Sukeban Deka: The Yo-Yo Wielding, Undercover, Bad Girl

The title of Sukeban Deka, translated to “Delinquent Girl Detective,” is probably the best way to describe the series it belongs to. Anime fans will recognize the character type of the Sukeban: the tough girl in sailor style school uniform, but with an extra long skirt; she generally has a bad attitude and is good at fighting. 

When a girl like that is forced to take on the role of undercover detective, you get Sukeban Deka, a super shōnen-y shōjo that has managed to survive four decades and influenced some of today’s most popular anime. 

Birth of a Bad Girl

In 1975, writer Shinji Wada was instructed by his editor to create a high school detective story. The problem was, Wada had already been working on a high school drama. As a means of compromise, the ideas were fused and Sukeban Deka came into being. Initially serialized in the semi-monthly shōjo magazine, Hana to Yume

Centered on a 16 year old girl named Saki Asamiya. A gifted fighter with a chip on her shoulder, Saki never backs down. However, at the start of the series, she’s in jail. The police offer her a deal, she can get out of jail if she agrees to go undercover for them as a detective in her old school, Takanoha High School. 

After initially refusing, the cops tell her that if she agrees, they’ll pardon her mother, who is not only in jail as well, but who is awaiting execution for killing her husband.

Sukeban Deka Manga

Armed with a metal yo-yo that is also her police badge, Saki heads back to school, ready to beat up her foes and solve crime.

The initial series was published from August of 1975 through December of 1977. However, after his first project following Sukeban Deka failed to do well with readers, Wada restarted the series as Sukeban Deka Part 2 in 1979. Announced as a “new series” the revived Sukeban Deka would run until 1982.

The original series was published as tankōbon volumes starting in 1976, ending in 1983. Due to popularity, the manga was republished in the decades since and along with its reprint in 2004, a spin-off series called Sukeban Deka If was also released.

From Page to Screen

In 1985, around three years after the manga completed its run in Hana to Yume, Sukeban Deka was adapted into a live action television show. The first season, which lasted 24 episodes,  the story arc covered the first part of the original manga, staying pretty close to the original plot until the end, changing details of Saki’s death. 

Later on that same year, the second season, Sukeban Deka II: The Legend of the Girl in the Iron Mask. With the departure of the original actress, who went on to pursue a music career, Sukeban Deka II introduced a new character, Yoko Godai. As a kid, Yoko was forced to wear an Iron Mask, only to later be freed from said mask by a police officer named Nishiwaki. 

When Nishiwaki offers to help Yoko find her missing father, she accepts, but there is one condition. Yoko must join the Sukeban Deka program, taking on the name of Saki Asamiya, picking up where the previous Saki left off, as an undercover crime solver. 

The plot of this second season adapts story lines from the second part of the manga. However, where the manga had Saki working alone, the second season of the j-drama gave her two sidekicks: Yukino Yajima and Kyoko Nakamura. Yukino is a rich heiress trained in martial arts and Kyoko, also known as “Marble Okyo,” is a streetfighter who uses marbles as weapons.

The second season ended up being even more popular than the first, running for 42 episodes. This led to a third season being greenlit as well as the idea for a spin-off, Sukeban Ninpucho, a ninja focused twist on the original premise. Eventually, the spin-off was scrapped and incorporated into the third season. 

Sukebandeka The Movie

In 1986, Sukeban Deka III: Ninja Girl Romance ran for 42 episodes, following a whole new set of characters. At the same time, the first live action movie was released. Sukeban Deka The Movie served as a sequel to the second season of the Sukeban Deka tv show, though, by incorporating characters from season three, it also acted as a crossover between the series. 

Sukeban Deka III: Ninja Girl Romance was not particularly successful and by the time it’s last episode aired in October of 1987, the TV show had run its course. As a finale, the third season concluded with Sukeban Deka the Movie 2: Counter-Attack from the Kazama Sisters, which came out in 1988.

Sukeban Deka OVA

Three years later, in 1990, Sukeban Deka got its official anime adaptation as an OVA. A closer adaptation to the storyline of the manga than the TV shows and previous movies, Sukeban Deka follows along as Saki Asamiya moves from jail cell to classroom, taking on the corrupt Mizuchi sisters. 

A Legacy of Girl Gangs, Video Games, and More

One of the things that stood out about both the original manga and the anime OVA is how, for a shōjo series, Sukeban Deka applied a lot of sensibilities from popular shōnen. Full of violence, the series used artistic styles more typically seen in shōnen, serving as a crossover that could appeal to both audiences.

Sukeban Deka Video Games

Sukeban Deka was so popular in the 80’s it also inspired a series of video games. Three in total, Sukeban Deka, Sukeban Deka II: Shoujo Tekkamen Densetsu, and Sukeban Deka III, none were released outside of Japan.

Coming out in the 70’s Sukeban Deka is considered to be the series that really kicked off the “Girl Gang” trend seen in a lot of manga and anime in the 80’s with titles like Hana no Asuka-gumi and Yajikita Gakuen Dōchūki.

Decades later, Sukeban Deka’s influence can still be seen in popular contemporary anime like Kill La Kill. In fact, the closing credits of Kill La Kill is a direct re-creation of the closing credits from the original live action TV show. 

Sukeban Deka Live Action

Sukeban Deka has undeniably had a lasting impact. As recently as 2006, a new live action movie was added to the series. Released in English as Yo-Yo Girl Cop, in Japanese the movie was called Sukeban Deka: Code Name = Saki Asamiya. 

Set twenty years after the original TV series, a girl named ‘K’ gets roped in to joining the Sukeban Deka program to save her mom, taking on the cover identity of Saki Asamiya. In a cool detail, the actress playing K’s mother is the same actress who first played Saki in the original TV show, with it hinted at that K’s mom was indeed the first Sukeban Deka, maintaining a twenty year continuity between the first show and the latest movie. 

Shinji Wada / Hakusensha
Join Our Discussions on Discord

Similar Posts