Tag Archives: Magical Girls

URAHARA and the Crises of Creativity

Urahara creative crisis

Here’s a question for all you content creators out there: would you let yourself be turned into a cartoonish alien being and taken into space if it meant you were guaranteed endless praise and popularity for the things that you create?

At the heart of the pastel-toned magical girl adventure that is URAHARA is a story about the dilemma of creativity. Creators—be they writers, artists, chefs, designers, etc.—are an incredible breed because of their imaginative abilities, and their power to give the things in their imagination physical form for others to see. The great magical halo surrounding The Artist is their ability to do what they do purely for the love of it… but as I’m sure many of us know, The Love Of It can only get you so far. After all, what’s the point of creating if you receive no approval, praise, or recognition for your creation? Creating art for art’s sake often gives way to anxieties about creating the “right” kind of art, creating art that people will like, caught in an endless tug-of-war between trying to follow trends to get a foothold and trying to be “unique”. The very human need for validation, and the contradictory yet complementary need to be seen as different and individual, is a driving force in content creation, as it is the driving force behind the conflict in the middle arc of URAHARA. Continue reading

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Filed under And I Think That's Neat

A Magical Girl Education: Sailor Moon

SailorMoon-KeyArt-Horizontal

It occurred to me while outlining my article about the dark and gritty reboot of the magical girl genre that I’ve spent more time reading meta, analysis, and personal pieces about the iconic power of Sailor Moon than actually watching the show itself. While I know a lot about it, I’ve never seen all of it first hand—at least, not in order, and certainly not in its original undubbed and uncut form.

I caught the occasional episode on TV when I was a kid and was kind of intrigued but never entirely won over (thanks to that whole “it’s obviously for girls And That’s Bad” mentality), and years later, borrowed and rewatched to near memorising the DVDs from CP… the only trouble there being that CP only owned volume 1, 2, and 8. Anime DVDs seem expensive to me now, but they were practically diamonds to our fourteen-year-old selves, and a pain to hunt down as well. Skipping straight to volume 8 dumped me in season two with no context, but we all just sort of rolled with it at the time. It was fun, that was the most important thing.

A few months ago, in the midst of editing and completing said dark magical girl article, my right arm flared up with what was probably RSI. Given time off work (hooray!) but effectively forbidden to type (the horror!), I sat down and dived into Sailor Moon season one. Animelab, as a tie-in with the remastered re-release, was hosting 89 of the episodes for gloriously free, legal streaming. I, of course, wiped my brow and said “Wow, 89 is a lot! But I can commit!” before being told that 89 is only the first two seasons. I have a lot to learn, as you can see. Continue reading

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The Problem with the Dark Magical Girl Genre

Sad Homura

Magical Girl Raising Project finished airing a few months ago, drawing its Battle Royale-esque death game to a close with most of its young, frill-clad, magical girl cast dead. It’s the expected outcome of anything that comes with that formula, but it’s an incredibly grim way to describe a magical girl show—shows that are, traditionally, at their hearts all about girls banding together to support each other and saving the world with the power of love and friendship. Murder and despair are normally nowhere near the magical girl archetype, but that’s changing in some recent and disturbing developments.

Read the full post on Anime Feminist!

Author’s notes: WOOHOO! This piece has been in development for a long time owing to both AniFem still growing and getting onto its feet as a website, and owing to the amount of tireless and passionate editing and re-outlining it was put through in collaboration with Caitlin and AniFem’s editor in cheif, the stellar Amelia Cook. The result is the beautiful analytical 3,000+ word beastie you see before you, which I have to say I’m immensely proud of.

In the Patreon link to this post, AniFem says “We’ve linked to Alex’s work on The Afictionado before, and this definitely won’t be her last piece for Anime Feminist!” which a) fills me with all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings of a “senpai noticed me” variety, and b) has me excited to get on board and contribute to this website more as it grows. Watch this space!

Never laid eyes on AniFem before? Here are some of my favourite pieces:

“Your Name”: Body-swaps beyond ecchi punchlines by Hannah Collins, a review and picking-apart of the blockbuster Your Name.

Straight Guys!!! on ICE by Amelia Cook, a look into Yuri!!! on ICE’s references to actual queer skaters and queer culture, and (in the wake of episode 7) lamenting  the fact that homophobic fans were bending over backwards to deny the “gayness” of Yuri and Victor’s relationship, and lamenting that LGBTQ+ fans had to bend over backwards in turn to try and justify their stance.

Force Him, Not Me! Rape culture in shoujo romance by Amelia Cook. Well, the title really says it all–an in-depth analysis of Kiss Him, Not Me! and the incredibly skeevy “romance” tropes it has been playing into of late, and what that means for the genre.

She and Her Cat and her story by Dee, a heartstring-tugging review of She and Her Cat.

Why aren’t problematic translations fixed? by Amelia Cook (if you couldn’t tell by now, she’s both editor in chief and a writing juggernaut), in which I drag my hands down my face and ask why the hell the supposedly progressive American industry would bend sideways to take implied gay out of Dragon Maid (and other such examples).

And the one that started it all, How fan service can attract or repel an audience, and how to tell the difference by Lauren Orsini. Interesting and on-point thoughts.

Also, their podcast about Utena was super fun, even if I myself haven’t watched the show yet. Looking forward to seeing what else Chatty AF covers in future!

 

 

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Filed under Archetypes and Genre, Things We Need to Stop Doing

The Pretty Cure for All This Gritty Nonsense

Go! Princess Precure

I’ve written a few posts on here about magical girls and how important they are, so it was with a bit of a shock that I realised, apart from my beloved W.I.T.C.H. comics, a few out-of-order chunks of Sailor Moon I caught on TV as a kid, and Puella Magic Madoka Magica, I hadn’t actually… watched that many. Of course, most of this is because my pre-and-early-teen self broke out in hives at even the implication that a show or book was girly (the dread scourge!!). Perhaps sitting down and periodically bingeing all 50 episodes of Go! Princess Precure with CP is a kind of retrospective remedy for that, but mostly, it’s just been ridiculous fun. And it’s made me think more about the genre, and balk a bit at  Madoka (specifically, the movie continuations) and how they take great pride in being deliberately gritty deconstructions that kind of… kick the breath out of the entire point of magical girls.

Go! Princess Precure is 2015’s instalment in the Precure (or Pretty Cure, or PreCure, or Cute Girls Save the World With Perfume All Year Every Year and Sell Millions of Toys in the Process) series; the story of three (later four) young girls who gain the powers of the Princess Precure to battle an evil kingdom of despair. They transform with the power of Princess Perfume and Dress Up Keys, gaining frilly skirts and Big Hair, and for their final attacks they go into Elegant Mode and earn themselves enormous ballgowns. They exhibit the true traits of princesses: beauty, inner strength, kindness, delicacy, and above all hope and love and determination to follow their dreams. It’s ridiculous, adorable, and genuinely engaging and well-put-together (kids’ shows can be like that—who knew?). Also strangely relaxing, which I realised was only strange to me because, again, the magical girl show I’m most familiar with is bloody Madoka Magica, where the most openly determined and hopeful magical girl warrior gets her head bitten off three episodes in. Continue reading

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Filed under And I Think That's Neat, Archetypes and Genre

The World Needs Magical Girls

Sailor Moon Crystal

Once upon a time, Disney made a magical girl series, and once upon a time a ten-year-old girl got sucked into it with the force of a black hole—a magical, colourful black hole filled with messages about friendship and girl power and positivity. So a pretty fun and influential black hole, all in all.

My magical girl story began truly by accident in a train station, where my parents picked the most fun looking magazines to keep their daughters entertained on the long ride home to a holiday house. Purely by chance, and probably because I’d finished with mine and my sister and I decided to swap, I opened the residing Disney Girl despite its abject glitter and girliness (yech. More on that in a moment) and stumbled across the comic they were serializing, a magical girl story called W.I.T.C.H—it dumped me right in the middle of a story arc, of course, so I had little to no idea what was going on, but I was enthralled. Enough to spend the rest of the trip on an inspiration buzz, and to make sure to buy the next issue when it came out.

Thus the adventure began. I think everyone has a story like this, whether it’s discovering a newfound power in their school uniform because the dub of Sailor Moon was airing on kids’ TV, or recognising their wanderlust and animal love fantastically portrayed in Pokémon, giving them a world to escape into and crazy pets to imagine (I grew up in the era when 4Kids roamed the earth, and Western stations decided anime was cool and bought a bunch to aim, sometimes with mixed results and bizarre escapades with censorship, at children). The magical girl genre is especially interesting to note with this though—so many people praise it for giving them a first look at powerful girl characters, making them feel better about otherwise looked-down-upon femininity and introducing them to pop culture feminism before they even knew that was A Thing and could never predict they’d be blogging about it in ten years’ time. Or, these shows just captured their hearts because they were fun, and had characters they related to and liked to watch save the day over and again, and that’s an equally important thing to get right. Continue reading

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Frill-Clad Warriors of Justice and Girl Power

Madoka Magica

[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.

The W.I.T.C.H. characters in magical girl gear

Anyone who tries to tell me this series wasn’t awesome is picking a fight with my eleven-year-old self

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

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Filed under Archetypes and Genre, Fun with Isms