Himitsu no Akko-chan is one of the first Magical Girl Manga and Anime that ran in Japan in the 1960s. Specifically, it was the first magical girl series to be published, but the second to be animated. note
The Shōjo Manga was drawn and written by Fujio Akatsuka (yes, THAT Fujio Akatsuka), and published by Shueisha in Ribon magazine with a run from July 1962 to September 1965 culminating in three volumes.
The initial Anime adaptation had a run between January 6th, 1969 and October 26th, 1970, totaling 94 episodes. Directed by Hiroshi Ikeda for Toei Animation, the series aired on what is now TV Asahi (known then as NET) and was rerun in later decades on Nippon TV and TV Tokyo. The anime was remade twice, once in 1988 with 61 episodes directed by Hiroki Shibata and again produced by Toei Animation and airing on Fuji TV. The second remake ran from 1998 to 1999, with Hiroki Shibata returning to work on the project for Toei Animation and the series again airing on Fuji TV.
All incarnations of the series follow the same premise. Atsuko "Akko-chan" Kagami, is an energetic elementary schoolgirl who has an affinity for mirrors. One day, her favorite mirror, which was given to Akko by her mother (or in some versions, by her father), is broken, and she prefers to bury it in her yard rather than throw it to the trash can. She is then contacted by a spirit (or in some cases the Queen of the Mirror Kingdom) in her dreams who is touched that the little girl would treat the mirror so respectfully, and gifts her with a magical mirror that allows her to transform into anything and anyone she wants, sometimes copying their abilities too. The anime adaptations upgraded the mirror from a simple hand mirror into a magical compact in order to sell more toys to the show's young female viewership.
A live-action movie was released on 1st September 2012 to celebrate the manga's 50th birthday. In the movie, Akko-chan attempts to save a company which is about to be sold by using her transformation abilities. She also falls in love as a 22-year-old college student.note
The series returned as a web manga in October of 2016, illustrated by the twin sister duo, Futago Kamikita (known for their contributions to Tatsunoko's Time Bokan series and the manga versions of Pretty Cure) and written by Hiroshi Izawa.
The '60s and '80s series were very popular (the original series' ratings peaked at just over 27%) and generated brisk merchandise sales with replicas of Akko-chan's magical compact; the '90s series was considerably lower rated with poor toy sales, which led to its early cancellation. Never released in English, Akko-Chan's animated adventures have nevertheless been exported around the world, with various iterations of the anime airing in places like Italy, France, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Latin America.
Himitsu no Akko-chan provides examples of:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Inverted with Akko's teachers, especially poor Sato-sensei.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: On the front covers of the manga, Akko has black hair. In the first and third anime series, she's a brunette, while her hair is purple in the second anime.
- Akko's mother has dark hair in the original but is redheaded in the 80s and 90s series.
- Chika-chan has black hair in the 60s and 90s series but red hair in the 80s series.
- Adaptation Personality Change: Several between the 60s and 80s/90s incarnations:
- Moko is given a much more aggressive personality.
- Akko herself is much more tomboyish.
- Akko's mother goes from a gentle housewife to a Fiery Redhead artist.
- Akko's father goes from a generally absent sea captain to a present and laid back reporter.
- Sato-sensei lost a good deal of intelligence and competency.
- Adaptational Jerkass: Kankichi got progressively ruder as time went on (especially in the 1980s manga) whereas before he could be annoying, but was essentially a nice kid and not nearly as bratty as he would act later on.
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Kankichi.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: In one episode of the original 1969 series, Akko-chan, attempting to be sympathetic to a deaf-mute kid, wishes to be a deaf-mute version of herself. In a really scary turn of events, after merrily prancing around in her deafened state, Akko-chan finds herself stuck with deaf-muteness: since the Literal Genie quality of the mirror kicked in, she loses her ability to enunciate words, and despite her heartwrenching attempts, the mirror refuses to acknowledge her repeated (and silent) pleas. She was ultimately changed back, but only because the magic mirror was revealed to believe Akko-chan's desire for deafness to be shallow and impulsive, and wanted to show her how serious a handicap it is.
- Big Fancy House: Akko sometimes lives in one, specially compared with Moko's smaller house.
- Big Brother Instinct: Taisho towards Shosho.
- Big Sister Instinct: Moko towards Kankichi.
- Bound and Gagged: Happens to Akko in one episode, when she is kidnapped while transformed into a rich new classmate (who is never seen again after that episode).
- Canon Foreigner: Taisho and Shosho were specifically created for the first anime, as was Akko's cat, Shippona. They were popular enough to appear in every following adaptation.
- Cool Teacher: Moriyama-sensei, who acts like a Cool Big Sis towards her students.
- Cover Identity Anomaly: In the manga based on the '80s anime. When Moko sneaks off to a Hikaru Genji ('80s J-pop boy band) concert on a school night, Akko disguises herself as Moko and sneaks into Moko's room to keep her friend from getting in trouble. Chika then becomes suspicious when she sees that Moko appears to be at the concert and home at the same time, and confronts Akko-as-Moko about it. Akko-as-Moko then lets slip some things that almost give away her true identity (for example, that Chika had been at her house for cake a few days earlier), making Chika even more suspicious. Fortunately for Akko, she manages to transform back into her normal self before anyone can discover the truth.
- Cute Witch: Akko
- Disproportionate Retribution: In the second, '80s series Akko-chan carelessly outs herself as a magical girl, letting everyone of her friends know about her power. The Spirit of the Mirror not only takes her magic mirror away, but also her reflected image, thus forcing her into hiding. Amended when the Spirit gives Akko-chan her reflection back, along with an upgraded mirror and offers free Laser-Guided Amnesia for continuity's sake.
- Dub Name Change: The Italian dubs of the TV anime series change Akko's name to "Stilly." She is also known as Julie in the Latin American dub of the 1969 series and Caroline in the French dub of the 1988 series.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The 1969 anime was not only significantly more dramatic in tone, but also had a number of plot elements which were changed later on (for example, Taisho didn't have a crush on Akko but on Moriyama-sensei, who is a music teacher rather than an English teacher in this version; Akko also briefly has an annoying pet parrot named Gabo.)
- Gender Bender:
- In the '90s series Akko-Chan, needing a fast and unsuspecting disguise, turns herself into a statue on a public fountain. Not without being utterly embarrassed by that, she finds out that the statue was meant to represent a male chubby cherub, and he/she was supposed to pee water in the fountain. Apparently that series disregards the limitation set by the mirror in the first one about being able to express clearly another wish, since obviously statues aren't known for their speaking abilities. Or simply the most recent version of the mirror shared with his past incarnation a rather despicable attitude to inflict traumas in poor Akko-chan's psyche.
- In the live-action film, Akko uses the mirror to transform herself into the ex-CEO, a man, of the company her boyfriend works for.
- The lyrics to verse two of the classic theme song (used in all three TV series) hint at Akko transforming into a boy: "A mischievous boy has come out of the mirror/Hehehe/Who is it?/That's a secret, secret, secret/Akko-chan's secret!"
- Ghibli Hills: Hayao Miyazaki worked as an animator on the 1969 series. Some examples of his work are viewable on YouTube.
- Girliness Upgrade: Inverted with both Akko and Moko when comparing their 1960s versions to later adaptations- Akko was made considerably more reckless and less girly in the 80s, and to keep their Tomboy And Girly Girl dynamic, so was Moko.
- 1988 series director Hiroki Shibata (who would go on to work on Sailor Moon a few years later) had envisioned the '80s remake as a more straightforward remake of the original, but was overruled by Toei producer Hiromi Seki, who had found the original 1969 series "boring" and insisted on something more contemporary for the '80s - thus, not only the change in Akko-chan's personality, but a more slice-of-life situation comedy vibe (something more like Doraemon or Urusei Yatsura) and more modern touches such as both of her parents having careers.
- Girlish Pigtails: Both Akko and her best friend Moko.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Akko is warned that if anyone else learns the secret of her compact, she'll never see her reflection in any mirror ever again. Despite this, she willingly allows Mika Saotome to use the mirror's power to make herself beautiful (luckily, the Queen of Mirrorland decides to forgive her "just this once").
- In the finale of the first series, Akko uses up all the power in her compact by harnessing the light from every mirror in the world to fix a lighthouse, so her dad's ship would be able to find their way to safety during a storm.
- Jerk With A Heartof Gold: Taisho
- Literal Genie: The mirror usually works this way, especially to impart An Aesop, forcing Akko-chan to formulate clear, simple wishes.
- Long-Lost Uncle Aesop: The deaf-mute kid from episode 32 never appears in any other episode, and exists solely for Akko to learn a lesson about disabilities.
- This is actually used a lot in the first series, usually with various classmates of Akko who only appear in one episode and are never mentioned again. Sometimes, the episode doesn't give a decent reason for their disappearance (the deaf-mute kid aforementioned was a middle school student who happened to be visiting, so at least there's a reason we never hear from him again.)
- Magical Girl: A possible Trope Maker for the transforming type; she predates both Marvelous Melmo and Cutey Honey by several years (by comparison, Sally from Mahou Tsukai Sally was a "magical girl", but she just had magical powers). Also, considering that the manga itself dates to 1962, seven years before the anime, makes Akko-chan's case for being considered a Trope Maker even stronger.
- Magical Incantation: Two of them, to be exact - "Tekumaku Mayakon, Tekumaku Mayakon" (Akko's transformation spell) and "Lamipus Lamipus Lu Lu Lu Lu Lu" (returns Akko to her normal self). These were not in the manga and were an invention of 1969 anime screenwriter Shun'ichi Yukimuro, who used them as "placeholders" in his rough draft of the script, not intending them to be used in the final product. They stuck.
- Magic Mirror: Doubling as Transformation Trinket.
- Master of Disguise: Akko's main power.
- Meaningful Name: "Kagami" means "mirror", which is also Akko's last name. Fitting for a girl who is granted a magic mirror.
- Mistaken Nationality: In one episode, Akko-chan is attempting to copy someone who speaks English so she can talk to a lost American child. (None of the Japanese kids know anything but loan words and advertising catch phrases.) She sees an obvious Westerner, transforms into that woman and heads back... only to learn she copied a Spanish woman who knows no English. Later in the episode, she finds and copies an English speaker — not knowing that he is a notorious criminal on the loose. Her attempts to bring the American child back to the kid's parents while in that form get her Mistaken For Kidnapper.
- Mitsuko Horie: In the 1988-89 series, she sings both the opening and ending themes and voices Akko-chan.
- Non-Standard Character Design: Mika Saotome from Chapter 8, who looks like she was drawn by a little child, to emphasize the fact that she's not attractive.
- In the anime, Moko is often drawn in a slightly different style than the other female characters, to bring out her tomboyish nature.
- Older Alter Ego:
- Akko invoked the trope in the very first time she used her mirror by wishing to become "the Queen of the Stars". The result was her becoming a tall and pretty woman in a sparkly gown. From then on, she often transformed herself into older women or men to get her goals.
- The live-action movie has Akko becomes this whenever she transforms into another job.
- Remake Cameo: Yoshiko Ota, who played Akko in the 1969 anime, played Akko's mother in the 1988 version. Ota was originally going to portray Akko in the '80s series as well but lost the role to Mitsuko Horie. Ota did, however, have a small, one-episode role in the '90s series as well.
- Replacement Goldfish: In the original 1969 series, Akko, upon asking her mother for a school assignment, discovers herself to be the Replacement Goldfish of her stillborn, older sister, also named Atsuko. (At least, this is how Akko interprets it. Her parents' rationale was that they were honoring her older sister and thanking God for the blessing of a healthy child, but Akko believes her name makes her the "impostor Akko.")
- Shapeshifter Mode Lock:
- Akko-chan usually had to use the mirror to switch back as well, causing problems when she would temporarily misplace it.
- In the live-action film she gets stuck as an adult after revealing her secret after transforming in front of everyone and her mirror getting smashed after leaping away from a bomb explosion causing the mirror to fall out of her pocket. The Spirit of The Land of Mirrors eventually gives her a new one, though.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Taisho and Shosho. While Taisho was given an official name in the 1980s series, Shosho still hasn't gotten one.
- Also applies to many of the parents- not even Akko's parents got names until the 90s anime.
- Salaryman: Taisho's father. Moko's father was one, but in the 1960s series he ends up deciding to open a sushi shop because the family is having monetary troubles.
- Shout Out: The end credits of the second show has the character's reenact scenes from Hollywood movies such as Star Wars, Back to the Future, Gone with the Wind and, unsurprisingly, Indiana Jones.
- Single-Episode Handicap: Akko-Chan, thanks to an impulsive wish, ends up deaf-mute and unable to wish herself out of it in episode 32 of the first series. The mirror spirit restores her hearing and speech at the end of the episode, after the spirit believes she has learnt her lesson about the challenges and strengths of disabled people, after her life is saved by the deaf-mute boy she had made the wish to understand better in the first place.
- Tomboy And Girly Girl: Moko is the tomboy to Akko's girly girl.
- Transformation Trinket: The mirror.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Moriyama-sensei and Sato-sensei.
- When You Coming Home, Dad?: In many versions, Akko's dad works abroad.
- Would Hit a Girl: Kankichi hits Akko after she laughs at his crush on Chika-chan.
- Topdog and his friends happily beat up Akko after she transforms into Mika Saotome. Mia also mentions that the boy she had a crush on hit her when she tried to talk to him.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Akko has purple hair in the 80s series.