February is the month which gives us Valentine's Day, a tribute to the multiple Christian saints named Valentine. It also plays host Black History Month, which Carter G. Woodson started in 1926 for the second week of February, only to be expanded to the whole month 50 years later. So the way I see it, why bother celebrating one occasion or the other, when you can tackle both in one fell swoop? These are my top ten cutest dark-skinned lady characters. Now, please bear in mind that I'm judging them based not only on sex-appeal (or non-sexual charm, for the underaged), but also how well they are written as characters in their given universes. And since I'm limited to my personal experiences, expect a focus on animated characters. Also, in order to avoid having to weigh sex appeal and non-sexual childish charm, I decided to split this list into two top-five lists, one each for adults and the youth. A cop-out for not bothering to find ten of one or the other? Hey, I had to do this in time for Valentine's Day! Besides, no one list of this sort will be complete, because everybody values different things in whatever they classify, so I encourage you readers to make up your own. (NB: Release dates refer to North America unless otherwise specified.)
from Atlantis: The Lost Empire (Film, 2001)
Age: Over 8,000 (!)
The forty-first entry in the Disney Animated Canon may lie on shaky ground critically, depending on whom you talk to, but it's a lot of fun and has some decent rewatchability. Case in point: the animators' MO was something along the lines of "less singing, more explosions". And then there's the romantic co-lead, Princess Kidagakash of Atlantis. Following on the illustrious tradition of Ariel and Jasmine, Kida's default costume reveals her midriff, so we're already off to a good start. But she's more than just looks; she gets some sweet moments of action in protecting her underground kingdom from percieved invaders. And unlike most Disney Princesses, she takes an active role in deciding the fate of her realm alongside (against?) her ailing father. Oh, did I mention she's over seven or even eight thousand years old? For what it's worth, I have read rumours that Atlanteans age at a rate of 1:300 years or somesuch, thus giving Kida the appearance of a twenty-something. With white hair. It's true what they say: age is only a number. Especially when you have a magic crystal around your neck which extends your lifespan.
4) Yoruichi Shihoin
from Bleach (Comic/TV, 2004-present)
Home: Soul Society
I may never have the opportunity to cover Bleach on this blog, not when there are so many manga chapters and anime episodes that I will never plausibly be able to catch up. But if you need a reason to jump in, try Yoruichi on for size. Despite her having been self-exiled from the Soul Reapers, I've heard she's one of the most powerful characters in the Bleach universe. In a world where Soul Reapers rely on morphing swords to get their job done, Yoruichi does the talking with her fists, and to say the least, her size belies her strength. In fact, her martial art of choice forces her to wear clothes with no back or sleeves, due to the way it releases Spiritual Pressure from her body. She's incredibly skilled in the art of Flash Step, that short-range teleporty thing everyone does in this show. Also, for some reason she can transform into a cat, and since she's naked whenever she morphs back, one of her hobbies is doing it in front of hero -- just to troll him. So, I guess that makes her the "Flash Master" for more reason than one! =^_^=
from Oh My Goddess! (Comic/TV, 1994-present)
In Oh My Goddess!, college student Keiichi Nabeshima is blessed with the companionship of a goddess named Belldandy, but the fun doesn't stop there. A few volumes in, a couple more goddesses pop in to spice up Keiichi's life, one of them Urd. But she differs from her half-sisters in that she is half-demon on her mother's side. (Said mother, Demon Lord Hild, could've easily made the list if I chose to expand it to ten per side, but again, I needed to get this out on time.) Her heritage reflects her passionate, flirty, and twisted personality, in that she balances the light and the dark for maximum effect. She's also quite the kooky chemist, as she serves as a secret matchmaker for Keiichi and Belldandy, usually by sneaking one or the other some sort of love potion or what-not. It helps that this series is a supernatural sitcom, one of the few genres in which I could appreciate such machinations.
from Street Fighter III (Game, 1997-1999)
Created for the Street Fighter III mini-series, Elena brings her franchise its first representation of Capoeira, a martial art created in Brazil by ex-African slaves, who managed to get it past their white owners by passing it off as a dance. Indeed, Elena manages to portray both sides of Capoeira in her portrayal of it. For one, when playing as her, all 6 of the game's attack buttons are used for kicks, the opposite of the SFII boxer boss Balrog (or M. Bison if you are so inclined). Second, if you have a chance to see her in action, her animations have a more detailed look to them; they seem to have been rotoscoped in a manner different from the other characters'. I may admit to sucking at the Street Fighter games, but in just about anyone's hands, Elena is poetry in motion. It's a shame she hasn't gotten so much exposure; aside from ports of the SFIII trilogy, her last appearance since was in the DLC pack for Street Fighter X Tekken -- you know, the one that was locked on the disc and therefore DESERVES TO BE OURS FOR FREE IN THE FIRST -- sorry, I seem to have had an out-of-script moment.
Edit: Please disregard the previous bout of rage; Elena has since been added to Ultra Street Fighter IV.
from Power Stone (Game, 1999-2000)
Oh great, another character from an under-exposed Capcom fighter. Isn't that special. Anyone remember Power Stone, that non-conventional fighter back from Capcom's good old days? I sure do, thanks in large part to the lady painted right next to the arcade cabinet's controls -- none other than Rouge (not to be confused with the bat girl from Sonic the Hedgehog). Hailing from what I assume to be an alternate-universe 19th-centure Baghdad, Rouge pulls double-duty as a fortune teller and belly dancer, which she incorporates into her speedster fighting style -- with fire effects to make her hits feel even more powerful. And in a game where characters can morph into special forms by collecting gems from about the arena, her new costume goes over-the-top -- by which I mean her top shrinks to impractical levels and her hair catches fire. See this is why Power Stone needs an HD remake or -- gasp! -- a sequel. Also Mega Man Legends 3.
from The Legend of Korra (TV, 2012-present)
Home: Southern Water Tribe
I wish to make it known that Avatar: The Last Airbender is the best thing to happen to American animation since Walt Disney. ...Because they emulated the Japanese. Seriously, this show is one of the few Occidental cartoons to take itself seriously, with epic storylines and characters, including the waterbender Katara, who also could've qualified for this list. But what could be better than everything Katara and her show represent? Try doing all that -- and being the star protagonist of your show. As the next Avatar after Aang from the original series, Korra uses her existing knowledge of water, earth, and firebending in innovative, dynamic ways in her fights with the Equalists. In between bouts of trying to learn airbending, Korra has a fierce independent streak, getting into unsanctioned adventures like her stint in the Pro Bending league. As such, if I had to choose one, I'd hang with her over Aang because she's certainly more fun to be around. Besides, for someone who's not even eighteen, she sure is stacked for her age (and for a Nicktoons character)! She's a hottie. Deal with it.
4) Taro Maria Sekiutsu
from Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (Comic, 2009-present)
Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei is one of my favourite manga series of all time, and I have a review of it in the works, as a matter of fact. It uses the characters of the title teacher's high-school class to illustrate and exploit a wide variety of personalities. Among them is Taro "Maria" Sekiutsu, a refugee girl who illegally immigrated to Japan and bought her name and class register from a boy (!) who was selling literally everything he owned (and I'm really particular about using "literally" this year, so you know I mean it). Her other schtick is that she doesn't have such a good grasp on the Japanese (English?) language, thus causing numerous puns. Plus, she's just adorable! Like, seriously: I've heard she could cause an international incident and get off scot-free because of her seeming innocence. And then everything will be back to normal in the next chapter. Yeah, it's that kind of series.
3) Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tiruvski IV
from Cowboy Bebop (TV, 2001)
Okay, take everything I've said about Taro Maria Sekiutsu and boost it on steroids and LSD. That should give you the girl who calls herself Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tiruvski IV. (Fun Fact: I hear she was supposed to be a boy, but it would've thrown the male:female ratio of the main cast off balance.) Her role on the good ship Bebop is, of all things, a computer engineer, and a thumpin' good one at that. I mean, just look at the operating system she cooked up for herself in "Jamming With Edward"! Work aside, how can you resist watching somebody who ambulates in every method except walking, sings cheerful chants to herself, and of all people, she was the one who got everything back to normal during the ever-popular "Mushroom Samba" episode. See you space cowboy... after the next two entries.
from Totally Spies! (TV, 2001-present)
Home: Los Angeles, California, USA
Some of us were watching girls' cartoons before the Bronies made it cool. Then again, some of those shows had pretty girls to make it worthwhile, such as... pretty much every female in Totally Spies. But none of them struck a chord with me quite like Alex. Really, you couldn't go wrong with any of this show's leads, since they're equally capable of tackling each villain-of-the-week with unnecessarily-acrobatic fighting moves, all in bright and tight catsuits to boot. But compare Alex to her friends and co-leads: I doubt I would gel with Clover's valley-girl mentality, and while Sam mixes brains and beauty, she doesn't stand out quite as well in my mind. On the other hand, Alex's personality is somewhere in between, with interests in sports and other tomboyish pursuits thrown on top. She even tries to resolve arguments between her friends from time to time. Except for that one episode when she left the team... Here's hoping the upcoming season 6 gives her more defining moments.
from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (TV, 1990-1991 [Japan])
Home: Atlantis / Paris, France
Anyone remember the time I reviewed the Nadia anime? Long story short, I came for the fanservice provided by its leading lady, and stayed for her personality. I do wish she was written to be more of an action-girl type, a shortcoming made all the more frustrating by her circus performance in the first episode, but this becomes forgivable when you take the time to analyse her. I'll bet Nadia's respect for human -- and animal -- life can tug at the heartstrings of everyone. In fact, I've imagined her as a memetic goddess of peace, like how we made Chuck Norris a god of... everything else. Bet you didn't expect that from someone who shows off her midriff and legs for the majority of her screen time!