Toyoshi Inada / Editor, Writer
After working for a Film Distribution Company and a DVD magazine publication as an editor, he became a freelancer in 2013. He specialized in film, manga, anime and pop culture. He was the writer of “Social Theory of generations of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” by Subarusya Linkage.
Before and after “Sailor Moon”
ATTENTION: This article contains spoilers.
In 2011, one particular anime made a huge hit; “Puella Magi Madoka”. The character designs were done by Ume Aoki who is known for her illustrations of cute girls and the script was written by Gen Urobuchi, who is recognized for his stories illustrating unreasonable violence and deaths of important characters.
The reason of its success lies in the epic storyline. The basic premise and the appearance of the show, which are cute girls in fluffy dresses fighting with magic, looks too clichéd and has too much “moe” elements that one would think that it would only be popular to otakus at first glance. However, the characters had to pay an immense price in order to use magic. Their enemies are beings that deny the main characters very existence from their roots, and the story had an extremely heavy theme. The epic plot and the ominous settings was presented as an antithesis to the conventional image of magical girls, and anime fans accepted it with surprise and enthusiasm.
In Japan, the “Magical Girl” anime genre was established since the Showa era. It originates from shows like “Sally the Witch” (1966 to 1968) and “The Secrets of Akko-chan” (1969 to 1970)
In the early days of the genre, magical worlds detached with reality would appear frequently in the stories. The main character would be a visitor from another world or normal girls who had been entrusted with magical powers from magical beings. These girls would transform into adults and solve their daily problems without too much difficulty using their special powers. The stories did not even contain one small bit of Madoka Magica’s gravity.
Unlike “Madoka Magica”, an enemy appearing did not cause any threat to humanity. All problems were solved by mysterious magical powers that may have a limit, but no price to pay for. The stories would almost never illustrate the harsh realistic themes such as efforts that never gets rewarded.
In the 80’s, “Magical Princess Minky Momo” showed the boundaries of magic powers and “Creamy Mami, the Magic Angel” illustrated idols and the entertainment industry in a detailed manner, but the seriousness of the story still had nothing to do with the level of world destruction.
Although it depended on the region, these shows used to air around five o’clock in the afternoon. It is the time where all children are at home back from school. The generation of women who are around their 40s have watched and grown up with these shows, and fulfilled their catharsis coming from their desires of transforming into pretty girls and from their aspiration of growing up and living as an adult.
However, the anime “Sailor Moon” makes a turning point for the magical girl genre in when it came out in 1992. This anime, that was so popular to the point it became a social phenomenon in Japan and later became also known around the world, differed completely from the previous stories in the genre.
First of all, the girls in the story team up in order to fight evil. Second, their magic is not only about fancy and peaceful stuff, but also have attacks used on enemies. For the plot, the main characters fight to save the world, which never existed before in the genre. From these new points, “Sailor Moon” carved its name in the history of anime and became one of the best anime representing the “fighting girl” anime genre.
The true identity of the enemy in the first season of “Sailor Moon” was a witch who was the love rival of the main character in her previous life and had fallen to the dark side because of jealousy. The anime had other particularities that created a completely different taste from older stories, like the fact that only the main character has a lover or how the anime illustrates friendship between girls in details. The change from “cute fluffy girls that use magic” to “girl fighters who fight and struggle” that was brought by “Sailor Moon” created a more realistic and ideal image of a women.
The generation of girls who grew up with “Sailor Moon” are today adults in their 30s and are supporting the Japanese economy and society. We can say that their philosophy and life values have been strongly influenced by the anime. I have explained this in details in one of my books and I will be happy if you can take a look at it.
The “Sailor Moon” series have been aired for 5 years until 1997. Because this anime completely wiped out the fixed stereotypes on magical girls, all kinds of magical girls were created later.
For example, “Ojamajo Doremi” series (1999-2002), also made by Toei Animation that created “Sailor Moon”, and “Pretty Cure” series that started in 2004 until today are the successors to “Sailor Moon” that kept the same style but made for a younger audience.
On the other side, “Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha” that was aired in 2004, is an fighting girl anime created for the male audience. We can say that “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is the newest anime in that same category. It is really interesting to see how the magical girl and fighting girl anime genre will change and develop in the future.