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Old 2011-07-03, 19:58   Link #1
Reckoner
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What Defines the Magical Girl Genre?

Magical girl. When one hears this term they of course think of magic + girl. But is that all there is to the genre? There seems to be many different interpretations or traditions to this genre which differentiate shows from being magical and magical girl.

Some things I often hear from people about what defines magical girl are things like female dominated cast, magical powers, glorious transformation scenes, some sort of mascot or entity giving characters powers, etc.

However, is this really it? This just seems to be the traditional magical show in the past, something like Sailor Moon. I don't ever recall hearing a rule that mahou shoujo always needed to have fancy transformation sequences like Nanoha, or that it had to be practically devoid of male characters. This just seems to be rigid rules employed by traditionalists.

For all intents and purposes, why isn't Shana considered a magical girl show? Shana is a girl, wields supernatural powers, and even has a bit of a transformation. She's fighting some kind of destructive forces. Personally, I think the traditional approach to mahou shoujo is much too rigid.

So what do you think, AS users? What defines the magical girl genre for you? Why do we exclude titles like from Shana from it, for no apparent reasons?

Is even the recent Madoka a magical girl show? The show subverted many of the ideals of mahou shoujo, subverted many of the tropes. Its battles were weirdly magical, but not really atypical (Think of Homura's fighting style). Is this really a magical girl show either?

Last edited by Reckoner; 2011-07-03 at 22:41.
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Old 2011-07-03, 20:21   Link #2
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Is Shana human? No? OK, move along.

Also, prior to Madoka - Magical Girl was stereotyped as this... pink, happy-go-lucky, innocent girl-type series. If you don't believe me, go back to watching Tokyo Mew Mew.

Obviously, Madoka decided to break that barrier; and thankfully they did.

As for Shana... hmm... I'll do a magical transformation on my own... in the shower. Then I'll think about this. (Mind you, I never watched Shakugan no Shana except for episodes 1 and 26 of the 1st season).

EDIT: OK, I did think of something while hot steamy water dripped down my magical nakedness. LOL.

Was Shana collecting anything when she was fighting the flavor boss of the episode or the series enemy? Or was she fighting against the enemy over some magical object? (Again, I'm handicapped by never watching it). For, I was thinking along the lines of Sailor Moon, Tokyo Mew Mew, and Nanoha. Nanoha didn't have that flavor enemy of the series; but the good guys were certainly fighting the bad guys over some magical object.

Last edited by Kyuu; 2011-07-03 at 20:35.
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Old 2011-07-03, 20:31   Link #3
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Madoka wasn't exactly the first dark magical girl anime. Utena and Princess Tutu were pretty dark. Heck, even Nurse Angel Ririka was pretty dark, and that one is far closer to the traditional formula.

As a genre, it's hard to define, but I would argue that the shoujo and seinen series shouldn't be lumed together.
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Old 2011-07-03, 20:34   Link #4
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To lazy to comment on this for now... but

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyuu View Post
Is Shana human? No? OK, move along.

As for Shana... hmm... I'll do a magical transformation on my own... in the shower. Then I'll think about this. (Mind you, I never watched Shakugan no Shana except for episodes 1 and 26 of the 1st season).
Uh... you're a bit off there...
Spoiler for Spoiler/Info from Shana I:
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Old 2011-07-03, 20:37   Link #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyuu View Post
Is Shana human? No? OK, move along.

Also, prior to Madoka - Magical Girl was stereotyped as this... pink, happy-go-lucky, innocent girl-type series. If you don't believe me, go back to watching Tokyo Mew Mew.

Obviously, Madoka decided to break that barrier; and thankfully they did.

As for Shana... hmm... I'll do a magical transformation on my own... in the shower. Then I'll think about this. (Mind you, I never watched Shakugan no Shana except for episodes 1 and 26 of the 1st season).

EDIT: OK, I did think of something while hot steamy water dripped down my magical nakedness. LOL.

Was Shana collecting anything when she was fighting the flavor boss of the episode or the series enemy? Or was she fighting against the enemy over some magical object? (Again, I'm handicapped by never watching it). For, I was thinking along the lines of Sailor Moon, Tokyo Mew Mew, and Nanoha. Nanoha didn't have that flavor enemy of the series; but the good guys were certainly fighting the bad guys over some magical object.
Umm... please don't comment on series you've barely watched, you'll just look silly.
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Old 2011-07-03, 20:39   Link #6
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Originally Posted by Archon_Wing View Post
Umm... please don't comment on series you've barely watched, you'll just look silly.
I'm a pro @ silly. :3 I've seen the movie, but barely paid attention to it.

I'll just read up on Wiki or something.

And another thing to note: any set "definition" to any artistic media is... based on observation and artistic preference. In addition, they're not static.
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Old 2011-07-03, 20:43   Link #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyuu View Post
I'm a pro @ silly. :3 I've seen the movie, but barely paid attention to it.

I'll just read up on Wiki or something.
Orz, I see I was off.

Anyhow, yea, but let's just pretend Shana's a human loli bait for a second. What really seperates Shana from a magical girl? I guess her weapon is different...no, it doesn't seem like using a staff is a requirement.

And what about Nanoha? Technically, they're called "mages", and it's not confined to "girl" at all. Nanoha and Fate are the only magical girls... and if you wanted to be pedantic, most of the characters definitely aren't magical girls. Maybe magical cyborgs lol.

I don't buy "seinen" as a defining line, because of Nanoha. And it doesn't make sense that they're mutually exclusive.
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Old 2011-07-03, 20:49   Link #8
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Generally speaking, a "magical girl" show focuses on a girl (or girls) as the main protagonist(s), who have special magical powers. That's basically it. The genre used to have other stuff like mascots, monsters of the week, etc. But like any genre, it is evolving and bringing in things from other genres.

Nanoha was the first grounding change that really nudged the genre loose and showed what it could do when taken seriously. Although some may say otherwise, Mai HiME also took a more grown up and serious look at it.

I wouldn't classify Shana as Magical girl, because while Shana is a main character, Yuji is just as much of a main character, too (and later in the novels, becomes almost more badass than Shana). Males and females share the spotlight fairly equally (which I will note is something I like; when there is gender equality in asskicking).

In short, I don't see transformations as really needed, or concepts like love and justice... a magical girl, refers to a girl that has magical powers. And thus, the focus is on her. Kiki's delivery service was magical girl, for instance.
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Old 2011-07-03, 21:45   Link #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reckoner View Post
For all intents and purposes, why isn't Shana considered a magical girl show? Shana is a girl, wields supernatural powers, and even has a bit of a transformation. She's fighting some kind of destructive forces. Personally, I think the traditional approach to mahou shoujo is much too rigid.
If we want to talk in technicalities, then yes, Shana as a character can be considered as a magical girl. However, the show can't be since the presentation of the show doesn't resemble a magical girl show. The show doesn't sell itself as a magical girl show, unlike Sailor Moon or Heartcatch or even despite how abstract it is, Utena. Shana's always shows itself as being a fantasy/romantic based show.

I mean, we don't consider Soul Eater as a magical girl show since the main girl (Maka) can transform, wield magical powers and fights demons right?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reckoner View Post
So what do you think, AS users? What defines the magical girl genre for you? Why do we exclude titles from Shana from it, for no apparent reasons?
Well, the title is a good place to start I guess Okay, seriously though, I think it would be either that the presentation of the show being in line with the standard image of the magical girl shows or that the creator intent is apparent that its intended to be as such.
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Originally Posted by Reckoner View Post
Is even the recent Madoka a magical girl show? The show subverted many of the ideals of mahou shoujo, subverted many of the tropes. Its battles were weirdly magical, but not really atypical (Think of Homura's fighting style). Is this really a magical girl show either?
The title?

Madoka is without a doubt a magical girl show. Just because it subverted tropes doesn't stop it from being what it is. Eva didn't stop from being a mecha show because it subverted common tropes in the genre. The fundamental structure of the show is pretty much the same, but the execution and ideals is different from the norm, with the general tone being darker (till the end, but it remains somewhat bittersweet).
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Old 2011-07-03, 22:57   Link #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaijo View Post
Generally speaking, a "magical girl" show focuses on a girl (or girls) as the main protagonist(s), who have special magical powers. That's basically it. [...] I wouldn't classify Shana as Magical girl, because while Shana is a main character, Yuji is just as much of a main character, too...
I think this is probably a useful distinction, and helpful for classification purposes.

It's pretty clear that many shows have elements of multiple genres. So when you're talking about the "Magical Girl Genre", you're really calling out shows where that's the primary genre (or the most central indicator of what the show's about). Besides, these sorts of classifications are only useful such that it informs the reader/viewer about what to expect; if a classification is too vague or fluent, it's not useful in terms of knowing what the show's about. In this sense, the "stereotypes" are somewhat helpful -- it serves as a bit of a recommendation engine ("if you liked X, you may also like Y"). But I don't think a show is constrained to the stereotypes of its genre either; shows like Nanoha and more recently Madoka both stretch the traditional concepts somewhat due to being aimed at a different target audience.

In the spirit of providing classifications that help describe the show, it's somewhat interesting to note that the term "Magical Girlfriend" was coined as a genre/sub-genre, distinct from "Magical Girl". I think it's probably more helpful to describe a show like Shana with that moniker because it explains a lot more about the plot setup, and puts it in a distinct group of more-similar shows. You could argue that it's still really "Magical Girl" as well (since it shares many common elements), but as was pointed out above, the flow of the plot is quite different due to having the male protagonist. So we come up with a new term to help people understand that it's less like "Sailor Moon" (for example) and more like... something else.

So all that to say genres aren't meant to be limiters, but just helpful references. I would say that "what defines the magical genre" are the collection of similar shows that are best defined with that label as opposed to any other. As soon as you have enough shows that follow a similar pattern but are best described with another label or variant, it makes sense to split the classification even if they have some common roots.

(Should also say that many a fan war has broken out over these sorts of classifications, and I've seen many debates over the years even around here about "What is Slice of Life", for example. I think the important thing is to not get "religious" about classification. Again, it's only useful if it helps group similar shows/franchises together. As soon as there's a better word to describe shows with a similar pattern, that's a lot more helpful than a stubborn insistence that "by god, this show is <genre X> and that's how it must be".)
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Old 2011-07-04, 05:48   Link #11
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You younguns... you talk about magical girls and the earliest example you can provide is Sailor moon? Sailor moon already broke up with the canonical majokko series as it was intended so far.

The "magical girl" in japanese animation is as old as the "super robots".

Himitsu no Akko-chan is now universally regarded as the prototype of all the "mahou shoujo" that came afterwards.

The genre exploded in the 80s with popular shows like "Creamy Mami", "Magical Emi", "Persia" and "Pastel Yumi" which can be even found together in crossovers. And then Minky Momo, Fancy Lala, Idol densetsu Eriko, and so on.

These series all had a few points in common:

1) They can be defined as "shoujo", in other words they were aimed at a young female public.
2) The main character is (obviously) a young girl, usually living a normal life. Usually prepubescent.
3) The main character receives her power from a sort of strange little animal (or animals) resembling a plushy or some kind of cute magical object.
4) Through this power the main character transforms into a more adult, more beautiful, more skilled version of herself and she needs to be in that form to be capable of performing magic. (pastel Yumi skips this, but she still got a "transformation" sequence)
5) Magic in this world is the kind of magic seen in fairy tales or actually even more utopistic. It's usually a lot of glittering stars, happiness powder, and anyway it's usually performed for minor harmless stuff. This is not the kind of magic you see in D&D and it's never meant to hurt or destory!

Because of point number 5 I must stress out that the magical girl genre as it was conceived did not entail saving the world, fighting hordes of monsters, or anything of that sort! The magical girl always used her power to achieve her dreams and solve problems in her everyday life.


But then as it happens with every genre, there is always someone who tries to add or modify some parts as an experiment or simply because of the will to revolutionize it and explore it into a different light.

Sailor Moon was one series that introduced several new element to the standard:

1) There is a group of girls instead of a single girl (note that however initially Sailor Venus was the main character of her own story where she was a single heroine)
2) The main characters are adoloscents and not prepubescent.
3) They do not transform into a more adult versions of themselves, although they change costumes and in starlight a physical transformation does occurs.
4) They need to use their powers to fight evil monsters and save the world.

Naoko Takeuchi said she was inspired by "Bishounen" manga and anime that were popular at that time. In fact this is evident by the title "Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon".
I don't think she ever mentioned the source of her inspiration but if I had to guess I'd say "Saint Seiya" and even more probably "Yoroiden Samurai Troopers".

Both are notable for their "transformation" sequences.

So in other words Sailor Moon was a magical girl series heavily influenced by elements that were properly of the shounen genre.

Once you break a scheme everything else follows. Due to the huge success of Sailor Moon a lot of "clones" popped up everywhere. The standard became the group of girls instead of the single heroine, the transformations involved cute costumes rather than a total body change and so on.

So the new magical girl stereotype of the 90s was born.

What happened later is a lot more difficult to describe. The way the genre was reinterpreted and explored inside out makes it very difficult to find the common points that all the new series share.

A most interesting fact to note is that while initially the magical girl genre was aimed at girls and never really interested the male audience, since Sailor Moon more and more male fans came to like magical girls, if anything because they offer interesting "harems" but also because they started showing elements proper of the shounen manga.

This led to the production of male oriented magical girl series and Nanoha is the foremost example followed by Madoka Magica which completely destroyed the utopistic view on magic.

Before them several parodies were made, with Puni Puni Poemi and Dai Mahou touge, which effectively deconstructed the genre, but never really showed anything dramatic.

To make it shorts, the experimentations with the genre have reached such a level that it is no longer possible to clearly mark the point where a series is a series about magical girls and where it is not. It is probably easier at this point to simply try to recognize which are the "elements" typical of the genre without classifying the whole series as such.

For example Mai-Hime is a borderline case. It's a lot more similar to the aforementioned Samurai Troopers (with girls instead of boys) than your classic magical girl of the 80s. And yet it somehow spans form Sailor Moon and its various clones.
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Old 2011-07-04, 07:46   Link #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan-Poo View Post
You younguns... you talk about magical girls and the earliest example you can provide is Sailor moon? Sailor moon already broke up with the canonical majokko series as it was intended so far.
Well for better or worse series like Sailor Moon are now days already considered magical girl series. Even if we tried to recover the term from the fighting girls the fighting girls have already left an impression on the non-fighters.
:cough:askdrrin:cough.

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Originally Posted by Jan-Poo View Post
2) The main character is (obviously) a young girl, usually living a normal life. Usually prepubescent.
I do have to add that only some old magical girl series were like this. There were also a subset of series that involved girls from already magical worlds going to the human world for various reasons. Minky Momo (which you referred too) being one of them.
The most recent anime of this type I know of is Sugar Sugar Rune (2005 so there's probably something more recent).
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Old 2011-07-04, 08:29   Link #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ash Falls Town View Post
I do have to add that only some old magical girl series were like this. There were also a subset of series that involved girls from already magical worlds going to the human world for various reasons. Minky Momo (which you referred too) being one of them.
The most recent anime of this type I know of is Sugar Sugar Rune (1995 so there's probably something more recent).
So the Nanoha series played that trope differently too then? ; Since Fate the antagonist is from a magical world.
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Old 2011-07-04, 08:39   Link #14
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Shana isn't a good example. How about Louise? She has magic, she's a girl, why isn't her show considered a magical-girl show?

The definition of magical girl is still the stereotype girl with a girly costume who transforms with us seeing her neekid body. But it still works since Madoka was able to pull it off.
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Old 2011-07-04, 08:50   Link #15
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Originally Posted by ahelo View Post
Shana isn't a good example. How about Louise? She has magic, she's a girl, why isn't her show considered a magical-girl show?

The definition of magical girl is still the stereotype girl with a girly costume who transforms with us seeing her neekid body. But it still works since Madoka was able to pull it off.
Somehow, Cardcaptor Sakura didn't need those transformation scene.
But becomes the one of the most popular mahou-shoujo ever.

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Old 2011-07-04, 08:55   Link #16
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That's cause Sakura itself is a very late MS anime, with a lot of subversive elements.

Madoka is not a subversion, it is a deconstruction. 2 different things.

This guy knows his stuff. It's an excellent analysis into this very subject

http://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/201...madoka-magica/

Saving the world come from magical girl shows too, but the main thing is how the magic changes their lives for the better. The magic is a blessing, while in Madoka being meguka is suffering. Read the article.
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Old 2011-07-04, 09:12   Link #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ahelo View Post
Shana isn't a good example. How about Louise? She has magic, she's a girl, why isn't her show considered a magical-girl show?

The definition of magical girl is still the stereotype girl with a girly costume who transforms with us seeing her neekid body. But it still works since Madoka was able to pull it off.
I don't know Louise but "has magic" and "is a girl" are not enough to classify an anime girl as "magical girl" in its specific sense.

Else we'd have include Lina Inverse and Deedlit and while we are at it even Enma Ai? Just no...

All fine but giant robots? I think the author of that article missed the bishounen phenomenon that was pretty popular right before Sailor Moon was published.

Quote:
Madoka is not a subversion, it is a deconstruction. 2 different things.
Where can I find a realiable dfinition of "subversion" and "deconstruction" when applied to narrative? It seems to me that there's even more confusion about those than about the "magical girl" term itself.
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Old 2011-07-04, 10:44   Link #18
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How many people here know that the magical girl genre itself was inspired by an American TV show from the late 1960's?

Anyway, I'm surprised that TVTropes hasn't been linked to yet...
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Old 2011-07-04, 10:59   Link #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan-Poo View Post
Where can I find a realiable dfinition of "subversion" and "deconstruction" when applied to narrative? It seems to me that there's even more confusion about those than about the "magical girl" term itself.
Personally, I try not to think about vaguely defined post-modern terms, as it usually leads to a discussion about what to discuss. It's sort of like dissecting a frog that morphs into a snake; the information learned would hardly be called consistent. So bad practice it may be, I usually go along with the most common definition disdain for the unpleasantries of semantic drift be damned, since people have had the history of making something archaic on their own.
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How many people here know that the magical girl genre itself was inspired by an American TV show from the late 1960's?

Anyway, I'm surprised that TVTropes hasn't been linked to yet...
If true, the Magical Girl genre being derived from United States programming does come off as a surprise! But I imagine that the lack of attention toward that site might be from its tendency to ruin your life~
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Old 2011-07-04, 11:05   Link #20
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Originally Posted by Jan-Poo View Post

All fine but giant robots? I think the author of that article missed the bishounen phenomenon that was pretty popular right before Sailor Moon was published.

Where can I find a realiable dfinition of "subversion" and "deconstruction" when applied to narrative? It seems to me that there's even more confusion about those than about the "magical girl" term itself.
I think giant robots were referring to the aesthetic of Nanoha, and that isn't wrong.

Also, simply put, subversion is what Yamakan tried to do to moe with Fractale, while deconstruction is what, say, Hayate does to moe. A subversion is trying to make something new and unconventional from an existing genre, a deconstruction reflects the genre and "deconstructs" it by taking accepted tropes and, well, subverting them in an ironic fashion. Which is what Madoka does.

Subversive Mahou Shoujo would be Sailor Moon, Nanoha, Princess Tutu, etc.
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