belong to a sub-genre of Japanese
. Magical girl stories feature young girls with superhuman abilities who are forced to fight evil and protect the Earth. They generally possess a secret identity
, although it can just refer to young girls who follow a plotline involving magic and a transformation (such as Full Moon wo Sagashite
). Magical girls are known in Japan as , though this term is generally not used to refer to modern magical girl anime. Sally, the Witch
in 1966 is seen as the first magical girl anime.
Magical boys are much rarer, but easily identifiable as they are designed along similar lines such as with D.N.Angel. A magical girl should not be confused with a catgirl or a magical girlfriend. Sometimes, the catgirl and magical girl character types cross over; the magical girl may have cat ears and tail as part of her costume or a catgirl could have some form of magical powers. Examples of these include Tokyo Mew Mew and Hyper Police. A magical girl and a magical girlfriend typically differ in that the magical girlfriend is not the protagonist.
A general example of a magical girl is Cardcaptor Sakura
, a normal girl who later in the story is a girl who uses magical powers, with the help of a sidekick usually posed as an animal. There are other examples, such as Sailor Moon
, and Shugo Chara!
. There are many other magical girl subjects, such as witches, or rarely psychics such as Hailey from Queen Bee
. Examples of a usual magical girl are: Ultra Maniac
, Cardcaptor Sakura
, Sailor Moon
, DiGi Charat
, Cutie Honey
, Shugo Chara!
, Kamichama Karin
, Uta Kata
, Petite Princess Yucie
, and some parts of Kirarin Revolution
There are many examples of magical girl dubs in English
, and few in languages like Hindi
. Usually the dubs keep the same titles but many also transform the titles into their own language, such as Cardcaptor Sakura
was transformed into Cardcaptors
. Usually these dubs are to bring viewers into watching anime and then eventually learning that there was a real show all along.
The Japanese dub of the American TV series Bewitched
was popular among Japanese young girls in the 1960s. This was in the formative years of Japanese animation as a genre, and animators wanted to create a series aimed at young girls; since Bewitched
was popular with them, animators decided to make a series about a witch. This witch would not be a witch in the usual Western sense of the word, such as that of the evil witch in Hansel and Gretel
, but a witch of the same vein as Bewitched
's Samantha: a witch
who looked just like a normal person and used her magic for everyday tasks and the good of others around her. This inspired Mitsuteru Yokoyama
—best known in the U.S. as the creator of Tetsujin 28-go
—to create Sally, the Witch
Cutie Honey, which began in 1973, is considered the prototype for the transforming magical girl genre. The transforming magical girl genre was later popularized by Sailor Moon, which began in 1992.
According to the analyst John Oppliger of AnimeNation, since 2003, magical girl anime targeted at least partially at male audiences has become a prolific trend alongside the traditional female-oriented works, coinciding with the rise of moe genre popularity.
Common themes and features
Magical girls generally obtain their powers from some sort of enchanted object such as a pendant, a wand, or a ribbon. By concentrating on this object, in addition to speaking a special phrase or command in some cases, a girl undergoes an intricate transformation sequence
and changes to her fully powered form. A major theme of magical-girl stories is learning to harness these powers and develop them fully. Teams of magical girls often learn to combine their powers to perform massive, super-charged attacks. Powers or no powers, though, magical girls are rarely pushovers even in normal form, as they tend to learn ordinary acrobatics
, martial arts
, or other offensive or defensive actions, to supplement their supernatural talents, although they do need to use their power against whatever villains they have to fight.
Magical girls are not alone in their adventures. They occasionally receive the help of mysterious, magical boys. These boys sometimes disdain their female counterparts, but other times, they show romantic interest in one of the girls, or vice-versa. Another common theme is some sort of talking animal sidekick with magical powers of its own. These pets rarely participate in combat; instead, they offer advice and help train the girls in the use of their abilities.
Magical girls' powers are usually ill-defined. While it is clear that their powers have a source behind them, the extent and exact nature of their powers are usually not known or left unclear. Thus, it is not uncommon for a magical girl to summon extraordinary new magical powers that she was previously not capable of in the last moments of an epic battle, and which serves as a deus ex machina to resolve the major conflict in a climactic fashion. Therefore, it differs from shōnen in that shōnen tends to specifically state what a hero's powers are and what the extent of those powers can be (in most cases said powers are always enhanced as time goes by, usually by extensive training), whereas magical girl series tend to leave these factors ambiguous, and instead allow her powers to be more free-flowing and open to change based on the situation.
Much of the magical girls' time is spent trying to keep their powers and their normal identities secret. The reasons for this vary, but traditional Japanese ideals of womanhood have little to do with running around fighting evil in usually skimpy outfits. Other times, it may be to avoid capture by the enemy, or they may simply be too embarrassed, or sometimes even outright forbidden, to let their friends and family know about their secret powers. However, despite their best attempts to keep their normal and supernatural lives separate, strange events tend to occur to magical girls in normal life with alarming regularity, forcing them to transform and fight.
Magical girl stories tend to be upbeat and cheerful. The characters fight for idealistic causes such as love, peace, hope, and beauty — rarely for revenge. By forming teams, the heroines learn the values of friendship and co-operation. Even the magical girls' enemies leave them alone most of the time; the girls are the ones who pursue the enemies and attempt to thwart their plans. The genre can be intriguing due to the contrasts and conflicts the magical girls represent, caught up as they are between the childish and mature, or helpless and powerful.
Mahō shōjo in Japan
Until the appearance of Sailor Moon
, the original term mahō shōjo
in Japan referred primarily to girls who did not transform themselves and used magic for acts of mercy and succor
rather than heroism against evil; for example, Mako of Mahō no Mako-chan
. In fact, there were magical girl series such as Himitsu no Akko-chan
and Fushigi na Merumo
in which the heroines were given the power to transform themselves into whatever they wished, not for the sake of fighting evil, but for the sake of adventure. However, the term is generally used in the west to refer only to evil-fighting magical girls. The series Sally, the Witch
and Magical Princess Gigi
are hardly known in the United States although they are popular works of magical girl series in Japan.
An example of a series that transcended these two cases was Akazukin Chacha, which was a Japanese mahō shōjo manga that portrayed adventures of the protagonist Chacha and her friends. When it was adapted to anime, Chacha became a "Magical Princess" in order to battle with villains. Another is Majokko Megu-chan (Toei, 1974-75), in which the heroine, Megu, uses her magic not only to fight villains but also in dealing with everyday situations (such as in teaching her younger brother to swim). In 2004, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha premiered featuring a set of magical girls whose powers are predominantly combat related.