Magical Girls: Superheroes But Much, Much Cuter

Sailor Moon

A Brief History

The concept of Magical Girl or 魔法 少女 (majou shoujo) is a concept that originates in Japanese manga and animation as a female hero narrative aimed towards younger audiences. Dominique Giles made a different post about magical girls in 2016, but I decided to take more of a historical approach. There are some important aspects that she touched on in her blog post such as the importance of female heroes in media.

Battle manga and anime with young male heroes are generally marketed towards boys, and some of the most well known anime in the West are shows such as Naruto, Dragon Ball, and Pokemon. Not to say these can’t be popular with girls, but they star mainly male characters. It’s similar in the West as well with shows like Power Rangers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Magical girls are similar to superheroes because they wear different outfits or masks when they fight, and they usually fight a bad guy for one reason or another. Some common tropes and stereotypes that come with the magical girl genre are: 

  • Leader dons the pink color (among magical girl team if applicable)
  • Has a “transformation sequence” into a cute fighting outfit
  • Has a cute mascot 
  • Wins because of the power of love or something
  • Has a non-threatening rod or weapon of some sort
  • Has love interest
  • Usually between the ages of 10 and 15

And there are probably others, but these were based off of my experiences with the genre growing up. The genre began in the 1950s, but didn’t truly become popularized until the outstanding manga, Sailor Moon during the 90s. The show featured a large cast of powerful women and an interesting plot that soon found its way around the world. Sailor Moon paved the way for later magical girl narratives such as many popular titles such as Tokyo Mew Mew, Shugo Chara!, Cardcaptor Sakura, Mermaid Melody and many more. 

Mew Ichigo from Tokyo Mew Mew

The magical girl genre has developed to a point where shows are made to subvert expectations. While reading a magical girl manga, you would normally expect optimism, messages of friendship, and sunshine. Puella Magi: Madoka Magica twists the genre by combining elements of psychological thrillers and magical girls to create an interesting fusion that became wildly popular. Japanese magical girls inspired other T.V. shows and works such as Cartoon Network’s Star vs The Forces of Evil. There are also English-dubbed versions of magical girl anime so the shows can be accessible to wider audiences. Although some of these dubs try to Americanize the shows in strange ways such as changing names and plotlines to be more friendly for American kids.

Overall, magical girls are important role models for young girls who gain messages of self-esteem, feminism, and positivity from consuming fun, sparkle-filled manga, anime, shows, and comics.

Madoka Magica cast

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