The first Japanese animation was theatrical, and meant for all audiences. The first TV animation was for adults (Otogi Manga Calender, 1962) and men and boys (Astro Boy, Hermit Village, 1963).
The first anime intended for girls was Sally the Witch in December 1966. This was almost immediately followed by Princess Knight in April 1967. The two established two of the three main forms of anime for girls; the magical little witch genre, and the shojo-heroine genre.
Two famous examples of the shojo-heroine genre are The Rose of Versailles and Revolutionary Girl Utena; and two more of the just-plain shojo are Candy Candy and His and Her Circumstances. However, there have been enough magical little witch series to fill this column alone. Their original formula was that a young girl from a magic dimension would come to Earth and use her magic to appear to be a normal 8- to 12-year-old girl. She would use her magic secretly. Although she was a preadolescent, she would have adventures without any adult supervisor. When using her magic, there would be a “transformation scene” involving a magical phrase and some form of magic wand, often disguised as a locket, which would be one of the series’ main merchandising tie-ins. The girl would usually have one or two magical animal companions.
As time went on, this formula developed many variants. The average girl grew older, from about 9 or 10 to about 14 or 15. Sometimes the girl was a normal human who controlled a magic object, but had to use it while avoiding being discovered by her parents or other adults. The most recent variant is the school for young witches in the magical world, where all of the classmates have magical powers.
Sally the Witch. Maho Tsugai Sally. 109 episodes, December 5, 1966 to December 30, 1968. Sally, the young Princess of Astoria, the Witch World, longs to visit the Human World. When she does transport herself there (an unnamed but obvious Tokyo), she meets two elementary school girls, Sumire-chan and Yo-chan, and uses her magic to become friends with them. When they are captured by two comic-relief burglars, Sally and Cub, another magical inhabitant from Astoria disguised as her little brother, play magical tricks to defeat them. Sally has such a good time that she decides to stay on Earth. She uses her magic to become Sally Yumeno, the daughter of a Tokyo family. The program was adopted from the manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, the creator of Gigantor; he acknowledged the American TV program Bewitched as his inspiration. The program was also memorable for its theme song by Asei Kobayashi, in the style of Dixieland jazz. A sequel, Sally the Witch 2, in which an older Sally returns to Japan to look up her old friends and have new adventures, ran for 88 episodes from October 9, 1989 to September 23, 1991.
Himitsu no Akko-chan. Akko-chan’s Secret. 94 episodes, January 6, 1969 to October 26, 1970. Atsuko “Akko-chan” Kagami is an elementary-school girl who likes mirrors. For her devotion to them, the Queen of the Mirror Kingdom gives her a magic mirror and a spell that allows her to transform herself into whatever she wishes to be. This was the first “magical little witch” series to feature a magical wand/object. This was also remade into two TV series, 61 episodes from January 9, 1988 to December 24, 1989 and 44 episodes from April 5, 1998 to February 28, 1989; two animated TV specials or OAVs; and a live-action feature.
Cutey Honey. 25 episodes, October 13, 1973 to March 30, 1974. Go Nagai’s parody of the magical witch formula, for lusty adolescent boys. See my column “The Many Programs of Go Nagai”.
Majokko Tickle. Tickle the Girl Witch. 45 episodes, March 6, 1978 to January 29, 1979. Go Nagai’s serious contribution to the magical little witch genre. See my column “The Many Programs of Go Nagai”.
Lun Lun, the Flower Child. Hana no Ko Lun Lun. 50 episodes, February 9, 1979 to February 8, 1980. See my column “Anime Fandom in North America, part 2”.
Magical Princess Minky Momo. Maho no Princess Minky Momo. 63 episodes, March 18, 1982 to May 26, 1983. Fenarinarsa, “the land of dreams in the sky” where fairy-tale characters live, is in danger of disappearing because too many humans have lost their ability to dream and hope for a better future. The king and queen of Fenarinarsa send their daughter, Minky Momo, to help humans regain their dreams. She becomes the daughter of a childless couple, and goes about helping people regain their sense of wonder while accompanied by Sindbook the dog, Mocha the monkey, and Pipil the bird. There were numerous parallels with the Japanese folktake hero Momotaro, who was accompanied by animal companions. There were three OAV sequels in the 1980s and a new TV series with a new background story and supporting characters, 65 episodes from October 2, 1991 to December 23, 1992.
Magical Princess Minky Momo was the first magical little witch program to feature a teenager instead of a preadolescent; and to feature her transforming into idealized adult women’s occupations: a nurse, an airline stewardess, a policewoman, a soccer team manager, a saleswoman, a veterinarian, an explorer, etc.
Creamy Mami, the Magical Angel. Maho no Tenshi Creamy Mami. 52 episodes, July 1, 1983 to June 29, 1984. 10-year-old Yuu Morisawa is picked up by the spaceship of Pino Pino, a friendly alien. As thanks for Yuu’s helping him, Pino Pino gives her a magic wand for one year which can turn her temporarily into a 16-year-old; and two alien talking cats, Posi and Nega, to be her guardians. Yuu, as the 16-year-old Creamy Mami, becomes a super-popular rock singer, managed by Parthenon Productions. Creamy Mami was the first magical little witch TV anime to emphasize the problems of balancing a 10-year-old schoolgirl’s life with the career of a mega-popular teen rock star, and to show the dark reality of the pop-star music industry.
Magical Emi, the Magic Star. Maho no Suta Magical Emi. 38 episodes, June 7, 1985 to February 28, 1986. Mai Kazuki wants to become a master stage magician, like her mother who came from the famous Magic Carat Troupe. When Mai is frustrated by her juvenile inability to master complex adult stage illusions, the mirror fairy Topo gives her a magic bracelet that turns her into Magical Emi, a gifted teenage stage magician. Despite her success, Mai wants to learn to become a master stage magician without magical help.
Sailor Moon. Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon; Sailor Soldier Team Sailor Moon. 46 episodes, March 7, 1992 to February 27, 1993; followed immediately by Sailor Moon R, 43 episodes from March 6, 1993 to March 12, 1994; followed immediately by Sailor Moon S, 38 episodes from March 19, 1994 to February 25, 1995; followed immediately by Sailor Moon SuperS, 39 episodes from March 4, 1995 to March 2, 1996; followed immediately by Sailor Stars, 34 episodes from March 9, 1996 to February 8, 1997. This was the first series to combine the magical little witch formula with the boy’s superhero team formula, with strong influences of the live-action “super sentai” costumed-hero teams. 14-year-old Usagi Tsukino, a typical boy-crazy teenager, meets Luna, a talking cat who tells her that she is the reincarnation of Sailor Moon, a magical warrior who saved Earth from various supervillains in the past. She must find the reincarnations of her teammates, and they must all battle the reincarnated villains while searching for the Moon Princess. The original team consists of Sailor Moon and Sailors Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus. Later additions are Sailors Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Saturn, and Usagi’s daughter Chibiusa from the future. Each series features a different team of villains; the Dark Kingdom, the Black Moon Clan, the Death Busters, the Dead Moon Circus, and Shadow Galactica. Sailor Moon was fantastically popular with young adolescent girls, generating three animated theatrical features, 25 stage musicals, a live-action 49-episode TV series, and numerous video games. In America, it was Sailor Moon that brought girls into anime fandom.
Cardcaptor Sakura. 70 episodes, April 7, 1998 to March 21, 2000. 10-year-old Sakura Kinamoto accidentally releases a magical deck of Tarot-like “Clow Cards” which escape separately around the city. Cerberus, the magical guardian of the book that they were imprisoned in, takes the form of a cute lionlike plush doll and tells Sakura that it is her duty to recapture them. Cardcaptor Sakura was notable for giving Sakura lots of human help from people who are aware of her identity, from her best friend Tomoyo who films her battles with the Clow Cards and makes superheroine costumes for her (which Sakura will not wear), to her teacher and her older brother.
Cardcaptor Sakura was famous in Japan as the first magical little witch series developed by CLAMP, the popular team of all-woman manga authors and artists. The manga by CLAMP and the TV series by Studio Madhouse got very good reviews. By 2000, Americans were well aware of the Japanese origins of dramatic animated TV series, and when the licensed American version, Cardcaptors, turned out to be heavily and haphazardly edited, there were strident demands from American fans for the original Japanese program.
Tokyo Mew Mew. 52 episodes, April 6, 2002 to March 29, 2003. 12-year-old Ichigo Momomiya attends an exhibit on endangered species with her boyfriend (she hopes) Masaya Aoyama. Shortly after leaving, Ichigo and four other girls are bathed in a strange light. The next day, she develops a cat’s ears and tail, and superhuman abilities. She learns from two handsome teenagers, Ryo Shirogane and Keiichiro Akasaka, that she has been infused with the DNA of the almost-extinct Iriomote cat (less than 100 left) to become Mew Ichigo and fight chimera animals. These are Earth animals that have been deliberately infected with an alien virus and have become monsters, to aid in the conquest of Earth by the human descendants of Earth’s former civilization who fled when Earth became too polluted, and have returned to reclaim the planet. Ichigo is assigned to find the other four girls from the exhibit who are to become her teammates: Mint Aizawa (Mew Mint), infused with a Blue Lorikeet’s DNA; Zakuro Fujiwara (gray wolf); Lettuce Midorikawa (finless porpoise); and Pudding Fong (golden lion tamarin). (Ichigo is the Japanese for Strawberry, and Zakuro for Pomegranate. All the girls have names of components of fancy desserts.)
Complications are that Ichigo has trouble persuading the other girls to accept her leadership; that, while the other girls were at the exhibit because of a genuine interest in endangered animals, she was only there to accompany Masaya; and that Kish, the most sympathetic of the aliens, falls in love with her. Ryo and Keiichiro help the girls establish a cover identity and secret headquarters as Café Mew Mew, an exclusive tea shoppe where they pose as waitresses.
Magical Witch Punie-chan. 8 OAVs of 12 minutes each, March 3, 2006 to October 21, 2008. It had to happen: a super-violent NSFW burlesque of the magical little witch genre. This could not be shown on TV. Punie Tanaka is the princess of Magical Land who, to succeed to the throne, must become a transfer student to a Japanese high school for a year. Not only are the teachers sadistic and the students mostly juvenile delinquents, she has many rivals from Magical Land who want to eliminate her as the heir. One is Paya-tan, the little dog(?) with a unicorn’s horn who is Punie’s cute animal companion to her face and who tries to assassinate her behind her back. Punie appears to be a sweet young girl until she gets into a fight – many of which she starts; then she unleashes her martial-arts and her magic with extreme graphic prejudice.
There are lots of other magical little witch TV series that I could list, such as Maho no Mako-chan/Magical Miss Mako, Fushigi na Melmo/Marvelous Melmo, Maho Tsukai Chappy/Chappy the Magician, Miracle Shojo Limit-chan/Limit-chan the Miracle Girl, Majokko Meg-chan/Meg-chan the Witch Girl, and Maho Shojo Lalabelle/Lalabelle the Magic Girl. And that’s just through 1980! Here is a fan’s montage of their opening credits.
However, here are two recent (about ten years old now) variants of the formula:
Sugar, a Little Snow Fairy. Chitchana Yukitsukai Sugar. 24 episodes, October 2, 2001 to March 26, 2002. Saga Bergman is a very orderly 11-year-old girl in a picturesque small German village. One day she finds a miniature little girl who is starving, whom she gives a waffle. The doll-like girl is Sugar, a 9-year-old apprentice season fairy who makes snow in winter. She has two friends; Salt, who makes sunshine, and Pepper, who makes breezes and windstorms. The three fairies are horrified to realize that Saga can see them, and make her promise not to tell any humans. The well-meaning but disorganized Sugar moves into Saga’s bedroom, creating a juvenile “odd couple” situation. Saga’s life becomes more complicated when more season-weather fairies show up in Muhlenberg, including three adults. Sugar is a stereotype of the well-meaning friend who cannot be dissuaded from “helping out” magically, with disastrous results that Saga must hide from her human friends and adults. Since many of the magical accidents are caused by Sugar trying to help Saga, this is a form of magical little witches.
Alice’s Magic Witch Squad. Maho Shojo Tai Alice. 40 episodes, April 9, 2004 to March 25, 2005. 11-year-old tomboyish Alice is bored with the world and thinks how nice it would be to be a witch. She is transported to a world where everyone BUT her is a witch. She is imprisoned after being mistaken for a renegade witch schoolgirl. When she finally convinces the authorities that she is a magicless human, she is enrolled in an elementary school for apprentice witches and assigned apprentices Eva and Shiela to teach her magic. The rebellious Alice gets them all into trouble. A witty reversal of the formula.
The first where three ordinary children get magic powers was Magical DoReMi/Ojamajo DoReMi (DoReMi, the Useless Witch); 51 episodes from February 7, 1999 to January 31, 2000. This was less interesting than Alice in my opinion (the children are 8 years old), but as the first, Ojamajo DoReMi was followed by TV sequels, theatrical featurettes, and OAVs.
To close, here is Little Witch Academia, one of the most recent; so recent that new Japanese Studio TRIGGER has only produced one episode and, in July-August 2013, raised enough funding through the American Kickstarter program ($625,518 of a $150,000 goal) to produce its second episode. This presents the whole first episode, untranslated; the first third of the first episode, with English subtitles; and the Kickstarter promo.