Before you head back to school or wrap up your summer for good, take some time to settle in for a magical girl anime marathon with your friends or your kids.
Why magical girl anime? The magical girl subgenre, written as mahou shoujo in Japanese, is iconic in anime: a teen or pre-teen girl in a feminine, fluffy dress who becomes a champion for justice and fights out of a sense of duty. Magical girl series are often kid- and family-friendly, making these series a good (and fun!) way to introduce children to anime.
In this decade, the genre’s just as alive as ever with new series like Madoka*Magica and the enduring popularity of the Pretty Cure franchise. That being said, there are plenty of classic magical girl series to get familiar with, even if it’s just to understand magical girl jokes in comedy anime, and tons of those series are available on officially-licensed streaming sites like Crunchyroll and Hulu.
Cardcaptor Sakura, based on the manga by CLAMP, went live on Crunchyroll August 12 — you can watch the full series RIGHT THIS SECOND if that’s what your heart desires. (I’m currently resisting temptation.)
The series features Kinomoto Sakura, a 10-year-old girl who stumbles on a strange book in her father’s library and accidentally unleashes 52 Tarot-inspired magical cards into the city. The guardian of the cards helps her transform into a magical girl in order to track down and capture the cards, which — infused with magic — wreak havoc on the city.
The series originally aired from 1998 to 2000 and was dubbed and aired in English in the US from 2000 to 2001. Critics and manga fans alike were quick to point out that the English dub changed names and edited out “controversial” points, like the same-sex relationships present in the show, but the Crunchyroll sub edition leaves all of that intact for the purists in the fandom.
- Find Cardcaptor Sakura on Crunchyroll (sub and dub) here. Currently, only the first 6 episodes are available to non-Premium users — but you can finally check out that two-week Crunchyroll trial membership you’ve been eyeing.
Shugo Chara! aired from 2007 to 2008, and this magical girl series is great for girls 10 and older or fans of the Cardcaptor Sakura series. This light-hearted anime’s “magical girl” concept is based on “eggs” that appear to children who are trying to become their true selves.
Focused on dreams, goals, and being true to oneself, Shugo Chara! is a bright and optimistic anime that’s great for kids of different age levels to watch together.
- Find Shugo Chara! on Crunchyroll here.
Another CLAMP classic, Magic Knight Rayearth (1994-1995), is also available online. In this series, three girls are transported from Tokyo Tower to a magical realm called Cephiro on a quest to save the princess of the realm, Emeraude, from the high priest Zagato.
Rayearth’s magic setup combines the magical girl genre and the mecha anime genre, and the three girls use element-based magic and deities of Cephiro who transform into what are, essentially, giant magical fighting robots. Pretty cool, right? Magic Knight Rayearth was created for an audience of elementary school and up, but CLAMP’s tendency towards, um, grim darkness and despair makes it a better show for younger children to watch with older siblings or parents.
- Find Magic Knight Rayearth on Hulu now.
Hulu is currently releasing the classic Sailor Moon anime (1992-1997) as Crunchyroll simulcasts Sailor Moon Crystal (2014). The story features a clumsy 14-year-old girl named Usagi as she becomes the guardian Sailor Moon, a magical girl who fights
While the sometimes-creepy imagery and overall plot complexity makes Sailor Moon better for ages 13+, I would recommend Sailor Moon not only to any fan of shoujo anime, but also to any fan of anime at large. The Sailor Moon fan community is incredible, and the classic series is one every anime should be familiar with.
Feliza Casano spent a significant part of fifth grade pretending to be Sailor Mars. She still thinks of herself as a magical girl, especially while representing Girls in Capes. As editor, she writes for all sections of the site, and she’s the one behind GiC’s Facebook and Twitter. Follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.
Interested in more anime recommendations? We’ve also got suggestions for thought-provoking anime for the new-to-anime viewer and talk about some anime characters who are mixed-race; anime is also one of our favorite things, and we’ve mentioned a few of our favorite series, too.