Remember the popular Japanese anime Sailor Moon? That show was my guilty pleasure as a kid. Sailor Moon looks like your average teenage schoolgirl, but with a twist: she is blessed with a skill set of magical powers. Although a cult classic, Sailor Moon is not the only television show with a “magical girl.” In fact, not all magical girl characters are anime, and some have been around long before Sailor Moon was created.
Magical girls usually appear in the form of a teenage girl who receives a special magical ability. This type of female character stretches way back to the 1960s. Who remembers these classics: Sister Bertille from The Flying Nun, Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie, and Samantha from Bewitched? Some of them truly had the nuttiest of powers. Sister Bertille, for instance, was a nun who had the power to fly—but only when she wore her cornette. Who comes up with these things?
Besides the majority of these women possessing uniquely ridiculous powers—this includes magical girls from shows in the 1960s to present day—I have also noticed that non-anime magical girl characters are written as one of two ways:
- The one who flies solo: She internally struggles with her individuality because she is the only one of her friends with powers, and she has to fight evil alone each episode. Like Sabrina from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, or Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- The team: They depend on each other, are different from the norm, and work together to conquer the forces of evil. Like Phoebe, Prue, and Piper from Charmed.
Despite the oft-predictable magical girl personality traits, we continue to tune into these shows, asking questions such as: which villain will they tackle this episode? How are they going to save the day this time? But perhaps the question we should really pose when thinking about magical girls is: why are we so fixated on TV shows that feed on women using magic and exploring the supernatural?
In real life, every person has a set of distinguishable traits, but the idea of a real woman in an insane fantasy world who kicks ass and takes names, has blessed magical skills, and defies all the stereotypes of a woman seems rather exciting. Why can’t girls in real life slay the dark forces of evil like Buffy? Non-anime magical girls have grown into a worldwide obsession and franchise over the decades, and prove to be just as popular—if not more—than cartoon or anime magical girls. And here’s the thing: it just so happens that most of us love watching these women deal with the impossible and have all the power. Not only does it let the idea of “female superheroes” come to fruition, but it shows that women are perfectly capable of being as strong and dignified as men.
Who are some of your favorite non-anime Magical Girls? Let’s hear ’em in the comments.