Magical girls anime or Mahou Shoujo, one of the most popular anime genres in the world, if not THE most popular one. I studied it, write thousands of words about Mahou shoujo productions, watched most of available ones and still love it with all my heart, so I came with this small idea, to present some of the most important, definitive for the genre anime. It wasn’t easy task to do as it’s one of the biggest genres in Japan with huge fandom and for years now there’s at least couple of magical girls anime EACH season. Please note that this article WILL contain some mild spoilers as it’s unavoidable for the purpose of this text. But nothing important, just the important knowledge, unless of course, I state differently in the reviews below. This article, personally, means a lot to me and I’m putting all my heart in these words, no matter how many thousands anime I’ve seen over these years of watching, I would never be here if it wasn’t for mahou shoujo anime, my precious and important part of my life and being otaku. These are 7 most important magical girls anime for the genre itself and of all time. Shows that had the biggest influence for the genre, writing and on me. Few of these productions literally saved this type of anime. Enjoy it with love and passion. As I do.
I’m going to open this article with the most important mahou shoujo of all time, this is not an opinion this time, this is the mother of it all, the very first magical girl of all time. I binge watched this 1966 show last November, it took me 45 full hours of watching 109 episodes of this gem. Practically non stop and it’s my personal record of eps watched in a row. The review below is an edited and smoothed version of my original review as it actually proves the point and ideally fits this article as it is.
That’s pretty tough piece to review, not only bacause of it’s age, but as well it’s the very first mahou shoujo anime out there. Mother to the whole genre. And it’s full of it’s flaws and downs. It’s huge part of the history.
The story is very generic, from the beginning till the very end. Everything’s about Sally, the witch girl out of space that end up on earth with people of the same age and mentality as her. After some time she decides to stay and pretend that she’s human and make some friends with the other girls. Then she began to discover all the good and bad parts of living as well that magic and fun are not the most important things. It’s a kids story and mainly for kids up to age of 8 maybe 10. The storybuild and writing, however, is over the average even with today’s standards and overall deserves some praising. For 53 years old anime the art is pretty decent. The moves are smooth, background old-stylish with very static animations but still looking amazing. The locations like castle, some of the outside world parks and nature is just amazing. First 18 episodes, however, are in black and white only, at least on version I watched, from ep.19 there’s beautifully hand-colored world full of magic, beautiful character designs and most important – the quality is outstanding and during whole show there’s not much animation flaws that I can talk about. Been enjoying it very, very much, what is a big suprise, as lately I discovered that art became one of THE most important things in anime for me. I’ll keep reminding it all the time, it’s after all 53 years old anime. But starting from beginning, the opening song is amazing, I can actually sing it now from memory and it’s just lovely and sweet as the whole production. The voice acting is decent but quality of sound is the weakest part of the anime. Sometimes was pretty hard to understand dialogues and what was really common – the music was much too loud. Like a lot. But that’s common as well in old productions and I’m already used to it, so after few episodes I just stopped caring about that and enjoyed production. Characters on the other hand are the strongest part of the anime, the character development is more than decent, reliable and writing of each of them is just oldy stylish, what’s mean – authors put a lot of effort to create characters that we can identify with, especially for the kids. The main character will be amongst the lovliest characters I ever seen on the screen, sweet, smart and very funny girs, that teaches through the humour as well as gives some smart and quite useful advices. Similar thing will be going to her on-screen friends and as perfect follow-ups for the Sally and basically are responsible for this sweet climate of the whole production.
Hell yeah, what a journey it was. Even I can’t believe it yet, how much fun and joy I had, the 25+yo guy. Been laughing much more that average, smile was constantly visible all over my face and, actually, I got used to the characters and the story and by the end of the show I was quite sad it’s going to an end. Great episode planning, that even if half of those were basically the same it doesn’t kill the magic of it and I haven’t feel bored for even a second of the screening. Of course, it’s generic, but in the best meaning of this word. And bloody hell, it’s kids story about the witch that learns the world is not only to show up but it’s based on love, frienship and enjoyment. The hella of the anime for small children, isn’t it? I’ve always been fighting myself about the rating for this show, came out with strong 8. The most important thing about this choice was, obviously, it’s age and knowing few productions from the time it was exceptionally great and back in the days probably would deserve the max score. Of course, it’s failing the test of time after all and only the biggest maniacs will even consider spending their time with this title, but nothing will change the thing – this world will completely take you in and will remind u how the childhood was nice and innocent. That’s the biggest compilment I can give to anime like that. And bloody hell, it’s the mother of the whole mahou shoujo genre, the first one on screen, now I can even see how much impact it had on some of my favourite mahou shoujo animes that I didn’t see before or even been thinking that it was something new for the title. But not anymore. Obviously it’s the thing that started it all and only for that it deserves to be remembered and praised. Especially it’s available online to watch and by having less than 600 people that rated it it’s just a disgrace for mal environment. Come on guys, go for it, it’s the piece of real history, soon no one will remember it and mediocre articles like
‘First Anime Series of Every Genre (Well, 10 of Them Anyway)’ will be only reminding of those titles.
Futari Wa Precure
Pretty Cure isn’t actually very obvious choice, but it’s here because of very simple reason. This 2004 anime literally saved the genre as it was back in the time where there wasn’t much of mahou shoujo productions and these airing were usually very bad, boring and literally identical to one another. This particular anime was a blow of freshness, perfectly fitting boys and girls audiences that had nothing for themselves. Funny, sweet and colourful piece of anime that reminded of Sailor Moon. Both in the terms of writing and storybuilding. It’s as well beginning of one of the biggest franchises in anime, includes countless sequels and spinoffs that are airing even today. Some of them are even better than this show itself, so it’s good to spend some time with this anime. It’s worth and there’s good couple of hundreds episodes and whole world to sink in. And it’s sweet, very definition of feel good anime. We need more things like that in times like that. Futari wa Precure protagonists Nagisa Misumi and Honoka Yukishiro are about as different as two people can get. Nagisa is the captain of the lacrosse team, a lover of food, and a hater of homework. Honoka loves to learn, working with the science club and earning the nickname “The Queen of Knowledge” from her fellow classmates. Their lives are unconnected until one day, when a mysterious star shower unites them. Nagisa and Honoka meet Mipple and Mepple, two residents of the Garden of Light. Their homeland has been conquered by the evil forces of the Dark Zone who now have their sights set on the Garden of Rainbows: Earth. With powers from the Garden of Light, Nagisa becomes Cure Black and Honoka becomes Cure White. Together, they are Pretty Cure! Now Pretty Cure must locate the Prism Stones, the only power strong enough to defeat the Dark Zone and repair the damage done to the Garden of Light. Will these magical girls be able to protect their home from the evil that threatens it? Or will they be sucked into the darkness? This plot is pretty fair so I had no intention to change it’s outcome. On the first shot or seems pretty generic. And it actually is, but it’s as well fair, very fun and has soul to it. Something ain’t that common anymore unfortunately. True sweet treasure of a show.
Let’s focus for now on these things that I often bringing up in my articles and reviews, technical aspects. First off we going on writing and narration. As this anime shows both strengths and flaws here and as I’m fair piece of journalist I’m not going to favour something only because I love it, and be sure, I love this series. Very much. The thing that strikes the most is the building of the first arc, sure it’s entertaining and very funny but as well bizarrely chaotic by the end. But here’s the thing, it’s because of producers, they planned it as a 26 episode show and halfway throughout original arc it was decided to extend it for another 23 episodes. So writers had to do really big changes for already planned grand finale, but what’s funnier, these extra episodes are amongst the best mahou shoujo anime arcs ever written. Then we have narrative aspect that actually giving some hard start. While it’s pretty common and later on rewards us with some truly precious gems it can cause some problems for new audiences. Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not bad, it’s very old school in it’s pacing and type. Modern audiences wants everything simple, straight on plate. Well, while this show is sweet, simple and very easy, it’s requires some dedication and patience. But trust me, rewards are huge. As it’s your typical kind of mahou shoujo anime there’s fair amount of romance. But it’s very tact nowhere being near as offensive as some new magical girls romances out there. And we’re have here even a gay couple but it feels natural, no one forcing here ridiculous ships and stupid pairing. It’s just sweet piece of romance in the background and always stays there. Overall there’s much more to praise, perfect blend of comedy and fun mixed with coming out age show for young girls, few serious notes that reminds about importance of friendship and love and, of course, a lot of magic. Them we proceeding to character development which is the strongest part of the show. Our protagonists are strong willed young women with extraordinary dynamic between them. It’s reliable, strong and believable. I love the way characters developing and growing over the series, it’s both entertaining and smart, however, supporting characters are usually group of more or less memorable individuals, mostly, well, useless. Bur that’s completely understandable. The problem lies within villains, just one-note typical and boring bearers of evil etc. While it’s completely fair from the point of writing and entertainment, I would love to have bit more original villains than these straight from the book ones. Mostly bland and without much of personality and development, but once again, they’re doing their job. And doing it good as an checkpoints in strengthening and maturing our protagonists. Character design is simple and very beautiful, colourful and full of great backgrounds but what’s here really nailing it it’s action sequences. Animators did a lot of job and this effort is visible, action sequences are powerful with some amazing choreography and planning. Same goes to girls changing sequences and their powers, this anime proved that with right planning, big heart and some beautiful artwork everything is possible. It’s a strong, lively and lovely piece of a show. Sure, it has it flaws, poor villains or some re-used footage, but overall fun and enjoyment is much bigger. This production took this old and very used genre to the XXI century and did it right, after all this isn’t the best installment in this franchise. But it’s first and it saved the genre 16 years ago. What else can we expect?
Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha
Strange thing that the same year when Futari wa Precure premiered, we received one more gem, much shorter, much more complex and oriented. And it’s as well much more mature. But don’t get it wrong, it’s still very funny and entertaining show but with some darker elements. It’s as well fairly faster in pacing than most of the productions on this list, 4 seasons of which the longest had just above 25 episodes and the regular contained average of 13 eps a season. First 3 seasons are great, where 3rd is my personal favourite and takes place whole 10 years after seasons 1 and 2. 4th season is just fine, however, changing heroines weren’t the best idea. I’m far from complaining thought, Lyrical Nanoha is one of these shows that proved that adding darker and more mature content to teenage girls story still can be rewarding, and here we go, beautifully crafted piece of truly entertaining anime. But why is this title among most important for the genre? The answer is simple, not only because this anime along with Pretty Cure saved mahou shoujo from disgrace but they’re perfect sides if the same coin, while younger audiences received their sweet Pretty Cure older girls still had barely anything to watch, Blood+ was still to be aired, Nana as well and dominating genres then were shounen romances and action packed shows with just few shows that were actually suitable for teenage girls. Then on October 2004 they received finally something worth their attention, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha. And trust me, first episode did whooping job in gaining attention, one of the strongest opening episodes I’ve seen… ever. And we still taking about innocent magical girls show. And action packed flick, full of fanservice, magic, good writing, amazing characters and, well, finally – real deal. This anime not only gained huge attention but it lived up to its hype, even with some serious flaws, it’s the style of crafting anime from just 15 years ago, when producers and creators still cared and Japanese audiences weren’t as dumb as they’re now. This anime received fair critical acclaim, big, loyal fanbase and, of course, always respected intelligence of it’s viewers. Something that has truly changed today. And that’s very sad. But let’s go back to our main dish today, let’s go for proper deconstruction of this anime.
As I written already couple of times, it’s very hard to get into mahou shoujo productions with cold eye, for very simple reason, audience is very specific and don’t really cares about typical detailed analysis of the watching content. And many creators and producers usually takes this as the advantage and delivering another mediocre, cheap and senseless productions about magical girls. This article have only one goal, to pick just few great and important shows that proves not everything is pointless and there’s still many great anime within the ranges of this huge genre. Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha is one of these anime. On the surface it of course looks like many other mahou shoujo shows, but that’s to be expected. Going after MAL, Nanoha Takamachi is an ordinary third-grader who enjoys spending time with her family and friends, rescues an injured ferret that she had dreamed about the night before. The next day, the ferret cries out to her telepathically, asking Nanoha to save him. The ferret reveals himself to be Yuuno Scrya, a mage from another world who is trying to collect the dangerous 21 Jewel Seeds that he accidentally scattered across the world. He enlists Nanoha’s help, gifting her the magical wand Raising Heart, and teaches her how to become a powerful mage. Days later, after reclaiming a few of the Jewel Seeds, another mage appears: Fate Testarossa. Stronger than Nanoha, Fate refuses to divulge her reasons in trying to collect the Jewel Seeds. Nanoha senses a melancholy in her eyes, but Fate refuses to communicate. I know, it sounds silly and I realise that, but no worries, it only sounds like that, execution of the idea is great. It’s anime about differences, learning about holding power and making strong friendships. It has some serious flaws, the biggest one is actually… first episode. I mentioned above, that it’s one of the best opening episodes I’ve seen in my life and that’s completely true. The problem lies in it’s greatness, it’s simply too good as rest of the show barely nailing this level after. Suprisingly, it’s not as bad as it sounds because anime still manages to be very good. First episode shows HOW great it could be. Other thing that went truly on my nerves was beautiful transformation scene of Nanoha. It’s the main source of fanservice, but on earth, 8 first eps we’re forced to watch it in whole many times, I came tho the point I could literally draw her naked body from my memory just after first few episodes. But in the other hand, I can see why so many people are loving it. It’s after all fanservice, bit forceful, but still done right. Enough of that thought, this show has much more to give, beautiful animation, especially fights and, well, transformations. Beautiful character design you couldn’t believe it’s 2004 production, beautiful choreography and planning, add to that amazing background and you receiving some of the best looking anime of 00′ decade. Cast did more than decent job and I loved it. Character development is somewhat cliche and expected, but because of these slightly darker notes it’s just a bit different, more compelling and reliable. Nanoha herself, however, is but too… perfect. But that’s perfectly fine, especially keeping in mind it’s still a mahou shoujo anime. Villain is finally good, with great personality and truly terrifying sometimes. And we have this beautiful ost, beautifully written, soft and suprisingly darker than expected. All of that combined gives us another amazing, worthy production that will stay with you over the years and it’s good for rewatching every couple of years. Just as did for the sake of this article. And it’s one of these anime that were brave enough not to avoid darkness.
This is one of the greatest mahou shoujo of all time. One of my personal TOP10 greatest magical girls anime I’ve seen in my life. And next to Sailor Moon it’s the most known and renowned production within the genre and anime in general. It’s a true masterpiece. And probably one of the sweetest and most wholesome anime ever created but at the same moment it can be truly dark and very dramatic. Madhouse used to deliver masterpiece after masterpiece back in the day. Cardcaptor Sakura is no exception, it’s one of the most influential magical girl anime ever produced. One of the most important for the genre, one of the definitive examples how to execute great idea and deliver it on the highest possible level. True definition of masterpiece. Apart from being Madhouse production, CCS is most importantly an CLAMP creation, and CLAMPverse is HUGE. I had few other anime to pick instead of this one, but after careful consideration I came to the point there was no chance to cut CCS from this article. And few of my favourite titles were unfortunately left off. At the end of this article I’ll mention few shows that I had to cut for the sake of the article (well, mostly because of its length), but are no less important. But once again I went off the main theme. Cardcaptor Sakura is largely sweet and happy, episodic anime. But is no void to darker and more mature themes like grief, death or even catharsis, same goes to morality of choices and storybuilding while this anime stays within ranges of its own genre and it’s sweet, under the surface dealing with suprisingly well written depth and the execution of it is truly one in kind, beautiful. This show is very moralistic but it’s not forcefully executed like some others and actually teaches throughout its 70 episode run. This is as well first mahou shoujo anime that actually took the genre on it’s own grounds and had no fear with playing with established rules. There’s no other production like Cardcaptor Sakura that on the surface stays very mahou shoujo, but over the course becoming something much more. I watched it for the first time back in 2005 and rewatched it about 10 times, I never got bored or skipped any episodes, it’s compelling definition of how to deliver truly great stories with style. An true masterpiece on it’s own rights. Barely anything can stand next to it as an equals, even less productions exceeding it.
As I mentioned above, this anime on the surface looks exactly like your typical mahou shoujo… and you’re completely right, it’s your typical mahou shoujo and at the same moment it’s very much not. Let me explain what I mean. Mahou Shoujo as a genre have established rules that are very much a basis for good production, of course being one of the most popular and influencing genres in Japan it’s very hard to come out with something original. That said Cardcaptor Sakura is very much your typical mahou shoujo and I mean it. This show executes every in-book trick and doing it right, what’s not that obvious, especially if you take a closer look at amount of magical girl anime. Just few of them gained status of being truly great and important anime fire the audiences and as well critics. Cardcaptor Sakura nailed both, critical acclaim and cult status among the fans. It’s the second most acclaimed show on this list. Now, what I meant by saying it’s not your typical mahou shoujo anime. Well, the same rules that this production executes are exceeded by not following them 1 to 1 adding a lot of original and own content creating rules on it’s own while staying within them. It’s not deconstruction or construction something new, it’s simple using great storytelling and writing using what genre has to give to the point, where it reaches climax. It’s like performing successful operation that saving life by adding and removing some more or less important parts. I hope it’s clear. I’m going to borrow once again plot as there’s still fair amount of thoughts I need to share about this anime. Sakura Kinomoto is your garden-variety ten-year-old fourth grader, until one day, she stumbles upon a mysterious book containing a set of cards. Unfortunately, she has little time to divine what the cards mean because she accidentally stirs up a magical gust of wind and unintentionally scatters the cards all over the world. Suddenly awakened from the book, the Beast of the Seal, Keroberos (nicknamed Kero-chan), tells Sakura that she has released the mystical Clow Cards created by the sorcerer Clow Reed. The Cards are no ordinary playthings. Each of them possesses incredible powers, and because they like acting independently, Clow sealed all the Cards within a book. Now that the Cards are set free, they pose a grave danger upon the world, and it is up to Sakura to prevent the Cards from causing a catastrophe. Appointing Sakura the title of “the Cardcaptor” and granting her the Sealed Key, Keroberos tasks her with finding and recapturing all the Cards. Alongside her best friend Tomoyo Daidouji, and with Kero-chan’s guidance, Sakura must learn to balance her new secret duty with the everyday troubles of a young girl involving love, family, and school, all while she takes flight on her magical adventures as Sakura the Cardcaptor. Ain’t it sweet? There’s much more to that of course. Once again, being magical girl anime there’s fair share of romance, and oh gods, what a romance is that. One of my favourites ever, reliable, you’ll not hear any big words or actions, the main relationship growing slow, reliable and truly amazing, taking on trust, help and most importantly, on the feelings that don’t need to be said out loud, this is how you write romances that are sweet and realistic. Taking on further, another typical for the genre thing, charm. Yes, believe me when I’m saying it’s probably the most charming anime ever produced, because it simply is. Characters are completely written and developed with extraordinary detail making it extremely compelling and very enjoyable while having great deal of psychological depth and that is not that common, ain’t hard, innit? Respecting own roots doesn’t mean to follow them like a slave, journey through barriers and rules is very important to deliver something original and at the same moment easy to follow and understand. Starting true to its own ideas is the biggest compliment I can give to anime. Is Cardraptor Sakura have flaws? Of course, 70 episode run had given creators a lot of time yuki develop amazing story and characters but it’s ad well it’s only actual problem, it’s very hard to maintain similar level of each episode. Some of them are better some unfortunately lacking in proper story, it’s actually fault of the mainly episodic style of the anime. But there are maybe 4-5 episodes that can be considered as somewhat disappointing. And it does not have any influence on the maximum rating that this show received from me. As we coming to the end I have to mention something haven’t yet and with no doubt this anime would never be as good as it is without it. The music. All 3 opening themes were great, but the third one, Platinum preformed by one and only Maaya Sakamoto is a true gem among these songs. OST by Takayuki Negishi is and will forever be among these best ever created. Epic, beautifully written, soft and powerful with some of the most beautiful themes ever composed, just listen to the main theme, I’m sure even if you haven’t seen this anime yet, you definitely heard it somewhere. And with that we’re reached climax, this is definitely my favourite typical mahou shoujo anime that is not just another on the list. It’s charming, wholesome, colourful, it makes you smile but as well you’ll leave fair share of tears and learn from it a lot. It can be darker but these mature themes always stays within depth of the story that always, I’ll say it again, always have more to it than it shows on the surface. This is how you deliver masterfully crafted piece of animation that will always be in your heart, no matter what. It’s for everyone, doesn’t matter what’s your age, sex, beliefs and favourite genres. It’s an rare gem of anime that will stay in your heart forever.
Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon
You haven’t think I’ll skip this show, don’t you? This is without doubt THE most important mahou shoujo of all time. It laid the whole definition for the modern magic anime and gave us vague idea of how to create perfect magical girls anime. And I’m no fan of the original adaptation, as in my opinion remare under title of Crystal is not only much better and exceeds original in every possible way, but as well, finally, gives justice to the manga which is one of my all time favourites. But let’s leave that for another article as I want to focus on the original Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon and give the justice it deserves as the most beloved and known mahou shoujo anime of all time. It wouldn’t be exaggerating if I’ll write now that’s it’s one of the most influencing anime ever produced, known literally everywhere around the world, loved by young girls that finds their role models among the Sailors and boys that simply love action and fun story. Another anime literally for everyone, but this time, with truly remarkable influence not only on mahou shoujo genre, but on anime in general, there’s no true fan that hasn’t at least heard about it. Amount of influences, easter eggs, ripoffs, relations and other similarities are countless. Hundreds of anime, tv shows and even movies clearly and openly talks about how they’ve been influenced by Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon. And that’s completely understandable as mere few franchises can actually be compared to the cult that this franchise gained. Funny thing is… it’s at its best mere fine adaptation of the equally beloved manga. This 1992 production took 5 years, 200 episodes and 3 or 4 movies with countless specials to tell this story in full. And I can say, that while I love what this series achieved its hard for me to follow it nowdays as its hardly stans barrier of time and, well, since the manga is completed it’s hard to love it as much as I used to when I was young/before I readed the manga. But still, nine of these takes three greatness and universal message that this show delivers. This anime is an definitive definition of what mahou shoujo is. It gave some of the most important rules for the genre and will always be on the first place of the most important mahou shoujo anime ever made, this place will never be taken away, even by my beloved Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica about which I’ll write later on. Sailor Moon franchise delivered everything we actually know about typical mahou shoujo. Everything for what this genre is so much loved around the world. And finally this show is the sole responsible for never ending boom on magical anime, boom that haven’t lost anything from its powers since…1992, 28 years later mahou shoujo anime is as popular as it was in the 90s. With small (or bigger) help of other mentioned in this article productions. Enough about typical fanboying, time for more detailed view into the franchise.
Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon R, Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S, Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon SuperS and Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars aired between 1992 and 1997 and are definitive and full collection of the original franchise (plus few extras). Why I mentioned above all of them? Answer is simple, it’s one long anime and supposed to be treated as one. And no worries, I’m not going to dig in every single sub-installment. I’m not intending to write a book about Sailor Moon franchise. It’ll be only a brief look onto surface and it roots. Let’s go as usually, let’s look into the plot. Usagi Tsukino is an average student and crybaby klutz who constantly scores low on her tests. Unexpectedly, her humdrum life is turned upside down when she saves a cat with a crescent moon on its head from danger. The cat, named Luna, later reveals that their meeting was not an accident: Usagi is destined to become Sailor Moon, a planetary guardian with the power to protect the Earth. Given a special brooch that allows her to transform, she must use her new powers to save the city from evil energy-stealing monsters sent by the malevolent Queen Beryl of the Dark Kingdom. But getting accustomed to her powers and fighting villains are not the only things she has to worry about. She must find the lost princess of the Moon Kingdom, the other Sailor Guardians, and the Legendary Silver Crystal in order to save the planet from destruction. Brief shortened version of the beginning arcs and story itself. Let’s clear one thing here, my criticism towards original is going mostly because changes towards manga were just pointless and fillers really did some bad work here. But let’s face the facts, Sailor Moon is extremely well written anyway and defends itself as production only based on the original source just fine. Strongest part of the series are of course it’s characters – colourful, cheerful, beautiful and sweet girls. Everything that good mahou shoujo is about. Full of love, wholesomness and of course magic. Because magic here is THE thing that fuels this show. It’s what this anime is about, well, almost, there’s other thing nearly as important as magic and unfortunately fails, the romance. There’s way too much of it and while love and relationships are important the place for it is in the background not as the main plotline, especially when it’s written with such pretentious manner, it’s simply awful and cliche to the point of being sick. Thank gods, this series has much more to give than just magic and romance. Firstly, character chemistry, something where Sailor Moon shines among the stars, this classic, yet powerful example of how to write. Feelings, development and character growth is another strong part of this franchise, as I said, or characters are just perfect by any means, their problems and morality dealings are reduced to expected minimum and while hundreds of shows fails here, Sailor Moon embraces it and turns into the strength. It’s after all innocent, beautifully crafted show for youngsters and teenagers. And as for 28 old series it’s still looks lit, powerful and colourful. Animation is just as flawless as it gets. Another shiny gem and, well, place where this franchise actually took hand as the first one – transformation sequences. Sailor Moon took it far further than any other show before. Why? Well, transformation sequences combined would take few good episodes of air time. It’s never before been such important part and, well, it started this bad tendencies for exaggerating importance of transformations. It’s perfect for Sailor Moon and looks gorgeous, but unfortunately, many other shows after took it too far. Amount of villains in the series is as well terrifying and too be fair, there’s a lot to complain about them, boring, one sided, pointless, just another chekpoints, but there’s as well these greatly written villains that you can easily put as equals within some of the most terrifying villains ever written, so Sailor Min is infamous for it’s villains. And that fame is deserved, especially anime in general lacks in properly written antagonists. From the technical aspects Sailor Moon shines in ine more thing, it’s the music. To sum it up as simple as possible – there’s enough material to write another huge article about how great and important the music there was. OST is flawless, opening and ending themes are remarkable and beautiful, every single one. I’m not exaggerating, it’s true, everyone knows music from this franchise and, well, main theme is one of the most cult and known compositions ever recorded, mixed, rerecorded, covered countless times, not to mention how many times it was used in other media and anime. When I said on the beginning this is THE most important and influencing mahou shoujo of all time it was exactly what I meant. So as you can see I have a lot of flaws pointed bur nothing of that can be even considered as something that can put in danger there status this franchise achieved. It’s impossible. Is that concludes what I wanted to tell about this series? Not at all, there’s too much to consider and write about, but I actually hope it’s somewhat vague view of my personal view of this franchise. It’s not perfect it’s as far from it as possible, but what’s more important – these flaws are nothing more than perfectly fitting part of it. Without them Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon would never be where it’s right now. Even if you hate this universe you can’t take away it’s importance and influence it left behind. This is how legends are born, thus is how you gain immortality.
Let me explain something, Princess Tutu is among my favourites anime of all time, easily in first 20 if not even TOP10. I left it almost for the end for a various of reasons, the first one I just stated. It’s definitive one of the most original anime ever created and, without a single doubt, it’s a masterpiece among masterpieces. There’s no a single flaw, nothing I can actually complain about, not a single thing. What terrifies me is that this production is nearly forgotten nowdays, it’s a disgrace and unbelievably unforgettable. This anime is not something you expecting from your typical mahou shoujo anime, not at all. This is the very first magical girls production that actually stood against the old rules and delivered something completely different while, suprisingly, stayed deeply within the genre. And still being as far from mahou shoujo as you can imagine. Let’s start from this, it’s an fairytale, dark fantasy blended with ballet musical (!!) and then it’s an sweet and truly funny mahou shoujo anime. This production is an perfect example of quote ‘don’t judge book by its cover’. From the main point of view on the surface it’s very, very girly, cheesy and… too pink. While I’m personally in live with that color it has nothing to fo with that series. Sure, it’s fairly girly up to some point, is it cheesy? Blody hell, not at all, is it pink? Yeah, but that’s only because of the pacing and art style creators choose to execute the series. And it perfectly fits it’s fairytale style. When I’m saying fairytale I mean that, it’s strongly influenced by Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen. What comes with that it’s suprisingly mature and can be really dark but staying within frames of the genre, it’s very dark for more mature audiences, while younger ones will only see what they want to see, sweet and lovely fairytale about a duck that wanted to be human. Yes, thats right, sounds cheesy, but it’s definitely not. Is it girly then? Not completely, you can definitely find it fitting girly image but after all this is story of love, suffering, tragedy and forgiveness and it’s treated completely serious, so yes, it’s fairly girly, but definitely not completely, I would say this is very example of story where everyone will find something for themselves, doesn’t matter who are you. Fairytales are for everyone and are not scared of using darker and more serious matters and here we have as well some hilarious comedy. At this point I’m going to try avoid as many spoilers as possible, so in not going to reveal anything very important, but consider yourself warned, there’s few lesser spoilers. If you don’t wish to read, then simply drop everything you doing right now, put on hold any anime you watching and binge watch this show. It’s truly one of the greatest shows ever created. And then return to finish article. But if you want to read further no worries, spoilers are not crucial and mainly about general climate and atmosphere of the show, which is not that obvious.
Princess Tutu is an show that takes on various genres and perfectly fitting them for it’s own use nailing each of them separately and all of them together. It’s anime about magic and music, anime about unconditional love and malice it’s as well anime about tragedy and suffering and, well, it’s hilariously funny at the same time. A lot, isn’t it? In a fairy tale come to life, the clumsy, sweet, and gentle Ahiru (Japanese for “duck”) seems like an unlikely protagonist. In reality, Ahiru is just as magical as the talking cats and crocodiles that inhabit her town—for Ahiru really is a duck, really, a duck, get over it, it’s nowhere being as cheesy as it sounds, believe me. Transformed by the mysterious Drosselmeyer into a human girl, Ahiru soon learns the reason for her existence. Using her magical egg-shaped pendant, Ahiru can transform into Princess Tutu—a beautiful and talented ballet dancer whose dances relieve people of the turmoil in their hearts. With her newfound ability, Ahiru accepts the challenge of collecting the lost shards of her prince’s heart, for long ago he had shattered it in order to seal an evil raven away for all eternity. Princess Tutu is a tale of heroes and their struggle against fate. Their beliefs, their feelings, and ultimately their actions will determine whether this fairytale can reach its ‘happily ever after’. Her main goal, however, is to find shattered pieces of the heart that belongs to her Prince Myuuto. Unfortunately she’s forced to fight for it against dark and mysterious ballet dancers Rue and Fakir. But as it’s in real fairytales, true villain is somewhere else… Yes, this show’s full of flawlessly executed ideas and writing. Characters are extremely well developed, their motivations, beliefs and actions are justified by great deal of psychological depth and interesting backgrounds. Main protagonist is far from being typical mahou shoujo, her struggles, her ultimate goal comes with a price she’s ready to pay. And the price can be high, even cost her own happiness. Her opponents quickly shows their own colours and motives and your starting to doubt wherever they’re true villains. This show would be truly dark and heartbreaking if it wasn’t for the beautifully crafted hilarious gags and humor that shines thought whole series and makes is light and funny. But said that it doesn’t mean the more dark atmosphere disappears, oh no, it’s still there and attacking older audiences when they have their guards down. Let’s move on to the writting as it’s another piece of own art. As I mentioned a couple of times already, it’s an fairytale, fairytale with all of its emotional depth and pacing. Sweet and smart story of pain and love embraced by ballet and music. An true masterwork that leaves many others far in the back by delivering one of the most beautiful romances ever written and brought to the screens, there’s no stupid pairings and unreasonable choices. Story itself has as well fair share of great and really surprising twists, some of them are as well really dark and hitting every bits of your heart. Considering what I’ve already written you can come to conclusion it’s not a production for kids. And you’re not completely mistaken as to fully understand and enjoy this anime you have to be bit more mature and open but that doesn’t mean younger audiences can’t enjoy it, actually it’s all the way around, as I wrote above, kids will still enjoy and love this show being unaware of more nature content, this is something extremely hard tylko execute not to mention about delivering it on the screen, but here we go. An true risk that paid off. But going on that, it’s definitely not your typical mahou shoujo. There’s definitely some proper fights and are properly choreographed it’s after all keeping its mahou shoujo frames. The magic after all is there still most important part next to the music. There’s no typical magical girl transformations or so, that said it’s still fairly full of magic, using magic for good and vile reasons. And while fights are important the area where our characters really battling each other is an… ballet. Real fight are fought in pairs, in mentality and minds, real strength here is the one characters shows while dancing. There’s a lot of beauty, truly terrifying beauty in it, scene is a place where you staying victorious or your mind is crushed and broken into pieces. And dancing takes us to the final and the most important ost of this show, music. Classical music to be exact and I’m classical musician, conductor and composer. So be aware, I’m going now even deeper in details as amount of job done with music here exceeds what was shown in another of my all time favourite anime, Shigatsu wa Kimi no uso. And that explains a lot. And I live with music everyday, devoted my life to it even more than for anime. The music here is a main driving force to the point it ranges over various periods of times and composers. Most poignant music usage I’ve ever encountered in my life, just to pick the most obvious one, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake brought tears into my eyes every single time and we have there there many many more. Soundtrack and dancing sequences varies from beautiful and full of despair and sadness works of Rimsky-Korsakov through cheerful Leo Delibes compositions, ending on beautiful ballet works of Johann Strauss or the one and only Erik Satie. Tell me more about usage of music in anime, just type on YouTube ‘Princess Tutu Swan Lake’, you’ll know everything you need. This anime is an true masterpiece amongst masterpieces. Beautifully animated, beautifully choreographed dancing sequences with compelling and lovely story that reaches it’s climax in truly astonishing, somewhat heartbreaking fairytale happy end that will leave you speechless. And here is as well our climax for Princess Tutu detailed review. It’s another one of its kind production that actually have an huge impact on the audiences delivering this beautiful tale of love and magical ballet with smile and tears. It’s truly one of the greatest of all time.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica
So here we are, at the final anime picked for this very long (already) article. I left it for the end because it’s not only most important modern mahou shoujo anime but as well my all time favourite, personal number 1 and the greatest tv anime of all time. And that’s my opinion, so I’m not going to force it on anyone. I left it for the end because this part will contain some heavy spoilers to prove and establish my point of view, so if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read it. Acknowledge that I’m considering it as the best anime I’ve ever seen in my life and go for it. After that feel free to confront your thoughts with everything you’ll find below. Consider yourself warned as this time spoilers are truly unavoidable unfortunately. I promised myself that I keep this article as short as possible and actually, suprisingly, I’m staying strong to that promise. I went a bit over above with Princess Tutu but I expected that, so after its still shortest version I could come with. The problems starts now, I’ve always avoided to write about Madoka, for very good reasons thought. You ashtray know it’s my number one and combining that with being my beloved mahou shoujo anime is an extreme combination. I’m fully aware this is the very last pick so I unintentionally gave myself free hand to write as much I actually want BUT I’ll try to keep my promise. Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica is like nothing else. And I mean that, let’s go back to 2010 when promotional machine started promoting it. My favourite studio SHAFT hired infamous Gen Urobuchi to write new original magical girls anime, and bloody hell, it looked like the guy took it into the heart. Promotional images, videos and advertisements proved that it’s sweet and innocent, colourful production for girls. And that’s how it was presented over few months. SHAFT at the moment was most known for its infamously crazy and artistic Monogatari Series adaptations, at the time as well THE most successful franchise in Japanese market. What could go wrong with another mahou shoujo anime? Literally everything and it still would never really affected the studio. But I had red light on since it’s creator was infamously known for being ruthless with his anime and audiences, funniest thing, Urobuchi later same year delivered Fate/zero for ufotable. Yeah, what were the chances for one guy to deliver two great shows the same year? Answer that yourselves. Finally, on the beginning of January A.D. 2011 first episode arrived and… it was exactly what we have been promised, sweet, slightly darker, overwhelmly beautiful anime about magical girls. With extraordinary graphics and beautiful, colourful atmosphere and amazing opening song by beloved ClariS. Nothing was off, everything o’n the place, yet another mahou shoujo but with extremely beautiful artwork and truly entertaining with promising heroines. No one could predict this ruthless rape by the end of third episode…
Let’s again back off a bit, Gen Urobuchi played his game on Twitter just few weeks before premiere ensuring everyone it’s harmless and true mahou shoujo anime, so there’s nothing to be afraid of. I would lie if said I didn’t believe that, but I wasn’t completely sure of it until first episode arrived. Then all of my worries disappeared, literally. Yeah, I could sense darker notes, but I dropped it on Urobuchi’s shoulders knowing his previous works. So I simply assumed it’ll be bit more mature later on. Oh boy, how mistaken I was, nearly 10 years later I can barely believe that I was played like a fool, mentally raped and kicked on the ground in my own tears. But this time Urobuchi went further than ever before. Ueah, he played everyone around and I’m sure it turned him on, that sick bastard takes pleasure in breaking his audiences into pieces laughing maniacally. He never took any prisoners or showed any mercy. This is how you separate legends from the others, by the impact they have on you. But let’s, once again, go even further back. Mahou shoujo had long established frames that were followed and, ultimately, started to become a grave danger to a genre that didn’t actually explored any new territories stayed safe within known areas. The most brave in terms of exploring new was mentioned above 2002 Princess Tutu. There’s nearly 9 years of difference between these 2 shows, some of the worst for the genre, except those mentioned above. Ultimately this respected type came to an dead end. Lack of originality, lack of personality, proper writing and some kind of aversion for the new, the same thing that established greatness of the genre became as well it’s own demise. There was a urge for something new and original that’ll bring old and new audiences behind the screens otherwise mahou shoujo would be doomed, well, mahou shoujo was saved, however, audiences of this particular saviour anime were mentally doomed. Small price and, well, instant cult and place among best written shows ever. This 12 episode story is well known for being an story full of pain, suffering, violence, sadness, death, emptiness and literally any other kind of bloody fate you can think of. Show that focused on completely unexplored dark side of the magical girls life, the price, loneliness, hardships of staying true to the big words behind being it. Ultimately as well about betrayal, painful decisions that’ll break everyone and meeting your end with dignity and being remembered. And finally it took on how dangerous this could be, oh boy, by literally killing off one of the main characters by the end of the third episode. This is the ruthless rape I mentioned. Gen Urobuchi reminds everyone why he’s Urobuchi and what that means, without mercy, holding in his hand copy of… Faust. Tyrannical, vile and sad piece of a masterpiece that’ll break literally anyone. That said, there’s important thing about this show that took it all even further, the darkness, the one inside its genre, the ine that was always there. It was never touched, it was after all mostly innocent and happy type of anime, well, not ever since. The biggest achievement of this show isn’t the shock or changing the whole story into a rollercoaster of feels and suffering, it’s decomposition of the whole genre. Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica took all of it’s basis, the rules, mixed them and… throw them out of the window. And then reconstruced it on it own terms using screams and ruthless murders of sweet girls, ain’t that beautiful? And painful. This show is easy to follow only on the surface, biblical, apocalyptic atmosphere took out straight from Faust quickly shows what this is all about. First 3 episode Mami arc is an arc of happiness and joy ended by brutal death, second arc, episodes 3 to 9, Sayaka and Kyuoko arc is an arc of violence, horror and inevitability of a cruel fate and ended once again, by sad and brutal death, then we have third arc, episodes 10 and 11, the arc of Homura. Arc full of unbearable suffering, madness and unconditional… love. This is most poignant, heartbreaking and hard to bear of arcs ever written (in the Madoka movie this arc is extended by extra 20-25 minutes). Then we have final arc, Madoka arc, one episode arc of ultimate sacrifice and hope that will break your hearts completely. The arc where our magical girl Madoka finally becomes… magical girl. And pays for it hugely. This is how this show expands mahou shoujo, by unlocking what was hidden behind, changing the rules of the game forever. Mahou Shoujo after Madoka was never the same and, of course, never be. Yeah, there’s still a lot of sweet and lovely stories, but what this anime did is an opening completely new chapter and providing everything for more exploration. Unfortunately, nearly a decade later there’s not a single genre oriented show that comes near what Madoka Magica achieved, but the tendency is on the flow, yeah, these dark and violent mahou shoujo anime are still awful, but getting gradually better, while the main route of the genre is more alive than ever. And what’s most important, it’s full of more or less quality shows. And that’s beautiful.
Finally, slowly getting into ending parts of this article I’ll focus on my favourite part, technicalities and, trust me, Madoka Magica shines here as well. Firstly, characters, it’s a theatre of 6 characters, 5 girls and one… sweet cattish thing – true villain of the show. Our heroines, Madoka, Homura, Mami, Sayaka and Kyoko. Each of them symbolises different colour and power. Kyoko is an red Lancer (proud and stubborn), Sayaka is an blue Knight (powerful warrior), Mami is an yellow Marksman (great planner), Homura is an black Soldier (dedicated to the point of madness) and Madoka is an pink Archer (bearer of hope and love, goddess). Each personality fits irreverent the image and motivations. Character development here is just another masterwork. Journey of each of the characters is deeply psychologically logic and unavoidable till the very end of each of them. Every girl he had to deal with huge amount of pain because of their choices and life as a magical girls. This anime shows no mercy to mistakes. Most developed characters are of course Homura and Madoka and Homura’s story is one of the most heartbreaking stories I’ve ever seen. And all of that in just 12 episodes. Then we have Kyubei, the bad motherfucker, soulless creature that treats humans like meat bags and literally feeds on their magical power, especially when they’re reaching their ultimate end. I loved it, such a vile creature that has no feelings or any positive sides. Cold manipulator that’ll shio everything to achieve it’s goals. Following it we have animation here, and oh boy, what a piece of art is that, you’ve never seen shooting like that. SHAFT outshine themselves here even more. Beautiful, colourful and sweet character and world design is just as aesthetic as it can be. Main summation is smooth, perfectly crafted and executed. But there’s as well witches and worlds they live in. And this is where this show truly shines, terrifying and uncomfortable animation using real recordings, paper cuts, dolls, live-action doll animations and kaleidoscopic footage that really swirls deeply into brain. Each of the worlds ate completely different with different animation techniques. Leaves us speechless and in trance. And here we arrived on the final domain of animation, the transformations. And here is a small shock, every single transformation is completely different EACH time, even for the same characters, there’s never the same transformation sequence. There’s no cutting corners, not a chance, it’s a SHAFT after all. We have here as well one of the strongest casts ever brought to the one production, voicing is flawless, sane goes to the sound design. Fights choreography is not among the best, they’re the best ever provided for mahou shoujo, epic, greatly planned full of detail without even single re-used footage, freakingly beautiful and immerse. And that takes us to the music and my beloved Yuuki Kajiura behind it. This is her best work ever, her magnum opus that leaves her dark and gritty masterpiece music for Kara no Kyoukai franchise. It’s definitely THE most terrifying and chilling piece is soundtrack ever written. Haunting, cold, epic and full of sadness and pain, exactly as the anime itself. This music causes nightmares and bloodshed, such a powerful and impactful music. Then we have mentioned already Connect by sweet ClariS. Sweet and innocent, beautifully placed song, there’s as well terrifying and literally scary main ending song Kalafina’s Magia that causes shivers everywhere, we have here as well ‘fake’ ending song in the first two episodes, Mata Ashita sung by Madoka seiyuu, Aoi Yuuki. That’s not all, ending theme of the 9th episode, which is as well extremely sad finale of the Sayaka and Kyoko finale is also sung by their respective seiyuu, sad and heartbreaking and I’m home by Ai Nonaka and Eri Kitamura. This anime contains as well probably saddest Ave Maria I’ve ever seen, I’m bursting in tears ever since when I hear this version. I could write and write about it more and more since I’m a total madman about Madoka. But that’s definitely enough. Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica is everything for me as a fan, completing terrifying story that scares more than any horror ever written, extraordinary, masterfully crafted animations and best soundtrack ever written for anime. One of the most heartbreaking stories I’ve ever saw, anime that gives me masochistic pleasure each tine I’m rewatching it and I saw it over 20 times. It haven’t lost anything from the impact it had on me when I watched it for the first time back in 2011. It’s only more and more shattering for my soul and heart. An true masterpiece. And without a doubt one of the most important anime ever produced. PS. I deliberately chose not to write about its movie sequel as: a) it’s my over the top numero uno of everything I’ve ever seen; b) this text would be twice longer. So all hail Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica. Forever and ever, gosh I sound like crazy fanboy, oh wait…
Impact of these series I mentioned in this article is undeniable for the anime world. And this is a fact, not an opinion. I hope you actually went through it all with me. It was definitely hardest article I’ve ever written. And believe or not, it’s still a shortest possible version of it. I got feeling that I left many things unanswered and on the side. There’s as well this huge sadness inside me because of few other titles I had to cut out from this article. But as I promised, you find these titles below:
- Magic Knight Rayearth
- Shin Shirayuki-Hime Densetsu Prétear
- Shoujo Kakumei Utena
- Panty & Stocking franchise
- Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya franchise
- Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon CRYSTAL franchise
- and many, many more actually…