There are two pairs in the challenge where one calls for a male character and the other for a female character. Okay, that’s gender-balanced, but what about characters who don’t fall into either category? Now, I’ve noticed that my choices have already been leaning a little toward the androgynous anyway, but some of these are really outside the gender binary for one reason or another. I don’t think I can avoid referring to these characters with gendered pronouns, though.
And this is going to be a long one because I’m naming multiple characters.
Unfortunately, I think my very favorite character out of ones that can be called genderless is one that I easily could just get away with calling male.
Piccolo. Piccolo Jr., technically. Piccolo actually was one of the ones I considered as a possibility for my favorite male supporting character, but he’s actually from a species that doesn’t have either sex or gender. All Namekians look and sound more masculine than feminine by human standards, but they don’t seem to really have gender themselves, though there’s never any focus on this either.
Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z being a long series helps in this regard, and few characters get more character development over the course of the series than Piccolo does. King Piccolo was entirely evil, and when Piccolo Jr. first appears, he appears almost as bad. But Piccolo is willing to join forces with Goku to fight Raditz, and then to train Goku’s son Gohan to defend the Earth. He sacrifices his life to save Gohan, and when he comes back he fights to avenge his own people. Over time (and merging with Kami probably helped too), he continues to shift from an anti-hero to just a hero.
No matter whose side he’s on at the time, Piccolo is one of the most intelligent characters in Dragon Ball. While Goku and Vegeta often try to win with sheer guts and aggression respectively, Piccolo relies as much on strategy as he does on power. And that’s why Super Buu absorbing Piccolo was more dangerous than him absorbing Gotenks.
Okay, that’s enough about Piccolo; I didn’t do this for solely for a character whose inclusion could be considered a technicality.
My favorite definitely genderless character is Envy from Fullmetal Alchemist.
A human character who clearly identifies as genderless is, unfortunately, something that I’m drawing a blank trying to think of. Anime might have more depictions of the genderless than a lot of other media, but it does tend to be mostly associated with aliens, the supernatural, or artificial beings.
My favorite character who has absolutely no real or apparent sex or gender is Mewtwo, from Pokemon. (The “masculine” telepathic “voice” doesn’t count.)
My favorite ridiculous fusion of two people is Baron Ashura, from Mazinger Z.
Now, onto characters who do have a gender identity but still don’t fit neatly into the most absolute division of categories.
The most realistic intersex character in manga is probably Kei from The Day of Revolution, but I’ve never read that one. Makoto from Boku no Futatsu no Tsubasa is a “hermaphrodite”, but maybe still realistic enough that the alien explanation seemed unnecessary. Neither of those has an anime, though.
My favorite character who does have a clear gender but still has androgyny emphasized is, of course, Sailor Uranus. In the manga, she is described as “having the strengths of both sexes” and this is her “special advantage as a soldier”. That’s right; being genderqueer is her superpower.
Looking for an example I found this page, which says it’s implied that Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell was a man before becoming a female cyborg, which would make her the most popular transsexual anime character by a very wide margin. But I actually didn’t know that, so I’m also going to point out that Hazuma from Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl seems to be happier after being turned into a girl by aliens.
My favorite character whose gender was changed by a dub (I don’t think that happened to Haruka in any country) is Fisheye, a villain from Sailor Moon. (Actually, Fisheye might be a transsexual in the English dub. They didn’t cut his/her shirtless scene.)
(Almost 700 words on gender diversity in anime and I didn’t even have to mention Ranma 1/2.)