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Magical Girl Genre Deconstruction

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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 Magical Girl Genre Deconstruction, usually called "Dark Magical Girl" in anime fandom, though that is a different trope here.

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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. 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.

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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' twist proved popular enough that other works soon began exploring more serious interpretations of Magical Girls as well.

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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.

Compare to Real Robot Genre (in contrast to Super Robot Genre), Capepunk and The Dark Age of Comic Books. Contrast Not Wearing Tights.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 

    Fan Works 

    Light Novels 
  • In 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Princess: The Hopeful is based on the idea how magical girls would fare in a setting like Chronicles of Darkness. It's not easy to keep hope alive and spread Light in a world where darkness has basically already won but it is possible. 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 they can still work together. If you want to be an All-Loving Heroine then you should take precautions when helping a potentially dangerous creature.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

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