diloolie asked: You know, I've never actually heard WHAT a classic magical girl series was like, only that Sailor Moon changed things. Could you help me out?
Classic magical girl series basically didn’t have the fighting evil/rescuing people aspect as a theme. A lot of magical girl classic series basically had a magical young princess from a magical twee kingdom either run away to earth because she was curious or be sent there by her parents for “training” (in like…using her powers in day to day life I guess). Sometimes they’d brainwash a human family and stay with them (Chibiusa in Sailor Moon is a bit of a reference to this)
They had a lot of elements of magical girl warrior series took on- there was a cute mascot, a transformation item that led to a cute transformation sequences, cute magical outfits… but the magical girl wouldn’t be tasked with saving the world, she’d just use her powers in day-to-day life to help with friends and social situations (and sometimes screw stuff up). Sometimes she’d clash with criminals and stuff, but they were usually bank robbers or school rivals rather than the villians magical girl warriors face.
And it was usually just a girl on her own, Sailor Moon was what created the team of magical girls working together to fight evil with the power of friendship concept.
Dai Mahou Touge is def. more of a parody of magical girl classic, she has the whole “is sent from her cutesy magical kingdom to train on earth”, only her family usurped the throne through sabotage and force, she’s a terrifying amoral badass who uses her magic to strike fear in the hearts of anyone who annoys her and solves problems by burning shit down, basically beats the everloving shit out of her thuggish rivals and any rivals to the throne to a disturbing degree. Her overkill solutions to small problems end up blowing up buildings and shit. She also definitely wants to take over Earth. IT’S REALLY PRETTY GOOD BLACK COMEDY THOUGH.
when you hear ‘queerness in sailor moon’ the first thing that pops into your mind is probably haruka and michiru, but really, to count it properly, we have:
2 canonical gay couples, one of which simply cannot shut up about all the sex they are constantly having for an entire season
1 canonical gay crossdressing man, easily reads as trans*
1 canonical gay man
1 (to 3) character(s) who can be either read as as a straight trans man, a cis lesbian, or somewhere on the gq spectrum
on the subtextual plane, we have just about every single girl in the main cast express attraction towards haruka (as well as countless nameless ones) as well as numerous other hints at queerness for every main cast member, even if they’re often passed off as jokes
don’t get me wrong, sailor moon can also have some very old-fashioned heteronormative aspects, especially in the earlier seasons. it also has an entire arc devoted to a 9 yo falling in love with a horse. but that doesn’t change the fact that it is still hugely, unmissably queer, and that just makes me wonder… why in the holy name of FUCK have we not seen a single textual queer character in a magical girl (or any kids’) show for the last, i don’t know, decade and some. 'but think of the kids! we'll upset the parents! it won't do well!'
LOOK AT SAILOR MOON, TWENTY YEARS LATER, STILL HEMORRHAGING MONEY FROM EVERY PORE AND CONSIDERED A TIMELESS CLASSIC AMONG CHILDREN AND ADULTS ALIKE. DID THAT NOT DO WELL?????
I’ve been meaning to do this one for a while! Cardcaptor Sakura is probably only eclipsed by Sailor Moon in being the notable magical girl series! And though it’s not without its problems (especially the manga) I’m incredibly fond of it and there are so many wonderful things to note. Be sure to read on for a major trigger warning tho.
Sakura Kinomoto is an energetic fourth grader who just happens to stumble on the Book of Clow. The guardian of the book, Kero, was sleeping on the job, so when Sakura opens the tome, her innate magic triggers a bunch of Clow Cards escape around her town. The Clow Cards are magical beings, and a lot of them end up causing mischief and outright danger. So Sakura is tasked with capturing all these cards as the Cardcaptor, with her enthusiastic friend Tomoyo recording her adventures and providing costumes. Things get complicated when a descendant of Clow Reed, the creator of the cards, shows up to challenge Sakura. Syaoran Li is intent of claiming the cards before Sakura does. What’s more, if Sakura isn’t able to face the final test of the cards, a great disaster could befall her world…
Cardcaptor Sakura is a 50 chapter manga and 70-episode anime (with two movies that are actually in continuity- the first one taking Sakura to Hong Kong and giving some background on Clow and Syaoran and the second one wrapping up the series). It is at its core, the coming of age story of a girl hero learning to master her power and that alone makes it pretty feminist-friendly. Sakura is a great character- she can be sensitive and scared, but ultimately her resolve, intuition, compassion and determination allow her to grow and become powerful and self-possessed.
The story goes at a gentle pace (especially in the anime) and explores its characters with warmth. The anime in particular really lets the relationships unfold and develop in a thorough and relaxed manner- it almost combines slice-of-life with magical girl, such is the pace. It also has some fairly cute and elegant art, with pretty attacks, costumes and cards. The series was created by CLAMP, a team of four women, and of what I’ve read, I consider it the best of their work.
The first thing to address is the female relationships and the women in the series besides Sakura. There are a lot of good ones in the series.
Tomoyo and Sakura have an unwavering bond and Tomoyo is Sakura’s unwavering supporter, even helping her sometimes with her fights despite being powerless. This is way more emphasized in the anime, where there are more episodes entirely devoted to them- including an episode where Tomoyo has to use her own skills to take care of a card and another where Tomoyo disappears and Sakura freaks out and Tomoyo has to guide her.
However, it bears addressing that Tomoyo has an canonical unrequited crush on Sakura. On one hand, lesbian representation, great! On the other hand, tragically unrequited lesbian crushes are cliche, especially since Sakura has a male love interest and Tomoyo just silently supports Sakura’s happiness with a smile.And bizarrely enough, her mother went through the same thing with crushing on Sakura’s mother and losing her to a man- though she’s openly angry about it.
CLAMP has said that they believe love doesn’t know gender and therefore, the fact Sakura didn’t return Tomoyo’s feelings has nothing to do with the fact Tomoyo is a girl, (and the fact that Sakura breifly crushes on a woman supports this) but it’s still annoying.The anime offsets this a bit by including Meiling, who has a unrequited crush on the male member of the pair and commiserates with Tomoyo about it even, so it’s not just lesbians losing out. However, it is still kind of annoying that Meiling gets to openly despair about it while Tomoyo had to keep up being happy and calm and stick with veiled comments about “sometimes you can’t be with the person you like that way”.
Speaking of Meiling, she’s an anime-only female character woth mentioning. Meiling is smitten with Syaoran and 100% behind him getting the Clow Cards. She is clingy and jealous (despite the fact Syaoran clearly doesn’t return her romantic intentions) and is initially antagonistic towards Sakura and Tomoyo because of that. In most shows she’d be written off as a flat Mean Girl, but since this is a magical girl show, she’s actually developed and sympathized with and her relationship with Tomoyo and Sakura develops positively. A lot of Meiling’s antics have to do with the fact she feels she has a lot to prove because she doesn’t have magical powers in a family that specializes in them. She is, however, an impressive martial artist and though she starts off causing a lot of trouble, she gets more competent and impressive as the show goes on. Syaoran also sort of grows and learns not to be so dismissive of her, which is a positive arc for a male character to go through.
So Meiling’s pretty great, and a valuable addition to the canon. One of the great things about magical girl shows is they actually often subvert the stereotype of catty, jealous warring women and treat the women like actual sympathetic individuals and give them depth more “mature” shows can’t seem to muster, and Meiling’s a great example of that.