Magical Girl Anime Subgenre
Potentially the most famous anime subgenre, magical girl anime are a subset of the shoujo demographic where life’s problems are solved with the help of magic. Magical girl series involve young female protagonists stumbling across the means of achieving great power, becoming defenders of all that is good in the world. Together with friends and cute animal sidekicks, they transform into icons of beauty that battle against the evil threatening their town and even the world.
As shounen has superheroes and “allies of justice”, shoujo has magical girls and saviours of love and life. The defining point of magical girl anime – or mahou shoujo anime – is that girls inherit magic to benefit the world around them rather than having magic and sometimes using it for personal gain.
Cute mascots. Whether a character has temporarily been turned into an animal or extraterrestrial creatures are visiting Earth, magical girl series have an abundance of cute and cuddly mascots that come bearing great power. Often the mediator and mentor for magical girls, the animal mascot is a key part of many series and a source of great d’aaaws.
Transformation sequences. A staple of the subgenre is insane attention to transformation scenes, where the show’s regular artistic style is momentarily interrupted by incredibly fluid animation detailing the girl’s new outfit, hairstyle and accessories. Chances are that if you’ve seen a character float through colours and lights to equip her battle uniform, you’re watching a magical girl show.
Only you can prevent the world’s destruction. Perhaps a consequence of long-running series, magical girl anime tend to increase in scale to the point where the only way to go is saving the world. Challenges that were once too tough for the cast become trivial as they gain new powers and stumble on a plot that spans much further than their hometown. This sometimes includes fights in space.
Monster of the week. With magical girls being more glamorous versions of superheroes, it makes sense to have them fight the baddies at least once every episode or so. While the force of evil that the girls fight against tends to loom over them, series will often throw one-episode monsters or villains at the cast to force confrontation and growth.
Shoujo. Magical girl anime are basically magical shoujo anime. Young girls who love the idealistic romance of characters their age or slightly older can find many similar themes in magical girl series, especially when it comes to optimistic protagonists, relationship drama and a little bit of love.
Romance. Even though there are hordes of girls in each and every magical girl series, sometimes there’s a special someone. It could be the protagonist’s destined partner or a cooperative outsider, but if there’s a non-evil male character, you can bank on someone falling for him.
Seinen. With the recent trends of super-cute anime finding a new audience in older men, some magical girl series are made with them in mind. While never deviating from the core values of the subgenre, some series will add obvious fanservice or blatantly appeal to the audience’s sense of cute.
Here's our top 10 'Best Magical Girl Anime Recommendations'
1. Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Madoka is an ordinary girl with an extraordinary power. If she becomes a magical girl, she could be the strongest one the world has ever known, but a new girl bent of stopping her and Madoka’s own hesitations make it a tough choice. A widely renowned magical girl anime to sway those skeptical of the subgenre.
2. Searching for the Full Moon – Mitsuki’s future is set in stone: her case of throat cancer is terminal and she will die in one year. Too young and sick to achieve her dreams of being a singer, two gods of death appear to grant her the ability to transform into a 16-year-old healthy girl, giving her the chance to succeed. An emotional journey with a hopeful tone.
3. Heartcatch Precure! – When shy and quiet Tsubomi moves into town, she is determined to live the ideal, normal school life. But as destiny would have it, her life ends up as anything but normal when she’s given the power to transform into Cure Blossom and tasked with fighting evil – all with her new friend by her side. Just one in a long franchise of magical girl series, but unique and funny enough to stand out.
4. Princess Tutu – In a place much like a fairytale of old, a young girl discovers that she is the key to rescuing the prince who, years earlier, sacrificed his heart to seal away a great evil. As Ahiru transforms into Princess Tutu, she dances and heals the troubles of others while collecting shards of the prince’s heart. A magical girl series that mixes Western fairytales with staples of the subgenre.
5. Guardian Character! – Amu isn’t exactly the girl her classmates think she is, but her opportunity to become who she wants to be comes in the form of cute Guardian Characters, manifestations of her possible future self. Now with the ability to transform with these Characters, she takes care of corrupted Characters threatening the peace. An unusual magical girl anime with refreshing aspects.
6. Cardcaptor Sakura – Sakura Kinomoto messes up big time when she accidentally sets lose 52 cards sealed in an album. After the guardian of the cards orders her to get them back, Sakura is given magical powers to aid her on the quest. A series where the team of magical girls is traded for romance.
7. Cutie Honey – Honey Kisaragi’s ordinary life is interrupted by the death of her father at the hands of the evil Panther Claw clan. Finding out that she is an android, she uses her powers to transform into Cutie Honey and sights her ways up the ranks to take down the Panther Claw boss. An older series with a starkly different atmosphere and themes to what we have today.
8. Magic Knight Rayearth – Three girls on a high school field trip are whisked away to the world of Cephiro, are anointed Magic Knights and tasked to save the princess. With new gear and magical powers, the girls can hardly say no. A magical girl series with a heavy sword and sorcery RPG feel.
9. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s – Nanoha and Fate, to previously opposed forces, finally reconcile their differences and become friends. Peace never settles for long though as the two are pitted against The Cloud Knights – a force of girls just like them who are set on completing a dark tome. The second season of a much-loved franchise that excels in every way the first didn’t.
10. Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon – Almost nothing about Usagi Tsukino is admirable or elegant, yet when she finds out she is the reincarnation of the Moon Princess, she must rise to the roll. With her friends and fellow magical girls by her side, Usagi must use her powers to save Earth from the clutches of evil all while protecting what is dear to her. An inevitable recommendation for newbies looking for the subgenre’s long-standing classic.