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Ima, kore ga hoshiin da! - Magical Girls Need Love, Too!

Welcome once again to another exciting, albeit late, issue of "I want it now!" This week it's all about the magical girl. Originally intended primarily for a female audience, the magical girl genre of Anime has taken on a whole new life in North America. Starting with Sailor Moon, other shows of a similar mold have slowly made their way to North America in the form of direct video release. A small number have managed to make their way to TV thanks to heavy editing, but the majority only gain exposure through a local video retailer.

What constitutes a magical girl show? First and most obvious the main character and the majority of the supporting cast are female. They are usually young, often not older than a standard high school student. (Sakura, of Card Captor Sakura, is 10, while Usagi, of Sailor Moon, is 16.) Their powers are usually granted upon them by some mystical and mysterious being. To gather their powers, there is usually a long and involved transformation sequence, during which for some unknown reason they go nude with the costume forming around them like ribbon before taking on its official costume form. (Back to Sakura, she avoids the long-winded transformation sequence with a quick visit to the back of her friend Tomoyo's costume van.) Magical girls' powers and attacks tend to have long names and incantations, that makes one wonder why the villain doesn't attack during this small respite.

There are also the extras that come with being a magical girl. First off are the wonderful weapons of choice. There's nothing like using a magical baton with frilly lace and matching jewels to beat the enemy into submission. Don't forget the small bell with the matching heart-shaped frame to lull that same enemy into complacency. For the extra sense of cuteness, don't forget the fuzzy, furry, funny and friendly mascot sidekick. Usually taking on the familiar form of household pet, these creatures can range to larger and fiercer furry animals. These sidekicks often perform the much-needed task of background information exposition to the often-needed task of comic relief. Backing up the sidekick, runs the multitude of friends with similar magic powers and transformation sequences. Sure, they can't get the job done without the lead magical girl, but the show wouldn't be as much fun without them. And since we're dealing with a main female lead, she obviously needs a love interest. Most often than not, this is a boy slightly older, who is the most popular person in the school. There are many variants of the love interest, including: pedestal worship, unrequited love and the occasional peck on the check. More often than not, this love interest serves simply as hero bait used by the villain to attract the attention of the magical girl and her friends.

In all seriousness, the magical genre continues to grow a very loyal fanbase in North America. Of course, the demographic in North America is nearly the opposite of the Japanese demographic, with more males being involved in the popularity of the show. Most of this shift in demographic can be related to the fact that the majority of North American fans are male. Magical girl shows have been slow in coming over to the North American market because the majority of these shows target female audiences in Japan. In Japan, the demographic is more evenly split between male and female so shows have the opportunity to target a particular audience. In North America, having a large male audience means distributors tend to pick up titles that are more male oriented. As the North American market grows, distributors are learning quickly that these shows targeting female audiences can actually do well in North America without creative editing. Proof of this exists in shows such as Card Captor Sakura, where the release of the original Japanese version of the show outpaces in sales that of the English version edited to target a male dominated Saturday cartoon audience.

One show that hasn't made its way over yet, despite the amount of attention it gets at various conventions is Maho Yuugi. The show features a young girl named Padudu who strikes out to become a magical girl. With the help of her sidekick and costume Uokichi, (a large fish that she's hollowed out, yet amazingly he's still alive), she goes from one place to another to battle other magical girls to win flower stamps. When she fills her book with flower stamps, she can move on to become Queen of the magical girls.

There are actually two versions of the show, one being Maho Yuugi 2-D and the other being OVA, Maho Yuugi 3-D. Maho Yuugi 2-D, currently airing in Japan on Kids Station, is the standard TV sized release, with small, 10-minute episodes. While there is a loose continuity between episodes, the stories tend to be rather random in nature. Padudu, being very go-lucky and naïve, creates an atmosphere of comic happenstance around her, so the shows are very light-hearted in nature. The overall plot is a quest story, with Padudu working towards becoming Queen of the magical girls. There is a lot of back-story surrounding other cast members that slowly comes out as the show progresses. The main conflict of the back-story lies between Nonononn and Queen Purilun. Again, this is hinted at early in the show, with more coming out of it towards the end.

Maho Yuugi 3-D takes a slightly different slant on the story. Skipping a lot of the side adventures, the OVA gets right into the crux of the back-story. Padudu takes on a larger role in the back-story as she ends up in prison with Nonononn. Now more involved in the conflict between Nonononn and Queen Purilun, Padudu still manages to come off as naïve. The OVA really breaks down as a condensed version of the 2-D series, focusing directly on the back-story. It was also created on computers, going for a full 3-D effect. While not on par with true CGI creations such as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc., Maho Yuugi 3-D is impressive for the small budget they worked with.

Maho Yuugi 2-D also showed off the capabilities of computers. For a while, the 10-minute episodes were being broadcasted on a regular basis off of Lycos Japan. This web anime showed that producers had other options aside from the traditional TV and Video avenues. The show has gained enough popularity that it is now showing on a traditional TV outlet, and has ended its run on the web. Hopefully, future shows will see a similar release, as broadcasting on the web can help build a loyal following for a series.

The show itself is a parody on the whole magical girl genre. It takes the stereotypes found in many of these shows and blows them way out of proportion. The show provides a lot for the audience, ranging from comedy, cute girls and an actual plot in the back-story. This is a show right up the alley for Bandai or Pioneer to pick up, and do quite well with.

The magical genre isn't just for girls anymore. There is a lot to be found for everyone in this genre, so expect it to become even more popular in the years to come.

So until next time, keep working on the transformation sequence!

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