Mahou Profile #008: Miracle Girl Limit-chan [Script]

Mahou Profile #008: Miracle Girl Limit-chan [Script]

[The following is the script of episode 8 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’ll be covering the first character in our timeline who really pushes the… limit of what many fans consider a magical girl. For hers is a tale of mechanism over magic—more sci-fi than fantasy. 

Her name is Satomi “Limit” Nishiyama, and she is the star of the 1973 series Mirakuru Shoujo Rimitto-chan, or Miracle Girl Limit-chan. In our broad categorization of magical girls, Limit is a “Homegrown Heroine” type–someone who starts out as a normal human girl but gains extraordinary powers through outside means. However, Limit isn’t the typical Homegrown Heroine empowered by a magic item or some benevolent creature. No, the setup here is that Limit suffers a near-fatal injury in a plane crash—and wouldn’t you know it? Her mad scientist father turns her into a superpowered cyborg to save her life. Ugh, parents. Always assuming they know what’s best for you, am I right? [clip: “Parents Just Don’t Understand”]

Yeah, this is less of a magical girl origin story and more akin to something like The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, or even RoboCop. [clip: Six Million Dollar Man “We can rebuild him”] Notably, The Six Million Dollar Man began airing in 1973 (the same year as Limit-chan) and the bestselling novel that both it and The Bionic Woman were based on, Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, came out the year before in 1972. The 1970s in general saw a lot of science fiction films and TV shows interested in themes of humanity and robotics, including but not limited to the original Westworld, Silent Running, Battlestar Galactica, The Stepford Wives, The Black Hole, to some extent the original Star Wars, and Japanese hero series like Kamen Rider and Android Kikaider. Basically what I’m saying is that this was a pretty good time for cyborgs all around.

Other predecessors to Limit-chan include Astro Boy, who has a similar backstory with a grieving parent rebuilding their child as a robot; and 8-Man, a character regarded as Japan’s first cyborg superhero. Apart from him being just generally influential in Japanese sci-fi, 8-Man’s ability to transform into other people and his need to hide his cyborg identity are both key elements that ended up carrying over to Limit-chan.

So yes, Limit has some extraordinary abilities, but mostly because of all the science behind her cybernetically enhanced body. It’s wild, unrealistic science for sure, but within the fiction, it’s clearly just that: science, not magic.

So why include a seemingly non-magical girl like Limit in our history of magical girls, huh? What gives? Well, remember that in the introduction of this series, I laid down a definition for “magical girl” as a genre. It states that the main character must have magic powers… or at least superhuman abilities that appear magical. I added that caveat specifically because there are a few works like Limit-chan out there which are commonly considered “magical girl”—including by their own creators—but which do not, technically speaking, involve any magic.

The most commonly cited example of this aside from Limit-chan is Cutie Honey, a transforming android girl we’ll be talking more about shortly. However, we can also extend this principle to less obvious examples like, say, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Nanoha is undeniably a magical girl series. It has a recognizable magical girl aesthetic, it has the tropes, and… come on ithas“magical girl”rightthereinthenamewHATDOYOU–what are you arguing about? All the “magic” in that series, though? I mean, mild spoilers for season 1 of Nanoha, but that’s all revealed to be just a very advanced form of science and technology. And what’s that old Arthur C. Clarke saying we always hear? “Any sufficiently advanced technology” and such…?

Yeah, my point being: technomagic is valid. What counts as “magic” in a magical girl story is more dependent on the way the story treats it, how characters react to it, and the aesthetics and trappings associated with it. It has less to do with any inherently magical principles at work.

If that’s confusing to you: think of it like how Batman and Iron Man are still considered superheroes despite them not having traditional superpowers. The abilities they do have—technology, wealth, a laser focus on the symptoms of crime rather than the systemic inequalities which create it—are used in such a way that they can still participate in superheroics and create the same sorts of stories that traditionally “powered” characters do.

Likewise, technology-based magical girls, or “technomages” as I like to call them, use their tech in such a way that onlookers usually can’t tell the difference between what they do and straight-up magic. In addition, their stories follow the other core principles laid out in my definition of “magical girl”—namely that their abilities are significant to the narrative and contrast with the mundane world in some way. So, stories with heavy sci-fi settings where the inhabitants are used to a high level of tech? Less likely to be candidates for the genre, although there are some exceptions. [Onscreen text and image: “Example: Nanoha StrikerS”]

Anyway, Miracle Girl Limit-chan in particular is also considered part of the magical girl genre for one other big reason: because it aired in NET’s traditional “majokko” (or “little witch girl”) time slot of Mondays at 7 PM. Despite having a non-witch-y protagonist, this show was clearly meant to be the long-awaited successor to the majokko metaseries after Chappy the Witch. In fact, it was designed to be more of a majokko series than it was originally going to be.

You see, Toei actually had two shows about magical transforming android girls in the works at the same time, both being pitched as potential candidates for the majokko time slot. Limit-chan was being worked on in conjunction with Hiromi Productions, a planning company consisting mainly of former employees from Tezuka Productions. Their idea was in competition with another concept being worked on with Go Nagai and his company Dynamic Productions. And that concept, of course… was Cutie Honey.

If you know anything about Cutie Honey, it sounds wild that that show would be let anywhere near an audience of young girls. However, as we’ll cover next episode, that show was originally planned to be more of a romance-oriented shoujo series, similar to the later Cutie Honey Flash series in the 1990’s. So planning it to air in the majokko time slot made a lot more sense at the time.

However, it was Miracle Girl Limit-chan that ultimately won the right to that coveted 7 PM slot. This was possibly due in part to the strong story concept offered up by manga artist Shinji Nagashima. Now, Nagashima was maybe an… odd choice for the project considering he was known for writing stories aimed at older men. I mean, it’s not that surprising considering every magical girl series we’ve covered up to now was conceived of and written by older men, but still. No, Nagashima was also an odd choice considering his stories were known for their dark and gritty tones.

And sure enough, Nagashima’s original series pitch outlined a darker, more angst-ridden show in line with popular shoujo manga and past majokko series like Mahou no Mako-chan. The protagonist, Satomi, would have sustained mortal injuries in a plane crash and, upon being revived as a cyborg, found out that she only had one year left to live. The nickname “Limit” refers to this one-year time limit. So if you were wondering why on Earth someone would be called “Limit” of all things? Well, that’s why.

Toei really liked Nagashima’s concept of a girl being saved from death by becoming a cyborg. I would guess this is the reason they picked it for the majokko slot over Cutie Honey. However, NET felt the one-year time limit and darker tone would be too harsh for their audience. After some further workshopping, the series ended up more in line with their usual light-hearted majokko formula, although the protagonist retained “Limit” as her nickname for no adequately explored reason.

In the final product, we have 11-year-old Limit living as a cyborg but keeping it secret for fear of being shunned by society. She goes to school, has friends, and tries to help people out with her abilities when she can. To give those abilities more of a “magical” flavour, Limit calls them her “Miracle Powers”. Her main abilities are Miracle Run (which is super speed), Miracle Jump (guess what that one is), and just plain Miracle Power (which is super strength). These powers activate when she turns the pendant dial on her chest and speaks the name of the power she wants to use.

Most interestingly, as I mentioned earlier, Limit also has a shapeshifting ability called “Change Face”. [clip of Limit saying this] This allows her to transform Akko-style into anyone she wants. And she can change back with the phrase, uh, “Change Back”. [clip of Limit saying this]

This seems like it would be one of the most useful abilities in Limit’s roster, and it’s certainly her most “magical girl”-like ability. Strangely though, she doesn’t use it all that often. The problems Limit runs into just don’t tend to call for it. Plus she’s a pretty strait-laced character, so she doesn’t have much motivation to use the ability for personal gain like, say, Akko did in Himitsu no Akko-chan. As a result, this just ends up feeling like kind of an afterthought power for her. Huh.

Limit can also do a few tricks with the help of some quote-unquote “magic” accessories from her father. These include a winged shoulder bag that allows her to fly; a ring that emits a hypnotic scent; boots that let her dance and skate like an expert; a booby-trapped coin purse; lip balm that can write secret messages; a compact with a hidden light that lets her see through walls; and her most-frequently used accessory, a flying beret that doubles as a radio. Well, sort of a radio, anyway. It’s more like an electronic carrier pigeon. To use it, Limit records a voice message and lets the beret fly away to her father’s lab. Her father then listens, records a response, and sends it flying back to her. Rinse and repeat. Slightly more efficient than snail mail. Slightly less efficient than oh, say, a regular-ass telephone.

The last part of Limit’s “arsenal” is a robot dog named Guu. The original pilot version of episode 1 implies that he’s a recreation of a dog that died in the plane crash with Limit (cool fact: the pilot confirms that her mom died in the crash too, sadface). However, in the TV series proper, Guu’s origins are never made clear. Regardless, Guu runs on solar power, collecting light from the sun through the antennae on his head. He has a superior sense of smell and he has flexible legs that can stretch out or change into propeller blades, allowing him to fly around like a helicopter. [clip: something involving Dogcopter]

Now, if I’ve been talking for longer than usual up front about the context, production, and worldbuilding for this series, as opposed to the characters and plot? That’s because… well, the characters and plot are a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. There are a lot of good creative choices made, but also a lot of mediocre ones and a few real stinkers.

It’s a shame, because I feel like this series should be much more interesting than it is. This is not an uninteresting premise. Clearly other works have taken the “secret cyborg superhero” trope and seen massive success with it. And there are many moments in Limit-chan where you can see the show’s true potential shining through. Usually these are quieter moments with Limit as she contemplates her existence and laments what she no longer has. That classic “How human am I? Am I even human at all?” angst works super well, especially in stories of this vintage where it was a fresh concept.

However, in execution, it’s clear that the cyborg angstfest Nagashima pitched didn’t mesh well with the majokko silliness Toei wanted. This is very similar to the issue Mahou no Mako-chan had where the story struggled between its kids’ comedy roots and melodramatic shoujo aspirations. This issue hits Limit even harder, though, because Limit’s personality seems especially unsuited to Toei’s usual formula. Sally, Akko, and Chappy all excelled with a light-hearted format because they were younger, more mischievous kids whose curiosity and exuberance got them into a lot of interesting situations. Even Mako had a certain cheekiness and carefree attitude that let her pull off some of the sillier episodes of her series.

By contrast, Limit has probably the lowest-key personality we’ve seen in a majokko protagonist. Like I said earlier, she’s not much of a rule breaker, she’s gentle and pleasant, she grapples with a lot of inner pain, and her favourite activities include playing the piano and staring poignantly at the sunset. And when her stronger emotions do rise to the surface, they’re often frustration, anger, and fear, not so much cheekiness or excitement (although there is some of that sometimes).

None of these are bad traits. Far from it: Limit is a solid character on paper. She just needs a different kind of story to highlight the things that are interesting about her. She’s a bad fit for a high-energy series of weekly shenanigans.

And the creators seem to have realized this early on too, because sometimes it feels like Limit is our protagonist in name only. Why’s that? Well, I want you all to meet someone. His name is Ryuta Ishibashi, better known to most as “Boss”. He’s the head bully/hooligan of this series in the same vein as Taisho from Akko-chan or Banchou from Mako-chan. And if I didn’t know any better, sometimes I could swear I was not watching a show called Miracle Girl Limit-chan, but rather some other show I’ve never heard of called The Boss Time Boss Show Starring Boss and Friends.

Boss takes focus from the very first scene of the series. Episode 1 begins with Limit and Guu noticing an argument between Boss and a younger boy named Tomou. Limit and Guu watch the argument (meaning we watch the argument) until Boss turns his hat sideways, which is how you know he means business. The boys ride away on their bikes, and Limit follows by activating Miracle Run, with Guu flying behind her.

The boys continue their confrontation upon reaching a fenced-off construction area, with Boss framing it as a “duel” of sorts. What they don’t realize is that there’s liquid cement and a mixer underneath them. Of course, Tomou falls in and Boss scrambles to save him. He throws Tomou a nearby rope, and Limit grabs the other end from outside the fence, unseen by the boys. She activates Miracle Power to help Boss pull, and Tomou is saved. Hooray!

Afterward we have a scene where Boss and Tomou hang out with Tomou’s older sister, Nobuko (or “Buko” for short). Buko is this series’ Yotchan or Moko type—the tomboyish best friend to the main character. Not much of note happens here. However, notice the consistent characters from the last scene to here are Boss and Tomou, not Limit.

We don’t see Limit again until the next day at school, when Boss regales the class with tales of his heroism. Limit eventually scolds him for downplaying the way he bullied and endangered Tomou in the first place. Boss threatens Limit, but due to the hidden soft spot all characters like him have, he can’t bring himself to actually hit her.

Cut to another scene with Boss, this time with him and his cronies walking together after school. One thing leads to another in their conversation and Boss gets stuck in a hole in a fence. Ha ha ha, it’s funny ‘cause he’s fat, get it? Get it?? Oh, and he also falls into an open manhole! Oh wowzers! What a wi~ld and waaaa~cky character! Aren’t you glad this is definitely the person you signed up to watch and not the more interesting and complex cyborg girl over there? ‘cause I sure am!

And speak of the devil, at about the halfway mark in the episode, we do get a scene at Limit’s place. Here we meet Tomi, who is Limit’s nanny/housekeeper. Like I said, because Limit’s mother is gone and her father spends so much time at his lab, there are no other adults to keep the house clean and look after Limit, so hiring a nanny makes sense. Interestingly, Tomi is Japanese, but she lived in Hawaii for many years, which is a neat creative choice. As such, she likes to pepper her speech with random English words and offer advice to Limit based on her time abroad. Another reason it would be cool to spend more time with Limit and friends, don’tcha think?

Anyway, later that evening, Guu gets tired and falls off the couch, which worries Limit. Tomi reassures her, though, that Guu can’t get sick—he just has a low battery right now. After all, he’s a machine and not an animal, right? So there’s no need to worry. And Limit says: [clip: “That’s right, he’s not an animal, is he…”] Limit wanders to her room. Cue sad cyborg on piano angsting in soft focus about not feeling human anymore.

We then get a flashback to the plane crash that nearly killed Limit. This bit is mildly graphic, with blood splatter scene transitions and a shot of human Limit gushing blood out of her neck in the wake of the crash. During her life-saving surgery, we also get an Astro Boy-esque cross-section of Limit’s robotic insides while her father operates on her. Wild. I love it.

Oh! I’m sorry, were you enjoying that interesting cyborg story just now? Well why don’t we interrupt that and hard cut to an amusement park with Boss and friends for some more wacky shenanigans? Okay. Cool. Right on. Yep. Just what I wanted…

[rushed delivery] So Limit and Boss get on a roller coaster together, the coaster gets stuck, Boss freaks out and he tries to climb down, the coaster cars start rolling backward, Limit saves Boss by Miracle Jumping down with him, and no else one sees her do this because onlookers were trying to avoid seeing two kids turn into smears on the tracks. Boss wets his pants after landing, too freaked out to realize what just happened. Hooraaay…?

We then finish out the episode the next day, with Boss again bragging to his classmates about his supposed act of bravery. Limit has no time for this malarkey, instead choosing to watch the ocean from her favourite treetop. Girl, you have got the right idea.

[sigh] Man, I wouldn’t harp on all the Boss stuff in episode 1 if it were just in that episode, but it quickly becomes a pattern for the whole show. A lot of the episodes I watched, especially the early ones, focused heavily on shenanigans with Boss, Tomou, and a handful of other side characters, with ironically limited time for Limit herself. Not to mention some of this stuff is just obnoxiously written and presented, with certain episodes hinging on problems of the day that are stupid even by Toei standards.

This made getting into the show very difficult at first. I was almost ready to write the whole thing off after episodes 2 and 3, which were both pretty dire. Episode 2 is about Boss suddenly getting very good at math while Limit struggles with a series of mysterious headaches. Eventually it’s revealed that Boss has a newfangled piece of high-falutin’ technology called (gasp!) a pocket calculator! [dramatic sting and zoom in on calculator] And for… reasons, this calculator emits electronic signals strong enough to mess with Limit’s cyberbrain. That’s right folks! Our heroine: super fast, super agile, super strong, and can only be defeated by her one weakness: calculators! [menacing picture of a vintage calculator, more dramatic music underneath]

Episode 3 hurt my brain even worse. In this one, Buko’s baby sister sees Limit using her Miracle Jump. You’d think this would be a non-problem because, well, baby. But Limit starts obsessing over this baby somehow spilling her secret to everyone. Why? Because… because who knows?! That baby might randomly learn how to say: “Hey everyone, Limit is a cyborg!” Or maybe she’ll learn hiragana or baby sign language and tell everyone what she saw that way. Or people could find out because… because… because they just might, okay?!  Man, I know Limit’s paranoid about her secret being found out, but this seemed like a stretch even considering that. All the “jokes” around it are just dragged out and draaaaaggged out and it was infuriating to sit through, even for me, who’s used to draggy Toei plots by now.

Thankfully the show starts to find a better groove as it goes. Episode 4 introduces a rich girl bully character named Mitsuko. This is an archetype we’ve seen before in the genre, but it still works to vary up the types of conflict we see in the series. Plus Mitsuko herself has some pockets of complexity in her personality, leading her to have an on-again, off-again friendship with Limit and Buko over the course of the series. I started looking forward to episodes with Mitsuko in them. She’s a fun character!

Episode 4 also has Limit grapple with some complex feelings about her body as she realizes she’s not likely to age the way she is now. This causes her distress when she thinks about a boy in class that she likes named Jun, and how she probably won’t ever be able to grow up with him or tell him how she feels. This is decently compelling stuff! Shame the subject arises from nowhere and disappears again just as fast, though.

Despite the prevalence of Boss throughout the show, there thankfully are a few other good episodes that focus on Limit herself. In episode 6, Limit’s father, Dr. Nishiyama, misses Parents Day at school despite promising he would be there, and the whole conflict for that episode revolves around Limit’s frustrations with him constantly putting his work over her. The episode ends with them making up and Dr. Nishiyama revealing to Limit that the work he’s doing will soon allow her robot body to grow like a human body. Not sure how I feel about the writers trying to justify him breaking promises like that, but the episode still works otherwise.

Episode 9 is another good “I don’t like my body” episode, when Limit’s friends remark that she never seems to forget things or get sick like they do, almost like she’s a machine. Of course, this is exactly the kind of thing that sends Limit spiraling into existential angst. At home she cries and insists to herself that she IS human, damn it. Then for the rest of the episode she pretends to forget things and fakes a fever to stay home from school, trying to convince others (and herself) that she isn’t some flawless machine. 

Episode 19 is a super rare treat: a ski trip episode with no Boss in it whatsoever! The title of this episode is “Phantom Wolf” and it features a lot of cool animal and wilderness artwork. It just ends up being a filler “boy and his wolf” episode otherwise, but still. Badass.

Speaking of titles: something I noticed was that this series has a lot of unique animations for the episode title cards! Other Toei series have had custom title cards as well, but it felt like they were particularly frequent and noticeable in Limit-chan. Some have the text move or use special fonts or artwork that fit the episode. Some even have full-on cartoon title sequences, like this one where a rooster lays an egg. Not much else to say on that front—I just thought it was neat! [clip: Marge “I just think they’re neat!”]

Episode 22 isn’t entirely about Limit (mostly it’s about an old dude and some swans), but the first chunk of it shows the depths of Limit’s paranoia. It opens with her going for a routine medical test at school where an x-ray machine reveals her cybernetic heart. All of Limit’s teachers and friends point in shock and laugh at her as she runs away, and the scene rapidly distorts and blankets itself in darkness. …And of course, this all turns out to be a nightmare. Understandably, Limit is quite shaken.

To make matters worse, Mitsuko later quarrels with Limit and accuses her of being like a doll with no heart. Limit gets so caught up in thought after that that she doesn’t see an old woman trapped in traffic on her way home, causing Boss of all people to scold her. When Limit vents her fears and frustrations to her dad, he shows her a picture of her mother and her when they were younger to cheer her up. A nice thought, but it only serves to remind Limit of the life she no longer has, making her even more upset.

At this point Limit finds the old dude and the swan and that plot takes over (it has something to do with this swan being too injured to fly and being unable to be with its mother… I think; I watch these in raw Japanese, give me some slack). However, there’s a part near the end when the swan is taken to Dr. Nishiyama’s lab for surgery. The surgery scene strongly mirrors that of Limit’s own in the beginning of the series. Though the episode doesn’t state this outright, the swan recovering from surgery and learning to fly again seems to imply that, despite the changes to Limit’s body, Limit is still Limit—still truly and wonderfully human at her core.

Most of the other episodes are, as I said, standard Toei fare. Lots of dull filler. Some baffling shenanigans. Again, loads of Boss and Co. bumbling around and taking up screen time. This might not have been so bad on a weekly airing schedule, but it sure makes binge watching for a magical girl retrospective difficult.

Still, not all of the non-Limit-focused episodes are bad. The strongest are probably the ones focused on Buko. She gets two episodes of note: one where she gets angry at Limit over a broken promise and starts hanging out with Mitsuko instead, and another where she gets into ice skating and becomes jealous of Limit’s talent at it. These episodes helped make Buko one of the more interesting “best friend” characters we’ve seen in the genre so far. We get to see some compelling vulnerabilities on display for her, and the show really puts her relationship with Limit to the test in ways I feel we haven’t seen a lot thus far. I dig it, it’s good!

Sadly, the final episode isn’t much to write home about. It concludes the series more than, say, Sarutobi Ecchan did, but it’s still very underwhelming. It starts with Limit’s class finding out that their teacher, Ms. Otohime, is getting married and quitting her job soon. Most of the episode is spent trying to figure out who Otohime’s fiancé is and preparing to give her a goodbye present. And of course, a good chunk is spent on fluff with Boss and Tomou mistaking their dentist for the fiancé and getting some toothaches for their trouble. Heh heh heh, hilarious…

One of the more interesting bits happens near the beginning, when we see Limit fantasizing about being grown up and having someone propose to her. This is played for laughs but hey! It’s still nice to see that she’s confident enough in herself by this point that she can imagine this sort of thing freely.

The other notable development is at the end when Limit and her father find Ms. Otohime on a cliffside road. A fellow teacher named Mr. Sakata has fallen to the rocks below and is in danger of falling into the ocean. Due to some events from earlier, Limit’s father has a rope ladder with him, but it’s too short to reach the rocks. Deciding there’s no other safe option, Limit takes out her flying bag and uses it to rescue Mr. Sakata, revealing her secret to both teachers.

You’d think this kind of bombshell would have a major impact on the story. However, we skip over all the explanations and reactions and get straight to the part where Otohime and Sakata accept Limit as she is and thank her for her help. Weirdly, there is more excitement shown over Sakata being Otohime’s fiancé than there is over Limit’s cyborg-ness. Advanced cybernetics the likes of which the world has never seen? Huh, go fig’. The teacher’s beau is who now?! OH MY GOD STOP THE PRESSES! NOW THIS IS NEWS!!

The final scene is a montage of Limit doing Limit things. In voiceover, Ms. Otohime says that she and her husband will never forget her, and that she’s a fantastic cyborg girl. She promises to keep Limit’s secret and says that maybe someday, it’ll be her wishing Limit well when she becomes a bride herself. Limit blushes and turns away as Ms. Otohime says goodbye, then turns back to wave goodbye herself. Huh. That was… nice, I guess? A little rushed. More than a little anticlimactic. But the sentiment is fine at least.

The final episode of Miracle Girl Limit-chan aired on March 25, 1974. Unsurprisingly, given the show’s uneven quality and the existence of a more exciting magical android show elsewhere on the airwaves, the ratings weren’t the greatest. This must have been a disappointment for Toei considering the marketing push they gave this show. Based on the model of their past successes, Toei put out a lot of merchandise for Limit-chan, including dolls, a toy pendant, records, picture books, colouring books, games, bento boxes, and more. General advertising for the show was big too, up to and including Limit being featured on the cover of TV Guide magazine (a big deal considering anime only featured on these covers maybe once a year or so [Source: Anime: A History, pp 303).] Cutie Honey didn’t get nearly the same level of marketing and merch—and considering how well that show did in the ratings, that must have felt like an extra kick in the pants for Toei.

That said, Limit-chan wasn’t entirely unsuccessful. In fact, in the years following, it ended up being somewhat of a cult hit. According to the surprisingly thorough Wikipedia article (albeit not very well-sourced, so take this with a grain of salt), the series apparently reran several times on NET throughout 1978, plus a couple of times on another channel, TVK. According to the Japanese Wiki page, a new re-master of the series also ran in 2008 on the Toei Channel, broadcasting from March to June of that year. And based on Japanese blog postings I could find, there may have been some other undocumented re-airings in the 80s and 90s in various local markets. [Link – Aoba Tokio’s blog:]

Whether there was actual demand for Limit-chan or the channels were just using the show to fill airspace is unclear. However, the result was still that more people were able to see the series and become fans of it. Based on rough translations of Japanese fan sites and BBS comments, it seems that Limit-chan is remembered nostalgically among majokko fans as a striking show with an appealing main character and challenging themes (if maybe not the best animation or pacing). [Link:]

Limit hasn’t appeared much in other media, but there were several manga adaptations of the series running alongside its initial airing. A couple ran in the 1st and 3rd-grade versions of Shogaku magazine and were drawn by Shigeto Ikehara, a student of Osamu Tezuka’s best known for his work on the Mega Man manga. Other short serializations in Shogaku publications were drawn by Mariko Okamura and Midori Shimura. Another lady named Izumi Sakyo (formerly Kaori Miki) ran a serialization in Weekly Shoujo Comic (which apparently was the only one to get a proper ending) and yet another ran in the magazine Terebi Land drawn by Ryuu Morio and Shinya Takahashi (the latter of whom did animation direction and character designs on Chappy the Witch). I couldn’t find much information about any of these runs aside from some scattered scans, but still, just the sheer number of them is impressive and indicative of Toei’s marketing push for the show.

Next, let’s go over a few more behind the scenes notes. First, I should explain something about the format of the series. At the top of every episode, Limit gives a short “greeting” to the audience where she explains she’s a cyborg. For the first few episodes, Limit also states that she doesn’t mind being a cyborg. However, as part of network self-regulation efforts, Toei re-evaluated this language as insensitive, thinking it might imply there was something wrong with Limit.

If that doesn’t make sense to you: think of it like someone saying “Oh, she doesn’t mind being in a wheelchair”. Such phrasing could imply that being in a wheelchair is inherently negative—something one normally would mind. While undoubtedly there are wheelchair users who do mind using them, there are also many who don’t just “not mind” but view their chair as a great source of freedom and joy in their lives [Link 1, Link 2]. Reducing the use of these kinds of assistive devices to some inconvenience or defect that one must tolerate—that one can only “not mind” as opposed to genuinely love—does a disservice to the experiences of many disabled people.

Similar thinking seems to have gone into changing the greetings in Limit-chan. Limit often dealt with insecurities about her body as a character, but it was a step too far to imply in these more authoritative out of character scenes that having a different kind of body was inherently bad. So, starting with episode 8, they changed the greeting to have Limit say that because she’s a cyborg, she has many secret powers. Not a huge change, but a surprisingly subtle and forward-thinking one. Older rebroadcasts of episodes 1-7 still used the old greeting, but newer instances such as the YouTube version of episode 1 use the revised greeting.

Next, let’s talk staff and casting. First off, scripts were still largely being handled by majokko veterans Masaki Tsuji and Shunichi Yukimuro. You’d think this would be good for keeping a baseline level of quality, but I really have to wonder if Yukimuro at least was off his game around this time. Some of the worst episodes of this series, including episodes 2 and 3, were written by him. Hnngh…

The series’ score and theme songs were written by another Toei veteran, Shunsuke Kikuchi. It’s interesting that of all Toei’s magical girl shows, this was the only one he ever worked on. I say that because Kikuchi scored a lot of Toei’s biggest ever properties, including Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, Dr. Slump, Doraemon, Kamen Rider, and Getter Robo. So, of all the majokko series so far, this one may have the most quintessentially “Toei” soundtrack. [clips from the score]

Cast-wise, there is unfortunately not much to say about Limit’s voice actor, Youko Kuri. Her most prominent roles were all in very obscure series, with her other leading roles being the title characters in Vicke the Little Viking and The Adventures of Hutch the Honeybee. [voice clips if available] The cast also includes familiar majokko alumni like Sachiko Chijimatsu (as both Guu and Dr. Nishiyama’s assistant, Midori), Masako Nozawa (as Tomi and one of Boss’s minions), and Akira Kamiya (sharing the role of Jun with a couple of other actors throughout the series).

There were two other notable actors in the supporting cast, though. The first was Hidekatsu Shibata, who played Dr. Nishiyama. Shibata is a major veteran who has been working in the industry since 1957 and is best known as Baron Ashura in Mazinger Z, King Bradley in Fullmetal Alchemist, both the Narrator and the character of Igneel in Fairy Tail, and Monkey D. Dragon (the father of Luffy), in One Piece. [voice clips] Seems fitting that a guy with such an authoritative voice would play Limit’s distant scientist father (though Shibata does a good job with the more tender scenes as well).

The second actor of note is Rihoko Yoshida, who played Mitsuko. She started working in the early 70s and her career picked up steam very quickly from there, with major supporting roles in big shows like Heidi, Getter Robo, Captain Harlock, and The Rose of Versailles, plus the lead in the 1981 comedy series Miss Machiko. Her most notable roles, though, are the title characters in both Majokko Megu-chan and Majokko Tickle. Soooo yeah. Just a heads up: we’ll be talking more about Rihoko Yoshida in future episodes of Mahou Profile.

Lastly and most interestingly, Miracle Girl Limit-chan gained some international recognition in (where else?) Italy. In the 1981 Italian dub, Limit became “Cybernella” (pronounced “chee-behr-nell-ah” in Italian). [clips from the Italian OP: ; on-screen text: “Fun fact: if this song sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a blatant ripoff of “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” by The Beatles.”] Confusingly, the full series’ title was Cybernella – Limit Miracle Girl. As far as I can tell, Nella is never called “Limit” in the dub, so in addition to the weird syntax there, the “Limit” part just doesn’t make any sense for this version. Huh.

Also confusingly, while it’s pretty clear that Nella is still a cyborg in this version (I mean, it’s right there in the title), the dub avoids using the word “cyborg” and tries to make Nella a more explicitly magical character. According to majokko superfan Retrosofa, whom I consulted with for this video, there’s maybe, like, one episode where she’s called a “machina” and that’s it. Weird… Thankfully that and the whole “Cybernella” thing seem to be the only major changes. Most of the other characters’ names remain intact, they never pretend the story isn’t set in Japan, and the overall story remains the same.

But yes, it seems that nostalgic love is still alive and well for Cybernella in Italy. I was able to find several Italian fan pages dedicated to the show on Facebook and other sites, and there’s a decent amount of Cybernella fan art, writing, and cosplay out there too, plus a few fun covers of the opening on YouTube. [short clips from the covers] Unfortunately though, no other countries besides Italy picked up the series, which has kept its international reach smaller than other majokko titles.

All right then! I think that wraps us up on Miracle Girl Limit-chan. While an uneven mess in some respects, this show has some unquestionably strong and unique elements that captured the attention of many fans despite its shortcomings. Limit’s story helped change the face of this fledgling genre with new subject matter, new ways of thinking about magic, and a newer, more introspective brand of heroine. It’s a shame she didn’t get the show she deserved, but I’m glad she exists all the same. We love you, Limit-chan!

And… [take a breath] Okay. No fake outs this time. The next show in our chronology, as I alluded to earlier, started not long after Limit and ran parallel to her in NET’s Saturday afternoon block. Yes, it’s time. She was the original magical warrior. She was the first magical girl with a show aimed at a male audience. And she is the earliest magical girl that many anime fans are familiar with—for better and for worse. Next episode, we’re talking about Go Nagai’s legendary warrior of love: Cutie Honey. Brace yourselves, ‘cause this is gonna be a big one. Kawaru wa yo~

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