Apparently everyone’s been waiting years for this article, but if this was released earlier, not much would’ve changed; The Magical Girl genre -as a whole- has been rather “stagnant” within the 2010’s, with all of it’s reboots, and sequels, and other things. In this analysis, the influence of Crime Does Not Pay that’s slowly seeping it’s way into the genre will be looked at with a critical eye, and plenty of appreciation of it’s brilliance.
Crime Does Not Pay is a theatrical crime-genre series of short films by MGM that ran in theatres from 1935 to 1947. The Crime Does Not Pay series revolves around one-off short stories starring police officers, detectives, and criminal justice workers of all kinds solving the crimes surrounding them. It also had a spin-off radio show that ran from 1949 to 1951, and a crime-genre comic series by Lev Gleason Publications that -while both have the same title- are not actually related.
However, -as the writer of this article doesn’t own the “COMPLETE SHORTS COLLECTION” and also wasn’t able to find any of the films on the internet aside from Don’t Talk, a WWII-Propaganda piece about industrial espionage and defense manufacturing- most of the information regarding Crime Does Not Pay used in this analysis had to come from the radio dramas based on MGM’s films, and assorted IMDB articles.
As far as Crime Does Not Pay‘s influence on the magical girl anime genre goes, it wasn’t always there. While their worlds still have cops and other law enforcement, traditional crime series elements ended up taking a backseat to the sparkles, teamwork, occasional romance, and threats too huge for many criminal justice fields to even deal with, let alone defeat: That’s where the magical girls come in after all. It would take years before Crime Does Not Pay would ever influenced their genre.
Enter the early 2000’s, the very end of the “classic” era and the very beginning of the “Modern” era. After Sailor Moon ended in 1997, Toei Animation had been going through new magical girl series on a regular basis; At one point, they demanded an anime producer by the name of Washio Takashi to make a series for them, as they needed something to fill another show’s soon-to-be-empty time slot. However, there was problem; Washio Takashi wasn’t familiar with any “shoujo” genres, let alone the *~Mahou~* Shoujo genre.
Hoping to solve his writer’s block, Takashi watched a few episodes of his favorite classic crime series, Crime Does Not Pay for inspiration: As the daunting tales of detectives and crimes filled his head, he decided to bring a lot of elements from the show into his and
Toei Animation’s Izumi Todo’s newest magical girl show; Futari wa Pretty Cure.
Futari wa Pretty Cure ended up premiering on TV Asahi in February 1, 2004. (Even though the show looks an entire decade older than it actually is.) The anime stars two girls: Nagisa Misumi, and Honoka “The Queen of Knowledge” Yukishiro. Nagisa, -like a true crime detective- doesn’t play by the rules, but by a sense of justice; She hates that innocent people get hurt for things they had nothing to do with.
Honoka, on the other hand, is a member of the chemistry club, therefore making her a professional chemist not unlike how many of the crime solvers in Crimes Do Not Pay are professionals at their jobs.
After finding two talking cellphone critters, and becoming magical girls as a result, Nagisa and Honoka use their newfound powers and friendship -as Cure Black and Cure White respectively- to stop evil such as brutes, card-counters, and card-counting brutes.
Similarly to Crime Does Not Pay, there’s thrilling action sequences that show up deep into Futari Wa Pretty Cure‘s episodes. Unlike Crime Does Not Play, though, they don’t use guns and punch people: Instead, they turn into magical girls, and punch people. (They even punch/kick people more than they use stock footage attacks.)
In the end, justice wins every time: The crimes get solved, and Nagisa and Honoka -like Crime Does Not Pay‘s narrators- reflect on the mysteries of the human psyche and the crimes surrounding them.
Futari wa Pretty Cure ended up being a massive success, spawning not only a direct sequel and two movies, but countless spin-off seasons as well, each detailing the lives of various different teams like the original Crime Does Not Pay does with it’s crime solvers with each new short film; One film it would’ve been police inspectors, another would have FBI agents. Precure (the abbreviation for the franchise as whole) seasons past Futari wa Pretty Cure work much the same way; One season you’d have a chemist like Honoka, but another season you’d have a character like Splash Star‘s artist, Mai Mishou, instead. While the amount of Crime Does Not Pay‘s influence varies from installment to installment of the franchise, sometimes it gets even more obvious than it was in Futari wa Pretty Cure itself.
A good example would be from the tenth anniversary season, 2014’s Happiness Charge Pretty Cure, which makes its influences incredibly obvious through it’s use of “Precards”; Not only dues it reference Futari wa Pretty Cure‘s similar (but unnamed) cards, but some of the cards, -such as the detective or police Precards- are references to the original Crime Does Not Pay series itself. (Complete with being able to be used by the non-magical forms of the protagonists, for that nice, classic crime fiction feel!) Conveniently, there’s clips of these forms already posted on YouTube, so here they are for the sake of evidence.
However, many modern-day magical girl shows (especially those from during the 2010’s) chose to follow in Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s footsteps instead in being gritty and dark, choosing to revel in the dark themes of shows prior except on an even huger scale than shows like Sailor Moon had ever done. And as we all know, edgy shows/comics/other works -magical girl genre or otherwise- don’t look highly on law enforcement, and it would be highly unlikely that these shows would take influence from classic crime fiction such as the short films of Crime Does Not Pay. (Which were initially made to stop the influence of 1930’s gangster films, the “edgy” works of it’s time.)
…Well, that, and there’s virtually no results for “magical girl police” or “magical girl detective” online, modern-era shows or otherwise; That means no shows are taking OBVIOUS influence from Crime Does Not Pay either. This, however, leaves the question of whether or not modern Magical Girl shows will continue to take influence from Crime Does Not Pay after the genre gets over it’s Hot Topic phase: Will the genre get its own equivalent of Crime Does Not Pay to combat it’s Public Enemies and Scarfaces? Only time will tell at this point. (But I sure hope Crime Does Not Pay‘s legacy in the magical girl genre will be able to continue, especially as it’s arrived fairly “late” in the grand scheme of things.)