(Ghostlightning’s been teaching me about literary theory during my stay with him. This post is based on a discussion we had about deconstruction, in which we attempted to see if a show popularly considered a deconstruction actually was one.)
The word “deconstruction” gets thrown around a lot in the blogosphere, and a recent case of it being used quite a bit was with Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. As it turns out, Madoka Magica might be as direct a deconstruction of the genre as imaginable.
To identify something as a deconstruction of a genre, we must first identify the constructs of that genre. Contrary to what some may think about mahou shoujo anime, this isn’t easy. Ogiue Maniax was the one who pointed out the misconception among bloggers that Madoka Magica subverted mahou shoujo constructs, when they weren’t actually constructs of the genre to begin with.
In his post, sdshamshel identifies the diversity of mahou shoujo and identifies a construct that he feels holds the genre together and may or may not have been subverted by Madoka Magica. I, however, don’t think that what he identifies is an absolute construct, and sought to find something absolutely definitive of mahou shoujo anime.
When considering all of the mahou shoujo anime that I know of, there’s only one thing that’s absolutely constant between them: they’re about a young girl who transforms regularly between her normal self and a more powerful version of herself for the purpose of accomplishing things that she can’t do otherwise.
This exists in Madoka Magica. When Madoka transforms, she also gains an enormity of power and fulfills her dream. Fair enough, but something’s missing here. There’s another construct in mahou shoujo that’s only identifiable because of its absence in Madoka Magica: in all cases, the mahou shoujo transforms on an episodic basis, or something very close to one.
There you have it. I can’t name a single Mahou Shoujo anime besides Madoka Magica wherein the magical girl doesn’t transform regularly. In that way, Madoka Magica deconstructs the only completely consistent construct in mahou shoujo anime besides the element that makes it a genre to begin with—being about a girl with magical powers. Because of this, Madoka Magica is definitely a deconstruction of mahou shoujo anime.