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Challenging the genre

With the popularity of magical girls becoming evident in the 90s, anime that challenged the genre were bound to make an appearance. Many may not see it this way, but Cardcaptor Sakura (1998) by CLAMP, the next most popular magical girl anime outside of Japan, did just that. For one thing, Sakura did not have any flashy transformations, but was instead given different outfits by her best friend, Tomoyo, who would also record Sakura’s battles. Tomoyo’s obsession could be seen as similar to what fans tend to do to magical girls. What’s more (spoiler alert for those who never watched this!), Sakura never really had a nemesis as all the challenges she faced was meant for her own growth to become stronger in her own way.

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Madoka Magica has been likened to be the Evangelion of magical girl anime
Madoka Magica has been likened to be the Evangelion of magical girl anime

As the genre began to slow down in recent years with only the usual familiar magical girl shows and two or more titles to keep fans abated, Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011) took the genre and pretty much deconstructed everything we knew and loved about the genre. Magical girls saving the world? Check. Cool transformations and powers? Check. Emotionally tortured by the true horror of what being a magical girl entails? Yikes. Many call it the Neon Genesis Evangelion to the magical girl genre, as it challenged viewers to truly consider what it takes to be a saviour. And magical girls are not an exception to the burdens of great powers means great responsibilities. And thanks to Madoka Magica, magical girls were in the spotlight once more.

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Yes, throughout the years, magical girls have greatly evolved since its inception in the 1960s, and there are so many out there that I would have missed out a few good titles that were a landmark to the genre. If so, do share with me what you think! Which magical girl anime do you think made a significant impact on the genre? Or more importantly, to you?

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  • 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).