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The game changers

While it was more for guys, Cutie Honey was a forerunner to the magical girl warrior genre (image from eltemplomanga.blogspot.com)
While it was more for guys, Cutie Honey was a forerunner to the magical girl warrior genre (image from eltemplomanga.blogspot.com)

A lot of debate has been put into whether or not Cutie Honey (1973) should be in this list. After all, Cutie Honey was initially meant to be targeted towards girls where merchandise would include a “transforming doll”, but due to its usually male audience time-slot, it was made into a fanservice action anime to attract boys instead. The creator of Cutie Honey, Go Nagai himself is well known for his shonen oriented works, including being the creator of the Super Robot genre (Mazinger Z and Getter Robo) and the ecchi genre (Harenchi Gakuen) as well. So considering how the anime turned out, it isn’t surprising.

The anime follows main protagonist, Honey Kisaragi, who not only has the ability to transform into the heroine Cutie Honey, but into various other females as well. In factthe creator of Cutie Honey,  was influenced by classical shows such as Bannai Tarao (where a detective could take on seven different faces) and Warrior of Love Rainbowman (one of the first few Superhero series in Japan), which explains Cutie Honey’s ability to transform as well as fight. Due to this heavy male influence, Cutie Honey was a pretty badass fighter which was rarely seen in most magical girl anime at the time. But with a male target audience, her transformations were flashy and had a lot of nudity. This is especially so in the 2004 OVA incarnation of the anime, Re: Cutie Honey.

While the nudity is questionable, Honey had a tendency of calling out her transformations and making a “love and justice” speech after it. Sounds familiar? That’s right. While not formally listed in the magical girl genre, Cutie Honey created a pattern for the Magical Warrior theme going on that many of us are familiar with. In fact Toei did eventually make a shojo version of Cutie Honey in 1997, called Cutie Honey Flash and that was also partially inspired by the popularity of one particular magical girl anime in the 90s. Yes, yes we’re getting there.

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So while Cutie Honey may have made fighting magical girls appealing, it wasn’t targeted at girls and pandered to a man’s demand of fanservice. This is why when Sailor Moon (1992) stepped into the magical girl scene, it became a colossal hit and became the introduction of anime to many young girls growing up at the time (this writer included). Naoko Takeuchi, the creator of Sailor Moon, was adamant in making a magical warrior girls in outer space that catered to actual girls and their fantasies. This is why Sailor Moon’s accessories and staffs were made with girls in mind and the fanservice in Sailor Moon is limited, but it still succeeded in attracting a strong male fanbase anyways (it’s okay boys, we like to share).

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Sailor Moon embodies a lot of what makes a magical girl so fascinating; from the transformations to the signature posing, the girls being soldiers (in spite of their short skirts!) and having them protect the world using magical attacks with magical wands and chants that young girls would use at the playgrounds too (come on, I can’t be the only one who did that!). And most importantly, having a group of different personality girls supporting each other through thick and thin.

These anime were all influenced by Sailor moon
These anime were all influenced by Sailor moon

Its popularity was so big, it influenced the creations of more magical girls that have a similar style. This can be seen in anime such as Pretty Cure (2004), Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch (2003) and arguably Magic Knight Rayearth (1994), who in their own way made the magical girl genre endearing through strong female characters who may seem girly and emotional, but are driven by good morals and values. And until today, Sailor Moon related products are still in high demand, especially with the current anime remake, Sailor Moon Crystal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WsoyWaGq6A

  • 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).