Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha (Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha) is a magical girl anime that deviates significantly from its contemporaries. Where other magical girl anime, such as Sailor Moon, often employ Deus Ex Machinas to guarantee victory for their protagonists each episode, this anime delves deeper into the plot, fight scenes, and character development of the cast.
Based on this, when scouring recommendations for something so unique, it can be difficult to find a show that truly breaks away from the tropes of most magical girl anime. Here, we have compiled six anime that, much like Nanoha, do not conform to the traditional storytelling criteria of many magical girl anime.
Without further ado, get your transformation sequence ready, and…
Similar Anime to Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha / Similar Anime to Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
1. Cardcaptor Sakura (Cardcaptors)
- Episodes: 70
- Aired: April 1998 – March 2000
Upon accidentally releasing several magically infused cards from her basement out into the world, Sakura sets out on a quest to defeat each card’s spirit and return the collection from where they once came. Cardcaptor Sakura is a love story through and through. Released in the West under the guise of an action-packed Shounen, almost all the romantic elements of the series were stripped. This was to appeal to a male audience, who were the target demographic of anime at the time. Not only this but Sakura’s main love interest (Li Syaoran), was pushed to the forefront to protect the masculinity of those watching. “A female main character!? Yuck! Someone break out the cootie shots!!”
While most magical girl anime pride themselves on their transformation scenes and butt-kicking action, it isn’t uncommon to berate these types of shows whenever they appear. “Yeah, ok, you grow wings on your staff, but when are you going to go have lunch with Li and talk about your math homework!!” Much like Nanoha, it’s the moments in between the action that gives insight into the characters and true plot. These intimate moments mirror our reality, as Sakura and Nanoha struggle to juggle their responsibilities as magical girls, with their personal lives. Not to mention that both protagonists go through such hardships at a much younger age; Nanoha being only nine-years-old and Sakura being ten.
We all find it hard to balance work or studies with our social life. Both these anime want you to remember that while duty is important, do not let it overshadow your interpersonal relationships. Cardcaptor Sakura and Nanoha both use the magical girl genre to compose a touching human exploration. Albeit, in Cardcaptor Sakura’s case, a love dodecahedron; heavily influenced by how many cards you have in your possession. Hurry up and date Li, he has so many cards! You could build a Joey Wheeler deck in no time!!
Cardcaptor Sakura Trailer
2. Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? (Is This a Zombie?)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2011 – March 2011
After being murdered by a prolific serial killer, Aikawa Ayumu is resurrected by necromancer Eucliwood Hellscythe. Attempting to adjust to life as a zombie, he searches for information regarding his mystery assailant. After receiving the metaphorical magical girl reins from a true magical girl named Haruna, Aikawa and his crew undergo several hilarious misadventures. Boys can be magical girls too, you know? Crossdressing in a pink uniform, wielding a pink sentient chainsaw, and doing so while dead; what more could you ask for?
Is This a Zombie? is exactly the type of anime one would expect from a series with such a name. Jokes aplenty, wacky situations, and great character interactions. While Nanoha does not perhaps offer as many laughs as an anime like this, what it does have is a wide assortment of characters. Nanoha’s cast is so rich, each with unique personality traits. It is very entertaining watching so many characters bounce off of one another, especially when two opposing character types eventually clash.
Akin to Is This a Zombie?’s cast, we are also presented with very distinct characters consisting of a vampire ninja, a mute necromancer, and a butt-obsessed dominatrix! Magical girl anime as a genre explore fantastical settings. Such settings would feel out of place were they not populated with eccentric characters such as these. Nanoha has great characters that viewers can fall in love with. While occupying a slightly different genre, Is This a Zombie? will not fail you when it comes to a great ensemble cast.
Is This a Zombie Trailer
3. Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2011 – April 2011
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a beautiful story about a group of pure-hearted and innocent magical girls. Nothing bad happens in the entire show, everyone gets home safely before 5 p.m, and I’m not living in denial, you are! In all seriousness, the plot of the original series is as follows; Madoka, a young girl, one day encounters a creature named Kyubey. Kyubey offers to turn her into a magical girl in exchange for forming a contract with him and fending off witches. Hesitant at first, Madoka and her friend set off to gain a better understanding as to what being a magical girl entails. What they discover, however, is far from what they expected.
"This anime messes people up. What...what just happened? Did...did someone just die? In this pink-rainbow-sparkling-flower-friendship-rainbows-magical girl-anime!?" It can take a long time to recover one’s trust after finishing this series. Produced by Shaft, a company known for its creative choices regarding plot and animation, Madoka Magica pulls no punches in outlining a gritty take on the magical girl genre. Very similar to Nanoha, both anime have a much more harrowing tale they want to tell, as opposed to the light-hearted frivolity of most magical girl anime.
Watching magical girl anime, it is easy to become lost in the splendor and seemingly endless joy of those on screen. However, in real life, we all experience negative emotions from time to time be it jealousy, despair, or arrogance. Both these anime juxtapose these emotions with their magical girl setting, to create truly believable characters. It can be dangerous to commit oneself to maintain a constant smile. By watching either Madoka Magica or Nanoha, you will come to discover that, oftentimes, it can do more damage in the long run.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Trailer
Any Anime Like Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha / Any Anime Like Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha?
4. Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: July 2013 – September 2013
Next, comes Fate/kaleid Prisma☆Illya, a spinoff of one of the largest franchises of all time. Series mainstay Rin Tohsaka, alongside newcomer Luvia Edelfelt, are tasked with retrieving seven mystical cards, said to hold the life essence of several heroic spirits. The only problem, however, is that both Rin and Luvia cannot stand one another! Both are supposed to wield magic kaleidosticks yet, upon witnessing such disruption, the sticks set off in search of new owners. They come to find Illyasviel von Einzbern and Miyu; two young schoolgirls who quickly form contracts with the weapons. Now, with the ability to transform into magical girls, the duo embarks to hunt down all the class cards.
Most likely the closest anime canonically to Nanoha, a short crossover manga was created between the two series. This manga was created using Prisma Illya, and second in the series; Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, and is titled ‘Lyrical Nanoha×Prisma☆Illya’ or just, ‘Nanoha×Fate’ for short. Similar to Nanoha, both the magical girls of Prisma Illya are young schoolgirls. Not only this, but both incorporate the usual tropes one can expect to see in the magical girl genre.
Where Prisma Illya compares more so in our opinion, is with its crossover partner; Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. Both are much more light-hearted when compared to their original counterparts, both have their respective protagonists searching for magical items, and both involve the protagonist, due to their caring naivety, being mentored in some way by a superior. If you are looking for a more relaxed and cheery magical girl anime, look no further than Prisma Illya.
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya PV
5. KILL la KILL
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2013 – March 2014
The investigation of her father’s murder leads young teen Matoi Ryuuko to the prestigious Honnouji Academy. Differing from an average school setting, the lives of the students are governed by the fierce and intimidating Kiryuuin Satsuki. Those directly under Satsuki are given the privilege of wearing Goku Uniforms, which significantly increases one’s fighting prowess. After suffering a bitter loss at the hands of a uniform wearer, Ryuuko rushes home to find a Kamui - a sentient body armor rivaling the power of the Goku Uniforms. Together with her Kamui, Ryuuko wields half of her father’s scissor blade against anyone who stands in her way.
One of the most notable aspects of magical girl anime are the clothes these heroines wear. These clothes seem to appear from out of nowhere and their origins are seldom explained. For the most part, we as an audience simply have to accept that gaining magical powers comes in tandem with a brand new wardrobe. Nanoha is no stranger to fancy costumes. KILL la KILL takes this notion a step further - making the costumes integral to the development of the plot. Moreover, the costume’s upgraded forms are attained as Ryuuko achieves new levels of power, rather than being simple stylistic choices. This is a great indication of her growth as a character.
Nanoha’s character development is very creatively woven throughout its plot. The characters become stronger and learn from their past mistakes. Ryuuko undergoes a significant level of maturation throughout KILL la KILL, reaching new milestones and being rewarded with star studded armor for her efforts. You were entranced by the outfits donned by the cast of Nanoha before each fight. The incredible animation for each battle and transformation left you astounded. Revelling in seeing the characters you love grow throughout the story, you could not contain your excitement. If this describes you, KILL la KILL delivers more of what you love in spades.
KILL la KILL Trailer
6. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal (Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal)
- Episodes: 46
- Aired: March 1992 – February 1993
Usagi Tsukino is a perfectly average school student who one day happens upon a talking cat named Luna. Luna reveals to her that she is to become Sailor Moon, a guardian of the planet, and entrusts her with the power to transform. She uses her newfound powers to slay evil in search of the lost princess of the Moon Kingdom. The grandmother of all magical girl anime, here comes Sailor Moon. With an updated animation style and more faithful consideration toward the manga, Sailor Moon Crystal is everything the original series was and more. For any anime that subverts tropes or genre cliches as Nanoha does, it is important to understand the material they satirize.
It is very difficult to appreciate the clever, fast-paced storytelling of an anime like One-Punch Man, for example, without having dragged yourself through one-hundred-plus episode screaming matches featured in Dragon Ball. Similarly, the change of pace in Nanoha, will be lost on those unaware of the impact left by Sailor Moon. Nanoha does a lot to differentiate itself, but it still uses a lot of things we come to expect from such a show. There are action-packed fight scenes, elongated transformation sequences, and the gaining of one’s powers from a literate rodent.
If the draw for you to watch Nanoha was the flourish of transformation sequences, ribboned and stylistic costumes, and overall great fight scenes, Sailor Moon Crystal should be perfect for you. While the original series (Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon), is still a great watch to this day, we feel that Crystal goes above and beyond to provide the true Sailor Moon experience.
Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal Trailer
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is a very unique magical girl anime. It conforms to many tropes we expect to see of the genre but also deviates significantly to avoid mundanity. Our recommendations were chosen in keeping with the theme of a magical girl anime that offers a fresh experience. We also hope that, should you happen upon a cutesy animal who offers you a contract, you don’t try to barter with it, and instead run away screaming. Let us know what your favorite anime like Nanoha is in the comments below.