Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Pretty Cure are all considered to be some of the greatest pioneers in the magical girl genre. These franchises encompassed the core message of the magical girl genre: That girls could be cute, beautiful, and powerful. It inspired young girls and enforced the message that femininity does not equal weakness. In fact, it celebrated femininity and both its successors and predecessors would continue to spread the message for each new generation of young girls.
Then Madoka Magica happened.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Madoka Magica. It’s a great show and most certainly deserves the heaps of praise it often receives from critics. However, in the wake of Madoka Magica’s success, the message behind the magical girl genre experienced a huge shift. Madoka Magica, on the surface, looked like any other late night magical girl anime geared towards older men, not unlike Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, which despite its disgusting pedophilic undertones, still held a message similar to the magical girl anime before it. But then Madoka Magica showed its true colors when its third episode aired and things got real dark real fast. It was an instant hit And whenever a show becomes a hit, copycats are sure to follow, and in its wake, almost every anime season featured a new anime attempting to aim for the same dark story that contrasted against its cute character designs.
In the process, the core message of the magical girl genre was tossed aside in favor of cashing in on Madoka‘s success. Thankfully, there still are magical girl shows around that adhere to the genre’s original message. Pretty Cure is still around, and every now and again, magical girl shows geared towards little girls, its intended target audience, pop up and remind us once more what made the magical girl genre so special.