From Puella Magi Madoka Magica to Sailor Moon, which Magical Girl Anime is the best? Let’s explore the history of the Magical Girl Anime and why it is some of the most compelling and popular shows in Japan and internationally. The Magical Girl Anime is a subgenre of Japanese fantasy media where a girl or group of girls have magical powers that they can access through transforming into an alter-ego.
Himitsu no Akko-chan was the first of its kind in the 1960s but the idea of the ‘transforming heroin’ didn’t come about until the popularity of Sailor Moon in the 1990s which brought a whole new wave of shows just like it.
By the 2000s late-night anime became popular resulting in shows like Pulla Magi Madoka Magica exploring more mature themes and being marketed toward an older male audience. Despite this, the core themes of the Magical Girl genre remain intact exploring the topics of youth, feminity, transformation, romance, friendship, and heroine elements.
Shows inspired by this style include Totaly Spies and Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir from France, Winx and W.I.T.C.H from Italy, Stephen Universe, Star vs. The Forces of Evil, and She-Ra and the Princess of Power from the United States. These shows are heavily influenced by the popularity of Sailor Moon internationally while the Pixar film Turning Red also includes the same themes and even has similar artwork inspired by the worldwide phenomenon.
These shows have been instrumental in allowing young girls to figure out who they are and see positive representations of friendship groups. This has led many to believe that female empowerment has always been at the center of these shows. Young girls and women who grew up watching the Magical Girl Anime hold these shows and characters close to their hearts, seeing themselves in these young women, who are often created by women.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Also known as Madoka Magica the show debuted in 2011 and deals with mature issues as it is a late-night anime. The story centers around a group of middle school girls who become magical and fight their enemies known as ‘witches’. The show was only around for 1 season but its legacy lives on in Manga, video games, and movies.
Madoka Kaname, who is the protagonist of the show, along with her best friend Sayaka Miki meets a small cat-like creature named Kyubey. Unlike other Magical Girl shows, they are offered the chance to gain magical powers via a wish and with those powers must fight witches. They are also joined by Homura Akemi, Mami Tomoe, and Kyoko Sakura.