A young girl faces off against a smiling worm monster in "Puella Magi Madoka Magica"
(Shaft)

The 10 Magical Girl Anime You Need To Watch, Ranked

You want rainbow-colored transformations? The prevailing power of love? Heaps of sapphic undertones? You’ve come to the right place. What you need is a bonafide magical girl anime delivering sunshine and light straight to the main vein. These are the best of the best, ranked.

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10. My-HIME

Three high school girls ready weapons to fight in "My-HiME"
(Sunrise)

Mai Tokiha thought she was an average high school girl, that is until she transferred to the mysterious Fuuka Academy and started noticing that she had a weird mark developing on her body. Is it some kind of health problem? Way better! It’s the mark of a HiME! What’s a HiME? A HiME is a young woman with the power of turning photons (massless particles of light) into actual materialized matter (redundant, I know)! Now, with her new powers, new HiME friends, and new little magical creature robot pet that she got from awakening her powers, she has to fight enigmatic beasties called Orphans who are a danger to all!

9.Shana of the Burning Eyes

A red haired girl wields a sword in "Shana of the Burning Eyes"
(J.C. Staff)

Shana of the Burning Eyes is a winner by the title alone. The series is about a young boy who—wait, I know, it’s supposed to be about magical girls, just keep reading—who ends up befriending the titular (and way cooler) Shana, who comes from a parallel dimension responsible for giving our dimension existence. Beings from Shana’s “Crimson Realm” control the Power of Existence, which gives substance to our world. But what’s this? Malevolent forces are attempting to throw off the delicate balance between the two worlds? Looks like a problem only a magical girl can solve.

8.Pretty Cure

Two girls, dressed in black and white maid costumes, lead through the blue sky in "Pretty Cure"
(Toei Animation)

When it comes to longevity, Pretty Cure is right up there with Sailor Moon (we’ll get to her). The two-decade-old, 1000+ episode series is something like a magical girl One Piece in its scope. The series is classic magical girl stuff: A group of teens comes into contact with magical artifacts that transform them into a cadre of magical warriors known as Pretty Cure. What are they the cure to? They’re the cure to the ever encroaching creep of evil in the universe. They’re the cure to the monster problem plaguing Earth. They are the cure to your mundane, non-magical existence, rendered in full, sparkly color.

7.Puella Magi Madoka Magica

A young girl faces off against a smiling worm monster in "Puella Magi Madoka Magica"
(Shaft)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica isn’t the first magical girl anime to subvert the genre in a dark way, but it is arguably the best. The plot centers around a group of middle school girls who begin manifesting magical powers. They’re gonna save the universe, right? Fight evil witches? Hang out with adorable cat creatures? Yes, but it will come at a terrible cost. What happens when your comrades are devoured by a witch in monster form, that cute little spirit cat is evil incarnate, and you have to live with the suffering and anguish that comes with a life of endless combat, the only release from which is death? You’ll find out.

6.Little Witch Academia

A group of high school aged girls dressed as witches from "Little Witch academia"
(Studio Trigger)

Was your spirit left beaten and broken by Madoka Magica? Let Little Witch Academia patch you up. It’s an adorable series about a group of young girls who are attending a magical school for witches. The series centers around Atsuko “Akko” Kagari, a young girl whose non-magical background causes her to face hurdles that her classmates do not. But what’s this? She just found a relic left behind by her witch-inspo role model Shiny Chariot? And it’s gonna help her be the best witch she can be and get a leg up on her more naturally gifted classmates? Let’s goooooooooo!

5.Kill La Kill

A schoolgirl holding a scissor blade stands against the blue sky in "Kill La Kill"
(Studio Trigger)

Kill La Kill is such a subversion of the magical girl genre that some would say that it doesn’t even belong in the genre. Those people are wrong. Kill La Kill is part magical girl, part tournament anime, part social commentary on the nature of bodily pride and shame, part haute couture fashion show, and all horny. After a high school girl’s father is murdered, she journeys to a totalitarian high school to kill the dictator class president with one half of a giant pair of scissors. She ends up befriending a talking, blood-sucking sailor suit that grants her more power the more skin she shows, all to stop an extraterrestrial invasion of fabric aliens. It’s gloriously bonkers.

4. Cardcaptor Sakura

A magical girl with butterfly wings flies holding a magical staff in "Cardcaptor Sakura"
(Madhouse)

Now we’re getting into the big guns. The genre classics. Cardcaptor Sakura is a seminal magical girl anime about an elementary school girl named Sakura Kinomoto who gains special powers after coming into contact with a magical deck of cards. The cards have a mind of their own and escape into the world to cause havoc with their raw magical ability. Now Sakura has to use her new powers to capture the cards and restore balance to the world!

3. Revolutionary Girl Utena

Two girls lay on the grass in 'Revolutionary Girl Utena'
(J.C. Staff)

Revolutionary Girl Utena is one of the best sapphic anime stories ever told. The plot centers around the titular Utena, a popular pink-haired wunderkind who attends a fancy high school. After seeing her classmate Anthy being abused by a dick boyfriend, Utena challenges the douche to a duel and ends up becoming Anthy’s magical protector … and wife. See, Anthy is actually a being known as the Rose Bride, and she is the vessel for a magical sword that grants the user … okay, it’s a lot to explain, but if you wanna watch two married girls fight evil prep school jerks, this series is unmissable.

2. Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki (voiced by Minami Takayama/Kirsten Dunst) in Kiki's Delivery Service (Studio Ghibli)
(Studio Ghibli)

Kiki’s Delivery Service is essentially Hayao Miyazaki’s take on the magical girl genre. The plot centers around a young witch named Kiki, who leaves home with nothing but a flying broomstick and a talking black cat in order to find her place in the world. She comes across a town with some serious post office issues and decides to employ herself as a delivery girl. Turns out being able to fly allows her to corner the market on letter delivery. It’s the coming-of-age story of a smart little entrepreneur!

1. Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon
(Toei Animation)

What else could it be? Sailor Moon is the apex, the pinnacle, the blueprint of the magical girl genre. I’m gonna tell you the plot out of sheer respect for the show, even though you probably already know it. A high school girl inherits the mysterious magical power of the Sailor Guardians, an intergalactic group of magical girl warriors responsible for protecting the universe from evil. The series is famous for its “love conquers all” approach to the genre, as the tenderhearted Sailor Moon believes that even the evilest of bad guys is still worthy of redemption. It’s a landmark series, and the most famous work the genre has to offer. Unmissable. Iconic. Classic.


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Author
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.