The Darkest Magical Girl Anime From BEFORE Madoka Magica

The success of Puella Magi Madoka Magica in 2011 spawned a wave of dark magical girl series such as Day Break Illusion and Magical Girl Site, but it wasn't the first to put a darker spin on the normally lighthearted genre. There were many dark magical girl anime before Madoka, and while many of them are remain obscure, others are still well-known today. Here are seven older anime that prove being a magical girl can be suffering.

Revolutionary Girl Utena

A classic of the genre from 1997, Revolutionary Girl Utena takes place at Ohtori Acadamy, where select students duel for the hand of Anthy the Rose Bride and "the power to revolutionize the world." Utena, a girl who wants to become a prince, accidentally gets involved in the duels and eventually learns the disturbing truth behind them. While often comedic and surreal, Utena tackles many serious issues within its story, including gender roles, power dynamics, incest and abusive relationships of all kinds, without downplaying them or glossing over their consequences. One particularly dark storyline reveals that duelist Juri is in love with her friend Shiori, who has always felt inferior to Juri and exploits her feelings in order to have power over her. Another recurring aspect of the series is Anthy's constant abuse at the hands of many of the duelists, which is later revealed to have a much larger meaning to Utena's plot.

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Harbor Light Story

Harbor Light Story is a 1988 OVA about a girl named Miho who lives with her cruel aunt and cousins and wants to be a fashion designer. The mayor of her town is holding a dance and fashion contest, but Miho is too young to enter until she meets two fairies who transform her into an older girl named Fashion Lala. So far, there's nothing dark about the plot -- but before Miho becomes Lala, she meets the mayor's son, Kit. Kit is angry at his father, and so he decides to attack the dance contest with his motorcycle gang, setting off bombs in the building. In the end, Kit and the mayor reconcile, and what Kit did is more or less ignored -- Harbor Light Story is a dark anime that doesn't seem to realize its own darkness. Ten years later, it would be remade as the series Fancy Lala, which still follows a girl named Miho who is transformed into an older idol by fairies but is otherwise completely different -- no bombings to be found.

Nurse Angel Ririka SOS

This 1995 series stars Ririka, an elementary school girl who is tasked with saving both Earth and the alien planet Queen Earth from the villainous group Dark Joker. As the magical girl Nurse Angel, Ririka is faced with brutal fights, the brainwashing and death of one of her allies, and the eventual realization that she must sacrifice herself in order to save the world. Debuting three years after the Sailor Moon anime, Nurse Angel Ririka SOS is an early example of a darker take on the magical girl warrior subgenre, but it has faded into obscurity over the years.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha

The first Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha series aired in 2004 and follows a young girl named Nanoha Takamachi who is given techno-magic in order to collect the dangerous Jewel Seeds. Nanoha has had several sequels, and its fans often describe it as being more like a mecha series than a magical girl one, but the true darkness of the original series lies in its villain. Precia Testarossa is a woman who went insane when her daughter died and created a clone of her daughter named Fate, who becomes a magical girl and rival to Nanoha. Precia is an abusive mother to fate and wishes to revive her "real" daughter, which is the reason she sends Fate to gather Jewel Seeds. In the first Nanoha series, Fate is nine years old, and the show's depiction of such a young child being abused made it stand out as much darker than most other magical girl series of its time.

Princess Tutu

In 2002's Princess Tutu, the author Drosselmeyer died before finishing the tale of "The Prince and the Raven," and his spirit is now forcing his characters to finish the story in the real world. The titular Princess Tutu is a duck-turned-magical-ballerina who wants to help Mytho, the prince she admires, regain the pieces of his lost heart. Despite the whimsical fairy tale setup and cutesy art style, Princess Tutu gets rather dark and somber at times. Regaining emotions he had forgotten makes Mytho scared and confused, and he even fears Tutu for a time. His girlfriend Rue, who was raised by the villainous Raven to believe that no one would ever truly love her, becomes a dark magical girl to oppose Tutu. The story dictates that if Tutu ever admits her feeling to Mytho, she will cease to exist. Drosselmeyer is not pleased that his characters are beginning to fight against their fate.

Uta Kata

In this lesser-known anime from 2004, Ichika Tachibana gains the ability to transform into several different forms after meeting Manatsu, a girl who emerges from her mirror. At first, this is all fun and games, but the more Ichika uses her powers, the more they corrupt her -- and she won't be able to stop transforming even if she wants to. Eventually, she learns that she is in fact being tested by the Djinn in preparation for judging humanity -- the Djinn want her to choose between sacrificing herself and destroying the rest of the human race. In addition to Ichika abusing her powers in increasingly disturbing ways, Uta Kata takes on more realistic topics such as mental illness, abuse and eating disorders.


The 2004 series My-HiME takes place at a boarding school where 12 magical girls, called HiME, have been gathered. Each HiME can summon a weapon and a robotic creature called a Child that fights alongside them, and their mission is to fight monsters called Orphans -- at first. After the Orphans are eliminated, the HiME are instructed to fight each other, because it has been prophesied that only the HiME who defeats the others can save the world. The problem is that when a HiME's child is destroyed, the person most important to her will die, giving their battles enormous stakes. The longer these battles go on, the more the girls experience sorrow and turn on each other, with protagonist Mai Tokiha determined to protect her beloved younger brother. My-HiME's spinoff, My-Otome, focuses on magical girls who serve as bodyguards and military.

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