With how amazingly popular Sailor Moon wound up becoming, it’s easy to forget that the series was not the first to have explored… well… practically any of the concepts that made it famous. Not to downplay the achievements Ms. Takeuchi’s genre-defining classic, of course, but nearly everything that we know Sailor Moon for nowadays had already been done in other series before it.
Many of the so-called “tropes” that 21st century fans would readily attribute to Sailor Moon were in fact already well-established before our favorite sailor-suited warriors were even conceived.
While Usagi may have made the idea of a “magical compact” famous, the great grandmother of magical girls is the one who made it a staple in the genre.
Today we’re going to take a look back to the earliest days of the “magical girl” genre and tell the story of one of its earliest pioneers!
It’s always hard for me to find the proper way to broach the subject of Sailor Moon not being the first to do something. I don’t mean it in a negative way that the series pretty much stole many basic concepts from a live action show, or that Tuxedo Mask is a combination of several stolen characters. That’s just how art works — we’re always building on the work of those who came before us.
As Sir Isaac Newton so eloquently put it:1
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that while Sailor Moon may not have been the first to do many of the things that we know and love about the series, it did an amazing job bringing all of these different ideas together to create something novel and exciting.
Going back to our topic at hand, much like Sailor Moon’s poorly-named Moon Stick, the idea of a magical compact used to transform an “average girl” has been a staple of the genre since its very inception.
And why shouldn’t it be? As anyone who has seen the “before and after” make up pictures that seem to always be flooding social media can attest, a makeup compact is truly transformative from the point of view of a young girl, in both a figurative and literal sense.
So who was the first magical girl to have her very own magical compact?
Well, it’s a bit tough to say that something is definitively the “first” of anything without being able to prove that absolutely no one else ever did it before — basically like proving a negative, like that ghosts don’t exist.2 There’s always a chance there was an obscure manga out there that no one’s ever heard of.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I feel pretty comfortable saying that the first pop-culture appearance of a transforming magical compact in the “magical girl” genre was in the 1969 anime The Secrets of Akko-chan (ひみつのアッコちゃん).3
Widely regarded as the second Japan-produced series ever in the magical girl genre,4 this means that there was only one other contender she’s up against: the 1966 anime Sally the Witch (魔法使いのサリー).5 Seeing as Sally the Witch doesn’t involve any transformations and I can’t find any mention of a compact, I feel okay with saying that The Secrets of Akko-chan did it first. (For the sake of simplicity, the series will be referred to the full name, and “Akko-chan” will refer to the main character, Atsuko Kagami)
But I’m getting sidetracked here here, going into which series came first and all that. We’re talking about magical compacts!
Acting much more like Usagi’s Disguise Pen or Minako’s Crescent Compact, Akko-chan’s compact is used to turn her into anything she wants — be it a princess, one of the teachers at her school, or whatever (or whoever!) her heart desires. All she needs to do is open up her compact and say the magic words “Tekumaku mayakon, tekumaku mayakon, turn me into…!” to start her magical transformation.6
Unlike Usagi and Minako, however, Akko-chan is incapable of changing back to her normal self without her compact, since she needs to once again open it up and utter a magic phrase “Lamipus lamipus lu lu lu lu lu” to change back.7 Naturally, this is an important plot point in the anime, where she can actually be stuck as her transformed self.8
Though The Secrets of Akko-chan lacks many of what we would today consider essential parts of the magical girl genre, such as the battles, transformations, flashy attacks, and more, it’s important to keep in mind that the genre was still taking shape at that time. As I mentioned earlier, each successive series built onto the last, resulting in what we recognize as the magical girl genre today.
Though the concept started off as rather mundane, magical compacts (and other makeup items!) have been a basic component of the magical girl genre ever since. Other noteworthy compacts include: the Magic Compact in Creamy Mami, the Dream Tonpact in Tonde Burin,9, the Mysterious Compact in the tokusatsu show Magical Girl Chukana Ipanema, and many many more.
Personally, I find it really interesting to go back and look at the evolution of the “magical girl” genre, especially considering how all the little components that make Sailor Moon what it is were actually developed separately over a long period time — sometimes over decades, even!
Since I have your attention and we’re already on the topic: what’s your favorite Sailor Moon or Sailor ChibiMoon compact? As for me, it’d have to be the Crystal Star, hands down. I know it’s overdone, but I just love the color scheme, I love the simple design, and I love that you could actually believe it’s a compact a 14 year old girl uses.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know down below!
- See Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Evidence of Absence (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Himitsu no Akko-chan (Wikipedia) ↩
- See List of Magical Girl Anime (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Sally the Witch (Wikipedia) ↩
- For those who are curious, the magic phrase tekumaku mayakon (テクマク マヤコン) is short for “technical magic my compact” (テクニカル・マジック・マイ・コンパクト). ↩
- Assuming you’re still curious, lamipus (ラミパス) is “super mirror” (スーパーミラー) in Japanese ↩
- See episode 1 of The Secrets of Akko-chan ↩
- Which, incidentally, my wife owned as a kid and loved to pieces ↩