So maybe you've seen some Pokemon on Saturday morning or even some shows on Cartoon Network and are ready to take the next step in building your anime knowledge. For the anime "newbie" I've outlined some of the best and classic animes out there with regards to the genre known as the
Magical Girl Shows. Granted all these recommendations are just "in my humble opinion" suggestions on things that I have found to be enjoyable.
Most of the MGSs tend to be the type of stuff you can show to your 7 to 12 year old daughter and she'll love it, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy them also. Most of the shows involve girls being able to transform and fight monsters as the general premise and some degree of violence might be involved, but it's usually minor and non bloodly type of action on most MGSs.
Sailor Moon - Season One - Complete and Uncut (Japanese language edition)
Your oldest and most well known MGS is probably going to be Salior Moon. This is a comical show just due to the cheesy dialogues (ex: You're burnt toast creep!) and shear ridiculousness of the plots (ex: The world is coming to an end and I'm worried about my love life!) But young girls should have no problem enjoying and relating to it. It was a long running show with over a 100 episodes and has many various plots throughout the course of the show. The uncut Japanese version is a bit edgier than the chopped up and dubbed English version of the show (in the original two of the Sailor Scouts are in a "relationship" with each other while in the dub they get to be "cousins") but the english version still retains much of the basic plotline of the show. The animation tends to be not quite as smooth since it is an older show, but Sailor Moon can definitely be classified as "old school" good anime.
Cardcaptor Sakura Collection (Vol. 1-15) - Amazon.com Exclusive
For the best of the bunch with regards to MGS you can't go wrong with Cardcaptor Sakura. Brought to you by the well known CLAMP animation group, Cardcaptor Sakura is probably the best there is. Like most CLAMP shows it tends to be a little over the top in cuteness, but the music, animation, characters and plot are a cut above the rest. The basic premise is a young girl, Sakura, has to capture magical cards with the help of friends and a very round headed lion guardian named Kero-chan. Very cute and able to be enjoyed by all ages. The uncut Japanese version is by far better than the WB slaughtered version of the show so if you're going to get it I'd recomend the orginial by far.
Cardcaptor Sakura may be CLAMP's best MSG but before CCS there was Magic Knight Rayearth. If you like a little bit more fighting in your shows you would probably enjoy Rayearth more. Three girls get sucked into another world where the strength of your will determines all and they have to become the heros of a dying world. A very funny series, though the show can get a little repeative on fight scenes and background music at times. There's some drag with regards to plot as the show progresses, but all in all good animation, that gets better as the show goes along and a fun cast of characters can keep you watching the whole 49 episodes easily. I tend to think the first season of this show, even with the poorer quality animation, is better than the second, but the second season (like the OVAs), follows a bit darker plotline which may be why I enjoyed the first season better.
For something a little different with regards to the MGS why not try Revolutionary Girl Utena. By the same people that brought you Sailor Moon, Utena tends to bend toward the older crowd, the much older. A girl who wants to be a prince gets involved over battles for the end of the world and wins a rose bride in the process. The main female characters in this show have a "interesting" relationship, to say the least but themes of incest, child abuse, homosexuality and some very oddbut catchy music are all just some of the reasons this show is one of the most unique animes of all time. I would highly recomend it to the open minded as it's one of those things you can read into it whatever you want. With regards to the movie, you certainly don't have to see the show before watching the movie, mainly due to the fact the movie make no sense with or without having seen the show, but it is also quite odd and well worth a watch if your in the mood for something different...very different.
Last but not least, one of my favorite MGSs Jubei-chan: The Sceret of the Lovely Eyepatch. Though this could still fall under the category of the "super cute" MGS the difference here is that instead of turning into a "magical girl" when she puts on her heart shaped eye patch, the main character Jiyu becomes the reincarnation of the legendary samurai Yagyu Jubei. Probably more fitting for the slightly older girls 12 - 14 year olds, with a style of animation, especially during the fight scenes, that makes this show on level with some of the greats, Jubei-chan balances humor with a semi-serious plot to make a memorable show that's easy for anyone to enjoy.
A few more shows that fall into the MGS category that you might take a look at if you've enjoyed any of my recommendations from above.
A slight twist as the main character Meimi Haneoka, instead of becoming magical and fighting monsters, at night she becomes Saint Tail, a cat burglar-Robin Hood figure. A slightly older show with not as steller animation but good for the younger crowd.
If you like Harry Potter there's a good shot you might like this show. Good animation and catchy music along with funny characters make this show one of my personal favorite picks. Who wouldn't like be in a after school club that gets to do magic in the middle of an alien invasion? For the teenagers more, due to some slightly risqué humor but certinly nothing graphic in nature.
Pretty Sammy happens to be more of a spoof of magical girl shows and thus is a little over the top when it comes to the genre. I remember renting it for the pure and simple reason of laughing at it. Very amusing show.