Magical Girl - Genre History

Genre History

In 1962 Secret Akko-chan introduced the convention that the magical girl gets her powers from a "special object". Paul Gravett regards Princess Sapphire as a prototype for magical girls. Born with two hearts, one of a girl and one of a boy, she must pass as a boy in order to save her kingdom from falling into the clutches of her evil uncle. In feminine guise (with aid of a blonde wig) she romances a prince.

The Japanese dub of the American TV series Bewitched became popular among young Japanese girls in the 1960s. This occurred in the formative years of Japanese animation as a genre, and animators wanted to produce a series aimed at young girls; since the target audience approved of Bewitched, animators decided to make a series about a witch—not a witch in the usual Western sense of the word, resembling the evil witch in Hansel and Gretel, but a witch in 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 invent Sally the Witch, which aired on television in serial form in 1966.

Another important early magical girl show was Majokko Megu-chan in 1974. This was the first show to be equally marketed to boys as well as girls, and featured a number of developments—it was the first magical girl show: to have a tomboyish heroine—all magical girls prior to this had been sweet, feminine girls; to feature a rival to the main character (Non, Meg's rival and the local dark magical girl); to include a really evil character—prior to this, there was a perception that young girls could not handle such things; to feature fanservice; characters touch on more serious social issues (domestic abuse, extramarital relationships, drug abuse); to have the heroine not only lose fights, but having to face serious consequences (deaths, injuries, humiliations, etc.)

Originally, all magical girl shows were produced by Toei Animation, so "magical girl" was not so much a genre as a series franchise. This lasted until Ashi Production's Magical Princess Minky Momo aired in 1982—notable for being the first such show to feature talking animal sidekicks. Followed by Studio Pierrot's Creamy Mami in 1983—the first magic idol singer-subgenre. A one-shot OVA produced in 1987 featured a bat family crossover between Studio Pierrot's four 80s magical girl shows (Creamy Mami; Persia, the Magic Fairy ; Magical Star Magical Emi and Magical Idol Pastel Yumi)—this was the first instance of a magical girl team.

Commentators regard Cutie Honey, which began in 1973, as the prototype for the transforming magical-girl genre. The magical girl warrior-subgenre, despite currently being the most well-known style of magical girl show in the west, didn't hit until Sailor Moon, which began in 1992, later popularized the genre. At the same time, many related video games were made too. Typically, such transforming sequences involve pirouetting, loss of normal clothes (usually censored) and the sudden appearance of a magical girl uniform and weapon. This was a essentially a combination of the earlier style shows with the Super Hero-genre, particularly the Super Sentai formula. Sailor Moon was a huge hit, and naturally other shows were made in the same style, and some were even more divergent from the old-style shows. Many fans felt that shows such as Magic Knight Rayearth were still magical girl shows, despite all the dissimilarities from the previous generation; while others disagree, and feel that Rayearth is shoujo RPG world fantasy instead.

According to the analyst John Oppliger of AnimeNation, after 2003 magical girl anime—marketed (at least partially) to male audiences—has become a prolific trend alongside the traditional female-oriented works, coinciding with the rise of moe-genre popularity. As a prime example of this, note Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. The wave of shows made in Sailor Moon's wake eventually subsided. Contemporary examples include Ojamajo Doremi, Pretty Cure, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. In 2011, Puella Magi Madoka Magica was released to critical acclaim.

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