Eleven year old Yuu Morisawa (voiced by Takako Ota) lives a quiet life in the unusually named little town of Creamy-ga-Oka where she harbours a hopeless crush on high school boy Toshio (Yuu Mizushima). Then one day Yuu is abducted by aliens. Cuddly space kittens Posi (Yuko Mita) and Nega (Kaneta Kimotsuki) bring Yuu aboard their enormous spaceship, the Feather Star, where an all-powerful alien imp grants her magical powers for only one year. Whenever Yuu says the magic words: “Pamporu pimporu pimpoppun!” she transforms into a sexy, lavender-haired grownup in a frilly short skirt with a magic wand. Taking the pseudonym Creamy Mami from the name of her parents’ crepe shop (Creamy Crepes), Yuu sets out to have fun with her newfound powers and is discovered by suave pop impressario Shingo Tachibana (Kazuhiko Inoue) who is on the lookout for fresh talent because his current idol, Megumi Ayase (Saeko Shimizu) is driving everyone crazy with her diva-like behaviour. Shoved into the spotlight on live TV, Creamy’s magical singing voice makes her an instant star leaving Toshio smitten, yet unaware she is really the little kid he often babysits. Over many adventures, Creamy/Yuu struggles to keep her secret and get Toshio to fall in love with the real her.
Among the key titles from the golden age of anime, Creamy Mami might seem to western eyes a strange hybrid of sci-fi wish-fulfilment and pop star fantasy with a vaguely paedophilic subtext. The “magical girl” subgenre in anime had its origins in Little Witch Sally (1966) by underrated innovator Mitsuteru Yokoyama and Princess Knight (1967) by the legendary Osamu Tezuka, but really took off in the Eighties when giggly, brightly-coloured pop idols somehow became an emblem of Japan’s booming economy. Magical Princess Minky Momo came first - and scored a marvellous movie spin-off with Gigi and the Fountain of Youth (1985) - but amongst the many more that followed Creamy Mami matched her popularity, both with starstruck little girls and young men drawn by the slightly unsavoury erotic allure of these leggy Lolita fantasy figures. These men get their own collective onscreen alter-ego in the form of Midori (Masahiro Anzai), Toshio’s portly pal who is hopelessly awkward around girls his own age but has a huge crush on little Yuu.
Despite the erotic undertones, Creamy Mami is largely sweet and inoffensive, if admittedly twee. Akemi Takeda’s pastel hued production design is hugely imaginative and wondrous to behold, crammed with ingenious gadgetry and anthropomorphic animal beings. These sort of magical girl romps are primarily dress-up fantasies for little girls. Little Yuu ponders how to use her newfound powers for the greater good, but eventually opts to pursue pop stardom and steal the heart of the boy she likes. As dreams go, it’s not quite world peace but likely befits the target audience. However, much like Clark Kent, Yuu comes to realise her superheroic alter-ego is a double-edged sword when it comes to snagging her dream man and life lessons arise from her attempts to juggle dual lives as pop star and average girl, a theme echoed in that later tween phenomenon Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009).
Of course if Creamy Mami was only spun sugar and pop dreams, it probably wouldn’t have the fervent fan following it has today. What lifts this above such relics of Eighties pop culture as Jem (remember that one?) or My Little Pony is how ambitious and gosh darn surreal the stories and visuals often are. For example, Yuu’s journey aboard the glowing mile-long spaceship is a truly trippy hybrid of the Stargate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and the Pastoral Symphony from Fantasia (1940) with those naked frolicking fairies, along with a strange detour into Dungeons & Dragons territory as Yuu slays a ravenous dragon and sea serpent. Very few pre-teen popstars had that to contend with. Miley Cyrus had it easy by comparison. Later episodes grow increasingly, winningly weird. “My Mister Dream” concerns a blonde mustachioed gentleman cyclist in top hat and tails who travels the galaxy inside a giant comet granting wishes to small children. The plot, a wild fusion of Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, has Yuu drawn into a strange tea party in outer space with fairytale characters and alien beings. Lookout for the giant dodo and the wacky little elf debating the finer points of Peter Pan.
The series flirts with horror in “Galaxy Circus ’84” wherein Yuu’s little friend Mamoru lures her and Toshio to a sinister circus that turns out to be under the psychic control of a bedridden little boy able to project his mind into the future. “Marian’s Eyes” has Creamy hired to model a valuable wedding dress only to discover it is possessed by the spirit of the original owner. All who have worn the dress subsequently were driven to repeat the tragic fate of a princess from almost two centuries ago. Brilliantly directed and genuinely suspenseful, the episode is surprisingly intense with some bloody imagery for a kids’ show aimed at little girls, while Mami shows real strength of character. The cop-out Scooby-Doo ending only makes the whole plot even more twisted. After the television series reached its end, Creamy Mami returned in the feature-length spin-offs Creamy Mami: Forever Once More (1985) and Creamy Mami: Long Goodbye (1985) before teaming with fellow maho shojo stars Magical Emi, Pastel Yumi and Fairy Pelsha in the fan-favourite cross-over movie Magical Girls Club Foursome: Alien X from Space A (1987).