Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Most famously magical-girl stories feature young girls with superhuman abilities who are forced to fight evil and protect the Earth. Notable examples include Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Futari wa Pretty Cure. Magical Girls are also known in Japan as 'majokko' (魔女っ子), literally "witch girl".
General types of "magical girls"
- A magical being, such as a witch or an angel, attempting to function in a mundane world.
- A mundane girl given power by a magical figure without the baggage of combat. One famous generic power is for the character to turn into an older version of herself and enjoy some of the freedom from awkward youth, which the audience identifies with. (Fancy Lala)
- A mundane girl given power, or had her own already-existing power awakened, in order to fight malevolent forces. Although they are latecomers to anime and manga compared to the previous two, this is the most famous type and has become the de facto definition of a magical girl.
Common themes and features
Magical girls generally obtain their powers from some sort of enchanted object such as a pendant, a wand, or a ribbon. By concentrating on this object, in addition to speaking a special phrase or command in some cases, a girl undergoes an intricate transformation sequence and changes to her fully powered form. A major theme of magical-girl stories is 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 are rarely pushovers even in mundane form, as they tend to learn ordinary acrobatics, martial arts, or other offensive and/or defensive actions, to supplement their supernatural talents.
Magical girls are not alone in their adventures. They occasionally receive the help of mysterious, magical boys. These boys sometimes disdain their female counterparts, but other times, they show romantic interest in one of the girls (or vice-versa). Another common ally is 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.
Much of the magical girls' time is spent trying to keep their powers and their mundane identities secret. The reasons for this vary; perhaps they wish to keep their friends and family hidden from their enemies, or maybe they enjoy the thrill and the freedom their secret identities grant them — traditional Japanese ideals of womanhood have little to do with running around fighting evil in usually skimpy outfits. Other times, magical girls may simply be too embarrassed, or sometimes even outright forbidden, to let their friends and family know about their secret powers; perhaps it is their fault that the evil they fight escaped into the world in the first place, or maybe they don't want anyone to see them in their silly costumes (or uniforms if they are part of a larger team). However, despite their best attempts to keep their normal and supernatural lives separate, strange events tend to occur to magical girls in mundane life with alarming regularity, forcing them to transform and fight.
Magical girl stories tend to be upbeat and cheerful. The characters fight for idealistic causes such as love, peace, hope, and beauty — never 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 are the ones who pursue the enemies and attempt to thwart their plans. The genre may seem silly at first glance, but it can be intriguing due to the contrasts and conflicts the magical girls represent, caught up as they are between the masculine and feminine, childish and mature, helpless and powerful.
The best-known magical girls in the western world are the Sailor Team of Sailor Moon, although that series also incorporated sentai elements (a quintet of warriors rather than one) that helped redefine the magical girl concept. Cardcaptor Sakura, meanwhile, is closer to the original 'pure' concept. Somewhat of a compromise between the two approaches is the recent Pretty Cure.
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