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Magical girl

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Sakura Kinomoto, a typical magical girl. Sakura Kinomoto, a typical magical girl.

Magical girls (魔法少女 mahō shōjo?) belong to a sub-genre of Japanese shōjo anime and manga.

Most famously magical-girl stories feature young girls with superhuman abilities who are forced to fight evil and protect the Earth. Notable examples include Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Tokyo Mew Mew, Magic Knight Rayearth, Pretty Sammy and Futari wa Pretty Cure. Magical girls are also known in Japan as majokko (魔女っ子?), literally "witch girl", though this term is generally not used to refer to modern magical girl anime.

Most consider Mahoutsukai Sally in 1966 to be the first mahō shōjo anime.

Magical Boys are much rarer, but easily identifiable as they are designed among similar lines (e.g. DNAngel) and are usually shōjo series regardless.

Neither should a magical girl be confused with a catgirl or a magical girlfriend. Most recently, the genres of magical girls and catgirls have been confused; either the magical girl has cat ears and tail as part of their costume or a catgirl has some form of magical powers. The former case is most notable in Tokyo Mew Mew and the latter case is most notable in Hyper Police.

Contents

General types of "magical girls"

  • A magical being, such as a witch or an angel, attempting to function in a mundane world. (e.g. Sally Yumeno of Sally, the Witch; Meg Kanzaki of Majokko Megu-chan)
  • A mundane girl given power by a magical figure without the baggage of combat. One famous generic power is for the character to turn into an older version of herself (for example, a pop idol singer) and enjoy some of the freedom from awkward youth, which the audience identifies with. (e.g. Fancy Lala, Creamy Mami)
  • A mundane girl given power, or had her own already-existing power awakened, in order to fight malevolent forces (e.g. Sailor Moon). Although they are latecomers to anime and manga compared to the previous two, this is the most famous type and has become the de facto definition of a magical girl.

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 mundane form, as they tend to learn ordinary acrobatics, martial arts, or other offensive and/or defensive actions, to supplement their supernatural talents.

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 ally 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.

Much of the magical girls' time is spent trying to keep their powers and their mundane identities secret. The reasons for this vary; perhaps they wish to keep their friends and family hidden from their enemies, or maybe they enjoy the thrill and the freedom their secret identities grant them traditional Japanese ideals of womanhood have little to do with running around fighting evil in usually skimpy outfits. Other times, magical girls may simply be too embarrassed, or sometimes even outright forbidden, to let their friends and family know about their secret powers; perhaps it is their fault that the evil they fight escaped into the world in the first place, or maybe they don't want anyone to see them in their silly costumes (or uniforms if they are part of a larger team). However, despite their best attempts to keep their normal and supernatural lives separate, strange events tend to occur to magical girls in mundane 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 never 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 may seem silly at first glance, but it can be intriguing due to the contrasts and conflicts the magical girls represent, caught up as they are between the masculine and feminine, childish and mature, helpless and powerful.

Famous examples

The best-known magical girls in the western world are the Sailor Senshi (Sailor Scouts/Sailor Soldiers in the English dubs) of Sailor Moon, although that series also incorporated sentai elements (a quintet of warriors rather than one) that helped redefine the magical girl concept. Cardcaptor Sakura, meanwhile, is closer to the original 'pure' concept. Somewhat of a compromise between the two approaches is the recent Pretty Cure, which is scheduled to be on North American television in fall 2006.

Outside of Japan

There are also quite a few American shows (live-action and animated) that not only are inspired by the genre, but also inspired the genre themselves.

In Japan, the Japanese dub of the American TV series Bewitched was most popular among 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 American sense of the word (i.e. a haggard, cackling old woman who used her magic for evil purposes), 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 for the good of others around her. This inspired Mitsuteru Yokoyama, best known in the U.S. as the creator of Tetsujin 28-go (Gigantor), to create Mahoutsukai Sally, and the result was one of the most popular and longest-running animation series in Japanese history.

Other magical girl series outside Japan include:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Charmed
I Dream of Jeannie
Jem
Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders
Princess Tenko
Rainbow Brite
She-Ra
Winx Club
W.I.T.C.H. (and its animated TV series)

The magical girl phenomenon also has crossed into printed media as well often in comics such as Buffy, Elektra, Scarlet Witch and Psi-Mage and sometimes in novel form, e.g. Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series.

Mahō Shōjo in Japan

Until the appearance of Sailor Moon, the original term "Mahō Shōjo" in Japan referred exclusively to girls who did not transform themselves and used magic for acts of mercy and for helping those in need instead of suppression of evil (for example, Mako of Mahou no Mako-chan, one of the earliest examples of the genre). There were also magical girl series such as Himitsu no Akko-chan and Fushigina Melmo 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 used in the West to refer only to the latter case, though this term is still predominantly used for the former case in Japan. Mahoutsukai Sally (aka Sally, the Witch) and Mahou no Princess Minky Momo (aka Magical Princess Gigi) are hardly known in the United States (although both series were successful in Europe and the latter was released in the U.S. in a feature-length dub), though they are typical works of past Mahō Shōjo 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.

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.