8 Anime to Watch While Waiting for 'Sailor Moon Eternal'
Though two Dead Moon Arc movies titled Sailor Moon Eternal are planned for 2020, North American fans of the series may have to wait a while for the series' continuation to be available in English. New and old fans alike can find plenty of other shows to watch, though, especially since the magical girl genre has evolved so much in the past 25 years. Here are some similar magical girl and fantasy anime to watch.
This iconic magical girl series focuses on one titular character even more than Sailor Moon does, but there's still plenty of screentime for the supporting cast and romantic interests. Cardcaptor Sakura has an atmosphere that's a little more airy and lighthearted than Sailor Moon's, and that may make it a little bit dull for older fans.
Sakura's journey into junior high school in the new Clear Card sequel anime breathes fresh life into the franchise, though. Fans of darker magical girl shows might find it worthwhile to take a break and explore the charms of the Cardcaptor franchise.
Revolutionary Girl Utena
Revolutionary Girl Utena's 39-episode run covers the journey of a strong-willed junior high school girl who uses magical sword duels to protect another girl. The show's antagonists are not always what they appear to be, and Utena's relationships evolve, falter, and sometimes are torn to shreds.
Utena has many of the same production staff that worked on the original Sailor moon anime, and while it has some of the same pacing and filler pitfalls as the original Sailor Moon, it also does many things right. Fans of Sailor Moon's four male Dark Kingdom villains will probably like the male antagonists of Utena's world. Utena herself is also similar to Sailor Jupiter in a lot of ways, though her and Anthy's relationship is akin to Sailor Uranus and Neptune's.
Utena's coming-of-age angle pulls no punches, and there's some truly dark material in later episodes. The psychological side of the show may also be more than Sailor Moon fans are used to, but it's compelling and original. The movie is also excellent, though it's confusing and perhaps a little too psychological at times.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
No list of recommendations for Sailor Moon fans would be complete without a mention of Madoka Magica. Though Madoka is vastly different from Sailor Moon in tone and content, it's a powerful re-imagining of the magical girl genre that combines beautiful animation with a compelling plot. The mythos of Madoka is left somewhat ambiguous, which has allowed for a myriad of spin-off manga and games to be developed.
Madoka also has a three-part movie series, and while the first two movies are compilations of the TV series, the third movie is a sequel. The third movie is just as dark as the TV series, and is almost as psychologically messy (and amazing) as Revolutionary Girl Utena's ending.
The characters of Madoka unfortunately don't get enough time to shine, and viewers looking for a team dynamic similar to Sailor Moon's should look elsewhere. Still, the stunning storytelling and animation make Madoka a must-watch for most magical girl fans.
Yuki Yuna is a Hero
Yuki Yuna is a Hero offers a good balance of schoolgirl cuteness, magical girl battles, and mildly depressing dark moments. It never gets quite as dark as Madoka, but still is a more mature take on the magical girl genre than Sailor Moon or Cardcaptor Sakura.
The main character, Yuki Yuna, is a middle school girl and member of her school's "Hero Club" alongside her friends. When her friends are suddenly tasked with protecting the magical tree that guards humanity and the world, they're happy to help. The team dynamic and character development are similar to Sailor Moon in several ways, so fans looking for something heartfelt will find lots to love here.
My-Hime (spelled Mai-Hime in the original) is a 26-episode series that focuses on drama, intrigue, and school life almost as much as it does on magical powers. The first half of the series moves somewhat slowly, exploring the characters and their setting as secrets come to light. After a major revelation halfway through the show, the pace picks up, and the stakes become much higher than before.
This pacing makes it similar to Sailor Moon in some ways, but the real similarities come in the way the romance and drama play out. It's a rewarding show that explores what happens when magical girls have to fight each other instead of a common enemy, which makes it a real breath of fresh air in the genre.
It also helps that the characters are unique and avoid falling into magical girl archetypes. Mai isn't the most interesting main character in the genre, but her romantic drama is convincing and well-written. Nao is an excellent anti-heroine, and Mikoto's antics are goofy but still believable.
As a whole, Princess Tutu is an excellent show that combines the best of the magical girl and shoujo romance genres. Its ballet components are a joy to watch, and the series' animation has aged well, unlike many magical girl shows of its time.
However, some Sailor Moon fans will likely find Princess Tutu's "battles" to be a little dry. Princess Tutu is a show that requires even more suspension of disbelief than Sailor Moon; the viewer has to appreciate the artistry and imagery of the animation instead of powerful and dramatic fight scenes.
That said, though, Princess Tutu's plot is arguably even more beautiful and compelling than Sailor Moon's, as the romantic entanglements are more complicated, relatable, and unpredictable than the latter's. Overall, this is a solid recommendation for fans who can deal with a slightly one-dimensional protagonist and airy, cutesy atmosphere.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
Unlike Sailor Moon, romance is not front and center in the Nanoha franchise, though Nanoha and Fate become a couple and they raise a child together in later series. The strength of the Nanoha franchise lies in its ability to spin varied magical girl tales without resorting to grimdark mythos and excessive character death.
The first series is fairly cookie-cutter. The second series, Nanoha A's, is where fans fell in love; the multiple relatable antagonists and great dynamic between Nanoha and Fate made the show stand out from other shows. The relatively low number of characters helped the 13-series hone in and give adequate screentime to each personality.
Nanoha StrikerS is arguably the most similar to Sailor Moon, but at times it feels more like a shounen action series thanks to the training episodes and Nanoha's coach-like relationship to the team. The latest anime TV series spin-offs focus on a new group of girls and push Nanoha and Fate to the far background, but there are new movies coming out in Japan that return the franchise to its roots.
Fans of Sailor Moon should note that Nanoha's various installments sometimes have more fanservice than other magical girl shows, but overall, it's a solid franchise that has a lot to offer.
Mahou Shoujo-tai Alice
Don't let the unusual art style and short episode length put you off: Magical Girl Squad Alice (or Tweeny Witches in its dubbed form) is a true hidden gem of the magical girl franchise. Unlike many magical girl anime, this series gets a little more into the nuts and bolts of how magic works without making it grimdark. The fantasy setting is endearing and believable without getting bogged down in worldbuilding.
Alice is a very likable main character, and despite the show's short runtime, she has a little more depth than some magical girl heroines. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of time for this show to reach its full potential, but it's still a fun weekend watch for magical girl fans.