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.
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.
- Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka deconstructs the Magical Girl genre by opting for Reality Ensues. Magical Girls are widely known and are treated as soldiers by governments.
- Mahou Shoujo Ore is a parody of this genre. It hits all the high points:
- Saki's wish to get together with Mahiro is fulfilled in a Monkey's Paw way.
- Body Horror, but Played for Laughs: Saki wanted a perfect body — she got Goku's version, not Sailor Moon's.
- Combat is anything but elegant (such as inPretty Cure). Instead it's a brutal hand-to-hand battle, leaving behind a horrible, bloody mess.
- Mahou Shoujo Site: The suicidal main character is horribly abused by her brother and brutally bullied by a Girl Posse before becoming a Magical Girl. A website called the "Mahou Shoujo Site" specifically targets troubled young girls and asks them if they want to become magical girls. Once she becomes one, it turns out that using her powers steals from her lifespan. There is also a Battle Royale among the magical girls. Mahou Shoujo Site is a reconstruction as The Power of Friendship is a major element.
- The 1990s anime adaptation of Nurse Angel Ririka SOS displays several elements of this genre despite predating it by well over a decade. Ririka is a ten year old who must fight an alien invasion against the evil organization Dark Joker. It's a normal Magical Girl Warrior anime but then the Wham Episode hits. Ririka is forced to kill her crush and friend Kanou. Ririka soon begins doubting her resolve. As it turns out Ririka is actually the reincarnation of the original Nurse Angel and is the flower she's been looking the entire series. The series ends with Ririka commiting a Heroic Sacrifice, but the very final scene reveals that she survived. The unanswered question, however, is whether her family and friends still remember her.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the Trope Codifier. It's a subversive (but not deconstructive) Magical Girl franchise featuring an adorable art-style but dark and depressing plot. As it turns out, all Magical Girls are destined to become the Witches they fight and the Transformation Trinket is in fact their soul itself.
- Re:CREATORS: Among the fictional characters transported to reality is Mamika Kirameki, star of the (in-universe) kids' show Magical Slayer Mamika, whose design evokes something from Precure but whom in the "outer" setting functions more as an Expy of Madoka Kaname. Being from a Lighter and Softer work than the other Creations, she fights by shooting pink hearts and Energy Balls that knock people out without hurting them... so she's horrified to learn that in the transition to Earth (or possibly due to the influence of her Periphery Demographic), she's become a Person of Mass Destruction whose attacks make people actually bleed. In the end, while she becomes a little more stoic, she manages to retain her idealism and become the Token Good Teammate of Altair's faction (as well as the Living Emotional Crutch of Aliceteria, a female Captain Ersatz of Guts). At least until figuring out that Altair is an Omnicidal Maniac and dying in a failed attempt to kill her.
- Yuki Yuna is a Hero is a multimedia franchise where a group of young girls dubbed "Heroes" are assigned by the government to save their island from monsters called "Vertexes". Within a few episodes it becomes clear that they're closer to Child Soldiers than Kid Heroes. The initial anime takes place in a Cosy Catastrophe 300 years in the future. The entire world has been wiped out except for one Japanese island, with everything outside of the wall being an Acid-Trip Dimension. Heroes must protect the World Tree from Vertexes but it's a Hopeless War because there are always more Vertexes. Every time a Hero goes Mankai they permanently give up a part of themselves (their hearing, eyesight, ability to walk, memories, etc) to the World Tree. Eventually, they'll end up bed-bound, but in exchange for having god-like abilities and being worshiped by the Taisha. To add insult to injury, their Fairy Companion prevents death or suicide (a rule inacted after an elementary schooler Hero, Gin from Washio Sumi Is A Hero, died in battle).
- 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.
- The Tabletop RPG Magical Burst is marketed as "a Darker and Edgier version of Madoka". Doing anything with magic results in dramatic Power Upgrading Deformations and/or your friends and family turning on you.
- 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.
- Sailor Nothing is a Sailor Moon inspired original story that predates this genre by nearly a decade. It acts as a Deconstructive Parody of Magical Girl anime. Himei has spent the last five years as Sailor Salvation. She originally Jumped at the Call but has since learned to hate being a Magical Girl Warrior. Her social life has taken a hit because she can't juggle her double-life, she's a Shell-Shocked Veteran after her years of fighting the Yamiko, and it feels like an Hopeless War because she just fights minor enemies all the time.
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