What do the moon; a magical tambourine, havoc-reeking tarot cards, and an alien makeup compact have in common? Well they all belong to magical girls that are main characters in Anime. Not many people realize that Magical girls or Mahōe shōjoh, are an actual sub-genre of fantasy when it comes to Anime/Manga… but without them Anime would not be the same. Your basic magical girl is about 12-16 years old; she’s fun, optimistic, creative, and misunderstood. There is usually a supernatural object like a wand, ribbon or pendant that she finds or is fated to be gifted that puts her on some miraculous path. Along with an incantation the charm helps the young heroine transform and harness her power. Most of the time her lineage has something to do with her new found superhuman abilities.
We believe this infatuation with Magical girls started when the TV series Bewitched aired in Japan. It was so popular among young girls that it initiated a chain reaction beginning with the 1960’s Anime “Sally, the Witch”, and a recent live series adaptation of Bewitched called Bewitched in Tokyo. Announcing that these series are apart of the genre, it is common to see the words Magical or Majokko in the titles. Majokko basically means witch girl. So you have series titles like Lalabel’ The Magical Girl, Magical Canan, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Magical Nyan Nyan Taruto, Magical Princess Minky Momo, Magical Star Magical Emi, Majokko Megu-chan, Majokko Tsukune-chan, and my all time favorite Magical Angel Creamy Mami!!!
In the Studio Ghibli movie Kiki’s delivery service we see the very basic archetype who is a witch by birth and part of a world that enchantment is an everyday occurrence. Then you have those who are living a life of anonymity like in the long running successful series, Card Captor Sakura by Clamp. Sakura’s supernatural abilities fight evils and protect the population from unexplainable forces all under a shroud of secrecy.
More so we see the Magical girl cosmetic transformation. In Hime Chan no Ribbon, Himeko is aided by a magical ribbon to take on other peoples identities. In one episode she even took on the persona of a member of the Japanese boyband SMAP! Now in Fancy Lala, by studio Pierrot, a young girl is magically transformed into a teenager by a magical paper and pen which she receives by two magical stuffed dinosaurs. Pierrot studios have a similar formula they followed with Magical Angel Creamy Mami about a young girl who is given a magical compact by two stuffed cats. In both these stories the girls become superstar singer/models and live for a while as teenage superstars. Tokyo Mew Mew is also a Pierrot creation. In this series the Magical Girl genre and the cat girl phenomena is intertwined. Cat girls or bunny eared girls are common within Anime.
Sometimes the girls are paired up with Love interests or other friends like in Inuyasha where we follow Kagome to her past in feudal Japan and you see her alter ago a priestess named Kikyo. Kagome falls for Inuyasha who was once deeply in love with Kikyo and travels with him and others trying to beat the evil Naraku. In Sailor Moon the main Protagonist, Usagi is discovered by a talking cat and told her fate is to protect the earth along with her friends the sailor soldiers (scouts) who represent the planetary solar system.
If you are a fan of Anime you indubitably have seen a magical girl Anime. If you are a girl most likely you wanted to be one. All I can say is let’s hear it for magical girls because without them there would be a lot less Anime. Now where did I put my Magical Angel Creamy Mami Tambourine?