Magical Girls belong to a sub-genre of Japanese fantasy. Magical girl stories feature young girls with superhuman abilities, forced to fight evil and to protect the Earth.History
A important early Magical Girl show was Majokko Meg Chan in 1974. This was the first show to be marketed to boys as well as girls, and featured a number of developments — it was the first Magical Girl show to...
•have a Tomboyish heroine — all magical girls prior to this had been sweet feminine girls
•feature a rival to the main character (Non, Meg's rival and the local Magical Girl).
•include a really evil character. Prior to this, there was a perception that young girls couldn't handle such things.
•touch on more serious social issues.
•have the heroine not only lose fights, but having to face serious consequences (deaths, injuries, humiliations, etc.)
Originally, all Magical Girl shows were produced by Toei Animation, so "Magical Girl" wasn't so much a genre as a Series Franchise. This lasted until Ashi Production's Magical Princess Minky Momo hit the airwaves in 1982 (also notable for being the first such show to feature talking animal sidekicks), followed by Studio Pierrot's Creamy Mami in 1983 (the first Magic Idol Singer show). A one-shot OVA produced in 1987 featured a Bat Family Crossover between Studio Pierrot's four 80s Magical Girl shows (Creamy Mami; Persia, the Magic Fairy; Magical Star Magical Emi and Magical Idol Pastel Yumi) - this was the first instance of a magical girl team.
The Magical Girl Warrior subgenre, despite being the most well-known style of Magical Girl show in the west, didn't hit until Sailor Moon in 1992 (unless you count Cutey Honey, which wasn't aimed at girls but had a lot of influence on it, or Devil Hunter Yohko, which wasn't aimed at girls either). This was a essentially a combination of the earlier style shows with the Super Hero genre, particularly the Super Sentai formula. Sailor Moon was a huge hit, and naturally other shows were made in the same style, and some were even more divergent from the old-style shows. Many fans felt that shows such as Magic Knight Rayearth were still Magical Girl shows, despite all the dissimilarities from the previous generation (others disagree, and feel that Rayearth is Shoujo RPG World Fantasy instead).
The wave of shows made in Sailor Moon's wake eventually subsided, but the genre is far from dead. Contemporary examples include Ojamajo Doremi, Pretty Cure (aimed at both young girls and adult males), and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (more of an action series with magical girls). In 2011 Puella Magi Madoka Magica was released, considered by many to be the genre's Horrific and Gruesome spin on it.Common Themes
Magical girls generally obtain their powers from some sort of enchanted object: such as a pendant, a wand, a compact, or a ribbon. By concentrating on this object, and in some cases by speaking a special phrase or command, a girl undergoes an intricate transformation sequence and changes to her fully powered form. A major theme of magical girl stories involves learning to harness these powers and develop them fully. Teams of magical girls often learn to combine their powers to perform massive, super-charged attacks. Powers or no powers, though, magical girls rarely suffer defeat even in normal form, as they tend to learn how to cope with opponents in their powerless form, or they might have learned some ordinary acrobatics, martial arts, or other offensive or defensive actions to supplement their supernatural talents, although they do need to use their power against whatever villains they have to fight.
Magical girls do not operate alone in their adventures. They occasionally receive the help of mysterious, magical boys. These boys sometimes disdain their female counterparts, but at other times they show romantic interest in one of the girls, or vice versa. Another common theme involves some sort of talking-animal sidekick with magical powers of its own. These pets rarely participate in combat; instead, they offer advice and help train the girls in the use of their abilities.
Magical girls' power potential is generally inestimable, which also makes their abilities vaguely defined. While their powers evidently have a source behind them, the extent and exact nature of those powers usually remains unknown or unclear. However, because the function of magical girls is generally to unleash and harness such mystical powers, and their ability to summon powers depends on their mind state, which, in turn, depends on various emotional factors such as combat awareness, sense of duty, realizing what they must protect and the fact that they are the ones to protect, and so forth. Thus a magical girl may summon extraordinary new magical powers—powers previously unavailable to her—in the last moments of an epic battle. Such powers can serve as a way to resolve the major conflict in a climactic fashion. To some extent, this seems to differ from shōnen in that shōnen tends to define a hero's powers specifically and to indicate what those powers can achieve (in most cases said powers increase as time goes by, usually by extensive training), whereas magical girl series tend to leave these factors ambiguous, and instead allow her powers to be more free-flowing and open to change based on the situation. However, since magical girls tend to harness their power using their mind and might even fuel their power with their mindful indomitability, the extra powers can generally be attributed to a power source from their mind or the power sources' response to their mind. Unlike shōnen characters, who tend to have an affection in adventuring and heroism, magical girls are generally peaceful and they tend to prefer the normal way of life, so they tend to develop combat awareness along the way and experience an emotional upheaval during an epic battle, resulting in a dramatic power increase that might be repeatable only when the situation calls for it.
Magical girls spend much of their time trying to keep their powers and their normal identities secret. The reasons for this vary: they may wish to avoid capture by the enemy, they may simply feel embarrassed, and sometimes they have even received severe warnings not to let their friends and family know about their secret powers. However, despite their best attempts to keep their normal and supernatural lives separate, strange events tend to occur to magical girls in normal life with alarming regularity, forcing them to transform and fight.
Magical girl stories tend to be emotion-oriented, upbeat and cheerful. Magical girls often represent that special time in a young, Japanese girl's life where she is free from adult responsibility and submission. The characters fight for idealistic causes such as love, peace, hope, and beauty—rarely for revenge. By forming teams, the heroines learn the values of friendship and co-operation. Even the magical girls' enemies leave them alone most of the time; the girls need to pursue the enemies and to attempt to thwart their plans. The genre can be intriguing due to the contrasts and conflicts the magical girls represent, caught up as they are between the childish and the mature, or between helplessness and power.