Ask John: Is Magical Girl Anime for Male Viewers a New Trend?
Within the last two years, we’ve seen numerous magical girl shows targeted at young boys like Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha and My Otome. Is this the start of a new trend, and why has this normally shoujo genre been preempted by action/adventure?
Before diving into my primary response, I should first address a misconception within the question. The primary target audience for anime titles such as Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha and My Otome is teen and young adult male viewers rather than “young boys.”
The existence of transforming or magical girl anime designed for male audiences isn’t a new trend, but it does seem to have become more pronounced within the past three years. The increase coincides with the contemporary “moe” anime trend, and in that light, seems very logical and predictable. Furthermore, because of the contemporary “moe” trend, magical girl shows for male viewers have become rather high profile in the fan community, but they haven’t completely supplanted traditional shoujo magical girl anime.
Transforming girl anime for male viewers can be dated back to at least 1973’s Cutey Honey. Other examples of older transforming girl anime either consciously made for male viewers, or popular with male viewers include Minky Momo, Mamono Hunter Yohko, Magical Kanan, Nurse Witch Komugi-chan, and Akihabara Cyber Team.
2003 saw the debut of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, a magical transforming girls anime clearly intended for young girl viewers. 2003 was also a year typified by Gunslinger Girl, Avenger, Air Master, Early Reins, Scrapped Princess, R.O.D., and Tsukihime. In other words, 2003 preceded the “moe” explosion that occurred in 2004. Anime titles that introduced female characters who male viewers could adore and dote upon, in other words, anime characters that male otaku could become “moe” for, began to appear in 2004 with the introduction of shows such as Tristia of the Deep Blue Sea, Hanaukyo Maid Tai La Verite, DearS, Girls Bravo, Rozen Maiden, Tsukuyomi, Futakoi, and Uta-Kata. Coinciding with this sudden introduction of “moe” anime were Chou Henshin Cos-Prayers, Tenbatsu Angel Rabbie, Yumeria, Futari wa Pretty Cure, My Hime, Ryusei Sentai Musumet, and Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha – all transforming magical girl anime with an obvious targeted appeal to male viewers.
The advent of transforming girl anime for male viewers continued in 2005 with the Magical Kanan TV series, Ultimate Girls, Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A’s, and My Otome. But 2005’s Fushigiboshi no Futago Hime and Sugar Sugar Rune provided transforming magical girls for primarily female audiences. While there were many bishoujo anime in 2006, Papillon Rose New Season was arguably the only transforming magical girl anime of the year aimed at male viewers while the Fushigiboshi no Futago Hime Gyu series provided transforming magical girls for female viewers. And this year has spawned Getsumen Toheiki Mina, Saint October, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Shinkyouku Soukai Polyphonica, Moetan, Nanatsuiro Drops, with only Shugo Chara and arguably Kamichama Karin representing transforming magical girl shows for primarily female viewers. While Nanoha StrikerS is definitely an action bishoujo series, comedies including Getsumen Toheiki Mina and Moetan, and dramas like Shinkyouku Soukai Polyphonica and Nanatsuiro Drops prove that action isn’t the only dominant theme of contemporary magical girl anime.
While not a new trend, magical girl anime for male viewers do seem to be more prolific lately because they coincidentally adhere to the standards of the currently popular “moe” genre. Since these shows are targeted at male viewers that passionately collect the DVDs and merchandise affiliated with these shows, the programs tend to exhibit the characteristics that attract male viewers. Frequently that means action and fighting. In other words, I don’t think we’re seeing a sudden development and explosion of transforming bishoujo anime for male viewers. Rather, I think that this particular type of anime has periodic examples spread out over the past 30 years, with many of them coming in close proximity concurrent with the “moe” explosion. So I expect this type of anime to continue, but I predict that instances will become more sporadic as interest in the “moe” phenomenon wanes and evolves into something else. Furthermore, I don’t think that the traditionally shoujo transforming magical girl genre has been totally absorbed into shonen anime. While there have been many more transforming girl anime aimed at male viewers than at female viewers lately, I believe that the shoujo magical girl genre is well enough established that it will continue slowly and steadily regardless of trends in magical girl anime for male viewers.