Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Magical Revisited #2: Magical Clamp Girls

Traveling back to the 90's, and in a time before Revolutionary Girl Utena, we were also given two popular Magical Girl shows from one group of fantastic women known as Clamp. Clamp is known for their fantasy dramas with giant groups of (very similar) looking male characters with strong female leads along side them. Prior to their first Mahou effort, Clamp was known mostly for their series X/1999, which is not cute and fluffy nor magical to any stretch of the imagination. But when they took a leap into the genre, they created two of its most well loved titles: Cardcaptor Sakura and Magic Knight Rayearth.

In Cardcaptor Sakura, Our story concerns that of a Sakura Kinomoto, a ten year old girl that deserves a book called The Book of Clow, that has inside an enchanted deck of cards. When she opens the book, the spirits within the cards are released, and with the help of the guardian of the book Kero, Sakura must go and lock all the spirits back within the cards. Along the way, Sakura gets help from her best friend, Tomoyo, and goes up against her rival (and later love interest) Syaoran Li. 

As the series continues, Sakura encounters other magical beings, relationship drama, and crazy fights along some of Tokyo's biggest and most famous buildings, all with Sakura wearing some of the cutest and coolest clothes. But what made Cardcaptor Sakura so memorable to my childhood was the true nature of the characters. Yes, this is definitely a fantasy piece, but these characters were very believable. Especially with Sakura's dad being a single parent, the series mirrored a lot of aspects of my younger life. 

Though shows that featured more grown up Magical Girls were fun to watch, it made it even more enduring and interesting to invest in a story that showcased a girl my age, going through the same issues and learning the same things I was at ten years old and even slightly later. I felt a very deep connected with the not perfect Sakura, more then I did prior with other heroines of a similar status. Sakura wasn't super skinny, she loved to eat, she was late a lot to school and she was shy around new people. Sakura was the every girl - except with a magical wand that could allow her to fly and a talking bear to help on her adventures.

Now if you look around the same time, on the opposite side of the spectrum is Magic Knight Rayearth. Though this title is less popular then Sakura, Rayearth offers a fresh take on the Magical Girl: A violent Magical Girl. Sure, there had been fantasy series with strong female character that would get a scratch here and there, but Rayearth was one of a few Magical Girl series that involved a lot of bloody fights (right along side shows like Sailor Stars). Rayearth was the Magical Girl's show for the tomboy in the world, and for the independent woman. None of the girls wore big frilly dresses, instead they scraped their knees and fought with a tough attitude. Though on occasion they would all have their annoying moments, Rayearth's main girl cast was very cool to look up to.

Rayearth is the story of three junior high school girls - Hikaru, Fuu and Umi, who don't know each other. But upon a random school field trip, are sent to the world of Cephiro, a fantasy world thats under attack and needs the help of the legendary Magic Knights (our main heroines). The three girls are given incredible powers and are entrusted with protecting Cephiro. Through their journey, they start off as timid school girls, but become strong and independent women towards the end. You could say in a way that much of the evolution of the girls magic comes with the evolution of a woman herself. 

I believe that both of these Clamp titles are a great beginners place for someone just getting introduced to the Magical Girl genre, outside of the most important title that is constantly mentioned throughout these articles, these are the shows to jump into. Both series give a great redefined look into the genre and the options it can have outside of its stereotypes, and offers a slightly more mature view of how Mahou Shoujo can be, along with life itself. (Utena would be the mature upgrade from these titles, if you were curious.)

Its easy to say that Clamp is an important figure in the world of Anime and Manga as a whole, but to ignore their efforts in the Magical Girl genre would be silly. But what about efforts prior to Clamp, to the bigger name titles? Was there anything before the Moon? Next week, we'll dive into the world of the first successful studio to make a collection of hit Mahou Shoujo shows, Studio Pierrot


Arika said...

I loved both of these (and pretty much everything else CLAMP has ever done). I so wanted to be just like Hikaru, and Sakura got to wear the best outfits. And Yukito was the best boyfriend ever!



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