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Otaku University – Lesson 3: What is Mahou Shoujo?

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Otaku University Lesson 3

Welcome, class! Zaktaku-sensei here for the third lesson of Otaku University, your guide for everything you need to know about being proper otakus! This week, we’ll be covering a relatively popular genre of anime, Mahou Shoujo, or ‘Magical Girls.’ Let’s start our lesson!

Mahou Shoujo is a subgenre of fantasy anime and manga, which follow girls who use magical powers to fight evil. Usually, the first universally accepted Mahou Shoujo was Princess Knight, which was released in 1953. Princess Knight ended up creating one of the most popular anime genres of all time, spawning critically acclaimed anime such as Kill la Kill, Sailor Moon, Princess Tutu, and Cardcaptor Sakura.

Recently, spins have been made on the genre involving ‘magical boys.’ Such examples are the Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!, where the genre is parodied by men crossdressing as magical girls, and Is This a Zombie?, where a male zombie becomes a magical girl after accidentally stealing the powers of one.


Inside the realm of Mahou Shoujo, there are multiple categories for a certain anime to fall under, three to be exact. These categories were spawned after the rule of Sailor Moon, probably one of the most popular Mahou Shoujo animes in the west. Those three categories are Neoclassical, Action Hero, and Deconstruction.

Neoclassical is, as the name states, a take on the original Mahou Shoujos of old, except updated for a more modern audience. It usually includes how women fit inside modern society, displaying what the author believes to be ‘correct gender roles.’ I didn’t think we had true gender roles anymore.

Anyway, Neoclassical is aimed towards young girls, like a traditional shoujo, but has a large demographic of adult males watching it. Think of it as My Little Pony for anime.

Really popular examples would include Cardcaptor Sakura, Pretty Cure!, and Ojamajo Doremi.


Next is Action Hero, which began with Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, are normally targeted towards teenage and adult males. So obviously, there’s something quite fanservice-y about them. Action Hero generally has a hot-blooded main protagonist, who can usually handle herself in the heat of combat and not have to rely on ‘friendship.’ Sailor Moon, I’m looking at you. They also have over the top fighting scenes, which includes people having special attacks that have epic names (Example: Mystletainn Kick), the total ignorance of basic physics, and tons of fan service. Think of Action Hero as the Mahou Shoujo version of the ‘Super Robot’ subgenre of mecha. (If you wanna learn about mecha, follow this conveniently located link!)

Additionally, when it comes to Action Hero, they have an obscenely large cast of female characters. Literally, this is designed to lure in men…because…men are dumb…dirty…and disgusting…right? Please don’t kill me, ladies.

Notable Action Hero mahou shoujo animes  would include Kill la Kill, Senki Zesshou Symphogear, and Vividred Operation.

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And finally, we come to the Deconstruction mahou shoujo category, which recently surged into popularity. In Deconstruction, the main characters fight evil in a world that is not what it seems: Where everything is colorful and bright until it turns out horrible wrong.  Usually, what ends up happening, is we get a trip through the psyche of each character to show the horrors of each of their mind. This quite literally is the darkest of all the subgenres of mahou shoujo, especially if you factor in all of the philosophical or religious messages in each of these shows.

Popular examples are Princess Tutu, Yuki Yana is a Hero, and that’s it…nothing else…serious guys…just skip past the next picture…

Oh, okay! Who am I kidding! Of course, there’s Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which was essentially named ‘the Neon Genesis Evangelion’ of mahou shoujo anime.


All in all, mahou shoujo anime is a very broad genre with very diverse subgenres. You have Neoclassical, which is your happy-go-lucky-girls-adventures; Action Hero, a testosterone driven thrill ride that would make even Michael Bay blush; and Deconstruction, which dives into the dark side of this genre.

And those are the basics of mahou shoujo anime today, without me going over too much of the history of the genre. If you’d enjoyed this lesson, please leave a like so I know you did. Have a correction, tidbit of information you’d like to share, or even a suggestion for the next lesson, feel free to drop a comment below! Zaktaku-sensei is all ears!

But until next time…

Class dismissed!

Sailor Moon Crystal is created by Toei Animation

Kill la Kill is created by Trigger

Cardcaptor Sakura is created by Madhouse

Senki Zesshou Symphogear was created by Satelight and Encourage Films

Puella Magic Madoka Magica was created by Shaft…pfft…funny name…god, men are disgusting pigs.

Please don’t sue us.

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