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Grim Magical Girl Genre

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Deconstructions of the Magical Girl genre

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Pichu-kun on Mar 8th 2019 at 10:08:37 AM
Last Edited By:
Pichu-kun on 22 hours ago
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

The Magical Girl and Magical Girl Warrior genres are very popular genres for anime and manga in Japan. They're normally fluffy Coming Of Age Stories usually featuring a cast of young 8-15 year old girls who gain magical powers thanks to a Transformation Trinket. However, in the 2010s, a new sub-genre began to form: the Grim Magical Girl Genre.

Grim Magical Girl anime are almost never aimed at little girls. They're usually Subverted Kids Shows aimed at men (and, more rarely, teenage boys and women).

This genre twists the normal Wish Fulfillment part of most Magical Girl shows by showing that the magical powers aren't all fun and games. These works are a Darker and Edgier take (usually subversive or deconstructive) where being a Magical Girl comes with various complications that end up actually preventing the wish-fulfillment. Common themes of these series are that you should Be Careful What You Wish For and that Growing Up Sucks (in sharp contrast with how traditional Magical Girl works treat pseudo-adulthood as a form of empowerment). While "magical" is traditionally meant in the sense of "wondrous", here it's more of an aesthetic - you can expect the protagonist's identity to be common knowledge, and/or for there to be an entire class of similarly empowered people in which she's only a small cog. If the protagonist is a Stock Shoujo Heroine then she will often end up a Deconstructed Character Archetype.

Straight examples of Magical Girl rarely use the term "magical girl" In-Universe (and because the fantasy is based around a desire to grow up, they might even find it insulting). However, most stories like this use "magical girl" exclusively, to the point of extending it to characters who are adults or even male (because the fantasy is based around nostalgia for childhood).

2011's Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the Trope Codifier for this genre (but it's not the earliest example). It's an anime which starts off looking like a normal Magical Girl story but takes an unexpected turn three episodes in, and portrays the stereotypical Mentor Mascot as a figure more akin to Mephistopheles. The series' darker twist proved popular enough that other works soon began exploring darker interpretations of Magical Girls as well.

Madoka Magica was in turn heavily influenced by the Henshin Hero series Kamen Rider Ryuki, one of the more deconstructive entries in the Kamen Rider franchise.note  While Kamen Riders are no stranger to darkness, Ryuki threw the whole idea of Riders being heroes out the window, with a whopping 13 people gaining Transformation Trinkets (which weren't a magically summoned part of the Rider's body like past entries, but physical items that could be damaged or stolen) and forced to fight each other to the death.

Note, not all Darker and Edgier Magical Girl series count. Shamanic Princess, for example, is a dark Magical Girl Warrior series but it doesn't feature the deconstruction or subversive elements associated with this genre. Many traditional Magical Girl works, such as Sailor Moon and Pretty Cure, also feature their dark elements, however they're not considered Dark Magical Girl series

Not to be confused with Dark Magical Girl, though most works in this genre feature at least one of that archetype. Compare to Real Robot (in contrast to Super Robot), Capepunk and The Dark Age of Comic Books. Contrast Not Wearing Tights.


Examples:

Anime & Manga

Light Novels

  • Magical Girl Raising Project starts out with a middle schooler named Koyuki who has always wanted to be a magical girl and still adores magical girls even after her peers have outgrown them. She plays a free-to-play mobile game called Magical Girl Rising Project that, rumor has it, allows one in every few thousand people to become a real Magical Girl (regardless of their age or gender). Koyuki ends up one of the people and gets turned into a Magical Girl whose alias is "Snow White". She and a group of other magical girls act as superheroes around their district. One day Fav, the fairy mascot who made them all magical girls, mentions that he accidentally allowed too many in one region and has to downsize by half. It's soon revealed that those who stop being magical girls die. Even if you voluntarily quit being a magical girl, you'll still die. This quickly leads into a Battle Royale between the magical girls as each one fights to make sure they're not the one who is forced to quit, with most of them dead by the end.

Tabletop Games

Webcomics

  • Sleepless Domain is an animesque webcomic where Magical Girls are treated like Child Soldiers. Being a Magical Girl has a high injury risk, but registered ones have a 70% lower risk of severe injury or death.

Web Original

Feedback: 43 replies

Mar 8th 2019 at 10:18:12 AM

Should be further noted that the unifying thread of the genre is: a twist on the wish-fulfillment part of most Magical Girl shows, where not only is the show more angsty and/or edgy, but the magical powers and complications resulting from them end up actually preventing the wish fulfillment or make it into a Monkey's Paw.

Examples:

Anime and Manga

Puella Magi Madoka Magica: the Trope Codifier. The runaway success of Madoka inspired imitators that built this from a subversion of a Magical Girl show to its own sub-genre.

Yuki Yuna Is A Hero

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka

Magical Girl Ore: a played-straight parody of the genre.

Mar 8th 2019 at 10:58:15 AM

Mar 8th 2019 at 11:28:52 AM

Not sure, but I think CLAMP's Magic Knight Rayearth also fits in this trope (I'll have to explain this later)

Mar 8th 2019 at 1:50:21 PM

A curious note: Straight examples of Magical Girl rarely use the term "magical girl" In Universe (and because the fantasy is based around a desire to grow up, they might even find it insulting). However, most stories like this use "magical girl" exclusively, to the point of extending it to characters who are adults or even male (because the fantasy is based around lamenting the loss of childhood).

Also, while "magical" is traditionally meant in the sense of "wondrous", here the characters' abilities tend to be commonplace and/or common knowledge. Since the "Dark Magical Girl Genre" title seems ripe for misuse, maybe "Unmagical Girl"?

Compare the distinction between Super Robot and Real Robot?

Mar 8th 2019 at 2:30:12 PM

^ Added that tidbit to the description.

"Unmagical Girl" sounds nice. "Dark Magical Girl Genre" could be misused since it's such a vague term. Not all dark Magical Girl works are in the Dark Magical Girl Genre.

Mar 8th 2019 at 4:21:05 PM

"Unmagical Girl"... might be confused with something else. Just in case, simply "Subversive Magical Girl Genre" could work?

Compare The Dark Age Of Comic Books.

In Sliding Scale Of Superhero Prevalence, shows like this often falls into Level 2 or 3.

Mar 8th 2019 at 5:04:14 PM

Worth noting that Japan tends to recognise "Battle Bishoujo" as a distinct genre (the Distaff Counterpart to "Battle Bishounen" series like Saint Seiya), which skirts pages like Magical Girl Warrior and World Of Action Girls.

Related article.

"Like I mentioned Magic Knight Rayearth, they could be either Mahou shoujo or Sentou bishoujo. I shall leave it to you. Sailor Moon or Precure could be both."


More on the roots here:

While the Kamen Rider franchise is no stranger to darkness, Kamen Rider Ryuki threw the whole idea of Riders being heroes out the window, with a whopping 13 people gaining Transformation Trinkets (which weren't a magically summoned part of the Rider's body like past entries, but physical items that could be damaged or stolen) and forced to fight each other to the death. It's also cited as one of the biggest influences on Puella Magi Madoka Magica - the creator of which would later write the similarly deconstructive series Kamen Rider Gaim (which has Growing Up Sucks as a major theme).

Mar 8th 2019 at 5:15:16 PM

some artic;es using the term "Dark Magical Girl" for the genre, all written 2016, 17 or 18. There are hundreds of others

Here are just four

Dark Magical Girl manga and light novels Anime-Planet

"Once upon a time, there were pretty young girls infused with magical powers who were tasked with the duty of saving the world. Then something went horribly wrong, and their bright sunny lives spiraled into an abyss of misery and despair. Thus the dark magical girl genre was born."

The Problem With The Dark Magical Girl Genre Anime Feminist

"Dark magical girl is almost becoming a genre in its own right, and I am not comfortable with it. ... Creating a magical girl world where despair always triumphs over hope undermines the entire point of magical girls—they are a power fantasy specifically for small girls, made explicitly to spread the message that hope will triumph over despair and that you should keep fighting for what you believe in. These dark shows effectively mock that important and optimistic message for the purpose of grown-up anime fans’ entertainment."

Rise of the Dark Magical Girls Anime News Network

"How did we reach a point where the idea of a dark and bloody magical girl series seems like a perfectly normal thing to see? Isn't this genre supposed to be all about upbeat adventures and the power of friendship? To fully understand where the recent wave of dark magical girl shows came from, we'll need to take a look back into the history of the genre."

Magical Girl Ore is the Ultimate Evolution of the Dark Magical Girl Genre Crunchyroll

"While magical girl series have never been afraid to get into some dark territory, innocent and humorous magical girls paved the way for a new subgenre: The Dark Magical Girl. In Dark Magical Girls, everything pure and innocent is twisted to evil and deception, exemplified in the massively popular 2011 anime, Madoka Magica."

Mar 8th 2019 at 7:20:14 PM

^ We may sometimes invent our own term if the widely-used term cannot be used for various reasons.

Mar 9th 2019 at 2:57:11 AM

^ That is true. The problem with "DMGG" is while it may be used on other sites, we here already have an established term "Dark Magical Girl", which is a character archetype found in regular MG shows, and the current working title would suggest that the genre is about works focusing on Dark Magical Girls rather than a deconstruction of traditional MG staples.

Mar 9th 2019 at 1:07:25 PM

Suggesting some phrasing tweaks for the description:

The Magical Girl and Magical Girl Warrior genres are very popular genres for anime and manga in Japan. They're normally fluffy Coming Of Age Stories usually featuring a cast of young 8-15 year old girls who secretly gain magic powers that give them a taste of adult agency. However, in the 2010s, a new sub-genre began to form: the Dark Magical Girl Genre.

Dark Magical Girl anime are almost never aimed at little girls. They're usually Subverted Kids Shows aimed at men.

This genre twists the normal Wish Fulfillment part of most Magical Girl shows by showing that the magical powers aren't all fun and games. These works are a Darker And Edgier take (usually subversive or deconstructive) where being a Magical Girl comes with various complications that end up actually preventing the wish-fulfillment. Common themes of these series are that you should Be Careful What You Wish For and that Growing Up Sucks (in sharp contrast with how traditional Magical Girl works treat pseudo-adulthood as a form of empowerment). While "magical" is traditionally meant in the sense of "wondrous", here it's more of an aesthetic - you can expect the protagonist's identity to be common knowledge, and/or for there to be an entire class of similarly empowered people in which she's only a small cog. If the protagonist is a Stock Shoujo Heroine then she will often end up a Deconstructed Character Archetype.

Straight examples of Magical Girl rarely use the term "magical girl" In Universe (and because the fantasy is based around a desire to grow up, they might even find it insulting). However, most stories like this use "magical girl" exclusively, to the point of extending it to characters who are adults or even male (because the fantasy is based around nostalgia for childhood).

2011's Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the Trope Codifier for this genre (though not the earliest example) - an anime which starts off looking like a normal Magical Girl story but takes an unexpected turn three episodes in, and portrays the stereotypical Mentor Mascot as a figure more akin to Mephistopheles. The series' darker twist proved popular enough that other works soon began exploring darker interpretations of Magical Girls as well.

Madoka Magica was in turn heavily influenced by the Henshin Hero series Kamen Rider Ryuki, one of the more deconstructive entries in the Kamen Rider franchise.note  While Kamen Riders are no stranger to darkness, Ryuki threw the whole idea of Riders being heroes out the window, with a whopping 13 people gaining Transformation Trinkets (which weren't a magically summoned part of the Rider's body like past entries, but physical items that could be damaged or stolen) and forced to fight each other to the death.

Note, not all Darker And Edgier Magical Girl series count. Shamanic Princess, for example, is a dark Magical Girl Warrior series but it doesn't feature the deconstruction or subversive elements associated with this genre. Many traditional Magical Girl anime, such as Sailor Moon and Pretty Cure, feature things like monstrously evil villains, humans being transformed into monsters, or protagonists who go through a Heroic BSOD, without being considered Dark Magical Girl series.

Not to be confused with Dark Magical Girl, though most works in this genre feature at least one of that archetype. Compare to Real Robot (in contrast to Super Robot), Capepunk and The Dark Age Of Comic Books. Contrast Not Wearing Tights.

Mar 11th 2019 at 7:51:20 AM

The draft was rogue-launched, and has been unlaunched.

Mar 11th 2019 at 8:33:38 AM

The fact that Magical Girls become Witches in PMMM should probably be behind spoilers — that reveal (ep 8) comes even later than the Soul-Gems-Are-Phylacteries reveal (ep 6).

Mar 11th 2019 at 9:55:35 AM

^ I figured it was in It Was His Sled mode since most installments in the series don't hide it. 'Spoilering it then.

Edit:

Should there be a crowner for Unmagical Girl vs Dark Magical Girl Genre?

Mar 11th 2019 at 3:49:11 PM

^ Could also be "Subversive Magical Girl Genre".

By the way, the page Dark Magical Girl Genre still exists despite it being restored, and the contents have been edited too. What to do?

Mar 11th 2019 at 4:55:06 PM

So far, "Unmagical Girl" seems, if not the clearest, then at least the best at setting my associations on the right track. But sure, crowner seems like a good idea.

Mar 11th 2019 at 6:41:31 PM

Unmagicai Girl seems easy to misread as a girl without magic powers.

Mar 11th 2019 at 7:04:09 PM

EDIT:

Unmagicai Girl seems easy to misread as a girl without magic powers.
There's a difference between "un-" and "not" - compare "undo" vs "not do". The implication here is "the magic is lost".

More importantly, even if someone does read it that way, I don't think it will lead to misuse. I seriously doubt someone is going to see that name and say "Lisa Simpson doesn't have magic, I'll add her as an example". The more likely response seems "Wait, that can't be right, let me read the description". By contrast, "Dark Magical Girl Genre" is way more likely to make people skip that part and just start adding examples of works where anything remotely bad happens (like what happened with the Nightmare Fuel pages).

Mar 11th 2019 at 7:22:22 PM

Compare Low Fantasy and Dark Fantasy.

Anybody not gonna address the existing page for this?

Mar 12th 2019 at 3:09:57 AM

^ I am not sure what you mean — when I go to Dark Magical Girl Genre, all I see is "Note: This page was cut for reason: Prematurely launched trope. draft". :-)

Mar 12th 2019 at 6:11:59 AM

I'm not sure if I did it right, but I tried to make a crowner here using the three choices given.

Mar 12th 2019 at 6:26:20 AM

^ Looks good to me. You should place the link on top of the write-up so it's easier to find, and you may also temporarily add "[title crowner]" to the working title to let people just browsing the TLP know that input is needed.

Mar 12th 2019 at 5:53:21 PM

I didn't think of it at the time, but the Re Creators example is only one character among many. Is this solely a type of story or can it apply to individual characters?

Let's say there's a series about an Occult Detective, and in one arc they investigate a string of disappearing kids. Eventually they discover that a demon is assuming the form of a Mentor Mascot from a popular TV show, and tricking young girls into making contracts with it "to fight evil" then forcing them to fight against its rivals in Hell. Would that fit on this page? Would at least some of the story need to be told from the girls' perspective?

Mar 14th 2019 at 8:30:10 AM

Changing it to Grim Magical Girl Genre.

Mar 14th 2019 at 11:16:55 AM

The new title is still not ideal IMO, but it's the best we have so far, so I'm throwing in my hat.

21 hours ago

Mar 14th 2019 at 2:16:47 PM

I got a question. Actually, two questions.

1. This trope is about deconstruction of the magical girl genre, right? Then wouldn't that make it an example of Deconstructed Character Archetype? 2. If this is a deconstruction of the magical girl genre, then how can Puella Magi Madoka Magica be the trope codifer if it is listed on the page as not being a deconstruction? I understand why it is listed that way (I'm the one who added the context on PMMM's example page for it being a deconstruction). I want to make sure the page is clear and does not have confusing elements.

Mar 14th 2019 at 3:42:34 PM

^ character archetype =/= story genre.

Subversions of the MG genre can also count, not just deconstructions.

Mar 14th 2019 at 5:54:26 PM

^^ Magical Girl isn't an archetype. It's a genre. This trope is about a sub-genre of Magical Girl works that are subversive or deconstructive.

Mar 15th 2019 at 8:10:50 AM

Are there any other examples of this genre?

Mar 15th 2019 at 1:35:50 PM

Added Il Sole Penetra Le Illusioni but it's commented out for being a ZCE.

Mar 15th 2019 at 2:05:35 PM

^ I was going to say Il Sole Penetra Le Illusioni, but on checking the page "Dark Magical Girl Genre" was already added during the rogue-launch. IIRC a lot of people said it was playing Follow The Leader after Madoka, but the concept for the series supposedly predates it. It also doesn't really feel like it's trying to be a Magical Girl Warrior series so much as a series about girls who have magic and are warriors (but it still basically counts).

Then there's the Tabletop RPG Magical Burst, marketed as "a Darker And Edgier version of Madoka", where doing anything with magic results in dramatic Power Upgrading Deformations and/or your friends and family turning on you.

Mar 15th 2019 at 3:26:59 PM

^ The Dark Magical Girl Genre example doesn't really say anything about the series, though. Just being a dark Magical Girl work doesn't mean it's a Grim Magical Girl Genre work. Sailor Moon is plenty dark but it's just a normal Magical Girl Warrior work.

Mar 17th 2019 at 9:46:04 AM

just curious: whats preventing launch at this point?

yesterday

^I think it is the name. I'm not sure if has been decided upon.

I should rephrase my previous post. This proposed genre trope is supposed to be a sub-genre of the general Magical Girl genre, specifically for deconstructions of said genre. Is that correct? If so, then I don't like using "grim" or "dark" or anything like that in the genre. There is enough misuse for deconstruction as "pain and tragedy" rather than realistic implications of a trope without adding more to it. As has been previously stated, a magical girl story that happens to be dark would not fit this trope. Likewise, something that happens to be grim would not fit. It has to be deconstructed, which is not necessarily dark or grim. Yet I see exactly that in the description: " These works are a Darker and Edgier take (usually subversive or deconstructive) where being a Magical Girl..."

Is this proposed trope about being dark and grim or deconstructed? If this is not cleared up then there is going to be a lot of misuse and quickly.

Grim Magical Girl Genre would be a great name for the former. It has a nice ring to it and is indicative of what it means. For the later, I can only think of Deconstructed Magical Girl Genre right now.

yesterday

Battle Fantasia Project toys around with the concept: the event that triggers this Mega Crossover is when an Original Character magical girl that, because of various snafus, suffered through this kind of genre and has become suicidally fed up, manages to attract the attention of national television as she gets ready to jump off a tower and transforms herself, begging any other magical girls to come forth and help her with the Big Bad, and jumping off... and then she is caught in mid-air by another one (Nanoha Makimachi in the original text). The following text explores The Unmasked World getting an increasing amount of magical girl-related Capepunk as a result, with some things becoming easier (the government wrecks a huge amount of the villains' support network overnight) and done things becoming harder (the obvious "my little girl is not going to fight monsters!" outcry by parents).

Tabletop example: the anime-based RPG Thrash by Ewen Cluney has as one of its settings "Magical World", in which Magical Girls are legion and some have suffered plenty of bad things, used as expendable frontline soldiers by their empowering entities and even recently (In Universe) fighting a Civil War-style free-for-all led by a few of their more powerful members going all Super Supremacist. The situation has gone crazy enough that magical girl hunters have come out of the shadows.

Literature example: Magical Girl Hunters follows a bunch of killers-for-hire that specialize in hunting down magical girls. It becomes increasingly apparent that there is a Cosmic Horror Story going on, with enigmatic empowering entities creating magical girls out of young women that are, to put it nicely, not right in the head, to use as weapons of mass destruction for their plans.

yesterday

@Chaotic Novelist

The signal point of the Dark Magical Girl Genre is that whatever the dream the girl has, becoming a magical girl will block that dream from happening.

In Madoka, the Wishes are perverted and turn the girl into a witch.

In Special Ops Asuka, what Asuka wishes for is a Normal, happy, high school life. But being a Magical Girl prevents it... She suffers PTSD, her friends are attacked and tortured and no one copes well at all.

In Sailor Nothing, what should be hopeful and empowering has become world weariness and despair.

22 hours ago

I'm still suggesting "Subversive Magical Girl Genre".

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