of historical anime available to peruse for any history nerd, but for this, I wanted to focus on the leading ladies of just a few of these period pieces. Here are some anime series with heroines or leading ladies that you should absolutely put on your radar!
Set in 16th century Florence, Arte is an anime that celebrates the cultural revival of the Renaissance Period and focuses on a budding artist who seeks to hone her craft. Arte, the main character, is a delightful young lady from an aristocratic family who dreams of being an artist.
Instead, after being married to a nobleman following her father’s passing, she decides to leave home and pursue her dream. Arte soon faces a harsh reality on her journey to become an artist in a male-dominated field. Leo, a renowned artist, decides to take her on as an apprentice. It is then that her journey of overcoming obstacles to become an artisan truly begins.
Arte is one of the first anime series I’ve seen set in the Renaissance Era that follows a noblewoman, whereas most anime I’ve watched focus on lower social classes. It’s an anime that will appeal to art history enthusiasts as its protagonist strives to pave her way in the art world. Arte is a heroine who gives up everything she’s ever known to pursue art and quickly learns just how coddled she’s been her whole life. She learns she must prove herself repeatedly, time and time again, in a male-dominated field nonetheless, that she can hold her own.
Viewers do not only follow Arte on her art journey, but also how she learns to navigate life as an independent woman. She quickly becomes a character to root for as she tries her hardest to demonstrate her skills. Though she is naïve and has a lot to learn from real-world experiences, she never lets that stop her. She’s far from perfect, and she isn’t afraid to make mistakes which makes her an admirable heroine.
On top of that, viewers can watch Arte develop throughout the story as it’s her actions that count, not her promises, to become better at her skill. The setting is immersive, and the landscape of the anime is beautiful. I also appreciate how the series teaches technical terms of the era to offer context to the greater plot. Most importantly, Arte is an anime about a heroine who motivates others to follow their dreams and the work that makes them a reality.
Watch Arte on Funimation!
Set in 1920s America, Chrono Crusade is a historical series with a twist—demons have appeared nationwide. Due to this chaos, the Order of Magdalene is established, an organization tasked with exterminating the demonic threat.
The Order’s New York branch is home to Sister Rosette Christopher and her partner, Chrono, who tend to leave a path of destruction behind after each mission. Through fighting demons, Rosette hopes to learn more about the disappearance of her brother, Joshua, who was taken by the demon Aion. Turns out, Chrono shares a dark past with the demon as well.
Chrono Crusade is full of action, comedy and romance set to the backdrop of the roaring ’20s. Even though Rosette’s boisterous personality is a stark contrast compared to Chrono’s quiet disposition, the two make a great duo. They take on each mission with great skill through action-packed scenes even though their personalities are total opposites. Rosette is a complete goof at times, but one of her most admirable character traits is her kind heart and desire to help friends. The progression of her character—and Chrono’s—is satisfying to watch, along with the special bond they form.
The historical anime series is masterful is delivering a heroine that you, the viewer, can cheer for as she searches for answers to her haunted past and overcomes battles while fighting alongside Chrono. Rosette leaves a long-lasting impression, and I appreciated how multifaceted her character becomes throughout the entire thing.
Watch Chrono Crusade on Funimation!
Emma: A Victorian Romance
Enjoy history with a dash of romance? Then Emma: A Victorian Romance is the perfect watch for you. Main character Emma has worked as a maid for most of her life and is content with her work. William, on the other hand, is the eldest son of the wealthy Jones household and the former ward of Mrs. Kelly Stownar, whom Emma works for. The two meet and quickly start to fall for each other, but due to the societal norms of 19th century-England, Emma and William’s relationship faces a lot of opposition. Will their love be able to survive?
If Victorian romance is more your style, look no further than this anime. The series carefully explores the varying world of the gentry and noble classes of the period. I fell in love with Kaoru Mori’s artwork in the original manga, and I feel like the artistic aspects also carry over to the anime adaptation. However, while the trope of forbidden love has been written before, there’s a unique and quiet charm to watching Emma: A Victorian Romance. The story is simple, but paired with detailed settings, quaint instrumental OST tracks and characters, it makes for an entertaining watch.
Like with Arte, this series focuses in on its romantic leads, Emma and William, and takes great care in showing their depth as characters and how they grow throughout the story. I appreciated the detail of the setting of Victorian-Era London, and I feel like it’s an anime that tries to transport its viewers back in time.
The historical anime also makes excellent use of the Victorian setting to illustrate how strict social classes and norms were, and why it’s so hard for Emma and William to break out of their social standards. Though Emma is a quieter type of heroine—she is intelligent, kindhearted and under the surface—there’s a lot more to her character than it appears.
Watch Emma: A Victorian Romance on Funimation!