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Title screen from episode 1.
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Yugo Serikawa|
|Written by||Hiroyasu Yamaura, Masaki Tsuji, Shun'ichi Yukimuro et al.|
|Network||NET (TV Asahi)|
|Original run||1 April 1974 – 29 September 1975|
Majokko Megu-chan (魔女っ子メグちゃん, lit. Little Meg the Witch Girl) is a magical girl anime series. The manga was created by Tomo Inoue and Akio Narita, while the 72-episode anime series was produced by Toei Animation between 1974 and 1975. This series is considered an important forerunner of the present day magical girl genre, as the series' characterization and general structure exerted considerable influence over future shows in the same genre. Most notably, several of the show's recurring motifs were recycled in Toei's Sailor Moon, AIC's Pretty Sammy, and (to a lesser degree) Wedding Peach.
Megu-Chan follows the experiences of a powerful (but accident-prone) young witch who comes to Earth as part of her initiation into larger society. Megu is a contender for the throne of the Witch World but knows very little of human relationships. Sent to Mid-World (Earth) in her early teens, she is adopted by Mammi Kanzaki, a former witch who gave up her royal ambitions to wed a mortal. Mammi bewitches her husband and their two children, Rabi and Apo, into believing that Megu has always been the eldest child of the family (the concept of using magic to alter memory would turn up again in future magical girl series, such as Majokko Tickle and Sailor Moon). Under Mammi’s tutelage, Megu learns to control both her abilities and impulses in order to prove her worthiness for the crown.
This rite-of-passage subtext is continued throughout the series. A free spirit in the purest sense of the word, Megu-chan discovers emotions she’d never known existed – loneliness, compassion, grief, love, desperation, and (perhaps most importantly) self-sacrifice. As the story progresses, she proves the nobility of her character through the various trials and tribulations of youth, evolving from a willful and rather selfish little girl into a kind, generous, loving young woman. She battles monsters, demons, and rival sorcerers (including her arch-nemesis, Non), but quickly realizes that her true enemy is the darker side of human nature.
The European dub versions made generally minimal changes to the character names. In Italian, the only major name change was "Megu" to "Bia" (although "Non" became "Noa"), and Megu's family's name was changed from "Kanzaki" to "Giapo" (from "Giappone," the Italian spelling of "Japan"), "Chou-San"/"Cho-San" changed just only a bit and became "Ciosa" or "Ciosah", "Kurou" ("Crow") became "Cra Cra" from the Italian onomatopoeia of the song of the crows, "Furu Furu" cat was changed (as it was French) with the correct spelling of "Fru Fru" ("Frou Frou"). In the French dub, Mammi Kanzaki became "Mamine" Kanzaki, and Rabi and Apo became "Robin" and "Apolline" (the younger daughter was still called "Apo" for short).
- Megu Kanzaki (神崎メグ Kanzaki Megu )
- Initially, Megu experiences severe difficulties adapting to 'normal' society, even at the simplest levels. Family relationships are completely beyond her. She argues with her Father and squabbles constantly with her younger siblings, Rabi and Apo, who love to play tricks on her. She confronts Boss, the school bully, in an escalating battle of wills and gets into trouble with her teachers. She falls in love with the new boy and weeps in secret when he returns to his home country. Basically, her behaviour resembles that of any other girl her age, given the social norms in mid-seventies Japan. As with the magical girl programs of the sixties, the main focus was on family and friendship; domestic disputes were normally handled with light-hearted humor. Voiced by: Rihoko Yoshida, Aurélia Bruno (French - Meg), Cinzia de Carolis (Italian - "Bia Giapo")
- Non Hibiki (郷ノン Hibiki Non )
- Blue-haired and pale-skinned, Non is one of the most powerful sorcerers of the Witch-World. Non is Megu's main contender for the crown; a cold, alien being almost devoid of emotion. Setting a precedent for many later mahou shōjo anime, Non attempts to murder Megu during their very first meeting and continues to plague her throughout the series. Eventually, Non comes to admire her rival's innate courage, even joining forces with her against mutual enemies (such as the demonic witch-queen Saturn and her devious henchman, Chou-san) in several episodes. While true friendship is never an option (in Non's view anyway), the two reach an uneasy truce by the middle of the series, agreeing to hold off their final confrontation (for possession of the throne) as long as possible, and by the end of the series, Non becomes far frequently a source of help than hindrance to Megu. Voiced by: Noriko Tsukase, Hélène Chanson (French), Liliana Sorrentino (Italian - "Noa")
- Mami Kanzaki (神崎マミ Kanzaki Mami )
- Megu's adopted mother. Voiced by: Nana Yamaguchi, Dany Laurent (French - Mamine), Claudia Ricatti (Italian - "Mammi Giapo")
- Papa Kanzaki
- Megu's adopted father. Voiced by: Hiroshi Ohtake, Mario Pecqueur (French), Renzo Stacchi (Italian - "Sr. Giapo")
- Rabi Kanzaki (神崎ラビ Kanzaki Rabi )
- Megu's adopted brother. Voiced by: Keiko Yamamoto, Gigi Lesser (French - Robin), Marco Guadagno (Italian - "Rabi Giapo")
- Apo Kanzaki (神崎アポ Kanzaki Apo )
- Megu's adopted sister. Voiced by: Sachiko Chijimatsu, Odile Schmitt (French - Apolline), Susanna Fassetta (Italian - "Apo Giapo")
- Boss (ボス Bosu )
- The school bully. Voiced by: Hiroshi Ohtake, Mario Pecqueur (French), Renzo Stacchi (Italian)
- Saturn (サターン Satān )
- An evil witch and the self-styled "Queen of Darkness". Voiced by: Masako Nozawa, Emanuela Fallini then Anna Teresa Eugeni (Italian - "Saturno")
- Chou-san (チョーサン Chō-san )
- An agent of the witch queen sent to keep an eye on Megu and Non, but is secretly working for Saturn and intends to sabotage Megu's chances of winning the throne. Voiced by: Sanji Hase, Hubert Drac (French), Armando Bandini (Italian - "Ciosa")
- Furu-Furu (フルフル)
- Chou-san's underling. Voiced by: Noriko Tsukase, Maïté Monceau (French), Susanna Fassetta (Italian - "Fru-Fru")
- Crow (クロー Kurō )
- Chou-san's underling. Voiced by: Hiroshi Ohtake, Nino Scardina (Italian - "Cra-Cra")
- Emi (エミ)
- One of Megu's friends. Voiced by: Tamaki Taura
- Roko (ロコ)
- One of Megu's friends. Voiced by: Yuko Maruyama, Francesca Guadagno (Italian)
The series dealt with subject matter considered too mature for young children at the time. Complicated social issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse and extramarital relationships were introduced, while loss and mortality frequently underscored Megu’s hijinks. This was a major break from the traditional juvenile animation in both Asia and the West, perhaps explaining why the series didn’t find a European market until the early eighties.
Another point of departure was the series’ subtle eroticism. Majokko Megu-chan was born of a proposal by Hiromi Productions, which had previously produced the less successful magical girl series Miracle Shoujo Limit-chan (1973–74) with Toei, to create a magical-girl series with a slightly naughtier edge than previous shows of the genre. The influence of Megu-chan's Toei stablemate, Go Nagai's Cutie Honey, was apparent in several aspects, from the somewhat racy lyrics of the opening theme song (performed, as was Cutie Honey's, by Yoko Maekawa) to the fact that the two series shared many of the same staff. While not as overtly sexualized as Nagai's heroine, Megu-chan was surprisingly voyeuristic for its period. Megu was frequently depicted in various states of undress and the series featured scenes which anticipated the rise of so-called fan service anime; the opening theme song itself features lyrics in which Megu boasts about her breasts and her way of manipulating boys with her looks and coquettish behaviors. (The theme song lyrics were penned by lyricist Kazuya Senke, known for writing hit songs with similarly suggestive lyrics in 1973-74 for then-teenage J-pop idol Momoe Yamaguchi.)
Later kogaru heroines would capitalize on Megu’s sexuality; it would, in fact, become a hallmark of the genre. There were numerous scenes in which Megu wore sheer nightgowns through which her underwear was plainly visible. Rabi had an arsenal tricks aimed at catching his "big sister" disrobed, from yanking the sheets off Megu's bed in the morning to using a fishing rod to lift her skirt.
Rabi wasn't the only voyeur Megu was forced to contend with; there was the vile Chou-san, an agent of the witch queen sent to sabotage Megu's chances of winning the throne. A stereotypical pervert in every sense of the term, Chou spent most of his time spying on Meg and devising ways to publicly humiliate her. In a memorable scene in episode 23, Chou-san rigged Megu's bathtub with wheels, causing it to race around the city while Megu was bathing. Earlier in that same episode, Chou attempted to trick Megu into taking off all of her clothes by hypnotizing her with a magical cuckoo clock; only Non's intervention at the last minute saved Megu from stripping herself totally naked. In another sequence, Chou-san breaks into the Kanzaki residence, hoping to abduct Megu in her sleep (fortunately she woke up in time and chased him out of the house). While his intentions were never stated explicitly, his underlying motivations were always made obvious.
Influence on Japanese popular culture
Megu-Chan was not the first magical girl anime, but it has been described as the first modern anime series to fall into the genre. Initially overlooked as a minor effort due its relative obscurity following its airing in the seventies, it nonetheless formed a template on which many later scenarios were based. Significantly, many of the show's plot devices were recycled in the enormously successful Sailor Moon (Toei, 1992–1997) - indeed, two later episodes of Megu-chan were directed by Yuji Endo, who later became one of the chief episode directors on Sailor Moon - and echoes of Meg's tempestuous rivalries can be perceived in seinen parodies such as the Project A-Ko franchise. The "fan service" angle would turn up again in countless other future series, such as Gainax's Neon Genesis Evangelion.
The program's impact on Japanese popular culture should not be underestimated; thematic descendants include the entire magical girl genre, along with some degree of bishōjo, lolicon and hentai material. Megu's effect on Japan's burgeoning manga industry has yet to be documented, but considering the vast number of shōjo titles currently available, it is safe to assume that Majokko Megu-Chan's animated adventures must have inspired at least a few of them.
The series gained moderate recognition after it reached the European market (with the heroine's name Anglicized to Meg in the French dub, changed to Bia in the Italian, Portuguese, and Polish versions, and changed to Maggie in the Spanish dub), but remains largely unknown in the United Kingdom and the United States, as it has never been translated into English with the exception of fansubs of a handful of episodes. Outside Japan, the series achieved its greatest popularity in Italy in the early 1980s (as Bia - la sfida della magia, or Bia - The Magical Challenge); however, the Italian dub skipped nine of the 72 episodes (hence the reason why some sources list the series as consisting of only 63 episodes) and also made a few edits for content in the extant episodes. The undubbed episodes were fairly dark, most of them dealing with suicide. The edits made in the Italian version carried over into the Polish and Portuguese versions, which were adapted from the Italian and not from the original Japanese.
- Series Director: Yugo Serikawa
- Episode Directors: Yugo Serikawa, Minoru Okazaki, Hiroshi Shidara, Satoshi Dezaki, Kazukiyo Shigeno, Nobuo Onuki, Kazuya Miyazaki, Hisashi Sakaguchi, Yoshikata Nitta, Yuji Endo, Hiromi Yamamoto, Nobutaka Nishizawa
- Writers: Hiroyasu Yamaura (head writer), Shun'ichi Yukimuro, Fumihito Imamura, Masaki Tsuji, Toyohiro Ando, Seiji Matsuoka
- Character Design: Shingo Araki
- Animation Directors: Shingo Araki, Takao Hanata, Teruo Kogure, Eiji Uemura, Bondo Eiju, Shinya Takahashi, Satoshi Jingu, Joji Kikuchi, Yutaka Tanizawa, Hisashi Sakaguchi, Takashi Abe, Hideki Mori
- Art Directors: Isamu Tsuchida, Eiji Ito, Fumihiro Uchigawa, Hideo Chiba, Shigeyoshi Endo
- Music: Takeo Watanabe
- Production: Toei Animation Co., Ltd. / Hiromi Productions / NET
- "anime-myth.com". Henshin.anime-myth.com. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
- "Majokko Meg-chan episode list (1974's anime TV series)". animemorial.net. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
- Majokko Megu-chan (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Toei Animation's Majokko Megu-chan page, in Japanese
- Bia - la sfida della magia at Shoujo Love (Italian)
- Little Witch Kingdom - Japanese website dedicated to Majokko Megu Chan, extensively illustrated throughout.
- Essay on female heroes in anime, with discussion on Majokko Megu-chan