If your taste in magical girl anime runs beyond Sailor Moon, then you’re probably familiar with Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the fabulously dark and inventive 13-episode series that aired earlier this year. Even though we didn’t get a dedicated Sailor Moon panel this year (Boo!), we did get something called “The Fine Print on the Contract: The Themes, Philosophies and Birth of a Legacy in Puella Magi Madoka Magica,” so I figured I’d check that out.
Unsurprisingly, Sailor Moon came up as a point of reference; as Madoka is considered a deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre (depending on who you ask, at any rate), it stands to reason that one of the series that helped codify the genre would come up. However, this comparison was to the detriment of Sailor Moon, as the panelists explained that they felt that the heroines in Madoka were much more empowered than the Senshi, who spent entirely too much time going gaga over Tuxedo Mask and acting like stereotypical females.
Is that a legitimate criticism of Sailor Moon? Or just a comment by someone who isn’t really familiar with the show? Honestly, we weren’t sure, so we caught up with panelist Alex Fogarty after the panel and asked him to clarify how he felt about our favorite magical girl series.
“I wasn’t trying to bash Sailor Moon, because it is a good anime…but honestly there are those points where it’s just *imitating the Senshi* ‘Aaaah! Tuxedo Mask!’ Nobody in this anime [Madoka] really does that,” he said, going on to say that nevertheless, Sailor Moon was a classic anime staple that he appreciates.
“[Sailor Moon] helped Madoka Magica to become what it is. Without Sailor Moon, I don’t think Madoka would exist,” he continued.
Okay guys, he gave Sailor Moon proper credit, so I think we can let him off the hook. However, I have found myself wondering ever since the panel whether or not the SM/Madoka comparison is a fair one or not. It’s true that the Senshi can get “girly” in a way that some viewers might find annoying or even offensive, but the twenty-year gap between the two series plays a large role- even with the “OMG Tuxedo Mask is dreamy!” interludes, Sailor Moon was (and still is) considered progressive in certain respects. Furthermore, the two shows were targeted at different audiences- Sailor Moon was intended primarily for girls younger than the Senshi themselves, while Madoka seems to have been targeted at an adult audience- specifically an otaku audience.
In my opinion, Fogarty is right; the heroines of Madoka are more empowered than the heroines in Sailor Moon. However, I honestly have no idea what, if anything, that’s indicative of. Has the portrayal of females in anime progressed? Or is it just a case of comparing apples to oranges? Feel free to enlighten me if you figure it out.
If nothing else though, the current popularity of Madoka may prove invigorating to the magical girl genre the same way that Usagi and co. were in the ’90s, and that’s something I think we can all get behind. I’m certainly excited to see what magical girl shows we’re going to get in a post-Madoka world.