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Manga / Kaitou Saint Tail

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"Oh, Lord, forgive me, for I use no gimmick or trick. One, two... three!"

Kaitou Saint Tail, translated as Phantom Thief Saint Tail, Mysterious Thief Saint Tail, Saint Tail or, as known by Tokyopop, Sweet Tales of Saint Tail, is a Magical Girl manga by Megumi Tachikawa that was originally published in Nakayoshi from October 1995 to December 1996. An anime adaptation aired from October 12, 1995 to September 12, 1996, for a total of 43 episodes.

The titular thief is a 14-year-old girl named Meimi Haneoka, daughter of a Stage Magician and a Phantom Thief-turned-housewife, who goes to a Catholic school. One of her classmates is a trainee nun named Seira Mimori; on duty, she listens to the troubles of the people that visit her church. If someone's been the victim of some crime, Seira will tell Meimi the details, and Meimi will use a combination of her father's magic tricks and her mother's stealth to steal the stuff back as Saint Tail.

Although Saint Tail only performs her "heists" to help people in need, the police still see her as a criminal to be arrested, resulting in Meimi's classmate and bickering partner Asuka Jr. being assigned as the detective in charge of Saint Tail's cases. While he still condemns her as a "thief", he respects her as his Worthy Opponent, and Meimi soon finds herself becoming attracted to his sincerity and passion in pursuing her despite the fact he's technically supposed to be arresting her.

This puts Meimi in a dilemma: she believes Asuka Jr. is only interested in her alter ego, but can't risk exposing her identity to him out of fear he'll hate her for deceiving him. But unbeknownst to her, Asuka Jr. has actually been secretly pining over Meimi, and not only is he starting to notice suspicious similarities between her and the Phantom Thief he's been chasing, he's also catching onto signs of her heading in a very dangerous direction, all of which is only making him more determined to get to the bottom of this himself...

A Spiritual Sequel named Kaitou Saint Tail girls!, featuring a new phantom thief named Hijiri Hazaki, began running in Nakayoshi's digital app Palcy in 2021, written and illustrated by contest winner Shiki Yamori.

Also see Phantom Thief Jeanne (another take on combining the Magical Girl and Phantom Thief genres) and Mink (Megumi Tachikawa's successor series that also goes into the identity crisis that comes with being a Magical Girl, but with a Cyberspace and Idol Singer motif).

This series provides examples of:

    Tropes applying to the original manga and its corresponding episodes in the anime 
  • Anime Catholicism: Let's just say there are some artistic liberties in Seira's portrayal, including her resembling a miko more than a nun and doing a lot of things that could get her in serious hot water as per doctrine.
  • Arc Words: The series plays with the ambiguity of the word "catching", initially starting off as meaning "catching" Saint Tail as in "physically chasing her down and arresting her", but once the "chase" becomes a metaphorical one about rescuing Meimi from her emotional isolation, it's redefined to mean "catching" in the sense of "preventing from falling or being lost", thus making it about protecting her: "catching" her means "preventing her from getting hurt" (both physically and emotionally), and Asuka Jr. "catching her before anyone else does" means "preventing anyone from hurting her before he can get to her". At the end of the series, Asuka Jr. finally "catching" her ends up being simultaneously Exact Words and Metaphorically True: he physically catches her when he falls, he gets her to stop being Saint Tail before she destroys herself, and he finally gets to see Meimi Beneath the Mask after she'd spent the entire series emotionally withdrawing from him and locking herself up in her head.note 
  • Art Evolution: Compare the first and final manga chapters and you can see a big difference in how Tachikawa's art evolved over the course of the series, with the characters being drawn with rounder faces and more depth of expression.
  • Asshole Victim: Most of Saint Tail's "victims" had obtained the relevant object via their own Evil Plan or at least unethically in some way. Asuka Jr. and the police are happy to arrest the actual criminal if their actions also happen to be illegal, but it takes a while for Asuka Jr. to start considering who the actual "victims" of each case are and whom he really should be protecting.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Meimi and Asuka Jr. had never really hated each other from the beginning of the series, no matter what their initial bickering suggests; Meimi had always treated him with some level of base respect, while he'd actually secretly wanted her approval and simply couldn't convey it past his myriad of emotional issues, and both of them eventually manage to form a more legitimate good relationship over the course of the series.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: During the first half of the story (chapters 1-12), Meimi realizes that Asuka Jr.'s Hair-Trigger Temper and severe inferiority complex cover up the fact that he's actually miserable and desperate, so she uses both of her personas to give him the help he needs, allowing him to grow into a much more genuine Nice Guy. Once the story switches to the second half (chapters 13-24), a much more level-headed and thoughtful Asuka Jr. catches onto the possibility that Saint Tail might be Meimi and starts dedicating himself to figuring out how to help her, right around the same time the stress of maintaining her secret identity starts causing Meimi to block everything out and distort her view of reality. The overall storyline is represented by the Creation Myth mentioned in chapter 15, with the "flower" (Meimi) offering the "snow" (Asuka Jr.) its color and the "snow" protecting the "flower" in return.
  • Behavioral Conditioning: The dolphin caper (chapter 20/episode 39) involves Saint Tail using her Master of Illusion powers to convince a dolphin in captivity that she's in the sea, allowing her "friend" (a young boy) to call out to her and get her to do tricks the way she used to back when she was in the sea. The situation serves as an allegory for Saint Tail being unconsciously conditioned into acting like the inhuman savior the public treats her as, while Asuka Jr. has to keep treating her that way despite knowing she's likely to be Meimi and feeling increasingly isolated from her.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Meimi and Asuka Jr. constantly bicker and fight in the classroom to the point their classmates are even able to predict when it's about to escalate again. It's Played for Drama in that neither of them actually like the fact things keep going this way; most of it is a byproduct of Asuka Jr.'s Hair-Trigger Temper and penchant for being Innocently Insensitive, which he's very aware of and deeply regrets. By the time they start dating, they're fortunately much better at not letting things get out of control anymore.
  • Beneath the Mask: Asuka Jr. operates by wanting to know about what Saint Tail's actual motives are and how she works, and once he realizes that Meimi might actually be Saint Tail, he realizes that he doesn't actually know that much about her because of how secretive she is, sharply shifting his goal into figuring out what's going on with her. It's because of this that he catches on so quickly to how the Secret-Identity Identity problem happens and why it's so damaging, because he knows that Saint Tail has to have an actual human behind her, it's just that the world won't see her that way. Eventually, the actual meaning of "catching" Saint Tail ends up being him getting to see everything Meimi had been hiding from him under both identities.
  • Book Ends: During the first chapter, Saint Tail accidentally falls over, clutches Asuka Jr. on the way down, and sprays him with a shady perfume, resulting in him only able to reach for her as he gets knocked out. The final chapter of the main story starts off with a flashback to the scene, and later in the chapter, Asuka Jr. catches her when she falls, both in the sense of physically being ready for her and in the sense of now having the emotional maturity to understand everything about her.
  • Call-Back: Saint Tail telling Asuka Jr. "if I do get caught, I want to be caught by you" goes completely over his head when he first hears it in chapter/episode 10, but it returns with a vengeance when he remembers the statement after realizing the meaning of her Love Letter Lunacy and finally figures out just how long she'd been pining for him.
    • A picture included at the end of volume 6 shows Asuka Jr. and Meimi being Happily Married, with the latter having flowers in her veil and her hair tied back the way it was when she'd modeled for the wedding dress design contest. Asuka Jr. is exactly as lovestruck as he was back then.
  • Calling Card: Saint Tail starts sending them to Asuka Jr. in flamboyant ways as a sort of challenge, but once she sees him almost hitting the Despair Event Horizon from believing that everyone's given up on him, she makes The Promise with him to make sure he always gets one so he won't have to worry as much about someone else taking his chance to catch her away from him. Once she completely falls in love with him, she admits that part of the reason she's sending them is that she just really wants him to come see her. Eventually, an Insult Backfire from Maju referring to them as "love letters" is what gets Asuka Jr. to realize that her keeping their promise so diligently meant she'd actually been in love with him the entire time.
  • Central Theme: Based on the concept of stage magic (something that looks like magic on the outside, but has realistic mechanisms on the inside), the series uses Meimi and Asuka Jr. as its representatives for conceptual ideas vs. reality and the boundary of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, with both of them filling in for each other. It also uses metaphors related to people's "most valuable/precious things" as a way of describing being unconditionally in love with someone, even if that means having to forgive their faults, never getting anything back in return, or even potentially sacrificing yourself for them, culminating in Asuka Jr. considering Meimi to be his "treasure" while she refers to him as her "jewel" by the end of the series.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Most of the early instances of Asuka Jr. confirming Saint Tail's justifiable motives are Played for Laughs, but it eventually culminates in him concluding that he can't even disagree with her actions anymore and even figuring out how dangerous the Secret-Identity Identity problem is.
  • Clark Kenting: Averted: Saint Tail still has to go out of her way to keep her face hidden, and the fact she can't do anything about close-ups of her face, her hair color/length, her physical movement habits, or even general aura ends up getting others to catch onto her identity. On top of that, Meimi is eventually unconsciously influenced into acting like the inhuman entity she pretends to be to the point where Asuka Jr. becomes disturbed by the fact he can't easily treat them as the same person even when he consciously knows the possibility is high.
  • Comet of Doom: In chapter 14/episode 19, Meimi and her classmates discuss a hypothetical Comet of Doom, which Asuka Jr. calls out for being unrealistic; later, the following caper has Saint Tail bluffing the staff at an observatory into thinking a comet fragment is coming for them by messing with their systems, getting the scientists to evacuate and allowing a group of children to use the facility to see the actual (completely harmless) comet. Unfortunately, Meimi's obsession with the "hypothetical" kickstarts the process of her losing her grip on reality, since she interprets Asuka Jr.'s reaction to such a completely nonsensical scenario as proof that he'd never care about her as much as he would Saint Tail.
  • Comic-Book Time: Meimi and her classmates are consistently referred to as fourteen-year-olds in their second year of middle school despite Meimi's birthday (September 29) and Christmas passing twice in-universe, by which time she should have already graduated. A prequel chapter takes place in her first year, and the epilogue takes place "eight years later", so time is clearly passing, but exactly how this works is unclear.
  • Confess in Confidence: Painfully averted. While not everything Seira hears out is a confession nor necessarily meant to be kept a secret, there are some that are clearly depicted as being told to her in confidence, yet will inevitably be divulged to Meimi after school the following day. Even if it generally works out in the petitioner's favor (as Saint Tail then shows up to solve the problem and doesn't tell anyone else about what she learns), the way that Seira casually and routinely breaks their confidence would get any real nun kicked out of their order they were to be found out. While Asuka Jr. continues to take tips from her as a Private Detective in the epilogue, the fact Takamiya is involved and is even demanding more credit for it implies that they decided to go at this a bit more ethically and openly.
  • Contractual Purity: Discussed in-universe during the locket caper (chapter 17/episode 27). One of the victims Saint Tail helps is an idol who's been dating someone in secret, a fact that someone from a rival agency discovers and uses to blackmail her by threatening to reveal it to the public. Asuka Jr.'s concerns over Meimi potentially living that kind of life reflect his later worries about her being treated as an "ideal" while having to suppress her actual personality underneath.
  • Dating Catwoman: Asuka Jr. gives Meimi a Love Confession and begins dating her for two chapters/episodes before he finally gets confirmation about her identity as Saint Tail; by that point, him being "against" her had become purely on paper, and he'd been hoping that earning her trust this way could get her to potentially open up about it, but Maju's interference gets her to feel even guiltier about hiding it from him and close herself up even further.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Both Meimi and Asuka Jr. end up "saving" each other by staging an intervention at a point where the other has almost completely lost hope: Saint Tail agrees to make The Promise with Asuka Jr. when he's convinced everyone has given up on him, thus ensuring that he can at least always have another opportunity to catch her even if he fails, and Asuka Jr. makes his Love Confession to Meimi right when she's convinced herself that he has another girl he likes and there's nothing left for her.
  • Distant Finale: Eight years after Asuka Jr. "catches" Saint Tail, he decides to continue Saint Tail's job of protecting the city by becoming a Private Detective, being implied to take tips from Seira the way Saint Tail did but working openly with Takamiya and Sawatari instead of doing things in secrecy. He's also now on First-Name Basis with Meimi and proposes to her, with the manga containing an extra picture of them during their wedding.
  • Double Meaning: A staple of the series. Everything ranging from Asuka Jr. skirting around expressing his actual feelings to Meimi likewise dodging the subject to both of them misunderstanding each other to subplots serving as metaphors is smothered in Ambiguous Syntax or double-meaning words. Eventually, even the word "catch" doesn't turn out to mean the same thing it was originally presented as.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: The anime's Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole problem resulted in translations rendering Asuka Jr.'s line about Saint Tail being an "ideal" (in the Worshipped for Great Deeds sense) as things akin to "dream girl", thus suggesting he's in love with Saint Tail when in fact it's supposed to be the opposite: Meimi had erroneously interpreted it that way, but Asuka Jr. was saying that he knew someone else had to be Beneath the Mask. As a result, it's common for fans outside Japan to read the entire final arc differently from what it's intended to be about, and you'll see descriptions even on this very wiki that discuss the series as if it's about a Two-Person Love Triangle while completely ignoring Asuka Jr.'s Hidden Depths.
  • Enemy Mine: The swan sculpture caper (chapters 18-19/episodes 28-29) has Saint Tail and Asuka Jr. forming a complete truce so they can get the sculpture back from its actual thieves (and so that Asuka Jr. won't be taken off the Saint Tail cases), with him honoring his word to not exploit the opportunity to capture her just this once. Eventually, Asuka Jr. comes to agree with Saint Tail's work in helping people to the point the dolphin caper (chapter 20/episode 39) has him quietly enabling the rest of her "theft" the moment he identifies who the actual victim is.
  • Everyone Can See It: Played with: it's initially kept ambiguous how many people have caught onto the idea of Meimi and Asuka Jr. as a couple when they're always fighting and Asuka Jr. is seemingly too Oblivious to Love to notice Meimi's feelings, but once the Mid-Season Twist hits, it turns out that people around Asuka Jr. were already aware that he was pining for Meimi, with Meimi being the one who missed the signs. Once Meimi and Asuka Jr. actually hook up, Sawatari is shocked while Takamiya is disappointed but unsurprised, but the rest of their classmates jump hard on the Meimi/Asuka train if they weren't on it already.
  • Evil Counterpart: Arc Villain Takamiya can be seen as a mirror to Asuka Jr. in that she shares the same pride, intellect, and desire to catch Saint Tail that he does, but channeled in a more condescending, selfish direction. At the end of the series, Rosemary shares Meimi's lack of purpose in life and complex over things that don't actually matter, while Maju's single-minded devotion to her mother mirrors Meimi's fixation with emulating her parents instead of having any real goals for herself.
  • Evil Plan: There's a twist on this trope as Saint Tail usually intervenes after the criminal-of-the-week has succeeded in whatever scheme they used to steal the precious item. Their victim tells Seira about it so Saint Tail can reverse its success.
  • Exact Words: Because Saint Tail steals for the purpose of helping civilians who are in trouble, sometimes she ends up targeting items in ways that are much more mundane than what the police had been expecting, because her calling cards don't give any information beyond the time, location, current holder, name of the item, and that she'll be "taking" (not necessarily keeping) it. Examples include going to an amusement park to steal a "doll", as in a child's doll and not the expensive dolls that were lining the clock tower, or taking a jewel and giving it right back to Asuka Jr., because she only needed to prove that the jewel was there at all (the person keeping it was trying to defraud his friend by accusing him of having stolen it). Such cases are seen by the police and reported as Saint Tail "failing" to steal the object and Asuka Jr. being credited with saving it, but both of them are aware she'd actually succeeded in her goal.
    • Asuka Jr. intends to be the one to "catch" Saint Tail. This does not necessarily mean figuring out her identity, nor does it mean seeing her taken into custody; it simply means being the one to catch her, and nothing else. In the final chapter/episode, he manages to fulfill his goal by literally catching her mid-fall, after which she quietly retires while he keeps her secret from the world.
  • Fictional Country: Seika and its neighboring town Sakuraoka are in Japan (although you would be forgiven for believing otherwise given how European it comes off as), but no other real-world locations are mentioned, and two objects that Saint Tail steals are from the countries of "Leche" and "Astoria" with their own royal families and legends.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Played with. Asuka Jr. says things about Saint Tail that sound awfully like those a devoted lover would say, but Meimi knows full well that he isn't actually in love with Saint Tail. Despite that, part of the reason she starts falling for him is that she's drawn to how it makes her feel, and she at least believes he cares far more about Saint Tail than her as Meimi, even if not necessarily in a romantic sense. The irony is that once he starts suspecting that Saint Tail might actually be Meimi, it really does stop being subtext as his feelings for Meimi get mixed up in the chase and he becomes even more obsessed with catching her himself, albeit with the intent of protecting her instead of arresting her.
  • Gaslighting: Occurs in a sense in chapter/episode 10 when Saint Tail convinces Asuka Jr. and Takamiya that Saint Tail is actually an adult man Disguised in Drag, throwing them into shock because they very clearly remember having had contact with her as a girl around their age. She herself admits that she might have overdone it a bit, and while she quickly contacts Asuka Jr. to let him know it was a bluff, they both decide to let Takamiya continue believing it (mainly because the alternative would have involved Asuka Jr. being forced into a potential abusive relationship with her while Meimi gets arrested).
  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: The series depicts "wanting someone for yourself" while still being selflessly in love with them by comparing it to having something you consider to be so valuable or precious that you refuse to give it up to anyone. Both Meimi and Asuka Jr. eventually decide that even if their feelings aren't fully reciprocated, they refuse to let anyone else try to make them happy in their place.
  • Generation Xerox: Asuka Jr.'s father, Detective Asuka, was the detective in charge of chasing Meimi's mother Eimi back when she was a Phantom Thief, although (probably) without the romantic aspects. In fact, the real Generation Xerox comes up in chapter 21/episode 40, when Genichiro goes to Seira lamenting that he can tell Eimi is sad and is desperate to figure out how to cheer her up, followed by Eimi telling Meimi the story about how he saved her from being critically injured by her rival and worked so hard to make her happy that she didn't need to be a thief anymore, with him refraining from talking about it out of courtesy. This happens at exactly the same time Asuka Jr. (who had previously been self-conscious about not being much like Genichiro) is distressed over how to cheer Meimi up from her obvious misery but is afraid to bring up his suspicions of her being Saint Tail, and his subsequent actions of dropping a Love Confession on her and saving her from Rosemary and Maju aggravating her emotional troubles end up getting Meimi to retire from being a thief.
  • Heroic Fatigue: Being a vigilante hero Phantom Thief ends up being a thankless job, and it eventually poisons Meimi's self-worth and mental health because of the secrecy involved to the point the final arc basically boils down to Asuka Jr. getting in place to stage an intervention and stopping her before she completely destroys herself.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: A recurring theme is that unconditional love is much more fulfilling than falling back on less ideal coping methods to fill the void:
    • Prior to the beginning of the series, Eimi had been working as a phantom thief to test her physical abilities and to one-up Rosemary in a petty rivalry, but she turned over a new leaf and decided to return everything she stole after Genichiro working so hard to make her happy made all of her thefts feel meaningless.
    • Meimi's motive for becoming Saint Tail was that she wanted to get some self-worth out of putting her abilities to use, but she ends up getting treated as a concept more than a human being while her identity crisis makes her feel even more worthless, and Asuka Jr. going out of his way to understand her is what gets her the acceptance she actually needs.
    • Asuka Jr. had been acting arrogant and defensive about catching Saint Tail to satisfy his own inferiority complex, but Meimi noticing his good points and encouraging them (as both Meimi and Saint Tail) gets him to realize what he actually considers to be important.
    • Rosemary wants to live in comfort and luxury with Maju by traveling around towns and robbing them, and she's petty enough to take out revenge on her old rival's daughter and try to ruin someone's life over a complex over her own name, but she hints that she might have also been happier if she'd met someone like Genichiro or Asuka Jr. twenty years earlier instead.
    • A more Pseudo-Romantic Friendship-tinted one occurs in a manga bonus chapter with Seira and Sawatari, with Sawatari deciding to drop his philandering tendencies and going out of his way to make her happy with experiences she'd never had as a nun-in-training. Seeing him actually put so much effort into her, Seira decides to break her own nature as a Creature of Habit in order to accept his gift, leading to her loosening up on the self-imposed restrictions that had been at the root of her Manipulative Bastard tendencies.
  • Important Haircut: By the time of the Distant Finale, Meimi has cut her hair short, symbolically representing that she's moved on from being Saint Tail.
  • Impossibly Awesome Magic Trick: The main character is the daughter of a former Phantom Thief and a Stage Magician, so this trope is the natural result. Despite being a Magical Girl, her "magic" is explicitly all stage magic, but she routinely pulls off impossible feats, such as being carried off by just a a handful of balloons.
  • Informed Location: Seika is allegedly in Japan (according to Tachikawa, probably somewhere in the Kanto region), but St. Paulia being a Catholic school and the visuals of the town being heavily inspired by English architecture could fool you into believing the series takes place somewhere in Europe if it weren't for the character names still being Japanese. On top of that, specific locations are usually given vague names like "A Park" and "F Museum".
  • Insecure Love Interest: Both Meimi and Asuka Jr. are convinced their feelings are unrequited for most of the story for various reasons: Meimi's own severe lack of self-worth starts causing her to make logical leaps that would reinforce her belief that there's no way he could possibly be interested in her the same way he is in Saint Tail, whereas Asuka Jr.'s concerned about whether their Belligerent Sexual Tension at the beginning of the series had turned her off. Even when they start dating, Asuka Jr. can't tell if she just happens to be willing to let him date her while Meimi thinks he'll cut ties with her on the spot once he finds out her identity, and it takes until the finale for them to finally get it through their heads exactly how mutual their feelings are.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: A Metaphorically True variant happens in chapter 21/episode 40 when Asuka Jr. remembers what Sawatari had said regarding a legend about "treasure at the end of a rainbow", serving as the final push over the edge that gets Asuka Jr. to make his Love Confession:
    Asuka Jr.: (I don't even remember what royal family that was from, but by the laws of physics, the end of the rainbow shouldn't exi—)
    (Asuka Jr. sees the rainbow hitting the horizon right behind Meimi walking towards him)
  • Ironic Echo: In the first chapter, Saint Tail sprays perfume to put Asuka Jr. to sleep and prevent him from seeing her face. Near the end, Rosemary similarly puts him to sleep, but specifically to drag him over to her hideout and expose Saint Tail's identity to him; what's more, he learns her identity by seeing her through a mirror, which was also how he first caught onto her identity during the Mid-Season Twist.
    • The perfume caper (chapter 15/episode 23) has a perfumer trying to exploit Saint Tail's name value and snidely commenting that his incomplete product's success will be "all thanks to Saint Tail". After Saint Tail appears, gets him to repent, and actually helps him and his sister make a genuine product, the perfumer says that they were saved "all thanks to Saint Tail", and the incident becomes another factor in Asuka Jr. realizing her impact on people and how easy it is for them to reduce "Saint Tail" to a mere concept.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Saint Tail performs capers that help people in need, including returning stolen items to their original owners or using her thefts to expose fraud, in ways that are usually "ethical but definitely not legal". This allows her to do things the legal system can't, but it also has its drawbacks: the need for secrecy means she can only use direct force and can't connect with any other people, and her emotional isolation ends up severely damaging her mental health.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: The "secret" part of the Secret-Identity Identity problem is the part that makes it so damaging: the fact she has to hide her identity means that anyone she helps won't credit her for her accomplishments because they're all going to attribute it to a concept rather than a human being, she can't personally connect with anyone on her capers and is limited in how much she can help them beyond the immediate problem, and the stress of hiding everything eventually starts cutting into her personal life. Other than a single Secret-Keeper, the entire side of her life as Saint Tail ends up becoming such an isolated existence that she can't even associate it with herself.
  • Let Off by the Detective: Asuka Jr.'s pride in wanting to defeat his Worthy Opponent means he's willing to even have discussions with her in secret about their Friendly Rivalry and him being the only one allowed to catch her, but he eventually starts actually agreeing with her work to the point he hesitates and accidentally lets her go during one caper, forms an Enemy Mine with her during another, and quietly enables one of her "thefts". In the end, Asuka Jr. does "catch" Saint Tail, but it's in a metaphorical sense done primarily for her own good, and Meimi quietly retires while Asuka Jr. helps keep her secret from the rest of the world.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Most characters aren't usually seen wearing anything other than their school uniforms (with Seira also having her nun habit), although bonus manga pages often play around with putting them in different outfits and Alternate Universe scenarios. Meimi has the largest variety of outfits, especially in the anime.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Being a Stage Magician, Saint Tail doesn't believe in subtlety when delivering her calling cards and has them pop out from increasingly strange places, including things like having it be pasted on a ball hitting Asuka Jr. in the face, writing it on his face while he sleeps, writing it with food in a lunchbox she'd prepared for him, and even an announcement made to the whole town with a blimp. In the end, it turns out to not be about the individual cards nor their delivery methods, but the fact that Saint Tail was so diligent about keeping her promise to send them that it served as evidence that she really had been in love with him the entire time.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Meimi is convinced this is the case with Asuka Jr. and Saint Tail (if not romantically, at least as an object of his obsession), which isn't helped by the fact Asuka Jr. sometimes brings up Saint Tail to compare her with whenever he's being Tsundere. It's actually the other way around: Meimi is the only one he's ever really loved, and the idea that Saint Tail might be Meimi is enough for him to abruptly change his entire approach towards her for the sake of Meimi's well-being. In a bonus chapter, it turns out that he can't even distinguish "Meimi" and "Saint Tail" anymore (other than via the ponytail) when asked because he knows too well that they're actually just the same thing.
  • Magical Girl: Saint Tail is a more mundane example crossed with the Phantom Thief trope, as her magic is just incredibly versatile stage magic, but she still fulfills other aspects of the trope such as the Transformation Sequence, changing into a specialized costume, and using her "magic" to help others. The anime even adds a Transformation Trinket and some Magical Girl props (for merch purposes, of course).
  • Magic Versus Science: A mundane variation in that while Meimi's "magic" is explicitly stage magic, certain things like Princess Rosa's mirror showing Meimi in Saint Tail's reflection are deliberately left unexplained, and the question is more of an ideological one about whether to embrace the idea of "mysterious things" in the world not always having a logical explanation. The story notably does not take one side over the other; Asuka Jr. ends up needing Saint Tail's influence to break out of his narrow-minded view of the world and understand the beauty of inexplicable things, whereas Doing In the Wizard turns out to be a very good thing for Meimi once it turns out that all of the secrecy and repression has rendered her unable to tell who she even is anymore.
  • Market-Based Title: The first release of the anime and manga from Tokyopop called it Sweet Tales of Saint Tail, presumably because the Phantom Thief genre on its own wouldn't attract young girls.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Meimi has a very bad case of this to the point that Asuka Jr. complains about how she'll easily do things like whack him with a broom at times while putting up with things she hates during others, making him unable to tell if she's putting up with him too.
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: Much of Meimi's side of the story involves her feelings of guilt about going behind Asuka Jr.'s back as his own Phantom Thief rival, preventing her from expressing her feelings while he becomes increasingly frustrated with how difficult it is to understand her.
  • Metaphorically True: Saint Tail's calling cards are usually Exact Words, but at one point (chapter 14/episode 19) she baffles Asuka Jr. by sending one that says she'll be stealing a comet, something that sounds too absurd even for a Stage Magician like her. He initially interprets it as her stealing the telescope that'll be used to observe it, but what she actually does is create a diversion significant enough to get all of the staff out of the observatory, allowing a group of kids to enter past regulations and see the comet themselves, thus "stealing" the comet for them.
  • Mid-Season Twist: The first half of the series starts off as a Strictly Formula heist story with some Foe Romance Subtext, but keeping in line with the series' duality theme of perception vs. reality, the mirror caper (chapter 13, exactly halfway into the manga) marks a major dramatic shift that upgrades Asuka Jr. to Deuteragonist status, reveals that much of what the reader had been led to believe about him is misleading, and makes the "chase" into an allegory for him trying to get through to Meimi through her emotional isolation. Asuka Jr. even outright identifies the mirror incident as the moment that changed everything during his Love Epiphany.
  • Mirror Character: Although their opposing natures usually serve to make them foils for each other, Meimi and Asuka Jr.'s character arcs roughly follow the same structure, with both of them worried about the other hating them and struggling with self-worth issues. The main difference is that Meimi helps Asuka Jr. by encouraging him to improve his current situation (everyone currently treating him like a failure and Meimi supposedly still hating him for having insulted her) while Asuka Jr. helps Meimi by dispelling the hypothetical scenarios in her head (that she has to keep being Saint Tail to be useful or desirable and that Asuka Jr. would hate her if he learned about her identity).
  • Mission from God: Seira and Meimi believe that they're helping victims as part of God's will, but as the series goes on, it becomes increasingly questionable whether this is actually the case, since Seira is the one calling all the shots while Asuka Jr. accuses Saint Tail of being a blasphemy. It eventually turns out that the answer is a hard no and that Saint Tail really is no more than just a self-styled idol, especially since both of the (implied) actual signs from God involve encouraging Meimi and Seira to do things for themselves instead of falsely doing things in his name.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Downplayed: neither Saint Tail nor Asuka Jr. take any noticeable injury from him catching her after she falls from a considerable height, but the velocity is enough to send both of them crashing down through the unstable roof he was standing on, and they're only saved by landing on some giant balloons Saint Tail had brought out earlier.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Asuka Jr. and Meimi visit a fortune-teller who tells Meimi that because she's hiding something huge from him, things will only end disastrously for the two of them. This slams Asuka Jr.'s Berserk Button down so hard that he drags her out and starts trash-talking the fortune-telling, calling it a whole load of bunk and lies and saying that those kinds of things are "the worst". He'd said it hoping to cheer up Meimi, but all it does is drive in her insecurities about lying to him and fear of him hating her even further. It later turns out that even when he's not sure of Meimi's motives, he sees her as having been "hiding" things rather than "lying" to him, hence why he was so willing to be disdainful about liars to Meimi's face even while knowing she was likely to be hiding something.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: A two-part one occurs in chapter 20/episode 39, with the anime's shaky handling of the subplots leading up to it getting even translators and fans in real life to interpret it the way Meimi does:
    • When Meimi asks Asuka Jr. why he's so desperate to catch Saint Tail, he responds that Saint Tail is an "ideal", adding that he wants to "see whether she really is that ideal or not" and "know what her true face is like". What he's actually doing is vaguely alluding to Saint Tail being an idealized persona who's probably different Beneath the Mask, but Meimi interprets "ideal" to mean "ideal type of girl" and "true face" to mean him wanting to see her literal face. This results in Meimi agonizing about deceiving him as the true identity of his supposed dream girl, when in fact he's trying not to be too specific because he suspects that the person Beneath the Mask is actually Meimi.
    • Later, Asuka Jr. tells Saint Tail "you're too much like this girl I can't stop thinking about," and what he means is "there's this girl I've been really worried about, and the fact you suspiciously come off as the same person is making me even more worried." Meimi is so ridiculously insecure that she takes this to mean "you coincidentally happen to look like a girl I like" and spends the entire next day moping about him liking someone else, completely unaware that he's one step away from confessing his love to her.
  • One Last Job: Meimi goes to rescue Asuka Jr. knowing full well that this will likely be her last job as Saint Tail; no matter what happens, he'll be aware of her identity, and she believes he'll probably hate her for having deceived him, so she and Seira decide to make it the first and last time she ever steals something for herself. In the end, while it does end up being her last job, it's actually for completely different reasons.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Asuka Jr. and Saint Tail both agree that nobody is allowed to catch her but him. For Asuka Jr., it's a matter of personal pride, and for Saint Tail, it's partially because she wants to see him achieve his goal and partially as an unusual form of Playing Hard to Get. Things get a little more complicated when Asuka Jr. starts suspecting that Saint Tail is actually Meimi, whom he's falling in love with, but his desire to figure out what's going on only reinforces his stance that he's not letting anyone else interfere or potentially hurt her.
  • Opposites Attract: As representatives of the series' Central Theme of "perception/imagination vs. reality", Meimi and Asuka Jr. serve as near-perfect Foils for each other, with their contrasts ranging from their thinking patterns to their personal skillsets:
    • Meimi is an athletic but academically challenged Stage Magician whose creed is "no gimmicks or tricks" (as long as you don't know how it works underneath, it might as well be magic) and does things based on possibility, with her encouraging Asuka Jr. and helping him get past his inferiority complex by giving him opportunities and pushing him forward. The downside is that she puts too much emphasis on external behavior and how things are perceived by the world instead of how they actually are, meaning that she has little sense of self-awareness or self-preservation, nearly falls apart thanks to her identity crisis, and ends up distorting her own sense of reality because she's too obsessed with what Asuka Jr. might do instead of considering what he's actually thinking or likely to do.
    • Asuka Jr. is an intellectual but physically clumsy Agent Scully detective who puts emphasis on knowing how things work on the inside and does things based on what's realistically likely to happen, allowing him to completely bypass Meimi's identity crisis by insisting on seeing her purely Beneath the Mask, carefully working through through Saint Tail's motives and what Meimi is thinking, and getting her to properly look at reality again. The downside is that he can be so narrow-minded and straightforward that he misses nuance, can range from being an uptight jerk at worst to Innocently Insensitive at best in communicating with others, and starts off with a severe inferiority complex because he cares too much about what others think of him.
  • Permissive Parents: Meimi's parents are perfectly fine with her sneaking out at night without telling them what she's doing, since they see it as a sign of her taking after her Phantom Thief mother and figure she'll come back before morning anyway. It's initially Played for Laughs, but it ends up having serious negative repercussions when they start becoming disconnected from their daughter and increasingly unsure of what to do about her clearly deteriorating mental health besides "hope it'll get better".
  • Phantom Thief: On top of Saint Tail herself, Meimi's mother is also a former phantom thief named Lucifer, and we later meet Lucifer's old rival Rosemary and her protégé Maju. Out of all of them, Saint Tail is the only one who actually has altruistic motives for what she does.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: The swan sculpture caper (chapter 19/episode 29) has Asuka Jr. locked in a dark room, unsuccessfully trying to force open the door. When Saint Tail gets locked in there as well, she has a conversation with him where they agree to form an Enemy Mine... resulting in her walking to the other side of the room and using her magic to open the window.
    Asuka Jr.: If it was that easy for you to break us out of here, you could have said so a little earlier!
  • Playing Hard to Get: Part of the reason Meimi is initially drawn to Asuka Jr. is that she likes the passion he pursues Saint Tail with because it makes her feel "wanted". It ends up taking a much darker turn when she starts believing that "Meimi" won't be as desirable to him as Saint Tail because he apparently wouldn't physically run after her that way, despite the fact that this is an extremely severe underestimation of exactly how much he would do for her. The problem is so bad that even after the Love Confession and the finale having him openly forgive her for everything, she's still convinced he needs to physically come after her before she can believe he actually wants her that much, but when she tries to test Asuka Jr. by pulling this, he calls her bluff and yells (very loudly) for her to come back herself because he knows full well she doesn't actually want to run away, which finally gets Meimi to snap out of it.
  • Plot Parallel: Each chapter's caper topic has some kind of metaphorical connection to the events of the chapter itself (or to the story as a whole). As an example, one caper involves Saint Tail having to rescue a lizard from a bully and return it to its owner who treats it lovingly despite her mother despising it, with Saint Tail overcoming her own fear of lizards to get the job done; the situation serves as a metaphor for the chapter's main events of Saint Tail deciding to reach out to Asuka Jr. and help him, despite him turning everyone off with his temper issues and insensitivity to the point of even having insulted Meimi herself earlier.
    • In chapter/episode 13, Sawatari tells Meimi and Asuka Jr. a story about the mirror Saint Tail is planning to steal: a princess had fallen in love with a mirror craftsman but was worried about the disparity in their social status, so she comissioned the craftsman to make a mirror that would depict "her true self, without the garments of a princess". As soon as the mirror was finished, the princess fled the castle with only the mirror to elope with the craftsman, and it was said that any woman who held the mirror would find happiness. Meimi immediately begins musing about Asuka Jr. seeing her "true self" in the mirror, and shortly afterwards, Asuka Jr. really does see Meimi in Saint Tail's reflection when she picks up the mirror. Eventually, he ends up being the one who figures out Meimi's actual "true self" without the public's perception of her as an "ideal", allowing her to retire from being a phantom thief and live happily with him.
    • In chapter 15/episode 23, Asuka Jr. tells Meimi a Creation Myth about how the snow got its color: God had sent the snow to find a flower that could give it a color, but it couldn't find a flower that was willing to do so because the snow was too cold. Eventually, a single flower had offered up its white color, and the snow returned the favor by protecting the flower during the winter. While the story isn't brought up again in-universe, the manga uses visual symbolism (most notably in the cover page for the final chapter) to indicate that it's also a metaphor for Meimi and Asuka Jr.: Meimi had supported and encouraged him when nobody else would due to his poor social skills and overly defensive Hair-Trigger Temper, resulting in her becoming so important to him that he monopolizes the Saint Tail chase to prevent anyone from hurting her and goes out of his way to figure out what's going on with her when her mental state begins collapsing.
  • Police Are Useless: The people Saint Tail helps usually can't go to the authorities for some reason (the object was taken from them legally but not ethically, etc.) and thus have to take it to a nun-in-training at a middle school chapel. The police generally only get involved after she responds to the complaint, and even then, they're originally there to catch her, although the anime's use of Colliding Criminal Conspiracies allows Detective Asuka to nail down some culprits independently of Saint Tail's efforts. Asuka Jr.'s experiences over the course of the series get him to ditch his original career plans to become a Private Detective instead, with Fair Cop Takamiya complaining that he one-ups them on their cases.
  • Poor Communication Kills: During the first half, the reason Meimi and Asuka Jr. can't get across their building mutual feelings is that Meimi acts like a Tsundere to him, which he takes completely at face value, resulting in him concluding that she hates him and that he needs to earn her approval. Unfortunately, his attempts at doing so usually end up tying into Saint Tail in some way, convincing her that he's only interested in the Saint Tail chase and not her. During the second half, Meimi starts emotionally isolating herself out of a belief that he'll start hating her if he learns about her being Saint Tail; in actuality, he's already started to catch onto her identity and is very worried about why her behavior is getting so incomprehensible.
  • The Promise: After one caper (chapter 4/episode 12) during which Asuka Jr. doesn't get a Calling Card from Saint Tail, he confronts her and has her make a promise with him: she'll never go on a caper without sending him a calling card first, and she won't let anyone else catch her before he does. Saint Tail ends up keeping up with the calling cards so diligently that this is how he realizes she's been in love with him this entire time, leading to him fulfilling his side of the bargain by "catching" her and ending her emotional isolation. Ultimately, the promise ends up metaphorically representing "being there to support him" and "preventing anything from hurting her", to the point Seira refers to their eventual marriage as an "eternal promise" that originates from this.
  • Red Herring: The first half of the manga omits details and frames things misleadingly to make Asuka Jr. come off as purely Saint Tail-obsessed and utterly oblivious to Meimi's affections, only for the Mid-Season Twist to abruptly reveal all of the actual context: in fact, most of his actions that were supposedly about Saint Tail actually had to do with Meimi, and his apparent hostility towards Meimi had actually been the result of either overly defensive reactions or him trying to help her but deliberately hiding his intentions due to his belief that she hated him and would reject his help if she knew.
  • Revealing Injury: Asuka Jr.'s first clue as to Saint Tail's identity is seeing Meimi with a bandage on her cheek the morning after Saint Tail was injured on her face during a theft. He immediately dismisses it, although the manga version implies that he was consciously invoking Plausible Deniability.
  • Rewatch Bonus: If you reread the first half of the manga while knowing about Asuka Jr.'s Hidden Depths revealed in the second half, it turns out there's an entire hidden subplot about him having been wanting Meimi's favor since all the way back in chapter 1, with him even going through his own version of what Meimi eventually ends up doing for him in the second half.
  • Secret-Identity Identity: This ends up being the primary source of Meimi's mental health collapse in the second half: because she decides that Saint Tail doesn't count as her "true self", she starts believing there's no reason Asuka Jr. would ever care about her as Meimi if he ever knew about her identity, despite the fact that it's actually the opposite that's true. Eventually, she starts sending herself down a rabbit hole of assumptions because she's so insecure about the idea anything could be about her and not Saint Tail that she effectively locks herself into completely imaginary scenarios with no basis in reality. Asuka Jr. eventually manages to identify the actual problem: Saint Tail is still Meimi, it's just that the outside world sees Saint Tail as an "ideal" instead of the actual human being she is, so Saint Tail sees herself as and acts like an inhuman entity because that's how everyone treats her.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Inverted: after Meimi and Asuka Jr. are spotted together by a girl advertising fortune-telling services and are mistaken for being a couple, Asuka Jr. assumes that Meimi would probably rather not be around him and is about to leave when Meimi suddenly blurts out that she'd never actually said that. It's implied to be at least one reason he ends up going ahead and giving her a Love Confession the next morning.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: The prequel chapter reveals that Saint Tail got started this way: after Seira had put her up to a single outing to recover a stolen key, the newspaper published a bad picture of her and dubbed her a Phantom Thief. Seira found this to be a great idea and decided to have Meimi keep doing it under the name of Saint Tail. Having only expected to do it the one time and not seeing it as a real Mission from God yet, Meimi was not amused.
    • Two capers (chapter 15/episode 23 and chapters 18-19/episodes 28-29) involve fake calling cards pretending to be from Saint Tail; in both cases, she decides to just go along with it, although the second one has her send a real one to Asuka Jr. to point him in the right direction towards the actual thieves.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Keeping with the theme of Asuka Jr.'s side of the story representing "reality", the Mid-Season Twist reveals that he is trying to read Meimi's intentions; it's just that her behavior is incomprehensible to him because her emotionally closed-in nature and Tsundere tendencies aren't exactly easy things to make sense of, and Saint Tail's more overt affection for him means nothing to him when he doesn't really know who she is. On top of that, Meimi falling in love with him based on his romantically-loaded statements about catching Saint Tail is actually a sign of her having some deep-seated self-worth problems, and constantly working under a secret identity is turning out to be very bad for her mental health.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Asuka Jr., naturally, and the anime features his father, who formerly pursued the much less altruistic Lucifer in the past and currently helps arrest the criminals Saint Tail exposes. Asuka Jr. slips out of the "antagonist" role and into that of a Deuteragonist as he starts sympathizing more with what Saint Tail must be like as a human, while Meimi starts emotionally falling apart to the point she needs to be stopped from continuing for her own good.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: On one end, there's Saint Tail, a vigilante Robin Hood-esque thief who enacts justice by helping those in need, but does so by having Seira violate confessional secrets and doing things like stealing, breaking and entering, and causing various kinds of chaos. On the other end, there's the police, who are supposed to uphold the peace, but are often assigned to "protect" scammers, thieves, blackmailers, and other all-around terrible people who would easily get away with their crimes if not for Saint Tail's intervention. Asuka Jr. starts off on the Lawful end, respecting Saint Tail's altruistic motives but not her methods, but comes to see things from her perspective and have doubts about what he's doing. Meanwhile, Meimi starts to crack under the guilt of having to lie and hide things from everyone around her while being unable to open up about what she's actually feeling. In the end, they eventually meet in the middle, with Meimi retiring from being a phantom thief while Asuka Jr. picks up the slack of helping people in a slightly more lawful (and less mentally damaging) manner by becoming a Private Detective who continues to take tips from Seira but still openly gets the police on as cooperators.
  • Transformation Sequence: Meimi's stage magic means she's just switching from her day clothes into her magician costume, but the manga has spreads dedicated to portraying it this way, and the anime includes a sequence that has a more magical-themed switch complete with Transformation Trinket. The anime depicts it in a way that suggests she's doing a classic Magical Girl naked transformation sequence, but makes it non-sexual by only showing her from the shoulders up until she's fully dressed.
  • Two-Teacher School: Since most of the school scenes take place during or between classes, Meimi's homeroom teacher (Sister) is the only one ever shown. The anime adds a headmaster in episode 26.
  • Wants Versus Needs: Asuka Jr. getting the glory of catching Saint Tail would require arresting Meimi, while Meimi trying to keep herself useful by being Saint Tail would result in him racking up more failures and eventually losing her in one way or another; by having Saint Tail quietly disappear from the public eye, neither of them get what they initially wanted, but by that point it doesn't matter because what they really needed was each other anyway.
  • Wham Line: At the end of chapter 12 (right before the Mid-Season Twist), an emotionally disoriented Asuka Jr. abruptly drags Meimi away from a boy harassing her and calls her out for putting up with "things she hates", followed by a single line of internal monologue that retroactively reveals that him keeping his distance from her and failing to acknowledge her interest in him was not out of him simply letting her feelings go over his head:
  • What You Are in the Dark: Played with. While selfless devotion isn't treated like an inherently bad thing, the series also points out constantly doing things for others without telling them about it has its own problems, because it means they'll never actually get to feel that someone cares about them. Meimi and Asuka Jr.'s refusal to tell each other about what they're doing for each other's sake leads them both to assume that their feelings are unrequited for the majority of the series, and the fact Saint Tail operates under a secret identity means that everyone she helps assumes "God" did it, leaving both Meimi and the people she helps unable to feel any real personal connection to her work.

    Tropes applying to the anime 
  • Adaptational Angst Downgrade: The anime generally has Meimi and Asuka Jr. come off as more put-together and confident than their manga counterparts, who were dealing with emotional repression stemming from extreme self-worth issues and a Hair-Trigger Temper stemming from a severe Inferiority Superiority Complex respectively. Although this was only hinted in the first half and depicted in clearer detail in the second half, even scenes from the second half are adapted in ways that downplay what was originally Asuka Jr. getting increasingly desperate out of concern for Meimi while she started getting close to breaking point complete with Dull Eyes of Unhappiness.
  • Adaptational Context Change: A rather extreme example. The anime's approach to adapting the manga is by adapting each chapter in a vacuum without necessarily maintaining continuity in the overall plot, meaning that several manga chapters (especially from the second half past the Mid-Season Twist) are adapted with context or characterization that doesn't match up with what they were originally supposed to be written about. Particularly glaring examples include:
    • On top of downplaying Meimi and Asuka Jr.'s emotional issues, the anime moves the events of The Promise all the way to episode 12, thus putting it after Asuka Jr.'s Character Development that was supposed to come out of it. The promise's role as something that saved Asuka Jr. from the Despair Event Horizon and serves as a general representation for their relationship ends up becoming important to the final arc, up to and including Seira referring to their "eternal promise", but anyone who only knows the anime will be much less likely to be able to figure out how it ties into all of this.
    • Pretty much every adaptation of a manga chapter after chapter 13 (the mirror incident) comes off completely differently without the background context of "Asuka Jr. suspecting that Saint Tail is Meimi and starting to unconsciously treat her as if she were Meimi", something that made up the main core of the manga's second half but is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to infer from the anime alone, and by the time Asuka Jr. finally brings up the issue in words, it comes off as an Informed Attribute because of how much the issue had been downplayed.
    • The idol tryouts (episode 27, based on chapter 17) and the Swan two-parter (episodes 28-29, based on chapters 18-19) flip back and forth on their levels of manga compliance, going from Asuka Jr. genuinely asking Meimi to not become an idol (carried over from the manga) to him mocking her for failing out of the idol tryouts and pridefully boasting about catching Saint Tail in front of his classmates (anime additions that would be out of character for him in the manga at this point) to him showing no traces of pride whatsoever, longing for Saint Tail to some extent, and ignoring his classmates' praise to talk to Meimi (strictly manga-compliant). That last portrayal is based on the manga's context of him overcoming his Inferiority Superiority Complex out of desperation to help Meimi... but it's then followed by episode 30, an episode based on a chapter from before this arc, which frames it as if he's considering the idea of Saint Tail being Meimi for the first time. Without knowing the manga's context, the only possible explanation for his behavior in episode 29 is that he really is enamored with Saint Tail after all and the case's events must have somehow induced some Character Development... only for future Filler episodes to backpedal on that anyway.
    • The entire final arc (episodes 39-43) is carried over almost exactly as-is from the manga, resulting in the plot effectively becoming the manga's final arc tacked onto a series that doesn't actually lead up to it and thus everything about it either missing context or coming off very differently:
      • Meimi and Asuka Jr. abruptly shifting from their casual Belligerent Sexual Tension anime dynamic to their respective Stepford Smiler and No Social Skills manga characterizations
      • Asuka Jr. describing Saint Tail as an "ideal" and noticing the "resemblance" betweeen her and Meimi (originally referring to the cognitive dissonance of him knowing that Saint Tail is likely to be Meimi Beneath the Mask while being unable to fully treat them as the same person), along with Meimi's interpretation of his words as "being enamored with a girl whom he considers to have a coincidental resemblance to Saint Tail" (meant as a point about how utterly out of touch with reality she's fallen to make that interpretation)
      • Asuka Jr. saying that he refused to let anyone else near Saint Tail the moment he saw Meimi in her reflection (very true in the manga, hard to believe in the anime for multiple reasons, including a Filler episode from only two episodes prior contradicting that)
      • Asuka Jr. agreeing to go to a fortune-teller with Meimi against his usual Agent Scully nature based on Ryoko's advice to "find where Saint Tail is" (trying to get Meimi to cheer up so she can potentially open up about her identity)
      • Asuka Jr. being abnormally terrified for Saint Tail's safety when he watches Maju attacking her, then agonizing over "don't let anyone else catch you before I do" while thinking of Meimi after learning her identity (a scene that only makes sense if you know the nature of Asuka Jr.'s Selective Obliviousness approach towards Saint Tail being Meimi and "catching her" having become a Declaration of Protection for him)
      • The reason the calling cards are "love letters" (Meimi had been encouraging him and trying to support his happiness since all the way back when he was still an arrogant jerk with a Hair-Trigger Temper, and had never given up even once)
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Ruby made her appearance in chapter 11 of the manga (a little under halfway into the run), but her debut caper is moved all the way back to episode 3 in the anime for merchandising purposes, and she shows up in a Funny Background Event added here and there during scenes she wasn't originally involved in.
    • The anime ended its run at around exactly the same time as the manga, and some elements show up earlier in the anime than they did in the manga, both in-universe and in real life. At least some of these details were originally All There in the Manual in the manga, but for some others, such as the designs for Detective Asuka (who was mentioned in chapter 1 but was effectively The Ghost) and Mayor Morinaka (who was similarly mentioned early but didn't show up until chapter 18), it's hard to tell whether they also apply under this or whether they're backported Canon Immigrant elements.
  • Adaptation Expansion: All 24 of the manga's main chapters each have their own episode adaptation with some additional scenes, and the anime also adds 19 original capers in between. The additional scenes and capers don't always make sense with the original plot, but they do expand on characters such as Genichiro and Detective Asuka, sometimes even with details that were originally All There in the Manual.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: In the manga, much of Asuka Jr.'s behavior had to do with the specific way he was characterized, but due to his significant Adaptation Personality Change in the anime, it becomes harder to make sense out of why he would do certain things:
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The anime could be called an adaptation of the manga in the sense that most of the important scenes in the manga have animated equivalents, but plot-important episodes are switched around in order while Filler episodes with Negative Continuity are sandwiched in between, resulting in characterization and plot developments constantly being invalidated and the series lacking a coherent plotline if watched from start to finish. In particular, the final arc being written to follow up on things that don't actually lead up to it anymore makes it very confusing to figure out what's going on in the final arc when it keeps referencing things from manga continuity.
    • Episode 10 (based on chapter 10) has Saint Tail tell Asuka Jr. "if I do end up being caught, I want to be caught by you," only for episode 12 to have Meimi wonder if it's strange to think that he might be the best option to catch her if she does get caught. This is due to episode 12 originally being chapter 4 and thus before the "I want to be caught by you" line in the manga; it was specifically the promise they made later in that chapter that eventually led to her feeling that way thanks to everything that had happened between then and chapter 10, but the anime inverting those events makes it hard to understand why she would say either of those things.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: In the manga, the biggest obstacles to Meimi and Asuka Jr.'s relationship were their extreme communication issues caused by some very deep-seated emotional problems, meaning they were constantly keeping their distance from each other and never quite sure what the other thought of them, but they were also incredibly devoted to each other regardless; they were very careful to not insult or mock the other in ways that would push the other's buttons, and their relationship being represented by The Promise from chapter 4 and the snowdrop Creation Myth in chapter 15 effectively amounted to "her supporting and encouraging him while he takes care of her welfare". The anime has them casually mock and insult each other without much restraint but also portrays them as much more comfortable with each other thanks to not having as many severe emotional issues, so the Will They or Won't They? comes more from a question of what it'll take to make it into a Relationship Upgrade.
    • Takamiya is made into a much nicer character who actually does care about Asuka Jr.'s feelings to some extent, and, combined with Asuka Jr. having less of a Hair-Trigger Temper, the two have a somewhat less hostile dynamic with Takamiya as more of a legitimate love rival. This was absolutely not the case in the original manga, where she was an outright Hate Sink whom Asuka Jr. found to be extremely off-putting due to how she barely even treated him like a human being and was hostile towards Meimi.
    • In the manga, Asuka Jr.'s initial interest in Saint Tail was mainly a combination of intellectual curiosity about her motives and a more selfish desire to have the accomplishment of catching a Phantom Thief on his record; realizing she might be Meimi distressed him because it meant reconciling Meimi with an entity he couldn't understand or properly communicate with, making a Loves My Alter Ego scenario explicitly not possible. In contrast, the anime treats it more as a Friendly Rivalry (with Asuka Jr. bragging about understanding Saint Tail better than anyone else and outright referring to Saint Tail as his "rival") and dials up the Ship Tease with Saint Tail being openly flirtatious with him, and the Adaptational Context Change obscuring the "Asuka Jr. suspecting Saint Tail to be Meimi" subplot makes his behavior of pining for Meimi through Saint Tail come off as being aimed exclusively at the latter.
    • Asuka Jr. also has an overall better relationship with his classmates, particularly Ascended Extra characters Yasuhiro, Chiba, Ryoko, and Kyoko. In the manga, while he didn't hold a lasting grudge against them, they had a bad habit of setting off his Hair-Trigger Temper by making fun of him, whereas in the anime he takes less personal offense to their teasing, is treated as less of a social outcast, and even patches things up with Ryoko and Kyoko in episode 38.
  • Ascended Extra: The anime gives much more screentime to certain minor characters such as Meimi's parents (especially Genichiro), Detective Asuka (effectively The Ghost in the manga), and Mayor Morinaka (a potential Canon Immigrant who was mentioned early but only appeared very late in the manga's run). Special mention goes to Meimi's friends Ryoko and Kyoko getting distinct characterization instead of being The Dividual, as well as the two boys who hang around Asuka Jr. all the time getting actual names (Yasuhiro and Chiba, after their voice actors).
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: The anime versions of Meimi and Asuka Jr. bicker in a more traditional version of this dynamic, since they're more likely to mock or insult each other over petty topics but also lack their manga counterparts' severe communication problems or deep-seated emotional issues, allowing them to have a more casual and relaxed relationship without having to keep their distance from each other (compared to the manga where Asuka Jr. telling Meimi about the snowdrop Creation Myth in chapter 15 was the closest they were ever able to get to a truly casual conversation within the series). What they do carry over from the manga is the fact that they still really do care about each other when it comes down to it.
  • Black Blood: Blood is always colored luminescent pink.
  • Breather Episode: Episode 38, a Filler episode that's comparatively low-stakes and mostly revolves around wacky hijinks surrounding Meimi's classmates, especially Ascended Extra duo Ryoko and Kyoko. The episode happens to be right before the final arc (episodes 39-43), which is adapted so closely to the manga that it retains most of its heavily dramatic story developments and has very few of the anime's usual Denser and Wackier tonal changes.
  • Colliding Criminal Conspiracies: A number of Filler episodes (along with the anime adaptations of chapters 1 and 5) involve Saint Tail pursuing what seems to be a relatively mundane caper, only to end up accidentally tapping into and thwarting some kind of bigger criminal plot or conspiracy. Said background investigations usually involve Detective Asuka, who's often surprised at seeing his Amateur Sleuth son running into him while he's in the middle of his cases.
  • Denser and Wackier: The anime generally has a more humorous tone than the original manga, especially in regards to its second half past the Mid-Season Twist; in particular, chapter 15 (the perfume caper), originally a Gut Punch chapter that fully reinforced the shift to a much more dramatic tone, is adapted to episode 23 with mostly the same lighthearted tone as every other episode before it. The Filler episodes also have premises ranging from "a Mad Scientist trying to catch Saint Tail with machinery" to "a 'super detective' coming from out of town" to "a rich heir trying to make Meimi into his wife", compared to the manga where "a hedgehog being made to swallow a diamond" was probably the upper limit on how wacky its capers could get.
  • Flashed-Badge Hijack: In episode 14, Asuka Jr. does it to the bicycle of a police officer on patrol. He's in charge of the Saint Tail investigation, after all. It's pressing business.
  • Green Aesop: Episode 20 involves protecting the reputation of a professor who'd made a fake bird egg out of fear that bringing the real bird would die if it were disturbed from its habitat, and it ends on a note of the professor advocating for everyone to help preserve the island's natural state. Episodes 35 and 36 also feature capers involving preserving the natural habitat of trees and insects respectively, with both episodes' criminals of the week being involved in illegal trade of endangered species.
  • Honor Before Reason: The Adaptation Relationship Overhaul between Asuka Jr. and Saint Tail results in a stronger emphasis on him insisting on treating Saint Tail honorably even beyond the manga's Everyone Has Standards level, including letting her go in episode 20 because he doesn't want to catch her with machinery-based methods.
  • Informed Location: While Seika coming off as more European than Japanese was already in play in the manga, the increased screentime in the anime makes it feel even less Japanese; the architecture that makes up the different settings varies between Japanese, Italian, French, German, and British, while famous locations from other countries often show up in the scenery. According to Tachikawa, she had even deliberately requested that the anime production refrain from showing Japanese tiled roofs. On the other hand, there are other references to Japanese culture that weren't in the manga (especially food), as well as locations such as Shibuya or New Tokyo Airport.
  • Inspector Javert: Due to the downplaying of Asuka Jr.'s Inferiority Superiority Complex and hardliner Lawful stance, his reasons for being obsessed with catching Saint Tail are significantly more unclear, to the point he himself ends up dodging the question when Meimi asks him why he cares so much in episode 8. It's presumable that he'd gotten so invested in his rivalry with her that he can't bring himself to back out, although the aforementioned scene also subtly hints that "impressing Meimi with the accomplishment" may be in play the way it was also implied to be in the manga.
  • Let Off by the Detective: Other than Asuka Jr. occasionally letting Saint Tail go for Honor Before Reason purposes, it's also implied that detective Tomoko Nagata (from episode 37) had figured out Saint Tail's identity but deliberately chosen not to say anything out of gratitude for Saint Tail helping prove her parents' innocence by stealing so she wouldn't have to.
  • Lighter and Softer: The combination of the anime's overall Denser and Wackier tone with Meimi and Asuka Jr.'s Adaptational Angst Downgrade results in lower emotional stakes compared to the manga, where Asuka Jr.'s Hair-Trigger Temper made him unpredictable enough that his kindness towards Saint Tail could initially be interpreted in an Everyone Has Standards sense while his attitude towards Meimi was ambiguous prior to the Mid-Season Twist. In the anime, Asuka Jr. is clearly fond of both Meimi and Saint Tail from the get-go, so the audience can easily tell that he wouldn't dare hurt her even from the very beginning, and Takamiya being much nicer means that she comes off as a less threatening presence as well.
  • Love at First Sight: Episode 26 has a rich heir fall in love with Meimi at first sight and attempt to make her into his fiancée, using his money and high status to even get her school on board with it. He apparently has a habit of doing this simply because he's clinging onto the idea of marrying someone he wants instead of caving to his mother's mandated Arranged Marriage, and he eventually switches his interest to Saint Tail at the drop of a hat. While the other kids at school (besides Asuka Jr.) consider the idea of Meimi dating a rich man like him to be dreamy and enviable, Meimi finds the whole thing to be obnoxious, and is relieved when it's all over.
  • Magic Versus Science: Episode 20 initially comes off this way, with a scientist getting complacent about using his machinery to catch Saint Tail while she manages to confuse him with her impossibly awesome stage magic, but it's downplayed as it's less about the scientist's belief in science and more his narrow-mindedness in stroking his own ego. Even Asuka Jr., a notorious Agent Scully, finds the scientist's methods to be too dishonorable for his liking.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Some of the anime's changes, such as giving Meimi a Transformation Trinket and introducing Ruby early, were done specifically for the purpose of making marketable merch.
  • Mistaken for Flirting: Episode 17 has Saint Tail trying to steal a "notebook" (ノート) from a student, but Asuka Jr. accidentally drops a paintbrush that leaves an extra stroke on the paper, making it seem like Saint Tail is out to get his "heart" (ハート). The student is thrilled at the idea of hooking up with Saint Tail, but in fact, Saint Tail had been helping out a girl with a crush on the student who'd been convinced he was too popular for her. The case ends with the two hooking up, to both Meimi and Asuka Jr.'s satisfaction.
  • Negative Continuity: Many of the Filler episodes seem to come from an alternate universe where the series never went past chapter 12 and everything is reset at the end of every episode, with Meimi and Asuka Jr.'s characterizations roughly corresponding to their manga versions from various parts of chapters 1-12. Some episodes adapted from manga chapters also take this angle, effectively making the entire series episodic prior to the final arc.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: One easy way to tell that an episode is Filler is that its guest characters have designs that are in stark contrast to the regular cast with designs based on Tachikawa's art style.
  • Not a Date: Episode 22 has Meimi and Asuka Jr. in a minor debate about the existence of a supposed UFO that had appeared over Seika, with him approaching her about an event that's scheduled to show off a picture of it. The two suddenly get suspiciously flustered over what's supposedly about proving whether the UFO is real or not but is blatantly them actually asking each other out to go together (for bonus points, it's at the same location where Asuka Jr. had gotten her to take him out to a baseball game under the pretense of it being a bargain). Seira immediately identifies it as a date, which the two vehemently deny, and Meimi's secret hopes of it turning out that way are spoiled when their other classmates end up coming along.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: While Clark Kenting is still averted by Saint Tail being careful to never show her face, the anime makes it so that Meimi's sole concession to hiding her identity as Saint Tail is changing her hairstyle; she's not shown taking any great effort to alter her voice or handwriting, both of which Asuka Jr. should have considerable exposure to from school, and she also doesn't come off as jarringly inhuman the way she did in the manga, meaning that she acts pretty much identically to Meimi for the most part. She also has much closer physical contact with Asuka Jr. on their chases, yet on several occasions, she somehow manages to keep him from recognizing her when looking at her straight on by tilting her head so that her bangs cover her eyes.
  • Phantom Thief: On top of the ones from the manga, episode 33 has Mouse Kid, who targets Japanese swords and sells them as a black-market business and even double-crosses one of his clients for a particularly valuable one. He's ultimately stopped by the combination of Saint Tail and Asuka Jr.'s efforts.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Episode 17 introduces Tohru, a first-year and Asuka Jr.'s Childhood Friend who claims to have played with him often as a young child. Despite how much he apparently admires Asuka Jr. and follows him around over the course of the episode, he's never seen or mentioned in any other episode, although him being a first-year and Asuka Jr. being rather annoyed by him means he probably wouldn't have had much contact with Meimi and her friends anyway (let alone the fact he ends the episode becoming Sickeningly Sweethearts with a classmate).
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Occurs in episode 16 when Meimi and Asuka Jr. visit a restaurant run by a victim Saint Tail had helped (more specifically, the person she "stole") and he immediately asks if the two are dating. The two vehemently deny it in unison, but quickly move on and have a nice lunch together.
  • Stalking Is Love: While the manga already had two of Saint Tail's calling cards border on this (one involving her doodling on his face in his sleep and one involving her somehow managing to get a card into one of his eggs, the former of which had been prior to The Promise and thus had been a way of taunting him more than it was affection), the anime has a handful of cards that could only be explained by her following him around in ways that would be really disturbing if they weren't Played for Laughs, including one written on his bath towel.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Meimi defines this trope as "mature love" after having seen a movie about two adults in love being forced into a tragic parting by circumstances, and is thus enthusiastic to help out the victim of her next caper because he's also in a similar relationship with a woman he'll have to leave soon. Asuka Jr. initially scoffs at the concept, but starts acting oddly contemplative about it after seeing Saint Tail help the couple at the station, as well as Saint Tail herself.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Most episodes have Meimi come home and see Genichiro show her a new magic trick he's working on (or just show off a trick in general), which Meimi quickly adapts for herself to use during the episode's caper. It's downplayed in that it comes more from Saint Tail's own cleverness in applying her new knowledge than it does plot convenience, and at one point she does admit that being too hasty in trying out a prototype might not have been the best idea.
  • Tsundere: Due to lacking much of the complicated emotional background behind their manga counterparts, Meimi and Asuka Jr. exhibit this kind of behavior towards each other in a more conventional sense. It's still downplayed compared to most examples in that they're actually perfectly fine interacting casually or even showing concern for each other, and are mainly initimidated about anything that might suggest wanting to make it into a Relationship Upgrade.