“In the name of the moon, I’ll punish you!”
-Sailor Moon, Leader of the Sailor Senshi
Ah yes, life is complicated and it’s all due to some little magical item in your life. Be it an artifact gifting you the power of an ancient warrior, the point of the Magical Girl Genre is how modern youth adapt to the changing situations presented by suddenly being Empowered. In ThreeFold Seer (which is only partially magical girl) the new powers given to each “Seer” radically disrupts the life of all involved. When you are selected by a somewhat desperate deity that is usually what happens. In Steve Universe, the life of being a Gem actively affects Steven’s life and he learns to persevere.
In the case of both, the powers they are given or live with usually come with consequences in tow. The Seers are automatically targetted for their status when they are discovered. Steven, in turn, faces many situations resulting from his status as the son of the infamous “Rose Quartz”. Everyday life in Beach City is openly changed and derailed all the time because of the Crystal Gems. At its very core, the Magical Girl genre thrives on this sense of chaos. Sure, the hero might have powers, but they will face much in the coming trials ahead of them.
The Forms of Magical Girl
There are about three primary tropes that make up the Magical Girl subgenre of fantasy. Most of the original work with Magical Girl began with the Cute Witch. In this case, the Cute Witch is often someone of magical lineage or origin. So thus their powers and abilities are natural to them in a way. Sailor Moon got her powers from being a form of Princess Serenity and could call upon her powers. The ability for a Senshi to get more powerful or better was if not all derived from hard training.
The next form is the Magical Idol Singer, a person who embodies the typical anime trope of the Idol Singer, a beautiful girl who gains the attention as a pop figure. In this form of the trope, magical girl gains her powers from either being an Idol or gets powers after being an Idol. Some cases this can result in the main character being younger than they really should. So often times the Cute Witch often undergoes her transformation and gets older to fit the genre far more. Others at times might deconstruct this notion such as Madoka Magicka who seems to meld elements of Cute Witch with the third and most popular form of Magical Girl.
The Magical Girl Warrior is where the subgerene begins to meld more with the typical attributes we attach to Superhero stories found throughout Western Comics. One of the bigger differences however that often the Rule of Frills is in play. The Magical Warrior at this point when she undergoes her transformation will generally get an outfit some might consider heavily feminine. Dresses (short skirts are a theme) are one of the major platforms for this “battle outfit” and the color schemes tend to be bright or “eye-catching”. A girl’s metamorphosis often may include ribbons and her source of transformation the “trinket” often incorporates itself into the costume.
The earliest time I ever saw a Magical Girl series was watching dubbed episodes of Sailor Moon on Canadian television. Every day I would wake up and watch as Usagi, Rei and the rest battle the evil forces of the various enemies that were fostered on them. I still remember one of the Sailor Jupiter heavy episodes which I think featured a cat creature and weird jewels. It was fun though and from those experiences, I went on to see even more stories later on. It was around the time I started getting and more into comics that I decided to write my own take on the magical stories.
Magical Girls tend to come in organized teams or opposing figures. In Sailor Moon, each of the different sailors appears to epitomize a notable trait. Usagi is often the slightly bumbling and immature figure who many times butts heads with Rei the supposedly more disciplined Shrine Maiden. Ami Mizuno, Sailor Mercury, is the classical shy bookworm character. Jupiter is the strong ruff and tumble tomgirl and the final sailor, Venus, is the pretty girl who dreams of becoming Idol
These women (girls of any age) must face increased odds and overcome them. Their story is in of itself the story of the hero, and yet a lot of emphases is placed on their maturation as characters.