Hikari no Densetsu (光の伝説, lit. Legend of Light) is originally a manga series by Izumi Aso about a girl named Hikari Kamijou who dreams of becoming a national rhythmic gymnastics champion. The manga series title translates into English as "Legend of Light" (the female lead character's name, Hikari, means "light" in Japanese). In the mid 80s, the manga series was adapted into a nineteen episode anime series on MBS(Mainichi Broadcasting System) by Tatsunoko Productions studio and directed by Tomomi Mochizuki.
Hikari no Densetsu is primarily a love story that it is set in the late 80s junior high school atmosphere. The plot revolves around four characters and how they work to achieve their dreams. Hikari Kamijou, a young, naïve, care-free, young woman who dreams of becoming an Olympic Champion in the sport of rhythmic gymnastics ever since she witnessed a performance of the young Diliana Gueorguieva (a champion Bulgarian rhythmic gymnast). And while she performs poorly and is not very confident in her skills as a rhythmic gymnast, she is very passionate about the sport and shows occasional brilliance during her performances.
On her journey to become an Olympic Champion, Hikari will meet a number of people, some friends, some rivals that will impact her life greatly. She will become friends with people that will help her become a better performer and a better rhythmic gymnast, while developing feelings for a young school mate who she befriends. He becomes very devoted to her in helping her achieve her goals, but is unaware of her feelings for him. And while she competes, Hikari will become a friend of a young, beautiful, artistic, woman who is a competitor in rhythmic gymnastics and like her also dreams of becoming a great gymnast. They become rivals in both sport and in the matters of love as both share feelings for the same person.
Things become more complicated for Hikari when she meets a young, handsome, and talented musician who begins do compose the music she uses while she performs her routines. And while he is very quiet, reserved, and a bit morbid at times, he quietly begins to develop feelings for Hikari and is unable to express this feelings only through his music. While Hikari does not see this, she will find herself in a very difficult situation when she discovers that she also has feelings for him. And while a bit naïve and carefree at the beginning story, Hikari will gain in maturity throughout the manga series and find her comfort from all her emotional turmoil through rhythmic gymnastics.
Hikari no Densetsu is one of the few sports anime and manga to have dealt mainly with rhythmic gymnastics as the main subject matter.
The story is about Hikari Kamijou, a fifteen-year-old junior-high-school girl who develops a passion for the sport of rhythmic gymnastics ever since she saw her idol, Diliana Gueorguiva perform and win a contest of rhythmic gymnastics at a young age. When she meets her idol, she proposes to train Hikari in Bulgaria when she is professional rhythmic gymnast. Hikari accepts and quickly began to train in the sport. Many years later, Hikari is training very hard to become the best rhythmic gymnast in her school. She soon becomes a member of her school's rhythmic gymnastics team.
At first Hikari does not seem to be very good, but this soon changes when Hikari meets Takaaki Ooishi, a schoolmate who helps her to improve her abilities as a rhythmic gymnast. Ooishi is the most popular guy in school and the best gymnast of the entire school body. With the help and support of Takaaki Ooishi, Hikari's true talents in rhythmic gymnastics come to light in one of the local tournaments between high schools. This new sign of talent that Uenaga shows on this tournament quickly put her on the map of popularity along with the best rhythmic gymnast of her school, Hazuki Shiina in the national level of competition. Soon both of them begin training hard for the World Cup competition.
Hikari begins to admire and respect Ooishi for his help and soon develops feelings for Ooishi. During this time she has also become friends with Hazuki. A healthy rivalry develops between the two and soon they begin to admire the strengths that they each have. While Hazuki represents the tranquility, elegance, grace, and sobriety of the sport; Hikari is the explosiveness of colorful, fresh, and energetic part of the sport. As Hikari begins to form a friendship with Shiina she begins to wish she could have Shiina's flexibility, aesthetics, and the gracefulness of Hazuki. Also Hazuki begins to wish she could have the potential, power, and colorfulness of Hikari.
Though Hikari doesn't show her strength in her performances, she has a natural sense of knowledge and observation when it comes to gymnastics and is able to learn the techniques better than Hazuki and with time is able to surpass her. However, there is something that Hikari needs to work on: she needs to add more grace and elegance to her performances. She is able to achieve this with the help of Mao Natsukawa.
Natsukawa is a childhood friend of Uenaga who is the lead singer of a Rock band called Mr. D. Mao, like Hikari, has dreams of his own. He dreams of becoming a world-renowned rock'n'roll idol. Meanwhile, as he is working on his dreams, he helps Hikari achieve her dream by creating the music that Hikari uses in her performances. Together they form a very impressive duo that is able to receive the respect of the music and gymnast judges, and the admiration of the viewers who watch them perform. Although he constantly teases Hikari, he is always there for her when she needs him.
Over the years, Mao has come to love Hikari very deeply although he has a hard time expressing his feelings for her. When there is tension between them, it can be seen in the way Hikari performs, but when they are united and on good terms they are invincible. Even though they have a close relationship, Hikari is in love with Ooishi, and this causes hard times in Hikari and Mao's friendship. He knows of her feelings for him, but remains by her side no matter what.
This love triangle soon becomes a love square when Hikari discovers that Hazuki also has feelings for Takaaki Ooishi. Now they are not only friends, but also rivals in sport and love. Hikari does not know how Ooishi feels about her, and she is always a bit nervous when he is around. She feels that, because she has yet to be the best rhythmic gymnast, Ooishi might fall for Shiina because of her gymnastic skills and talent. Hikari begins to perfect her skills, and is soon competing at the national and international level, where she meets new rivals.
This is where the manga and the anime series differ. In the TV series, Hikari wins Ooishi's heart and we are shown a little flash forward: Hikari is an Olympic champion, Ooishi is recovering from a lesion but with Olympic expectations, Mao is working on his career as a musician and Hazuki has retired and is working with as a trainer for young children who want to be gymnasts.
The manga story, however, follows a very different path. The rivalry between Hikari and Hazuki comes to an end when Hikari wins a national competition, giving her the opportunity to compete at the Seoul 1988 Summer Olympics. This means that Hikari has finally matured as an athlete and that she has finally become a better gymnast than Hazuki. Hikari has finally surpassed Hazuki in terms of ability as a rhythmic gymnast, but their rivalry for Ooishi's affection is still going strong, especially when it is revealed that Ooishi has been developing feelings for both of them for some time. This is where the story of "Hikari no Densetsu --In Seoul" begins. Hikari, Mao, Hazuki, Ooishi and rest of the athletes competing in the 1988 Summer Olympics travel to Seoul. There Hikari finds out that Ooishi and Hazuki are in love and that they are set to be married.
This information brings a lot of emotional turmoil for Hikari even more when she goes to Mao Natsukawa for support and he turns his back on her, tired of always coming to sloppy seconds to Ooishi. Natsukawa is frustrated with her, since Hikari is always focusing herself on Ooishi even though she always knew deep inside that Ooishi (while he was developing feelings for her at first) always thought of her as a friend or a little sister.
When Mao leaves Hikari, she begins to see how important he is to her and how much she misses him, and realizes that she has feelings for him too. Even while he is not there to watch her compete, Hikari is determined to prove to Natsukawa that he is a very important part of her life and her success, and that he is more important to her than any gymnastic competition. And together Hikari and Mao will show the world that their newfound love for each other is what makes them true champions.
At the end of the manga, Hikari is competing at the 1988 Summer Olympics. While she is performing, Mao begins to sing an Italian love song even if it is against the rules to use vocal music during competitions. The Judges would probably disqualify her from the competition, but despite this Hikari and Mao finished their performance which is applauded from the crowd and their friends, Ooishi and Shiina, who have come to see them perform. Before the announcements from the judges or anybody else can be made, both Hikari and Mao exit the competition arena and are quickly seen exiting the building. While they are leaving Ooishi and Shiina run towards them, calling out to them with smiles on their faces. As they continue to towards the exit both Mao and Hikari look behind them. The manga concludes with Hikari smiling, hinting that in the end she may have not won a medal, but that she will have a bright future with Mao.
The plot of the manga and anime series is mainly about Hikari and her dream to become one of the world's best gymnasts. As both the anime and manga continued to develop, the story revolves around Hikari, Ooishi and Shiina and the incidents, mishaps, and life learning adventures they experience as they work hard for their dreams to reach Olympic stardom. In the anime series Mao, a young musician is introduced quickly and goes from a secondary character to a primary character within a matter of a few episodes (he appears later as a part of the manga cast in volume 4). The television show would occasionally give more attention to the lives of the antagonists (Mao's manager), minor characters (Hikari's family) or average-everyday people as a way of setting up a plot, or clarifying a point (a common method among anime series of the 1980s and today). Flashbacks were also used occasionally in the show for similar reasons. Some other minor characters were a bit underdeveloped or received very little character development because some of them were only used as part of visual quality of the anime and manga series in general or due to the anime being concluded after only nineteen episodes. The producers had to limit the appearances and character development of some characters in order to focus on the main characters in order to give the anime series a decent ending in the little amount of episodes the anime series had left to conclude the story as well as possible.
The manga was serialized in Japan in the weekly publication Margaret Magazine by Shueisha, with the first installment issued on February 1986. The manga series finished in 1988 collected in 16 small volumes. The manga series would at times contain parodies of famous 80s musicians that were popular of its publishing. For example: In the eighth volume of the manga series the author makes a parody of popular 80s singer Cyndi Lauper by drawing Hikari with the same hairstyle, skirt, and posture that the singer had on the She's So Unusual album cover. Recently in 2000 the manga series was reissued in Japan, collected in 8 volumes in bound tankōbon form, with less volumes, but with more chapters inside them and larger pages. The new reissued version of the manga also featured different covers from the original. These new covers feature a mixture of photos in black and white of rhythmic gymnasts performing, and black and white drawings of Hikari. The manga series was also released in Italy by Star Comics and serialized through Starlight (a publishing branch of Star Comics). Prior to the release of the manga in Italy, a Films comic version based on the TV series was made in the 80s was released in the country, but the images and dialogue were poor and not all the stories were covered, however it was appreciated by fans. The Italian version of the manga was titled "La leggenda di Hikari" (which literally means The Legend of Hikari) and collected in 16 small volumes with slightly altered covers from the original. Edizioni Star Comics re-released the manga series in Italy starting with the first volume released on May 2003 for the price of 3,10 Euro. The manga series was finished being released in 16 volumes in August 2004. The manga has yet to be released in Germany, France, and Spain, where the TV series was also very popular.Staff
The anime series which was produced by Tatsunoko Production with Tomomi Mochizuki Series director originally aired on Mainichi Broadcasting System in Japan from May 3, 1986 to September 20, 1986. It was aired on TV as another mainstream Saturday night anime series from 7:00-7:30 pm (19:00-19:30). The anime series was molded with information from the original story given by Izumi Aso, scripted with the participation of Hideki Sonoda, Mami Watanabe, Yasushi Hirano. While the anime had a lot to do with gymnastics it also had a good amount of music which was directed and arranged by Eiji Kawamura with lyrics from Goro Matsui who provided both opening and ending themes. Character Design was done by Michitaka Kikuchi, and Toyoko Hashimoto. Hisato Otaki was the art director. The Animation directors were Chuuichi Iguchi, Matsuri Okuda, Naoyuki Onda, Takayuki Goto, and Yumiko Suda. The Director of Photography was Kazunori Hashimoto and background artist was Kumiko Tada. All these people were assisted by Aso who was used as an adviser to maintain certain plot ideas and character development in the right direction.Voice actors
The cast of voice actors contained a prolific number of veteran Japanese voice actors, such as Nobuo Tobita, Michie Tomizawa, and Hiromi Tsuru, blended with a number of Japanese actors who were new to the voice actor business that had limited training, such as Tsukasa Itou, who is mainly an actress who ended up voicing Hikari and singing the opening and ending theme songs for the series. Another noticeable member of the voice-acting cast was Inoue Yoshimasa, who is the voice actor for Mao Natsukawa. Yoshimasa made a special appearance in the anime series as Mao since he is primarily a songwriter for anime series such as Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water and Peter Pan no Bōken. Yoshimasa wrote all the songs, which Natsukawa sings in the anime series, and in Hikari no Densetsu he makes his only appearance as a voice actor.
Like many popular manga series of the time (this is still done today), Legend of Light was turned into an anime series. At the time the producers of Tatsunoko Productions had picked the manga series to produce it into an anime series. It was first aired in Japan in early 1986. At the time the manga series was still unfinished so the producers of the anime were not sure how long the anime would last since the manga was not finished. Finally they settled at 26 episodes (the average number of episodes done per anime series, at the time highest number of episodes was 52). Due to poor ratings in Japan, the series was left unfinished at only 19 episodes with the last couple of episodes wrapping up the series in a hurry and left in an open ending in late 1986. The series was aired again abroad during the 1988 Olympics that were happening in Seoul, Korea in hopes that it would help boost the ratings of the anime series. Later on in 1988, the series was released in Europe where it was extremely successful, especially in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. In every country where the series was released, the titles of the anime episodes were changed. The episode titles of the English version are translations of the original Japanese episodes titles.
In Japan the manga series by Izumi Aso was very popular when it was beginning to be published by Shueisha and serialized through Margaret magazine in late 1985. This gave Aso the ability to continue the storyline for a long serialization. In mid-1986 Tatsunoko Productions picked up the series to turn it into an anime series in hopes to take advantage of the shōjo genre popularity in the mid-1980s. The anime, produced by Tatsunoko Productions was one of the few ventures of the company into the shōjo genre. The anime was not very successful in Japan and it was taken off the air sooner than expected due to its low ratings in the country . (the anime series stalled at the count of only 19 episodes, as opposed to 26 episodes that had been planned by the producers). The manga series remained popular among loyal fans and continued to be serialized through Margaret magazine until Aso ended the series at 16 volumes.
The anime series would have probably never have been released outside Japan had not been for the 1988 Olympics which were to be held at Seoul, South Korea. The 1988 Olympics featured national rhythmic gymnastic competitions, and because of that the anime series was re-aired during the Olympics in 1988. During this time Tatsunoko Productions decided to release the series in Europe were rhythmic gymnastics is popular. And in an instant the anime became a huge success in every European country that it was dubbed and aired.
The anime series was criticized in Europe for its inability to properly show movement and for the fact that the rhythmic gymnastic performances were too short compare to real performances that can last for as far as five minutes. But despite this criticism, the anime became very successful in Europe and it is still popular to this day.
For a number of years during the late 1980s and 90s there have been rumors of a hentai version of Hikari no Densetsu. These rumors were proven to be untrue; there is no evidence that proves that there has been a hentai version of the anime series. However, there is an anime series that has parodied the Hikari no Densetsu series in the past (It is believed that this is where the rumors have come from). The anime series was parodied by Cream Lemon, an anthology OVA series from the mid and late 80s which is known for its emphasis on the story and its plot. In the second installment of the OVA series, the second episode called "White Shadow", it tells the story of an aspiring gymnast that resembles the character the anime character Hikari in design. The episode also contains two male characters that resemble Mao and Takaaki. This episode was mostly ignored by fans of the manga and anime series as a parody due to its lack of reference of the series and its poor quality, texture and design. The episode was released in the United States by Excalibur Films on both VHS and DVD with the alternate name "Black Widow" with other episodes of the Cream lemon series as part of a trilogy titled: "Pandora An Erotic Trilogy - Brothers Grime Adult Cartoon Volume 3." The episode was in English and uncensored.