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A magical girlfriend (also referred to as exotic girlfriend or supernatural lover) is a female character often associated with romantic comedy anime series,[1] and is sometimes considered a genre of its own,[2] or as the leading lady of the "fantastic romance" genre, which combines the fantasy and romance genres.[1] As their name implies, magical girlfriends typically have unusual powers compared to regular people, magical or otherwise. They feature more heavily in seinen than shōnen stories.

Magical girlfriends can be one or many in a single anime (always attached to the male lead). Because of the tendency for rivals to appear even when there is one female lead and because of the unnatural gender balance among the cast, magical girlfriend comedies are often conflated with harem comedies. A good example of this conflation is Oh My Goddess![3][4] which is "often called a classic example of a 'harem' anime" despite the short-lived nature of most of the romantic rivalries.

Magical ability

The term "magical girlfriend" is used loosely, indicating just that the character is a "romantic interest" of fantastic or science-fiction origins.[verification needed] These sources can be supernatural (Oh My Goddess!), extraterrestrial (Urusei Yatsura, Please Teacher!), or technological (A.I. Love You, Chobits).[verification needed] Regardless of origin, magical girlfriends usually have extraordinary abilities and/or access to an unusual source of power. Unlike a magical girl who primarily uses her powers to fight evil, a magical girlfriend primarily uses her powers for the benefit of herself or those she is close to (such as the male lead).[verification needed]

Characteristics of the genre

Often series in the genre start with the male lead encountering the female lead either by pure chance or by an unusual event, after which the female lead somehow becomes bound or otherwise dependent upon the male lead which typically forces a situation of cohabitation. In many cases, this situation is repeated over and over again (Tenchi Muyo!). However the male lead is often inexperienced with women, usually due to him either being some sort of "loser" (usually a "nice guy" lovable loser, such as Keiichi in Oh My Goddess!). In parodies the character may be too young (i.e. Nakahito Kagura in Steel Angel Kurumi; Negi Springfield in Mahou Sensei Negima!) to be involved with woman or too sexually aggressive but clumsy with his advances and more interested in chasing tail than involving himself with a willing magical girlfriend (the classic example being Ataru Moroboshi of Urusei Yatsura). This situation often prevents the relationship from advancing beyond a platonic level throughout most of the series, as an ideal girlfriend doesn't come on strong herself and the parody of the ideal girlfriend unsuccessfully tries to force herself on an unwilling partner.

Another feature is that soon after the male and female leads begin to live together, other (usually female) characters from the female lead's origin appear (friends, rivals or even enemies), either becoming frequent visitors, or even moving in with the lead couple.

Even when there is one female lead, various rivals always threaten the relationship between the lead characters (always creating at least a love triangle and often forming a complex love polygon). These can vary from being from mundane characters such as men who fight for the affection of the female lead(s) (or even the male lead), "girl next door" characters, but are often rivals from the female lead's origins.

The romantic relationship(s) in magical girlfriend comedies tend to remain static and platonic throughout the series. Commonly episodes involve some sort of threat to the static nature of the relationship (which could, and often is, the male lead or the girlfriends' desire to get closer), which is almost always resolved in some way that doesn't fundamentally alter that relationship. Action plotlines are often introduced through some sort of threat from the magical girlfriends origins or through other means.

The "ideal woman" personality, or yamato nadeshiko

Many magical girlfriends are considered by both fans and critics of the genre to be idealizations of woman-kind. This model of the ideal Japanese woman, the yamato nadeshiko, is similar to that found in The Tale of Genji. Ideal girlfriends are not necessarily magical in nature. Aoi of Ai Yori Aoshi is an example of an ideal woman and girlfriend but is of mundane origin. Some "ideal" magical girlfriends may seem weak and emotionally needy, while others, such as Belldandy of Ah!/Oh My Goddess!, may possess a godly power stemming from their feminine traits.

Ideal women have absolute dedication to whatever work they do and for whomever they have great affection, although depending on the character's actual talents this can make for anything from 'quite capable' to 'well-meaning klutz'. They usually have calm, gentle and demure personalities. They generally suppress selfish desires in favor of desiring good for others.

Ideal women are always naive or innocent, sometimes explained by the girlfriends origins which do not allow for much experience with mainstream life. Paradoxically, other characters of the girlfriend's origin tend not to be as naive (i.e. Belldandy of Ah!/Oh My Goddess! is more naive than even her kid sister). Ideal women are emotionally insightful, seeing the good in others when most wouldn't and forgiving their shortcomings.

Ideal women are examples of moe girls in anime. As such, ideal girlfriends are not overly independent. They are proper Japanese women typically will not initiate romantic action themselves except in a delicate or indirect manner (Aoi's romantic behavior might be considered clingy, even desperate at times, but is still done in a delicate manner, except in ecchi dream sequences). However, numerous characters are so innocent as to not understand the nature of their actions. Independence and aggression (especially in sexual matters) is a trait of parodies of the ideal girlfriend such as Lum Invader, Steel Angel Kurumi or Hazuki in Tsukuyomi -Moon Phase-.

Parodies of the ideal woman are often selfish and become involved with the male lead because of their own selfish desires which are not (initially) shared by their mate. While the male lead usually has some sort of hold over his girlfriend (as "husband," "fiancé," provider, contract holder, client, creator, master, or even owner) the parody of the ideal girlfriend either succeeds in inverting the power balance of relationship or simply reverses roles.

Shōjo artists have written another sort of parody of magical girlfriends. Shōjo writers put more emphasis on the girl. Examples include Absolute Boyfriend, in which an ordinary girl gets a magical boyfriend,[5] and Ultra Maniac, in which a Middle School girl meets and becomes best friends with a magical girlfriend;[citation needed] followed by their misadventures at finding boyfriends.

Susan J. Napier has described the popularity of the ideal magical girlfriend, for example Belldandy and Ai to be a backlash against the "yellow cab" social phenomenon, where some Japanese women were seeking out sexual relationships with non-Japanese men.[1]

Examples of "magical girlfriend" characters

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Idealized

Less than idealized

Magical girlfriend (and magical boyfriend) series

These lists display stories according to the role magical girlfriend and/or magical boyfriend plays in them. The first list shows series in which magical friend/lover themes play a central role in their storylines. The second list contains stories in which the same subjects are used mostly for comic relief, as fanservice, or for character development in a larger, sometimes unrelated context.

Magical girlfriend/boyfriend as a central element

Magical girlfriend/boyfriend as an additional element

Footnotes

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