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Magical Girl Genre Deconstruction

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Top: Teen girls fighting evil.
Bottom: The reason why that's a phenomenally bad idea.

"Back in the day, anime girls could become idols with just a few magic words and a flashy transformation scene. These days the poor girls gotta train and audition and all that crap, 'cause I guess a little optimism would kill these stinkin' scriptwriters."
Neko-senpai, Anime-Gataris

The Magical Girl and Magical Girl Warrior genres are very popular genres for anime and manga in Japan; they're also popular internationally, with several non-Japanese works being produced for the genres. 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 Magical Girl Genre Deconstruction, usually called "Dark Magical Girl" in anime fandom, though that is a different trope here.

Magical Girl Genre Deconstruction 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 but serious responsibilities. These works are deconstructions where being a Magical Girl comes with various real-life complications that end up actually preventing the wish-fulfillment. This often comes in the form of trying to be Darker and Edgier. 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. Sometimes they are treated as Child Soldiers, with all the horrors that entails. If the protagonist is a Stock Shoujo Heroine, then she will often end up a Deconstructed Character Archetype. You can expect them to emphasize that being a magical girl is Not a Game.

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 and Genre Popularizer for this genre (but it's not the Ur-Example, that's Nurse Angel Ririka SOS). 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' twist proved popular enough that other works soon began exploring more serious 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, which would eventually lead to Madoka's creator writing Kamen Rider Gaim, a series with a Ryuki-esque format and a Central Theme of Growing Up Sucks. 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: Before adding examples, please read Not a Deconstruction, as 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, and even classic Magical Girl anime like Magical Princess Minky Momo each feature dark elements, however they're not considered Magical Girl Genre Deconstructions, as they still adhere to the traditional tropes of the genre.

Compare to Real Robot Genre (in contrast to Super Robot Genre), Capepunk (which takes a similarly deconstructive approach to superheroes), The Dark Age of Comic Books, and '90s Anti-Hero (this could be considered to be to Magical Girls in the 2010s what these were to superheroes in the 1990s). Contrast Not Wearing Tights.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Day Break Illusion features magical girls who want to fight monsters... but then they discover that not only are the monsters created from corrupted humans, but they can't defeat the monsters without killing the humans as well—even humans who never wanted to be monstrous.
  • The Demon Girl Next Door: Hiding under a cute, Moe Slice of Life gag manga exterior, this Yonkoma Manga deconstructs the Magical Girl from the point of view of the nominal 'villains'. Not only is every single demon portrayed as ineffectual and harmless, everything we learn about the magical girls paints them as pawns of an ancient, uncaring celestial bureaucracy who're awarded points for essentially hunting down pseudo-ethnic minorities. They are locked into complete life altering contracts as young as 5 years old. We're told many unscrupulous magical girls only care about racking up points to make their wishes come true, and in the first six volumes, the only real villain has been a magical girl who wants to commit genocide against demons to 'end their suffering'.
  • Fantastic Detective Labyrinth has Aya, a type of Magical Girl Warrior that transforms a young girl with potential and rewrites her personality with an artificial one loyal to its Doll Master. These types of warriors become cold-blooded killers with the humanity of the girls only kept by the fact they are Manchurian Agent bodyguards, meaning they do not recall anything from the fight, and how the Doll Masters treat them.
  • Granbelm: the main character, Mangetsu, is a Stock Shoujo Heroine — kind, sweet, and helpful. She feels empty and unfulfilled because she actually is just a creation of Magic with no actual history. Magic power is a terrible thing that has been locked away for 1000 years for good reason. It lures young girls every generation into battle royale in cute Super Robots, where their dreams will be destroyed and many are erased to the point of never having existed in the first place.
  • Gushing over Magical Girls is a highly sexual action/comedy work about Hiiragi Utena, a girl who dreams about being a magical girl but actually ends up being a Dark Magical Girl. While at first horrified Utena discovers a hidden side to herself as she fights her admired heroines, she likes it...a lot. The series also shows, at length, that most of the power and mental development of Tres Magia (the "traditional" magical girl group of the setting) could only happen because Utena kept pushing for them to grow, is the one instigating most of their conflicts, and very much wants them to defeat her organization the "proper" way (i.e. just like in magical girl anime); when a villain wants them dead, or when Utena starts showing her hand, it's nearly a steamroll. That being said, the series and Utena are still very much in favor of the Powers of Love and Friendship winning the day, as both Enormeeta and Tres Magia become better fighters as they accept themselves, their allies, and even their sexuality.
  • Parodied in Magical Girl Ore. It hits all the high points but takes them to such extremes that what is horrifying for Saki becomes hilarious to the audience:
    • Saki's wish to get together with Mahiro is fulfilled in a Monkey's Paw way. True, he Loves Her Alter Ego, but considering what that alter ego is, her regular self never had a chance.
      • In a Generation Xerox, her father was the same way with her mother, preferring her buff, male magical alter ego.
    • The Mentor Mascot is literally a Yakuza boss.
    • Saki wanted a perfect body — she got Goku's version, not Sailor Moon's. The former is much more realistic for physically smashing evil after all.
    • Unlike most Magic Idol Singers, she hates using her transformed body to perform. And while using it does boost her group's popularity, the sales also come from the novelty of seeing two crossdressing buff men singing rather than any skill they have.
    • Combat is anything but elegant (such as in Pretty Cure). Instead, it's a brutal hand-to-hand battle, leaving behind a horrible, bloody mess.
  • Magical Destroyers: the three Magical Girls are all rude and crude, and don't want to be Magical Girls anymore. They are very Punk, with drug use, sexual promiscuity, sadomasochism, and a "burn it all down" attitude. They represent "Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll" (Blue, Pink, and Anarchy, in that order). The very nihilistic attitude is the opposite of the traditional Magical Girl. In the end, they turn on and kill the hero.
  • Magical Girl Raising Project: a middle schooler named Koyuki 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.
  • Magical Girl 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. While The Power of Friendship is a major element, it doesn't prevent it from falling into this genre given the other effects.
    • Once one gets over the gory and raunchy sections of the series, th e manga shifts into a Reconstruction after Aya grows a spine and matures far beyond her age thanks the assistance of her new friends like Yatsumura, along with numerous girls who had similar misfortunes in their lives. She becomes The Heart for even the most unscrupulous and highly-flawed individuals that includes former enemies and ordinary humans wrapped up in their fights, forming a La Résistance with the common goal of saving the world. And it ends with Aya completely turning the world system into her favor, resulting in a Surprisingly Happy Ending for everyone who was hurt, whether the Site was (in)directly involved or not.
  • Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka: Magical Girls are widely known and are treated as soldiers by governments. The protagonist is a Shell-Shocked Veteran magical girl formerly attached to the JSDF who just wants to live an ordinary life after years of fighting monsters, but keeps getting dragged back in because there aren't many Magical Girls left. The enemies also use Cold-Blooded Torture on innocents, just to drive home how horrible they are.
  • Magical Witch Punie-chan at first seems to be a typical Magical Girl Queenliness Test anime- that is, until Punie, the main character, begins using wrestling submission holds upon people. The further you get, the more you learn that Punie is not a nice person, and neither is her family.
  • Magilumiere Co. Ltd. takes place in a world where the constant threat of monsters means magical girls are commonplace. Rather than being used to help come of age, becoming one is a viable and much sought-after career for adults, with industries rising to assist them. Advancements in magic are done through magitek and programming, and even the prospect of men taking on the job is only hampered by the technology needing improvements to accommodate their abilities. The strength of their enemies depends on how much magic is used, leading to a Lensman Arms Race between the women and the Kaii that involves both factions getting stronger to defeat the other, with the conflict then being how to defeat them without feeding into their power.
  • My-HiME is an early example that either tosses or examines many of the standard tropes of the Magical Girl genre. Fancy costumes (except for the Cosplay Otaku Girls) and secret identities are not in use. The Power of Love that powers the HiME is shown to be a tainted love that drives several girls to insanity and murder, and the defeat of a magical girl kills whoever they love the most. The military gets involved in magical girl affairs midway through due to the actions of a secret society, but their forces are defeated by magical firepower. Even Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World is deconstructed, since in a world of magical battles, going to class really stops mattering by the midway point (or earlier, if you're Natsuki).
  • My-Otome takes a minor subplot of its predecessor and puts it in full view: Magical girls have the power of fighter aircraft? Then they'll be treated as weapons of mass destruction and taken into the service of their nations, and they'll fight wars rather than the Monster of the Week. Also, the tendency for magical girl series to have a Cast Full of Gay and strong yuri undertones is also spotlighted, because sperm destroys the Otome nanomachines, so Otome are expected to sleep with girls, and the Academy's culture includes sexual relationships between sempai and kohai. While the latter is fully romanticized, some Otome are actually straight and in love with men, leading to comedy and angst in equal proportion.
  • Nurse Angel Ririka SOS presages the genre and was released in 1996. Its 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 let her crush and friend, Kanou, die - though she has the means to save his life via the Green Vaccine, he refuses her aid since there is only a limited amount left. 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 for the entire series. The series ends with Ririka committing 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. Even before the Wham Episode, every fight is very difficult, and bad guys have an unlimited source of power, the Black Vaccine, while the Green Vaccine that powers Ririka is limited and some drains away every time she rescues people, forcing tough decisions on her.
  • Oku-sama wa Mahou Shoujo is a more lighthearted Deconstruction, exploring instead what happens when the Magical Girl grows too old to be called a "girl" anymore, with the main character now 26, and married, but refuses to give up her power to her teenaged replacement, as it would undo all her own efforts for the town. An example showing not all Magical Girl Genre Deconstruction creations are Darker and Edgier.
  • Otasuke Miko Miko-chan is very, very fond of playing with the conventions of the Magical Girl genre. The most obvious ways are how Ayumu as Miko-chan is used primarily to sell merchandise and advertise the shrine, that his magical familiar is more of a manager than anything else, and that he is a reluctant cross-dresser.
  • Phantom Thief Jeanne is a precursor to most other examples, as the manga was first published in 1998. Main character Maron suffers from Clinical Depression as a result of Parental Abandonment, and her magical companion and friend Fin is actually a fallen angel working for the Devil.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the Trope Codifier. It's a Magical Girl franchise featuring an adorable art style but a 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. Another Deconstruction is of the cute Mentor Mascot, who is here the true Big Bad and more of a classic Devil - a contract for the soul that is never quite what it seems, and in the lives of the magical girls, who experience combat fatigue and wear down mentally. However, the series ends on a Decon-Recon Switch for The Power Of Heart: naive young Madoka invokes the vast power from her wish to effect a vast Cosmic Retcon, preventing witches from having ever existed and becoming the embodiment of Hope in the process. The ultimate message is profoundly Anti-Nihilist: this world may be grim and messed-up, but it's never wrong to keep on hoping and fighting to make it a better place.
  • 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 Pretty Cure 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. The reality of the creators does not have the same genre expectations as the world she came from.
  • 1997's Revolutionary Girl Utena is a shoujo with Magical Girl influences, though it's not a full-fledged Magical Girl work. Utena is a fourteen year old girl who wants to be a prince some day after being inspired by a princely man she met seven years ago. At her middle school, she becomes involved in a secretive swordfighting tournament held by the student council. While fighting this tournament she meets a similarly aged girl, dubbed the "Rose Bride", Anthy. What follows is a surreal story about Innocence Lost and Coming Of Age revolving around a Dysfunction Junction.
  • Initially played straight with Symphogear, which seems to utilize magical girls as tools to fight wars with extraminensional entities, as well as almost completely averting the usual Adults Are Useless trope found in Traditional Magical Girl Settings to the point that viewers early on thought it was a Madoka clone (Not helped by Aoi Yūki playing the lead like with Madoka), only to outright defy it HARD by the first season's end, turning into an optimistic, hotblooded Magical Girl Super Robot fusion by season 2 onwards. Its suitably epic as a result.
  • While ViVid Strike! is still very much a Lyrical Nanoha series, and thus even at its deconstructionist it is still lighter than most examples here, it still delves into a franchise-specific deconstruction of some of its favorite tropes via its Dark Magical Girl Rinne Berlinetta.
  • Witchblade is an aversion, subversion, and deconstruction all in one. Although both the Witchblade and the Cloneblades are equipped with a rather dark Transformation Trinket to occasionally fight a Monster of the Week and each other in a Superpowered Alter Ego, they hardly show any of the standard fancy tropes of their heroic magical girl counterparts: instead, they seek violence and their blades are inadvertently destroying the body and mind. Where the Cloneblades are esentially expendable lab rats armed with a cheap knockoff, the eponymous Witchblade treats its hosts no better.
  • Yuki Yuna is a Hero is the first in the multimedia franchise Yuusha De Aru 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 enacted after an elementary schooler Hero, Gin from Washio Sumi Is a Hero, died in battle). However, fate is not unkind to the girls who made their sacrifice as the Heroes, and they managed to achieve their victory and get their normal life back (mostly) by the end.

    Comic Books 
  • Save Yourself is a miniseries published by Boom! Studios (under the Boom! Box label), it tells about the main lead who finds out that the three magical girls she idolizes are revealed to be three shapeshifting criminal aliens, while the villains who are chasing them are actually the good guys.

    Fan Works 

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Princess: The Hopeful is actually a Magical Girl Genre Reconstruction set in the Chronicles of Darkness. Princesses suffer real risk of both injury and trauma. Monsters will not hesitate to go after your family. Different factions of magical girls may disagree on the details of things like "what is right" to the point that they attack each other. But at the same time magical girls have access to more diverse powers than battle magic, and can call upon networks of support from all over mundane society, allowing them to succeed anyway.

    Video Games 
  • Hero Hours Contract is lighter than most examples, but this team of superheroines is underpaid. Rather than being the embodiments of purity and justice, Magical Girls are treated as mere employees of a larger system, and having to regularly protect the world from the forces of evil has interfered with Bea's education and left her with no possible career other than working in a (struggling) family-owned store.

  • Magical Boy is an Animesque webcomic where the main character is a Transgender boy who is struggling with both his gender identity and the fact his mother, who is a Magical Girl, wants him to be feminine so he can connect with the Goddess Aurora and fight evil. Themes include homophobia and transphobia. He finds out that his magical girl outfit is mostly for show and can actually be manipulated to become a more masculine outfit.
  • Miss Guillotine: Many of the Magical Girls are treated like celebrities. But instead of sweet girls, most are actually Alpha Bitches who regularly bully other people. One magical girl actually went through plastic surgery just so she would look beautiful to match her name.
  • Parallax: Even though the basic premise of the Magical Girl genre is there, Lomax is a teenage boy whose Transformation Sequence looks very feminine and is color-coded neon pink despite the Super Mode being gender-neutral in universe. Many other aspects of the genre are deconstructed as well, including Lomax being tricked into this, unwittingly choosing "what" as the key phrase, freaking out due to the newly acquired super senses and clingy costume and getting badly beaten by the first monster. And to spice things up, Lomax's mentor is plotting behind the scenes how to use him for own ulterior motives.
  • Shattered Starlight has started to show some of the realistic results of a Magical Girl lifestyle, especially after growing up, with Farrah showing some signs of PTSD and having trouble keeping a regular job, the team apparently having broken apart after some event hinted to have ended with a member dying, and the former team mentor is now near-constantly drunk.
  • Sleepless Domain is an Animesque webcomic where Magical Girls serve as Child Soldiers to protect the city from monsters, but are treated like pop star celebrities, complete with interviews, merchandising and plenty of gossip. Being a Magical Girl has a high injury risk, but - as a cheerful poster claims - registered ones have a 70% lower risk of severe injury or death. The First-Episode Twist, where three Decoy Protagonists get wiped out by a powerful monster leaving the one non-depowered survivor to pick up the pieces, is the current page image.
  • Who Decided That Blues Had To Be Cool?, published on Pixiv, is not at all dark, but is very much a Deconstructive Parody with a heroine who wants to be a magical girl, but makes the role a lot more straining than it should be because she is Wrong Genre Savvy, believing that since she is blue-themed and paired with a pink-themed girl, she must fulfil the Cool Big Sis role of the pair when she is temperamentally unsuited. It also treats the occupation in general like a job, with plenty of stress, conflicts with civilian life and an opaque employer.
  • Tokimekiwaku's Magical Girl setting takes place in a world that's largely neutralized the process of becoming a magical girl (all of the current ones only had to sign a questionnaire on the internet), which greatly lowered the barriers of the age, gender, theme, and morality of all those who accepted the call. Co-protagonist Pomf makes an active effort to protect her domain, as does the Occidental Otaku Gitchi, but she herself displays few characteristics of a "main" magical girl and is rather cold to everyone except her girlfriend Gekka, while most of the cast are only in it for themselves or make trouble with their newfound powers. The few magical girls that remain on the childlike and idealistic side, the aforementioned Gitchi and Baxter, are considered naive at best by Pomf.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: A major deconstruction of The '80s version of the show. Adora has to deal with a major Guilt Complex due to both old and new friends fighting and she has to destroy the She-Ra power due to the fact it was created by Omnicidal Maniacs, Glimmer is extremely insecure about her capabilities and when her mother dies she has to become Queen, resulting in a Took a Level in Jerkass that made things worse for everyone. The princesses are unknowingly not magical but powered by Magitek that was designed by A Nazi by Any Other Name. The Horde is a very morally blended group with Hordak being a failing clone just trying to earn his validation from Horde Prime. Catra's ambition does more harm than good to her and her obsession with Adora's defection Leads to her nearly destroying the universe in a Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum that results in most of the Horde defecting when she pulls The Starscream. Season 4 ends with Etheria in the grasps of the Greater-Scope Villain, Adora powerless, and Glimmer and Catra prisoners of said villain.
    • Season 5 reconstructs this, in that Adora having become a Martyr Without a Cause has made her New She-Ra form unstable until she and Catra admit they love each other. Glimmer finds atonement for her season 4 mistakes, While Catra gets a Morality Pet that helps her overcome her trauma (It helps that the cause of all of her and Adora's flaws, Shadow Weaver, committed Redemption Equals Death), thus becoming a hero. The series ends with Horde Prime destroyed, Etheria's magic completely restored, and everyone comes out of the war with a happy ending.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil:
  • Steven Universe: The titular character starts out as an innocent, naive boy who happens to have three super-powered women called The Crystal Gems as his primary guardians, and powers he inherited from his late mother, Rose Quartz. However, things slowly begin to change as Steven starts taking a more active role in the Gems' missions. Over the series, the Crystal Gems are all shown to have their own flaws that are capable of hurting those around them, and Rose Quartz is revealed to not be the perfect warrior she is initially built up to be. Steven himself ends up going through a large amount of trauma due to the battles he takes part in, and he begins to develop an inferiority complex due to everyone comparing him to his late mother and expecting him to fix her mistakes. Despite all this, Steven never stops being an All-Loving Hero who will only resort to fighting back if he sees absolutely no other option.
    • Steven Universe: Future Deconstructed further as a older Steven realizes that he spent so much time fixing everyone else's issues that once everyone is happy, he has no idea what to do with himself. He needs to be needed, seeing everyone moving on with their lives just makes him miserable. The series explore the mental and physical trauma Steven endured over the first series. It explores how dysfunctional the human side of his life is without any basic structure like socializing with kids his age in school or regular visits to a doctor because Greg tried too hard to contrast his parenting from his strict-bordering-abusive upbringing. The series ends with Steven being brought back from a breakdown and seeing a therapist as he tries to build a life outside of solely helping others.