Mahou Profile #006: Sarutobi Ecchan [Script]

Mahou Profile #006: Sarutobi Ecchan [Script]

[The following is the script of episode 6 of the Mahou Profile series, viewable on YouTube here. This post to be updated with an accurate video transcript and citations in the future.]

Hey there everyone and welcome to Mahou Profile! Today, we begin with a tale… A tale of the swiftest, the nimblest, the most fantastical ninja of all time… Sasuke Sarutobi…

According to legends of old… (and by that, I mean a series of children’s novels published in the 1910s and 20s) …The boy Sasuke grew up in the mountains alongside a family of monkeys in the forest. During this time, the boy developed unparalleled speed and agility, able to climb and jump through the treetops with ease. Conveniently, the boy’s family name, “Sarutobi”, means “monkey jump”. Huh. How ‘bout that.

After a fateful encounter with a master of ninjutsu, Sasuke began training in the ways of the ninja. He excelled in his training, and some say even gained supernatural abilities from it. As he walked this new path, Sasuke developed a rivalry-turned-comradery with a fellow ninja, and together the two helped form a band of ninja known as the Sanada Juuyuushi, or the Sanada Ten Braves.

The stories of Sasuke Sarutobi and the Ten Braves are too numerous to go into here, but their adventures enthralled countless young children throughout the early 20th century. Hence, it was no surprise when Sasuke made the jump from page to screen, first in silent films, and then in talkies and animation. Most relevant to our interests: Toei Animation’s second feature film, released a year after Tale of the White Serpent, was called Shounen Sarutobi Sasuke — released in North America under the title Magic Boy. So, to those curious if there were ever magical boys way back when? Yes. Yes there were.

[Knack Productions] later created a TV version of the Sasuke Sarutobi story in 1979 called Manga Sarutobi Sasuke, which again featured the adventures of Sasuke in his youth. [Metal Gear Solid “spotted” sound effect] And as I edit this video, I have discovered that this series was dubbed in English as Ninja the Wonder Boy… and it had the funkiest English opener ever, which I feel compelled to share with you all right now. [clips from NtWB opening] However, in between Magic Boy and [Knack’s Sarutobi Sasuke] TV series, Toei would release one… other Sarutobi-related series. In 1971, the studio was looking to produce the next title in what had, at this point, become their “majokko” (or “little witch girl”) timeslot. And the show they ultimately went with for the slot was, of course, Sarutobi Ecchan.

So, given all of that lead-up: what in the heck is Sarutobi Ecchan?

Ecchan started life in 1964 with a manga called Okashi na Okashi na Okashi na Anoko, or That Very, Very, Very Strange Little Girl. The manga was created by Shotaro Ishinomori, a creator who produced an immense amount of work in his lifetime. The man passed away in 1998 and still holds the world record for the most comics ever published by a single author: 770 titles across 128,000 pages. Not to mention Ishinomori also had a hand in the creation of several live action and animated TV series. Out of all his works, the most notable are his long-running sci-fi manga Cyborg 009; the live action superhero series Kamen Rider; and the first of the live action Super Sentai series, better known to North American audiences as Power Rangers.

We’ll get more in-depth with Ishinomori a bit later. For now, let’s focus on the Sarutobi Ecchan anime, which debuted on October 4, 1971 — only one day after Marvelous Melmo. Melmo and Ecchan share a few other parallels as well: both feature very young magical girls, both were created by highly influential manga authors, both girls have absent parents, and both series are… strange, let’s say. To be fair, with a title like That Very, Very, Very Strange Little Girl, that’s to be expected (although, somehow Melmo ended up being the stranger of the two).

Once you get beyond superficial similarities, though, Ecchan proves quite different from not only Melmo, but all other magical girls we’ve seen up until now. Heck, she may be one of the most unique magical girls in the genre, period. 

You see, Etsuko Sarutobi, or “Ecchan” for short, is not a magical princess nor does she come from some far-off magical world, and yet she also is not a homegrown heroine imbued with special powers out of the blue. She’s a bit of a hybrid: a girl who grew up in our world but has innate supernatural abilities, and she knows it.

Also, while Ecchan may not be a princess, she does have an esteemed bloodline leading straight back to our old buddy Sasuke. In this universe, the Sarutobi family ended up passing down not only their famous ancestor’s magical abilities, but all his ninja skills and athletic prowess as well. Man, that’s one heck of a family tradition.

A list of Ecchan’s abilities makes her sound more like a superhero than a magical girl (though, for the record, those two categories are not mutually exclusive). Ecchan has several common hero abilities including super strength, super agility, super breath, and supersonic voice. [clip of Ecchan breaking windows with her voice] Stealth, climbing, martial arts, and escape techniques almost go without saying, and she also has a few witch-like powers such as the ability to talk to animals, and some minor conjuration and transfiguration abilities.

One of her most commonly-used powers, though, has got to be hypnotism, a.k.a.: Jedi mind tricks before they were cool. [short montage of times when Ecchan uses this power] There are… a few questionable lines Ecchan crosses when it comes to the hypnotism stuff. However, considering she’s a small child, she likely just hasn’t learned better yet. 

Anyway, while Ecchan’s powerset isn’t as far-reaching and varied as, say, Sally the Witch’s, Ecchan seems a lot more capable with her abilities than Sally and the other magical girls to date. She is untouchable in any physical challenge, and her hypnotism and pure creativity often allow her to get the upper hand on people without having to fight at all. She seems a little like a predecessor to modern “unassuming-yet-overpowered” anime heroes such as Saitama from One Punch Man, Mob from Mob Psycho 100, or Rimuru from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. All those lists you see of “Top 10 Badass Characters in Anime” or “Top 10 Most Overpowered Protagonists”? Yeah. Those lists are all missing Ecchan and are therefore all invalid. [clip: cute Ecchan laugh]

So that’s the hook for the series: Etsuko “Ecchan” Sarutobi is a tiny marshmallow of a girl who has all the skills of the best magical superninja who ever lived, and she is not afraid to use them to take you apart and throw you in the garbage. I love her. I love her very much.

The first episode sets up Ecchan’s character and supporting cast nicely. We start with a group of kids on their way to school, including a tall girl, Miko, and the son of a local barber, Taihei. They run into the local bully squad and are unable to defend themselves, especially not after the ringleader, Ouyama, sends a nasty dog after them. The situation seems sticky until an unseen person starts… barking? Sure enough, Ecchan arrives on the scene and, with her ability to talk to animals, she befriends the dog and convinces it to attack the bullies instead. The kids try to thank Ecchan, but, like a tiny pink Batman, she vanishes before they can.

It doesn’t take long for the kids to find her again. Their teacher, Ms. Shirayuki, soon introduces Ecchan as a new student to the class. Meanwhile, another teacher at the school who witnessed the dog incident complains to the principal that there’s something odd about the new girl. However, when Ecchan is brought in for questions, the principal is so charmed by her that he insists nothing must be wrong. [clip: cute Ecchan laugh]

At recess, the bullies come back for a rematch, but Ecchan ensures they all end up with egg on their face. [clip of magic chicken literally laying eggs on their faces] Somehow the bullies still don’t get the message, and so Ecchan ends up taking them all out one-by-one — in one case disassembling an entire boy piece by piece. (Oh don’t worry though, he’s fine. It’s all fine. See, look! He’s fine!) 

Taihei runs in to help finish off Ouyama, but once the dust clears, we see Ecchan juggling them both. Nice to see that, unlike Akko, Mako, or even later magical girls like Sailor Moon, a boy rushing in to help does not diminish Ecchan’s power at all. No Tuxedo Mask syndrome here: she can 100% handle it. [clip: cute Ecchan laugh]

The principal is once again too enamoured to punish Ecchan, and after that, Ecchan starts getting challenges from the school sports teams. This includes the baseball team, the volleyball team, and the kendo team. Of note: at least two of these scenes appear to be direct parodies. The baseball scene parodies one of the most famous baseball anime of all time, Star of the Giants [side-by-side comparison clips]; and the volleyball scene parodies a popular shoujo sports series called Attack No. 1 [side-by-side comparison clips]. I wasn’t sure if the kendo scene was a parody or not, but it is notable that this is where someone first identifies Ecchan as a descendent of Sasuke Sarutobi. Hmm. Wonder what gave it away. [clip of Ecchan jumping around like Yoda in Episode 2]

By the end of the school day, half the school is in the infirmary, the principal still won’t punish Ecchan because clearly she did nothing wrong, and Ecchan, satisfied, walks into the sunset on a telephone wire. All in a day’s work for Etsuko Sarutobi and her amazing talking dog, Buku!

Oh yeah, did I mention she has a talking dog named Buku?

You wouldn’t know it from the summary, but Buku is in the first episode. He just spends most of it hitchhiking, freaking squares, and trying to find Ecchan’s school. And he does this after seeing a woman stick out a bare leg to hitch a ride. [clip of Buku cartoonishly pulling up the skin of his leg, revealing the bone beneath]

I think this anime might be slightly silly, y’all.

So, if Ecchan is the ninja elite in this story, then Buku is a retainer of sorts for her. Not that he’s totally subservient — he isn’t afraid of crossing Ecchan or going off and doing his own thing — but he does stick by her for the most part and makes sure she stays safe. After all, overpowered or not, Ecchan is still a little kid. While she can ninja magic her way through any physical danger, there are plenty of social and emotional situations that she isn’t prepared for yet. Hence the need for at least some kind of guardianship.

This guardian role that Buku fills is incredibly important to the magical girl genre, as it lays the foundation for pretty much every animal sidekick/cute mascot character in the genre to follow. The idea of an animal guardian isn’t new: we can trace the concept in anime back at least as far as Tale of the White Serpent, and Disney’s tradition of talking animal sidekicks goes back even further than that. Not to mention the idea is found in many global folklore traditions, most notably stories of witches and their familiars. But as far as the magical girl genre goes? The very first canon mascot character? Yeah. It’s Buku. [funny Buku clip goes here]

And I do hope you like Buku, because if you want to watch this show, you’ll be seeing a lot of him. As with other “overpowered protagonist” shows, Ecchan’s supporting cast often gets just as much, if not more focus than Ecchan herself. After all, supporting characters tend to struggle more than the overpowered hero does, and struggle tends to be more interesting over the course of a longer narrative. Even the title of the original manga—That Strange, Strange Little Girl—implies the perspective of an outside observer, as opposed to the story being entirely from Ecchan’s perspective. So we end up getting a lot of episodes focused on Buku, plus some that spotlight Miko, Miko’s parents, Taihei, Taihei’s little brother, Ms. Shirayuki, Ouyama, Ouyama’s cronies, Ouyama’s abusive alcoholic parents—er, wait, what? And that’s played for laughs, you say? …Yeesh. Compared to the way Marvelous Melmo dealt with that topic, that seems particularly tone-deaf too… Um, anyway, yeah, lots of supporting cast episodes.

Also, as with other Toei shows of the era, Sarutobi Ecchan has plenty of one-off characters and problems of the week to deal with. Most of these episodes are standard Toei fare, so I won’t get into them here. However, there is one story I want to go in-depth on. So there’s this episode where the gang meet a bratty little kid who won’t do anything his mother says. No matter how nice and understanding she is, he keeps acting out and acting out. This lasts until the very end when he starts playing with matches near a wooden shack. Sure enough, a big fire starts, but Ecchan and his mom show up to save the day before he can seriously hurt himself.

You would think this is leading to an ending where the kid learns his lesson, becomes grateful for his mom’s love and support, and stops being such a turd all the time. But nope! This lesson is for the parents out there. Because the reason for the boy’s bad behaviour? Is apparently that his mom hasn’t been spanking him, so he feels like he can get away with anything. This is highlighted most directly when the bratty kid talks to Taihei’s little brother, Kurihei, whose mother spanks him regularly. As a result, Kurihei doesn’t make nearly as much trouble as this kid, and has a better relationship with his mom to boot. That’s right, parents! Your kid started playing with matches and torched a small building, and you could have prevented it if only you had beaten the sh** of him more! What a great lesson!

Now, before anyone comments “Well, you can’t judge this from a western perspective” or “What your culture says is wrong isn’t wrong everywhere” or something like that: I did some research on this. ‘Cause I was curious. And you’re gonna sit and listen to it. 

The TL;DR version of my findings is that while the idea of quote-unquote “hitting a child with love” is widely accepted in Japan, other methods of encouraging good behaviour are much more popular.

Individual practices and beliefs vary widely, but most commonly, Japanese society in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has tended to support the idea that children have enough innate goodness and emotional intelligence to understand why something is wrong if taught well enough. This is part of why so much Japanese children’s media, including these early magical girl shows, have so many strong moral lessons baked in to begin with. 

So the first lines of defense against misbehaviour for parents tend to be either discussions with a child about their behaviour, or simply letting a child make mistakes and learn the consequences naturally without interfering (a practice called “mimamoru” or “watching over”).

Spanking and the like tends to only enter the picture as a last resort, or if the parent becomes too stressed or fatigued to deal with their child some other way. This is because physical punishment tends to be seen as a way to enforce obedience for its own sake, as opposed to the actual goal of making a child understand their actions and act better of their own free will. It’s a quick fix, not a long-term solution. And that’s not even getting into the fact that many Japanese parents do believe that hitting a child at all is unacceptable.

So, it wouldn’t have been as surprising if the lesson for this episode were, “Okay, try everything else you can to set your kid straight, but if all else fails, don’t be afraid to smack ‘em a bit.” And it is kind of that, since the mom really doesn’t hit her son until he makes it clear that he still won’t listen even after being saved from the fire. However, this episode also seems to argue that the mom should have been spanking him regularly from the start to keep him on the straight and narrow. And from what I’ve been able to find, this just doesn’t fully jibe with the prevailing norms at that time. It’s still an uncommon and potentially concerning message, whether by Japanese standards or otherwise.

So… there. [blows raspberry]

If you think that was all a bit real for this show, that’s only because I haven’t told you about the drama yet. While Sarutobi Ecchan’s biggest strengths are its slapstick comedy and ninja antics, it also has more serious parts, much like other Toei shows before it. Most often, this will relate to Ecchan’s absent parents. Where are they? Dead? Missing? Literally outer space? Who knows. Either way, they’re out of the picture, and that makes things hard on Ecchan and Buku.

For example: episode 2 features Ecchan inviting herself to live with Miko’s family, which is very much played for laughs. However, after most of the joke-y parts are over, the show reminds viewers that Ecchan and Buku really are homeless. Ecchan may have magical abilities, but again, she’s not a witch like Sally — she can’t just conjure a house out of nothing. Without any kind of family or support group around, she and Buku don’t have anywhere else to go. Miko and her parents eventually let Ecchan stay, but before that, Ecchan realizes how much trouble she’s causing them and is prepared to leave on a bittersweet note. The scene of her and Buku about to go has a subtle sincerity to it that works. It’s just the right counterweight to the zaniness that is the rest of the show. [relevant clip]

Unfortunately, though, the tone isn’t always this well-balanced. As the episodes progress, serious scenes start getting more frequent and pronounced. The focus is still on comedy, but it seems like every character gets to have their moment in the drama spotlight, even Buku. A few emotional moments or scenes here and there would be fine, but the show’s goofy character designs, bright and flat art direction, and Looney-Toons-esque antics all undermine any extended attempts at seriousness. Even when it’s not being outright dramatic, the show has so many flat, boring conversations that any charm the show has just disappears for long periods of time.

By contrast, as buckwild as Mahou no Mako-chan could get at times, its serious and dramatic parts didn’t feel out of place at all. This was largely thanks to its elegant character designs just ready to emote at a moment’s notice. Compare that to the googly-eyed blobs, sticks, and squiggles that tend to make up an Ecchan character. While Mako-chan may have had a more severe case of tonal dissonance, that show and Ecchan share a similar problem: where Mako-chan felt more suited to drama and spent too much time on comedy, with Ecchan it’s the reverse. There’s just not quite enough depth in Ecchan’s world as presented to keep things interesting when you peel the comedy away.

It may be for that reason that the show wasn’t as popular as Toei’s previous magical girl titles. The audience ratings were so tepid that Toei cut the series short at only 26 episodes. This cancellation was so abrupt that the story never received a proper ending, with several already-scripted episodes never being produced. The final episode is just a random “hijinks with doppelgangers” story. It has a nice scene at the end with Ecchan taking her American double up the Tokyo Tower to see Mount Fuji, but other than that, it’s really nothing special. Downright boring, even, with all the misunderstandings and resolution dragged out over an interminable 20 minute runtime. With an ending like that, it’s no wonder there was so little interest in the failed anime afterward. And Ecchan ended up having no notable appearances in anime ever again…

If hearing that bums you out, though, then fear not! For Ecchan’s manga life was much richer than her anime life! To explain how, I’ve enlisted the help of a special guest: Felipe Ondera, an independent comic artist who’s produced several titles inspired by the works of Shotaro Ishinomori, including Mutant Nina, a story directly inspired by Ecchan. He has some extremely in-depth knowledge of Ishinomori’s career and has agreed to share with us what he knows about the Ecchan manga and Ishinomori’s related works. There’s lots to get into, so without further ado: take it away, Felipe!

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Shotaro Ishinomori is a manga artist of many faces. In the height of his artistic career, he was known as The King of Manga. His speed and technique for making comics was legendary, and he helped many other iconic creators like Fujio Akatsuka and Fujiko Fujio come up with characters that defined their careers; such as Nama-chan, and Obake no Q-taro. With his friends in the Tokiwa-So apartments, he later co-founded the Studio Zero animation studio with the intent of producing animated adaptations for his own works as well as those of his friends. 

Long before Ishinomori was ever heavily associated with cyborgs and superheroes, he was known as a groundbreaking shoujo manga artist. Like many of his contemporaries, Ishinomori submitted publications to shoujo magazines, as the competition to be published in shounen/boy’s magazines was quite high. However, Ishinomori believed that manga could tell stories that could be enjoyed by all readers regardless of age or gender, and didn’t limit his storytelling and artistic talents to sticking to one genre. 

Many of his earliest shoujo stories were mystery, suspense or drama. With Akatsuka and Hideko Mizuno, he created Angel in the Dark, a detective tale featuring a young girl as the protagonist. His first big solo hit was a short story called Ryuujin Numa, or The Dragon God Marsh, which mixed a typical shoujo plot of a young girl in love with mystery, suspense and supernatural elements. The success of Ryuujin Numa lead to Ishinomori being hailed as the “King of Manga”.

He also made stories with genres that would usually be considered unfit for a girl’s magazine at the time, particularly gag and science-fiction manga. [show covers for Kiki-chan, Iyan Poko, Little Red Riding Hood] Perhaps Ishinomori’s most significant contribution towards shoujo manga was introducing science-fiction stories to shoujo manga publications. His science-fiction themes included robot, mad science, metamorphosis, dimensional shifting, time travel, space travel, alien invaders, and ESP. [show covers for Ghost Girl, Yesterday Comes No More, But Neither Tomorrow…, The Girl with the Golden Eyes, Swan Lake, Mutant Sabu, Teacher with a Thousand Eyes]

The origins of Sarutobi Ecchan were still tied to Ishinomori’s tendency of mixing genres. Originally titled Okashina Okashina Okashina Ano Ko (or That Very, Very, Very, Strange Girl), the manga was first serialized in the weekly magazine Margaret in 1964. While the stories started off mostly gag-based, as the series continued, Ishinomori experimented again with all sorts of different genres. One week’s story could be pure comedy, while the next one could be tragedy, drama, a murder mystery, or a science fiction plot. Speaking of science fiction, many stories show glimpses that Ecchan’s powers might not be the result of ninjutsu training or magic, but rather psychic powers.  In some ways, ninja are espers in the Ecchan universe. Ecchan also lives in a house featuring many high-tech inventions like robots and automated machines, and her parents are revealed to not be dead, but rather they’re scientists off in space with a research laboratory on Mars.

The original Margaret run had 3 distinctive stages. The first stage involves Ecchan, a mysterious transfer student who befriends her classmates Miko and Momo. Ecchan can talk to animals, she’s stronger than bullies, and capable of all sorts of extraordinary feats. Miko and Momo are curious about her origins and follow Ecchan, where they discover she lives with her grandfather and older sister Emiko. It’s also revealed that she’s a descendent of the famous ninja folk hero Sarutobi Sasuke, one of Ishinomori’s childhood heroes. 

In the second stage, Ecchan leaves Miko, Momo, and most of the regular cast behind in order to travel the world with her new genie friend, Pooh-chan. It also marks the first in-person appearance of Ecchan’s parents, who’ve finally come back home from space. The stories are self-contained, usually with some sort of social commentary or anti-war message. Ecchan also befriends a new cast of classmates and school staff, and Pooh-chan also enrolls into school.

After her adventures with the genie and her new friends, the series moved into its third stage. The regular cast returns, and Ecchan is presented with a Christmas present, a talking bulldog named Buku. These stories are more similar in tone to the early years, with the exception of Buku now being a regular member of the supporting cast. Unlike the anime, there aren’t many Buku-centric chapters in the manga.

The Margaret run finally ended in 1966, but by 1968, it was followed by High School Ecchan in The Heibon Monthly, an entertainment magazine. Despite Ecchan now being in high school, she still has the exact same appearance as she did as a little girl. This new series featured characters Marippe and Rokube from Ishinomori’s romantic comedy manga, Kinnaru Yatsura, another Heibon Monthly publication. One chapter also features a guest appearance by Jun from Ishinomori’s avant garde manga series Fantasy World Jun. Ecchan had also guest starred in a chapter of Mutant Sabu (once available officially in English for a time) In 1969, Ecchan and Sabu appeared together at the end of Ishinomori and Kazumasa Hirai’s epic science fiction series, Genma Taisen and she was also appearing in a weekly women’s rights newspaper, Shinfujin Shimbun. In these newspaper strips, Ishinomori again had Ecchan comics delivering social commentary. 

By late 60s and early 70s, there was a talk of a Sarutobi Ecchan animated series by Studio Zero, around the same time Kinnaru Yatsura was also considered for an adaptation. Both projects were eventually canceled, although Ecchan managed to make a cameo in another Studio Zero production, Donkikko. In the 1970s, there were also plans by Kamen Rider-producer Tohru Hirayama, of developing a live action Ecchan series. But nothing further came of adapting Ecchan until 1971, after Toei had produced 3 hit shows featuring magical girls and started their Majokko line of heroines. 

However, as the previous Toei Majokko anime, Mahou no Mako-chan, featured an older heroine and overall different tone than the previous two series, many fans expected the next series to follow in its footsteps, but instead the very strange-looking Ecchan came, with its gag-based humor and somewhat unorthodox formula. As Eryn explained, the series failed to find an audience and was cancelled after 26 episodes.

That was not the end for Ecchan. In 1971, as tie-ins for the then-current anime series, Ishinomori drew new Ecchan series in several different shoujo and children’s magazines, including Shoujo Friend, Nakayoshi, and Tanoshii Youchien. These new Ecchan manga series didn’t follow the TV continuity, as the anime would only adapt stories from the Margaret run, but introduced elements from it, most notably Buku and Ecchan and Miko’s friend Taihei being there from the very beginning.  Also, the Nakayoshi run features the return of Ecchan’s older sister, Emiko. These new Ecchan installments were mostly made of independent short stories. In the Shoujo Friend run, Ecchan again crosses over with her fellow Ishinomori characters Jun, Rokube, Marippe and Sabu.  

In 1985, Ishinomori brought Ecchan back once more in a brand-new full color newspaper series for Yomiuri Shimbun called Esper Ecchan. Ecchan travels back in time from the future to 1980s Japan with of a group of Esper children to fight a bratty psychic boy who uses his powers for misdeeds. The only returning characters are Ecchan and Buku. In 1997, one year before Ishinomori’s passing, Ecchan and her friends also appear in Takasaki Dreaming, a manga written by Ishinomori and drawn by Daisuke Inoue. This manga crossed over many of Ishinomori’s most beloved characters for a time-travelling adventure through the history of Takasaki City. 

In interviews with Ishinomori later in his life, he often quoted Ecchan as one of his favorite works. Ecchan is also a favorite of many Ishinomori fans, and the main character of Katsuhiro Otomo’s award-winning manga Domu was named after her. She most recently became a recurring character in the revamp of Ishinomori and Kazumasa Hirai’s science fiction series, Genma Taisen Rebirth. Statues and tributes to Ecchan can also be seen all over the town of Ishinomaki. A section dedicated to Ecchan is located at the Ishinomori Mangattan Museum, and she also appears in Little Red Riding Hood is Missing!, a short animated film shown exclusively at the Mangattan Museum’s movie theater.

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Whew! Thank you so much for all that, Felipe! You can check out his comics and art over at felipestudio.weebly.com and follow him on social media at the handles listed here.

There’s not much more I can add to that other than… man, Ecchan deserved better. Seeing the rich history of comedy, genre-hopping, political awareness, and psychic adventures she had in Ishinomori’s manga makes the anime seem that much blander by comparison.

While the anime has some great gags, a nice theme song, and a solid voice cast (especially Ecchan herself, voiced by Michiko Nomura), almost everything else that’s enjoyable about it, the manga had and then some. Sadly, it seems the one-two punch of Toei’s bland adaptation and the change in tone from previous majokko series cut off Sarutobi Ecchan’s legs before it could really start running. …Get it? Cutting off legs? ‘cause Sasuke Sarutobi cut off his leg to escape a trap, and that’s how he died. Do you get it? Do you get my very layered and incredibly smart joke? dO yOu GET iT?

[cough] Moving on. The only anime audiences who ever gave Ecchan a second chance were, as usual, our good friends in Europe. The series aired in Italy in 1984 as “Hela Supergirl”, and was rerun several times there. In Poland it aired as, uh, hang on, gimme a second, uhh… “Hela Superdziewczyna”. To any Polish viewers out there: feel free to make fun of my pronunciation in the comments. Anyway, it was mainly based on the Italian version, with Ecchan also being called “Hela”. Though, interestingly: in both versions, her real name is still “Etsuko” – “Hela” is just a nickname. Huh, go figure.

Other than that, there was also apparently talk of another Ecchan anime adaptation in the early 2000’s when the company Ishimori Entertainment was looking to license out a bunch of Ishinomori’s works to international markets. The only anime to come out of this initiative were 2006’s 009-1 and 2007’s The Skull Man. Nothing else took off, sadly.

It’s good to know that Ecchan is recognized within the canon of Ishinomori’s works at least, even if her time in the anime spotlight was short-lived. In the end, it seems the only thing that could defeat our godlike heroine… was poor ratings.

And after a defeat like that, it’s unsurprising that Toei decided to play things safe. Very safe. Like. “Remake-their-first-magical-girl-show-even-though-it-had-only-been-a-few-years” safe. How well did that pay off for them? Well, you can find out next time on Mahou Profile, as we look at a show that retreads old ground in some ways while forging ahead in others: Mahoutsukai Chappy, a.k.a. Chappy the Witch. See you all then~

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