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Magical girls have evolved from a simple character archetype, into something worthy of being its own genre. From heartwarming stories of saving the world, to harsh depictions of realities hardships, they have been used to tell any number of different stories for different audiences, and that is perhaps why the trope is so well known. But behind every story is a girl who has something she thinks is worth fighting for, and it’s them who we are most interested in.
With so many similar magical girls about, there will always be those that stand out from the bunch: those who are very strong, those who are very weird, and those who just have an amazing story to tell. So read on, to see some of the top magical girl characters in anime.
10. Yurika Nijino from Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? (Invaders of the Rokujyouma?!)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 12th 2014 - September 27th 2014
If you were to meet a magical girl in real life, what would you think? Strange cosplayer is apparently quite high up on the list. Yurika Nijino from Rokujouma no Shinryakusha is an amusing approach to what happens when you place a regular, ditzy magical girl, into a series where she doesn’t quite belong. Despite the other strange and supernatural goings on in the series, she still has a hard time convincing people that she really is a magical girl, only ever breaking out the magic when no one is around to see it.
Being a parody of the genre, Yurika is sweet and kind, and much like most beginner magical girls, not very capable. If you enjoy magical girls then you’ll find Yurika a joy to watch, and with the show not taking itself too seriously it’s all a good bit of fun.
9. Eucliwood Hellscythe from Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? (Is This a Zombie?)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 11th 2011 - March 30th 2011
Normally necromancy is a dark magic reserved for use by villains, but in Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka, it’s absolutely necessary to the main character’s survival. After restoring life to recently deceased protagonist Ayumu Aikawa, adorable necromancer Eucliwood Hellscythe has decided that he is now her servant, because well he kind of owes her one.
Due to her overwhelming magic, Eu is unable to speak throughout most of the series, as her words themselves hold power, choosing instead to communicate via notepad and pen. She is however capable of using other magical girl’s weapons, which she uses to fight on occasion so as to not accidently kill her opponents. Eu is probably the most borderline overpowered character on this list, her kindness being the only thing holding her back. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of her strength if a third season ever gets greenlit.
8. Ryuuko Matoi from Kill La Kill
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 4th 2013 - March 28th 2014
So there’s a lot of debate on this, but there are many who consider Kill la Kill to be a magical girl anime made for adults, with its abundance of crazy power ups, awesome transformation sequences, and a talking clothing companion amongst other things. Not your standard magical girl anime of course, but rather an extreme, twisted parody of the genre, protagonist Ryuuko Matoi makes for probably the most headstrong, bullish magical girl around.
The more adult presentation of the show does a good job of disguising the true themes and tropes that throughout. Much like you’d expect from a magical girl show, schoolgirl Ryuuko receives her powers by accident from an unusual companion who remains at her side throughout the series. Despite her rude and reckless personality, she actually shares a lot in common with other magical girls: a naivety and immaturity that she starts the series with, the lengths that she’s willing to go to protect her friends and family, and her strong sense of right and wrong.
The over-the-top transformation scenes are an obvious nod to the genre, as well as her powerful “Decapitation Mode” trademark finishing move. Add to this the fact that Ryuuko rarely kills anyone, instead turning them to her side, and that her main opponent is also a transforming school girl. Being such an unusual magical girl, she possesses many qualities we’re not used to seeing, but with the magical girl genre becoming increasingly flexible over the years, it’s not too hard to see how Ryuuko fits in.
7. Ahiru Arima from Princess Tutu
- Episodes: 38
- Aired: August 16th 2002 - May 23rd 2003
An interesting mix of magical girls and dance, Princess Tutu focuses more on fairy tale romance, than on your traditional action scenes and magic wands. Protagonist Ahiru Arima is a duck turned magical girl, who hopes to restore the shattered heart of her crush, Prince Mytho.
Even for a magical girl, Ahiru is particularly clumsy and whacky, after all, she is supposed to be a duck. As the show is focused around dance, Ahiru spends much of her time helping people, rather than fighting evil itself, determined to help solve their problems. Even without an animal companion telling her what to do, Ahiru is very capable by herself and has an incredible determination to do good, despite sometimes having to question which path is the right one to take.
6. Tsukikage Yuri from Heartcatch Pretty Cure!
- Episodes: 49
- Aired: February 7th 2010 - January 30th 2011
With so many series now in the Pretty Cure franchise you could probably fill a list like this solely with PreCure girls. But for fairness sake, let’s stick to just one, introducing Tsukikage Yuri, also known as Cure Moonlight. Yuri is considered the fourth Cure in the Heartcatch series, which sees our main heroines using their powers to defend the Tree of Hearts from the Desert Apostles.
Yuri is surprisingly cool and mature for a magical girl, and had such confidence in her abilities that she originally defended the Tree of Hearts by herself. So it’s no surprise that she is considered to be one of the most powerful Pretty Cures in the franchise, being capable of performing attacks the other Cures can only perform in groups, and taking on some of the series strongest villains singlehandedly. The supporting heroines in magical girl shows can often have some of the most interesting personalities, as they don’t stick to the genre stereotype quite as much, and Yuri is a great example of this.
5. Illyasviel von Einzbern from Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: June 22nd 2013 - September 7th 2013
The Fate series seems to be growing ever larger, and why wouldn’t it when every new edition is so successful? Fate/kaleid liner features Fate/stay night’s Illyasviel von Einzbern, in a world where instead of becoming a Master in the Holy Grail War, she became a magical girl. This is particularly interesting to those who have already watched parts of the Fate series, as it takes a pre-established character and really messes around with her!
Taking on most (if not all) of the classic magical girl tropes, after gaining her powers by accident, clumsy, naïve Illya rapidly becomes an overwhelmingly powerful force to be reckoned with, despite her complete lack of experience. One of the most powerful magical girls to grace our screens in recent years, and super cute to boot, Illya is defiantly worth a watch, though be warned, the later series contain some pretty high level yuri.
4. Nanoha Takamachi from Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha (Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 3rd 2004 - December 26th 2004
Back to the classics, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha features, you guessed it, magical girl Nanoha, who is on a mission to collect the Jewel seeds that have been scattered across Earth. After saving mage-turned-ferret Yuuno Scrya, she is given a jewel allowing her to transform into her magical girl form, so that she can defend herself against the monsters trying to get in her way.
One of the unique things about Nanoha is the mix of magic and science, with Nanoha’s staff, outfit and magic, taking on a sci-fi look. This also makes for some really cool looking transformation sequences and fights. Something special about Nanoha is how each series is set years apart from the other, which lets us see how she develops as a person and find out what happens to magical girls who grow up.
3. Homura Akemi from Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 7th 2011 - April 22nd 2011
With her standoffish attitude and cold personality, Homura Akemi helps set the tone for what is a very gritty and harsh depiction of the world of magical girls. Delving into Homura’s character too deeply here would be a horrible mess of spoilers, but it’s safe to say she’s a lot more complex than she first appears.
Homura’s ability to manipulate time and space is both awesome and terrifying, as although her direct offensive capabilities aren’t as high as some other magical girls, she has a lot more power over the course of events than anyone. She’s also very experienced in both fighting and in the use of her abilities, and is capable of using a large number of different fire arms and explosives that are stored within her shield, not something you often see with cute magical girls. With a deep backstory and unusual fighting style Homura is definitely one of the most fascinating magical girls around.
2. Sakura Kinomoto from Cardcaptor Sakura
- Episodes: 70
- Aired: April 7th 1998 - March 21st 2000
With its huge success across the world, Cardcaptor Sakura is, for a number of people, one of the first magical girl shows they watched, and so has inevitably left a lasting impression. After accidentally opening the Book of Clow and releasing the fifty two cards held within, it’s down to Sakura Kinomoto to get them back and to ensure that they don’t cause too much havoc while they’re loose.
With her pretty pink and white outfit, and funny flying bear companion, Sakura is about as close as you can get to the definition of magical girl. A constant force for good, the purity and kindness that guide Sakura’s actions are that which we’ve come to expect from the genre, and makes her efforts heartwarming to watch. Besides that, the variety of the cards in the show lends her an abundance of different powers and abilities to make use of, until eventually, within the scope of the story, she becomes a terrifyingly powerful magician. Sakura is a joy to watch, both for her personality and for the interesting battles and solutions she comes up with.
1. Usagi Tsukino from Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon)
- Episodes: 46
- Aired: March 7th 1992 - February 27th 1993
The anime said to have revitalized the magical girl genre, Sailor Moon was bound to appear somewhere on the list, so here it is. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to the heroines from Sailor Moon, but our number one this time goes to none other than main protagonist and leader of the Sailor Senshi, Usagi Tsukino, Sailor Moon herself.
Up until the release of Sailor Moon, most magical girl manga and anime only had single lead heroines, so it’s great to see a magical girl, who would normally be a more childish and immature character, develop into a strong leader figure throughout the series. Usagi has all the traits you would expect of a magical girl; kind and trustworthy, seeing only the good in all, including her enemies. She then goes on to become one of the outright strongest magical girls in the genre, though I won’t say much more than that – spoilers. There are many reasons why the show gained such popularity worldwide, and Usagi is certainly one of them.
So there you have it, some of the most awesome and unique magical girls around, some of which have hopefully piqued your interest. I can assure you as well that many of the classics still hold up and are definitely worth going back to check out. After all, it’s very much a genre where the characters make the show.
With so many magical girls to choose from, I’m sure everyone has some favorites that didn’t show up here, so why not let us know in the comments down below!