10 Magical Girl Anime That Were Better Than Expected

It frequently feels as if nothing is off limits in anime and that there’s a series out there for everyone, no matter how niche their interests may be. There is a wide array of eclectic genres that help bring anime to life and redefine the expectations that accompany the animated medium.

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Some of these storytelling genres have become more popular than others and the playful, transformative worlds of magical girl series have been a top performer for decades. There’s a comforting nature to magical girl anime that makes it easier to dismiss some of these series as more disposable in nature, but there are also just as many magical girl shows that rise above these early expectations.

10 Mysterious Thief Saint Tail Uses Mischievous Magic Tricks To Rebalance Its Karmic Scales

Mysterious Thief Saint Tail is essentially Robin Hood meets Sailor Moon, which turns out to be a surprisingly fulfilling premise for a magical girl anime. Meimi Haneoka moonlights as the scofflaw Saint Tail, a mystical thief who reclaims items that civilians have lost through magic tricks.

The traditional framework makes for an engaging episodic series and Meimi’s adventures are made stronger through the anime’s eclectic supporting cast of characters, including her nun-in-training friend and the potential love interest who also just so happens to be the son of the detective who’s on Saint Tail’s trail.

9 Tokyo Mew Mew Uses Fantastical Feline Abilities To Ward Off Evil Aliens

Tokyo Mew Mew may first seem like low-hanging fruit with its cat-girl approach to magical girl action, but there’s endless charm to Ichigo and the rest of her Mew Mew allies. A freak accident gives Ichigo unique cat-like abilities, which are an asset against a determined alien species who have invaded the planet.

Ichigo meets four similar girls and the five of them collectively ensure the Earth’s safety. The first half of the 52-episode series doesn’t stray far from the comforts of episodic “monster of the week” hijinks, but creative themes fuel the stories so that none of this ever feels repetitive.

8 Cutie Honey Flash Finds New Life Through Changing The Series’ Target Demographic

Go Nagai’s Cutie Honey is an important piece of magical history since the 1970s original is the first example of magical girls who transform to fight evil. Cutie Honey features a magical girl, but it’s often a shonen or ecchi series that’s geared towards teen boys and accentuates gratuitous fan service.

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Cutie Honey Flash would replace Sailor Moon on television and wanted to capitalize on its audience. Cutie Honey F reframes itself to appeal towards a teen girl audience who can admire its heroine, Honey Kisaragi. Cutie Honey Flash’s lookand its late ‘90s release makes it seem derivative of Sailor Moon, when it’s in fact the series’ predecessor.

7 Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Follows A Young Heroine Who’s At A Compelling Crossroads

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is another genre series that intentionally begins in familiar territory in order to establish a shorthand with the audience. The start of Nanoha’s magical girl quest to recover all 21 Jewel Seeds with her Raising Heart wand isn’t dissimilar to the goal-centric narrative in Cardcaptor Sakura.

Nanoha’s mission becomes more complicated when she meets another mage, Fate, who’s even more determined to collect the Jewel Seeds for her own mysterious purposes. This collision of goals pushes Nanoha to question her new path in life, as well as herself, as her powers grow stronger.

6 Creamy Mami The Magic Angel Balances Magic Powers With Everyday Antics And Idol Intensity

Creamy Mami, the Magic Angel is a nostalgic burst of the ’80s that often gets underestimated. The 52-episode series doesn’t get lost in a complex storyline or endless conditions. Instead, Yuu is imbued with magical powers for a year, which she uses to jumpstart a career as an idol named Creamy Mami.

Yuu’s idol antics are enjoyable, but there’s also a fun slice-of-life component to the series as Creamy Mami balances her normal life and efforts to help out the family crêpe business with alien invasions and other more fantastical affairs.

5 Senki Zesshou Symphogear Gives Magical Girls The Mecha Treatment

Senki Zesshou Symphogear is a brilliant blend of magical girl chaos with pop idol performances and heightened mecha action. Humanity is under attack by an alien race known as the Noise that a pop idol duo is able to fight against with their ancient symphogear mecha.

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These girls power the symphogear through their music, but the loss of half of the duo, and the emergence of her replacement, complicates what used to be clockwork for the idol team. Symphogear presents a touching story about grief and loss as well as a beautiful musical expression of freedom

4 Princess Tutu Leans On Ballet And Fairy Tales For Its Transformative Adventure

Some of the most successful anime series are the ones that reinvent classic folklore and fairy tales through a unique perspective that’s specific to anime. Princess Tutu draws inspiration from Swan Lake and the Ugly Duckling in its subversive series about a duck who gets transformed into a human ballet dancer.

Princess Tutu’s goal to heal a prince’s shattered heart meshes with the series’ fairy tale roots, but is still able to receive a magical girl twist. So many magical girl series celebrate the fantastic powers that their characters gain and it’s refreshing that Princess Tutu exhibits equal reverence towards merely being human.

3 Revolutionary Girl Utena Excels With How It Flips Standard Gender Dynamics

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a groundbreaking shojo anime from the 1990s that’s best known for how it effectively flips the genre’s perception over the damsel in distress and noble prince archetypes. Utena Tenjou is a teenage girl who experiences a family tragedy that leaves her inspired to become a valiant prince.

This philosophy sends Utena down a combative path at the Ootori Academy where she finds herself fighting for the glory of Anthy, the Rose Bride. Revolutionary Girl Utena is full of action and honor, but it also proves how a magical girl series can go beyond performative and diminutive transformations.

2 Little Witch Academia Turns The Feared Spellcasters Into Magical Role Models

Starting off as a popular OVA one-off that grew into a proper 25-episode series, Little Witch Academia takes the basic Harry Potter formula and uses it as a vehicle for magical girl mischief. Akko doesn’t let her lack of a magical background hold her back from optimistically enrolling at the Luna Nova Magical Academy to grow into an acclaimed witch.

Little Witch Academia comes from the acclaimed Studio TRIGGER, which means that even those who have zero interest in witches or the magical girl genre will still marvel at the series’ eye-popping visuals.

1 Wonder Egg Priority Uses Magical Girl Theatrics As A Coping Mechanism

An increasingly common trend in anime from the past decade is to use the cheerful trappings of certain genres, like magical girl series, as a conduit for pitch black mature subject matter. 2021’s Wonder Egg Priority is one of the best takes on this subversive experiment as Ai and a group of girls use magical girl powers to destroy monstrous manifestations of the stress and pain that plague their lives.

It’s easy for this type of complex exercise to fall flat, which makes it all the more impressive that Wonder Egg Priority succeeds as an emotional character study as well as a courageous magical girl epic.

NEXT: 10 Best Underrated Magical Girl Anime Every Fan Should Watch

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