From Erza to Yona, Fantasy Anime’s Curious Obsession With Red-Haired Heroines

From Fairy Tail to Yona of the Dawn, the red-haired heroine is a common trope found in fantasy anime. Often influenced by their unique hair color in both their past and present lives, this physical attribute's rarity draws the attention of others -- for better or worse.

Red hair can play a major role in shaping and defining a heroine's identity. They are typically strong-willed and courageous, never shying away from dramatic lifestyle changes. Due to unwanted attention, some heroines even resort to cutting their red hair to make themselves less recognizable. This all greatly impacts both the character development and stories of these heroic ladies.

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Erza Scarlet (Fairy Tail)

Erza Knightwalker, Edolas, from Fairy Tail

In Fairy Tail, Erza Scarlet's last name is chosen based on her red hair, defining her very identity by its color. Her childhood friend and later romantic interest, Jellal Fernandes, is shocked to find that Erza doesn't know her last name. He suggests Scarlet, claiming he'd always remember her name because of her pretty hair. Erza is proud of the surname bestowed upon her, finding confidence and strength in her long red locks.

Erza is known as the Queen of the Fairies because she's considered their strongest female member, if not their strongest member overall. She has personality traits typically given to red-haired heroines, like unwavering resolve and fierceness. Her fiery temper and impatience fluctuate given the circumstances, but Erza is always willing to fight or accept a challenge from anyone. She is also unapologetic when protecting her guild and those she loves. Her strength and capabilities are feared throughout Magnolia, earning her the nickname Titania.

Cecily Campbell (The Sacred Blacksmith)

The Sacred Blacksmith protagonist Cecily Campbell is a heroine with both red hair and red eyes. Like Erza, she is usually wearing silver armor accompanied by a skirt. She shares the same qualities expected of red-haired characters, including strength, intelligence, and leadership abilities.

Red hair is often associated with royalty or prestige in anime, and Cecily's aristocratic family is from the respected Knight Guards of Houseman. She becomes a knight and the head of the family after her father passes away, upholding her strong sense of duty and justice.

Shirayuki (Snow White With the Red Hair)

Shirayuki's red hair is so important that it appears directly in the anime's title, Snow White With the Red Hair. She is described as having rare, apple-red hair that sticks out in her home town. This unique quality draws unwanted attention from her kingdom's prince, Raji Shenazard. While running a small pharmacy as an herbalist in the kingdom of Tanbarun, the prince demands her to become his concubine after hearing rumors about her desirable red hair. In a brave act of defiance, Shirayuki cuts her hair.

She abandons her pharmacy and the kingdom to avoid the prince who is searching for her. Soon she encounters Zen, the prince of Clarines, who stumbles and hurts himself when he gets distracted by her hair. Upon seeing it for the first time, he calls it unusual and decides to help Shirayuki avoid Prince Raji by inviting her to his kingdom. As a strong-willed and determined herbalist, she relentlessly improves her craft while developing a romantic relationship with Zen. Without her red hair, she wouldn't have met her love interest and become the court herbalist of Clarines.

Yona (Yona of the Dawn)

Yona from Yona of the Dawn

Yona of the Dawn's titular protagonist has the privileged life of a princess before her world is stained red with blood. Early in the series, the boy she's in love with, Soo-Won, gifts her an elaborate hairpin while admiring her red hair. Shortly after, however, he murders her father and seizes the Kouka Kingdom's throne for himself. The naive and long-sheltered Yona is forced to flee from her palace or risk being executed. Her red hair makes her easily recognizable as the kingdom's former princess, so she resorts to cutting it while on the run from those who betrayed her.

Despite her spoiled former lifestyle, Yona learns how to fight, negotiate, and operate undercover within her former kingdom. She sets out on a treacherous journey to find the four legendary dragon warriors with her bodyguard and childhood friend, Hak. During her travels, she discovers she's the reincarnation of the legendary Crimson Dragon King, who is fated to rid Kouka Kingdom of evil and become its one true ruler. Yona's red hair originates from this spirit, convincing the four dragon warriors to follow and protect her on her mission to restore Kouka.

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