Witches in Anime article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 3, No. 11, October 2000
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
It's that season again, the time of year for ghosts and goblins. And what could be more Halloweeny than a witch on a broom? Although this kind of imagery is decidedly Western in origin, there are a surprising number of witches in Japanese animation. Despite witches often being creepy and villainous in the West, most of anime's witches are decidedly cute and charming!
The very first animated shojo TV series just happens to have a witch as its lead character. First aired December 5, 1966, Maho (long o) Tsukai Sally (Little Witch Sally) is a charming series about a young princess from the Land of Magic who is so enchanted with the lives of humans that she leaves her home to live among them. Sally solves the various problems which crop up in her life with the use of her magic while still keeping her identity a secret. Does this sound a bit familiar? It should. Little Witch Sally was inspired by the international hit TV series, Bewitched. Although no match for Bewitched's eight year run, Little Witch Sally was extremely popular with its target audience, running for 109 episodes with an 88 episode remake airing twenty years later. Not only is Little Witch Sally the first shojo anime, it's also the first magical girl anime series, making Sally the ancestor of such contemporary hits as Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura (CardCaptors).
Within the almost constant stream of magical girl shows since Sally comes the next series about a witch. Maho (long o) Tsukai Chappy (Witch Chappy) was the fifth magical girl anime series and ran for 39 episodes in 1972. Like Sally, Chappy leaves the Land of Magic for the human world. She has so much fun, eventually Chappy's whole family joins her in our world where they have various amusing adventures. A couple of concepts from this series worthy of mention are that Chappy is the first magical girl to use a wand and the first to confront a villain, both of which have become staples of the magical girl genre.
Majokko Megu-chan (Witch Girl Megu) was the next witchy animated series. It premiered in 1972 and ran for a respectable 72 episodes. Unlike her predecessors, Megu does not leave her homeland but is sent from it. Megu must live amongst humans and learn to develop and control her skills as her qualifying exam to become queen of the demon world. Witch Girl Megu is the first magical girl to have a rival. Snobby, blue-haired Non is also eligible to become queen, but unlike Megu, she's biased against humans.
After a brief, three year drought of magical girl shows came Majokko Tickle (Witch Girl Tickle) in 1978, which ran for 45 episodes. Tickle is a witch who has been trapped in a picture book for being such a mischievous menace. A girl named Tiko releases her and Tickle decides to live with the girl as her twin! Amusing antics abound. Interestingly, the original comic for this series was done by Go (long o) Nagai of Mazinger Z, Devilman and Cutey Honey fame.
Maho (long o) Shojo (first o long) Lalabel (Magic Girl Lalabel) is about a young witch who discovers an evil wizard is stealing magic items. This villain, Biscus, plans to go to the human world, sell the magic items, and live like a king off the fortunes he'll make. When Lalabel tries to stop him, she ends up stuck with him in our world. Biscus regularly tries to get the magic items back from her, but clever Lalabel always manages to outwit him. This series began in 1980 and ran for 49 episodes.
Although there were plenty of magical girl shows in the 1980's, we didn't get another new series about a witch until after the remake of Maho (long o) Tsukai Sally in 1989. Hana no Maho (long o) Tsukai Maribel (Flower Witch Maribel*) came out in 1992, about four months after the new Sally ended, and ran for 50 episodes. Like all the heroines we've mentioned before, Maribel is cute, but unlike them, she is not young. She may look and act like a little girl, but Maribel is actually 500,005 years old! With her friends Ken and Yuri (long u), Maribel encounters all sorts of magical creatures. When she needs to, Maribel can transform and use her magic. This show tends to be hyper cute.
Not as cavity-causing as Maribel, but also cute and from 1992 comes Yadamon. In modern, witchy fashion, Yadamon does not fly on a broom but a floor polisher! Because of her bad, undisciplined behavior, Yadamon is sent by her mother, the Queen of Witch Forest, to live among humans and grow up. The story's misadventures turn a little serious and more engaging when Yadamon encounters Kira, a peer and once friend of the Queen's who became attracted to the dark side of magic. With enchanting character designs of Suezen (Marine Color, Percolation*), Yadamon ran for 170 ten-minute episodes. The comic, which ran in Animage, is darker and more mature than the TV show.
Based on the comic by Min Ayahana, Akazukin Chacha (Red-Hooded Chacha) is insanely funny. Orphaned Chacha is raised and trained by the world's greatest magic user, the mild-mannered, highly-eccentric Selavi. Chacha also attends the Urara Academy of Magic, which is filled with countless crazy characters. In the TV series, Chacha has a heritage and a quest. With the help of magic items and her friends, Riiya and Shiine, Chacha can transform into Magical Princess Holy-up, and seeks to defeat the evil Daimao. Even when the plot gets serious, Chacha is usually a barrel of fun. The TV show ran for 74 episodes, starting in 1994, and the comic just ended this August, after nine years and over a dozen collected volumes.
The amusing story Maho (long o) Tsukai Tai!* (I Want to Use Magic or Magic Users Club) started out as a six-part video series in 1996 and became a 13 episode TV series in 1999. In the near future, the world is invaded by seemingly unbeatable, yet non aggressive robots. Most people have grown complacent about the robots' presence, but the high school Magic Club is determined to find a way to get rid of them. Along the way they deal with various everyday situations, as well. Since Maho (long o) Tsukai Tai! did not begin as a general audience title, it does have some sophomoric sexuality in it.
The most recent witchy TV series is Ojamajo (long o) Doremi (Troublesome Witch Doremi) which ended this January at 51 episodes.* Uniquely, Doremi does not begin as a witch but becomes one. When she accidentally turns Majorika, a witch who runs a magic shop, into a froggy green blob, Doremi must become a witch to undo the damage. Wait, aren't witches supposed to turn people into frogs, not the other way around? Doremi is soon joined by her friends Hazuki and Akio for lots of witchy hijinks and fun.
With all this talk of cute witches from TV, it would be sinister to forget the most famous anime witch of all: Kiki from Majo (long o) no Takyubin (long u) (Kiki's Delivery Service). At thirteen, young witches must set out on their own, and Kiki wants to start her career in a city by the sea. There she struggles to make her way and grow as a person. This internationally loved film is based on a children's story by Eiko Kadono and was transformed into animation by the unmatchable Miyazaki (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, etc.) in 1989.
You may be wondering if there's any creepy among all this cute? Of course there have been vile villains like Hagar (Hyakuju-o (second u and o long) Golion/Voltron), Karla (The Record of Lodoss War) and the Witches 5* (Sailor Moon) to terrorize the heroes of anime, but villains are seldom cast in leading roles! With the greatest witchy cultural influence in Japan being Bewitched, it's not hard to see why there are so many cute witches in anime. The concept of coming from another world to learn about human society and customs is a perfect metaphore for a child growing up. We all have to live together, but wouldn't it be more fun with a little magic to help along the way?
I've used Maribel because that's an actual Western name. I've seen many different spellings on the web and none of my personal resources tell me the preferred spelling. Can you take a look and see if you can find anything to suggest a spelling preference?
Suezen has worked as a grunt on a number of famous things like Honniamise (sp? ^^), Rojin Z and Hurricane Polymer, but since he did no designs, I thought to only include original work.
There are so many different ways of dividing Maho Tsukai Tai! (Mahotsukai Tai, Maho Tsukaitai!, etc, etc.) I have no idea which to use. Oliver Chin spelled it Maho Tsukai Tai! In Viz-in 12.7, though I don't know if this sets a precedent. Feel free to change the translation, too. Supposedly it has been bought and has or will be released in the US. I couldn't figure out who has it, though, to find out their name for it.
Please double check the last episode # and air date for Ojamajo Doremi; that information is not verifiable with my personal resources.
And yes, FYI, it's Witches 5 not Five.
I've written all the Maho Tsukai's as two words, though I'm not 100% sure that's best. If you feel Mahotsukai is best, please change them.