I should point out here that I do not actually like magical girl anime very much. (At least, it is near the bottom of the list of genres I watch.) The standard magical girl plot involves “ordinary girl gets dragged into a situation where she discovers that she has magical powers, or that she otherwise has some sort of destiny.” There is generally a magical animal or two, and there is a power up sequence that takes much too long. There is often some sort of mysterious guy, who either helps or hinders the magical girl. There are also speeches. Lots and lots of speeches, often about the power of Love and Friendship.
My first encounter with the genre was Sailor Moon. I took an immediate dislike to the heroine, because she was floppy and cried too much. (Floppy in this case means “things happen to her” rather than “she does things.”) I couldn’t even follow the manga, and manga is usually how I get into a series. (Not always, however, sometimes, I have to watch the anime first instead. )
Here are a three magical girl (and one magical boy) anime that I like.
This anime is essentially a mash up of Swan Lake and “The Ugly Duckling.” Various fairytales make an appearance, particularly those that have become ballets. There’s also some interesting playing around with the fourth wall in a way. (Characters who are aware of being characters in the story, and their efforts with breaking free of the story because the story is a tragedy and they want to create happy endings for themselves.)
Our Heroine is a duck who falls in love with Mytho, a boy she sees dancing near her pond. She’s approached by someone who is later revealed to be the villain of the series. The villain is Drosslemeyer, a writer who was able to make his stories come to life, but who only wrote tragedies. He was killed by the townspeople before he could finish his last story. He gives her a pendant which enables her to become a human, and later, Princess Tutu. (She also finds herself going to the same school Mytho is going to.)
The story that Drosselmeyer is trying to complete involves a prince who slays a demonic raven by shattering his heart into pieces.
Ahiru (“Duck”) is given the task of restoring to Mytho the missing pieces of his heart which have been contaminated by the villain in Drosselmeyer’s story. Her opponents are Fakir, who is trying to protect Mytho, and Rue, who later becomes “Princess Kraehe.” During the course of the story Ahiru, Mytho, Rue and Fakir become aware that Drosslemeyer (who is believed to have died, but is still alive enough to create problems for the characters) is controlling them, and they begin to work together in order to defeat him.
Ahiru is a bit unusual in that she is not a combatant. Instead, when she locates someone who has one of the pieces of Mytho’s heart, she invites them to dance, and helps them resolve whatever emotional conflict that is bothering them.
I ended up really liking this anime.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
This anime follows the usual formula of “ordinary girl discovers magical world and is given powers,” and has most of the usual tropes. (This is deliberate, as this is almost a parody of the genre.) From there, it goes into some very strange directions, and ends up with having a more “science fiction” appearance.
Nanoha rescues an injured ferret who turns out to be a young shape-shifting archaeologist who is trying to find powerful magical artifacts known as “Jewel Seeds,” which have dangerous side effects such as turning people and anything else they come in contact with into monsters. Yuno was badly injured and forced to remain in ferret form, so Nanoha volunteers to help him look for the Jewel Seeds.
During her search for the Jewel Seeds she runs into another girl named Fate who is also looking for the Jewel Seeds. Though they are opponents, Nanoha becomes convinced that what the other girl really needs is a friend. (Nanoha of course turns out to be right. The other girl’s mother, a mage named Precia, is extremely abusive.)
The first series is as much about Nanaha’s efforts to find out why Fate “seems so sad” as it is about the goal of finding the Jewels Seeds and stopping Precia from using them. Later series follow the same theme of rescuing people from magical artifacts gone bad, and the friendship between Fate and Nanoha.
This anime really drew me in, and I liked it a great deal.
Our Heroine is an elementary student who has recently transferred to a new school. Though she has a reputation of being “cool” she is actually very insecure, and doesn’t like her persona, because it causes people to distance themselves from her. After making a wish, three magical eggs appear, from which hatch “Guardian Characters” which represent the person she would most like to be. One is an artist, one is a very cheerful girl, and the third can fix or cook anything. Shortly after these eggs appear she’s invited to join a club at her school called the Guardians–who also have Guardian characters.
Shugo Chara’s basic theme involves the idea that people have within them an ideal image of who they want to be and do. This is a “heart’s egg” and if someone becomes discouraged or comes to believe that they can’t achieve their dream, the egg becomes an “X Egg” that may become an X Character that ends up causing a lot of damage.
Since Amu has three eggs, (and is the most powerful of the Guardians because at first she is the only one who can do Character Transformations), she has the job of hunting down and purifying X Eggs. In addition to keeping the X Eggs from being created, the kids are also trying to find the Embryo, a special egg that can supposedly grant any wish.
It turns out that there are people who are deliberately creating X Eggs in order to locate the Embryo. They work for a company called Easter, and they want to find the Embryo so they can give it to their boss. As is the case in the other two anime, villains are drawn over to the good guys side, and become friends and allies.
This is an extremely cute series.
The Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok
In this series, the Norse god of mischief Loki has been exiled to Earth, in the form of a ten year old boy. He has no memories of why he had been exiled, and in the mean time, is hunting evil spirits and running a detective agency with his son Yamino (Jorumungandr the World Serpent) who has been given a human form. (Yamino absolutely loves being human. He also loves cleaning, and cooking, and buying things on the internet, none of which you can do when you’re big enough to swallow Godzilla and lack hands with opposable thumbs in your real form.)
Mayura, a silly ditzy girl with no ability to see the supernatural, who at the same time absolutely adores anything weird or supernatural, joins him in his quest for “evil auras”. His other son, the Fenris Wolf, (who manifests as a puppy, and is a horrible bully to poor Yamino, who is actually a sweetheart), eventually turns up, as well as his daughter Hel, who turns out to be one of the minor villains in the series. There are also appearances from Thor (portrayed as a hapless loser who gets fired from dead-end jobs) and Frey (who is portrayed as a very silly overly romantic “daring thief), among others.
This was a funny and entertaining series, with some great moments. I did however have a few, “you’re doing it wrong” moments, since the writer of the series took some very creative license with the series. On the other hand, I have always had a weird soft spot for Loki, and therefore, I ended up really enjoying this series.