[The following is a transcript of episode 2 of the Mahou Profile series, viewable on YouTube here.]
Hey there all and welcome back to Mahou Profile: A History of Magical Girls! Last episode, I talked a bit about Osamu Tezuka and his most famous creation, Astro Boy. In 1952, when the first pages of Astro Boy debuted, the manga world was hugely different from the one we know today. Most manga in the late 1940’s and very early 50’s were light-hearted stories targeted at children, since manga was cheap to produce and children were in sore need of cheerful entertainment in the years following World War II.1 Tezuka tends to get credited as a key manga creator of this period thanks to his stories having more exciting stakes and mature pathos than was typical at the time. He is also highly praised for his lively, Disney-esque art, cinematic panel compositions, and “star system” of frequently recurring characters.2
However, while it’s easy to point to Tezuka’s influence in the world of manga, and we’ll definitely be coming back to him again when we talk about Marvelous Melmo, there were plenty of other influential manga artists working in the 50’s and 60’s that don’t get nearly as much credit as they should. Tezuka was hardly the only creator trying to tell different kinds of stories with manga, either at that time or previously. Two such creators are going to be important to us in this episode and the next: Fujio Akatsuka and Mitsuteru Yokoyama. Both were men, as were most major girls’ manga artists prior to the mid 1960’s.3 Female manga artists existed before then, of course (and they deserve lots more recognition as well) but on the whole, manga societies were not super open to lady artists at this point. [Onscreen: Images of female manga artists and their works, including Toshiko Ueda, Hideko Mizuno, and Masako Watanabe]4 Still, both Akatsuka and Yokoyama were undeniably instrumental in the birth of the magical girl genre.
Starting with Fujio Akatsuka: he was the creator of the manga Himitsu no Akko-chan, a.k.a. Akko-chan’s Got a Secret! We’ll go more into Akatsuka in the next episode when we talk about the Akko-chan anime, but it’s worth bringing him up now in the timeline because Akko-chan was the first magical girl manga, debuting in July 1962 in the girls’ manga magazine Ribon.5 Ribon itself goes back to 1955 and is still publishing to this day, focusing on manga for ages 9-13.6 This magazine has been home to a lot of manga that spawned anime we’ll be covering eventually, including Nurse Angel Ririka, Hime-chan’s Ribbon, Full Moon wo Sagashite, and the subject of today’s episode: Mahoutsukai Sally, a.k.a. Sally the Witch.
Mitsuteru Yokoyama, a creator usually more associated with titles aimed at boys (such as Giant Robo and Tetsujin-28), debuted the manga version of Sally the Witch in July 1966, four years after the Akko-chan manga.7 The idea for writing a series about a witch came to him after seeing the American sitcom Bewitched, which aired in Japan as Oku-sama wa Majou, a.k.a.: “My Wife is a Witch”.8 [Onscreen text: “SIDE NOTE: An additional influence on Yokoyama was the 1932 British children’s novel ‘The Magic Walking Stick.’ This story + the popularity of Bewitched made him think a story about a little witch would be popular.”]9 Yokoyama had originally conceived of his series as “Sunny the Witch”, but ended up changing the name due to the Sony Corporation having copyrighted the name “Sunny”. So “Sally” it was.10
The manga was short, only lasting one year and later being released as a single volume.11 Before that short run was over, though, Yokoyama licensed the series to Toei Doga — the same company who produced Tale of the White Serpent, which we covered last episode.12 And in December of 1966, the first episode of Sally the Witch aired, making it the first bonafide magical girl anime. Heck, it was the first anime aimed specifically at girls, period! Nice!
The story starts with a child witch named Sally who is the princess of a magic kingdom. One day on a whim, she decides that she’s bored of studying magic and wants to visit the human world instead, so she skips out on studying and does just that. When her parents find out she’s gone, they send another magical child named Cub after her to try and convince her to come back home. The parents don’t go after her themselves because… they’ve got stuff to do? I guess? They’re busy. Anyway, it’s too late: Sally has already made friends and she’s decided that she likes the human world so much she wants to stay in it. She creates a home for herself — literally, she conjures a super swanky house out of thin air — and then sets up Cub to pose as her younger brother, carving out a life for herself as Sally Yumeno, the quirky rich girl down the street who always lends a hand to those in need, from cake making to babysitting to grassroots advertising campaigns to fighting organized crime. Y’know, as eight-year-olds do. All the time… [clip of Sally terrorizing yazuka with magic barrels] (Y’see she does it [laughs] look at ‘er go!)
So yeah, those are the basics of the story. It’s not that similar to its influence, Bewitched, aside from, well, the whole witch angle. Bewitched is for the most part a domestic series about suburban adults living suburban adult lives with magic thrown in to mix things up for comedy. Sally on the other hand follows manga trends of the period and aims itself very squarely at kids. As such, it leans a lot more on cartoon slapstick than on the domestic or verbal comedy of Bewitched.
Another major difference is that there is that, unlike the witch Samantha, who actively tries to suppress and hide her magic—
Darren: You gave me your word no more, uh—
(audience laugh track)]
—so that she can be the best little suburban housewife she can (why hello 1960’s patriarchal values)—
[clip: Bewitched. Samantha uses her magic to clean the kitchen instantly. Audience laugh track.
Samantha: …Maybe I can taper off.
(Big laugh track.)]
—there is no one Sally is trying to please other than herself and her friends. She does nominally have to hide her magic from humans, but her major goal in the series isn’t to resist her magic side. Sally loves being a witch and takes full advantage of her powers whenever she can. She rarely seems to suffer any consequences from using magic either, and in fact her magic is more often than not an unambiguously good solution to a problem, as opposed to something that causes unintended trouble.
In this way, young viewers—especially young girl viewers—are allowed to indulge in a magical power fantasy through Sally without much (if any) implicit judgment for enjoying themselves. This kind of power fantasy is important for young kids to experience for self-confidence building, so Sally normalizing this kind of fantasy for young girls in Japanese pop culture early on is, in theory, a big positive. We’ll get into the nuances of that idea in practice as Mahou Profile progresses, but for now: yay, Girl Power™!
Anyway, no, the trouble in this show usually comes less from magical consequences and more from other characters actively trying to cause trouble. Mostly it’s Cub who causes trouble. Actually almost always. Yeah, Cub? He may look cute, but he is actually an unbelievable dillhole. The tricks he plays on Sally and company often go way past childish pranks and right into straight-up villainy.
For example: there is an episode where Sally and friends are trying to help out a classmate with a fortune telling stand. Cub is so annoyed that he’s not the center of attention that he tries to ruin the classmate’s reputation. Another time, Cub tries to get Sally’s neighbours, the Hanamuras, thrown out on the street because he’s having a tiff with the Hanamura triplets. And another time, when Sally goes on a class picnic without him, Cub plays pranks on the girls, follows them around despite Sally repeatedly telling him no, and then (get this) he teams up with a royal servant from the Magic Kingdom to create a severe thunderstorm, endangering Sally’s entire class and injuring one of her friends. And THEN both Cub and the servant transform into dinosaurs and have a full-on magical creature battle with Sally, which Sally only manages to win with help from her mother. All because someone didn’t get to go on a stinkin’ field trip. [inhale, frustrated exclamation]
And may I remind you: Cub is NOT a villain in this show. He is a major supporting cast member, and is portrayed sympathetically in most episodes. Yet he pulls these awful, annoying stunts all. The time. Yeah. Yeah, Cub is pretty much the worst.
[sigh] Similarly mischievous but much more enjoyable are the aforementioned Hanamura triplets. They cause a lot of trouble of their own, but seeing as they are normal human children, unlike whatever Cub is supposed to be, they never quite sink to the sheer levels of spite that Cub does. They’re more along the lines of lovable scamps who, yes, play pranks and cause problems, but you can see enough heart to them that you can’t help but like them despite that.
This is especially apparent in the way they treat their older sister, Yoshiko Hanamura. Yoshiko, or “Yocchan”, is one of the first people Sally meets in the human world, and she becomes friends with Sally pretty quickly despite being initially freaked out by things about Sally she can’t explain. Yoshiko is the eldest of the Hanamura children and despite having a laid-back and casual attitude, she’s a very responsible girl who takes care of her brothers to the best of her ability in the absence of their dead mother. And her brothers for the most part are respectful of her for that and behave themselves when she’s around. …Usually. [clip of triplets pranking Yocchan]
The second episode shows pretty well how the four of them stick up for each other. Like I said before, the Hanamuras are in danger of getting thrown out of their house, specifically because their father is late on paying the rent. It’s Yoshiko’s responsibility to go and get the rent check for the landlord, and the triplets stall for time for her by demanding the landlord show proof that their father promised a decision about the rent by a certain date. (Dang, these kids are savvy about real estate contracts!) When the landlord comes back with the proof, they continue to defend their father and sister and refuse to leave the house, even working together to move furniture back in that the landlord is trying to get moved out. And of course Cub teleports furniture back out again so he can expedite the process of getting them thrown out because Cub is awful and the worst and ;GLAJKSGDLAJ
Anyway, this episode in general is pretty fun and a good intro to these supporting characters. There are other members of the cast as well, like Sally’s other friend Sumire, a baseball-playing classmate named Ken, and another witch girl named Poron who shows up much later on and actually rivals Cub for the title of Most Awful Hellchild on Earth. Plus of course Sally’s parents are still around from time to time, with her dramatic pointy-haired dad being particularly fun to watch. Plus there’s… Go…d? I think he’s Sally’s grandpa. He’s lovely.
With all these colourful side characters, we should expect our heroine to be just as fun and lively to match. And… well yeah, a lot of the time she is! Like I said, Sally loves being a witch and the joy she takes in using her magic is pretty hard not to be charmed by (pun 100% intended). She isn’t just a one-note role model protagonist as I feared she might be. She is largely sweet and pleasant, sure, but like Cub and the triplets, Sally can also be mischievous, she can be cheeky, she can be ticked off and even just a little bit spiteful herself.
[clip: Sally the Witch. Sally is chasing Cub, who is making fun of her. Sally uses magic to bring two trees to life and spank him for his misbehaviour. Sally and Cub speak Japanese, and their dialogue is translated in the following joking way by onscreen subtitles:
Sally: So? How do you like THEM apples you little ass-monkey?
Cub: Damn it!
Sally: Say you’re sorry and I MIGHT spare your life~!]
Like… Okay. Teaching the school bully a lesson through magical hijinks is fun and all. It’s always great to see a jerk get his comeuppance, I get that. But seriously: when you’ve got the kid up a tree at your mercy, literally begging you for his life, and you’re sawing the trunk in half beneath him for the express purpose of CRUSHING HIM? That’s just a little further than most kids take their revenge, Sally, good god. She is just straight up Terminator here.
[close up on Sally cutting down the tree with fire effects superimposed] HASTA LA VISTA, BULLY. [Terminator sting]
Attempted murder aside: Sally is usually at her most interesting when the show focuses on one of two things. The first is her youth and inexperience—the “girl” part of magical girl. Like I said earlier, usually Sally’s magic goes off without a hitch for the sake of whatever the plot requires, which creates the base power fantasy for the show. However, sometimes you’ll get episodes that highlight how much Sally has yet to master, which keeps the show from becoming a dull string of constant successes.
Take episode 6 for example: by this point, Sally’s parents have more or less accepted that their daughter isn’t coming back for a while. However, they at least want to make sure she’s still keeping up with her magic studies. To that end, they send in Sally’s grandmother (a strict, grouchy old witch) to act as a magic tutor. Here we get to see Sally fail at a couple things for once, like not being able to walk through a wall, getting the ingredients for poison apples wrong, causing an apple tsunami, creating abominations of nature that are horrified by their own existence, y’know? Mistakes anyone could make. This does a nice job reminding the audience that Sally still has a lot of growing to do despite how powerful and accomplished she seems, and it sets a precedent for the inexperience and awkwardness of youth being a staple part of the magical girl genre.
The other thing that makes for an interesting Sally episode is a focus on her otherworldly nature—the “magical” part of magical girl. Sally looks and acts human for the most part, but sometimes the show reminds viewers in no uncertain terms that she did not grow up on Earth. Heck, she may not even have the same biology as Earth humans.
Episode 11 is a really good example of this. Sally’s teacher talks about tears and what makes people cry. Sally reveals that she has never cried before. Not once, not even as a baby. She may not even be physically capable of it. After realizing that her friends think it’s weird and disturbing that she never cries, Sally spends the rest of the episode trying to understand tears, wishing she had them herself. She eventually tries using magic contact lenses to simulate them, but this gets predictably awkward results. Then things come to a head later when the class finds their goldfish dead one morning, and the only one who doesn’t cry about it is Sally. The other children find this suspicious and accuse her of killing the fish. Sally runs off, but then overhears the teacher defend her to the other students. Touched by his actions and the acceptance of her classmates after that, Sally finally sheds real tears. Admittedly I find this a bit of a cop-out since it would have been nice to see Sally being accepted 100% as she is, tears or no tears. Still, it’s a sweet moment all the same.
The whole episode is just really effective, especially for a show this old. It operates on a principle that’s common to most good fantasy and speculative fiction: using an otherworldly character or situation to draw attention to or reframe something about the human condition. In this case, Sally being unable to cry may make young viewers think about what being able to cry means to them, how it makes them feel, and how it connects them with other people. It’s a simple narrative trick in this case, but it works like, well, magic.
Shifting gears a little bit: the last couple episodes I’ve highlighted have been in black and white, but you may have noticed some colour clips earlier on. Sally started its run in black-and-white, but starting with episode 18, the series switched to colour production, making it one of the earliest TV anime to adopt colour. This was in line with Toei’s continuing ambitions to be the top animation studio in the country (remember our friend Mr. Okawa from last episode). It’s questionable how well they maintained that title, considering they eventually ended up bleeding staff left and right due to unsatisfactory compensation and working conditions. However, it is at least true that Toei helped create almost an entire new generation of animation talent through their “Toei University” training system, so a lot of the old guard in anime are thankful to the studio for that at least, if still somewhat disgruntled.13
In any case: from episode 18 onward, Sally the Witch continued broadcasting in colour until the end of its 109 episode run. Yep, you heard right: 109 episodes. Hoo boy. You’ll excuse me if I didn’t watch every single episode for this video, especially since only a handful have been fansubbed. Unfortunately the series never saw an English release of any kind, either, so there is no legal way for English-speaking fans to watch this series short of owning an all-region DVD player and importing the boxset.
Thankfully several other countries did get dubs of the series, including Mexico, Italy, Poland, and several South American countries, so if you speak Spanish, Italian, or Polish, you may have luck finding episodes out there you can watch. Frustratingly, there was one dub that aired in Canada… but it was in French. [clip: Minifée opening theme]14 Ah, c’est le Québécois.
Still, it’s a shame for English-speaking fans, because while it’s not the most dramatically riveting series, Sally the Witch is still a charming little show. I was honestly surprised by how much of its cuteness and humour still hold up despite the cheap animation and old-fashioned sensibilities. It has the same kind of charm as an old Disney or Tom and Jerry cartoon, plus it has the added bonus of being a little more complex than most old western cartoons, which is really nice to see for a kids’ show from this time period.
Speaking of old western cartoons: due to the influence of imported Disney cartoons during the post-war occupation15, there are a lot of Disney references in Sally the Witch, such as this scene where Sally’s grandma talks about poisoned apples while dressed like the Evil Queen from Disney’s Snow White. [side-by-side clips] Or there’s this scene where Cub is waving his fingers back and forth to make a broom dance and walk, much like a certain magical mouse did in Fantasia. [side-by-side clips] Most striking is probably the last episode, where — *GASP* SPOILERS FOR FIFTY-YEAR-OLD ANIME — Sally and Cub finally return home to the Magic Kingdom in a flying carriage… [clip: Grasshoppers turn into pegasi to pull the carriage.] …which looks a heck of a lot like a mix of two carriages from Disney’s Cinderella. [side-by-side clips of the carriages] And if the reference wasn’t obvious enough for you, Sally and Cub leave as the clock chimes midnight, their house vanishing into the aether like the last of Cinderella’s magic. [clip: Sally and Cub depart, waving goodbye to their friends]
There are lots of other references I could point to, both obvious and more subtle, but really, finding all the Disney influences and references in Sally could probably be its own video. So for now I’ll just say that this strong influence is very interesting to look back on with modern eyes. Disney-esque representations of princesses, jewels, carriages, castles, talking animals—heck, even witches—are all things that we see not just in Sally, but in many magical girl series to follow. So this is definitely a topic we’ll be touching on again in future episodes.
Another topic we’ll be touching on again for sure is the connections some of the staff on this show have to other magical girl shows, and to the wider history of anime. There isn’t really much to say about the writing or direction of the show since those duties were all shared by multiple people from what I can find. However, a lot of the voice talent we’ll definitely be seeing again later.
Michiko Hirai, who played Sally, we’ll see playing a mother role in Mahou no Mako-chan. Sachiko Chijimatsu, the voice of Cub, we’ll see again as Mieko in Sarutobi Ecchan, Twin Panther in Cutie Honey, and other bit parts in shows like Mako-chan, Megu-chan, and Tickle as well. Fuyumi Shiraishi, the voice of Poron, would later be the talking cat mascot in Lunlun the Flower Child. And Kenji Utsumi, Sally’s Dad, didn’t do many other magical girl series, but he did have a HUGE decades-spanning career, and fans today probably know him best as ShenLong from Dragonball Z, Raoh from Fist of the North Star, and Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist. Oh yeah and there’s also Masako Nozawa, the voice of the triplets and Sally’s mom, who’s done y’know, a few bit parts here and there, few parts in Limit-chan, Akko-chan, Chappy, and oh I don’t know, Tetsurou in Galaxy Express 999, Kitaro in GeGeGe no Kitaro, and mo***f***n’ Son Goku in mo***f***n’ Dragonball Z aw shiiiiiiiii— [airhorns, music: “Turn Down for What”, dank meme images of Masako Nozawa and Goku]16
However, the most well-known staffer on this show was not a voice actor, writer, or director, but a lowly animator who was making a name for himself as the head of the Toei labor board: a promising young upstart you may have heard of named Hayao Miyazaki. Yes, Mr. “Anime Was a Mistake” himself worked on Sally the Witch. He originally wanted to work for Toei after being inspired by Tale of the White Serpent, which we discussed last episode. The scale and wonder of the film left a huge impact on him, and he even admitted to having fallen in love with the character of Bai-niang.17 That’s right: you have a proto-magical girl in part to thank for bringing about Totoro, Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, and many, many high quality memes.
The Anime News Network encyclopedia lists Miyazaki as a key animator for episodes 77 and 80 of Sally the Witch.18 While I can’t say for sure which sequences he worked on, I can say that in productions this old, it was a lot more common for key animators to handle most of an episode or even entire episodes by themselves, so I would not be surprised if the bulk of these episodes featured Miyazaki’s work.19 Episode 77 especially has a lot of standout animation moments such as this sequence of Poron shrinking down the triplets in a car, followed by them driving among giant leaves and underground tunnels. These shots have a surprising amount of detail and try for some interesting perspectives, such as when this mole chases a shrunken-down Sally through the tunnels. Some of the car shots with the triplets seem like precursors to future works as well, with the dynamic animated backgrounds and wild driving choreography echoing scenes like the opening car chase from Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. [clips from both Sally and Cagliostro] Even if it turned out that none of this was Miyazaki’s work—and I highly doubt that, because that is TOTALLY a Miyazaki mole [screenshot from Sally episode 77]—this is all some stellar animation work for a weekly show from the late 60s, and it’s interesting either way to see that this was the kind of production Miyazaki cut his teeth on.
Okay, so that’s about all I have to say about the 1966 Sally series. I would say that wraps us up, but I still want to touch on a few related things that came out after the original anime. First is another series called Sally the Witch that lasted 88 episodes from 1989-1991. Despite having the same title as the first series, this is not a remake or a reboot, but a direct sequel. For that reason, the series is often called Sally the Witch 2 to distinguish it from the 60s anime. In it, Sally is preparing to be crowned Queen of the Magic Kingdom when she finds out that Yoshiko’s father has been hurt in a car accident, and that his taxi — the family’s livelihood — is going to be junked. Sally, alarmed, tries to sneak out of her coronation with help from Cub and Poron, only to be discovered by her mother. Continuing the tradition of being a remarkably free range parent, Mama lets Sally go to her friends, giving her a new magic wand to help her. After saving the Hanamuras, Sally puts down roots on Earth again and the series continues in much the same way the 60s anime did, with Cub and Poron following Sally to Earth and the whole group having more adventures together.
The difference between the two series is obviously that Sally the Witch 2 had a higher budget and more modern animation techniques to work with, allowing for flashier magic, smoother motion, and more character expression than the original series. It also worked in a lot more tropes that had become staples of 80s anime and especially 80s magical girl anime, such as a colourful animal sidekick, a suspiciously marketable magic item, and lots of stereotypical 80s villains and plots.
In addition to the main series, there were also two TV specials and a short theatrical movie made in this period. All three involve some kind of bad magical woman sowing evil and discord, usually by kidnapping one or more children; and then in the end, the bad woman realizes she was in the wrong the whole time and comes to her senses. Everyone goes on their merry way, the end. If you’re curious about Sally the Witch but don’t think you’d be able to sit through the old black and white stuff, I recommend tracking down the movie for sure. It’s very short (barely longer than a TV episode), it’s been fansubbed in English, and it’ll give you a nice one-and-done taste of the franchise. Granted, it’s a bit more high fantasy than most other Sally stories, but still, if you’re only going to watch one Sally thing, it’s a pretty enjoyable thing.
Anyway, last couple things I want to mention before we finish: first is a 2015 song and music video by the idol group ANGERME. Er, wait no it’s… an-ju-ru-mu? ahn-jhehrm? Oh my god, idols, stop it. ANYWAY. This group released a song called “Mahoutsukai Sally,” and what do you know, it’s a revamp of the original Sally theme song, and a dang catchy one at that. I can’t play it here due to fear of YouTube’s ever-present copyright bots, but trust me, it’s a major earworm. I recommend looking up both it and the theme songs of the 60s and 80s anime to compare it to, as the evolution of the song is pretty interesting to hear.
Last but not least: there is one more notable appearance Sally has made in anime, and it’s… not as Sally, but as Sunny. Remember that Yokoyama originally wanted to call his witch Sunny? Well in the 1990s, there was a direct-to-video series called Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still, which was nominally an adaptation of Yokoyama’s Giant Robo manga. However, due to a big complicated mess of copyright I won’t get into, the staff working on this series could not actually use any of the characters from Giant Robo except for the main character and the robot itself. So instead, the director of the series, Yasuhiro Imagawa, populated the supporting cast with characters from Yokoyama’s other manga series, including Tetsujin-28, Water Margin, Babel II, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and of course Sally the Witch.20
The whole series is massively fun even if you’re not at all familiar with Yokoyama’s works, with a lot of influences from Wagnerian opera, expressionist and noir film, and the sheer balls-to-the-walls craziness that is super robot anime. It’s only seven episodes long, yet the series took almost ten years to make, so each episode is filled with astounding levels of animation quality. It’s one of the most sincere love letters to a manga creator’s work ever put to screen, and even though Sunny/Sally’s part is small, it’s extremely satisfying to see her and all these other “rescued” Yokoyama characters play off one another in this grand story. Definitely check it out!
And of course: again, if you can find the original Sally the Witch in any way, shape or form, I highly recommend checking out at least a couple of episodes of that as well. You’ll get a taste of what anime was like back at the dawn of the medium; you’ll get to see the groundwork this show laid for many series to follow; and most importantly, you’ll get a cute, funny little show about magical hijinks that’s still fun to watch today. And in the likely event that you can’t get a hold of it? I hope this video at least gave you a good impression of what the show is like.
That’s all for today! Next time, we’ll be moving on to the second major trendsetter of the genre: Himitsu no Akko-chan, the first transforming magical girl anime. See you all then!