Opening sequence to Makeruna! Makendo Z (1995), the final installment in the Makeruna! Makendo franchise. This game, an RPG with multiple full-motion video cutscenes and voice acting, introduces the third member of the series’ magical girl team, Saya, who is Mai and Hikari’s cousin. Most of the game is spent in dialogue; this game fully embraces the fact that the franchise’s popularity stems from its characters and not its gameplay. Full of madcap comedy to the end, Makeruna! Makendo Z takes the franchise out on a cheery note.
Due to its emphasis of story and character over gameplay, its zany sensibility and overpowering Japanese-ness, Makeruna! Makendo and its sequels do not have a large presence in the English-speaking world. The original game was drastically edited and rebranded as Kendo Rage in the USA, but the rest of the series remains untranslated. (You can view the intro to the Americanized Kendo Rage here.)
The intro and outro sequences from Makeruna! Makendo (1995), the OVA based on the video game series of the same name. Note the elaborate magical girl transformation sequences here (complete with Sailor Moon-esque sound effects.) This one-episode short film is an “in-betweenquel” to the first two games, starring the heroines of both games, the kendo-master magical girl Mai and her little sister Hikari. The episode explains how Hikari became a magical girl, setting up for Makeruna! Makendo 2. Kotono Mitsuishi (AKA Sailor Moon) stars as Mai. The rounded, primary-colored designs shout out to its 90s-Japanese-video-game roots; the character designs for this OVA were handled by Sayuri Ichiishi, the woman best known for translating the character designs from the first couple of Pokemon games into anime format. (She has also done animation work on many children’s shows, including 90s-era magical girls Hime-chan no Ribbon and Wedding Peach.) This unique look foreshadows the advent of 1999’s Corrector Yui, which boasts a similar retro-game aesthetic.
Welcome to Henshins Magical Girls Blog’s third theme week! This week we will not focus on a single series, as we have before, but on a category of works: magical girl video games.
The bond between magical girls and video games might have had its roots in 1992, with Naoko Takeuchi’s seminal Sailor Moon. The early arcs of this series are permeated with a love of gaming: Usagi models her crime-fighting persona off the heroine of her favorite video game; she has a crush on the boy who works at the local arcade; she wins new weapons as game prizes. Games are one of the few things that the directionless Usagi is passionate about at the manga’s beginning. Takeuchi, writing about the idea behind the series, specifically lists games as a key influence on the story: “I really wanted to write a story with a sexy girl, a good-looking guy, some romance, video games, and cute school uniforms!” Sailor Moon does indeed have a video game sensibility that later “fighting magical girl” series inherited: the heroine blows through stages of pesky monsters, minor villains and finally the all-powerful boss in a distinctly Nintendo-esque succession.
After Sailor Moon, video games starring magical girls grew more plentiful, including spinoffs of older franchises like Cutie Honey and Creamy Mami, and, of course, the endless Sailor Moon game tie-ins. However, original video games starring magical girls also emerged. One of the earliest was the Makeruna! Makendo franchise (1993, pictured.) The original game stars a magical girl with kendo-themed powers battling supernatural creatures in a side-scrolling platformer system reminiscent of the 80s’ Valis the Fantasm Soldier, or, indeed, the fictional Sailor V game. Later additions to the franchise would branch out and stage themselves as fighting games and RPGs. Each successive game introduced new magical girls, who proved quite popular— popular enough to warrant an OVA spinoff.
Many of these quirky little games and spinoff series have been buried over the decades, but hopefully this week we shall be able to uncover a few.