Saturday, August 25, 2012

Six Favourite Magical Girl Anime

Magical girls go back a long way in Japan.  The American show Bewitched that ran from 1964 to 1972 was dubbed into Japanese and became popular amongst young Japanese girls.  This inspired Mitsuteru Yokoyama (the creator of Tetsujin 28-go) to invent Sally the Witch,which aired on television in 1966.  Magical girls have been a core type of anime since, even though they have moved away from being a witch. I haven't watched much of the early magical girl anime, but the ones that I have watched and like the most I have listed below.  As a youngster, I have to say I enjoyed watching Bewitched on TV, so I guess I was all set for the later magical girls.  In Bewitched, a witch named Samantha marries a mortal named Darrin. She pledges to not use her powers and become a typical suburban housewife.  However, she is often forced to use them as the rest of her magical family disapproves of the mixed marriage. Much hilarity ensues.

Magical girls anime feature young girl heroes with superhuman abilities that are often forced to fight evil to protect the Earth. The Japanese language identifies magical girls as majokko (literally "witch girl"), though this term does not generally apply to modern magical-girl anime. These girls often obtain their powers through some type of enchanted object and they have intricate transformation sequences to change to their fully powered form. A magical girl can work on her own but many series are about teams of magical girls that can join their abilities together to created super-charged attacks.

I like the magical girl stories as they tend to be upbeat and cheerful (none of the shades of grey found in real life) and that the heroines are usually fighting for idealistic causes such as love, peace, hope, and friendship. The girls are strong and resilient and often bounce back to defeat the bad guys just because they don't give up.  Magical girls can represent that special time in a young, Japanese girl's life where she is free from adult responsibility and submission.

There are many other magical girl anime out there but I'm only going to cover the six I like the most out of the ones I have seen.  As usual, don't be offended if I have missed something you like.

Cardcaptor Sakura
This was probably the first magical girl anime I ever saw and I think it is still my favourite to this day.  In Cardcaptor Sakura, our heroine accidently releases a powerful deck of magical cards created by a great wizard.  The cards all have a magical spirit / personality and represent a particular magical power such as flight, water, wind, etc.  Sakura spends the rest of the series capturing them back, becoming the master of the deck, and then solving the mysteries left behind in the second half of the series.  Several movies were also made.  I love the magical Clow Cards who become Sakura Cards later and the simplistic fun of the series.  Lots of toys were released based on this series and I have a video of one of Sakura's wands in action below.

This was a charming little series about a typical girl, Yuri,  who finds out that she is a kami or Japanese god (not quite a god in the western sense - more like a powerful nature spirit).  Using her powers she helps out the people of her town and become the kami of a local shrine.  It is handy that some of her friends are shrine maidens there!  Kamichu! had some great episodes like how the god of misfortune arrives in town and the friendly meeting with Martians.  One of the most innovative things about this particuliar series was the fact that Yuri grows as a person and a god over time and also gets to meet other kami who represent other facets of our environment and invention.  There are even kami for CDs and other old tech - it was very imaginative.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
There are multiple series for this particular magical girl franchise.  I have seen a few of the later episodes and the first two seasons which were released on DVD in North America.  Nanoha and friends are the kick-ass type of magical girl with powerful staff weapons and a definite sci-fi slant as their powers are technology based.  They even work for a galactic police agency later.  Out of the six anime mentioned here, this is probably my third favourite as she always fights for good and justice.  It is also nice that her character and the other characters evolve over time as the series are set apart, with the StrikerS series set 10 years later.  The staff weapons are also partially sentient or have really smart AIs - I like them.

Pretty Cure
The original Pretty Cure  or Futari Wa Pretty Cure aired on TV in Canada years ago and was pretty fun to watch.  This original series with Cure White and Cure Black was about a pair of magical girls who fight evil forces that want to basically expunge life and plunge our world into darkness.  The girls have some special attacks such as Marble Twister, but use hand-to-hand combat to take care of the monsters (zakana). The original series was my favourite as the concept was the simplest, with more focus on just the two girls and their magical mascots.  The transformations to become magical girls are pretty amazing with this franchise!  As of the writing of this article there were seven Precure series made and a number of movies.  The movies are fun as they involve crossovers between all of the Precures from the various series.  It is always fun how they discover they are not the only Pretty Cures out there combating evil.  This franchise sells a lot of video games and toys, as the Precures use magical devices to transform and fight, and I've included a video of a wand in action - the wand actually looks pretty cool.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Madoka is a magical girl anime that twists the other conventions behind most magical girl anime.  This short series was released in 2011 as a recent addition to the genre.  It is almost an anti-magical girl anime as it has a dark twist to the genre.  I won't mention a lot about the twist, but what if everything wasn't just about good and evil and becoming a magical girl wasn't all it was cracked up to be?  The show was well done and I enjoyed it a great deal (nice opening music too), but it probably isn't for all magical girl fans.  This show has a big following and is very popular.  There are tons of character merchandise and creepy Kyubey plushies.

Sailor Moon
I have to admit that I haven't seen much of this classic that shaped a lot of later magical girl anime.  Sailor Moon gets a mention as it is very important in the magical girl genre.  There are lots of fans of this show and they can't be wrong!  One of these days I'll probably watch some more or read the manga or something. 

Read or Die
That pretty much wraps it up for the six magical girl anime, but I'd like to mention one other series. I'm not sure most people would classify it as a magical girl series, but Read or Die (R.O.D.) does have a female protagonist who has magical powers that give her mastery over paper.  Yomiko Readman is a papermaster who can shape paper to be a weapon, shield, bridge, glider, etc.  She is an avid bookworm and fights for her friends and what is right.  The OVA and the subsequent series were both very good.

See ya all later!

Other Six Favourite Anime Posts
I've also written some mecha anime inspired SF. It has received some good reviews. Visit here if you are interested.  I could always use some community support from anime fans!

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