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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 each have a Guardian Character of their own. Later on,they recruit Amu as the "Joker" to search for X Eggs and X Characters, the corrupted forms of people's dreams, so the Guardians can purify their 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 named Diamond is born. Unlike Amu's other Guardian Characters, she is only seen a few times in the series. Due to Amu's mixed feelings before Diamond was born, she becomes an X character and is "stolen" by Utau Hoshina, who uses Diamond for her concerts planned by Easter. Later on, Diamond is purified and becomes a regular Guardian Character. She would 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 Diamond—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 Diamond 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 (her last name actually being 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 Guardian Character, before Rhythm.