Transgender and non binary anime characters, their outfits, hairstyle, & makeup

Transgender and non binary anime characters, their outfits, hairstyle, & makeup

by Nikola Marković - June 2023

Anime is an animation that originates and is produced in Japan. It is connected to the term ‘manga’ which originally refers to both comics and cartooning. Transgender and non binary characters commonly referred to in Japanese culture as x-gender, have been embraced by the anime and manga industry decades before than their Western counterparts. Roughly since the late 70s, it has become common in popular anime for gender-diverse characters (whether their gender is explicitly or implicitly a subject) to forge their own path and claim their fashion. This article will feature 10 seminal trans and non binary characters and their inspiring outfits, hairstyle, and makeup.

Transgender Characters

Hibari Ōzora, Stop!! Hibari-kun (manga:1981-83, anime series: 1983-4)

When it comes to manga, it is commonly accepted that the first official trans character is the titular character from the short story “Claudine” written by Riyoyo Ikeda in 1978. The series “Stop!! Hibari-kun”, which was introduced 5 years after “Claudine”, is one of the first anime series that openly discusses trans issues. It features Hibari, a charming and strong trans teenage girl who is misgendered by her family, while her lover is at first devastated to find out she is trans. Considering the era it was made, the series surprisingly offers by most accounts a sensitive portrayal of trans youth struggle. If we turn a blind eye to some problematic jokes and discussions, the anime seems to always embrace Hibari’s gender expression. After all, Hibari attends the school in a girl’s uniform registered as a girl, she is confident and happy, stands up for herself, and expresses herself in an authentic fashion.

Hibari has blue eyes and a blonde shoulder-length haircut with bangs. Hibari's fashion reflects the early 80s which is the time both manga and anime series were made in. For example, she is wearing biker leather jackets, stressed denim jeans and shorts, and t-shirts with vibrant prints characteristic of the time. Hisashi's fashion sense is feminine and stylish, and some report that young people back then would read “Hibari-kun!” instead of fashion magazines to get inspired for their outfits and hairstyles. 

Lily Hoshikawa, The Zombieland Saga (2018)

Subverting the qualities of the idol anime genre, “The Zombieland Saga” of 2018 features Lily who is the first (and so far, the only) official transgender character to be part of a major idol anime. The idol genre (aidoru) centers on idols, fictional entertainers who are typically in their teenage years or early 20s and with whom the fans establish an intimate relationship through multiple forms of media including mobile games, mass-produced toys, and collectibles. Lily marks a new paradigm of the idol with all of her fellows being supportive and proud of her trans identity. According to the Anime News Network, Lily also became an example in the U.K Parliament, where a printed picture of a meme with Lily being an Anti-TERF was held up by one of the members.

Lily's design embraces teal and pink, the colors of the trans flag. As a human, Lily has pale skin, orange/yellow eyes and wears two teal pigtails tied with striped bows and four stars in the middle of her hair – each one representing a different person. As a human, she wears a classic school uniform, while as a zombie, Lily is grey-skinned and wears her heart stuck outside her body. Lily's idol outfit progresses during the series from a multi-coloured t-shirt along with a yellow ruffled skirt to a red plaid jacket with a yellow skirt with tule peaking at the hemline and knee-high boots. By using makeup and contact lenses, Lily makes her skin and eyes look like those she had as a living person.

Shuichi Nitori & Yoshino Takatsuki, Wandering Son (manga: 2002-13, anime: 2011)

“Wandering Son” is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Takako Shimura between 2002 and 2013, that got a 12-episode anime adaptation aired in Japan in 2011. It is a soft coming-of-age drama that revolves around a young trans girl named Shuichi Nitori, who develops a close relationship with another trans boy classmate, Yoshino Takatsuki. The series is a pertinent milestone for trans stories in anime, dealing with issues like finding one's gender identity, coming to terms with being trans, gender dysphoria, and the social pressures of being trans in a highly gendered society like the Japanese.

Shuichi has brown eyes and brown hair which changes from a medium-length bob to a bowl cut to a short haircut with bangs to a pixie. It eventually grows into a similar length to their original hairstyle but with different bangs. Shuichi is usually described as cute by many of the other characters and is able to pass as a cisgender girl. On the other hand, Yoshino has many masculine features and is known as Takatsuki-kun by his classmates, with a name honorific -kun used as an acknowledgment of masculine nature. Yoshino has greenish deep brown eyes and bowl-cut dark grey hair color with grey highlights. He usually wears casual clothes like plain shirts or hoodies. Another applauding aspect of the anime is that school staff almost never makes objections to Yoshino’s wearing the male school uniform.

Hana, Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

“Tokyo Godfathers” is considered one of the best anime movies from the 2000s, a tragicomedy adventure written and directed by a brilliant Satoshi Kon. One of the three protagonists that the story revolves around is Hana, a transgender woman, who on Christmas Eve along with the other two characters finds a baby abandoned in the garbage. Hana's backstory offers an honest and heart-breaking portrayal of issues that trans people often share including perpetual misgendering from others, homelessness, and having almost no option for work other than being a drag performer in a club.

Hana’s current look clearly differs from the one she had when having worked at the bar as a drag performer. Back then, her appearance featured blonde medium-long hair, a sparkling form-fitting red dress, and heavy stage makeup with prominent cheek contour, red lipstick, pink eyeshadow, and some golden earrings. Now her look appears more melancholic, reflected in ashy and earth tones. Simultaneously, her turbulent past and the richness of her character are mirrored in the layering in her dress: a long grey cardigan over a brown shirt laid on top of a dark high-neck dress, topped with a long shawl in black or yellow, fingerless gloves, dark trousers with leg warmers, and boots. Her makeup is now darker with red or brown lipstick and eyeshadow while her dark, bobbed hair is wrapped in a turban-like scarf.

Alluka Zoldyck, Hunter × Hunter (manga: 1998-2006, anime: 1999-2001)

Famous for its rich characters, and with a prominent character being transgender, “Hunter × Hunter” was ahead of its time. The Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Yoshihiro Togashi was adapted into a 62-episode anime series that ran on Fuji Television from 1999 to 2001. Alluka is a trans girl, but more than just a one-dimensional side character. She is constantly misgendered and mistreated by her family, but defended, respected, and accepted by her sibling Killua who is also one of the few characters who is not afraid of her mysterious and dangerous ’alter ego’ Nanika.

Alluka has a pale complexion and blue eyes. She had shoulder-length, disheveled hair when she was younger, while later has long black hair. She wears the traditional clothes of a Miko, the Japanese shrine maiden, a young priestess who works at a Shinto shrine.  Unlike the original attire of a Miko that includes a pair of red ‘hakama’, which is a sort of wide, pleated trousers, and a white ‘kosode’ that is a predecessor of the kimono, Alluka‘s outfit differs in color, featuring a pink kosode and a green hakama. It also incorporates a headband adorned with cartoon faces that also decorate the hair bands fastening two locks of hair framing her face.

Non binary characters

Sapphire, Princess Knight (manga: 1953-56, anime series 1967- 68)

Originally created back in 1953 by the father of manga, Osamu Tezuka, “Princess Knight” is the story of a princess with a blue heart of a boy and a pink heart of a girl. Whether Tezuka’s intention was to subtly weave in the trans narrative or female empowerment, Princess Knight is often cited as the obvious predecessor and anticipator of the queer themes in anime. It is also still continuing over the years to inspire works that explore gender and sexuality and challenge binary notions. The titular character, Sapphire, fluctuates between feminine and masculine identities, as her father raises her as a boy in order to avoid the antagonist Duke Duralumon from inheriting the throne.

Sapphire is a character that set trends in anime and manga when it comes to her looks too. Her shiny, colorful eyes settled a model for character design in Shoujo manga in the 1950s, which is a genre aimed primarily at a young female audience. Her short, curly dark hair was seemingly modelled after early 20th-century American fashion and seems to be a mix of Betty Boop and Snow White. Her style can be characterized as androgynous or gender-fluid as she shifts between traditionally masculine formal attire, a carnival mask and fencing gear that she wears as the Phantom Knight and more feminine decorative gowns that she wears as a princess with a signature patterned ribbon and a blonde long wig. At the same time, her love interest, Prince Franz, has no idea that all these identities are the same person.

Najimi Osana, Komi Can't Communicate (2021)

“Komi Can't Communicate” is a manga series written and illustrated by Tomohito Oda, with an anime television series adaptation aired in 2021 produced by OLM and licensed for worldwide streaming by Netflix. The Series follows the elite Itan Private High School, with one of the main supporting characters, Najimi Osana, who is comfortable with both masculine and feminine self-presentation. We don’t know exactly how they identify, but they are seemingly androgynous, genderfluid, and non binary. Assigned male at birth, Najimi accepts many pronouns including boku, kare (he/him) and kanojo (she/her). The show is brilliant for its representation of queerness and fluidity but also different abilities and autism spectrum.

Najimi’s fashion style is inspired by a combination of a masculine and feminine wardrobe, combining parts of both the girls' and boys' uniforms. Najimi has a signature short wavy lavender hairstyle with spikes at the ends. Their gender fluidity is expressed in their wearing different styles throughout the series along with changing their preferred pronouns. For example, at one point they wear the gakuran Japanese school uniform modeled in appearance similar to that of the European-style naval uniforms and request that people use the masculine suffix -kun when referring to them. In another instance, Najimi appears dressed in the female uniform skirt, but a male necktie. Outside of school, they sometimes wear a mixture of what would traditionally be described as male or female clothing, appearing rather androgynous.

Nathan Seymour, Tiger & Bunny (2011)

“Tiger & Bunny” is a 2011 Japanese anime superhero television series directed by Keiichi Sato that features Fire Emblem a.k.a Nathan Seymour, a flamboyant hero that is a canonical agender and queer POC character. Nathan is in their own words "gender-free", and uses the I/me pronouns "Watashi" – formal gender neutral and informal feminine – and "Atashi" – informal feminine. Their character gradually develops through the series, especially in the 2012 film ’The Rising’, it is revealed that Nathan struggled with their sexuality and gender during their childhood and faced bullying.

Nathan is a person of color with a pink buzz haircut and pink eyes. They wear vivid makeup with sharp, angled pink brows, light pink lipstick, defined lashes, star earrings, a red ribbon necklace, and a lot of rings. They usually wear a pink bolero with sharp shoulders and sleeve vents that go quite high, a white, furred vest with red binding over what seems to be a black mesh top, red skinny trousers, and pink high-heeled boots. Meanwhile, Fire Emblem's costume is a typical hero style in red and yellow with a burning cape.

Kino, Kino's Journey (2003)

A 13-episode anime adaptation of Keiichi Sigsawa’s light novel series aired in 2003 on WOWOW in Japan follows a traveller named “Kino”, iconic as being one of the first trans-masculine non binary anime personalities to not be portrayed with a dramatic, exaggerated character design. Kino is assigned female at birth but declines the terms bouya (little boy) and ojou-san (missy), and, as an avid traveller who dedicated their entire life to it, mostly referred to with the gender-neutral phrase tabibito-san (traveller).

Kino has light skin with dark green eyes and dark green short hair, while in the light novel, they are depicted in various color combinations and both black and dark green hair and eyes. Kino wears goggles with an Ushanka-like hat, which is a Russian fur cap with ear-covering flaps. They also wear a dark olive-green military-style jacket with a brown belt with bags and a holster attached to carry their guns, over a white collared shirt, and matching green military pants. Over the outfit, they wear a tan, long trench coat.

Desmond, Carole & Tuesday (2019)

This 24-episode fantasy musical anime directed by Shinichirō Watanabe features intersex and non binary “Desmond” who is a wheelchair-bound, retired musical artist. Assigned male at birth, Desmond’s body is modified due to hormonal changes brought by radiation from Mars but they excitedly welcome these changes and start identifying as neither male nor female. Although it could be argued that the LGBTGIA+ representation in the show is often clumsy like with some gender-diverse characters such as Dahlia or The Mermaid Sisters, Desmond's down-to-Earth energy with no Diva complex is inspirational.

Desmond has a youthful appearance, with purple eyes and a luscious grey bob, purple lipstick, and a small green triangle under their bottom lip that might be a tattoo or makeup. They wear a fitted full-body white catsuit over a purple coat with a pink girdle and white high-heeled boots.


While non binary and trans representation in anime did at times embody all the rigid stereotypes of gender in Japanese society, in many instances like in the aforementioned examples, we can encounter all the richness and nuances of the x-gender experiences. Be it striking pink hair, a plain t-shirt, high heels, a military-like ensemble, or literally their heart stuck outside their body, every character has something special encouraging and empowering the audiences to express with unreserved authenticity and freedom.

If you liked this article, you might also like: Transgender TV characters, their outfits, hairstyle & makeup.

Nikola Marković (they) is a non-binary Serbian artist, researcher, and writer currently based in Vienna. They are about to start their doctoral research at London College of Fashion. Previously they graduated in Fashion under the mentorship of Hussein Chalayan and Grace Wales Bonner. Their artistic practice and research aim at disrupting the binarities/hierarchies of gender, class, ability, and subject-object dualism.

Credit for the featured image: gstudioimagen1 on Freepik