Anime Genre-ism, Madoka and Magical Girls

There is one thing that bothers me regarding Madoka, or more accurately, some of Madoka’s fans. Since the first episode of Madoka aired, on many forums and blogs and sites, I have noticed many comments along these lines: “I usually don’t touch Magical Girl Anime, but I am glad that I picked up Madoka” and comments on how Madoka has ‘redefined’ the genre.


I then began seriously thinking as to why these comments irked me so much. It was then that I realized that the people who made these comments probably have never even seen a Magical Girl show before (or have seen one or two) and made assumptions or had the misconcepition that the entire genre consists of similar works.

I would say that, instead of ‘redefining’, Madoka is just another Magical Girl show. Deconstructive, yes, but not revolutionary. After all, the genera is so rich with a variety of different shows that it seriously puts into question what these people’s understanding of the genre actually is. By saying that ‘I would not have touched Magical Girl shows’ and that Madoka ‘redefines’ the genre, I feel that these people are also undermining and overlooking many different Magical Girl shows that they have decided to lump together.

I mean, other than the shared features of Magical Girl shows like transformation scenes, mascot characters, magical items/powers, the fighting of evil and what not, there really is very little in common between Magical Girl shows. And before anyone says anything, as opposed to being ‘cliches’, I would say that the above characteristics are what defines the genre, like how Macross will always have music and transforming planes and how Kamen Riders will always have a henshin belt. As long as they are handled differently in each work, there should be no problems.

Anyways, to be honest, I really can’t see how someone can hate or avoid an entire genre. Is it a misconception that all Magical Girl shows are for little girls?

First off, in most cases, appearances can be deceiving. For instance, Heartcatch Precure, whilst targeting a younger demographic and appearing all flowery and sweet, is surprisingly mature at times and does a phenomenal job with its character development, interactions, action sequences, comedy and plot. The same can be said for Nanoha. While it is a series about 9 year old Magical Girls, with their maturity, you won’t be believing that for a second. Nanoha also shows no restraint in bringing on the big explosions and throwing in some spectacular battles with technologically based magic weapons that do serious damage. The same goes for Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon and a ton of other ‘girly’ or ‘innocent’ looking Magical Girl shows.

And if you are looking for ‘dark’, ‘different’, ‘mature’ and ‘complex’ Magical Girl shows, there are already a ton of them out there such as Revolutionary Girl Utena, Princess Tutu, Cutie Honey, Panty & Stocking, Mai-Hime, etc… Yes, believe it or not, these shows are all within the genre of ‘Magical Girls’ in one way or another.

So basically, what I am trying to advocate to fellow Anime fans is to not limit yourself by being a genre-ist, no matter the genre, especially when dealing a medium as vibrant and varied as Anime. In the case of Magcial Girls, I think many people have a misconception as to what the genre actually is and overlook the sheer variety of what the genre has to offer. As they say, you never know what you’re missing till you try it. Undoubtedly, there will be bad eggs out there that are exploitative or otaku-pandering and what not (if you don’t like that kind of stuff), but as I have been saying, one show is not representative of an entire genre.

All in all, I have to admit that I am grateful that Madoka has introduced, or reintroduced, many people to the genre of Magical Girls.

6 Responses to Anime Genre-ism, Madoka and Magical Girls

  1. skittyzfreak says:

    yes, I must agree with you. People shouldn’t talk about things they hardly know anything about. I like Madoka, but I’ve also seen and/or read sailor moon, tokyo mew mew, nanoha, card captor sakura, shugo chara, and others. Each and every one has a degree of uniqueness to them. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be popular cause they would be extremely boring.

  2. VillainHana says:

    I remember saying to you more than once that even though I have little love for Madoka, I do have things that I like about it (Kyubei, Kyouko) and I do think it was a good thing that it was made.

    For a very long time the Magical Girl genre has been the “acceptable target” of the Anime fandom (especially the Western Fandom). It was okay to make fun of and to make base blanket statements about the Magical Girl genre. Madoka has finally made people realize that Magical Girl is just like every other genre, a tool by which to covey a story, a set of characters, and emotions. A tool is not inherently evil nor good, it is what you do with the tool that counts (Moe elements I believe work in this way as well).

    Needless to say Actar, I do agree with you that comments like Madoka has “redefined” the genre (or worse, made it “good”) or this is the “one good ” Magical Girl show is utter lunacy and indicative of a lack of understanding of the genre. Even in the very limited ammount of Magical Girl shows I have watched (Nanoha, the Mai series, PSG, Madoka and I guess Strike Witches to some extent) I can tell that it is just a genre like any other in that it is a tool, not some factory press turning out exact copies. Not to mention that both you and I have said that Madoka is not as “inovative/revolutionary” as everyone thinks. By no means is it trite, tired or cliche, but it is also not “completely new”.

    But as you said, despite my own grievances, I am glad Madoka was made, so as to not make Magical Girl an “acceptable target” anymore.

  3. I don’t agree with you. Maybe not entirely. I’ve seen a bit of magical girl shows but maybe I was unlucky enough to only seen Nanoha the movie 1st, Tokyo Mew Mew, Ojamajo Doremi, Sailor Moon, Heartcatch Precure and Revolutionary girl Utena with Panty & Stocking. While the last two shows barely reminded me of a cliche magical girl show, the other titles I listed were all similiar and even the same to me.

    Maybe why Madoka is special is because the series laughed at cliche mg (magical girl) traits as transformation, fighting for other people, lovable mascot of the show and pride and joy of being a magical girl. Maybe it’s not special to you, because you’ve seen more titles and have a biggest knowledge than me, which I won’t argue, but still imo you shouldn’t sell Madoka short.

    If you know any series where being a magical girl is a burden, where your magical item contains your soul and where without it you die and where your mascot/magical partner deceives you, I’ll be glad. :3

  4. Actar says:

    @ Izabela: When I watched the show, I never really did get the impression that Madoka was ‘laughing’ at any of the Magical Girl tropes, but just handling it in a different way.

    But perhaps it’s because of our different perceptions of the definitions of ‘cliche’ and ‘tradition’. To me, a cliche is something that is used repeatedly without making any effort to change it. A tradition, however, is something that is used repeatedly, but handled differently in each work. Not to mention, traditions can be something that actually defines a genera. As I said, Madoka still has all the ‘traditional’ elements of a Magical Girl show like transformations, mascot characters and girls fighting evil with the power of hope.

    No, there isn’t any other Magical Girl show (I know) that has a Magical Item that contains the person’s soul, but I also know of no other Magical Girl show, other than Nanoha, who’s main heroine makes friends by blasting them to hell and no other show like Princess Tutu who’s main character is a duck. Even Panty and Stocking are still girls, on the side of good, fighting evil entities… even if they are completely selfish and doing it for themselves. Each show handles ‘traditional’ magical girl tropes differently and that is really all that a show needs to do to stay fresh in my mind.

    But aside from that, you can definitely bring in the other factors such as characters, plot, tastes and whatnot, but that’s a topic for another discussion.

    Also, I’m not saying that people are not entitled to hate or dislike Magical Girl shows. To each his/her own, but what I’m hoping for is that people actually have an informed opinion on the matter and not make assumptions or criticize something without knowing what it fully is. Basically, people who hate or avoid entire generas without experiencing all of what it had to offer.

    In your case, if you don’t like the ‘traditional’ Magical Girl shows (but again, that’s subjective), then stick to the more ‘unconventional’ ones like the ones I mentioned. But what you must realize is that they are still Magical Girl shows nonetheless.

  5. melissa says:

    I agree with you! alot of people don’t seem to realize that magical girl shows are toward the female demagraphic so having pink and fluffyness is justified. while i liked madoka, i don’t think it “revolutionazed” the genre. Also I don’t like how they handed Yuno in Nanoha, i mean he had soo much potential as a character and being Nanoha’s love interest but unforetunately he got doomed to being “just the sidekick”,

  6. Squiggsquasher says:

    I really need to watch Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. It looks positively brilliant (although I cannot believe that Nanoha and Testerossa are only 9 years old!) and I hope it’s on AnimeUltima.

    Myself, I love Magical Girl shows. As a kid I loved Cardcaptor Sakura (although it was the dub, so that hardly counts…sadface) and I recently watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which was awesome, if a little depressing (and after watching Neon Genesis Evangelion AND End of Evangelion I’ve had rather too much depressing and disturbing anime), and I do want to watch Sailor Moon, which is getting a reboot this year. But then I consider Squid Girl a total masterpiece, so my taste is questionable…^_^

    Speaking of Squid Girl, have you seen it? I highly recommend it, it is completely hilarious, de geso! There’s also a Figma of little Squiddy, if you’re interested.

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