i used to be questioned a lot on my sources for my 'Fight like a Girl' panel, so I added a slide at the end with my primary sources, but my research usually goes further than that. While I do prioritize the voices of Japanese Women I don't limit myself to them because they are not the only group of people impacted by the genre. The genre of magical girl has existed in the west as long as it has in Japan and what's 'good' vs. what's 'bad' is reflected primarily through the lens of the culture that consumes them.
This being said, here's a list of some of the sources I use along with others people may find interesting. This list is primarily focused on on peer reviewed or cited work, research papers, and interview pieces with either experts in their respective fields or have insider information due to working within the industry.
When you become a Magical Girl you're often instantly gifted with enhanced physical prowess. You can run further, jump higher, punch harder. In Precure, it's even become a first episode trope that the girls are amazed by their new abilities to the point of comedic worry. The idea of magic granting enhanced physical performance is the core reasoning behind the joke in Magical Girl Ore.
If these enhanced physical traits aren't granted sometimes the characters are already predisposed to it. Cutie Honey and Miracle Limit-Chan are robots and there is no shortage of girls born as witches or magical princesses.
The reasoning as to why Magical Girls can do what they do usually ends at that, explained away in a mythos of magic. It makes sense! There's nothing wrong with that, there isn't need for anything further, but it's intriguing when the narrative delves deeper and connects real world talent with Magical Girl performance.
In Sailor Moon, Makoto's real life fighting talents translate flawlessly in Sailor Jupiter's combat style and Rei's shrine maiden influences gives her an extra edge as Sailor Mars. Several Precure series sometimes have training episodes dedicated to the girls improving their Magical Girl abilities in their civilian lives.
But my personal favorite example of this underused idea is Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne.
She's a blond princess who doesn't know she's the princess of a lost magical kingdom. She's being raised on Earth with a new family with no knowledge of a former, more magical life. Suddenly, on her 13th birthday she finds out she has a magical destiny to defeat the evil force that destroyed her home world. She's granted magical powers, a cool animal friend, and some friends to help her fight.
Nope, Amethyst Princess of Gemworld
DC Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld (1985) | Paris Cullins
Do you need a transformation sequence to be considered a magical girl show? No. Is it one of the most instantly recognizable parts of the genre? Absolutely.
The transformations have become interwoven into the fabric of the magical girl genre and have caused genre fans to spend hours on YouTube looking up compilation videos of sequences of transformations from decades past, specific series titles, and more. Even non-fans can recognize the iconic sequences. Throw in some glitter, ribbons and posing and you've got a dozen or so people saying "Just like Sailor Moon!".
The entrancing nature of the whole affair can sometimes make you forget the five minute time chunk the transformation eats up.
Transformations have become so popular it's made it's way into non-Magical Girl shows like DC Super Hero Girls on Netflix or Cartoon Network's Craig of the Creek.
How did this glee inducing genre staple start? Where did it come from? And why can a good transformation make or break a series for genre fans?
Let's roll on back to the 60s and find out.
Sparkle Cadet from Craig of the Creek
When it comes to mixing genres with Magical Girls there is a lot of obvious choices that you can chose from - Romance, Drama, Comedy. Even if you wanted to boil it down to more specific genres like Isekai and Slice of Life feel like more obvious choices. Mecha seems like a far cry for a genre that usually centers around softer aesthetics of frills and lace, and yet from the 90s till now there are about a dozen or so Magical Girl shows with mecha influences, and vice versa.
There's something about the combination of cute girls and robots that makes for a winning formula. Long running franchises like Lyrical Nanoha had definitely figured it out- the series started in 2004 and has an installation as recent as 2018 at the time of writing this- but Nanoha wasn't the first. The genre mixing goes way way back to a show called Magic Knight Rayearth.
Vita from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's
This is directly related to the post "What Is A Magical Girl"
I always eventually get asked about my stance on "Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!" and whether or not it's a magical girl show as it doesn't contain any girls. My answer is always the Parody Rule - yes, it counts, as a parody of the genre.
It counts how Scary Movie can be considered a Horror Comedy despite it not being very scary at all. Or how Puni Puni Poemi counts even that it doesn't technically check all my boxes. Or how I count Puri-puri Prisoner* as a 'Magical Girl', because he's a very obvious parody of the genre.
Basically if the show (or a character) is a very obvious Parody of the genre, it counts under the Parody Rule.
*Puri Puri Prisoner is a shitty okama trope but, like, not all Magical Girls are good Magical Girls, you feel?
I start all my panels off by addressing this: What is A Magical Girl?
It seems cut and dry, an easy answer, but there is tons of in-fighting in the fandom as to what shows count. "Revolutionary Girl Utena isn't a Magical Girl series", "Bee and Puppycat doesn't count because it's a western show", "Black Rock Shooter is definitely a magical girl series."
This gets particularly frustrating when I'm choosing which content to consume. So after being unsatisfied with the definitions online I've created my own.
Battle Girl High School
Magical Girl Site
Assault Lily Bouquet
Majo no Tabitabi
Not Out Yet
Fairy Ranmaru: Anata no Kokoro Otasuke Shimasu