Shugo Chara! (しゅごキャラ! Shugo Kyara!?), also known as My Guardian Characters, is a Japanese shōjo manga series created by the manga author duo, Peach-Pit. The story centers on elementary school girl Amu Hinamori, whose popular exterior, referred to as "cool and spicy" by her classmates, contrasts with her introverted personality. When Amu wishes for the courage to be reborn as her would-be self, she is surprised to find three colorful eggs the next morning, which hatch into three Guardian Characters: Ran, Miki, and Su.
Shugo Chara! is serialized in the magazine Nakayoshi and published by Kodansha in Japan. Del Rey has licensed the English language manga rights, releasing the first volume on March 27, 2007. It won the 2008 Kodansha Manga Award for best children's manga.
Shugo Chara! has also been adapted into a fifty-one episode anime television series of the same title produced by Satelight under the direction of Kenji Yasuda and debuted on October 6, 2007 on TV Tokyo. On July 20, 2008, Anime News Network reported that the Shugo Chara! anime would be continued for a second year under the title Shugo Chara!! Doki—, the first episode airing on October 10, 2008; the official anime website later announced an October 4, 2008 start date.
On October 3, 2009, Shugo Chara! began featuring another series. The new program, Shugo Chara Party! containing Shugo Chara!!! Dokki Doki and Shugo Chara Pucchi Puchi! follow the current anime series as its power-up. The last episode aired on March 26, 2010.
The heroine of the story, Amu Hinamori, is a student at Seiyo Elementary. At first glance, her classmates refer to her as "cool and spicy" and rumors speculate about her personal life. However, her real personality is that of a very shy girl who has trouble showing her true personality. One night, Amu wishes for the courage to show her "would-be" self, and the next morning finds three brightly colored eggs—red, blue, and green—in her bed. At first, she is alarmed, but realizes she must have really wished to change. These eggs hatch into three Guardian Characters: Ran, Miki, and Su. The Guardian Characters aid Amu in discovering who she truly is and help fulfill Amu's dreams. Amu's life becomes much more complex as she struggles to deal with her "would-be" selves and the Seiyo Elementary's Guardians, who recruit Amu as the Joker to search for X Eggs and X Characters, the corrupted forms of people's dreams.
Meanwhile, the Easter Company is extracting people's eggs in search of a special egg called the Embryo. The Embryo is believed to grant any wish to the one who possesses it. However, the process creates X Eggs and X Characters. It is described as an all white egg while normal heart's eggs have a yellow heart and yellow wings on it.
Later on in the series a fourth (yellow) egg is born, this egg contains the Guardian Character Diamond of Hinamori Amu's set. She is only seen a few times in the series. However due to Amu's mixed feelings she becomes an x character, until about halfway to the end, where she was purified of the X on her, and then would appear in times of heavy crisis.
The main heroine of the story is Amu Hinamori, a popular girl who is actually insecure. Peach-Pit uses Amu to explore differences between one's true self and the self that is presented to others. Like Jun Sakurada in Peach-Pit's previous work, Rozen Maiden, Amu tackles issues such as alienation and fitting in at school. Unlike most heroines in other magical girl series, Amu is neither the perfect sweetheart nor a complete klutz. Amu gets grumpy and frequently talks back to others in contrast to the polite schoolgirls that fill the genre.
Amu's Guardian Characters—Ran, Miki, Su, and Dia—aid her in her quest of self-discovery. Each Guardian Character represents an aspect of Amu's true self. Ran represents Amu's desire to be more honest and athletic, Miki represents Amu's desire to be more level headed and artistic, Su represents Amu's desire to be more caring and improve her domestic skills, while Dia represents Amu's desire to shine in front of others and be a good speaker and singer. Moreover, the Character Guardians are more than mere mascots who help Amu learn about her true self. They can also perform a "Character Change" where Amu's personality is replaced by an entirely different one.
However, Amu is not the only one with Guardian Characters. Each of the Guardians—Tadase Hotori, Nadeshiko (Nagihiko) Fujisaki, Kukai Soma, and Yaya Yuiki—have their own Guardian Characters. Amu also encounters Ikuto Tsukiyomi and Utau Hoshina (Tsukiyomi), two siblings who also have Guardian Characters and are employed by the Easter Company to search for the Embryo. As the series continues, Utau and Ikuto become extremely close friends with Amu.
Eventually, Nadeshiko Fujisaki and Kukai Souma leave the Guardians and are replaced by Rima Mashiro and Kairi Sanjo respectively. Kairi later leaves and is replaced by Nagihiko Fujisaki, Nadeshiko's real identity, as the third Jack's chair, with his new Guardian Character, Rhythm. Later in the series, Nagihiko once again faces Temari his former Shugo Chara before Rhythm.
In December 2005, Peach Pit announced that they were working on a new shōjo manga series called Shugo Chara! The first chapter was published in the February 2006 edition of Nakayoshi magazine. The first volume collection was then republished in July 6, 2006 by Nakayoshi publisher Kodansha. In addition to the regular volumes, the series is being released in limited editions in Japan, each of which include different cover art from the regular editions, metallic foil sleeves, and a set of postcards featuring Amu in various outfits and poses following the color theme of the dust jackets. Del Rey Manga announced that it acquired the English language rights to Shugo Chara! during MangaNEXT 2006 and released the first volume on March 27, 2007.
The series was put on hiatus along with two other series, Rozen Maiden and Zombie-Loan, in December 2008 due to a sudden illness and hospitalization. One month later, Peach-Pit announced that all three series will resume and thanked their fans for the support during the illness.
There is a spin off manga series called Shugo Chara Chan!, featuring drawings by Mizushima Naftaren, which is in yonkoma (4-panel) comics style and focuses on Amu's guardians. Currently there are three volumes. There is no special edition version of the spin off series.
The January issue of Kodansha's Nakayoshi magazine confirmed on December 1, 2009 that Peach-Pit would be ending the Shugo Chara! manga in the next issue on December 28. A sequel series was later announced, titled Shugo Chara! Encore!, and began in the April 2010 issue of Nakayoshi. 
Shugo Chara! was adapted into an anime television series of the same title in 2007. The television series is produced by Satelight under the direction of Kenji Yasuda and was first broadcast on the Japanese network, TV Tokyo. Consisting of fifty-one episodes, the first episode, "A Guardian Character is Born!" (しゅごキャラ誕生! Shugo Kyara Tanjō!?), aired on October 6, 2007. The episodes are rebroadcast by five other networks within a few days after the initial broadcast on TV Tokyo.
Six pieces of theme music by the J-pop group Buono! are used for the first season—two opening themes and four closing themes. The opening theme for the first twenty-six episodes is "Egg of the Heart" (こころのたまご Kokoro no Tamago?); and the last twenty-five episodes, "I Love Everyone" (みんなだいすき Minna Daisuki?). The closing theme for the first twelve episodes is "True Self" (ホントのじぶん Honto no Jibun?); episodes thirteen to twenty-six, "Love Rider" (恋愛 ライダー Ren'ai Raidā?); episodes twenty-seven to thirty-nine, "Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!"; and the last twelve episodes, "Compete And Go!" (ガチンコでいこう! Gachinko de Ikō!?). There are also four insert songs, all sung by Nana Mizuki: "Meikyū Butterfly", first sung in episode 12; "Black Diamond", first in episode 39; "Heartful Song", first in episode 47; and "Taiyou ga Niau yo", first in episode 93.
A second year of episodes, under the title Shugo Chara!! Doki— (しゅごキャラ!!どきっ?), began airing the week after the fifty-first episode, on October 4, 2008; previously, Anime News Network reported that it was scheduled for October 10, 2008 on AT-X. Two opening themes sung by Shugo Chara Egg! and another two by Guardians 4 have been used; the opening theme for the first twelve episodes is "Everyone's Egg" (みんなのたまご Minna no Tamago?); the second is "Guardian Guardian!" (しゅごしゅご! Shugo Shugo!?), used in episodes sixty-five to episode seventy-six; and the third opening is "Leave it to the♪Guardians" (おまかせ がーデイアン Omakase♪Guardian?), by Guardians 4. The fourth and final opening is "School Days" sung by Guardians 4. The ending theme is "Lotta Love Lotta Love" (ロッタラ ロッタラ Rottara Rottara?) by Buono!. A second ending theme, "This Road" (co·no·mi·chi?), also by Buono!, took its place from episode 69 to 76. The third ending, "MY BOY", also sung by Buono!, started showing from episode 77 to 89. The fourth ending theme is called "Take it Easy!", also sung by Buono!, took its place from episode 90 and onwards. The opening theme for the Shugo Chara!!! Dokki Doki segment is "Watashi no Tamago" (My Egg) performed by Shugo Chara! Egg, while the opening for Shugo Chara! Party itself is "Party Time!" by Guardians 4. The first ending is "Bravo! Bravo!" performed by Buono!.
On August 25, 2009, Anime News Network reported that a new series will premiere in Japan, October 3. The new series titled Shugo Chara Party! featuring anime and live-action segments will contain the Anime Shugo Chara!!! Dokki Doki, the "power-up" of the ongoing Shugo Chara!! Doki— anime as it's main segment and Shugo Chara Pucchi Puchi!, anime shorts starring Ran, Miki, Su, and Diamond. Director Kenji Yasuda is announced to continue to oversee both Shugo Chara!!! Dokki Doki and Shugo Chara Pucchi Puchi!.
A musical for Shugo Chara! played in early 2009 and starred 14-year-old Yuuka Maeda, a member of Shugo Chara Egg! and S/mileage, as Amu. The rest of the members of Shugo Chara Egg! also appeared in the musical with minor roles. The DVD for the musical was released on October 23, 2009. 
Konami has released three video games, based on the manga, for the Nintendo DS. The first, titled Shugo Chara! Three Eggs and the Joker in Love! (しゅごキャラ!3つのたまごと恋するジョーカー Shugo Kyara! Mittsu no Tamago to Koisuru Jyōkā?), was released in Japan on March 13, 2008. The second game, titled Shugo Chara! Amu's Rainbow-Colored Character Change! (しゅごキャラ!あむのにじいろキャラチェンジ Shugo Kyara! Amu no Nijiiro Kyara Chenji?), was released in Japan on November 6, 2008. Two songs from the game, "Rainbow Colored Character Change!" (にじいろキャラチェンジ! Nijiiro Kyara Chenji!?) and "Greatest Love Power" (最強LOVE POWER Saikyō Love Power?), were released as a CD single on November 5, 2008. The third game, titled Shugo Chara! Norinori! Chara Na-rhythm♪ (しゅごキャラ！ ノリノリ！キャラなりズム♪ Shugo Chara! Norinori! Chara-Nari Zumu?), was released in Japan on August 6, 2009.
The Shugo Chara! manga has received positive reviews from English language critics. Phil Theobald, writing for Newtype USA, states that while the premise may be fairly complicated, "the clean art and solid storytelling by Peach-Pit make it easy to follow." Thobald goes on to say that Shugo Chara! is "an interesting and humorous spin on the classic 'magical girl' genre."
Carlo Santos, writing for Anime News Network, states, "The best thing since Sugar Sugar Rune? Maybe not ... but it's damn close." In a later review, Santos compares Shugo Chara! to Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon, adding, "it addresses the complexities of the human psyche, from joke characters like the fortune-teller who doesn't trust her own abilities, to Nikaidou's own personal conflict over his childhood dreams."
Along with the positive reviews, Shugo Chara! was awarded the 2008 Kodansha Manga Award for best children's manga. The anime adaptation became one of the 10 most watched anime programs during the week of April 7–13, 2008, when its April 12 broadcast received an average household viewership rating of 4.2%. It later returned to the top 10 during the week of July 21–27, 2008, when its July 26 broadcast received an average rating of 4.1%.
The series was listed as being the 4th best-selling shojo manga property and the 14th best overall manga property in America for the first quarter of 2009. Jason Thompson felt that the manga focused on self-esteem, and that the artist's drawing skills carried the work.
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- Shugo Chara! official website by Peach-Pit (Japanese)
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- Anime official website (Japanese)
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- TV Tokyo Shugo Chara!! Doki— website (Japanese)
- TV Tokyo Shugo Chara! Party! website (Japanese)
- The official Shugo Chara! Takara-Tomy site (Japanese)
- The official Shugo Chara! Konami NDS game site (Japanese)
- "Shugo Chara Chan!" spin-off series (Japanese)
- Shugo Chara! (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
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