Early Mahou Shoujo
In 1953 the comic Ribbon no Kishi (English title: Princess Knight; comic; 1953-1956) by Osamu Tezuka started being published in the magazine Shoujo Club. This was an early prototype of the genre to come a decade later.
The first real mahou shoujo titles came in the 1960’s. Mahoutsukai Sally (anime, 1966-1967) was inspired by the American 60’s sitcom Bewitched and was originally in black and white. This anime was heavily inspired by the show while another title wasn’t. The comic Himitsu no Akko-chan (comic, anime; 1962-1970) pre-dates both Sally and Bewitched as it started getting published in 1962, but the creator, Fujio Akatsuka, has said he was inspired by Bewitched. Another possible source of inspiration might have been Mary Poppins which was released in 1965 in Japan, but that is only a hypothesis. Regardless, the inspiration came from the west.
Sally and Akko-chan are both making up the birth of the Cute Witch subgenre and both it’s categories. Sally is a natural magic user while Akko-chan received her magic through an item.
Except for the two animated series, there was also a TV drama airing in 1967 and 1968 and around the time it was about to air, a comic aslo started running. The title of this franchise is Comet-san, but isn’t mentioned when talking about mahou shoujo in the 60’s, despite the 79 episode long season that ran for a year and a half.
During the 60’s Tezuka also remade the Ribbon no Kishi comic and an pilot of an anime adaptation of the title was released, but never actually aired.
In the 70’s the genre was dominated by Toei Animation, which made also animated Mahoutsukai Sally in the 60’s. Toei made among others Mahou no Mako-chan (anime; 1970-1971), Sarutobi Ecchan (anime; 1971-1972), Mahoutsukai Chappy (anime; 1972), Miracle Shoujo Limit-chan (anime; 1973-1974), Majokko Tickle (anime; 1978-1979) and Hana no Ko Lunlun (anime; 1979-1980). With no doubt you could say that mahou shoujo at the time was Toei’s franchise, especially as Sally also was made by Toei Animation and Akko-chan was adapted by Toei Viedo.
One of Toei’s titles from this time really stands out though and that is Majokko Megu-chan (anime; 1974-1975). It was the first mahou shoujo that was marketed towards both boys and girls, while the previous mahou shoujo had been for girls. Megu-chan was also first in a lot of other things, such as having a tomboy heroine, a rival and really evil villain. In this show you also find fanservice and dark themes for the first time.
Beside Toei’s originals, the Cutie Honey franchise (comic, anime, live actions; 1973-2006) started and the comics as well as all their adaptations are, looking back today, also mahou shoujo although they didn’t count as such at the time. The comics of the franchise of this decade ran in magazines both for boys and girls.
However Osamu Tezuka also published Fushigi na Melmo (comic; 1970-1972) which was adapted to an anime with the same name that aired in 1971-1972. This – believe it or not – wasn’t animated by Toei!
Other than Tezuka’s work, the duo Fujiko Fujio started working on ESPer Mami (comic; 1977-1982).
In the 80’s mahou shoujo spread out more from Toei and for instance ESPer Mami was adapted into an anime by Shin-Ei Animation and it aired from 1987 to 1989.
Toei still was keeping up its franchise though and made Mahou Shoujo Lalabell (anime; 1980-1981) with a film 1980 and at the end of the decade Akko-chan got a remake called Himitsu no Akko-chan 2 (anime; 1988-1989) with a side story film in 1989. Toei also provided with animation for the American animated show Jem & the Holograms (1985-1988) which is also a mahou shoujo show in the magic idol subgenre.
Studio Pierrot joined the mahou shoujo scene with 4 shows in this time, starting out with Mahou no Tenshi Creamy Mami (anime, 1983-1984) and the show created the Magic Idol subgenre. Studio Pierrot then made Mahou no Yousei Persia (anime, 1984-1985), Mahou no Star Magical Emi (anime, 1985-1986) and then Mahou no Idol Pastel Yumi (anime, 1986-1987).
Another studio that added to the genre was Ashi Production with Mahou no Princess Minky Momo (anime; 1982-1993) which was followed by both original video animations and a second show all the way into the 90’s.
In 1980 Hideo Azuma got Nanako SOS published and it ran until 1985, and got adapted into an anime 1983 by Kokusai Eigasha.
The 90’s started out relatively calm with Ashi Production with Mahou no Angel Sweet Mint (anime; 1990-1991) and Mahou no Princess Minky Momo: Yume wo Dakishimete (1991-1992), but with a tiny mahou shoujo comic boom among the shoujo magazines. A few of the early titles at the time that are at least somewhat well-known are Hime-chan no Ribbon (comic, anime; 1990-1993) by Megumi Mizusawa and Akazukin Chacha (comic, anime; 1991-) by Min Ayahana. But most importanly was Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon (comic, anime; 1991-) and Code Name wa Sailor V (comic; 1991-1997) by Naoko Takeuchi published in 1991. Toei Animation got the license to animate Sailor Moon and in early 1992 came a show that would change the mahou shoujo genre.
What differed Sailor Moon from previous mahou shoujo titles was that there were several heroines, fighting together in a group to protect the earth. Takeuchi is a fan of the sentai series and she incorporated things from these shows in a comic for girls, resulting in her two titles Sailor Moon and Sailor V.
Although many themes in this new kind of mahou shoujo anime can be found in the past, it was the mix that changed the mahou shoujo genre, resulting in a new era, and a new subgenre.
There was a bigger mahou shoujo boom in the second half of the 90’s, as a response to the huge success called Sailor Moon. Whereas cute girls doing cute things had been the most popular theme within the genre, fighting was incorporated more, and having more than one main character with magical powers also became more common. And Toei is no longer monopolizing the genre, although they are still the studio to work on mahou shoujo titles.
But the genre doesn’t only change, it expands and both within comics and anime there are more mahou shoujo in a decade than ever, and the 90’s produces popular titles such as Magic Knight Rayearth (comic, anime; 1993-1997) and Cardcaptor Sakura (comic, anime, films; 1996-2000) by CLAMP, Shoujo Kakumei Utena (comic, anime; 1996-1999) by Chiho Saitou and Be-Papas and Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne (comic, anime; 1997-2000) by Arina Tanemura, all which were also animated and aired during the 90’s.
The boom reaches past 2000 and mahou shoujo is in the early 00’s big in magazines for girls. The mahou shoujo animations are however not long runners like they used to be and there is a decline in the amount of titles being animated from comics, as well as original anime titles. Toei Animation, however, stays stubborn on mahou shoujo for their younger audience with their franchise Ojamajo Doremi (anime; 1999-2004) which started in 1999. They keep it up until 2004 after a total of 5 seasons. But they don’t give up on their mahou shoujo franchise and in 2004 Futari was Pretty Cure airs, followed by a second season called Futari was Pretty Cure: Max Heart in 2005. They keep releasing a new show every year after that in their new franchise Precure (anime, comic; 2004-) except for 2008 where they released a second season to the previous year’s show.
Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha (anime, comic; 2004-) also came into existent in 2004, after the main character made an appearance in a game. The series didn’t come out regularly, but was moderately popular.
In the 10’s Toei still is making a new Precure show every year and the franchise celebrated 10 years in 2014. They also released a remake of the anime as a celebration of the 20th anniversary for Sailor Moon.
Shaft came out with Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (anime, comic, light novel, films; 2011-) which was targeted toward an older male audience with dark themes through the story, which among older mahou shoujo fans in the west was either a hit or miss, due to how it was different from many earlier shows since 2000. In 2014 Kurari Umatani and Diomedéa follow their example of thinking out of the box with Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! (anime, comic, light novel; 2014-2015), a show with a typical mahou shoujo setting but the entire cast is male, which aired in 2015.