Behind Magical Girls: The History

    Have you ever thought about being a magical girl who fights evil in the name of justice? Because that’s what I thought when I was a child, watching magical girls like Sailor Moon, Minky Momo, Pretty Cure, etc.; I practically grew up with them. Are you familiar with those franchises that I’ve mentioned? If so, you must have figured out what they have in common, yes? Young girls that are given the magical powers to transform and fight bad guys, they are what you call magical girls. If you've never watched or heard anything about them, worry not! For the next few weeks I will guide you thoroughly into the world of magical girls. Today, we’re going to talk about the history; how did it become so popular that it became its own genre? Let’s find out why!

    The first ever manga that paved the way for the success of the magical girls genre is Himitsu No Akko-chan (1960). With her magical mirror, she had to live a double life as a normal teenager and a magical warrior that fights bad guys. However, the first ever animated magical girls was Sally the Witch, inspired by Bewitched, an American TV show about a witch who has to hide her powers. If you trace it back down, other anime such as Princess Knight, introduced the concept of female heroes. However, the term Mahou Shoujo (Magical Girls) itself was not a household name until the 1980 Toei anime series Mahō Shōjo Raraberu, or Lalabel, the Magical Girl. (Book Riot, The Evolution of Magical Girls).

    When was the rise of magical girls? Here’s some bait: if I say Sailor Moon, a figure of a blonde girl with a sailor uniform would appear in your mind, right? The cult classic Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi (1991) introduced the concept of serious fighting while embracing femininity. It has become the most popular anime and manga for all ages – even the word popular is an understatement because it has been adapted into 6 seasons of anime series, 1 season of anime reboot, and 3 movies with a crazy insanely large amount of loyal fan  base. Another successful magical girls franchise is Cardcaptor Sakura, where you would find all the magical girls tropes. 

    The 90s was a prospering era for magical girls fans because it was the era of famous magical girls. Most of the franchises are still going strong till this very day. Take Pretty Cure for example, it is a long-lasting franchise of magical girls because it keeps on making new ones for decades. I think it’s also not fair if I don’t mention Minky Momo, one of the first magical girls with dark elements. The impact that Minky Momo had on Japanese people is no joke – it turned into an urban legend, because every time, not so long after the national TV aired or re-aired (editor plis bahasa yg lebih enak apa) the last episode where Minky Momo died, earthquakes would always follow. Do you believe it?

    Anyway, let’s move onto the next topic. Ever since the magical girls genre became popular, western media also took their chance by creating their own version of magical girls. One of them is Winx Club, fairies that took inspiration from magical girls in terms of transformation. The classic She-Ra also took inspiration from magical girls. More recent work would be Miraculous Ladybug: The Adventure of Ladybug and Cat Noir. Though the writing was somewhat crappy, the fandom is big and thriving. 

    Nowadays, the magical girls genre has shifted a lot. At first, Magical Girls were targeted toward young kids, though it still has elements that older audiences could enjoy, Modern Magical Girls often target older audiences with darker elements, or even parodies of Magical Girls genre. It is believed that the development of the Magical Girls genre was seen as an antithesis to adulthood, in which women are expected to undertake domestic duties (Saito, 2014). It is also some kind of media to fight the mainstream norms of society, which is why you would find a lot of unique things in this genre.


    Saito, K. (2014). Magic, shōjo, and metamorphosis: Magical girl anime and the challenges of changing gender identities in japanese society. Journal of Asian Studies, 73(1), 143–164. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021911813001708 

Content Writer : Steven Andrew Santoso

Editor : Manohara Diwasasri