Things Get Better?: LGBTQ Representation in Animation in 2022

Komichi Akebi of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform happily welcomes all the LGBTQ animated shows in this article. Logos of my favorite anime with LGBTQ themes which aired throughout 2022 are shown in this graphic which I created

In January 2022, I wrote that there was a possibility that in 2022 things would “get better” in terms of LGBTQ representation, with new fandoms developing from shows which take risks by telling diverse stories. Although 2022, in some regards, more than lived up to this possibility and went beyond, there were challenges.

Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the nineteenth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on January 16, 2023.

In the world of anime, some series with implied, or directly represented, LGBTQ characters, came to an end. [1] Often times these series had yuri themes. For instance, there were somewhat strong undertones between the protagonist, Komichi Akebi, and her friend, Erika Kizaki, in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, and the protagonists of The Demon Girl Next Door, Yuko Yoshida and Momo Chiyoda, and those of the short-lived, but intriguing, yuri isekai, The Executioner and Her Way of Life. In the latter series, one of the protagonists, Akari Tokitō, has a crush on Menou, a female assassin with a duty to kill her. At the same time, Menou’s aide, Momo, has a crush on her and is jealous of how close she is getting to Akari.

One series, Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story, blew representation out of the water, with strong romantic themes between Eve and a Japanese girl she plays golf against, Aoi Amawashi. Eve is often unaware of how romantic she is toward Aoi, who has a clear crush on her. Erica Friedman of Okazu, a well-known reviewer who focuses on lesbian themes in anime, even wrote that she may “start measuring other anime based on how amazing this one was”. Other series ranged from having implied to more direct themes, including Vampire in the Garden, Do it Yourself!!, Bocchi the Rock!, Healer GirlLycoris Recoil, and Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury.

There were additional anime with LGBTQ themes or characters. For instance, Life with an Ordinary Guy who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout, which had a three month run from January to March 2022, featured a reincarnated protagonist, Hinata Tachibana, who is heavily implied to be a bisexual trans woman. The spinoff from the popular Rooster Teeth series, RWBY, named RWBY: Ice Queendom, featured a non-binary nightmare hunter, Shion Zaiden. Christine Brent, Senior Brand Director for Rooster Teeth, confirmed this and said she would like to have similar characters in future productions.

Apart from these series, there were implied yuri themes in the ongoing idol series Love Live! Superstar!! and second season of Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club. Such themes were also present in Management of Novice Alchemist, Encouragement of Climb: Next Summit, KanColle: Itsuka Ano Umi de, My Master Has No Tail, Prima Doll, Smile of the Arsnotoria the Animation, Shine Post, and many others, [2] all of which began, and ended, in 2022.

Many of these series are on Crunchyroll, one of the biggest anime streaming services. With its recent merger with Funimation, Crunchyroll now dominates the anime streaming market, and will likely continue crackdowns on pirate sites. Its only real competition is YouTube, smaller sites like HIDIVE (owned by AMC), and streaming services such as Netflix, Tubi, and Hulu.

In 2022, there was a plethora of LGBTQ characters in Western animation, from gay warriors Orc and Iago in Battle Kitty to a lesbian drama teacher in Dee Dee Holloway in Big Nate. Other series featured gay couples (as in Baymax!), gay and lesbian parents (as in Firebuds), and many other lesbian, bisexual, non-binary, and queer characters. [3]

Some series had more representation than others. One of these was The Legend of Vox Machina, airing on Amazon Prime and based on the Critical Role roleplaying podcast, which featured lesbian, bisexual, and queer characters, specifically Vex’ahlia “Vex” de Rolo, Vax’ildan “Vax” Vessar, Lady Kima, Keyleth of the Air Ashari, Scanlan Shorthalt, and Lady Allura Vysoren. Stephanie Beatriz, a bisexual actress, voiced two of these characters: Lady Kima and Lady Allura. In addition, there were was a reboot of Monster High which premiered on Nickelodeon in fall 2022, with more gender diversity and LGBTQ characters, such as a non-binary monster named Frankie Stein and two lesbian moms (Medusa and Lyra).

Just as powerful was the reboot of The Proud Family in a series named The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder. It aired on Disney+ from February to April of 2022. Created by the same person as the original, Bruce W. Smith, it includes three gay characters: Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins, Barry Leibowitz-Jenkins, and Michael Collins. There were also one-time lesbian characters and queer vibes among other characters, who are part of the show’s mostly Black cast.

One of these characters is Maya, a 14-year-old anti-racist activist voiced by Keke Palmer. Although Palmer is an actress who has described herself as sexually fluid and queer, it remains to be seen whether Maya will be “sexually fluid and queer as much as Palmer is in real-life.”

This was followed, later in 2022, by the much-expected Dead End: Paranormal Park, which Netflix recently cancelled. This series broke barriers as the first animated series with a trans protagonist named Barney Guttman. He is voiced by a trans male actor, Zach Barack. The show also includes Norma Khan who likes multiple genders and is ambiguously queer, and Courtney, who is non-binary. This series goes beyond the barrier-breaking of High Guardian Spice, a series by a trans male creator, Raye Rodriguez, who voiced one of the show’s characters (Caraway), or the trans male lead character in Wendell & Wild (Raúl Cocolotl), who was said to be the first trans man in an animated film.

2022 heralded the end of the much-beloved Disney series, Amphibia. The series featured LGBTQ characters who were confirmed after the show’s finale, like bisexual Sasha Waybright, voiced by bisexual actress Anna Akana. There’s also Mr. X, Frodrick Toadstool, and Toadie who are gay, Yunan and Lady Olivia who are lesbian, Ally who is pansexual, and Jess who is bisexual.

Just as bombastic is the third season of Harley Quinn headlined by two bisexual protagonists, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Both are known by the ship name Harlivy. The season, premiering from July to September 2022. The series also features a queer character named Clayface, who works with Harley from time to time. Harley Quinn was recently renewed for a fourth season, with a standalone episode premiering sometime this year.

There are other Western animated series with LGBTQ characters. For instance, Craig of the Creek features Kelsey Pokoly and Isabella “Stacks” Alvarado, two lesbian characters who have an important role in the series. There are additional LGBTQ characters in Summer Camp Island and Victor and Valentino. In the latter series are episodes partially focusing on the relationship between Xochi Jalapeno and Amabel. The former series has at least four LGBTQ characters: Puddle, Alien King, and Ghosts Dads as noted by the Insider database of LGBTQ characters and cartoons, which was last updated in June 2021.

All three of these series were targeted by Warner Bros Discovery execs. Summer Camp Island and Victor and Valentino were removed from the HBO Max streaming platform. Craig of the Creek had its final season order cut in half by execs, worrying those who worked on the show. These shows were not alone. In 2022, three other series with LGBTQ characters also faced the axe from corporate executives: Tuca & BertieThe Casagrandes, and Close Enough.

In 2022, some months after the fourth season ended, shenanigans by Warner Bros Discovery execs led to the effective cancellation of Young Justice. The series includes LGBTQ characters such as Eduardo “Ed” Dorado Jr., Kaldur, and Marie Logan. Lagoon Boy “La’gaan” was shown to be bisexual and in a poly relationship in the recent season. Bart Allen is in a relationship with Ed, and Wynnde is in a relationship with Kaldur.

The show features Harper Row who is bisexual, Rosa who is trans woman, and Violet who is non-binary. In the most recent season, there was a sub-story showing Violet beginning a romantic relationship with Harper Row. Unfortunately, without another season, these stories could not be expanded.

Other series shined through in their representation. This included The Dragon Prince. There are lesbian (Amaya and Janai), non-binary (Kazi), and otherwise queer (Annika, Ethari, Neha, and Runaan), characters. The story of Amaya and Junai was an important part of the story in the show’s recent fourth season, becoming more than “lip service” regardless of how bad other narrative choices in the season were, with this story likely continued in the show’s next three seasons.

The same can be said for the mature animated series, Disenchantment, which features the bisexual Princess Bean, voiced by a bisexual actress, Abbi Jacobsen, and various characters in Star Trek: Lower Decks. [4] The latter series, its third season airing from August to September 2022, has a bisexual protagonist named Beckett Mariner, a possibly asexual chief engineer named Andy Billups, and a lesbian woman named Jennifer Sh’reyan. The relationship, and subsequent break-up of Mariner and Sh’reyan was an important part of the recent season, which featured Mariner as a protagonist.

There were other characters of note, like the confirmed lesbian relationship in Arcane between two characters (Vi and Caitlyn) and many characters in another ongoing series, The Owl House. This includes the now-canon romantic relationship between Luz Noceda, who is bisexual, and Amity Blight, who is lesbian. The show featured other LGBTQ characters, whether those who are queer (Eda Clawthorne), aromantic asexual (Lilith Clawthorne), gay (Gilbert Park and Harvey Park), non-binary and transmasculine (Raine Whispers), and presumably non-binary character named The Collector.

While some shows with LGBTQ characters, have ended (Kid Cosmic and Amphibia), were cancelled (Q-Force), or won’t be renewed (Dead End, gen:LOCK, and High Guardian Spice), indie animation has continued to shine. Some argued that people shouldn’t look to Disney for queer representation in animation, that there may be a decline of superhero shows where many queer characters are, and noted a limited number of out TV stars out there. Although by midway through the year LGBTQ representation looked grim, due to what I’ve mentioned earlier, indie animations made clear that queerness is normal, just as it should be in real life.

None of these indie animations would even be recognized by GLAAD, which recently promoted the animated series Chicago Party Aunt, and animated films, [5] and with their nominees for the GLAAD Media Award, blogposts, and annual reports, nor by queer feminist magazines like Autostraddle, a queer feminist magazine. Instead, they have been recognized by fans and supporters. This includes those such as Helluva Boss, Ollie & Scoops, Eddsworld, a new season of Hazbin Hotel in development, along with others in development like The Descendants, Wild Card, Far Fetched, and Indigo, to name a few.

In the year ahead, there are bound to be more LGBTQ series, with the premiere of the yuri series The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady in January, the second season of D4DJ in January, the new series Yuri Is My Job! in April, and the new season of Birdie Wing, also in April. Another yuri series, I’m in Love with the Villainess is also set to air this year, while the sci-fi yuri manga, Hoshikuzu Telepath, is in development. This is coupled with continued release of yuri manga, visual novels, and the planned release of Love Live! anime spinoffs Nijiyon Animation and Genjitsu no Yohane: Sunshine in the Mirror. Both will likely have yuri subtext in line with other Love Live! anime series, which only have women as characters. There are indications that anime adaptations of Hikikomari Kyuuketsuki no Monmon aka The Vexations of a Shut-In Vampire Princess, Whisper Me A Love Song, Young Ladies Don’t Play Fighting Games, and Vampeerz may be premiering this year.

Despite these positives, I worry that LGBTQ representation in animation, this year, may wane, in line with declining representation in film. For Western animation, what shows can fill the void left by The Owl House, Amphibia, Kid Cosmic, Dead End, gen:LOCK, High Guardian Spice, or even Q-Force? Its hard to know if existing series can fill that gap. In anime, there is more possibilities, due to the aforementioned yuri series, and any possible yaoi (boy’s love) series.

However, there is some hope for representation in Western animation. The next season of The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder is coming in February, along with Ark: The Animated Series which features a lesbian protagonist, the animated series Princess Power and Velma in January, and the Nimona animated film in the summer. New seasons of Witch from Mercury, Arcane, Star Trek: Lower Decks, The Great North, Invincible, The Ghost and Molly McGee, and Disenchantment may premiere. The pilot episode of S.A.L.E.M.: The Secret Archive of Legends, Enchantments, and Monsters or the film which precedes the Lumberjanes series might air.

There might be new information about an animated series set after The Legend of Korra, which had two bisexual protagonists (Asami and Korra), which will focus on an unnamed earthbender, a film centered around Korra said to be released in 2026. There might be LGBTQ characters in Kiff, Hailey’s On It!, and Iwájú, which are scheduled to begin airing this year, or those in future series such as Primos, Moana, Tiana, and Iyanu: Child of Wonder.

Animation may continue to be in a bit of a rough patch and more may flock to indie animation in hopes of finding an alternative to the studio system. That is what can be easily predicted for this year.

© 2022-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Some could say that the final season of Princess Connect! Re:Dive has yuri subtext and point to the second season of Dota: Dragon’s Blood featuring an Elven thief named Fymrym, who was once in a polyamorous relationship with a woman and two men, with her partners murdered by Luna, who attacks the Elves who don’t worship Selemene. Also, Komi Can’t Communicate featured Najimi Osana who has an ambiguous gender and Ren Yamai who is a lesbian, a bisexual man named Apollo in Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, gay characters like Nagi and Soldier in Goblins Cave and Suma in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Attack on Titan has LGBTQ characters as well, as does One Piece.

[2] Others, as listed on Yuri Anime Reviews, include Teppen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughing ‘Til You Cry, League of Nations Air Force Aviation Magic Band Luminous Witches, Kakegurui Twin, Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story Final Season, RPG Real Estate, Miss Shachiku and the Little Baby Ghost, Black Rock Shooter: Dawn Fall, Cue!, Slow Loop, and Girls’ Frontline.

[3] This includes lesbian characters Nadja el-Koury and Danielle in Human Resources, Laura Feinberg as a bisexual woman in Little Demon, a queer non-binary couple (Gladys and Wren) in Pinecone & Pony, a non-binary Faerie student named Jae in Supernatural Academy, and a non-binary transformer named Nightshade in Transformers: EarthSpark. In addition, Dragon Age: Absolution, which only aired for six episodes in December 2022, featured four of LGBTQ characters (Miriam, Hira, Roland, and Lacklon), with Qwydion voiced by Ashly Burch who came out as queer and pansexual in July 2022.

[4] There were gay characters in Kid Cosmic (Fry and Hamburg), The Great North (Ham Tobin and Crispin Cienfuegos), Jellystone!, Chicago Party Aunt (Daniel and Gideon), Close Enough (Randall “Randy” Watson), Invincible (William Francis Clockwell), Big City Greens (Alexander and Terry), Baby Shark’s Big Show! (Viv and Vera), Undone (Alejandro Diaz), and Pete The Cat (Sam and Syd), along with lesbian characters in Little Ellen, The Ghost and Molly McGee (Mrs. Roop and Pan), the new Rugrats (Betty DeVille), Tuca & Bertie, The Casagrandes (Becky). In addition, non-binary characters appeared in Ridley Jones (Fred) and Madagascar: A Little Wild (Odee Elliott) while genderless characters had roles in Star Trek: Prodigy (Zero) and Solar Opposites (Korvo and Terry), and a trans woman is a character in Peepoodo & the Super Fuck Friends (Evelyn). There were an assortment of LGBTQ characters in Big Mouth, The Loud House, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir, Bob’s Burgers, Bee and PuppyCat, Rick and Morty, RWBY, Hey Duggee, American Dad!, Red vs. BlueSouth Park, Family Guy, Spongebob, The Simpsons, and Archer.

[5]  Strange World featured a gay couple: Ethan Clade and Diazo. In 2022, there were been bisexual and lesbian characters in Catwoman (specifically Catwoman and Batwoman), queer characters in Turning Red (Priya Mangal), a lesbian woman in Lightyear (Alisha Hawthorne), along with lesbian women in DC League of Super-Pets (Nancy), and Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo! (Velma Dinkley and Coco Diablo).

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