[The following is the script of episode 3 of the Mahou Profile series, viewable on YouTube here. This post to be updated with an accurate video transcript with citations in the future.]
Hey there all and welcome to Mahou Profile: A History of Magical Girls! I’m your host, ErynCerise, and… man, there are a lot of images that come to mind when someone says “magical girl”: wands, frilly outfits, lockets, ribbons, animal sidekicks, rainbow laser beams, creepy sexual undertones… Uhhh… Hnn, uh, th– well, okay, let’s put a pin in that last one for later videos maybe…
Um. Anyway! I would argue that if there is one specifically magical girl thing that has propagated in wider pop culture, it’s this: transformation sequences. When other works visually reference or parody magical girl anime, the reference that ends up getting used more often than not is that of a transformation, usually based on Sailor Moon’s iconic transformation from ordinary high school girl to superpowered fighter in a cute outfit.
[clip from Right Now Kapow: A magical girl goes through a stereotypically long and elaborate transformation sequence. Two other characters, Dog and Moon, stand by waiting for her to finish as villain-driven chaos goes on around them.
Dog: Is she done yet?
Moon: I can’t even a little bit tell what’s happening.]
While transformation in magical girl anime hasn’t always been quite like we see it in Sailor Moon, it has been around since the genre’s inception in some form or another. We see a bit of it in Sally the Witch, mostly in that Sally can change her clothes with magic. We even see a bit as far back as Tale of the White Serpent, with Bai-Niang and Xiaoqing transforming from animal to human and back a couple of times. But the first “proper” magical girl transformation? One that can be done and undone at will, uses a specific magic phrase, and requires a special magic item to channel power? That would undoubtedly belong to Atsuko Kagami, the heroine of the anime and manga Himitsu no Akko-chan (a.k.a.: Akko-chan’s Got a Secret!).
Atsuko, or “Akko” for short, is an elementary school student living with her mother in Tokyo. Her story, at least in the anime, begins the day her favourite hand mirror is broken (it happened off-screen but trust me, it did). Akko loves this mirror so much that, rather than throw it out, she makes a grave for it in her backyard. Then later that night, the spirit of the mirror rises from the grave and thanks Akko for her kindness, explaining that mirrors treasured by humans become stars in the sky. As the spirit says their farewell and ascends to the heavens, they send Akko a compact mirror with an inscription inside reading: [Akko reads aloud in clip] “Tekumaku mayakon”. By reciting this phrase in front of the compact, Akko is able to transform into any person or animal she wants, and can transform back with the words… [Akko calls out in clip] “Lamipus lamipus lu lu lu lu lu”. The spirit of the mirror makes Akko promise to keep all of this secret and makes it so that the transformation spell only works if no other humans are watching.
Akko initially uses her new power for selfish acts (which we’ll get into the details of in a bit), but eventually she begins using it to help others out with their problems, showing the audience that while she is still a kid with natural selfish kid desires, she is ultimately a compassionate and heroic person at heart. From there, most of the series goes on in an episodic format, with Akko solving problems and learning life lessons through the people she meets and the forms she takes on.
Along for the ride is a lively cast of supporting characters, mostly consisting of other kids from Akko’s school. There’s Akko’s best friend, Moko, who is similar to Yoshiko from Sally the Witch in both looks, personality, and love of green shirts. We also have Kankichi, Moko’s bratty little brother; Chikako, the delightfully devious neighbourhood snitch; and Ganmo, a boy from a tofu-selling family who always dresses in traditional clothing.
The most memorable supporting character, though, has got to be Taisho: a heavyset boy in Akko’s class who cares little about schoolwork and would rather just play all day. He fills the bully role of the series, teasing Akko and company with his gang of friends and ruining their fun as it suits him. However, he does have some morals, too: he’ll sometimes help Akko and friends out with a problem if it’s something really important, or something they’ll both benefit from. Later in the series, he and Akko are even on friendly enough terms that they’ll just hang out together like it’s always been that way. Heck, they even go to space together at one point! …Well, okay, that episode was just a dream, but still.
The supporting cast is rounded out by a few adult characters, including Akko’s teachers Mr. Sato and Ms. Moriyama; Akko’s stay-at-home mom; and her dad, a ship’s captain who is not often home. There are also a couple of other characters that run in Taisho’s circles, including his younger brother Shosho (who is a baby/toddler and yet speaks perfect Japanese for some reason) as well as his cat Dora, who has a crush on Akko’s cat, Shippona. And… oh my god, I have some words about the cats in this series, but that’s a tangent I’ll save for a little later.
Okay, so! Plot and characters out of the way: do you want to see it? Do you want to see the very first magical girl transformation sequence in history? Yeah?! Okay! Get hyped! ‘cause here it is! Magical mirror powers ACTIVATE!
[clip: Akko’s transformation from child to princess is a short wipe from one form to the other framed within the compact mirror]
Ooo… fancy…? Yeah no, it’s pretty underwhelming as magical girl transformations go. Even Sally’s simple clothing dissolve is a bit smoother than this… awkward wipe thing.
Still, don’t be too quick to write it off. This was the 60’s after all and this style of anime was still in its infancy, so cut the animators some slack.
And besides that, while it may be simple, this short sequence of Akko transforming in front of her compact still represents the core fantasy of the show: being able to become someone or something else, just like that. It’s a fantasy that can appeal to just about anyone — kids wishing to be adults, adults wishing to look like models or celebrities, animal lovers wishing to be their favourite creatures for a while. This core concept is a big part of why the Akko-chan franchise has lasted for decades, and why so many other magical girl series incorporate transformation in some form or another.
In a 2014 poll of adult career women in Japan, Himitsu no Akko-chan was voted the second most popular magical girl anime of all time, ahead of Sally the Witch at #3, and just behind Kiki’s Delivery Service at #1. Quoting from the Crunchyroll article about this poll: “A 30-year-old government clerk commented that she remembers wanting the ability to transform like the heroine, while a 31-year-old IT work[er] recalled loving the magic words like ‘tekumaku mayakon’”.1 This stuff really affected girls all across Japan. Like I said last episode, power fantasies for girls can really be, well, powerful.
So yeah. Keep all that in mind when looking at this series. It may look old and slow and janky, but what it represents to the people who grew up with it and the many works it would inspire is not to be taken lightly.
Alright, so, before I talk more about the anime, let’s go back to the origins of the story for a bit. Last episode I introduced Fujio Akatsuka, the creator of the Akko-chan manga. Again, this manga predates Sally the Witch by a good four years or so, technically making Akko the first magical girl. However, because Sally was quicker to the punch in getting animated, and because most people (including myself) tend to talk anime when they talk magical girls, Sally still tends to get listed first in standard magical girl chronologies, hence why I did my Sally episode before I did this one.
Anyway, yes, manga. The first run of the Akko-chan manga also begins on the day Akko’s favourite mirror breaks, this time by way of a stray baseball throw. However, this version of Akko doesn’t make a grave for her mirror as she does in the anime. Instead, she gets angry, picks up the baseball, and lobs it back out the window, accidentally beaning a passerby in the head. After Akko apologizes for the head trauma and explains why she’s upset, the passerby introduces himself as a “Man from the Mirror Kingdom” and conveniently presents her with a new full-sized mirror as a replacement. Again, this mirror grants her the power to transform into anyone she wants, but only so long as she keeps the power secret. It’s a little less momentous than it is in the anime, but still: sweet deal!
From there the manga is fairly similar in tone to the anime, with the main difference being that the size of the mirror makes things understandably awkward. Not exactly the kind of thing you can easily sneak around to places when you’re eight. Apparently later in the run, the large mirror breaks and the mysterious man returns to gift Akko with a compact like the one in the anime. Practicality wins the day even in the Mirror Kingdom, it seems.
The first Akko-chan series ran in Ribon magazine until September 1965.2 It was a massive hit and its popularity only increased after the anime started airing in January 1969. The manga went through several subsequent runs during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s — some produced to run in conjunction with anime, others as special one-offs or series printed for elementary learning magazines.3 As of this recording, the most recent version is a currently ongoing web manga called Himitsu no Akko-chan µ (which I’m sure is… aµsing to those of you who got into my channel through Love Live). The current manga obviously isn’t by Akatsuka, since he passed away in 2008, but it’s still nice to see the series continuing in some form to this day. Also, fun side note: the current manga is done by Futago Kamikita, a pair of twin sister artists best known for their work on the Pretty Cure manga! Nice! Way to keep it in the magical girl family!
Anyway, even considering the success of the Akko-chan manga, Akatsuka is famous for far, far more than that. While he got his start doing girls’ manga, he is much better known as a master of gag manga, depicting everyday Japanese life with a sense of absurdity and wackiness that’s hard not to smile at. He created so much beloved work in his lifetime that, like his contemporary Osamu Tezuka, it’s hard to fathom how one man could even produce it all (hint: the man had a solid system of assistants and production processes to help him along).
Also like Tezuka, Akatsuka utilized a “star system”, meaning he had a stable of recognizable characters that he liked to “cast” across all his works, much like a director would with their favourite actors. This helped tie all his works together more and cemented his characters and jokes in the minds of Japanese readers for decades to follow. Akko herself was no exception to this star system either: her character design was also used for the character Totoko from one of Akatsuka’s other famous works, Osomatsu-kun. If you’ve seen the modern sequel/reimagining Osomatsu-san, you know her as the love interest of the Matsuno brothers who wants to be a fish-themed idol. [clip of Totoko] What can I say? It’s never been clear if Akko and Totoko are supposed to be separate entities or just a single person playing multiple roles in the star system. Still, either way: it’s neat to see his system at work even to this day! If you think you’ve never seen Akko-chan before, but you have seen Osomatsu-san, then technically you kind of have seen her and just never knew it! Coolness!
I could easily write a whole episode about Akatsuka, so I won’t go into much more detail on him here. For now, let’s move on and talk a bit more about the Akko-chan anime. When I say this show came after Sally the Witch, I mean right after. Both series were produced by our old friends at Toei, and Akko-chan took over Sally’s timeslot as soon as that series finished. I could only find a still image of it, but it looks like the broadcast version of Sally’s last episode even included a short segment at the end where Sally introduced her “new friend” Akko, so that kids would know to expect a different show the next week.
With a connection that close, one can’t help but draw comparisons between the two shows. I’ll try not to lean too heavily on the comparisons, since a TV series should be able to stand up on its own merits. However, I do want to at least compare the main characters. Remember how I described Sally as sometimes mischievous but largely a role model type? Akko is interesting in that kids can learn lessons by watching her… but usually it’s by watching her do something wrong and learning from her mistakes. Differences like this in how viewers relate to the characters are typical of two broad magical girl archetypes we’ll be seeing a lot of from here on out.
Starting with Sally: she comes from a life of magical privilege. She is born into magic, born into wealth, born into being an heiress to a kingdom, and her story — to the extent that there is an ongoing story — is one of her maturing into her privileged position through her experiences on Earth. She has flaws and struggles to overcome, yes, but overall young viewers are meant to look up to her and fantasize about having her stupidly cool and magical life. As well, like I explained last episode, her outside perspective is often used to reframe aspects of everyday life and make the viewer think about them in new and interesting ways.
All of this sets up what some fans call the “Sally” archetype for magical girls. For clarity’s sake, I’m going to call it the “Magical Princess” or “Magical Outsider” archetype. We see this kind of princess figure again and again throughout the history of magical girls, especially in the earlier days of the genre. Examples include shows like Megu-chan, Lalabel, Minky Momo, Persia, Shamanic Princess, Mermaid Melody, and even western magical girl shows such as Star vs. the Forces of Evil. [clip: “I’m a maaaagical princess from another dimension~!”]
By contrast, Akko is just a normal Japanese kid. A bit privileged, sure — her house is big by Japanese standards — but compared to Sally, she could be any random schoolchild running down the street. And like most schoolchildren, Akko often doesn’t know what to do when trouble starts. She makes mistakes, says things she doesn’t mean, gets impatient, throws tantrums, plays pranks on people who have been mean to her, cries when she doesn’t know how to handle things, and sometimes stumbles into solutions through sheer force of will rather than doing anything clever. Again, Sally did some of these things sometimes too, but we see it with Akko far more consistently and from a perspective the intended audience is more familiar with. This emphasis on fallibility and lack of magical privilege helps set another — and much more common — magical girl archetype. Again, I’ve seen it just called the “Akko” type, but in this series, I’ll call it the “Homegrown Heroine” type. These magical girls are not born with powers (or if they are, they never realize they have them until they’re older), and they almost always rely on gifted or found items to perform their magic. Magical Princesses like Sally are more fantastical, awe-inspiring figures overall, while Homegrown Heroines like Akko tend to be more relatable since they’re regular humans with regular human problems in addition to being magical girls. Probably why Homegrown Heroines have outpaced most Magical Princesses in popularity by this point, to be honest.
We can see Akko’s flaws on full display in the first episode of the anime. Immediately after getting the hang of her powers, you know what her first instinct is? She transforms into her father, approaches her mother and says: “Oh! Hi honey! Golly, I know it’s been such a long time since I was last home, but I just dropped by to say that I think we should raise Akko’s allowance, starting right now. Sound good? Yes? Okay good! No time to talk now sweetiebuns gotta head back out to sea, hope you give our amazing and wonderful daughter the allowance she deserves byyyye~” Then Akko transforms back to herself, leaving her mother wondering whether or not she hallucinated the whole exchange. Way to go, Akko. Way to put your poor mother into shock and emotionally manipulate her with the face of the man she loves because you wanted a few extra yen per week. Outstanding.
It gets better, too. The next day, Akko starts out doing something that’s seemingly helpful, transforming into Ms. Moriyama to discourage Taisho from teasing Moko. However, while transformed, Akko runs into Mr. Sato, who tells her that he has a pop quiz planned for his class that day. Akko takes advantage of this knowledge and tells her classmates back at school about it. Then she transforms back into Ms. Moriyama in the hopes of getting her hands on the quiz answers. Our heroine, everyone! Saving the day by cheating on tests!
Where things get really fun is when Akko loses her magic compact, meaning she can’t transform back until she finds it. Cue madcap chase around the schoolgrounds looking for the compact while keeping up the Ms. Moriyama act and also trying to avoid the real Ms. Moriyama. On top of that, Taisho seems to have a bit of a crush on Ms. Moriyama, and so he orders all his minions and the neighbourhood cats to get “Ms. Moriyama”’s missing compact. Needless to say, hijinks ensue. [short montage of clips with Benny Hill-esque music] Man, this kind of thing is actually kind of great to see, because at least in western TV shows and cartoons of this vintage, you don’t often get to see major female characters participating this fully in the slapstick. It holds up pretty well, to be honest!
After all that though, Akko still can’t find her compact, and thus she is faced with the possibility that she might actually be stuck in this body forever. This is a surprisingly effective moment of horror as the implications of this hit both Akko and the viewer. Where would she live? How would she eat? How would she get a job with the real Ms. Moriyama still out there? Heck, even if Moriyama weren’t an issue, Akko hasn’t even finished primary school yet. Not exactly great for interacting with the adult world in any meaningful way. If Akko stayed like this, she would essentially be robbed of her childhood, which is rightfully treated as a horrifying prospect. We get a nice melodramatic sequence of Akko-as-Moriyama wandering around town at night as her family and friends start to worry about her and make calls to the police, driving home the seriousness of the situation.
Of course, we wouldn’t have a series if this didn’t resolve itself, and eventually Akko does find the compact. The band of cats found it earlier, and Tora is trying to use it as a gift to woo Shippona. And… okay, these cats, man. Can I do my cat tangent now? In addition to the plot I just described, a decent chunk of the first episode is devoted to this cat gang trying to help Tora score with Shippona. Like… a really decent chunk. And that’s in addition to the slapstick bits at the school I mentioned. There are also multiple subsequent episodes that are focused almost entirely around cat antics, including episode 9, where we see things from the cats’ perspective and hear them speak in human language to each other. [clip from the episode in question] What I’m saying is that these cats are not a small part of the show. If you want to watch Himitsu no Akko-chan, then I really hope you like cartoon cat shenanigans, because by god has this show has got you covered.
Anyway, Akko gets the compact, changes back to normal, and then runs back crying to her poor mother (who’s suffered emotional shock twice in one day now). It’s a sweet moment and wraps up an episode that’s emblematic of the series as a whole: wacky and outlandish in the way that Akatsuka is best known for, but also emotional and melodramatic in just the right amounts. It’s no wonder this show struck a chord with young female viewers when it did.
From that first episode on, like I said, the show is mostly episodic, often featuring one-off characters for Akko to get involved with while also featuring lots of funny antics with the supporting cast and all those darn cats. For whatever reason, a lot of these one-off characters are angry little boys who are hostile as heck towards Akko for whatever reason but are also secretly sad about something, and then eventually they become friends with Akko after she helps them out with their problems… and then none of them are eeeeever heard from again. Toodles, kid!
Yeah, this show is not without faults, and one of them is that these irritating one-off characters sometimes feel like they’re in the way of Akko’s story. An example would be an episode where Akko’s dad makes a rare home visit. You’d think this would be an opportunity for learning more about her dad and seeing how he and his daughter interact, maybe go into how she feels about him being away all the time, that kind of thing. Instead, the episode moves the focus to one of these random angry boys and his daddy issues, pushing Akko’s time with her father to the sidelines. I mean heaven forbid Akko just have an episode to herself and her family! She always has to get involved in some random dipstick’s problems who isn’t even going to stick around and appreciate what she did for them, razafrazaurgghhh…
Thankfully Akko does get a few good episodes that focus more on her and her family life, and one of these is perhaps the biggest bombshell of the series. It starts with an assignment for students to report on their given names and why their parents named them what they did. Akko realizes she doesn’t actually know why her parents named her “Atsuko”, and later when she asks about it, her mom is suspiciously evasive. Eventually Akko makes a trip out to the country to visit her grandmother and ask if she knows the story. And it turns out? [gasp!] Akko was not the first “Atsuko Kagami”. [audio: “Dun dun duuuun!”] You see, a year before our Akko was born, her mother was pregnant with another daughter she intended to name Atsuko. However, due to complications, the baby was stillborn, and the remains were buried on Grandma Kagami’s land. Her parents were grief-stricken and kept this from Akko until now because… well really, how do you explain that to an eight-year-old? This is heavy, especially for a kid’s show from 1969, jeebus.
Anyway, the whole thing understandably drives Akko to a crisis of identity. She transforms into an older version of herself, possibly how she imagines her sister would have looked if she’d lived, and wanders town for a while, running into Grandma Kagami again and hiding her face while talking to her. Eventually she makes it back home. Her emotional distress causes her to transform into a baby and cry, which her mom recognizes back from when she really was a baby. Akko changes back before her mom notices, but the thought of that crying still gets her mom thinking about the past. She talks to Grandma Kagami about how happy she and Akko’s father were to have her. Heck, Akko’s dad was so happy to hear about her birth that he literally jumped ship and swam away to see her! Overhearing all this, Akko of course makes up with her family and hugs her mom and it’s super sweet and [sniff] I think someone’s cutting onions over here you guys… [sniff]
Moving on to less sad topics: Akko’s transformations throughout the series are pretty creative and varied, ranging from useful disguises to animals to fantastical figures like angels and fairies to OH HOLY HELL WHAT EVEN IS THAT? [clip of psychedelic shamisen cat] The compact also has a few other abilities that come in handy in a pinch, such as the ability to replay images it’s seen, similar to the Lapis mirror from Steven Universe. She can also still talk to the mirror spirit when needed, and later on we even get to see what the spirit looks like. On occasion, the mirror breaks or goes on the fritz, similar to episodes of Sally where she temporarily loses her powers, but there’s always some way back from that in the end. Still, even when Akko’s powers are working, the magic elements of the series can be quite subdued, sometimes frustratingly so. There are several episodes where the problem of the day could easily have been solved without magic and which only feature a token transformation or two. It’s irritating when that happens, but it’s not a huge problem at least. No, if you want to see a series where inconsistent magic is a problem, just you wait for the next one, yeesh…
Himitsu no Akko-chan ended up running for 94 episodes and finished on October 26, 1970. The final episode features Akko saving her father’s ship from a raging storm by calling all the world’s mirrors to shine a beacon that leads it to safe harbor. This drains the compact’s magic completely, and after that, Akko is never able to transform again. She’s sad about this of course, but says it can’t be helped and leaves things at that. This is a bit anticlimactic, but probably not due to lack of trying (more likely just due to declining popularity and a rush to move on to the next show). The main series screenwriters, Masaki Tsuji and Shun’ichi Yukimuro, were both talented creators who worked on a ton of major shows both before and after Akko-chan, and both received major awards for their creative work later in life. Both also worked on just about every Toei magical girl series from here to Lalabel, so their ideas would help shape a huge chunk of the genre’s development throughout the 70s and early 80s.
Also still on board at Toei was Hayao Miyazaki, who was working there alongside his friend and future Studio Ghibli partner, Isao Takahata (who unfortunately passed away about two months ago as of this recording). Takahata, if you’re not familiar with his work, directed a wide range of films in his lifetime, including the light-hearted family comedy My Neighbours the Yamadas, the emotionally subtle nostalgia piece Only Yesterday, a gorgeous, painterly rendition of The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and his most well-known and critically hailed piece, the heart-wrenching war story Grave of the Fireflies. In 1968, Takahata and Miyazaki were finishing up three years of work on Takahata’s debut feature film — Horus: Prince of the Sun. Upon Horus’s release in July of that year however, Toei kept the film in theatres for just ten days, ensuring its failure and resulting in Takahata being demoted to working on television productions, including Himitsu no Akko-chan. Ryan Lambie writing for Den of Geek posits that Toei scuttled the film’s release as a form of punishment for the pair’s involvement in the animators’ union, which had fought against the studio’s demands for increased output with very little pay. [image: Article about poor treatment of Japanese animators] Oh the more things change, the more they stay the same…
Takahata is credited on Anime News Network as the assistant director for Akko-chan. It’s not exactly clear how much creative freedom that granted him with it, but given the circumstances, it probably wasn’t much. Still, it is nice to watch the episodes with the knowledge that his emotional and empathetic directing style is at work somewhere in there. The series certainly shows those qualities in all of its best scenes, so I like to think that that’s his touch shining through. Rest in peace, Takahata-sensei. You will be missed.
Anyway, after the original anime, there were two remake series for Akko-chan: one in the 80s, and one in the 90s. The 80s series is remarkable enough in its own right that it’ll have its own episode when I get to it in our timeline, so I won’t go into much detail on it here. Needless to say though, like Sally the Witch 2, it boasts much better animation, more expressive characters, and designs that play more into merchandising and product placement opportunities. It also has an ending credits sequence that’s total catnip if you’re a movie person, with homages to the likes of Superman, Beverly Hills Cop, Star Wars, Back to the Future, and ET. See kids? Akko-chan did the Ready Player One thing decades before it was cool (and with way more charm in my opinion).
The 90s series is a lot less remarkable from what I can tell. It was made using early digital animation and the production quality has not aged well — which is saying something considering how the 60s version looks. Unfortunately I was not able to watch much of this version, so I can’t really form much of an opinion about it beyond how cheap it looks. It doesn’t seem like Japanese audiences had much of an opinion either, since merchandise sales for this version were pretty much dead on arrival. Oof. Sorry, 90’s Akko. Your outfit was cute at least?
The last major adaptation to date was a 2012 live action movie starring Haruka Ayase and Masaki Okada. Somehow, despite being the most modern and polished product, it is perhaps the worst of the four adaptations. That’s not for being a terrible movie necessarily (though it sure isn’t great either), but for straying furthest from the spirit of the story. In this version, Akko is obsessed with makeup and wishes desperately to be grown up, traits she never has in any other version of the story. Now, personality changes alone wouldn’t be the biggest deal… except these new traits pull the story away from transformation hijinks with Akko and friends, aka: the entire reason the series got popular. Instead, we get Akko using just one transformation for the majority of the movie: a 21-year-old version of herself who gets a job at the prestigious makeup company Akatsuka Cosmetics (hahaha yes I see what you did there). This makes the story less Himitsu no Akko-chan and more 13 Going on 30, with Akko bumbling through the adult world for most of the runtime and reminding all the working stiffs around her about the simple childhood values they’ve forgotten. Even that wouldn’t be the super worst… except a big focus of this adult Akko plot? Is a budding romance between Akko and a man who works at the makeup company. [questionable clips with alarm music from Kill Bill playing, ending with onscreen text: “NOT OKAY”] Eww. Just. No.
[sigh] To be fair, the movie never actually “goes there” with these two, because everyone working on this thing knew damn well how wrong that would be. But the romance is so heavily implied and framed throughout the entire movie that the technicalities really, really don’t help. Ugh. UGH! Gross.
Alas, Mahou Profile is about anime, not live action movies, so I will refrain from ranting as much as I’d like to on that front. I will say that the movie does some things right, like the casting of Akko and friends, the transformation effects, bits taken from the manga like the Man from the Mirror Kingdom, and the acting by people playing transformed versions of Akko. I mean, come on: an adult actor pretending to be a child pretending to be an adult will never not be funny. [clip of one of the adult male actors playing Akko] For the most part though, this movie just doesn’t seem to get the core appeal of the franchise, and it isn’t even that good a movie in its own right. What bright spots there are just highlight wasted potential more than anything else.
Okay, last odds and ends before we wrap up. When the movie came out, we got a few tie-in Flash animations featuring Akko working as an office lady and trying to help out her co-workers with various problems. They’re just gag shorts, but still pretty enjoyable. [clip of the Bieber/Beaver gag] Them being gag shorts is pretty in the spirit of Fujio Akatsuka’s gag manga legacy too, making them more accurate and respectful than the film they’re cashing in on even.
Sadly, like Sally, no version of the Akko-chan anime has ever been released in English, and I could only find the first episode fansubbed, so your options for watching this one yourself are limited. But! A little bit of the 80s manga was once translated officially as Akko-chan’s Got a Secret! Though the books are long out of print, chapter scans are still floating around the internet, so you can chase those down if you’re interested in reading some of the series for yourself. I mean, really, a new official English release of the manga would be ideal, hint hint to any Vertical Inc. or Drawn & Quarterly-type prestige manga licensors out there… But yeah, limited other options at the moment.
Phew! Okay, I think I’ve said plenty at this point. I hope you enjoyed learning about this early magical trailblazer with me. While it can be a bit slow and stilted by today’s standards, the original Himitsu no Akko-chan is still an interesting mix of comedy, melodrama, and fantastical elements for a show from this time period, and that still shines through even if you’re not into the pacing or art style.
Next time, we’ll be diving into Toei’s third magical girl series and the first to star a teenage protagonist: Mahou no Mako-chan, a.k.a.: Mako the Mermaid. It’s… an interesting one to say the least. See you guy then~!