step into the vip room

Welcome to The Girl's Distracted, a one-page tribute to free-spirited teen magician Aikawa Akane from the classic 90's anime franchise Mahou Tsukai Tai!. I've been a fan of MTT for many, many years, and I hope that this little shrine will adequately express why Akane is still one of my favorite fictional characters. Please be aware that spoilers are unmarked, and, because I've yet to read the novels, content will focus primarily on Akane's depictions in the anime and manga. But mostly in the anime.

This layout was designed for 1024x768+ resolutions in current versions of Firefox, Chrome, & Opera. Please make sure your browser has UTF-8 support enabled for Japanese characters, and that you won't be offended by naughty words.

about the series

Mahou Tsukai Tai! (魔法使いTai!), released in North America as Magic User's Club!, began in 1996 as a six-episode OVA created by Satou Junichi (佐藤 順一) and animation company Triangle Staff. A manga serial by Ohta Tammy (太田 多美) and a light novel series written by Satou and Konaka Chiaki (小中 千昭) were also produced to tie-in with the OVA, as was a short-lived talk radio program hosted by Iwasaki Yasuo, Iizuka Mayumi, and Konishi Hiroko. The franchise continued with a 13-episode TV series and a second manga serial by Shamneko (紗夢猫) in 1999.

While the storylines of MTT differ from one incarnation to another, all revolve around the members of the Kitanohashi High School magic club (with a general focus on clutzy-yet-determined Sawanoguchi Sae). Unbeknownst to the public, the club performs actual, supernatural magic — a practice which either helps them save the world or nearly gets them killed on a daily basis. Genre-wise, Mahou Tsukai Tai! can be considered a "slice of life" style fantasy comedy with heavy slapstick humor and light, character-driven drama. Before we get to Akane's role in all this, let me do a quick summary of the anime arcs for those who may not have of seen them yet.

The plot of the OVA pits the magic club against the Tsurigane (The Bell), an enormous alien spacecraft that had invaded the city shortly before the events of the first episode. Although its intentions are unclear to the public, it's quickly accepted as harmless and the city learns to coexist with the mysterious drones it sends out to roam the streets. The magic club is suspicious of the Tsurigane from the start, however, and learns of its true intent to take over the world after it becomes threatened by the presence of their magic and attacks them. Long story short, they turn it into a giant cherry blossom tree because why the fuck not.

The TV series serves as a sequel, picking up almost immediately where the OVA ended. While the OVA had an almost theatrical narrative and a proper antagonist, the TV series has more of a sitcom feel with many episode-centric storylines that focus on character development. However, there is a flowing plot involving a mysterious young boy named J who joins the club and causes friction amongst the cast.

Both of the manga adaptations have original storylines and differing atmospheres, which I'll go further into later on. As I said, I haven't read the light novels, but it's my understanding that the story takes place before the events of the OVA, leading up to the arrival of the Tsurigane.

the girl who's never looked better

Aikawa Akane (愛川 茜) is a first-year student and the newest member to join the magic club at the outset of the story. A beautiful, stylish girl with an active social life and little sense of responsibility, Akane doesn't take her club duties very seriously and usually ditches meetings to go on dates or modeling shoots. She dislikes being told what to do and prefers to enjoy life at her own pace, although she easily gets bored with her activities having such a lack of direction and structure in her life. Despite this, she's very intelligent, and her capacity to quickly learn and execute spells makes her a skilled magician. However, her tendency to use magic irresponsibly lands her in trouble on several occasions.

Although only 15, Akane leads the life of a 20-something socialite. She lives on her own in a luxury apartment, dates guys who seem to actually be in their 20's, and is presumeably financially supported by wealthy parents. In the TV series we discover that she also has a successful modeling career (which replaces dating as the main reason she ditches club meetings) though she seems to grow bored with it as time moves on. She's very perceptive of a person's intentions, and finds amusement in playfully teasing those who are either romantic choke-ups (such as Takeo), or those who aren't ready to admit their feelings outwardly (such as Nanaka re: Aburatsubo). She herself, however, shows very little interest in serious romantic ambitions.

Being a headstrong teenager who has mostly been in charge of herself through her formative years, Akane is initially depicted as completely inclined to work through things on her own no matter how dire the situation. In the third episode of the OVA, after the Tsurigane observes her using magic to inflate one of her dates like a Goodyear blimp and sends a drone to abduct her, Akane tries to save herself by crafting a makeshift wand out of a fountain pen in an attempt to thwart them off with magic, refusing to run away when told to do so by Minowa. The attempt proves unsuccessful and the two are ultimately rescued by the rest of the club. This can be seen as a pivotal moment for Akane, as she realizes that her quick thinking and efforts have failed her for the first time — especially in the face of true danger. Akane's concept of teamwork begins to broaden from this point, and her participation in future measures against the Tsurigane alongside the other club members become key to its defeat.

manga depictions

Tammy Ohta's MTT manga was serialized in Asuka's Fantasy DX magazine while the OVA was in production. Although the Tsurigane's activity is included to an extent, overall the manga tells a different storyline to that of the OVA that often revolves around an original character named Peter.

Ohta's take on the series is the epitome of 90's shoujo, offering up bad choices and angsty teen drama in abundance. Akane is portrayed as a tsundere type who tries to hide her insecurities and loneliness by being overly snobby to other characters while inner dialogue intends to paint her as emotionally fragile and broken from solitude. Her self-sustaining nature is portrayed as arrogant irresponsibility and aspects of her life that aren't shown to be of much personal conflict to her in the anime are spotlighted as damn-near debilitating. In her first few chapters, she's shown to be utterly melancholy over living alone, wrapping herself up in blankets on the floor with the lights off and stewing in her loneliness rather than plopping herself in a lounge chair and listening to some transient metal while pondering her worries (which never have to do with living alone) as she does in the OVA.

Ohta essentially dramatizes Akane's solitary lifestyle to portray her as a predominantly weak-willed character who ultimately needs to feel like she's being romantically accepted by Peter in order to come into her own towards the end of the story. The narrative depicts her in such a way that you're meant to be sympathetic towards her inability to exorcise her demons on her own and therefore should be relieved that someone has helped her get a hold of herself. Basically, Tammy Ohta portrayed Akane as a character that needs to be stabilized.

Shamneko's manga, serialized in Kadokawa's Dragon Junior magazine to accompany the TV broadcast and collected into three volumes, is truer to the spirit of the TV series and portrays the characters much more closely to their anime counterparts. Comedy and sight gags take preference over drama, which, much like in the anime, is handled lightly and effectively when presented. Akane is featured quite often, and her care-free persona is delivered as ancillary comedic relief. Actually, there isn't much to say about her role in Shamneko's manga that can't also be said for her role in the TV series, except that she doesn't really have any introspective character-building episodes. None of the characters do, in fact, which I think makes it a very fun read. You know how they say that the longer a sitcom goes on, the more it becomes a parody of itself? That's the best way to describe Shamneko's manga because it plays out more like a supplemental side-story with character depictions that are aptly heightened by a lack of a serious narrative. It's familiar and goofy in a way that doesn't compromise the original integrity of the cast. I dig it.

akane-chan and...

magic

It probably can't be said that Akane joined the magic club due to a strong personal interest in the craft. Knowing Akane, It's much more likely that she joined because, when compared to other clubs, there's hardly any work involved and she can easily ditch meetings with little recourse. She does express a general interest in magic, of course, so although she takes it on with the same amount of sincerity as with most of the things she does (read: very little), it also can't be said she only joined the club to make her transcripts look better.

Akane is a very skilled magician, however. She's quick to comprehend the mechanics of magic and has the necessary concentration to perform it. Unfortunately, because she misses so many club meetings she lacks a lot of the knowledge needed to correctly perform most spells, and therefore many of the ones she tries to conduct often go haywire. Nevertheless, Akane's magical prowess can't be denied. She was strong enough to form a psychic link with the Tsurigane in OVA #5, holding it long enough to find out its determination to single out and destroy all users of magic within the city. The connection somewhat remains with her as well, as in the next episode she can sense what it's thinking after the club transports themselves into its mainframe.

dating

One of the primary reasons Akane misses club meetings is to go on dates after school. While her active dating life is pointed out frequently in the story, she's never portrayed as the insecurity-riddled girl who dates to fulfill some sad need for approval. It's quite the opposite, in fact, as men are shown to want to date her for her approval (a fact of which she's well aware). Akane seems to have a new "boyfriend" on a daily basis, growing bored with them quickly and usually dumping them after their date is over. If she finds one to be particularly insufferable, she'll ditch them during the date and use magic to ward them off if they try to pursue her.

Akane seems to prefer to date guys (who look to be) in their early twenties and have much more disposable income. Most of the men she's shown on dates with come off as shallow trust-fund babies who drive convertibles and probably reek of Stetson, although sometimes she's accompanied by clean-shaven men who have an air of respectable success going for them. In the TV series she's shown going somewhere with one of the models with whom she had just done a shoot, so it can be assumed that many of these guys are models or actors.

To Akane, these men are just as much of a way to pass the time as she is to them. They appeal to her because she knows she's arm candy to them, and therefore doesn't have to take a relationship with them seriously, worry about hurting their feelings, or care if she bruises their ego when she inevitably dumps them. Akane has about as much interest in a steady relationship as they do, and she doesn't want it any other way.

talking

The lovely Iwao Junko (岩男 潤子) provided the voice for Akane throughout the franchise. Born on February 18th, 1970, Junko moved to Tokyo at 13 to pursue her dream of becoming a singer. She was quickly signed to an entertainment agency and took part in a girl group called Saint Four in 1984. Saint Four disbanded in 1987, and Junko spent the next few years recording children's songs here and there. She appeared in an NHK kid's program for a short period in 1992, but not much was moving forward for her. After very nearly retiring from entertainment in 1994, she began what would become her hugely successful voice acting career by landing a leading role in NHK's 52-episode Montana Jones TV anime series (rebroadcast in 2003 as Adventure Airline Montana).

Junko has since become a veteran voice actress with over 20 notable leading roles in her resume, including Mima Tokiko (KEY THE METAL IDOL), Daidouji Tomoyo (Cardcaptor Sakura), Ceres (Ayashi no Ceres), Mint (Tales of Phantasia), Kurusugawa Serika & Ayaka (To Heart), Fudou Jun (Devilman Lady), and Kirigoe Mima (PERFECT BLUE).

Junko's vocal style for Akane changes a bit between anime incarnations. Whereas Akane's voice in the OVA and its related recordings is closer to Junko's natural tone, in the TV series Junko speaks for Akane with the voice she was using for Tomoyo in Cardcaptor Sakura at the time.

interactions

the magic club

Sawanoguchi Sae (沢野口 沙絵) is a big-hearted klutz who's always trying to overcome her inhibitions in order to better herself in both life and magic. She's determined to be the best she can be, though her tendency to overly focus on not spazzing out usually causes her to do so anyway. Sae and Akane have a fun dynamic because neither really know how to deal with each other. Sae disapproves of Akane's flippant use of magic and feels a duty as Akane's senior to guide her in the right direction. She's intimidated by Akane's confidence, though, and usually winds up crying and fumbling over her words during confrontations with her. It's this quality that unhinges Akane, because Sae's too nice and well-meaning for Akane to be able to tell her to mind her own business without feeling like an ass afterward.

Nakatomi Nanaka (中富 七香) is Sae's best friend and classmate. She's been a grounding force for Sae since childhood and joined the magic club to keep an eye on her. She's embarrassed to be in it because of its unflattering stigma around the school, though, and frequently tries to convince Sae to quit with her. As with most of the club, Nanaka never gets aquainted with Akane on much of a personal level, most likely due to the fact that they lead completely opposite lifestyles — Nanaka is a typical high school student who lives at home with working-class parents and annoying siblings, and Akane, uh, isn't. Sometimes it's inferred that Nanaka is envious of Akane's freedoms, irritated by her irresponsibility because she sees it as an unobtainable luxury for herself, but they get along well enough in general. They have a sort of subtle double-act thing happening in the TV series, as Nanaka is the one who typically retorts Akane's frequent tendency to say whatever the hell she wants.

Takakura Takeo (高倉 武男) is the president of the magic club. Despite being prone to rampant and uncontrollable fanservice fantasies, he's a harmless nerd with a good heart and a strong sense of responsibility. Aburatsubo is his closest friend and confidant, taking the constant physical affection with stride and, arguably, a level of denied arousal. Akane openly describes Takeo as being an easy target for bullies at one point, after witnessing him buckle under the weight of his sexual repression during a confrontation with Miyama and her bazooka tits, and seems to hold him in the same regard as one would an orphaned puppy. She recognizes his reliability and diplomacy, though, having chosen to seek his counsel over anyone else's when she accidentally gave herself disenchanted hiccups.

Aburatsubo Ayanojou (油壷 綾之丞) is the vice president of the magic club, and a 3rd year along with Takeo. He's mature, refined, and rich — basically a southern belle with a wang. The extent of his prowess is widely depicted in the TV series, where he's shown to be active in several athletic clubs and has an obsessive fanclub. Aburatsubo has a huge boner for Takeo, taking any and every chance he can get to lovingly molest him. The only things that make him lose his cool are Sae (because she and Takeo have obvious chemistry) and his overbearing (yet badass) mother. Aburatsubo gets along well with Akane because he knows she has zero interest in Takeo.

the journalist

Minowa Mitsuru (箕輪 充) is a freelance reporter in his late twenties/early thirties who appears in the OVA. He also believes that the Tsurigane is up to no good and continuously investigates it with the help of his photographer Yoshimoto. After witnessing the magic club in action, Minowa begins to keep tabs on the magic club believing them to be connected with the Tsurigane, but ultimately ends up working with them to help with its defeat after various encounters with Akane.

Minowa is a typical hard-boiled journalist type, who, despite his "seen it all, hated most of it" attitude, is a decent guy with a comically adolescent awkardness around women. He's often viewed as a romantic interest for Akane, although any tension between the two seems to stem from neither knowing what to make of the other. Akane is just as jaded by people as Minowa, if not moreso, and is taken aback whenever Minowa expresses a concern for her well being or swallows his pride to ask her to help him do his job. In turn, Minowa is taken aback by Akane because he's a socially awkward putz. Minowa isn't seen again after the Tsurigane is defeated, and his whereabouts aren't mentioned in the TV series. He's probably living in a shed somewhere with Yoshimoto.

the mother

Akane's mother, Amano Azusa (天野 梓), is introduced in episode #9 of the TV series. She's shown to be a prolific and powerful actress who yields the majority of creative control over her work. In the episode, Azusa and her staff are holding auditions for the role of her character's daughter in what looks to be a stage play. Akane, now a fairly famous model, is rumored to be auditioning, but asks Jinno to assume her name and audition for her (apparently nobody is aware that Akane is Azusa's daughter). She also tricks Sae and Nanaka, whom Azusa immediately recognize, into auditioning as well. However, as Jinno later turns out to be a metaphysical manifestation of Sae's suppressed desires who's been causing all sorts of magical fuckery, Akane is transported to the stage and ends up having to perform with her mother anyway.

When Akane appears on stage during the audition, she quickly recovers from the surprise (she had been walking through the city a few seconds prior) and begins to recite her mother's lines instead her own. Being a complete professional, Azusa goes along with this until Akane willingly witholds a line. Azusa promptly fails her saying that an actress doesn't stop acting until the director cuts, to which Akane coyly responds that she isn't an actress and exits the stage. At the end of the episode, they're shown having dinner at an upscale restaurant and enjoying each other's company.

The lines in Azusa's play between her character and her character's daughter seem to parallel an on-going tension between Azusa and Akane, apparently in regard to Akane's lack of initiative in life. The given impression is that Akane and her mother keep a mutual, but cordial, distance due to differences in opinion.

multimedia: screencaps







manga scans




jukebox: official tracks

All of the following Akane-related tracks have been ripped from my own CD collection. I didn't wanna be a dick and make them have to be downloaded individually, so I bundled them all into a RAR file you can get down below. The following tracks are included:

» BUD GIRL no Dokuhaku (BUD GIRLの独白 / Bud Girl's Monologue)
Akane's first character song, in which she sings about breezing through life and breaking hearts because she can. Originally released as a character single and later featured on the "Sawanoguchi Sae no Diary" best vocal collection album.

» MARSHMALLOW Yakero (マシマロ焼けろ / Let's Toast Marshmallows)
Akane's second character song, originally found on the "Koi to, Mahou to, Atarashii Uta" vocal album. Another upbeat pop song about what not to do when on a date with Akane, and what she's really looking for in a good time.

» Akane DAME yo (茜 ダメよ / Akane, don't!)
A BGM from the OVA soundtrack. I don't remember which scenes use this track, but I'm sure Akane was doing something in them that she shouldn't have been.

» Nazo no Houmonsha-hen: Aikawa Akane no maki
(謎の訪問者編~愛川茜のまき / The Mysterious Visitor: Aikawa Akane's Chapter)
This is a 7-minute drama segment included on the "Bud Girl" single. The story is conveyed entirely through Akane's dialogue as she interacts with a nameless guy who drops by her apartment. Her thoughts are vocalized over what she's actually saying as she feigns interest in him despite growing increasingly bored and frustrated. Eventually he gets too fresh and she magically inflates him, quite literally sending him whizzing out the door.

» HEART no Tsubasa (♡[ハート]の翼 / Wings of the Heart)
This is a duet between Akane and Nanaka (Iizuka Mayumi), also from the "Atarashii Uta" vocal album. For some reason. I have no idea why. I don't even know what they're singing about, but at one point they say you should have tea on the roof like Mary Poppins. I'm not making that up.

» Mahou CLUB no Uta (魔法クラブの唄 / The Magic Club Anthem)
Another song from "Atarashii Uta", sung by the entire magic club. It's hard to hear Akane singing amidst all the crazy, but, you know, she's in there somewhere.

» Himitsu no NAISHO-banashi (~ひみつのナイショ話~ / Secret Private Conversations)
This is a fun bonus track on "Atarashii Uta" featuring outtakes and studio conversations between the seiyuu and staff during the recording of the CD. Junko's bit is about 3 minutes in, but the highlight for me is the microphone picking up Iizuka Mayumi's stomach growling.

» Senobi wo Shite Follow You (背伸びをして Follow You / I'll Grow [and] Follow You)
The always-catchy opening theme for the OVA, sung by Sae (Konishi Hiroko), Nanaka, and Akane under the group name "Mahou Tsukai-tai" (魔法使い隊).

» Over the rainbow
Also performed by Sae, Nanaka, and Akane, this is an insert song that was played during one of the earlier episodes of the TV series. Not one of my favorites, but it's a sweet song and worth a listen if you've yet to hear it.

※ OH HEY, HERE'S SOMETHING ELSE — the Mahou Tsukai Tai! no Bunkasai: Uta to, Yukata to, Folk Dance drama CD in its entirety. Akane only appears on four segments, unfortunately, but it's a fun way to kill an hour nevertheless. The story is set during the Kitanohashi cultural festival and served as inspiration for the bunkasai episode in the TV series. Have at it!

jukebox: mixtape


static download

site-related

The Girl's Distracted was uploaded on August 20th, 2013, created as part of Amassment's annual One Page, One Month marathon. The site is named after a song by American indie group Saturday Looks Good To Me, which can be heard on the fanmix up there in the media section. I hope you enjoyed reading all the crap about Akane that poured out of my head onto this site, and, more importantly, had a fairly easy time understanding it. Because I barely can and I wrote it.

Mahou Tsukai Tai! © Triangle Staff & Bandai Visual. Original content © Kiel.
Part of londonboy.org