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Evo Magical Girl

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.

While that’s how many of us would think of it, it’s a pretty generic view of what constitutes as a magical girl anime. There’s a lot more to the genre than cute young girls with powers, saving their loved ones, or even in most cases, the world, as different anime bring different and new elements that have made the magical girl genre so renowned today. So get your transformation items ready as we go through the most influential magical girl anime from its inception until today.

The first few magical girls

Sally the Witch, the anime that started the magical girl genre (Image from listal.com)
Sally the Witch, the anime that started the magical girl genre (Image from listal.com)

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.

Even after 45 years, Himitsu no Akko-chan is still popular and even has a live movie (images from Animanga Wiki and raymondyeung.com)
Even after 45 years, Himitsu no Akko-chan is still popular and even has a live movie (images from Animanga Wiki and raymondyeung.com)

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?

  • FrostMelon

    Where the hell is Lyrical Nanoha ?

    • Michelle J Brohier

      Hi FrostMelon!

      I considered putting Nanoha in, but I find the anime caters more towards boys and I’ve already talked about fanservice animes with Majokko Megu-chan and Cutie Honey. I agree that Nanoha was very popular when it came out, but my aim was to write on the animes that made an impact on the genre in some way, not only on the ones that are popular.

      Trust me, there are a lot of animes I wish I could have included in here (I would have expanded on Magic Knights Rayearth) but that would make the article way too long! I hope you understand, and feel free to tell me why you think Nanoha was a game changer in the genre. 🙂

      • Kasumi Aira

        Well im a girl to be tell n i like lyrical nanoha. im a die hard fan for that mahou shoujo anime so im kinda sad it is not in the list though :'(

        • Michelle J Brohier

          Hi Kasumi Aira!

          I’m sorry you feel that way. There’s very little I can do about it now but I hope you understand my intentions of omitting it out. Why don’t you share with me what you like about Nanoha then?

          • Kasumi Aira

            Its okay Michelle J Brohier u already explain it on the previous discussion so keep up the good work :3. Well i like the nanoha series becouse of the character, the device n the fighting scene. I dont know much bout sf genre but i like when the device talk with their master. Also i like this series becouse of the character developments. Their still become mahou shoujo even though getting older. I like the nanoha strikerS series the most n also the movie to. I love the uniform n the battle suit their use. Instead cute n frilly mahou shoujo the lyrical nanoha series is a genre that attract male viewer than female. 😀

          • Michelle J Brohier

            Thank you for sharing your views! I didn’t follow Nanoha after the first season, so I never knew about them still being magical girls even after being older, that would have definitely been great in this article, so thank you for pointing that out! It’s true Nanoha attracted male audiences not because of its cute factor (which it still had) but mostly for its mecha-like weapons and battles. I apologise for my lack of knowledge with this anime and am truly grateful for your input. 🙂

          • FrostMelon

            Its a classic ! You won’t regret..

  • Justion

    Yay! Moon Prism Power!

    Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha is somewhat a subtle game changer to the mahou shoujo genre mostly due to its magic X technology themes that little mahou shoujo animes portray before its inception in 2004. I wholeheartedly agree on its fan-service nature but I believe that is a replication of stylistic discourse from the predecessors, such as naked henshin sequences – which explains the target audience.

    I still follow Nanoha, manga-wise and it has a steady narrative evolution through the decade where the characters grow with time.

    But having that said, great job on the article! It has charted the game-changers and challengers of the genre with a modicum of precision.

    • Michelle J Brohier

      After much thinking, I realised that I could have overlooked the fanservice in Nanoha and delved more into the technology and battle aspect of the series. It’s my bad on that part, having only seen the first season. I should definitely give this show another go with a more open mind then, seeing as it’s the second time I’m told the characters grow well in this show.

      Thank you very much for the compliment and feedback. 🙂

      • Justion

        Pardon me, I meant to say *with a whole lot of precision!*

  • Chong Wei Loong

    Kill la Kill is technically a Magical Girl/Mahou Shoujo anime but on speed

    • Andmeuths

      And Shonen juice.

  • Andmeuths

    If Madoka Magicka is the Evangelion of the Mahou Shojou genre, we should be seeing evidence of it’s impact in the recent Magical Girl animes.

    And I do think we can see it – shows that play old Pre Madoka cliches straight present it as Parody (think Vividred, or right now, Twintales). Shows that try to be serious, often end up copying some of the ideas and themes (Cosmic Horror, magical girls are child soldiers in an endless war, anyone could die, anyone can fall, power at a steep price, etc), Madoka, or at least aim for it’s unsettling tone (late Vividred, all of Genai Taiyo, Yuuki Yuna right now).

    The anime that plays post CCS- Pre Madoka genre conventions straightest is Fate Prisma Illya, and even then, the Manga was written before Madoka Magica. And even then, 2wei starts subverting it further by leveraging on the rest of the Nasuverse, and 3rei clearly is a Post-Madoka work, although one could argue that 3rei has actually flown right out of the Magical Girl Genre).

    Also, we are seeing the blurring of genre lines – is Twintales a Super Sentai or Mahou Shojo or Harem parody? And I think quite abit of the old Magical Girl core has migrated into the Cute Girls Doing Cute Things moe-show genre (Yuru-Yuri, K-on, Kirno Mosaic, Gochi-usa), or even to the Idol Show genre (Love Live).