Welcome to another top 5 list for Tuesday and this week I am counting down my favourite magical girl anime, mostly inspired by how much I’ve been enjoying Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka (while not perfect, it has been quite fun as a darker magical girl series). I’m not convinced I haven’t already done this but if I did I can’t find it so let’s all just go with this is the first time I’ve put this into a top 5 list.
Now magical girl anime and I have a real nostalgia thing going on as some of these were the shows that got me into anime and they really stuck with me. While there are some more recent entries in the list, the nostalgia is strong with this one.
With that in mind, I’d love to know what magical girl anime are your favourites and why. Is it something a bit older that reminds you of your childhood or are you into some of the more recent entries into the genre. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Honourable Mentions: Kamichama Karin
This one is a bit of a weird one, but for whatever reason I kind of got stuck on it a few years ago and I’ve binge watched it a couple of times since. While it doesn’t stand out as much as some of the other entries on this list, it is a fairly functional magical girl show and it is very easy to get caught up in it and lose track of time.
Number 5: Is This A Zombie
It feels weird to give the number 5 spot to a comedy anime about a male zombie character who manages to acquire the power of a magical girl and then undergoes a transformation into a cute pink dress complete with chainsaw. I do love that as his power level rises the frilliness and flowery add-ons on the dress get even more over the top. It is a great jab at some of the impractical magical girl costumes out there.
Whichever way, when I think about magical girls, there is literally no way to not think about Ayumu so that is why he got the number 5 spot on the list even though technically he’s a zombie who is borrowing magical girl powers.
The only ‘dark’ magical girl story that made it onto my list. What can I say? As much as I love horror and dark stories, when I got to watch a magical girl story I kind of go wanting something a little bit more sparkly. Madoka Magica managed to balance its darker subject matter with some really great magical girls, cool powers, and spectacular fight sequences in a way that while it was dark and serious, it still felt like a magical girl story and not a horror that just happened to feature magical girls right before they got slaughtered. I really did enjoy Madoka Magica and it is another anime I regularly binge watch.
Despite the heavily edited version of this that I saw originally, complete with a truly terrible English OP, I really did get caught by the plot of Cardcaptor Sakura so when I was older and I could access a translated but less edited version of it, I jumped at the chance to watch this anime again. Syaoran and Sakura are beautiful in the leading roles and I just love how cute and happy this anime is.
While Sakura doesn’t include some magical girl tropes, no spinning costume transformations, Sakura actually has to change clothes if she wants to wear one of her friends’ hand-made costumes, it very much captures the spirit of Magical Girl anime and is an excellent started anime if you have kids you want to introduce to something without worrying too much about some of the anime tropes out there.
Another super adorable, super pink Magical Girl anime. This one grabbed me because of Amu. She’s got such a mismatch between her inner and outer personality and I love how she struggles with figuring out who she is, particularly when she has so many guardian characters with each one presenting a different aspect of who she might be. While the overall plot of this one is a bit harder to take seriously, there are some really excellent character arcs for a lot of the cast and it ends up being a story well worth the effort of investing your time into.
Did you expect anything else to top this list? I mentioned at the start that this was a nostalgia fuelled list in the first place and Sailor Moon is the starting place for me and anime so of course it was always going to be number 1. Serena and the Sailor Scouts are characters I grew up loving and I don’t think anything is going to change that anytime soon.
While Sailor Moon villains might border on the idiotic or ridiculous, the core cast remain full of heart and life and if you want cute costumes and pretty sparkles, Sailor Moon has you covered. Also, some darker moments and real danger which certainly pushed beyond what a lot of ‘girls’ TV shows were doing when it came out.
So that is my list of my favourite magical girl shows. I’d love to know yours.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
It is a fairly common moment in stories where a character will make a wish for strength or power or to undo something terrible that has happened or even wishes to save a friend. While the vast majority of these wishes will go unanswered leading to some kind of tragic moment the character must overcome through non-magical means, occasionally a character will be granted their wish. But does this lead to a satisfying story for the audience?
The answer to that really depends on how the wish is framed within the narrative and the results of the wish. For example, a story like Aladdin kind of requires a few wishes to be granted. Without the genie and magical wishes you kind of don’t have a story at all. Then again, it can also be used as the cheat card, particularly in Christmas movies.
The plot ties itself into ridiculous knots and then a character usually looks up at a star and makes a wish squeezing their hands together earnestly before a miracle happens and somehow everything works out okay. While this might make for a feel good scenario it also kind of makes all the effort or attempts by any of the characters to resolve the situation prior to the wish feel mostly futile.
Make a wish…
Today I want to look at some examples of anime that deal with wishes and the different ways they are used. Yes, this post was definitely inspired by the final episode of Juni Taisen and yes, there will be spoilers for the anime below so if you are concerned, thanks for reading this far and please check out some of my other posts.
I’m going to start with the easy one, xxxHolic. This one is easy because it plays on one of the most common tropes of being careful what you wish for and the idea that nothing comes for free. While this theme is heavily embedded in all of its stories, the super obvious one with the story of the Monkey’s Paw. Now you’ve probably heard this story before because it does the rounds as an urban myth and has been used in almost every collection of strange tales ever but essentially a character finds a tube containing a monkey’s paw and it gives them five wishes, one for each finger that of course break with an ominous snap after each wish.
Which would be all well and good except that the wish maker in this case, and in most cases with this style of story, makes wishes for selfish reasons and doesn’t really think through the consequences of their wishes. Ultimately their wishes lead to the death of another and finally they are killed.
Much like Aladdin, the story here wouldn’t exist without the wishes coming true, albeit in a horrible manner in this case. It isn’t a cheat to solve a plot problem, but rather it is the problem or the source of conflict that will ultimately drive the story. So while you might accuse this of being cliché, it fundamentally works as a narrative.
On the opposite side of this, we have a story like Ah! My Goddess that also starts from a wish, only in that case the wish is granted without tricks or traps. It still does have the pitfall of poor wording and not quite thinking through consequences even if ultimately things work out.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Keiichi is down on his luck and kind of a doormat but has a real love for working with mechanical objects. When left to look after the dorm one day he receives a phone call from a Goddess who claims she will grant his wish before she appears through the mirror in his room. After his initial skepticism is met with upbeat and positive answers, Keiichi makes a fairly rash wish that a goddess, like the one before him, would stay with him. And just like that heaven grants his wish and Belldandy, the Goddess, is now going to stay with him.
It isn’t all smooth sailing as Keiichi is thrown out of the dorm and they at first struggle to find a place to stay. Other goddesses and even a demon show up and at times really cause issues for Keiichi. At one point, due to a computer error in heaven, the wish is lost and Keiichi needs to use the exact wording to remake the contract with Belldandy but can’t remember what he said on the spur of the moment.
The point however is, that once again, the wish is what kicks the story into gear. There’s no other reason for a goddess to be bound on earth and living with this ordinary guy and so none of the story that follows could happen without the wish. What I do like about Ah! My Goddess is that even though Belldandy and the other goddesses do have some significant power, there are some incredible restrictions on the use of that power on earth. Many issues come up during the story and for the most part when they are mortal issues they are dealt with through mortal means with magical solutions being reserved for more magical problems.
So despite the wish itself not having strings attached or some moral message about not making wishes, this story looks at the aftermath and how just having a wish granted isn’t enough to solve all your problems as new problems will continue to arise and it is only by facing them one by one that progress can be made. The wish is again fundamental to the operation of the story and the themes being constructed.
But what both of these stories have in common is that they uses wishes as a catalyst for the story. What about anime where the wish comes later in the series and we have two very good examples of this in Madoka Magica and in Juni Taisen.
Starting with Madoka Magica, making a wish is what makes the contract with Kyubey to become a magical girl. If you don’t make a wish you can’t become a magical girl and Madoka, our title character, can’t decide on her wish. More importantly, the longer she delays making her wish, the more she learns about the consequences of wishes and of being a magical girl.
Sayaka, Madoka’s friend, jumps in early at making a wish and uses it to heal a friend who has been in hospital. She clearly has deeper feelings for her while he sees her as just a friend, but she uses her wish on him and becomes a magical girl. Because of the nature of her wish, Sayaka has incredible self-healing power but is otherwise fairly inexperienced as a magical girl.
Imagine her surprise then when the boy she literally gave her soul to bring happiness to ends up accepting a confession from another friend. Emotionally unbalanced, she swiftly descends and falls from being a magical girl to become a witch.
Much like xxxHolic, there’s a lot of warnings about being careful of wishing for things and realising that nothing is truly free. However, Madoka’s wish doesn’t come until the very end. When things are at their worst and we know Madoka can make the most powerful wish ever which in turn will lead her to become the worst witch ever, and you have to wonder how the writers are going to pull out of this loop they’ve written themselves into. And then Madoka literally breaks the world with her wish.
If this had been done poorly it would feel as much a cheat as a Christmas miracle but Madoka’s wish has some great writing backing it up. We already knew that Madoka’s potential was beyond any other magical girl and the audience knew she could make a truly amazing wish. We also knew the fundamentals of how the magical girl/witch system worked at that point and so Madoka wanting to save magical girls from becoming witches would of course require the entire system to be rewritten.
The wish also didn’t come without a price. Madoka saved the girls from becoming witches but didn’t save them from dying and she also didn’t save herself as she isn’t in the new world that has been created.
Foreshadowing coupled with a decent price levied for the wish that was made ensured this didn’t feel like a cheap plot device designed only to bring the show to an end on a high note. It felt like everything had led the audience and Madoka to that moment and it was the perfect solution to the complications presented by the story.
And that then brings us to Juni Taisen (big spoiler ahead if you haven’t watched and don’t know who won).
Now, there are all sorts of issues with Juni Taisen in the way it executed its story, but the story itself does work. 12 warriors come together every 12 years to fight a battle royal and the winner gets a wish. It is simple and could have worked quite spectacularly. While I’m not going to get into what I felt when wrong with Juni Taisen here (I’ll save that for my actual review) I do want to look at the wish aspect of the story.
Very much like Madoka, Rat can’t decide what to wish for. He’s been given (or earned through the battle) a wish and the audience is told he can literally wish for anything. The mechanics of how or why someone else can grant any wish (including apparently resurrection) is something the show isn’t interested in getting into so unlike Madoka we never really know why such a wish can be granted. And so Rat begins to go through 100 options for his wish and for each idea he comes up with he sees an obvious down side or consequence and quickly dismisses the idea.
It is kind of the opposite of all those other stories where characters make rash wishes without thinking through the consequences, and was almost novel enough as an idea to work. All these characters competing for a wish and the one who wins it doesn’t know what to do with it.
Ultimately, Rat’s decision didn’t sit well with a lot of viewers. He wished to forget. Forget the tournament and the deaths and the 100 paths he had to take to find victory. For some this wish seemed horrible given it essentially wasted an unlimited wish and for some viewers it seemed like it invalidated the deaths of the other warriors.
I actually really liked Rat’s wish as I kind of felt it fit the show thematically in that so much of everything was pointless and unexplained and none of it was going to bring happiness or contentment to a traumatized teen who had just experienced his own death 99 times. It was one of the few moments where I kind of felt a grudging respect for a choice the story had made.
However, like or not, does Rat’s wish work within the narrative?
I’d have to say it probably doesn’t work as well as a conclusion as Madoka’s wish did. With Madoka, we have spent a whole season with her as a character and seeing her learn about the consequences of making a wish and what it will cost and learning who she is as a person. With Rat we have two episodes really where we learn very little about him other than he has a general apathy toward life before he makes his wish. Also, while the wish at the end of the tournament is announced early on, the audience is never made aware of the mechanics of the wish or how it fits into the world being constructed.
So, yes Rat’s wish does end the story and the tournament in a way that we were told the tournament would end with a character getting a wish. But, it doesn’t leave the audience feeling satisfied with the overall story. The wish doesn’t address what the story was about but simply gives some closure to a character we’ve had insufficient screen time with to really care about whether they get closure. Of course, it probably isn’t the wish’s fault that the ending feels lacking and probably more a sign of deeper issues with the anime as a whole.
And this post got a lot longer than intended so I’m going to leave it there. Four examples of anime that all use wishes and for the most part integrate the wishes well into their overall narrative structure. What are some of your favourite examples of wishes in anime? Or do you find wishes a narrative cheat that you could do without? Let me know in the comments below.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
If you missed the first post on Magical Girls be sure to check it out and then let’s get into part 2.
If she’s a magical girl, what powers does she have?
Right so we’re back to magical girls and I wanted to look at the characters and the magic powers that crop up in these stories. While this is where many of these stories differentiate themselves, there are still a lot of common factors between shows.
Alas, I am only going to be looking at the main characters from a handful of anime. There is too much content to get into side characters and villains (though I may do a post on those guys at some point – it won’t be in this series).
So who are our main contenders? Serena (Sailor Moon – original anime series), Amu (Shugo Chara), and Madoka (Madoka Magica).
Serena – The Ultimate Magical Girl?
How do we describe her?
Wow. It’s a good thing she likes cats and rescued Luna or else she was kind doomed as a character. Even her friends regularly run her down but they all agree on a couple of things. Serena is stubborn (and while that is sometimes a negative a certain amount of stubbornness is needed to not just give up on things) and she’s also happy most of the time and loyal to her friends.
As a magical girl, Serena’s path is a long one.
Her initial transformation aside, she struggles in the early battles to hold her nerve and to use her powers effectively. She regularly needs a pep talk from one of the scouts of Tuxedo Mask to get her moving again and while the threat doesn’t feel very real at times she’d rather let someone else take care of it.
However, as the danger intensifies and as Serena ‘grows up’ she begins to embrace her roles as the Moon Princess. Admittedly, it’s midway through season 2 before you see her settle on this and even then she is plagued by the occasional doubt about whether she’d just like to be ordinary.
Serena’s love story is integral to the overall plot as there’s a whole lovers in former lives issue and Serena and Darien’s love regularly saves the plot from falling apart by generating a much needed power boost or saves one or the other from what should be death.
While Darien’s presence is very much a positive for Serena’s development, he himself gets very little development or chance to take the lead. It’s a magical girl show so show up, give your speech and then wait on the sidelines until she requires some moral support. I always felt a bit sorry for Darien.
As to the magic itself, Sailor Moon relies heavily on devices. Transformations can be undone by removing brooches and powers rendered useless by knocking wands out of hands. The girls themselves seemingly cannot activate their power without these device and accessories (which makes you wonder how any of the villains ever lost to them when there was such an easy path to victory).
The device aside, Sailor Moon is the champion of shouting out attack names and key phrases for transformation in English. I wonder if shouting it louder made your power more impressive?
Amu is straight away a different character from Serena. She is cool and admired for being cool and aloof. However, that’s all her outer character and one she has deliberately established. The audience is let on to her inner monologue and uncertainties and we know she’d love to ooh over the cute things and gush at the prince.
And unlike Serena, Amu isn’t inherently a magical girl. Nope. She did not get reborn after dying tragically in a past life. Nor was she chosen by destiny. Apparently being indecisive and wishing for a change in your life is enough because Amu created her own magic, even if she regularly regrets it during the first part of the series.
Amu’s indecisiveness is crazy. She doesn’t just manifest one alternate personality in the form of a guardian character but three (later four but you know). This leads to a whole range of different transformations, though Amulet Heart is her main go to.
Keep in mind, this isn’t like Sailor Moon evolving in Super Sailor Moon or then becoming the Princess. These are entirely separate identities with totally different powers (more or less the same results though). And then later, of course, we start combining these powers and then things just get silly.
Where Amu is very similar to Serena is the journey she goes through as a character. She matures and stops worrying about petty things quite so much and stops complaining about things not being fair. She learns to just deal with things as they are and take them as they come. She also eventually gets over her ‘Prince’ crush though Ikuto probably had something to do with that.
Seriously, who needs a Prince when you have a bad boy whose alternate self is a cat? And unlike Darien, Ikuto actually gets to play a more active role in the story. He stirs up the core group, acts as an antagonist, get’s close to Amu and then disappears leaving her to fret for his safety and try to save him. He (like Darien) also gets brainwashed and has to be saved but then hangs around for the final fight instead of ending up with amnesia in the hospital.
The magic here comes from their guardian spirits (which are like manifestations of their dreams). Problem is, these spirits live in eggs and they can get stolen, sealed shut, or broken. Way to shatter your dreams literally. It’s like someone gave you that thing at school where they make you care for an egg for a week, only in this case if you break your egg you will not only have no super powers but become an empty shell of a human being. Tragic.
Once transformed though, the characters generate weapons and magic appropriate to their character. When she’s the cheerleader, Amu uses a baton or pom-poms. When she’s the artist, she uses a paintbrush. As Su, she uses a whisk (so cute and yet so useless – except for remake, that’s a remarkably useful power for cleaning up supernatural messes).
I will point out that I spent a lot of time when I was younger trying to make a heart shape with my fingers like Amu and I am still convinced it is actually impossible to position your hands the way she does and end up with a clear heart. You can put your fingers together but it really doesn’t look particularly heart like.
Lastly, the girl who didn’t become a Magical Girl – Madoka.
Finally, we have Madoka. And I know, she isn’t a magical girl until the very end of the series. That’s why she’s included. We have the traditional magical girl (Serena), the slightly more modern and self-aware magical girl (Amu) and now we have the not a magical girl and hesitant to become one because it could cause you to die.
That’s not the only reason Madoka is interesting. She also has no love interest. She saves the romance angst for her best friends to deal with. All Madoka has to deal with is her rampant insecurity because she feels she has no special… oh wait. She is a modern version of Serena with the self-awareness of Amu. Now the pink pony-tails make sense.
Still, the magical girl transformation is definitely impressive – they do make you wait all season for it. And her power is pretty undeniable (she recreates the entire lore by which magic works). Similar to Amu, her power is based on an inner wish, but in this case manifests by making a contract with the dev…
Oh no, just Kyuubey. Close enough. Once a wish is made the magical girls get a soul gem that enables them to transform and then their power is kind of linked to their wish. Though watch out, if you get too far away from your soul gem, well you have no soul. This isn’t a good state to be in as it pretty much leaves you dying in a coma.
I said their power was kind of linked because it’s a little odd. Madoka though has a bow and arrow, because arrows are cool nowadays, but she has the overly frilly dress of someone who grew up on a rich diet of what a magical girl should look like. It’s almost on par with the parody outfit from Is This A Zombie?
Let’s be honest. None of these girls are going to hold their own in a straight up swordfight. Serena will trip, Amu will be sarcastic and Madoka will wring her hands together in distress as she tries to think of a way to help (though which side she would help is debatable). But what these girls do possess:
These characteristics are not bestowed on them by mystic eggs, lockets or creepy bunny things. These are traits they have developed through their lives and are traits that allow them to overcome the trials and hardships they face. And that’s the core of magical girl stories. These characters.
For just a little while you can believe that you don’t need to be smart or athletic or particularly talented at anything as long as you keep working hard and growing you will one day triumph.
And yeah I’ve missed a huge amount of points and ideas and haven’t even touched on the other cast members (friends and foes alike) but the post is already long enough so I’m calling it. Please feel free to add your points and argument below.
Those of us who have grown up on stories of pink and sparkling transforming girls kind of have a shared understanding of why magical girls are awesome. When we meet someone else who was watching Sailor Moon as a kid or teen we instantly geek out over which scout was our favourite and then we discuss the rest.
We know the darker magical girl shows that are starting to emerge: Madoka Magica and every following magical girl show.
We make our own lists of favourite magical girl shows and discuss the benefits of different costumes, attacks and hair styles. Honestly, it is really fun being in love with the whimsy of magical girl stories.
But why are magical girls so popular when essentially every one of these stories (whether it is trying to be cute, fun, funny, or deadly serious) is kind of identical at its core?
To really get into this genre of anime I’m going to break the post up into a few part
Firstly, what is the basic narrative structure of a magical girl story?
Secondly, who are the basic characters and what is with character transformations?
Thirdly, what about the magic itself?
A lot of these questions will be addressed in part 2 or part 3.
Keep in mind, everything here after is my own opinion and I am a crazy Sailor Moon fan so I doubt I’m going to be as critical of this genre as I would need to be to actually pull it apart.
1 – The Basic Narrative
I don’t know how many magical girl shows you have watched but with few exceptions they start the same way. My main examples are coming from Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura but I’m trying to keep the information generic.
Usually there is some kind of hook. A look back at some ancient catastrophe or a puzzling dream that is suggesting some disaster in the future. While this is usually great for grabbing your audience’s attention and gives a frame for the narrative as a whole, it serves a greater purpose.
Most of the first episode of these shows will feature very little actual magic and usually it isn’t until the end of the first episode that our magical girl will actually do anything magical so this is kind of the only chance to show off something supernatural and cool in the first half of the episode. It also gives a more serious tone to what might otherwise seem like a fairly frivolous show.
After hooking our attention we then meet our protagonist usually waking up and frequently late for school because they are inevitably still a student and somewhat of a flake – okay that is less true in the last fifteen years than it was in the 90’s but clichés exist for a reason.
Regardless, we meet our very ordinary school girl doing very ordinary things. Usually there is a dressing sequence (putting on a school uniform, adjusting their hair, putting on their knee pads – nope that one was just Sakura because she fell victim to the roller blading craze poor dear).
Then we go to school. This is where the shows start branching out but there are a few commonalities.
The basics of the first episode include introducing the ‘normal’ friends who may or may not ever be involved in the magical side of the story. We learn what our protagonists are good at and what their insecurities are (in a highly manufactured fashion – Serena tossing her exam paper over her shoulder and hitting Darien highlighting both her lack of school ability and social skills in one quick scene).
We learn that deep down inside this girl is a good person despite all of their faults and absolute ordinariness. These are all very important things to know if the story is going to hold together.
Because then things change.
If we didn’t spend all of this time establishing a base line for our character would we know or care about how magic changed their life and the strain it put on their ordinary existence? And how could we know about their incredible development as a character unless we had a starting point?
The catalyst for change can be more or less anything (as proven in the parody Cute High Earth Defence when it is a pink wombat from space that gives the boys their magic powers). Cards, eggs, rings, brooches, wands, and more or less anything else you can imagine (that would make for good product placement and something pretty you can sell people – oh that’s just me being cynical, never mind).
Sometimes they tie it up with destiny (you were reborn or chosen) but other times it is convenience of circumstance. You’re here, you can activate this, go. Almost always this coincides with a villain attacking for reasons that will later be endlessly explained – don’t worry. It might also be worth noting the number of talking animal and mascot characters that are involved in this catalyst for change.
Normally our protagonists then go through a few different emotions (usually in very rapid succession). Denial, incredulity, acceptance. Must admit, our modern magical girls have learned from their predecessors. They are less likely to take the talking cat at face value because they know that the whole magical girl thing isn’t all its cracked up to be. Plus, those outfits are pretty embarrassing.
There’s usually a fight sequence of some sort and then we can get onto the next episode. It’s interesting how most magical girl shows fall into a bit of a rhythm at first. Normal day, monster appears, fight it, defeat it, back to normal day.
During this time, we see our characters grown and develop and learn about their powers, new characters and rules are introduced and all of the logic behind the show is firmly established and they better not break their own rules later.
What also happens in most of these shows is the lore is being established. Who are the good guys and why do they fight? Who are the villains and why are they attacking? And the whole sequence may seem repetitive but it is gradually ramping up to a point where it can get away from character and world building and into the story itself without having to stop for explainers (the final pivotal reveals are of course held off for later – like how the Moon Kingdom was actually destroyed got its own episode right before the final battle sequence).
At some point, even the frilliest of magical girl shows will start to take a turn for the darker side. Maybe that villain is unkillable, maybe someone got hurt, maybe the protagonist loses their confidence or their resolve, or maybe things just got a lot more dangerous, but for shows that generally begin all cuteness and light they inevitably turn dark.
This gives the audience another chance to rally behind our heroes as they prepare for a final battle where the stakes have been made very real. The result of the final battle may be a foregone conclusion but you still sit on a knife’s edge hoping your favourite characters make it through unscathed (though by season 3 of Sailor Moon the scouts death’s have ceased to have a whole lot of impact).
And there we have a magical girl narrative. With that basic structure you could even argue that Soul Eater (with it’s heavy focus on Maka) is actually more akin to a magical girl story than an action or supernatural story. Though, Maka at least fights with more than pretty coloured lights and sparkles but we’ll save that for our discussion on characters and magic.
So, what did I miss? What are your thoughts on magical girls in anime?
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
There are a lot of magical girl anime out there and some amazing protagonists that get shimmering transformations and attack sequences. However in this post I want to look at some of the supporting characters who may or may not also be magical girls but are certainly not granted main-character plot immunity. These are memorable characters who really help elevate the story and potentially the actual protagonist to heights they may not have reached had this character not been around.
I did limit myself to one supporting character per show so while I could potentially just have found five awesome supporting characters from Sailor Moon, I have limited myself to just the one.
Who are my top 5 amazing supporting characters from magical girl anime?
With all that said though, I would absolutely love to hear your favourite supporting characters from magical girl anime so be sure to leave a comment below.
Number 5: Tama
Tama is the LRIG owned by main character Ruuko in Selector Infected Wixoss. Unlike other LRIG’s, Tama seems pretty innocent and actually fairly harmless however her infant like demeaner changes dramatically when put into a fight. Throughout the various Wixoss stories, Tama has continued to appear and her story actually ends up overtaking that of most of the protagonists and magical girls. There’s a supporting character that knew she was destined for stardom.
Number 4: Eru and Iru
While not a single character per se it would be hard to split the angel and devil pair from Shugo Chara. The two characters are born from Utau and assist the singer in her performances providing either healing or enslavement as required. But when left to their own devices, the two have a bit of a love-hate relationship and when you throw in that the devil is manipulative and playful while the angel is directionally challenged and a little on the slow side and you have two show stealing supporting characters.
Whether you are watching the original series or Clear Card, it would be impossible to list great supporting characters in magical girl series without touching on Tomoyo from Card Captor Sakura. The camera wielding best friend to the protagonist is there through thick and thin and always has just the outfit for the occasion.
While not totally pure and innocent as she regularly pushes Sakura out of her comfort zone for her own entertainment, her loyalty is without question and ultimately a lot of the plot of the original series probably couldn’t have happened without Tomoyo’s convenient assistance. Truly a show stealing friend.
Number 2: Junko Kaname
While most anime parents will fall into the category of nominee for worst parent ever, occasionally we get these brilliant parents who seem actually aware of their children, provide largely decent guidance, and just have a genuinely good relationship with their kids.
Madoka Magica provided not only a great mother but a great supporting character in the form of Junko Kaname, the over-worked mother who still has time to offer love advice, help pick out hair ribbons, and ultimately realises her daughter is in over her head but takes the time to listen. While so many magical girls either don’t have mothers or their mothers remain oblivious to their plight, Madoka provided a very different kind of family dynamic and was a much stronger anime because of it.
Number 1: Molly/Naru
While Sailor Moon Crystal didn’t do Molly any favours, the original Sailor Moon series saw Molly playing victim of the week more often than not. On first watch it is hard to take the character seriously as she seems to exist just to fuel our protagonist’s shopping addiction and obsession with falling in love. However she’s got a lot more going for her and really she’s pretty awesome.
Throughout the first season she has her own heart-breaking romance where she is anything but a damsel in distress and those events help to make her a little more mature and insightful even if she is still mostly running around like a ditz. In times of crisis, expect Molly to show up with just the right words of encouragement to get our hero into her tiara and out onto the battlefield.
And that is my list of 5 Amazing Supporting Characters in a Magical Girl Series but feel free to add your own choices into the comments below.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Haven’t you ever had that moment watching an anime when a character does something unbelievably cool or powerful and you think, just for a moment, how awesome it would be if you could do that? Because its just an amazing anime power and one that looks fantastic and possibly story destroying.
That moment is usually followed by the next moment of realising how unbelievably awful that character’s life would really be when you look at the physical or mental toll that the cool power takes on them or the price they have to pay in order to use it.
This post takes a look at anime powers that come with a price. We’re moving away from superheroes who are born with power or gain it through some cosmic accident and looking specifically at those who choose power and how they pay for that choice. And oh, do their narratives make them pay. And pay. And pay.
Amazing Anime Powers Ahead
Be aware: Spoilers ahead.
The obvious example of an anime that puts the price of power as a central theme would be Madoka Magica.
Keep in mind that in the anime series, Madoka is not a magical girl for the vast majority of the run time. She dreams of being a magical girl, accompanies Mami Tomoe on her jobs (with tragic results), works to save Kyubey from Homura Akemi but it isn’t until the very end that she makes her wish. And why put in hold for so long?
A magical, white bunny creature that can call you telepathically just promised you that it could grant you any wish you liked and that you would become a magical girl in the process so that you could fight evil witches. Sounds like a great deal; like something straight out of a story book.
But Madoka is being warned by Homura not to make a wish. She directly witnesses the end of another magical girl. She also has to watch as her friend, Sayaka Miki, loses her sense of self and purpose after having her own wish granted. To put it simply, the price of gaining power in Madoka Magica is not to be taken lightly.
When the wish is finally made, it is a wish on such a grandiose scale no one could have seen it coming and it changes everything. Madoka sacrificed herself and her future, and did not save Sayaka Miki (as we see her apologising to her after the wish was made) to prevent others from being forced to make such choices in the future.
Madoka is absolutely a cautionary story about relying on wishes to solve your problems. Moreover, it clearly explores that while you will get what you wished for, the price the girls pay goes on long after the effect of their original wish. In Sayaka’s case, the boy she healed fell in love with another.
Other characters felt isolated, cast out, lost, alone, burdened by knowledge and power. Ultimately none of the magical girls we see in Madoka would believe that the power was worth the cost, save Madoka, whose wish removes her from our reality entirely.
So you’d have to ask yourself whether you ever wanted something badly enough that you would risk a Madoka Magica style wish?
Pandora Hearts sees Oz being forced to make a contract with Alice after being cast into the Abyss in order to escapes. Everything that follows after would indicate that being a contractor in this world is very much not worth it. Whether it is the incredibly short life expectancy, the constant attacks, or just the fact that once you die you are headed straight back to the place he was trying to escape all make it seem like it wasn’t worth it. Throw in that the people that banished Oz in the first place are still out for his destruction and really the power Alice grants him is hardly going to be enough.
While the various contractors we meet in the series certainly have significant power, their lives and ends are pretty messy and within the anime almost none of them accomplish anything they truly wished for. The bleak world they live in and the dangers they seem to face definitely seem like a steep price for borrowed and temporary power.
Unfortunately, the anime remains incomplete leaving those of us who never went and read the source, left to speculate as to whether Oz’s price was ultimately worth it. What I know is that none of the contractor’s here really seem happy. I also can’t see how they could possibly end up winning in the scenario set up. It really looks like a system that provides very temporary victory but then extracts a significantly higher price.
So, when faced with certain death in an awful place, would you make the deal even though your life will still end sooner rather than later and you’d be unleashing a creature of the Abyss on earth?
Darker Than Black
Lastly I want to look at Darker Than Black, although technically the contractors in that series didn’t actually choose to become contractors. While there are some very cool powers in this show, the price tags attached are varied and strange and you have to wonder who or what decided on the method of payment, though a number of characters in the show also muse on this as many times the price seems directly linked to some event in the contractor’s life.
November 11’s power to freeze liquids is amazing and use well in combination with April’s power. However, his need to smoke after using his power, when he clearly finds the habit disgusting, just seems a little cruel.
Then again, Paul’s price of eating a flower is just plain weird no matter how you look at it. Jean’s obsession with laying out a pattern of stones seems tedious. And Amber, well her price is deadly if she over uses her power.
Obviously there are plenty of other characters who have paid dearly for their powers. Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist lost an arm, a leg, his brother’s body, and any hope of resurrecting his mother. Kind of a steep price for a kid who just wanted to see his mum. And of course, Ciel, in Black Butler making a literal deal with a demon. And the list goes on and on.
Maybe we should also keep in mind how unhappy most of these characters end up being and how few achieve their goals – though I guess Ed in Fullmetal did eventually succeed (he might be the exception to the standard here).
So all of this leads me to the question of what power or wish would you want and what would you be willing to pay for it? Or, which anime character do you think paid the worst price for their power?
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
There’s been a lot written and said about Madoka Magica (or Puella Magi Madoka Magica) since it came out in 2011. For the most part people have viewed this series as a critique of magical girl series in general or at the very least a subversive entry in the genre of magical girls and certainly the show can be viewed in this manner.
Since it came out there have been countless other ‘dark’ magical girl stories and almost universally people have either compared them unfavourably to Madoka Magica or just not felt the same kind of emotional punch that Madoka delivered. While it isn’t really fair to dislike a series like Magical Girl Raising Project because it isn’t Madoka, the comparison from the start was pretty much set in stone and unfortunately the opening episodes of that series didn’t have anywhere near the visual or emotional impact needed to sway an already fairly jaded audience.
From reading the reviews, those who stuck with it mostly felt it was a rewarding watch, but many, including myself, abandoned ship early on.
The recent Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka also ended up compared, usually unfavourably, with dark magical girl stories that came before it, though at least it had some vague military trappings to distinguish itself and at times managed to focus on the impact of trauma on a character (though ultimately left the audience dissatisfied).
What I find interesting about Madoka, more so than any comparison we might make to shows that have come out after it, is that it is consistently called a magical girl show. What actually sets Madoka Magica apart from every other magical girl show that I’ve watched and every satire of the genre, is that Madoka isn’t a magical girl. This is an origin story for a legend that will be told by magical girls in the world that is created in the final episode of Madoka, but it isn’t a story about a magical girl.
If we make the obvious comparison to Sailor Moon we can immediately see the difference. Episode 1 of both shows starts with a flashback or dream sequence to some major conflict and then our protagonist wakes up in the very mundane and ordinary world and goes about their morning business.
These openings are almost perfectly synchronised really and these two aren’t the only ones. Cardcaptor has pretty much the same opening sequence as do dozens of other shows in this genre. Okay, so I’ve just proved Madoka is following along in the path of a standard magical girl show. Where does it change?
By the end of episode 1, Serena has met Luna, been given her brooch, transformed into Sailor Moon and defeated the first villain (with some help and support from Tuxedo Mask). Sakura has released the Clow cards and partnered up with Kuro to hunt them down in Card Captors. If we look at Shugo Chara, Amu has hatched her first egg and had her first character change. In all of these shows, by the end of episode 1 we know our protagonist is special and can use special powers.
So episode 1 of Madoka?
Yes, there are magical girls and Kyuubey has appeared in all his evil cuteness. Madoka has not become a magical girl. Neither has Saya at that point. Madoka remains an observer of the magic in the world.
And this remains true for Madoka until the very end of the series. The story explores the agony of whether or not to take that final step from the ‘safe’ and normal world into the world of magical girls where you can have a wish granted but the cost it comes with is enormous (and mostly not spelled out in the contract).
To go back to Sailor Moon, this would be like having the story told from the perspective of Molly. She watched her friends transform, doesn’t know the whole story but knows something is going on, wants to help but ends up fretting and hoping from the sidelines. That’s Madoka’s role through the vast majority of the story. The only difference between Madoka and Molly is that Madoka has the chance to change her circumstances whereas Molly is just destined to be a side character.
This is where Madoka actually does become a critique of the magical girl genre. In most of these stories we are seeing it from the insiders point of view. And more importantly, the initial transformation from ordinary to magical is over in an instant. One episode and done. While the character might later have doubts or second guess themselves, they are already transformed and have power so to not use it would be a tragedy. Their path is set and more or less locked in stone and any protests they may verbally make or threats to quit are more or less futile and the audience knows that.
A truly subversive magical girl series might have a member of the team actually quit for real and not have some epiphany and come back. That would actually really mess with the audience expectations to have them genuinely sit on the sidelines and let the tragedy unfold when they have the power to stop it and they choose not to act.
Madoka shows us the story almost entirely from the outsiders point of view. Madoka is the outsider and while initially Saya is also an outsider, Saya jumps in to the world of magical girls and becomes yet another case study for Madoka in the tragedy that is unfolding (and one day I will focus on Saya as the definition of a tragic character but that isn’t the point of this post).
This extended belaboring of the ‘choice’ magical girls face finally makes audiences face all those characters saving the world at the risk of life and limb and makes the audience really understand what is sitting beneath all the pretty costumes and love hearts. Madoka isn’t about tearing down the magical girl genre, it is about rethinking the reality faced by the characters and putting a new voice into the forefront of people’s minds.
That Madoka will eventually also choose to step into the world of the magical girls, knowing exactly what her decision will lead to and finding a way to still use that in her favour is a remarkable way to end the show because it combines her transformation, final battle, and transition into legend all into one sequence.
Madoka doesn’t become a magical girl and then fight to save the day. She becomes a magical girl and uses that to save those she has come to treasure, creating an entirely new reality where she exists only as a dream or memory in the lives of those she touched. We never get to see Madoka in her own reality as a magical girl because she never exists as one in the time sequence we follow. We only see her as a magical girl in flashbacks to other realities and in dreams.
For me, Madoka Magica will always be kind of special. There’s certainly issues with the narrative in places and some of the characters aren’t as well developed as you would like, but it has done its job at reframing what magical girls are and it has done it in a way that doesn’t take away from the tiara wearing girls before it.
Ultimately this is why the so called imitators that have come after have fallen short. And I know some of them aren’t actually trying to imitate Madoka, but they feel like the writer just grabbed the idea of dark magical girl story because Madoka did well without understanding that it wasn’t the shock deaths and darkness that held the story up.
What holds Madoka up is an understanding of what had been missing from all those other magical girl stories and Madoka neatly filled in that gap. This is the origin of a magical girl. This is the agony they face as they leave behind what they know and go to face a monstrous danger. It is also the end of a magical girl as she gives her life and entire being to save the world (with no do-over or last minute reprieve or rebirth).
It is fairly accepted these days that games inspire movies, TV shows, and anime and a lot of these aren’t great. It also is fairly well accepted that popular shows and franchises might get a game spin-off but usually these are pretty much pandering to fans of the source and while some of these games are actually quite fun they aren’t exactly wowing hard core gamers. That said, there are some anime I watch and I just think how much fun it would be to play a game version of them. Now, some of them probably already have a game out but this is my list of anime that I thought have concepts that would make for an excellent gaming experience while watching.
I’d love to know which anime you think you’d enjoy as a game so be sure to leave me a comment below.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that I’ve put Soul Eater on this list. I mean, when you think about it, the story is made for being an RPG. Enrol at DWMA and design your meister/weapon combo. Complete missions to rise up the ranks and get good grades and help defend the school from threats. It would be an awesome RPG. Add in some factions and secret organisations within the school and you’ve got the makings of a really awesome game.
Now there are already Soul Eater games out there by the looks, but they seem mostly like battle focused games rather than an RPG experience. Maybe I’m wrong and one exists, but if it does, I’d love to know because I would definitely play it.
As much as I find the narrative in the anime quite messy and unfocused, that would actually kind of work in an RPG. I don’t know about you, but when I play Skyrim I pretty much avoid anything that is a main mission quest while I meander about completing as many side quests and plots as I can. Mostly because at some point in an RPG, if you follow the main storyline you usually get to a point where you can’t go back to some of the other missions. So I like to get as many of those done before advancing the plot as I can. In Bungo Stray Dogs case, this means you can get distracted by as many petty investigations or conflicts with other organisations as you like and if you forget what the main mission was, that’s okay, I’m pretty sure no-one who only watches the anime knows what the end goal is anyway.
Now this one does have a game as well, but I haven’t really looked into it. Still, there’s certainly a lot about this anime that would work well in a game.
Create a character and choose to take Kyuubey’s deal. Learn what kind of a magical girl you became based on the wish you chose and the character you designed and then fight off witches, deal with other magical girls, and decide what to do about Kyuubey. This could be an awesome gaming experience. Not to mention the visuals. Madoka Magica aesthetics in a game world would be utterly amazing.
Now there are plenty of Madoka games out there but most of them seem intent on supporting the narrative in the anime rather than being their own kind of gaming experience. Let’s just take the concept and create an original RPG experience around it and then we would have a truly amazing game to play.
A little less fighting and a lot more exploration and survival, Made in Abyss would be a truly amazing and horrific gaming experience. How far into the Abyss do you dare explore. How long before you die? I could see this one being comparable to Dark Souls in terms of being unforgiving to those who travel in unwary and die and yet it would be such a glorious experience. Not to mention, despite having a similar difficulty to Dark Souls, visually this one would be bright and cute in direct contrast to the horror of the situation. Fantastic.
Create your own orphan character being trained to explore the abyss and then after the briefest of tutorials, let’s just throw them down the hole and see how far they can get. I would absolutely love to play this though I suspect rage quitting would definitely become a thing.
It is probably an obvious choice for me, and there is a game of it already, but I’d love to see this in a blockbuster game release. Massive world to explore, Contractors and factions to join, work with, bring down, mysteries to uncover, it could just be such an immersive gaming experience. I could certainly see us travelling about Carmen Sandiego style, stealthily infiltrating buildings and ferreting out intelligence, and when things go sideways unleashing amazing attack and fighting for survival.
It would be such a great game and because of the range of Contractor abilities it would have almost limitless replay value as you try with different characters and abilities to complete missions. I know I’d have a lot of fun with it and I’m pretty sure it could have wide appeal.
So those are my picks for anime I’d love to see made into games, or made into a specific game that I’d like to play. What are some of your choices for anime that would make great RPGs?
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
You know, plenty of people want to change the world. Most of us won’t ever be given the chance to. But what if one day a small, white, bunny like creature appeared and told you that you could make a wish, and because of your great potential you could wish for almost anything you wanted and it would come true?
Would you end up like the Rat from Juni Taisen who simply wishes to forget everything that has happened so that he could find some peace? Or would you manage to find a wish worth changing everything for?
This is the question Madoka is confronted with early on in Madoka Magica and it isn’t really surprising that it takes her the full series to finally come to a resolution. Madoka is living an ordinary life. She is an ordinary girl. This wasn’t a case of her being reborn in human form or born into a family of magician or anything along those lines. Madoka is painfully ordinary and she is well aware of the fact.
That said, her family interactions are adorable. She has a career driven mother who still tries to find time to bond with her daughter and to support her through the awkward transition into adulthood sharing small pearls of wisdom while preparing for a day of work/school. The father prepares meals and takes care of the younger brother and again provides that quiet background support within the story. Madoka’s home life is well established and her family feels warm and caring, though also busy with their own concerns. I would have liked to have seen more of hose Madoka’s choices impacted upon her family but realistically in the episode count they had they did a great job with this.
Madoka also has well established friendships with Sayaka Miki and Hitomi. These three are very well grounded and while Hitomi gets sidelined a little from the main action, serving more as a catalyst for Sayaka’s disintegrating mental state, early on it is fun spending time with these characters as they head to school and the like.
So from this very ordinary beginning, Madoka is asked to consider making a wish that might very well change the world. It isn’t that she doesn’t want to become a magical girl. It is clear early on she is interested as even the prospect of it has her daydreaming and drawing potential costume designs while at school. She also jumps at the chance to observe Mami in action so that she knows more about what a magical girl is.
The problem Madoka faces is she doesn’t want to waste her one and only wish and yet she doesn’t want anything badly enough to wish for it. Her life is settled and happy. Good family and friends. It makes sense that while she has things she’d like, none of them seem like something that are worth using such a wish for.
Of course, this is where things get ugly, because being a magical girl isn’t all it is cracked up to be and as Madoka witnesses the tragedies of the other magical girls and ultimately the threat to her family and friends from a witch that is really too powerful to be fought, Madoka finally does find her wish.
For a character who is fairly unassuming and comes from such an ordinary background, Madoka really does think this one through and while there are consequences and implications she couldn’t possibly have imagined, her wish really did change the world.
Madoka is a great character. She truly transforms in response to the circumstances around her and ultimately manages to figure out what it is she wants and uses her one and only wish to ensure it happens. Watching the journey as she tries to figure out what is really worth wishing for is truly a rewarding experience and one I absolutely loved.
So Lyn Sheridan kicked off this tag and it seems like it could be great fun. You know, other than the fact that I get boat and every-other-mode-of-transport sick I think being a pirate could be great fun. Is there a job for pirates who walk? Anyway, huge thank-you for the tag and let’s see who I’m including in my crew.
Display the My Pirate Crew logo and add ‘My Pirate Crew’ as a tag.
Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
Link back to the original post here (so I can compare your crews to mine).
Select seven anime characters and give them a position on the crew. These are the positions you can to fill. Warrior, sniper, chef, doctor, scientist, navigator, strategist, mechanic, entertainer.
Nominate 5-10 bloggers.
Set sail and rule the seas!
Let’s start out with a navigator because I’m going to get hopelessly lost. This may be a weird choice but I’m picking Homura from Madoka Magica. I’m not entirely certain about her map reading ability or even navigation but that’s kind of pointless. She can just go back and fix it if we make a mistake so I’m thinking this is the perfect choice for a navigator.
Next, we’re going to need a chef because food is really important to maintaining morale, and you know, just because food is really good. I’m actually cheating here and I’m going to bring all four of the guys from Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori because food, dessert, tea and coffee are all super important.
The mechanic is perhaps the easiest position to fill. Winry from Full Metal Alchemist. Seriously, why wouldn’t you pick her? If Kaylee from Firefly were an anime character I’d have picked her but she’s about the only person I’d pick over Winry.
Right, so warrior, because I probably need someone who can fight in this crew if I’m actually putting together a pirate crew. There are many incredibly strong fighters in anime but then I had to think about who I’d actually like to spend time with in close quarters and I ended up deciding Hei from Darker Than Black. He doesn’t talk all that much but he’s pretty proficient and I’m certain that electricity and water couldn’t possibly be a terrible mix.
Strategist is again and easy one to pick. Admittedly, she didn’t do so well out of her strategist in Katanagatari but things worked out for everyone else so I’m definitely picking the self-proclaimed strategist Togame. While I’m not entirely sure that her motives and mine will align, I’m certain that she’ll lead us to some interesting pursuits.
For the doctor, much like my navigator, I’m not so worried about them getting it right. I’m picking Orihime from Bleach and she can just reject the damage and reverse it back to before it was. It’s a neat trick and works on all injuries. Not so sure whether its effective on things like catching a cold but I’m thinking given she’ll bring you back from being pretty much dead she’s definitely worth having around.
Finally, entertainer, because everyone needs entertainment. I’m definitely hiring the duo of Yuri and Victor from Yuri on Ice (and please don’t point out the lack of reality of having an ice-skating rink on a pirate boat). You know what, we’re going there and if worst comes to worst they can just get drunk and have a dance off.
And that would be my highly dysfunctional crew. I’m sure we’d have fun. Or sink. Either way.
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