What’s that, you say? You want to watch magical girl shows? For free? Legally?!
I am writing this post because holy crap, there is really a lot available these days, and anybody who doesn’t know should. Get this stuff while the getting’s good, ‘cause it might not last forever. This is probably not a full list of free, legal magical girl, but it’s the stuff I know of off the top of my head.
These really run the gamut. Please note that some may not be what you’re expecting if you’re only familiar with “magical warrior” type shows, and the Pierrot shows are also very dated. Furthermore, I can’t guarantee that these are all good shows, but still, they exist. I like *most* of them, and I can give specific recommendations if you want, but for now I’ll just summarize them.
Magical Angel Creamy Mami - A 10 year old named Yuu helps an alien back to his spaceship. In return, she’s given two cat-like companions and a wand that will change her into a 16 year old idol singer which Yuu dubs “Creamy Mami,” after her parents’ backery. Mami instantly becomes popular, but Yuu has to keep her identity a secret at all costs. A double life ensues as Yuu tries to keep her friends and family from finding out and Mami keeps a jealous rival singer and a seedy producer at bay. One of Pierrot’s four classic magical girl characters. (Sub only. Free registration required.)
Magical Idol Pastel Yumi - Yumi loves flowers so much that two flower fairies reward her for her dedication with a magic cane and pendant. Yumi also loves to draw, and these items make anything she draws come to life — for a brief time. Episodic hijinks ensue as Yumi tries to help people but, of course, frequently makes things worse before she makes them better. Note: not all of this series is uploaded, only 14/25 episodes. I don’t know if/when they’ll upload any more because the first box set wasn’t funded. Another of Pierrot’s four classic magical girls. (Sub only. Free registration required.)
Magic Knight Rayearth - Three girls from modern Japan are sucked into a fantasy world called Cephiro, where willpower can influence the very world. Princess Emeraude, called the Pillar of Cephiro, is responsible for keeping the world peaceful with her will, but she’s been kidnapped, and the world is crumbling into chaos without her. The three girls are the Magic Knights destined to save Cephiro. They must use magic spells, armor and swords that grow as their own wills strengthen, and finally, the Mashin, or Rune Gods — giant mechs. One of CLAMP’s classic magical girl series. (Sub and dub.)
Sailor Moon - You expected this one, right? Sailor Moon, the show that combined magical girl and sentai and rocketed the magical girl warrior to the spotlight, is finally available to stream. Though it hardly needs introduction… Usagi, a clumsy crybaby, rescues a cat with a crescent-shaped mark on her forehead — and it turns out the cat can talk. Usagi must become Sailor Moon to fight evil monsters, gather the rest of the sailor soldiers, and search for the moon princess. This is the original series. Crystal will be available on Hulu as well, though! (Sub only.)
Princess Tutu - A writer named Drosselmeyer died before he could finish his story, and the characters eventually spilled out into the real world. To stop the evil Raven, the Prince Mytho used his faithful sword to shatter his own heart, leaving himself an empty shell. A girl named Ahiru, or Duck, is given the power to restore Mytho’s emotions by Drosselmeyer… but nothing is simple in a story, and not everybody involved wants Mytho to regain his emotions. This is a unique, metafictional series with strong fairy tale and ballet motifs. (Dub only.)
Pretear - Himeno, a hotheaded sixteen year old, struggles to adjust to a life with her rich new stepmother and stepsisters. When she lands on a man named Hayate, they fight and get off to a bad start. However, Hayate is one of seven Leafe Knights in search of the princess Pretear. Himeno must become Pretear to defeat the demon larva of the Princess of Disaster. Pretear’s powers change depending on which knight she “prets,” or joins forces with. This one is a reverse harem as well as a reinterpretation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. (Full series is sub only. Two episodes of the dub.)
Futari wa Pretty Cure (We are Pretty Cure) - The series that launched the sprawling Precure franchise. I haven’t actually seen a lot of it though, so my summary will be lacking. >_> It seems to be lighthearted, straightforward magical warrior genre, with two magical girls teaming up to fight bad folks from the Dark Zone who are threatening the Garden of Light. (Sub only.)
Puella Magi Madoka Magica - Madoka has a strange dream — and meets Homura, the girl she dreamed of, in real life. Homura gives Madoka a cryptic warning. Soon, Madoka is approached by a strange white creature named Kyubey who asks her to make a contract and become a magical girl. If she does, Kyubey can grant any wish… but all is not as it seems. This show became popular due to its dark nature. It’s definitely not the first magical girl show with dark elements, however, which I note mainly for those who are just getting into the genre through Madoka and want more like it. (Sub only.)
Uta~Kata - Ichika’s cellphone charm disappears into a mirror, but another girl, Manatsu, appears and offers to return the charm in exchange for a favor. Manatsu emerges, and the charm now allows Ichika to transform and use the power of spirits called Djinn, which she uses at first to protect herself from danger. This is actually another show known for being dark due to certain themes it deals with, such as abuse and eating disorders, but I haven’t seen much of it yet myself. (Sub only.)
Magical Play - Many girls compete to become the queen of Sweetland by fighting magical duels. The girl who fills her stamp card will become a true magical girl and the queen. An airheaded girl named Padudu falls in with the angry Pippin Lacippe and the two-faced Myumyu Pisterica, while the current queen of Sweetland attempts to thwart them through her useless henchman. Parody series. Very fast-paced and bizarre with a lot of obscure references. I find it hilarious, but it’s definitely not for everyone. :P (Sub only, but I think the dub is on Hulu if you want it.)