If I were to ask you to name an action anime, you'd probably name one of the big, exceedingly long and really well known franchises like Dragonball, Yuu Yuu Hakusho, Bleach, Naruto, Gundam, Gintama or One Piece. In fact, one curious misconception I've heard from quite a few people is that the more action focused anime are always about men. Well, here's a list of twenty anime series with action as a major focus that are starring women. Keep in mind this isn't a comprehensive list nor is it going to be just the most popular anime with female protagonists. The idea is to give a variety.

  1. Sailor Moon

    I'm not going to include very many magical girl series in this, just because it would be too obvious, but I will bring up Sailor Moon as a representative of the genre because it did have such a huge impact. It helped codify a lot of the tropes that we still associate with magical girl works and it really did a lot to popularize the genre. And that's why the Sailor Soldiers have endured for so long and why they deserve a spot on this list.
     

  2. Slayers


    Slayers
    takes place in a fantasy world where the powerful sorceress, Lina Inverse, finds herself in a lot of dangerous adventures with her steadfast but strange group of companions. It's a funny, interesting adventure with lots of magic spells being hurled and some strong swordplay. Not only that, but Slayers is a massive franchise with five anime series, five films, two OVAs, multiple manga, video games, audio dramas and even more. Plus it stars Hayashibara Megumi and that's worth a lot.
     

  3. Shoujo Kakumei Utena


    The story of a young girl who becomes the betrothed of the rose bride and has to duel other students and bring the world a revolution. Utena provides us with a surreal adventure with lots of a swordplay and a very poignant romance betwixt our leads.
     

  4. Neptunia


    Based on the game franchise of the same name, Neptunia follows the four goddesses of Gamindustri, their little sisters and their comrades as they battle various threats and have a lot of fun while doing so. And if the many major female characters in the anime aren't enough for you, the games have even more including Cave, Broccoli, Falcom and the always amazing Red.
     

  5. Rinne no Lagrange

    A mecha series, Rinne no Lagrange follows the trio of Madoka, Lan & Muginami. The three pilot giant robots to defend humankind from an evil force while they develop their relationship and try to learn the secret behind their machines.
     

  6. Mai-Otome


    A series that follows young ladies with super powers who attend an academy to learn to use the old technology that powers them in order to serve various kingdoms as Meister Otomes. Young Arika acts as our protagonist, becoming embroiled in political intrigues that she doesn't quite understand.
     

  7. Black Rock Shooter


    This series gives us a world where the emotional conflicts of everyday life get translated into epic battles in a strange and surreal world. As such, we get a balance betwixt the normal everyday world and this strange landscape where our heroine battles.
     

  8. Muteki Kanban Musume


    A comedic action series, Muteki Kanban Musume follows Miki, the invincible delivery girl, as she has bombastic and hilarious battles against the poster girl of the bakery across the street, a significantly older boy she used to bully and an absurdly strong dog.
     

  9. Devil Lady


    This series follows Fudo Jun, a supermodel with the power to transform into a beast and fight against various monsters that threaten the city. She joins up with a government group to that purpose but, unfortunately for her, her hold on sanity is tenuous and she isn't sure how long she can hold on before she loses control and becomes one of the monsters she's fighting against.
     

  10. Precure


    The Precure franchise is another magical girl work I wanted to talk about. The first reason is the scope. They're currently working on the thirteenth Precure series with only two of them being direct sequels and every series thus far running just short of fifty episodes. That isn't even bringing in the huge number of films or video games. That's really impressive. The second reason is that the action sequences in the Precure franchise are really physical. With most magical girl works the girls will strike with special attacks and rarely throw a punch or kick anything. In Precure, they consistently punch, kick, grapple & even slash using broken pieces of their shields. Their special attacks are reserved for delivering the finishing blow. Which leads to some intense action.
     

  11. Gunslinger Girl


    A government organization takes in young girls who are sick, converts them into cyborgs and uses them to violently suppress terrorists. They go on missions accompanied by their handlers. Some require subterfuge, others involve a more direct approach.
     

  12. Ginga Ojousama Densetsu Yuna


    Based on a video game franchise that's unavailable outside of Japan, this series follows Yuna, the Galaxy's greatest heroine. She and her friends find themselves in dangerous situations. They battle their way through them while also experiencing quirky shenanigans. 
     

  13. Read or Die


    Super spy, Readman Yomiko, also known as The Paper, buys a rare book only to find herself under attack by super powered clones of historical figures. She has to use all of her paper molding skills, her cunning and her intellect to unravel and defeat the organization behind the clones. 
     

  14. Bakuretsu Tenshi


    Bakuretsu Tenshi follows a female group of mercenaries, Meg, Jo, Amy & Sei. The four of them battle against thugs, giant robots and many other enemies. With Jo doing the bulk of the fighting while Amy & Sei primarily provide support. 
     

  15. Bubblegum Crisis


    The Knight Sabers are a group of heroines who don robotic armor and move into action. They battle against machines running amuck and shady corporations alike. When the city is in danger, the Sabers answer the call. 
     

  16. Murder Princess


    When the kingdom of Forland is in danger princess Alita retreats. In the course of escaping, she runs into a group of bandits and accidentally switches bodies with their leader, Falis. She begs the other woman to save her kingdom. Falis eventually agrees and the titular Murder Princess is born, using her skills to protect the kingdom and cut her way through its enemies. 
     

  17. Vampire Princess Miyu


    Monsters called Shinma exist in a dark world outside of our own. Some cross the border into our world and feed off of humans. Miyu, a half Shinma, half human girl is our greatest defense. Appearing to return stray shinma to the darkness. 
     

  18. All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku


    When the evil Mishima industries begins causing problems, it's up to the cat-brained android, Nuku Nuku to save the day. Using her incredible strength, reflexes and all of the shenanigans. Plus it stars Hayashibara Megumi and that's worth a lot.
     

  19. Avenger


    In the dystopian society on colonized Mars, resources are meted out to cities based on their gladiatorial performances. Layla Ashley is a gladiator traveling through the cities on a personal quest and she doesn't care if she has to shake society to its core to accomplish it. 
     

  20. El Cazador de la Bruja


    Nadie is a highly skilled bounty hunter. Ellis is a girl with a mysterious past and strange power. The two of them begin travelling together in an action-packed adventure as their relationship blossoms and they begin looking more and more like a close married couple. 

    So, there's a list of twenty action heavy series starring women. Can you think of more? Have a favorite on this list? Leave a comment about it.