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One of the common way to visually indicate that a female character is an Action Girl or otherwise ready to get dangerous is to have her hair tied into braids. This can take the following two forms:
- Two braids on the sides of the head, reminescent of the classic Tomboy hairdo. This version overlaps with Girlish Pigtails.
- One long braid in the back. The braid in this version tends to be much longer, sometimes even touching the ground.
Some characters will wear their hair in braids all the time. Others will only wear them when actually doing something action-y. Both instances fit this tropes. However, Action Girls who usually wear their hair in a braid but let it loose when getting into an actual fight don't fit.
This trope is used in fiction for two reasons. First, because it's Truth in Television. Tying your hair in a braid is one of the best ways to keep long hair out of your face, as ponytails tend to slide down or get snagged in really physical sports. Second, because it is visually cool. What better way to indicate movement than a long flowing strand of hair flailing around like a whip. Due to this visual aspect, Braids of Action will more often than not be given to girls that have an acrobatic fight style.
Some works will take the visual similarity between a braid and a whip to literal extremes, and will have the character top her braid with a some sort of weighted blade and use her Prehensile Hair as a weapon.
Note: This trope is for using visual shorthand to characterize a character. It is not a trope for every character who happens to have braids. Please remember this when editing the example list.
Anime & Manga
- Misao of Rurouni Kenshin. Watsuki's character notes mention that one reason he put it was to emphasize her movements.
- Miu from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple may seem like an example of this trope (her resemblance to Cammy from Street Fighter is probably not a mere coincidence), but the main reason why she wears her hair in a single braid (and wears glasses) is to tone down her appearance in school. More straight example happens during the Tournament Arc, where she wears her hair in multiple braids, some of them even looped.
- Sui-Fon from Bleach wears two braids wrapped in white cloth or ribbons, with metal rings at the ends (which she does not use as weapons). As a member of a military organization, this is justified.
- And after Arrancar Ggio Vega releases, he gains a blade on his braids.
- Also Vizard Risa.
- Unohana as well though she never fought.
- And Nemu.
- Vita from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha franchise keeps her hair braided to remind us who the resident Badass Adorable is.
- Elsa de Sica in Gunslinger Girl.
- Saber from Fate Stay Night has a variation in that her hair is done is a sort of braided bun, which doesn't look like it should be possible with the amount of hair she's shown to have when it's down, since it only goes down to her shoulders. It also looks like it would be able to fit under a helm, which would fit with Saber's background as King Arthur.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist May has six long ones.
- There is also a rare male example in Edward, who braids his long hair the majority of the time.
- Hilda from Beelzebub has a short braid.
- From Fairy Tail Erza's Lightning armor and her strongest armor, Armadura Fairy.
- Also when she was younger.
- Tabitha from Claymore has two variations, a long braid and after the time skip a braided bun at the back of her head.
- Madoka Magica inverts this: Homura lost her braided Girlish Pigtails when she Took a Level In Badass.
- Ranma ½'s title character, naturally, especially near the beginning of the manga when the braid was much longer and actually looked like a knotted braid, rather than the "three little circles and a wispy end" stylized shape it was reduced to later on. Of course, it didn't take long for the Action Girl to be revealed as actually a man, and s/he wore his/her hair in a ponytail in flashbacks, but by then the first impression had long been made.
- Genie from Rune Soldier Louie ties her ponytail together a with band placed every few inches down the length. It may not be an actual braid, but it looks closer to this than a Tomboyish Ponytail, moves like a braid and the function is exactly the same. And with her biceps she's not only a Action Girl, she's an out right Amazonian Beauty.
- Black Lagoon Roberta who is so tough she is constantly compared to the Terminator
- When Nuriko gets into some real action outside the palace in Fushigi Yuugi, he puts his hair into a single long braid. It's telling how he cuts his braid off just before the action... stops.
- From Wild Rock Emba, the most powerful hunter from the lake clan, is a male example (single braid).
- Hikaru in Magic Knight Rayearth has a heel-length braid that probably inspired a lot of aforementioned examples.
- Gender-flipped with Gundam pilot Duo from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, complete with the stylistic flowing movement.
- Rapunzel in Rapunzels Revenge uses her two (extremely long) braids as a whip or lasso, or for any number of other Action Girl applications.
- Valkyrie wears her hair in two braids in most of her incarnations.
- Rick Jones' granddaughter Janis in Hulk Future Imperfect. She grew her hair long, tied it into a braid and wrapped it around the top of her head so when she needs to, she can untie it and use as a whip.
"It takes a long time to dry after washing it, but it's worth it."
Films - Animated
- Jessie from the Toy Story series films.
- Astrid and Ruffnut from How to Train Your Dragon.
- Played for laughs in the first Shrek movie, where Fiona takes on a band of ruffians in the forest all on her own, martial-arts style, and actually knocks one of them out with her braid.
- Saya from Blood the Last Vampire.
Films — Live-Action
- Million Dollar Baby: Maggie wears her hair in a single braid, as do most of the female boxers.
- Princess Leia, as one of the earlier examples of the modern Action Girl, did her most impressive action feat while sporting a very long braid.
- As did her mother Padme.
- Angelina Jolie's version of Lara Croft in Lara Croft Tomb Raider sports a single long braid.
- Lord of the Rings: Arwen's appearance at Helm's Deep was (wisely) dropped in the final cut but surviving footage shows her wearing a long, thick Braid Of Action made up of smaller braids.
- Vasilissa in Alexander Nevsky may be the source of this trope.
- Milla Jovovich's Joan of Arc showed up with her long hair in a braid when she joined the soldiers. She cut it off later on when she felt they weren't taking her seriously.
- Downfall. The female Child Soldier manning the 88mm gun has twin braids hanging down from under her steel helmet. In this case, the braids work more to emphasize her youth.
- Avatar has many of these, with all the Na'vi having braids that are their psychic USB sticks to most of the other creatures on Pandora. Apparently they are also how they have sex, which leads you to wonder what the animals are thinking when they are connected...
- Gwenith Cousland in Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns. She used to wear her long hair loose (it reached the waistline) but soon settled on a braid on the left side of her head, hanging in front. And she looks like Claudia Black. Badass much?
- Cathy Rockford in The Gift is a judo instructor and "motorcycle enthusiast". She wears her two braids around her head, like a Badass crown.
- In the Artemis Fowl series, Juliet Butler wears her hair in a single long braid with a stone ornament on the end that she can swing around and use as a weapon.
- Fisher from the Hawk and Fisher books is described as wearing her hair in a french braid with a heavy weight at the end, for use as a weapon.
- The Mord-Sith of the Sword of Truth novels are an entire army of Action Girls who wear their hair in a single long braid.
- Birgitte from The Wheel of Time is sporting a waist-length intricate braid. Nynaeve, being at times quite action-y too and wearing a thick braid (which she tends to tug when irritated), does also qualify.
- Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games has her signature braid down the back to keep it out of the way when hunting or fighting.
- In the Tortall Universe, Beka Cooper, a Provost's Guard aka cop, wears her hair in a braid. She even has a spiked strap worked in so that those that make the mistake of grabbing her braid in a fight quickly learn to regret it.
- When Honor Harrington has finally grown her hair long, she started to wear it in a braid, in part to make it easier to wear a spacesuit helmet when doing her job. Note that in addition to her tactical acumen she's a veritable giant of a woman and with a eight degree black belt in a coup de vitesse is one of the deadliest characters in a melee.
- In Patricia C. Wrede's The Raven Ring, the Cilhar--who are warriors, one and all--wear their hair braided as a matter of course, with a special braid pattern for when they expect to be heading into battle.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer occasionally wears her hair in two braids when on patrol.
- Furthermore, in the episode "The Wish", her battle-rugged, even more Badass alternate universe counterpart wears her hair in a single long braid.
- Kendra, her initial replacement, also took to wearing her hair in a single long braid.
- Jules wears her hair like this in Psych when there is ass-kicking to be done. She normally wears it in a bun or in a ponytail.
- Star Trek: Enterprise. During the third season Xindi arc, one of the female Space Marines, played by a stuntwoman in a non-speaking role, had a long single plait down her back.
- On Game of Thrones, Daenerys's hairstyle slowly became more and more braided as her character grew throughout the first season. By the season finale, her hair is in a single thick braid.
- This is likely linked to the Dothraki custom of warriors braiding their hair and decorating them with bells. A warrior adds bells to his braid for each victory, and, should he be defeated in battle, the braid would be cut off so the world can know his shame. Daenerys takes to adding bells in her hair when she triumphs in later books.
- WWE Diva Sable in her first run in the company always had her long blonde hair tied back in a braid whenever she wrestled. It was safe to say that if her hair was down then she wouldn't be wrestling.
- Jacqueline Moore frequently braided her hair whenever she wrestled as well though there were some times when she would wear it down.
- Cammy from Street Fighter II fame.
- Lara Croft was actually planned to have this in the first Tomb Raider game. It wasn't added until the later games because of graphical limitations.
- Sheik in Super Smash Bros Brawl.
- Interestingly, in Ocarina of Time (where the player was led to believe Sheik was a man) Sheik lacked the braid. By the time of Smash Bros. Sheik was openly female, and the braid was added.
- Sveta in Golden Sun Dark Dawn keeps her Rapunzel Hair in twin braids.
- Kasumi from Dead or Alive used this hairstyle on her first game. Later games keep this as an alternate hairstyle for her.
- Julia Chang from Tekken, specifically from the fourth game onwards.
- Before Julia, it was her adoptive mother, Michelle, who sported braids.
- Both Virginia Maxwell and Rebecca Streisand of Wild Arms 3 and Wild Arms 5 respectively, sport these.
- Lambda-11 and Nu-13 of Blaz Blue. With blades attached.
- Both Aerith and Tifa in Final Fantasy VII.
- Lenneth from Valkyrie Profile has a long silver braid that reaches past her back.
- Yuna sports a very long (nearly to her feet) braid in Final Fantasy X 2, to show her development from Yamato Nadeshiko to Action Girl. However, given that only two years have passed in between the games, one has to wonder if it's not an extension (we never do see it unbraided).
- Sophitia and Seong-Mi-Na in the Soul Series iconically use the one long braid style, and Taki uses two short braids.
- SKO from Elf Blood wears her (otherwise particularly long) hair like this when on-duty.
- From the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Chimera, Forceful Leaf, and Zephyr all wear their hair in single braids. Matrix is a male example from the same setting.
- Ty Lee of Avatar: The Last Airbender qualifies. Incidentally, she also qualifies for Girlish Pigtails.
- Katara counts too.
- Rose from American Dragon Jake Long probably qualifies.
- Granny Smith of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic used to have these when she was a plucky filly who became one of the founders of Ponyville by venturing into the Everfree Forest at night on her own so she could replenish the dwindling food supply of her family.
- Truth in Television, in the sailing community at least. Suffice to say it's difficult to keep shining, silky soft locks while crossing an ocean. The constant spray of salt water can dry out your hair so much you can easily tear it with your hands. You'd think having perpetual windswept hair would be cool, but in reality it just tangles your hair into a painful, jumbled, knotted rat's nest. On long ocean voyages, supplies are bound to get low, so washing one's hair is bumped down to Priority Number 3,942. Crew members (male and female) frequently will go 1-2 weeks without washing their hair, and when they do it's sometimes done with dish washing liquid. When they simply can't stand losing their hair, Braids of Action is the second most common hairstyle for women sailors, after the bob/pixie cut.
- The Bolivian ladies known as "cholitas", who braid their hair in long braids before they get into wrestling rings and beat the crap out of each other. Much hilarity and Crazy Awesome ensues.