Magical Girls

Magical Girls

Introduction

The Magical Girl (or Mahou Shoujo) genre is one of my favorite genres in anime. The original Sailor Moon was potentially my introduction to anime as a child (it’s either that or Pokemon) and so the genre will always be something special for me.

Sure, young girls tend to be the target audience for these series, but target audience doesn’t mean only audience. While the themes of friendship and never giving up on your dreams are certainly important for the target audience, maybe we can all still learn a thing or two about them.

While you may think that the magical girl genre is for little girls and so is irrelevant, you’re missing out on a genre with a number of highly influential entries such as Sailor Moon and Madoka Magica just to name two.

Sailor Moon is to the magical girl genre what Dragon Ball is to the shounen genre. It’s a highly influential anime which has been referenced countless times across a wide variety of genres and mediums. You could even say that Sailor Moon is essentially the magical girl Neon Genesis Evangelion.

So if the genre is so important, what is a magical girl anyway?

Magical Girls

A magical girl is a girl who forms a pact of some kind with an object or being in return for a portion of that object or being’s power. This is not the same as a girl who happens to use magic, as I’ll cover later on.

In Sailor Moon the girls form pacts with the planets, in Madoka Magica they form pacts with Kyubey, in Prisma Illya they form pacts with the Kaleidosticks, in Yuki Yuna they form pacts with Shinju-sama, and in Hina Logic they form pacts with “foreigners.”

Without these pacts they would be regular girls rather than magical girls. And, we do need to remember that these are pacts between the girls and another entity, they don’t get to have their magical powers for free.

In some anime such as Sailor Moon, the price of the pact is simply that the magical girl must use her powers to defeat evil. In others such as Madoka Magica or Yuki Yuna, the pacts are more sinister.

However, pacts for power like these aren’t only in the magical girl genre; there are also examples in other genres such as shounen.

In Naruto, a pact can be made with ninja animals in order to summon them, but as we learn later on, the price of this is that the summoning pact goes both ways. Another example is Death Note, where the user of the note can trade half their remaining life for the “Shinigami eyes.”

Another key feature of the magical girl is the transformation. Magical girls generally have (at least) two different forms: their regular form and their magical girl form. These forms are differentiated by a change of clothing which is the result of a transformation sequence.

In one scene from Prisma Illya, Illya skips the transformation sequence and is subsequently berated by the Kaleidostick Ruby for not being a proper magical girl and following the rules. Even in a dark series like Madoka Magica, this transformation sequence is present.

Part of Sailor Moon's transformation from the anime Sailor Moon Crystal
Sailor Moon

Girls Who Use Magic

So now that we know what makes a magical girl, we can tell them apart from girls who simply use magic. One example of a girl who uses magic, but isn’t a magical girl is Megumin from KonoSuba.

Megumin is able to use magic, but she never had to form a pact to do so. She also doesn’t need to transform into a magical girl form in order to activate her powers. However, she may be an obvious example because she’s a single character in an isekai fantasy anime.

An example of an anime which involves many girls who use magic, but isn’t a magical girl anime, is Little Witch Academia. Recently I saw a list of magical girl anime which included Little Witch Academia and that’s what made me feel the need to make this post.

While Akko and the rest of the girls are, in fact, girls, and do, in fact, use magic, they don’t display the typical signs of magical girls. That’s not to say that this anime isn’t in both the magic and girls genres, but it isn’t in the magical girl genre.

It does, however, have some similarities with the genre such as an emphasis on the power of friendship and following your dreams, but Naruto has that in common with the magical girl genre as well and we don’t call that a magical girl anime.

Akko Kagari holding the Shiny Rod from the anime series Little Witch Academia
Akko Kagari

 

Conclusion

So what did we learn today? There are two main parts to being a magical girl besides the power of friendship and dreams. These are a pact with some powerful entity as well as a transformation sequence which initiates the use of the borrowed power.

If a series doesn’t involve both of these concepts, it’s probably not a true magical girl anime.

One final thing I should mention is that a series doesn’t necessarily need to be a magical girl anime in order to have a magical girl. Is This A Zombie? isn’t really a magical girl anime, but it does include a magical girl: Haruna.

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