It’s no secret that I enjoy the magical girl genre of anime and with that in mind, I figured I would share a few of my favourite magical girls.
For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to TV Tropes’ description of magical girls: Magical girls are empowered by various means with fantastic powers that both assist and complicate their lives, but manage to persevere despite this.
For loads of great information about magical girls, I recommend reading up about them on TV Tropes – click here for that.
One rule I’ll be imposing on myself here is one character per franchise. If I don’t impose that rule, then this list will suddenly be filled with Pretty Cure – that’s a list for another time.
I’ll be talking about characters based on their anime appearances.
All right, with that all established let’s dive straight in.
Number Ten: Sakura Kinomoto
Kicking off this list is a character from the first magical girl anime I ever saw. Sakura Kinomoto is from Cardcaptor Sakura, though I was originally introduced to her as Sakura Avalon from Cardcaptors.
No matter what you know her as, Sakura is a magical girl who is fairly unique in that she has many different outfits that she fights in provided by her close friend Tomoyo (or Madison, if you go by the English adaptation).
Sakura is a loyal girl, with a caring nature and unyielding determination. Of course, she is also a protagonist of a magical girl show, so she can be naive, clumsy and clueless at times.
Her mission is to collect the Clow Cards, a set of magical cards she accidentally released upon finding a book. Sakura is also able to use the power of the Clow Cards she’s collected, thus allowing her the ability to fight against the Cards that run wild. This gives her a fairly diverse set of abilities, though she does have to earn them first.
For being the first magical girl I ever watched, Sakura earns a place at number ten on my list.
Number Nine: Jiyu Nanohana
I’m kind of sad I never really see anyone talk about Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl. The combination of magical girl and ninja genres is great, and something I recommend checking out at least once. Jiyu is the main protagonist of the series.
In the first series, The Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch, Jiyu is 14 years old, whilst the second series, The Counter Attack of Siberia Yagyu, takes place a year later when Jiyu is 15.
Jiyu’s personality is a bright one, and she also has a close bond with her father. Also has a figure that results in her receiving a lot of attention. Her nickname is Jubei.
When Jiyu wears the Lovely Eyepatch, she completely changes. She becomes the reincarnation of famous Japanese samurai Yagyu Jubei. As Yagyu Jubei, Jiyu’s persona changes – she becomes a calculating swordswoman, though some of her true self still shines through.
The reason Jiyu makes the list? Well, towards the end of The Counter Attack of Siberia Yagyu, Jiyu has an incredible duel against a rival of hers. For me, it’s definitely one the finest sword fights I’ve seen in anime, and it will always stick firmly in my mind.
Number Eight: Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury
So I’ve only really got into Sailor Moon fairly recently, despite being a pretty big fan of the magical girl genre. I got into it through Sailor Moon Crystal, and whilst I think the first two seasons are serviceable at best, the third season focusing on the Death Busters has been incredible – even with the rapid pacing.
Regardless, I’m here to talk about one character in particular, and that is Ami Mizuno, AKA Sailor Mercury. I’ve always been drawn towards intelligent characters, and Ami happens to be one of them. I also like the ‘Mercury Goggle’, a visor that Sailor Mercury can equip that allows her to get an in-depth analysis of enemies and such.
Sailor Mercury has water-themed attacks, which probably doesn’t come as a surprise taking into account her colour theme.
She also gets a particularly great moment in the third season: free-falling transformation. That certainly increased my respect for her, and I feel that single moment is enough to earn her a place on this list.
Number Seven: Illyasviel von Einzbern
Illya first appeared in Fate/stay night as Berserker’s Master, but I’m not here to talk about that version of her.
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya gives the Fate series a magical girl twist, and Illya serves as the main protagonist.
She has the powers of a magical girl forced upon her, and is pulled into a quest to collect seven Class Cards. The Class Cards manifest as the servants from Fate/stay night, and they do not go down without a fight.
As far as magical girls go, Illya is pretty standard – without the Class Cards, at least. She is able to fly because she believes that all magical girls should possess that power, and she uses magical projectile attacks.
Illya is also able to use the power of the Class Cards to access more abilities, with the best example of this being Illya’s battle against Saber Alter in the first season.
That battle is still one of the best within Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya, and part of what makes the first season my favourite. In fact, that battle in particular can easily stand alongside some of the best stuff from the Fate franchise.
Number Six: Nanoha Takamachi
The main protagonist of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Nanoha first became a magical girl at the age of nine. Arguably the most destructive magical girl on the list – if you want proof of that, check out her Starlight Breaker.
As an adult, Nanoha became a magical combat instructor for the Time-Space Administrative Bureau. Nanoha is generally a friendly person, but making her mad proves to be an incredibly bad idea. Teana had to discover this the hard way, and Nanoha has ‘befriended’ more than a few foes.
When it comes to attacks, Nanoha has arguably the most impressive ones out of all the magical girls in this list. Her Divine Buster is pretty much her go-to attack, but for when an enemy needs to be ‘befriended’ into oblivion, there’s the aforementioned Starlight Breaker.
Another aspect I like about Nanoha is her relationship with Fate Testarossa. The pair started as rivals, but Nanoha befriended her and they’ve pretty much been together ever since. Nanoha and Fate are quite simply one of the best yuri couples out there.
In StrikerS, Nanoha adopts Vivio. Vivio refers to both Nanoha and Fate as her ‘mamas’, and need I say any more?
Actually, talking of both Fate and Vivio, they were both strong contenders for this list, as too was Teana. However, I decided to go with Nanoha, just for her sheer destructive power and for being one half of one of the finest yuri couples.
Number Five: Yuna Yuki
Yuna Yuki is a Hero (or does it retain the Japanese name order, thus making it Yuki Yuna is a Hero?) – the title of the series that Yuna is from, and also an accurate description. Yuna is a member of a Hero Club, and devoted to helping out those in need. She also has an extremely close bond with fellow Hero Club member Mimori Togo.
When she transforms, Yuna uses armoured fists to fight. As you may be able to guess, she is a close-range fighter. Her Mankai form takes that up to eleven, though there is a price to pay for that.
It’s actually somewhat difficult to say too much about Yuna without spoiling the anime, so all I will say is that her resolve to push on through those events makes her worthy of her placement on this list.
Number Four: Yuri Tsukikage/Cure Moonlight
Cure Moonlight from HeartCatch PreCure! arguably has the best story of any Cure in the entire franchise. She is actually the first Cure to appear in HeartCatch, though she doesn’t take an active role until later on – there’s a good reason for that, which is explored in her story.
Again, Yuri is another character that I can’t really say too much about without spoiling things. I think it’s safe to say that she is a character who has experienced the most tragedy within the Pretty Cure franchise.
Unlike most other Cures, Yuri is seventeen years of age, making her one of the oldest active Cures.
Like most other Cures, Cure Moonlight is incredibly efficient at hand-to-hand combat – that’s always been one of the biggest draws of PreCure. Still, they are magical girls, so they get some special moves as well – these tend to be used as finishers.
Just for her story alone, Yuri makes this list. However, the climax of said story is incredible, and I would say that she is one of the most interesting characters in PreCure.
Number Three: Ryuko Matoi
Whilst Kill la Kill‘s Ryuko doesn’t exactly possess magic, she does transform to fight and gains new abilities through said transformations. She wouldn’t gain those abilities without Senketsu, a sentient sailor suit made entirely of Life Fibres.
Ryuko is on a mission to find out who killed her father, which brings her up against Satsuki Kiryuin. Whilst the first half of Kill la Kill is pretty much about Ryuko trying to earn the right to fight Satsuki in order to get the information on her dad’s killer from her, the second half takes a turn as new enemies are revealed.
Ryuko wields a Scissor Blade, inherited from her late father. With that and the power of the Kamui Senketsu, she fights against the various club leaders of Honnouji Academy.
As Ryuko gains combat experience, Senketsu develops more abilities, thus allowing Ryuko to employ different strategies.
‘Before My Body is Dry’ is the name of Ryuko’s theme song, though I figured most people will recognise it more from the lyrics ‘don’t lose your way’. There’s a couple of occasions where Ryuko does lose her way, but that doesn’t change the fact that the song is incredible.
All right, so Ryuko may not be a typical magical girl, but she gets a transformation sequence, and abilities she can only use whilst transformed. For being a part of the anime I consider to be the most… well, ‘anime’, as well as having an awesome theme song, Ryuko makes the list.
Number Two: Homura Akemi
When Homura first appears in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, she seems rather antagonistic. She has very good reason for her behaviour, but this is yet another case where saying too much will result in spoiling things for those who have not seen this anime.
I love Homura’s power, and whenever the question of what superpower I would like to have comes up, my answer is very similar to that power.
Homura has some incredibly great moments in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and I can’t talk about them without spoiling things. One happens towards the end of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and then there’s the events of the Rebellion film. Those have to be seen to be believed, and even then…
Homura makes the list for several reasons, and I can’t really share them without spoilers… though I’m sure those who have seen Puella Magi Madoka Magica will know exactly why she’s here.
Number One: Hibiki Tachibana
Symphogear is my personal all-time favourite anime, so it should come as no surprise that the main protagonist from it is my favourite magical girl.
Much like Ryuko, Hibiki (and the other Symphogear users) isn’t exactly your typical magical girl. By singing, Hibiki is able to ‘transform’ – or more accurately, equip Gungnir, her Symphogear. Considering this whole sequence plays out like a normal magical girl transformation, Hibiki is qualified to make this list.
For those who are aware of Norse mythology, you’d expect Hibiki to wield a spear – however, that isn’t the case at all. Whilst a previous user of the Gungnir did have a spear, Hibiki is all about good old-fashioned fisticuffs.
The singing doesn’t stop after transformation, either. Symphogears are powered by song, so the music continues playing whilst Symphogear users fight.
Watching Symphogear, you’re always guaranteed to get an incredible soundtrack and awesome action.
In the first two seasons of Symphogear, Hibiki could go into a berserk state. In GX, this ends up being the basis for the ‘Ignite Module’, giving all Symphogear users the ability to increase their power with some risk.
Hibiki has had to endure some tough times, though she has always managed to pull through. Part of this is due to the presence of Miku Kohinata. Though it’s never explicitly stated, it is clear that Hibiki and Miku possess a lot of affection for each other.
As a bonus, Hibiki is voiced by Aoi Yuuki, the same person responsible for voicing Madoka Kaname.
So there we have it – my top ten magical girls, which includes characters who use clothing or music rather than magic. Still, they all fit the requirements in one way or another, so they all count in their own ways. This list will probably change in the future, but this will do for the present.
Obviously everyone is going to have different opinions on their own favourite magical girls, and I encourage you to share them in the comments. Do you have a particular favourite, or perhaps you also have your own top ten?
Maybe you feel other characters from the series mentioned here are more deserving of recognition. All thoughts on this topic are welcome.