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Saint Tail article published in Animerica Vol. 10, No. 1, January 2002
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

Some thieves are slick, some thieves are sexy, but Saint Tail is sweet -and the cutest thief of all. One! Two! Three! It's showtime!*

Boy meets girl. Boy chases girl. Girl runs away. This may sound like a typical romantic plot, but when the boy's a detective and the girl's a thief, it's a slightly different story! Regardless of all the charm and action which make the series so enjoyable, at the heart of Kaito (long o) Saint Tail (Saint Tail) is the romance between Meimi Hanaoka and Daiki Asuka. Meimi seems like an ordinary fourteen year old, but her athletic skills and talent with magic provide her with the abilities necessary to become the mysterious thief Saint Tail. As Saint Tail, Meimi steals items which have been wrongly procured and returns them to their proper owners. Despite her benevolent intentions, Saint Tail is pursued by the police. Daiki, more commonly known as Asuka Jr., is the son of the detective in charge of the Saint Tail cases. Asuka Jr. is a smart kid, so he's allowed to help with the investigation. While they tend to argue with each other at school, their encounters as detective and thief cause Meimi to come to appreciate Asuka Jr. and for Asuka Jr. to appreciate Saint Tail. Like Clark Kent, Meimi becomes her own rival, setting up the romantic plot for the rest of the story.

 

The series begins in the middle of a robbery. Saint Tail has stolen a painting from an art crook. The next day, the girls at Saint Paulia Academy are all abuzz with the news of another Saint Tail sighting. Asuka Jr. declares Saint Tail is just a criminal, and he intends to capture her himself. This sets Meimi off. Their argument is interrupted by the nun in charge of the class who sends both of them into the hall as punishment.

After school, Meimi goes to the chapel. She's there to meet up with her best friend Seira who happens to be a nun in training. As Meimi arrives, she sees a little girl leave. Seira tells Meimi the story the little girl confided in her. The little girl's grandfather is a jewelry appraiser who was asked to differentiate an invaluable blue sapphire from an imitation made for security purposes. The grandfather became so enchanted by the gem, in a moment of weakness, he returned the fake to the owner. He repents his actions, but what can he do? Seira managed to convince the little girl to give her the sapphire so Saint Tail might return it.

At home, we meet Meimi's parents. Papa is a professional magician who wants his daughter to follow in his footsteps. This causes mama to insist Meimi should become like her. Meimi slips away as they argue over her future. There's a hint at mama's career when Meimi leaves for her evening's work and silently assures her parents she'll keep both their family traditions alive.

Meimi meets up with Seira at the chapel. With a quick change, Meimi becomes Saint Tail. After receiving the stone from Seira and a brief prayer, Saint Tail's off to return the sapphire. It turns out Asuka Jr. is on the case and after Saint Tail makes the switch, he almost catches her! She falls on him but manages to escape, leaving him with his first clue to her identity: she must be a girl about his age. This close call only strengthens his resolve to discover who Saint Tail is.

To complicate the story, transfer student Lina Takamiya is introduced. Lina is a smart, forward girl from a rich family. She becomes interested in Asuka Jr. and therefore Saint Tail. Seeing Saint Tail as a rival, she also wants to catch the thief -but how much would it matter? Saint Tail is too glamorous and mysterious to compete against, and Asuka Jr. is too clueless to realize Lina likes him. Still, a girl's got to try.

The story continues with more action-packed cases of ill-gotten goods returning to their rightful owners thanks to Meimi and Seira. During the course of the series, Saint Tail steals a remarkable variety of things, from necklaces and jewels to a dolphin and even a chef! Since people who feel helpless often turn to God, Seira's in the perfect position to listens to their troubles, gathering the details of each injustice. It's an ingenious scheme, as no one would suspect a nun in training could be in league with a thief, not even one as good-hearted as Saint Tail. Each case has a touching, sympathetic story to it, making the series heart-warming entertainment with or without the romance.

 

With a thief who steals back wrongly acquired items and is in love with the detective who's after her, some may consider Saint Tail to be a magical girl version of the classic thief series Cat's Eye. While the comparison is justified -and artist Megumi Tachikawa admits she likes both Cat's Eye and Lupin III- the primary influence for Saint Tail was the 1980's series Maho (long o) no Star Magical Emi (Magical Star Magical Emi). Magical Emi is about a cute and clumsy girl named Mai who wants to be a magician. With the help of a magical bracelet, she can transform into an older girl with magical talent. Meimi's talented without the help of fairy magic, but both series are very sweet and have a lot of charm. Tachikawa also mentions the song "Pink Cheetah" by Seiko Matsuda as an influence. This old Japanese pop song is a love story about a detective and a thief.

So what makes Saint Tail different from other magical girls shows like Card Captor Sakura or Sailor Moon? Meimi needs no magical device or ancient lineage to give her special skills. Saint Tail's abilities may be a bit fanciful, but they all come from within herself. This may or may not be a hidden message of self reliance, but it's one of the qualities which cause Saint Tail to stand out from other shojo (first o long) titles. It's also a great example of how action series do not have to be violent. All of Saint Tail's clever robberies and chases allow for plenty of action without much risk of life or limb.

Cool mecha and high drama may be qualities which attract many fans to anime, but you can't show Cowboy Bebop or Fushigi Yugi (long u) to kids and expect them to appreciate it. If there's one thing Japan has that we don't, it's cute, wholesome, quality stories filled with interesting characters and enjoyable plots. Saint Tail is just such a series. The stories are charming and the romantic tension is delightfully frustrating. It may be aimed at a younger audience, but there's plenty to make this series worth trying. Saint Tail is sure to steal your heart.

 

CHARACTER PROFILES
Memi Hanaoka
Although she may not get the best scores in school, Meimi is a talented gymnast and has remarkable dexterity. This, combined with skills she's picked up from both of her parents, provide her with the abilities she needs to be Saint Tail. Meimi has a strong sense of justice, and is an energetic, kind-hearted girl, but she is as prone to bouts of anger and sadness as anyone her age. She is also prone to feelings of romance, and the object of her affection is none other than Saint Tail's nemesis, Asuka Jr.

Seira Mimori
Seira is a nun in training. She is also Meimi's best friend, confidant, and partner in. By listening to the woes of others, Seira works with Meimi to do what they can to help -usually in the form of a visit from Saint Tail. Seira has a sagacity and patience beyond her years, making her well suited for her future as a nun. Artist Megumi Tachikawa discovered early on that nuns in training can't wear habits, but Meimi shouldn't be the only one who gets to have a special outfit. They are partners, after all.

Daiki Asuka (a.k.a. Asuka Jr.)
While a bit small for his age (and quite touchy about it), Asuka Jr. has a big spirit. He's also really smart, which is why the mayor has given him permission to help the police in catching Saint Tail. He can sometimes be a blowhard in front of his friends, but he's sensitive enough to appreciate Saint Tail doesn't steal for her own gains. His respect for this mysterious thief eventually turns into infatuation. Despite his smarts, Asuka Jr. can be extremely clueless, especially when it comes to girls.

Lina Takamiya
Lina comes from a wealthy family who has recently moved into Saint Tail's town. She is clever, confident, and courageous, and she develops a crush on Asuka Jr. Lina sees Saint Tail as a rival, so she's just as determined to catch and reveal Saint Tail's identity as Asuka Jr., if not for the same reasons.

Detective Asuka
Asuka Jr.'s father plays a greater role in the anime than the manga and is slightly different in both versions. In the anime, Detective Asuka is busy with more cases on his mind than those related to Saint Tail. In the manga, Asuka Jr. actually says his father's not a good detective. After all, it's fun for young leads to be more skilled than adults. In either case, Detective Asuka has no luck in catching Saint Tail.

Genichiro and Eimi Hanaoka
Meimi's parents are not your typical couple. Papa's a professional magician, and mama... well, mama was once a thief! Although they occasionally argue over their only child, they are a loving, supportive couple. Meimi is sometimes embarrassed by her parents' affection for each other.

Ruby
Ruby is a hedgehog -kind of the mascot of the series. After a chance encounter, Meimi decided to buy the lonely little creature, but this cute furball became part of a nefarious plot involving a diamond. After Saint Tail foiled the badguy, Meimi adopted Ruby.

Saint Tail While
Saint Tail is merely Meimi's secret identity, her cute outfit is reason enough to mention her separately. Saint Tail uses magic tricks to steal items which have been wrongfully taken (usually exposing the badguy responsible in the process) and returns them to their rightful owners. She never uses violence and usually announces her intentions to Asuka Jr.

 

SIDEBARS

MANGA V.S. ANIME
The show tends to have slightly better continuity and more logical, dramatic cases. For example, in the opening case, the man from whom Saint Tail stole the painting mutters, "It took me years to swindle them out of that picture," with only his surprised staff to hear him in the comic. In the show, the man says, "And after all the trouble I went through to steal it myself," in front of the cops who are there to stop Saint Tail. Then other stolen paintings are discovered, landing the man in jail. This kind of extra detail gives the show a slightly more polished feel than the comic. Not all the changes are for the better, for the show also gives Meimi magical items plainly intended for merchandising. While they may add a bit of flash, they also diminish the idea that Meimi's abilities are her own and not derived from magical items. No matter the differences, both the show and the comic offer charming, exciting, romantic stories.

RELIGION IN SAINT TAIL
With a story set in a Catholic school and a nun in training for a main character, it's not too surprising there are some religious themes in Saint Tail. God, sin, and repentance are mentioned regularly and Seira and Meimi always pray before every ‘theft'. In the TV show, they even debate if what they're doing is wrong. While the U.S. comic still contains the religious content of the original, this aspect of the series seems to have been toned down in the English version of the show.

SERIES STATS
Written by artist Megumi Tachikawa, the Saint Tail manga is seven volumes long and ran from 1995 to 1996 in the comic anthology Nakayoshi. The animated series ran for forty three episodes around the same time. Both the manga and the TV show are being released in English by Tokyopop!

 

NOTES
Whenever possible I have used the Tokyopop spellings/translations for all of the characters, etc.

"One! Two! Three! It's showtime!" is what Saint Tail says in Japanese (katakana English, to be more precise) in the original show. Of the few comic issues I got from Tokyopop, is seems the "It's showtime!" part is not in the manga, but I can't be 100% sure. In Tokyopop's version of the show, she says "The show's about to begin!" Fans of the series will be familiar with the former, but as the primary point of the article is to introduce the show, perhaps the latter phrase would be best.

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