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6 Trailblazing Shojo "Deconstructions" You Should Be Watching

by Lynzee Loveridge,
Anime has not seen fan fervor like that for Madoka Magica's dark themes and character motivations, along with coining the term "deconstruction", since Neon Genesis Evangelion premiered in 1995 and took apart what the fan community knew as "mecha". Madoka Magica's similar effect on magical girl series is not without predecessors. In fact, without the following series introducing their own approaches to storytelling, Madoka Magica would have been too unconventional to make it past the drawing board.

6. Yami to Bōshi to Hon no Tabibito
Yamibō originated as a eroge by game developer Root (the same creators of the source material for Touka Gettan). While the anime's visual novel groundwork is obvious in the series' presentation, the anime does several things well: present a strong female lead in a magical world and a romance destined for tragic consequences. The series presents its tsundere heroine, Hazuki, searching for her magical (female) lover, Hatsumi, who's disappeared into the world of books. At her side is a dark magic-caster named Lilith and a talking parrot. The narrative suffers from lack of context for those not familiar with the game, but the heroine's emotional motivations make for a tender viewing experience. Unfortunately, Yamibō has not been picked up for English release and the series is almost ten years old.

5. Nurse Angel Ririka SOS
Akitarō Daichi's follow-up to Akazukin Chacha has all the makings of a standard magical girls show. It features an endearing 4th grader who receives magical powers to save an alien planet from "Dark Joker" and recover the Flower of Life all the while transforming into a magical nurse. At no point in the series' initial premise does the audience suspect that the themes of death and sacrifice would become so prominent. While similar ideas are pre-dated in series like Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon, unlike its predecessor, Ririka does not get a magical do-over in season two.

4. Destiny of the Shrine Maiden
Destiny of the Shrine Maiden blends magical priestess fare (à la, Fushigi Yugi) with mecha, Japanese folklore, and shojo-ai elements. The series is infamous for its dark twists, especially its most shocking scene in episode 8. From that moment on the series takes what originally a straightforward magical love story and continues to twist it until it is hardly recognizable anymore.

3. Fairy Princess Minky Momo
Where would any of the better shojo deconstructions be without the infamous ending to Fairy Princess Minky Momo? Momo was a magical heroine using her abilities to transform herself into run-of-the-mill occupations to help those in need. This idea is revisited in a large slew of series, but most don't subject their hero to a hit-and-run accident at the peak of their popularity. Rumors circulated that low merchandise sales pulled the plug on the series but it would see a reboot a few years later, meanwhile, the unexpected territory the show blazed into allowed future series to visit these themes again and again.

2. Uta∽Kata
Uta∽Kata entered the scene quietly when it debuted and its affect on the American market was similarly small. This is horribly unfortunate because despite some of the series' shortcomings, it turns a lot of typical shojo elements on their heads. Middle-schooler Ichika Tachibana receives a magical amulet from Manatsu, a girl in a mirror, that lets her commune with djinn and briefly gain magical powers. Despite the magical girl trappings, the series hinges on its portrayal of psychological elements dealing with adolescence, mental illness (especially Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and sexual abuse. As the series' progresses we also discover Ichika's "gift" is hardly a good thing.

1. Revolutionary Girl Utena
The heroine is a prince, the prince is a manipulative playboy, and the damsel in distress isn't all that she seems either. Revolutionary Girl Utena would take rip apart the audience's idea of what it meant to be the lead woman in a shojo series while reinforcing familiar topics like self-identity, friendship, and bravery. It is the end-all-be-all in psychological character studies, creating real characters with real motivations. Utena paved the way for series looking to cast aside wide-eyed doormat leads stuck in borderline abusive love triangles and for that, fans of the genre are eternally grateful.

The new poll: It's usually the cutest character that suffer from from the unfortunate circumstances, like parental abandonment or death. If given the opportunity to bring one of these orphaned characters home, which would you choose?

The old poll: Last week's poll asked which planet in an anime series would you immigrate to? The winner: The terraformed Venus in Cowboy Bebop. Beautiful floating islands over a vast desert with the only negative side-effects is possibly blindness and a squeaky voice! Call your space travel agent today!

  1. Venus (Cowboy Bebop) 23.2%
  2. Catia (Cat Planet Cuties) 20.7%
  3. The Silver Millenium/Moon (Sailor Moon) 18.5%
  4. Jurai (Tenchi Muyo!) 14.2%
  5. Deviluke (To Love-Ru) 8.9%
  6. Namek (Dragon Ball Z) 7.4%
  7. Planet Keron (Sgt. Frog) 7.2%

Alright everybody, see you all next week! I look forward to your input in the comments and feel free to follow me on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

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