[Post comes with severe Puella Magi Madoka Magica spoilers. Ye hath been warned.]
The Magical Girl is a special type of superhero, one that will take all things traditionally feminine and stab evil through the face with it.
The Magical Girl genre is exactly what it sounds like: a TV series about girls with magical abilities. Classic ingredients for a Magical Girl show include a band of young women, aged anywhere between ten and sixteen, gaining magical powers by some twinge of destiny and the goodness of their soul, and becoming figureheads in the battle against some outlying enemy.
To get into battle mode they will have to undergo an often sparkle-filled, musical transformation into their magic outfit, which may not seem very suitable for off-road travel to the untrained eye with its frills, bright colours and cuteness, but don’t be fooled! Magical girls will kick your ass with the power of goodness, compassion and hope, sometimes aided by a cute animal sidekick or mystical mentor.
These adorable little freedom fighters are much more of a staple in Japanese media, especially when conforming to the recipe above, but they extend beyond that as well: Disney tried their hand at it a while back with the W.I.T.C.H. show and comics, and The Powerpuff Girls could be said to fit into this too. Even My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has elements, especially the early episodes.
While it’s a huge genre in the anime world, interestingly enough the first studios to play into it claimed they drew inspiration from the American show Bewitched. Which does make sense if you think about it: it’s the story of a female with supernatural abilities, trying to balance her everyday suburban life with her magical one, but tweaked and aimed at a younger audience. The most obvious example of this is Sally the Witch, a manga and then anime from the 1960s, featuring a cute heroine with magical powers trying to deal with life on earth using her magic, and learning valuable lessons about friendship and the power of good over evil in the process.
From these beginnings the genre has evolved, the most well-known version being the Magical Girl Warrior as described up there—the most famous example would have to be Sailor Moon, which has been enriching the lives of kids everywhere since the mid-1990s, beaming to an entire generation the wonders cosmic girl power.
Because in essence, that is what Magical Girls are all about: girls, kicking ass and taking names, defending their world and the ones they love from whatever evils their story may throw at them. This is fairly standard superhero stuff, but the genre emphasises the power of the young woman and shows the audience that being a girl doesn’t make you weak. Continue reading