So You Want To / Write a Magical Girlfriend Series
We all know the story: Unlucky Everydude
suddenly gets lucky, REAL lucky. You've seen it already, but you're ready to give it your own shot. Well, TV Tropes, as always, is here to give you some pointers.
Naturally, the first trope you need depends on what kind of "Magic" you want in your Girlfriend. Will she be an Alien? A Goddess? A Ghost? Ridiculously Human Robot
? A really, really
cute Eldritch Abomination
? A guy
? Or is your Unlucky Everydude a Dudette
Naturally, each of these choices has its own set of tropes that come with it. Using a Goddess may bring Magic and all it comes with, while a Robot Girl
brings into question the level of Speculative Fiction
you want to bring in.
After that, the second trope is usually the Harem
: The bevy of additional characters, usually cute females
, that end up getting drawn into the hero's life by the presence of the Girlfriend. You may not want
, but it's important to consider.
The point for a harem
is, well, it's a collection of cute girls (and maybe some sexy women) that appeals to a lot of people. For many people, that's reason enough.
On the other hand, a harem can take over the series. How, you ask? In one word: Shipping
. Not everyone is gonna buy your couple. Whether it's because they don't find your writing plausible, or they just prefer another member of the cast to get with one of your leads. Some people don't like harems in the first place.
And let's not get into the fan and Doujin artists...
If your Magical Girlfriend
isn't native to your setting, Fish out of Water
will often come into play. This trope can be a good excuse why the girl is stuck with your mundane hero and it can often lead to Character Development
- Unlucky Everydude: The first pitfall, of course, is your Hero. If you look around, it's fairly obvious, if a little ironic, that the least popular character of any given Magical Girlfriend series is usually the Unlucky Everydude in the middle. This is usually intentional, as the idea of the Magical Girlfriend as Wish Fulfillment seems to mandate that he be as transparent as possible so to make it easier for the audience members to see themselves in his place. Arguably good for the viewer, but the poor boy as a character tends to suffer greatly for it.
- Official Couple: Yes, this is arguably the most important part of the series. That's why it's a Pitfall. The problem of the Official Couple is twofold: Pace and Choice.
- The Problem with Pacing is the amount of time between the moment when the affection between the members of the Official Couple become mutual, and the end of the series. Most series make this happen way too early, and spend the rest of the series trying to dance around the inevitable resolution that will bring the series to an end. People can only take so much of them Not Spitting It Out, or him trying to not make a choice while making it look like he's still deciding.
- The Challenge of the Choice is when there are other members of the Unwanted Harem who also have romantic designs on the hero. Once the Hero's choice becomes obvious, any hints of the other potential mates is just screwing with the fans' hearts, and tends to foster "dissatisfaction" with the Official Couple (then again, confirmation itself can do that).
- Purity Sue / Tsundere Sue: In terms of the girlfriend(s) there is also quite a bit to be careful of when it comes to characterizing them. Given the nature of the series there will be elements of wish fulfillment in any girl who's introduced, but there's a fine line between catering to that and making her have no character otherwise. If she's too perfect she'll quickly gain the ire of the fans (especially the female ones) but if she's too Tsundere, violent, or is constantly belittling the guy she'll gain little sympathy and fans will start to wonder what anyone might see in her. The trick here seems to be balancing her positive and negative traits so she actually has dimension and is still likable.
- Being that the Unlucky Everydude tends to be an Audience Surrogate, how about lessening up on the This Loser Is You factor? Another reason for the hatred of this character type is the magnification of the audience's own flaws, which is not only insulting, but also makes the audience wonder what the hell the girl(s) sees in him. Instead of a schlub who blunders into this extraordinary luck, try to make him more of a Diamond in the Rough-type who has his qualities (not only redeeming ones, but exceptional too) brought out by the girl(s) through love, encouragement, and genuine Character Development. Not only does this subvert the trope, but it also brings about a nice Aesop about bringing out the best in yourself.
- Instead of the hero being utterly clueless about the girls' crush(es) on him, how about having him actually try to work out some of his feelings about how he loves the girls and in what way, then try to deal with it directly and honestly. Alternately, explore in-depth why someone may be oblivious to the crushes. Because of the impartial third-person perspective, the audience may not fully comprehend how your character sees the world
- Develop the relationship of the Official Couple. Love doesn't end with the First Kiss. Few series' will go all the way past the declaration of love and into dating, temptation (past Male Gaze, Accidental Pervert and the like, we mean), marriage (especially considering the complications of the Girlfriend's nature) and children (again, plenty of complications there). Many fanfictions have done pretty well exploring the joy and pain that comes after "I Love You."
- You could end the story by having the hero reject the Magical Girlfriend for a mundane haremette. This has actually happened from time to time. Be very careful and make sure that the Official Couple mundane haremette is also well developed, or fan's reaction will be less than pleasant...
- Let's get into detail here. This ending is a Bitter Sweet Ending, the magical girlfriend alway has genuine love toward the hero, but she can't be with him for whatever reason. Often, The Magic Goes Away with her as well, and the Official Couple may not remember the whole events at all. Why? This ending is really a parting message to the audiences, "No matter how beautiful the fantasy is, you still need to be with mundane reality.". In order to pull this ending well enough, make sure that the magical girlfriend, your embodiment of fantasy, did all of her work before departing, that's to invoke Character Development of other. The hero should be less of loser, the Childhood Friend with Cannot Spit It Out problem should found her strength to confess to the hero, the Alpha Bitch who seem cruel to the hero should has revealed her Hidden Heart of Gold, etc. Compare it to All Just a Dream, it isn't bad if you learn something from it and wake up wiser. Fail to do that, and this ending will be a rude waking.
- Make the Magical Girlfriend utterly psychotic and incredibly violent, with MAYBE a reason to feel sympathy for her. Elfen Lied pulled this off magnificently with Lucy, and actually turned her into a sympathetic character over the last few episodes.
- Try it without the harem. Stick with just the one girl. That ought to throw people for a loop.
- What about making all the haremettes "magical", either in the same way (they're all goddesses, robots, etc.) or different ways (you've got the witch, the elf, the shapeshifting water blob...)?
- Or hey — make your protagonist a female and have the story be Girls Love instead. How often has that been done before?
- Or make them both guys and make it a Boys Love series!
- We mentioned Fish out of Water already, but how about taking it Up to Eleven by giving the girl some Blue and Orange Morality? This can mix especially well if you plan to create an Anti Heroic (or worse) Magical Girlfriend, but still want to portray her as innocent.
- Magical Girlfriend stories often include Love-Obstructing Parents, who either a) hate the hero's guts, or b) try to push the relationship along in an extremely rushed and tacky way. Well, how about parents, siblings or whatever who actually approve of the relationship, and let it evolve at its own pace (although they may try to speed things up a little)? If you must have them disapprove of the relationship, make sure they have a good reason for doing so (perhaps the heroine will become an ordinary mortal if she consummates the relationship). And instead of the heroine being a Na´ve Everygirl who is oblivious to all their antics, have her realize what's going on, and give her family a telling off for interfering in her love life.
- In the Subversions section above, we mentioned a possible theme of "Love brings out the best in you," which is uncharted territory for the most part. "Love is never easy" is a common theme, whether it's intentional or not.
Suggested Themes and Aesops
- Act or be lost: A possibility within a harem is what happens when one of the girls gets tired of waiting, or finds someone else that captures her interest before the hero makes his choice. What happens when a girl has had it with the hero's indecisiveness and walks away from the mess. Many heroes don't make a choice because they may be afraid of losing the friendship of the other girls. What happens when you lose it anyway?
- Depending on the nature of the Magical Girlfriend, there are various groups of motifs to choose from:
- If she a Goddess, Ghost, Witch or other magic being, there may be religion in play (if so, which religion may be important). Things like magic circles or "fantasy clothing" can also show they certainly aren't from "around here".
- A Robot Girl on the other hand may or may not have obvious mechanical parts. Circuit boards, Tron Lines or Things That Glow may accentuate her artificial nature.
- The otherwordliness of the character is an important motif. Strange and/or unusual behaviour differing from the norm will make her stand out from the crowd, can lead to complicated (or funny) situations and may ultimately help Character Development when she gets more used to her surroundings and starts acting accordingly.
- Cute Monster Girl and Little Bit Beastly heroines naturally have Animal Motifs or equivalent and behaviour can be derived from it. They might also proudly wear something relating to their type on their clothes (for example a paw logo for a Cat Girl). Their instincts can again become defining traits or something they try to overcome for their beloved via Character Development.
- If your protagonist has a visible design, rather than being featureless, giving him/her any of these may also work. For example he could start human but develop more toward what the Magical Girlfriend is and gain traits of her (wings for example which look like those of their dragon girlfriend).
- The plot that always seems to turn up in these series is the repossession attempt. The Magical Girlfriend is "defective" or a runaway, refugee or criminal and someone shows up to try to take her back by hook or crook. This is a safe pretext for action scenes.
- The other standard plot is the appearance of a romantic rival. This can be more difficult than the repo people since it usually can't be resolved by mere superhuman violence. Sometimes it turns into the seed for a harem or a Love Dodecahedron.
Set Designer / Location Scout
- Except with robot girlfriends, a strong separation needs to be made from the bizarre and fantastic world the girlfriend come from and the mundane suburban setting she now finds herself in. Usually there will be an academic institution and relatively large (by Japanese standards) home where most of the action takes place.
- It's not unheard of for the magical girlfriend to have her own set of eccentric items. It could be something to an Orphan's Plot Trinket, or even a Robot Buddy. Regardless, her knowledge (or lack thereof) of how to use her own arsenal is a great way for hijinks to ensue.
- Like with motifs, it really depends on the nature of the Magical Girlfriend. If she is literally magical and comes from heaven, hell, an alternate world etc, go with "fantasy clothes" (typically leather, belts, gold-lining etc) or something cool but from earlier time periods.
- Be careful with Fanservice Costumes and anything overly Stripperiffic, as this tends to distract from the actual character you want to portray. That's not to say your Magical Girlfriend can't wear something sexy, of course, and your audience will likely find that to be a plus, but it should still make sense.
- Say your character is a knight, maybe even a paladin. Having her wear skimpy armour would probably look really silly and clash with the personality someone would expect. A Battle Ballgown however can both look great and still be practical (potentially life-saving, if her enemies are also in our world now).
- On the other hand, a ferocious Cat Girl in a Fur Bikini can totally work (and may trigger a Please Put Some Clothes On reaction).
- For constrast, normal and practical streetwear can go a long way to still look fashionable and give a different prespective for the newcomer(s).
- People love uniforms, so going with those is hardly a bad idea. They can also be used to illustrate concepts that may be foreign to the characters.
- If your series features action, there will probably be a lot of running and fighting. Depending on the nature of your characters, this can involve swords and sorcery, gun play or other things. Flying from place to place, explosions etc are good ways to bring the story forward while also looking interesting.
- On the other hand, if the story involves little or no action, there won't be much if anything as far as stunts go.
- Ah! My Goddess is one of the classics of the genre, which avoids most of the classic pitfalls. Keiichi is an Unlucky Everydude, but he's not a complete loser, Belldandy is a domestic goddess but not without depth, the progress of their relationship is sweet and believable (albeit EXTREMELY slow), and the plot doesn't solely focus on their relationship, although that's a big part of it.
- Widely considered a Cult Classic and, despite or because of it being a Deconstruction, Saya no Uta gained fame because the story combines Cosmic Horror with a Magical Girlfriend (the titular Saya) who looks cute to protagonist Fuminori (due to his vision being corrupted, making everything except Saya look, sound and taste horrific) and genuinely loves him, but Saya is also an Apocalypse Maiden who has no issues with torturing and killing humans (and then eating them), while dragging Fuminori down the abyss. Ultimately however it is still a Monster Sob Story that is simply about two Star-Crossed Lovers.
The Epic Fails
- Itsudatte My Santa!: Is rather infamous for using a rather gimmicky theme (Christmas as the title suggests) to try to compensate for an otherwise generic series with even more generic and forgettable characters.