Magical girl anime is a mainstay of anime these days — from Sailor Moon to Flip Flappers, it’s a genre with infinite variety. But where did it all begin? Technically, that’s debatable. There are two shows that could vie for the title of “first magical girl series,” and it depends on whether you’re counting the manga or anime.
Fujio Akatsuka’s Himitsu no Akko-chan, about a girl who could change forms with the use of a magic mirror, debuted as a manga in 1962. The anime adaptation didn’t come out until 7 years later, in January 1969. Akko-chan’s ability to don any costume via a magical device laid the groundwork for henshin devices and transforming heroines in future. However, in the time between her appearance on the page and her appearance on the screen, another magical girl snuck in and went from manga to anime in less than a year.
1966 was the year of Sally the Witch, the creation of Mitsuteru Yokoyama (who also came up with Tetsujin-28, also known as Gigantor). The heroine of the series, Sally Yumeno (center), was a magical princess from another realm who longed to come to the human world. She eventually did, and had to hide her powers from her new friends. While her manga came four years after Himitsu no Akko-chan, the speed with which it was adapted into an anime — the same year! — means that Sally is technically anime’s first magical girl.
But Sally wasn’t born completely in a vacuum. Yokoyama was deeply influenced by a live-action series that was very popular in Japan at the time, about a witch in the human world doing her best to hide her true origins from the people around her. What was it?
No, that’s not a joke! The Japanese language dub of Bewitched (known as Oku-sama wa Majo, or My Wife is a Witch) was so popular and beloved in Japan that it inspired an anime series. Apparently Yokoyama enjoyed it so much that he wished Japan could have its own version… and from there, Sally was born. And along with Akko-chan, she went on to inspire a genre that’s grown and evolved for over half a century.
Sally (and Akko-chan!) also got several remakes of their own over the years. And Bewitched did finally become a Japanese series, with an 11-episode remake in 2004 titled — like the original — Oku-sama wa Majo (with Bewitched in Tokyo as its official English title).
So next time you see Samantha Stevens pop up in your afternoon reruns, be sure to thank her for helping inspire fifty years of magical girl anime!