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Have Magical Girl Transformations Gone Too Far?

July 20, 2012 By: Nopy Category: Anime, Random Wonderings

Recently, there has been a lot of talk surrounding the transformation scene of Rebecca (Becky) from Dog Days. Two main opinions have developed from all of that talk. The first is that the scene is too sexually suggestive. The second is that transformation scenes like Rebecca’s are commonplace in magical girl anime and nothing to be concerned about. Both sides seem to suggest that magical girl transformations are starting to encroach on ero-anime territory. Considering magical girl anime were originally made for young girls, have transformation scenes gone too far in trying to attract male viewers?

The transformation scene is one of the most defining moments in any magical girl anime. It’s like a coming-of-age process that lasts a spectacular 1-2 minutes. The difference is that magical girl transformations take place in a rainbow-coloured bubble with bright lights rather than the real world.

Perhaps the most iconic magical girl transformation is that of Usagi Tsukino into Sailor Moon. I remember seeing Sailor Moon’s transformation as a kid in the 90’s and thinking “whoa, cool!” If you’ve never seen Sailor Moon’s transformation, see the video below:

Sailor Moon’s transformation was revolutionary. The flashiness of the scene outshone any battle that Sailor Moon fought during the first half of the season and I’m sure it was what attracted many people to the anime. The scene did draw some controversy though when parents claimed that it was too sexualized. It is implied that Sailor Moon is nude and you can see the outline of her body very clearly. Perhaps the reason why this wasn’t censored in the North American version was because the anime was marketed to girls and she was technically wrapped from head to toe in rainbowy lights and not nude.

I find the argument that Sailor Moon’s transformation is sexualized to be very weak. Have the people who made those claims never been to a beach or stepped outside on a hot summer day? You can see far more female outlines in real life and they aren’t covered with rainbowy-sparkles.

Fast-forward a decade and now we have a new defining magical girl series: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha. The evolution of the transformation scene is relatively apparent when you compare Nanoha’s transformation scene with Sailor Moon’s. While bright lights within a bubble are still present, there are additional elements borrowed from mecha series (like Raising Heart coming together).

What’s interesting to note is that there is no coating of light completely covering Nanoha’s body as with Sailor Moon. The only thing keeping it PG is that there’s always something “in the way” or she’s too far to see any detail. I consider Nanoha’s transformation to be on the edge of being ecchi. There are a few moments that were clearly done with a male audience in mind, but it’s not so prominent that it’s blatantly lewd.

Fast-forward again to last week and we have what I think will be another defining moment in transformation scenes: Rebecca’s transformation from Dog Days 2. First, here’s the transformation in question (NSFW, probably?)

Now this transformation does follow the rules and bathes Rebecca in a coat of light so you can’t see any skin, but it’s the other elements that make it so controversial. First off, her clothes don’t magically appear like in other transformations. Instead, tentacle-like attach to her body at very suggestive locations and I don’t think I need to explain the implications of tentacles in anime. Second, her staff/broom is always between her legs when it’s shown and “bursts” at the end. Third, Rebecca is seen lying on her back with her legs spread open and twitching. Lastly, her facial expression makes it look like she’s moaning. It’s hard not to get what those 2 minutes were implying.

I think Dog Days went too far into ero territory with this scene. After doing some searching, not even actual ero-anime transformations were this arousing (see Mahou Shoujo Ai, Mahou Shoujo Elena, Mahou Shoujo Isuka, and Mahou Shoujo Sae). In fact, it seems most of these ero-anime transformation scenes follow the same lines as Sailor Moon and Nanoha except that the girls are actually naked and not bathed in lights and rainbows. How could a cute anime like Dog Days have a scene that’s more erotic than ero-anime?

If this is the direction that magical girl transformations are heading, then I weep for the genre. Pretty soon, magical girls will go the way of the tentacle – forever implying something naughty.

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29 Comments to “Have Magical Girl Transformations Gone Too Far?”

  1. I haven’t watch Dog Days yet but just from the mention of tentacles, I can already imagine the worst..
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  2. I couldn’t help but laugh at the title of this post because it so true.

    The target audience for Sailor Moon and Nanoha is mostly young girls so it only makes sense that the transformation sequences are aimed at young girls. Hence the rainbows and sparkles etc. The female figure is used a lot but without actual nudity the figure is nothing more then a graphic representation and in no way sexual and shouldn’t be something to actively censor.

    However the Dog Days (an anime I’ll probably never watch) sequence was obviously aimed at adolescent males and that’s why it was filled with panty shots and moaning.

    I’m not sure what kind of transformations we’ll see in the future but it really depends on the target audience.
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    • Agreed, the focus seems to have shifted from an audience of young girls to an audience of men. If magical girl series continue to do that, it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of it in the future.

  3. I don’t think it has gone too far. I think it was very out of place and unexpected, but not too far yet. I can imagine things getting much worse honestly. They weren’t actual tentacles in the rapey hentai sorta way (though they sure come close). That’s just my opinion. I think it was artistic, creative and risque. It didn’t stop my enjoyment of the episode entirely, but made me go what the… If it went to far, we’d have a nice boat or something along those lines blocking it from viewing until blu-ray release, forever making it a meme. In defense of the broom, the whole witches ride on brooms idea stems from erotic perversions in the first place.
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    • I used the transformation sequences in some hentai series as a standard when I said it went too far. At least in the hentai, the girls transform normally. The difference is that you actually see them nude rather than bathed in light. It was still really out of place though. Except for some exploding clothes Dog Days was relatively tame up to that point.

      I never knew about the origins of the withces and broom thing. You learn something new every day :)

  4. IKnight says:

    Nanoha and Sailor Moon are very different things: a lot of little girls watched Sailor Moon, while Nanoha is a success, yes, but much more a success with the late-night crowd. The defining magical girl series of our era is the Precure franchise, which is watched by a lot of kids and sells a lot of toys: check the amount Toei makes from it, and consider the fact that it doesn’t arrive in thirteen- or twenty-six-episode chunks, but has simply been on TV constantly, with yearly alterations, since 2004. Its success is just largely invisible to internet-dwelling, grown-up, Anglophone anime fans, who are much more likely to enjoy Nanoha and Dog Days’.

    So I think you’re touching on an interesting change but not the change you think you’re talking about: transformations haven’t changed very much in actual basal magical girl shows (if anything, I think they may have become more chaste). You’ve observed some side-effects of the popularity of shorter, ‘grown-up’ magical girl shows for a different audience.

    • You’re right, Precure is a more defining magical girl series than Nanoha. I didn’t mention it because it largely stays on the traditional path of the magical girl genre. On the other hand, a lot of series have branched off into more suggestive territory. I think pretty soon these will outnumber the traditional ones. They’re both of the magical girl genre though, so if one branch goes too far, it will reflect poorly on the entire genre.

      I can walk outside and mention “anime” to random people on the street and half of them will think of Japanese porn because of the publicity that hentai and ero-anime have gotten over the years. I’m just afraid that the same thing will eventually happen to the magical girl genre. It happened to tentacle monsters, so it’s not hard to see it happening with other stuff.

      As a side note, Nanoha is huge in Japan too, not just in the west.

  5. Transformarion scenes in general show how a normal girl is transformed into something cool and flashy, some nudity is involved, but nothing sexual. I love Nanoha, but I can’t say that I want to see her, a little girl nude. I felt a little uncomfortable as I watched the several seasons and the movie ;D

    “Rebecca is seen lying on her back with her legs spread open and twitching.” exactly at that point I thought you can’t show something like that, this is Dog Days not tentacle porn. This transformation scene didn’t looked cool at all, I disliked hat they exploited her like that.

    I guess they did this just to grab more attention ^^
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    • Rebecca’s transformation was definitely out-of-character for Dog Days. Throughout the first season the running gag was that characters’ clothes exploded when they lost a battle, but it was never suggestive.

  6. TsukuyomiMagi99 says:

    If this is what Japanese Otaku want then this what they’re gonna get especially considering that the studio that produced the series Seven Arcs produces mostly erotic material so this transformation doesn’t surprise me. Second of all, Japan isn’t as hyper conservative as the west when it comes into erotic material. Then of course you have to take into consideration that anime is getting more and more extreme to where 80’s anime will soon look like kiddy cartoons.

    But don’t worry, anime intended for young girls will still follow that conservative Sailor Moon formula shows like Pretty Cure or PPGZ still show restraint.

    • Indeed, controversial anime from the 80’s do look rather tame compared to today’s anime. I’m not sure whether Japan is more or less conservative given that their laws prohibit showing genitalia, but scenes like Rebecca’s transformation make me think they’re secretly open to it and publically opposed to it.

      I’m not worried about all magical girl anime going down this path, it’s the implications of the ones that do that bother me.

  7. It feels like someone lost a bet or a drinking game so they allowed the transformation scene to be animated by a different animator or author. It was insanely different, very awkward, and quite….suggestive with the metallic tentacles. Regardless, it hasn’t gone too far. The part that would make it go too far would be the actual “touching” and “rubbing” part that we know within hentai shows, and even loud moans and groans. We didn’t even get to see the body parts that usually get censored. The scene just barely managed to stay within the boundaries set by the Dog Day’s world. Dog Days did show that it would be a bit ecchi with the clothes ripping in war and the bath scene :P.

    Just like you, Nopy, I can say that we should be used to this with Sailor Moon, Nanoha, and any magical girl show out there. Or by using real-world examples – going to the beach to see bikini girls. That scene didn’t really show any of the body-parts that usually get censored on TV and newspapers nowadays. Thus, I say again that it didn’t go to far.

    Seems “normal” considering how open and expressive Anime is known to be.
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    • If someone did lose a bet, that would make perfect sense. While it doesn’t show the act itself, it is highly suggestive. I don’t think it would get past the ratings agency in Canada with less than an 18+.

      Seeing just an outline is normal, but the moaning expression and twitching I think it a bit excessive.

  8. Like many have said already, I think it really depends on the series and the audience that said series is aimed at. If you look at Smile Precure (the current Precure series), you don’t even really see an outline of their figure in the transformation scenes because their clothes get “poofed” on them so quickly.

    More “traditional” magical girl series tend to follow similar transformation tropes. Dog Days isn’t a magical girl series so it makes sense (I guess) that the one time there is a transformation sequence, it’d be borderline ero. I think it’s just catering to the audience that watches it, which is teenage/young adult men.

    But even not having watched Dog Days, that transformation sequence had horrible CG. It stuck out like a sore thumb!
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    • True, Dog Days isn’t a magical girl series. I went out on a stretch in my post, but it’s still a magical girl transformation. It really felt out of place though, within Dog Days and probably wouldn’t fit in a magical girl series either.

  9. Well, I have to agree that the latest transformation shown in Dog Days was a bit too much even considering the audience. What they were thinking about when animating that stuff?! :D
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    • They were probably trying to boost the popularity of the series. I’m not sure if it worked or not, but it certainly got a lot of attention.

  10. I’m going to second the sentiment that this isn’t a magical girl anime aimed at young kids, so the reason and motivation for the Dog Days transformation is definitely not the same as it was for Sailor Moon.

    Is it too far? For young girls? Yes. For the late night crowd expecting these sorts of things? No, they’re getting what they’re asking for. Those boundaries are always being pushed and this is one instance of that.

    We need to be careful enough to step away a bit and see the content of a production like Dog Days and even Nanoha to see who the audience for these really are and not to get them superficially confused with other productions that look similar but are clearly meant for a different audience.

    • The thing about Dog Days though, is that except for the exploding clothes it has been relatively tame. Rebecca’s transformation scene really shocked me when I saw it because it was so uncharacteristic of the series. What I find even more surprising is that it’s more erotic than transformation scenes in hentai, how is that justifiable?

      Sure, it’s aimed at an older audience, but there are still some boundaries that Dog Days crossed that I don’t think it should have.

  11. Nope, not oversexualized. Magical girl scenes should be more graphic while guys get censor bars over any transformation they have.

  12. I think you are right in acknowledging that magical girls anime created for the otaku audience are becoming more and more erotic. But that doesn’t mean the entire genre is going that way. Nanoha and Dog Days were created for guys who like watching ecchi anime. Series like Sailor Moon and Pretty Cure were made for young girls and retain modesty to this day. It will be interesting to see how the new Sailor Moon series will deal with the transformation sequences. By the way in the Nanoha The Movie 1st Blu-ray Nanoha is completely naked (no “rainbow lights” either) and her vagina is shown. That’s most likely the worst you can get outside of the “transformation rape” Dog Days has recently established.

    • True, not all magical girl anime are going down that route. As some people have pointed out, some are actually going in a more conservative direction. People might categorize the whole genre as erotic though just because of a few examples.

  13. I haven’t touched Dog Days, but the second episode of the second season does cause quite a bit of a murmur.

    What to say after watching the video… The concept of “magical girl” seems to have become divided over what is normally for the age group originally suited for it (i.e. the younger girls), and the grown up men who would go for the magical girls’ age or other kinds of appeal (or so it seems). As IKnight mentions there is Precure (a lot of “generations” of them that I absolutely lost track of) which will be what children nowadays would watch (though it doesn’t mean that there is no fanbase outside of the originally intended group) rather than Dog Days or Nanoha, and before that Sailor Moon, Wedding Peach, etc.

    Nanoha is also something that I can’t fully imagine children would have watched. Looking back, put the transformations aside, how many times have we seen Fate’s short skirt flutter a bit too much?

    While this magical girl thing may start to blur in its definition, the example seen in Dog Days is a little bit of an extreme rather than the “norm”. Well, I would hope it would not become like so eventually.
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    • I wouldn’t want to see it become the norm either. It only takes a few big series going down that route to make the whole magical girl genre seem like it’s that way.

  14. In my opinion, transformations have come a long way but yes indeed, lately they become nothing than fan service material, catering to men which is said
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