Mahou Shoujo, or Magical Girl anime, is a staple of J-pop culture recognized by tropes like young teenage girls, kawaii outfits, and amazing powers to transform and save the world. Magical girl anime has created both role models for young girls and fictional icons loved by adult anime fans. Today, we’ll pick out some of the best magical girl anime series, from the classics to new takes on the genre.
Cardcaptor Sakura is a story about a ten-year-old girl named Sakura Kimonoto who accidentally releases the mystical cards in “The Clow” book, created by the sorcerer Clow Reed. Also awakened from the book, Keroberos, nicknamed Kero – Beast of the Seal – tasked her with finding and retrieving all the missing Cards to prevent them from causing disaster to the world.
Along with her best friend Tomoyo Daidouji and with Kero-chan’s guidance, Sakura learns to balance her new secret mission with her everyday life as she steps into the magical adventure as Cardcaptor Sakura.
Sakura gets the best of both worlds as both a magical girl and a pre-teen girl. She’s an upbeat and pure-hearted girl with magical abilities and is surrounded by supportive people in her magical journey. She even has a lovely romantic relationship with the main male character, Syaoran.
Even better, there is hardly any magical girl with an impressive battle costume collection like Cardcaptor Sakura does, keeping us all excited for what she’s going to wear every episode. This CLAMP anime and manga really was full of style.
If you are new to the magical girl anime genre, Cardcaptor Sakura is a classic that will make you fall in love with its magical vibe: classical elements, fascinating costumes, and endearing romances.
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This Nakayoshi manga turned anime revolves around the quest to destroy evil while protecting the Earth and the Universe of the Sailor Scouts. The main protagonist – Usagi Tsukino – has a fateful encounter with the cat Luna. From this, she becomes Sailor Moon – a pretty warrior with a mission to protect the Earth against evil.
Throughout her journey, she meets and makes friends with other warriors: Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Venus, and the mysterious Tuxedo Mask. The group also discovers their true identities as they fight to save the planet from destruction.
Sailor Moon might not be the first, but is definitely the most influential magical girl anime of all time even in the Western world. Usagi is one of the most relatable magical girls as a clumsy crybaby who has to deal with normal problems like school, love, and friends, while learning to realize her inner power to fight for justice in the magical adventure.
Sailor Moon also defines the entire genre with its epic magical girl transformations, gorgeous battle outfits, and beautiful makeup. Plus, Sailor Moon’s iconic powerful transformation items, like the magical brooches and wands, have set the standard for other magical girls having a kind of weapon with them.
On top of that, the Sailor Scouts are a perfect role model for young girls as they represent female empowerment, femininity, and badassery at the same time. No wonder many people consider this anime as one of the top shojo anime (young girls’ anime) of all time
This story is about a group of junior high school girls, including the main character – Kaname Madoka – as their lives take a dramatic turn after Madoka rescues a cute creature from another planet called Kyubey. Kyubey offers to fulfill their wishes, and in exchange, they would become magical girls and fight witches. Unfortunately, everything is not as it seems because wishes come at a price.
In contrast to its cute character design and familiar premise, Madoka Magica tells a brutal story with interesting plot twists, tension, and drama in every episode, keeping viewers on edge all the time. Not to spoil too much, but each magical girl’s wish is worth trading their own life for, so they need to gain strength to overcome every hardship that comes their way.
If you’re a fan of anime, but have grown out of the typical magical girl tropes, Madoka Magica’s mature and darker themes will renew your interest in the genre. You can still find common things related to magical girls – frilly costumes, magnificent transformations, and impressive fights, but other than that, almost every magical girl cliché is broken down in this game-changer series.
Madoka Magica is definitely not another cutesy magical girl series, so prepare yourself for unexpected twists and turns with both heartwarming and heartbreaking moments.
Inspired to become a noble prince, Utena Tenjou, dressed in a school boy uniform, attends the prestigious Ohtori Academy. There, she ends up involved in a strange tournament with mysterious members of the Student Council, all rivals in a duel to possess the “Rose Bride” – Anthy Himemiya.
You see, Anthy gives her “master” the power to revolutionize the world. Utena participates in the duels to live up to her ideal as a prince, stand up for people in need, and save Anthy from a cruel fate.
Although it does have a sort of transformation to display Utena’s power and an animal sidekick, the series breaks down lots of stereotypes in magical girl anime with its unusual plot and heavy character development. The most important theme of the series is the romantic relationship between Utena and Anthy that revolutionized both the magical girl genre and plenty of fairy tale anime in the 1990s.
Utena proved that being a magical girl is not all about aesthetic, cute uniforms, twinkling transformations, and living happily ever after with a prince charming that you can enjoy lightly. Instead, this is a classic and influential magical girl anime series for anime fans, with deep interpretations as it touches on topics like gender norms and sexuality.
Amu Hinamori is considered to be a “cool and spicy” girl by her classmates. But in reality, she’s shy and introverted. One morning, she finds three eggs under her pillow, who claim to be her “Shugo Chara” or her would-be selves.
With their help, Amu is able to express herself, but it also causes her to connect with a group of students in her school known as the Guardians. Their mission is to protect other childrens’ eggs from being turned into X-eggs by an evil organization known as Easter.
Shugo Chara! is definitely a breath of fresh air in the magical girl anime world. It has the genre’s traditional lovely outfits, transformation sequences, and bad guys. However, it will still give you the best magical girl anime experience with its genius plot and unique concepts. It even has a couple of magical boy characters!
This anime will give you a good laugh, but it also delivers a positive message that most of us can relate to: be confident in your true selves and never lose sight of your dreams.
If you are an anime fan, at least one of these phenomenal magical girl anime above probably already has a place in your heart!
What are other magical girl anime that you think deserve to be on this list too? Share with us your top favorite in the comments below!
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