So You Want To/Write a Magical Girlfriend Series
We all know the story: Unlucky Everydude suddenly gets lucky, REAL lucky. You've Seen It a Million Times, but you're ready to give it your own shot. Well, TV Tropes, as always, is here to give you some pointers.
- 1 Choices, Choices
- 2 Necessary Tropes
- 3 Pitfalls
- 4 Potential Subversions
- 5 Writers' Lounge
- 6 Departments
- 7 Costume Designer
- 8 Extra Credit
Naturally, the first trope you need depends on what kind of "Magic" you want in your Girlfriend. Will she be an Alien? A Goddess? A Ghost? Ridiculously Human Robot? A really, really cute Eldritch Abomination? A guy? Or is your Unlucky Everydude a Dudette?
Naturally, each of these choices has its own set of tropes that come with it. Using a Goddess may bring Magic and all it comes with, while a Robot Girl brings into question the level of Speculative Fiction you want to bring in.
After that, the second trope is usually the Harem: The bevy of additional characters, usually cute females, that end up getting drawn into the hero's life by the presence of the Girlfriend. You may not want a Harem, but it's important to consider.
The point for a Harem is, well, it's a collection of cute girls (and maybe some sexy women) that appeals to a lot of people. For many people, that's reason enough.
On the other hand, a harem can take over the series. How, you ask? In one word: Shipping. Not everyone is gonna buy your couple. Whether it's because they don't find your writing plausible, or they just prefer another member of the cast to get with one of your leads. Some people don't like harems in the first place.
And let's not get into the fan and Doujin artists...
If your Magical Girlfriend isn't native to your setting, Fish Out of Water will often come into play. This trope can be a good excuse why the girl is stuck with your mundane hero and it can often lead to Character Development.
- Unlucky Everydude: The first pitfall, of course, is your Hero. If you look around, it's fairly obvious, if a little ironic, that the least popular character of any given Magical Girlfriend series is usually the Unlucky Everydude in the middle. This is usually intentional, as the idea of the Magical Girlfriend as Wish Fulfillment seems to mandate that he be as transparent as possible so to make it easier for the audience members to see themselves in his place. Arguably good for the viewer, but the poor boy as a character tends to suffer greatly for it.
- Official Couple: Yes, this is arguably the most important part of the series. That's why it's a Pitfall. The problem of the Official Couple is twofold: Pace and Choice.
- The Problem with Pacing is the amount of time between the moment when the affection between the members of the Official Couple become mutual, and the end of the series. Most series make this happen way too early, and spend the rest of the series trying to dance around the inevitable resolution that will bring the series to an end. People can only take so much of them Not Spitting It Out, or him trying to not make a choice while making it look like he's still deciding.
- The Challenge of the Choice is when there are other members of the Unwanted Harem who also have romantic designs on the hero. Once the Hero's choice becomes obvious, any hints of the other potential mates is just screwing with the fans' hearts, and tends to foster "dissatisfaction" with the Official Couple (then again, confirmation itself can do that).
- Purity Sue / Tsundere Sue: In terms of the girlfriend(s) there is also quite a bit to be careful of when it comes to characterizing them. Given the nature of the series there will be elements of wish fulfillment in any girl who's introduced, but there's a fine line between catering to that and making her have no character otherwise. If she's too perfect she'll quickly gain the ire of the fans (especially the female ones) but if she's too Tsundere, violent, or is constantly belittling the guy she'll gain little sympathy and fans will start to wonder what anyone might see in her. The trick here seems to be balancing her positive and negative traits so she actually has dimension and is still likable.
- Being that the Unlucky Everydude tends to be an Audience Surrogate, how about lessening up on the This Loser Is You factor? Another reason for the hatred of this character type is the magnification of the audience's own flaws, which is not only insulting, but also makes the audience wonder what the hell the girl(s) sees in him. Instead of a schlub who blunders into this extraordinary luck, try to make him more of a Diamond in the Rough-type who has his qualities (not only redeeming ones, but exceptional too) brought out by the girl(s) through love, encouragement, and genuine Character Development. Not only does this subvert the trope, but it also brings about a nice Aesop about bringing out the best in yourself.
- Instead of the hero being utterly clueless about the girls' crush(es) on him, how about having him actually try to work out some of his feelings about how he loves the girls and in what way, then try to deal with it directly and honestly.
- Develop the relationship of the Official Couple. Love doesn't end with the First Kiss. Few series' will go all the way past the declaration of love and into dating, temptation (past Male Gaze, Accidental Pervert and the like, we mean), marriage (especially considering the complications of the Girlfriend's nature) and children (again, plenty of complications there). Many fanfictions have done pretty well exploring the joy and pain that comes after "I Love You."
- You could always end up shocking the fanbase by having the hero reject the Magical Girlfriend for a mundane haremette. It sounds like a great idea in the story! ...Too bad the fandom won't take it well, with inevitable cries of blasphemy and Die for Our Ship. But doesn't it sound cool...?
- This has actually happened from time to time. No, they're usually not very happy about them.
- Make the Magical Girlfriend utterly psychotic and incredibly violent, with MAYBE a reason to feel sympathy for her. Elfen Lied pulled this off magnificently with Lucy, and actually turned her into a sympathetic character over the last few episodes.
- Try it without the harem. Stick with just the one girl. That ought to throw people for a loop.
- What about making all the haremettes "magical", either in the same way (they're all goddesses, robots, etc.) or different ways (you've got the witch, the elf, the shapeshifting water blob...)?
- Or hey -- make your protagonist a female and have the story be Girls Love instead. How often has that been done before?
- Or make them both guys and make it a Boys Love series!
- We mentioned Fish Out of Water already, but how about taking it Up to Eleven by giving the girl some Blue and Orange Morality? This can mix especially well if you plan to create an Anti Heroic (or worse) Magical Girlfriend, but still want to portray her as innocent.
- In the Subversions section above, we mentioned a possible theme of "Love brings out the best in you," which is uncharted territory for the most part. "Love is never easy" is a common theme, whether it's intentional or not.
- Act or be lost: A possibility within a harem is what happens when one of the girls gets tired of waiting, or finds someone else that captures her interest before the hero makes his choice. What happens when a girl has had it with the hero's indecisiveness and walks away from the mess. Many heroes don't make a choice because they may be afraid of losing the friendship of the other girls. What happens when you lose it anyway?
- The plot that always seems to turn up in these series is the repossession attempt. The Magical Girlfriend is "defective" or a runaway, refugee or criminal and someone shows up to try to take her back by hook or crook. This is a safe pretext for action scenes.
- The other standard plot is the appearance of a romantic rival. This can be more difficult than the repo people since it usually can't be resolved by mere superhuman violence. Sometimes it turns into the seed for a harem or a Love Dodecahedron.
Except with robot girlfriends, a strong separation needs to be made from the bizarre and fantastic world the girlfriend come from and the mundane suburban setting she now finds herself in. Usually there will be an academic institution and relatively large (by Japanese standards) home where most of the action takes place.
- Ah! My Goddess is one of the classics of the genre, which avoids most of the classic pitfalls. Keiichi is an Unlucky Everydude, but he's not a complete loser, Belldandy is a Yamato Nadeshiko goddess but not without depth, the progress of their relationship is sweet and believable (albeit EXTREMELY slow), and the plot doesn't solely focus on their relationship, although that's a big part of it.