[image 1: Sebastian about to sing, some happy cartoon fish with instruments in the background]
Sebastian: Mako-chan, listen to me! The human world, it’s a mess. Life under the sea is better than anything they got up there!
[about to launch into “Under the Sea” when the music cuts]
[image 2: Unimpressed mermaid Mako with arms folded]
Mako: What about monkeys?
[image 3: Confused Sebastian]
Sebastian: …Uh, excuse me?
Mako: Monkeys. Fuzzy, brown, climb everywhere. Have we got them?
Sebastian: Uhh… we have… sea monkeys?
Mako: So no then is what you’re saying?
Sebastian: Well, no. But really, I don’t see how that makes the human world–
[image 4: Mako swimming away from Sebastian towards the surface]
Mako: Sorry, can’t hear you tiny singing crab! I’m going to go to turn into a human and play with monkeys forever now! [faster] And possibly pine over some guy but only when we have the budget for plot! Byyyyyyye~
[image 5: “Getting too old for this shit” Sebastian, fish leaving and dropping instruments in the background]
Sebastian: [sigh] …All right then everyone, you heard her, pack everything up, no musical number. We’ll just have to save our undersea whimsy for a girl who appreciates us. Ugh. Teenagers…
Hey there guys and welcome to Mahou Profile: A History of Magical Girls! And… I need to confess something. It’s very important that you understand something about me. You guys… I LOVE MERMAIDS SO MUCH!! Oh my god I love mermaids, you don’t even know. They’re so pretty and cool and interesting and sometimes weirdly violent and creepy and just a fascinating concept all around. If there were more anime about mermaids, then right now you know you guys would be watching Mermaid Profile: A History of Mermaids & S***. Seriously, you guys. Mermaids. Mermaids are great.
The problem with being a mermaid fan, though? Is that so much mermaid stuff sucks! If you want to read or watch something about mermaids, then chances are high that what you’ll find is either A) bad, B) not actually about mermaids, or C) both. And by “not actually about mermaids”, I mean stories where either the protagonist is human and the mermaid is just a supporting character at best, or there is a mer-protagonist but they spend most of the story in human form.
That last bit is unfortunately the case with today’s show: Mahou no Mako-chan, a.k.a. Magical Mako, a.k.a. Mako the Mermaid. No, not these Mako Mermaids [image from the aforementioned show] — this Mako Mermaid. [image of Mako in human form] Doesn’t look like a mermaid, you say? Yup, exactly my point.
Still, I went into Mahou no Mako-chan hopeful. Okay, even if Mako doesn’t spend much time as a mermaid, it should be interesting to see how they integrate the mermaid concept into the show regardless. I mean hey, a mermaid magical girl is still a pretty fresh idea for a show. There’s really only one other one of those: Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, which we’ll cover way later on down the line. Still, I have to wonder: why does hardly anyone talk about this show? I mean really, how bad could it be?
Well, after watching a bunch of the series with an open mind and putting all my serious analytical acumen into it, I came away with a lot of thoughts, but I think all of them can be summed up in one solid conclusion…
IT IS A CRIME THAT THIS SHOW WAS NOT BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION SOONER AND ALL ANIME FANS SHOULD GO TO JAIL FOR LETTING THIS ONE SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS.
Oh I don’t say that to imply the show is great by the way, let’s be clear here. There’s a lot of good in it, but overall it’s a mess. Just an absolutely baffling mess of a show. But it’s such an interesting mess that I seriously cannot believe it isn’t more well-known.
To get into what I mean by that, I first need to explain the plot and characters. At the very beginning, Mahou no Mako-chan is a fairly straightforward reimagining of The Little Mermaid. A young mermaid named Mako yearns to see the surface world but is forbidden from doing so by her father, the Dragon King of the Seven Seas. One day she sneaks away from the royal palace and gets her first taste of the world above the water. She almost dismisses what she sees as not worth the hype, but then on the deck of an cruise ship she spots the one thing a horny teenage girl can’t resist: [reverb/auto tune/other vocal effects and a sing-song voice] ~an attractive member of her preferred gender~
After Mako is done ogling Mr. First Eligible Bachelor I’ve Ever Seen in My Life, her father drags her back underwater and scolds her for visiting the surface. She’s sad for a while, then has a heartfelt talk with her mom, who encourages her to go back up there if that’s what she truly desires. It’s a good thing Mako goes back up, too, as a sudden tsunami appears and crashes over the ship. Dudeman McHotface saves a young girl and her grandfather but gets pulled under himself before he can get to a lifeboat. Mako of course rushes to his rescue and pulls him up to a nearby beach, getting in nice and close with him while she can. She pines on the beach for a while, but after remembering her mother’s encouragement, she is determined to change her fate.
Insert the standard “go to meet the sea witch and get legs” part here. The unique elements here are 1) the sea witch is actually Mako’s grandmother, and 2) Mako almost throws herself into a giant acid plant to prove that she’s serious about this whole legs thing. Oh man, 15-year-olds are nothing if not dramatic, am I right?
So Grandma Sea Witch tells Mako that the only way for a mermaid to become human is to drink a mermaid’s tear. Conveniently, Mako cries out one perfect tear and is able to take it with her to the surface. She ingests the tear and, like the original story, the pain of splitting a tail into two legs is like literally being sliced open. Mako passes out after the transformation is complete, and is eventually found by an old man named Mr. Urashima and his two grandsons…
That was all episode 1. And this is where any similarities to The Little Mermaid start to come undone.
From here, Mako is nursed back to health by Mr. Urashima; gets put on TV in an effort to find her parents; gets kidnapped by criminals posing as her parents for ransom money; tries to call the authorities for help; gets strangled for doing so; has an unrelated seizure and dies; gets better; has a heart-to-heart with her dad; receives a magic pendant called the Tear of the Mermaid; tries to go back to Mr. Urashima; gets kidnapped again while yelling “Help! Help! These aren’t my parents!” and Mr. Urashima is like “Eh, whatever, it’s not my problem.”; struggles against the criminals; uses her magic pendant to summon psychedelic flying laser discs which cause the criminals to crash their car off a cliff and die horribly; and then she goes back to Mr. Urashima one more time and he’s like “Eeeehhh… all right sure, I guess you can stay. We have a literal bear living with us, you can’t be that much harder to look after than that.”
And after that, Mako enrolls in a local school called Karatachi Academy and just… kinda hangs out and gets up to semi-magical hijinks with her new schoolmates while occasionally trying to find and reconnect with Manguy McDudecrush. And I say “semi-magical” because her magic pendant only works in direct sunlight or moonlight, and wouldn’t you know it, it gets mighty cloudy in Mako’s neck of the woods a whole heck of a lot. This results in her magic not even functioning half the time and leaving her completely helpless. And even when her magic is working, it’s often framed less as her actively using it and more as her father saving her butt with his powers. And all of that is when Mako even remembers to use her pendant in the first place. What’s that? You expected the magical girl in a magical girl show to be magical? Ahahahahaha! AhaHAHAHAHAHA! That’s a good one! You slay me! Ahahahahahahaha!
[singsong voice] ~Annnnd that’s the story of the shoooooww~
…Yeah. Little Mermaid this ain’t.
To be fair, it doesn’t help that I had to watch the show almost entirely in raw Japanese, since it seems only the first episode has ever been fansubbed in English. No official English releases of any kind either, just airings in other countries like Italy, France, Mexico, and Poland — par for the course with these old magical girl shows so far. I have just enough Japanese listening comprehension to follow the basic thrust of a narrative, but the details can get spotty, so who knows? Maybe there’s something in the dialogue I missed that makes everything about what I just recapped make total sense! But y’know, I dunno, I just get this feeling that even with a full understanding of the dialogue? This show would still be a little, uh… what’s the word I’m looking for… bugnuts?
I mean, here are a few more choice episode plots that come up after this.
Episode 4. Mako and the Urashima twins run away with their pet bear for some delightful Boxcar Children-esque antics and everything is very whimsical and picaresque and OH NO! A hobo with a gun! That took a turn! …Also the cute cartoon bear totally mauls this dude. Um. Wow. Good job, bear…? Oh geez you really got him good, huh. Look at all that blood.
Episode 6. Mako’s crush, Akira, is caring for the little girl he saved from the tsunami, who now has severe PTSD and gets flashbacks every time the wind blows at her window. Mako fixes her by bringing her through a magic kaleidoscope and taking her whale riding. Hooray!
Episode 8. Santa Claus is a literal wizard who has become disillusioned with humanity and now wanders the Earth as a mysterious vagrant. It’s up to Mako to get Santa to see the good in people again and save Christmas boy howdy.
Episode 13. Mako goes on a “date” with her dad. It’s as awkward as it sounds and involves him fighting with her over a bikini. …Okay.
Episode 19. Mako meets a girl who adores the Urashimas’ pet monkey, Kiiko. Yeah, the Urashimas have a lot of exotic pets; they run some kind of preserve or wildlife veterinary service I think. Kiiko in particular hangs out with Mako a lot so get used to them. Anyway, this girl falls in with a bad crowd and dies in a motorcycle crash. Oh the humanity!
Episode 26. The Prince of Germany spots Mako from a helicopter and says “Oooh, ein gutes Mädchen!” and arranges to take her on a date. Mako’s dad and Grandma Sea Witch spy on them and imagine all the ways Mako could possibly mess this up and cause an international incident. The prince is the one who ends up causing an international incident, somehow drawing out an entire naval battle fleet through sheer irresponsibility, and yet Mako is still the one who ends up getting spanked by her father in a sailor suit on the deck of a military carrier. What.
Episode 37. Mako learns the joys of ~make-up~! Except lol no j/k, apparently lipstick is deadly poisonous to former mermaids. Yes really.
And then there’s episodes 46 and 47, a two-parter about a strange swamp boy who tries to mess with Mako and friends and get them killed in a military test zone. [short Apocalypse Now montage] Eventually it’s revealed that Swamp Boy is a kappa whose society is in ruins after humans destroyed it and drove them away. Swamp Boy didn’t want to hurt humans but the other kappas encouraged him to do it for the sake of their revenge. Mako meets with the kappa elders and appeals to them with the power of love or something, and Swamp Boy ends up taking a missile blast to the stomach to save some of the kids. Somehow he stays alive just long enough to get everyone to safety too. He dies, Mako cries, the kappas psychically cry with her, and of course Mako’s tears bring him immediately back to life. Then the kappas make peace and leave in the night. The end??
God I think I love this show.
So. How did we get to this point? This is still a Toei show, same as the last two we’ve looked at. It started on November 2, 1970 — right after Himitsu no Akko-chan finished. Key members of the Akko-chan creative team continued on with Mako-chan, including screenwriters Masaki Tsuji and Shun’ichi Yukimuro. Yet the tone and the … absolute wackness of the story is off the charts. So what changed?
Well, the biggest new thing is probably that this was Toei’s first original magical girl show. There is no manga, novel, or other source material for Mako-chan other than The Little Mermaid (kind of). The original creator of the story is credited as Shinobu Urakawa, but this is actually a pseudonym for Kenji Yokoyama, a producer at Toei who is also credited with planning for the series. From what I can find, the only other work he ever authored was also under the Shinobu Urakawa name, and it was another Toei series called Magne Robo Gakeen, a.k.a. Magnos the Robot. So yeah. One big difference between Mako-chan and its predecessors is that it was a company production from top to bottom. It had no pre-existing story framework to follow except, well, other Toei shows.
If you watch an episode of Mako-chan and you have some familiarity with Sally or Akko-chan, it’s pretty clear that the series pulls a lot of elements from those shows. For example, both Sally and Akko-chan gave their heroines a gaggle of friends of varying archetypes to play off of, including a down-to-earth best friend type, some mischievous kids to stir up trouble, and in Akko’s case, a big guy who acts tough but is actually a total softie at heart. The tough guy, Banchou, is even voiced by the same voice actor who played Taisho in Akko-chan, Hiroshi Ohtake. [clips of Taisho and Banchou voices for comparison] And here’s some bonus voice actor trivia while we’re at it: Banchou’s little henchman, Senkichi, was the debut role of Akira Kamiya, who you may know better as Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star. [clips: mild-mannered Senkichi vs. Kenshiro “Aaaatatatatatata!” and “You are already dead.”] Anyway, tangent aside, the point is that this large, varied supporting cast allows the writers to bounce around between characters and keep things from getting stale, and the main supporting archetypes used in the previous shows proved themselves to be useful, so why not use them again? Okay. Makes sense so far.
Then you have that all-important Problem of the Week structure. Having a steady string of one-off characters and situations helps to keep “stuff happening” in the series at all times, allowing the writers to spread out the major plot points over a longer period of time. Notably, though, since Mako is a teenager, the one-off characters she meets tend to be older than the ones in previous series. This increase in average age allows for a wider range of problems with more mature tones for Mako to deal with. The addition of a major love interest, a rival for his affections, and a few notable instances of focus on Mako’s body and undergarments represent the genre’s first serious attempts at romantic and sexual elements as well. In theory, this lets the Toei magical girl format transition into adolescence alongside its new heroine. In theory, these choices all make decent sense. In theory…
To explain why this approach didn’t work out quite as expected, I’m actually going to veer off and talk about manga for a bit. Sounds off-topic considering this show didn’t originate as a manga, but trust me, this will come back around.
So let’s talk about manga, specifically shoujo. “Shoujo manga” refers to manga originally published in magazines and similar outlets aimed at elementary and young teen girls. And the content of shoujo manga has often been defined within the manga industry by the deceptively simple term “what girls like”. This means that “shoujo” as a style of entertainment is, in theory, entirely defined by whatever girls want to read about most at any particular point in time. [Onscreen: Relevant text from Jennifer Prough’s “Straight from the Heart”.]
Now that definition raises a lot of valid questions: “How are ‘girls’ as a demographic defined exactly?”, “Aren’t there a lot of quote-unquote ‘boys’ manga that girls also like?” and “Doesn’t the entertainment industry have a hand in shaping ‘what girls like’ to start with? Isn’t this, like, a chicken and egg situation kinda?” Even acknowledging those issues, though, this definition does still fit to a certain extent. Manga publishers in Japan pay a huge amount of attention to reader feedback and actively seek it out however possible. This feedback helps publishers determine which titles get more merchandise, which get pushed for anime or live action adaptations, and which represent big enough new trends to influence the kinds of stories that get picked up. In other words: the industry has a codified system in place for determining exactly “what girls like”, and that system has traditionally steered the course of what shoujo is.
And said system includes not just readers but creators too. In the mid-1960s, magazines started holding contests for new manga by unpublished creators. Top winners received prize money and a chance to get published. In addition to being a practical way to meet the growing demand for weekly manga, this practice of pulling new talent from the ranks of magazine readers resulted in said talent eventually being made up almost entirely of said readers. Which in the case of shoujo manga meant that more and more female readers/creators kept getting hired until the early 1970s, when virtually all shoujo manga creators were female. Huh. Women creating comics for girls. What a novel concept.
The new creators of this period, including the so-called “Showa 24 Group” or “Magnificent 49ers” whom we will likely talk about more in future episodes, made their mark on the genre in a lot of ways. The most striking developments were their innovations in character drawing — bigger, more elegant eyes, wispier lines, more willowy body shapes, and luxurious European-inspired hair and clothing designs. True, many of these elements existed in some form or another going back decades prior. Rachel Thorn, an associate professor at Kyoto Seika University, posted an excellent thread about how, for example, big eyes in manga were a thing way before the likes of Tezuka supposedly “innovated” that style. Even so, what female creators in the late 60s and early 70s were doing was still significant and represented a big shift in the perception of what shoujo was and how it looked. The exaggerated elegance of characters combined with experimental panel layouts and plots with heightened emotional and dramatic stakes resulted in a style that girls — and a lot of other demographics for that matter — became ravenous for.
Mahou no Mako-chan aired from November 1970 to September 1971, which was right in the thick of these changes in shoujo. Given the time frame and pop cultural context, the influence of then-recent shoujo titles is clear as day. The character drawing style, the dark and dramatic plots, the introduction of romance and sexual elements, the European source material, the use of experimental art — it’s all there. …Or at least it’s all trying to be there. Unfortunately it’s hampered a lot by the show simultaneously trying to retain the child audiences who previously watched Sally and Akko-chan, with silly problem of the week antics and a focus on morals for viewers to learn from.
And therein lies the issue I feel. Mahou no Mako-chan strikes me as a project without a clear foundation being pulled in a bunch of different directions at once — between old and new, childish and mature, silly and hyper-dramatic, Wizard Santa Claus and Apocalypse Now. We’ve seen tonal shifts before in shows like Sally and Akko-chan, but it worked for those shows because they still had strong identities at their core: they were bright, funny kids shows that occasionally delved into melodrama and darker subjects where necessary. Mako-chan’s identity on the other hand feels like it’s constantly shifting, never one thing or another for very long at a time. It’s like… the middle illustration on an Animorphs book cover, but stretched out over 48 episodes. Yeah. That’s how I’d describe this series to people.
There is still a kind of appeal in that awkwardness, though. Like I said, while Mako-chan is a mess in a lot of ways, it’s still kind of bold and unmistakable in a way the other two magical girl series haven’t been yet. It takes a lot of risks, and while they don’t pay off to a cohesive whole, those risks still resulted in a lot more moments in Mako-chan I desperately want to tell people about, be it from sheer bafflement, genuine enjoyment, or both.
And as much as I’ve ragged on the show’s silliness and bizarre plot points so far, there is also a lot of genuinely good stuff in Mako-chan. The art and animation would be one example. The experimental animation I mentioned shows up throughout the series and can be really striking, giving dramatic moments a psychedelic edge that heightens the tension. [short selection of representative clips] The regular character animation can be spotty — in its worst moments it’s horribly off-model and struggles to move beyond still frames — but depending on the animators, the show really can bring out the best in its cute and simple character designs. The character designer, Toshiyasu Okada, also handled the animation of the opening sequence and episodes 1 and 4, and all of these exemplify how the show looks when at its best. As well, this was the first magical girl show worked on by legendary animation director Shingo Araki, who debuted in the original Tomorrow’s Joe anime earlier the same year and who would go on to do animation direction and character design for shows such as Devilman, Cutie Honey, Lunlun the Flower Child, Rose of Versailles, Saint Seiya, and of course his most important and seminal work, Yu-Gi-Oh.
The voice cast is all game and lively as well. Not many of them would go on to big careers after this aside from Akira Kamiya, but Mako at least was an early role for veteran voice actress Kazuko Sugiyama, who is probably best known as Jun the Swan from Gatchaman, Ten-chan from Urusei Yatsura, and Celebi from Pokemon. Most relevant to this series, she also played Mitsuki’s grandmother in Full Moon wo Sagashite, Moko in the 80s Himitsu no Akko-chan, and the main villain Desparaia in Yes! Precure 5. [Dark Knight “live long enough to see yourself become the villain” clip, maybe with Mako and Desparaia photoshopped in] Also, by the way, it’s a shame that [Michiko Hirai], who plays the rival character, Tomiko [and was the voice of Sally the Witch], isn’t in more stuff of note. She does a really fabulous mean girl voice, which helps make for a great start to this rival archetype in the magical girl genre.
One more person who did go on to a storied career after this series was Mitsuko Horie, who sang both the opening and ending theme songs. She’s an accomplished voice actor in her own right, most notably voicing Magical Girl Lalabel, Akko in the 80s Akko-chan anime, and Sailor Galaxia in Sailor Moon Stars. But she’s even more famous for singing a metric butt-ton of anime songs, and the Mako-chan themes were some of her earliest, recorded when she was only thirteen years old. [short song clips] The composition for these songs was by Takeo Watanabe, who also composed the show’s score. All the music in Mako-chan is pretty nice, featuring a lot of sad violins and other classical cues. Watanabe must have liked it too, because some of the music from this show would end up being reused in future shows like Majokko Megu-chan, Genshi Shounen Ryu, and Candy Candy, all of which Watanabe also worked on.
Anyway, it’s not just the technical aspects of Mako-chan that find a way to shine. Content-wise, while the dramatic scenarios in the show don’t always land, there are several episodes where they fare a lot better. Episode 11 for example tackles racism and profiling against black people in a surprisingly frank and understanding way. The end of this episode leaves the black character, Jim, still distrustful of law enforcement despite Mako’s efforts to help him. He ends up leaving Japan on a ship to escape unfair targeting, with the implied lesson being that there’s no easy fix for systemic racial biases. The episode doesn’t always handle its subject matter with 100% sensitivity, but still, it’s impressively nuanced for this time period in Japan. Interesting fact, though: in the Italian version of this episode, the ending was heavily recut and rewritten to have Jim say he’s going to stay and explain himself to the police, taking away that nuance from the original ending. This and a few other heavily censored episodes, such as episode 13, the date with Mako’s dad, resulted in a lot of controversy around the series in Italy.
Another strong story is episode 32, which legitimately made me cry. It features a heroic St. Bernard named Lulu who fights to protect her blind owner from an abusive father. It ends with Lulu saving both her owner and the father from a blazing house fire, softening the father’s heart. However, Lulu gets severely burned in the process and can barely breathe by the time they escape, getting to lick her owner’s face one last time before dying in her arms. Admittedly this edges a bit into tragedy porn territory, like a lot of other melodramatic 70s and 80s shoujo anime, but damned if it isn’t still effective. Godspeed you, good pupper.
Even the main series plot starts to build to something halfway compelling towards the end of the series. By episode 41, we find out two years have passed since Mako originally saved Akira from the shipwreck. In that time, he’s become more to her than just a pretty face she pulled out of the ocean. He’s not always around due to various temp jobs taking him in and out of town, but he and Mako have seen each other enough to have built a genuine connection by this point. Akira even seems to be on the verge of figuring out Mako’s true identity. During another near-drowning incident in this episode, Mako parts the sea like Moses and freezes time to save Akira again, and as he swims toward shore he sees her at first as a mermaid and then as human. Neeeeeat.
In the next episode, Akira confronts Mako directly about her being the mermaid who saved him. The two finally get together in a beautiful little scene in a cruise ship ballroom, and Mako even gets a blessing from her father on the new relationship afterward. All seems well… until the sea suddenly erupts in lava and fire. While all this has been going on, the gods have become angry with Mako’s father for not bringing her back to the ocean in all this time. Her father knew that he would be punished if he blessed her relationship with a human but he did it anyway, falling into darkness as the sea without its king turns to chaos. Mako realizes what’s going on and calls out to the gods, telling them that she’s prepared to become a mermaid again if it will save her father and everyone else. She jumps off the ship fully ready to sacrifice her love and her humanity… and is brought back up by the gods, who have saved both Mako and her father after being touched by her sacrifice. Her father takes on his dragon form and quells the raging seas once more in a totally badass ending. This is, straight-up, a striking and memorable episode deserving of praise. This is one of the episodes worked on most heavily by Shingo Araki, and even this early in his career, his skill really shows. Some of these shots of waves rising and crashing over the cruise ship and volcanoes erupting are really impressive, and the compositions throughout help sell both the tender moments and apocalyptic drama.
The series finale, episode 48, is a mix of some of the awkwardness that characterizes the series as a whole and the more compelling artistic and emotional stuff. It starts at a speedway where Akira is working as a racer. He and Mako have been a couple for a little while now and… she’s not happy. The fact that Akira left to become a racer so soon after they got together isn’t sitting well with her and they fight about it, leaving Mako in tears. This leads up to a scene where Akira gets severely injured and left on the brink of death, and Mako risks losing him forever after having just fought with him. And this horrible tragic injury of course happens because… of a drunk gorilla from a nearby zoo that Banchou gave beer to. Not because of a tragic crash on the speedway? No? You don’t want to use the obvious dangerous and ironic thing you clearly set up? You really want to go with the drunk gorilla angle? O-okay, sure.
Anyway, Mako goes to her father and pleads with him to save Akira, but he refuses, claiming he doesn’t want to intervene in matters of human life and death. To prove her love for Akira, Mako dives deep into the sea, so deep she’ll surely die. The deeper she goes, the more it rips her apart, yet she stays strong and… her spirit is able to contact Akira’s, probably because they’re now both on the brink of death. Their souls float together through an ethereal space filled with light and bubbles, and Akira asks: [clip from the show – Akira: “Who are you? A mermaid? A human?” Mako: “I’m Mako: a human born from bubbles and who will return to bubbles for the sake of loving you.”] Mako’s father starts going to rescue her, but is stopped by Grandma Sea Witch, who tells him he should save them both if he’s going to save her. He yells that he won’t save a human but he will save his daughter. Grandma Sea Witch flat-out tells him that she’s not his daughter anymore. Through this act of love and sacrifice, Mako has become truly human, no longer a daughter of the ocean. If he is going to save one human, he would be a hypocrite not to save both of them. Her father relents and does exactly that, bringing Mako back up out of the sea and onto the beach where she first washed up in episode 1. After recovering in the hospital with Akira (and discovering that they can talk to each other telepathically now I guess???) Akira decides to settle on one career finally: a sailor like his father. Mako gives him her magic pendant, saying that it is very important to her, but that she no longer needs it. She tells him to return it to the ocean, which he does. Now the pendant is gone. Her life in the sea is truly gone, and she no longer needs to rely on her father to live her life. The end.
So yeah! That was Mahou no Mako-chan. As I’ve said throughout, it’s far from a perfect series, and oftentimes a downright ridiculous one, but it’s stuff like this ending that shows there is some heart buried in the depths of its confused production. In a way, the awkwardness of Mako-chan as a show kind of makes it the perfect awkward teen narrative: a young girl goes from the relative safety of her family’s world out into the big, scary outside, discovering both harsh truths and deep love along the way. Sometimes she falls back on the help of her parents and regresses to childlike impulses, but in the end, through her own sacrifices and strength of spirit, she becomes independent in the new life she has built for herself and her loved ones. She is now ready to more fully build her own identity heading into adulthood, as the magical girl genre itself will start doing after this.
And I do mean the magical girl genre is heading into literal adulthood. And… then it goes back to babyhood? Fetus-hood even?? Also hey! Let’s throw in some ninja shenanigans while we’re at it, shall we? Because next time on Mahou Profile, we’ll be discussing two shows: the first non-Toei magical girl series, Marvelous Melmo, and the dubiously magical ninja comedy, Sarutobi Ecchan. This should be an interesting double-header, and I hope you’ll look forward to it. See you all then~!