Magical Girl Princesses

It's the premiere week of Mysticons, so let's talk about magical girls and their impact on princess mythology. The magical girl craze began in Japan as a genre of anime called "mahou shoujo." No one knows exactly how it started, but it is believed that the first magical girl appeared in 1966 as Sally the Witch. Though individual stories vary, all the series in the mahou shoujo genre contain grade school-aged girls who receive sparkly trinkets that allow them to transform into pretty superheroes. They fight bad guys by screaming magical words and releasing different types of spells, usually in a pretty sequence of recycled animation. The concept seems rather silly from an outside perspective, but it definitely sells. Not all magical girls are princesses, but it is a common overlying theme, most likely because the genre was created for the same target audience.

The most princessy magical girl anime would probably have to be Go! Princess Pretty Cure (pictured above), which came out roughly two years ago in 2015. The Pretty Cure, or PreCure, series comes out with a new magical girl show every year or two. It began in 2004, joining a long line of mahou shoujo anime series. Princess PreCure centers around Haruka, a 13-year-old girl, who I personally relate to a great deal. She spent most of her life wishing she could be a fairy tale princess like the one in her favorite book. All of the decisions she made in her life were based around that goal, from what school to attend to how to dress. One day, she met a real fairy tale prince who gave her a magic charm that allowed her to transform into Cure Flora, a magical princess who rescues people whose dreams were locked away by a dark witch. Cure Mermaid, her academy's high-ranking "princess" and Cure Twinkle, a successful fashion model, soon join her for lots of sparkly princess-powered fun.

One of the most popular mahou shoujo series of all time is Sailor Moon, which began in 1991. It had several incarnations including a very well-written live-action series called Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, and the newest anime, Sailor Moon Crystal. The main character, Usagi, eventually learns that she was reincarnated from Princess Serenity, who lived on the moon fell in love with an Earth prince, Endymion. Though the concept of magical girls does not date back to ancient times, Usagi's history is based on an ancient Greek myth about the moon goddess Selene who fell in love with a human who was also named Endymion. Some versions of Sailor Moon also reference the other sailor soldiers as princesses of their respective planets, but that idea has never been fully explored since Usagi is always the main focus.

Magical girls are not limited to Japanese animation. In 2004, an Italian animation studio started the Winx Club series, about a group of teenage girls who transform into fairies and attend a boarding school similar to Hogwarts, where they learn how to control their powers. Almost all of the girls attending Alfea Academy are princesses, which makes the idea of being a princess seem a lot less important. The first episode follows Bloom, an ordinary girl who learns that she has Winx and gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the school. She later discovers, to nobody's surprise, that she is actually a long-lost princess. The series lasted a ridiculously long time, with each season becoming more convoluted than the last. I was very sad when it got converted to CGI, a fate shared by The Swan Princess movies. In theory, Winx Club was a fantastic idea for imaginative girls. Who wouldn't want to become a fairy? The concept was adopted for a slightly younger audience in Nick Jr.'s 2011 Mia and Me, which features a girl from the real world who enters a storybook and turns into a fairy, but it isn't exactly a magical girl series.

In 2014, a French studio released their version of a mahou shoujo series called LoliRock, is about a rock band of three girls who transform into their super princess forms when bad guys show up. It's kind of like an action version of Jem and the Holgrams. There's so much of it that comes from other shows that LoliRock itself can hardly be considered an original idea. Like the PreCures, the LoliRock princesses change their hair colors when they transform, making them harder to identify from their alter egos. Like Winx, the show starts out with a character who doesn't know she's a magical princess, allowing girls to live vicariously through her perspective. Iris, Talia, and Auriana are each princesses of different planets, which we do get to visit in some of the season finales, but very little is actually revealed about their worlds. Most of it takes place on plain old everyday Earth. Though the show is very formulaic, it's a good example of how far the magical girl genre has spread.

As far as American magical girls, the best example, not counting Mysticons, would be Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders in 1995. Magical transformations? Check. Sparkly gadgets? Check. Magic attacks powered by catch phrases? Check. Despite the popularity of the genre, there have not been that many American-made magical girl shows, even though they often buy rights to dub series from other countries. Disney started a magical girl show in 2015 called Star vs. the Forces of Evil, but I personally found it to be rather cringe-worthy, lacking the common themes of friendship and teamwork. It's more like a parody of magical girl shows than anything else.

The prevalence of princesses in magical girl shows most likely began as a backlash to older fairy tales where princesses were commonly portrayed as damsels in distress. Magical girls were a big push toward the warrior princess movement, as they demonstrate that girls are capable of rescuing themselves and can do anything that boys can. Granted, it's a bit of a stretch to consider transforming into frilly dresses and shooting sparkly wands to be a form of fighting, but for us princess lovers, it's certainly preferable to gory action flicks.


Did you watch Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic?
Lisa Dawn said…
I only caught one or two episodes of it before it got cancelled. I know most of it was animated, but I only remember the live-action parts where she did magic tricks.

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