When I started watching Anime back in my childhood, I saw my first Magical Girl (魔法少女, Mahou Shoujo) anime. Since then, I noticed how much the genre changed throughout the years. With that, I will share some aspects that I enjoy about magical girl shows. (Image Source)
In the past, males tend to do all the fighting while female characters took on traditional roles with some noticeable exceptions. I think magical girl anime changed the female stereotype in some aspect since the 1960s when the first show in this genre was created. While most girls don’t have physical strength, they are now granted with magical powers that change their lives forever. Of course, the genre evolved to have idol singers, rivals, fanservice, romantic interests (not to mention, yuri), cute magical mascots and villains. Because of this shift, most people view magical girls as people as “magical warriors” as in the West, we got Sailor Moon as the first anime in the genre during the 1990s.
On the other hand, one of the things I like is the outfit they wear. While some of the magical girl outfits resemble school uniforms such as Nanoha’s outfit or any of the girls from Sailor Moon, the girls get to wear cute outfits with fills and stuff. While most magical girl shows usually limit only to one outfit, in Cardcaptor Sakura, the main characters wear a different array of outfits typical for most works made by CLAMP. Overall, these outfits pretty much shows the girl’s personality. For instance, Sayaka or Kyoko from Madoka Magica will give you a sense that they are tomboys and uses physical weapons.
Drama and Fighting Aspect
While magical girls have a lot of fluff, especially the earlier series, recent shows have a good amount of drama. This typically involves a bad evil taking over the world or a rivalry (or the so-called Dark Magical Girl) that they can’t beat initially. Essentially, magical girls aren’t immune from consequences of getting defeated and can become injured, lose its powers or can even die. In addition, most magical girl shows have Dark Magical Girls, which tend to have a dark past and often clashes with the main character. While I have seen Sailor Moon during my childhood, Lyrical Nanoha is a good example of having a good amount of drama between Nanoha and Fate, who is seeking Jewel seeds to make her mother happy even if it puts Earth in danger. Not to mention, most of the battles in that series is a bit more physical compared to just using magical abilities.
As mentioned in a review I wrote a few years ago, the Magical Girl genre has been also deconstructed. Thanks to Gen Urobuchi, he practically made magical mascots downright evil and added endless suffering along with gruesome deaths with Madoka Magica. While it had a depressing feeling to it, it also showed for the first time that becoming a Magical Girl is like hell, but thankfully it changes.
Lastly, the fighting is usually the most exciting part of this genre as magical girls usually have a good amount of abilities they can use against their foes. For instance, they can shoot projectiles, protect themselves from attacks, or use their most powerful attack for massive damage. While most of this consists of wands, they can also transform to give new abilities. Also, other weapons have been used in place of wands such as Mami’s guns from Madoka and Sigum’s sword from the 2nd season of Nanoha. The possibilities are endless.
In the end, I like the magical girl genre a lot considering how much creativity there is. Besides the fighting and drama, there are parodies, mecha, detectives and gender bending in magical girl Anime as well. However, in my opinion, this genre appealing because it shows how a cute or an attractive girl can become a capable fighter while facing challenges and responsibilities in using these new powers. As seen with Nanoha, Madoka and the Cure series as recent examples, it shows the broad demographic for magical girl shows as not only young girls enjoy them, but also older men and women as well.
So I’ll leave you these questions to discuss about: What makes the magical girl genre interesting? Is it the characters, the abilities they have, the drama or whatever? Feel free to share your thoughts about your favorite magical girl series.