When we talk about “cute” things in contemporary Japanese media, a conversation about magical girls tends to pop up. I may have mentioned it before, but magical girls follow a typical premise: a girl who leads a relatively normal lifestyle transforms into a magical combatant who fights evil. There are many titles out there that feature magical girls, and I have reviewed several of them already. But if there’s anything that makes this series different from the rest, this one is based on an art contest!
Magica Wars (Mahou Shoujo Taisen) is a short animated series that aired on the variety show 2.5 Jigen TV. From what I understand, the girls featured in this series are only a few from a much larger pool of candidates for an art contest. All 47 of the girls in the larger universe (not in the anime) represent each prefecture in Japan. The magical girls are also featured on an iOS game. But again, this is an anime review.
I’m not sure as to how this art contest was conducted, since I’ve only gotten this information second-hand. But I imagine that each character in this series was either hand-drawn by fans or voted in by fans, or both. The arcs carried out in this series are original (it can’t be traced back to a manga or novel), and my guess is that decision-making for this series was gender neutral, albeit the execution of the anime appears to be for a largely seinen (mature male) audience. The magical girl genre in general seems to be male-oriented, but there are some girls and women who also enjoy these kinds of characters.
As you can probably imagine for a series like this one, there is a lot of promotion involved. Each arc features a different girl in a different prefecture, representing specific aspects of that prefecture’s culture. When they defeat the Magatsuhi threat in each arc, the monster explodes and becomes a signature dish from that prefecture. Heck, the magical girls’ outfits are representative of some cultural aspect of their prefectures, and the voice actresses chosen were from their respective prefectures, too!
It’s like having a celebration of local culture in one anime, and all the merchandise that comes with it!
The themes around this anime are fairly typical of any magical girl series, in that each girl is a young thing that fights evil, whatever that may be. However, there are some points where they do address additional aspects to the genre that aren’t explored enough.
The girls are cute, but not all girls represent that cuteness the same way. For example, the cool-headed Yuri Inuwashi is much more mature than the other girls of this series, and doesn’t consider herself to be like the others. Her familiar jokingly calls her a “magical young lady” (mahou oujo) to capture her youthful, yet mature outlook on life. While this isn’t official, that might answer this universe’s question on what happens to magical girls once they’re no longer girls. Maybe they just become magical women? Who knows?
Moreover, a typical magical girl usually lives their magical lifestyle in solitude, in that no one really knows that their normal girl self is also a girl who protects whatever community they come from. It seems that only other magical girls are aware of their powers, but Mebuki of the Kyoto prefecture has a different view. She comes from a line of magical girls, and whether that means it’s by lineage (mother to daughter) or by clan (siblings and cousins included), that means there are quite a few people who are aware of her existence! Part of what drives magical girl themes is a sense of forlornness in decision-making, but at least Mebuki has an ancestral history to support her.
Of course, there aren’t many magical girls without some kind of limitation. They’re not goddesses; they haven’t even matured yet! And while fans like to idolize them as eternally youthful for all the powers they have, they have barriers… literal ones! Rinka Kamiki of Mie prefecture can’t chase the enemy past the border because her ley lines only support her in that region. Now I honestly have no idea how spiritual ley lines could ever tell man-made borders like that; but then again, I’m no expert on mysticism either. The point is, these girls aren’t invincible; nor are they expected to be.
But regardless of the premises or the characters involved, magical girls in any anime are also given a certain level of responsibility. And that becomes very important to this series, because when each episode only runs four minutes long yet still hits audiences in the feels, something must be going on!
The girls were created under the premise that they are fictions from an art contest, so they are treated like representative objects for their prefectures. Even so, these girls embody a very high sense of responsibility to protect their prefectures and all of Japan with their powers. Whether they fight for an entire region or for a single friend or loved one, these girls contain a warrior-like spirit.
Of couse, not all magical girls fight for justice, as is expressed in the perennial archenemy, the dark magical girl, Rei.
From what little I understand, Rei has given in to the influence of the Magatsuhi, the monsters that ravage Japan. She isn’t bound by any prefectures, and fights the other girls on at least two occasions. I suppose some people still think she’s cute, and she’s still technically a magical girl. But Rei in in this series is not defending Japan. She’s invading it!
But there is at least one more thing that I like about this series, which I believe addresses something atypical of other magical girl series, and that is the involvement of normal human beings. When magical girls fight in urban areas, destroying buildings is bound to happen. And in at least one instance, they showed that the collateral damage does affect the people down below, as it had injured an innocent bystander. Other instances include the driving force behind Renka’s reason to fight: for friends who had never noticed her when she was her normal self.
But the moment I’d like to highlight is in Mebuki’s arc, which may also be considered Azuki’s arc.
Azuki is an novice ghost hunter by trade, and she has always been fascinated by spirits and the occult. But when she saw Mebuki fighting with Rei, she knew that something more had to be done. By gathering the entire community, Azuki and other indistinguishable people helped reverse Rei’s ley lines that gave her power, in hopes that Mebuki would become victorious.
Not to give away any kind of endings here, but what’s important to understand is the magical girls’ relationship with normal human beings like you and me. For this universe, they are our symbol of hope, but to them, we are their support when it comes to fighting these evils. And just when you thought these girls were just immanent characters displayed for our entertainment, we have to go back to the roots that this was an art contest. Fans made this series happen, whether it was in designing the characters, judging the characters, or interacting with the series either through the anime or the video game. And when the creators and the fans collaborate to make a series like this one happen, the power of a collection of people like us can do some very incredible things.
I would say more about this series, but I don’t want to spoil EVERYTHING! So if you want to know where this is all headed, watch the series for yourself!
So if you want to watch a decent magical girl anime that includes a video game following, check out Magica Wars.