Being one of those who grew up on anime, one of my biggest and most secret fantasies was to become a magical girl. That’s right; minute long transformations with colourful lights, a cool signature outfit, speeches of love and justice and a cute animal sidekick as a guide.
The first few magical girls
Due to the influence of the American TV series Bewitched, the first magical girl anime can seem pretty generic as it was similar to its American counterpart. Even so, a new genre was born with Sally the Witch (1966) being the first magical girl anime to grace the screens – in black and white. Like the American version, Sally used her powers to help her friends while trying to keep her identity as a witch a secret, which sparked the popularity of having girls being magical.
So while Sally started the genre, it was the anime Himitsu no Akko-chan (1969) that created the basis of what we know of magical girls today; where the protagonist is an average girl who is gifted with magical powers. In Akko-chan’s case, she was given a magical mirror that allowed her to transform into anyone or even anything she wanted. Until today, Himitsu no Akko-chan remains popular with two remakes and even a live-action movie out!
Another noteworthy anime is Majokko Megu-chan (1974) that looks generic enough, but it was the first anime to have a magical girl deal with dark themes that challenged the usually bubbly and fun magical girl protagonist. This anime had the protagonist Megu-chan deal with not only losing to bad guys, but themes of suicide as well.
But Majokko Megu-chan also brought in a particular trope that many of us who watch anime are familiar with. Due to the bad guys constantly wanting her to take her clothes off, the age of fanservice had arrived in the magical girl genre, and boys have now become a part of the audience to a genre that was once always catered to girls. But we girls don’t mind sharing, do we? After all, we want boys to see how kickass girls can be! But can fanservice really make the magical girl genre better?