It’s no secret that Japan is sexist (ranked 104 worst out of 142 countries for gender equality) and this spills over into anime, most prominently in the lack of ladies that have directed anime.
Fortunately, things have been changing in the industry. We have seen an increase in women directors, and many of them are talented directors who have been at the helm of some of your favorite anime (Blood Blockade, anyone?)
Notable works: Michiko to Hatchin / Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine / Yuri!!! on Ice
Sayo Yamamoto is one of anime’s raising stars. She has directed two critically acclaimed works, and won the New Face award at the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2012 for her Fujiko Mine. While Yamamoto is new to leading a whole series, she has worked Samurai Champloo, Eureka Seven, and Ergo Proxy as a storyboard artist and an episode director.
Notable works: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU / Ao Haru Ride / Cheer Danshi!
Yoshimura Ai has been making waves, having directed OreGairu and Ao Haru Ride. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Ai has worked as an episode director on Gintama‘s first season and Oreimo.
Notable works: The Pet Girl of Sakurasou / No Game No Life / Hanayamata
Atsuko Ishizuka is one of the more respected female directors, but she never intended to enter that industry. Reportedly to have never watched anime while growing up, Ishizuka was planning on joining the music industry, but an animated short she made caught the attention of Madhouse. Since then, she has directed the acclaimed Aoi Bungaku, The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, and No Game No Life series.
Notable works: K-On! / Tamako Market / A Silent Voice
Naoko Yamada is one of KyoAni’s youngest directors. K-On! is one of KyoAni’s most popular franchises and Tamako Love Story netted a New Face Award for Yamada at the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2014.
Notable works: Free! / Hyouka (episode director)
Another one of KyoAni’s young female talents, Hiroko Utsumi has only directed Free! so far. She has appeared as an episode director on Nichijou, season 2 of K-On!, and Chuunibyou.
Notable works: Junjō Romantica / Higurashi no Naku Kori ni / Golden Time
Chiaki Kon has been in the anime industry since 1998 and has built up a diverse portfolio. She’s directed horror (Higurashi no Naku Kori ni), yaoi (Junjō Romantica), reverse harem (Arcana Famiglia), and romantic-comedy (Golden Time). Kon has also appeared as an episode director for Bleach and Hetalia.
Notable works: HeartCatch Precure! the Movie / Kyōsōgiga / Blood Blockade Battlefront
Fans of stylized anime should keep an eye on Rie Matsumoto. Matsumoto’s first major work was directing the Heartcatch Precure! movie, but it was Kyōsōgiga were she would show off her brand of stylish animation.
Notable works: Angel Sanctuary / Vampire Knight / Skip Beat!
Kiyoko Sayama is one of the most successful female anime directors and has been in the industry since 1993. Starting out as a storyboard artist on the long-running Nintama Rantarō, she made her directorial debut in 1995 with Miyuki-chan in Wonderland. Since then, she has frequently appeared as an episode director on Princess Tutu, Kaleido Star, and Blood +.
Notable works: This Boy Caught a Merman / Meganebu! / This Boy Can Fight Aliens!
Soubi Yamamoto is known for directing yaoi OVAs and for making the best of a small budget. Meganebu! is her first mainstream series, but she has not forgot her roots and is still directing yaoi.
Notable works: Btooom! / Chihayafuru (Episode Director) / My Love Story!! (Episode Director)
Kotono Watanabe made her directorial debut in 2012 with Btooom!. She has appeared as an episode director on Chihayafuru, Aoi Bungaku Series, and Supernatural: The Animation.
Notable works: Saikano / Glass Maiden / Ristorante Paradiso
Mitsuko Kase is one of the most directors you have never heard of. She has worked on Patlobar as a storyboard artist, Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory as an episode director, and City Hunter 2 as a script writer before making her directorial debut in 2002 with Saishuu Heiki Kanojo. Kase has paved the way for many women anime directors.
Notable works: Saint Young Men / The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls
Noriko Takao started her career at KyoAni as an inbetween artist of InuYasha (back when KyoAni was an outsource company). She quickly became an episode director for Clannad, Clannad: After Story, and Lucky Star before joining A-1 Pictures to make her directorial debut in 2012 with Saint Young Men.