Bewitched by Magical Girls
© Kodansha
Melissa Johnson · From fps #8 · June 27, 2006 | In the late 1960s, Toei Animation was the top animation studio in Japan, providing extremely popular titles for boys such as Journey to the West, by legendary manga author Osamu Tezuka, and Ken, the Wild Boy. Regardless of their success, however, the studios noticed a large audience that remained untapped. While Japan's little boys were following the adventures of Son Goku and Ken, Japan's little girls were largely ignored by the anime industry, and were staying up past their bedtimes to watch Japanese-dubbed broadcasts of the American TV sitcom Bewitched.

Giant Robo creator Mitsuteru Yokoyama noticed this trend of feminine interest, and in 1966, Sally the Witch was born. Sally the Witch was not only the first shoujo (girls') anime to be aired on television, it also marked the beginning of what would become the top-selling subgenre of Japanese animation to date. This subgenre, aptly titled mahou shoujo anime (literally translating to mean "magical girl") is certainly not the only type of shoujo anime produced in Japan, but a recent look at Western television lineups prove that it apparently has the greatest cultural crossover appeal.

While there have been several subgenres of shounen (boys') titles that have been brought to international television (Inuyasha, Cowboy Bebop and Trigun, just to name a few), the only shoujo anime represented on television is from the mahou shoujo subgenre. What's more, only one particular type of mahou shoujo animation is represented in the North American marketplace.

If we look at early mahou shoujo titles and compare them to the series that are familiar with Western audiences, we have to ask, "do they belong in the same subgenre?" Titles like Sailor Moon and Tokyo MewMew (known in North America as MewMew Power) are what usually come to mind when talking about these "magical girl" shows. But these titles are simply the most recent incarnations of the subgenre, appearing for the first time in 1992, nearly thirty years after Sally the Witch.

Want to read the rest of this feature?

You'll find it and many other articles in the June 2006 issue of fps, available for only $1.49 US.
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