Anime Meta-Review


Glossary Entry : Magical Girl


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    Abstract:   A genre based around a young girl suddenly being called upon, or forced into, using her magical powers for the protection of peace and goodness. Generally this is a `secret' power, so that her normal life, while challenged, continues alongside.

Mahou Shoujo is a Japanese term for `magical girl'. This term, either in English or Japanese, is used for a sub-genre of shoujo. In effect it is material that depends upon the shoujo market, and understanding of character, but injects an element of fantasy, and possibly conflict, in order to widen the range of stories that can be addressed.

The style has, to a certain extent, been formalized for various reasons. One of these is to place `limits' on the magic so that it does not over-ride the interest in character and `reality'. This includes the fact that magic is generally `gifted' or `awakened' rather than being learnt or discovered by the character. Thus it is a normal girl who gets access to power. This power must also be called by the girl, clearly delineating her normal and magical forms. In addition this power is, almost always, kept a secret from her normal friends and family, no matter how much this complicates her life. Indeed this complexity is often a central story element.

A less noble reason for this `formalization' is that, especially where the target audience is young, there's a rich potential in merchandising. This works with shoujo's normal interest in character designs to lead to magical `uniforms' and often a profusion of magical `items' and `mascots'. These being showcased in magical `transforms' and attacks which have the fringe ability of allowing animation to be re-used each episode. This is before even considering the fact that this is a popular genre, so following some elements of the formula makes the manga much easier to sell.

The sub-genre can also be divided into two forms. One form has a greater action component. The power has been given to defeat a powerful enemy who is sufficiently evil and dangerous that they cannot be left un-opposed. This often includes elements of danger, loss and the stress of effectively being a `fighter'. The other form uses `magic' to add something extra to a character. Thus the magic might allow a character to have adventures or experiences beyond those normally available to a truly normal girl. Examples include being able to change into an adult, complete with profession, so that the show may sample these alternate lives.


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:50 WST 2009