Zuiyo Enterprise, a Japanese animation studio, was most notable for creating their popular adaptation of Heidi in 1974. Their newfound success was short as they soon got troubled with financial issues. With the company dissolved, Koichi Motohashi decided to found Nippon Animation in 1975. Nippon is now most remembered for their ‘World Masterpiece Theatre’ series, which include their first titles, Dog of Flanders and Maya the Bee.

Since Nippon was adapting Western properties into Japanese animation in their early years, Little Lulu became one of their next titles in 1976. The show was called, “Little Lulu and Her Little Friends.” The first episode aired on October 3, 1976, running on ABC (Asahi Broadcasting System). New episodes were broadcasted on Sundays at 7pm.

“Little Lulu and Her Little Friends” created its own stories instead of adapting material from the comics. The cast as well as the mid-20th century American setting stayed relatively the same. Lulu sports her red dress, though she gained a visible neck and a round nose (along with everyone else). She goes along with her everyday life, getting into different situations with Tubby and the rest of the gang.

However, there were some differences that made the anime apart from the comics. Wilbur can be seen hanging with Tubby’s group as a member of the club. This greatly deviates from his original personality as a rich snob to a more well-mannered kid. The Westside Gang was reduced from a group of boys to a trio. The leader of Westsiders is named Butch, just like the comics. The two other boys don't have their names mentioned in the English dub.

The show did not make a lasting impact on Japan, as it ran for a single season. The last episode aired on April 3, 1977.

The Japanese opening and closing themes have only been available for a long time, including vinyl, CD, and YouTube. Hearing the original voices for the Japanese version can only be heard through two out-of-print vinyl releases.

Despite the shortcomings, some merchandise did come out. Since its initial airing in the 1970’s, “Little Lulu and Her Little Friends” never saw any reruns or future home releases, making it a very obscure title in the current day.

On May 11, 2016, Japanese website, 'AucFree' had an auction from a seller named "hurimanomura." The auction ended on May 15, 2016. It included photos of the film reel and low-quality stretched photos of the Japanese OP.

On August 17, 2020, Japan Auction user ‘kata0205kata’ placed out a rare 16mm film reel of ‘Little Lulu and Her Little Friends’ for sale. The items that were included consisted of two film rolls and a case. The film reel has Episode 6 as well as the original OP and ED. The auction ended with 93 bids on August 25, 2020 with the price ending at a staggering 81,500 yen ($794.63). [All photos can be found in the Language info section]

Although Japan saw little success with Little Lulu, ZIV International grabbed the license and began distributing the show to multiple countries around the world for a few years from 1978 onwards. Once the company went defunct in 1981, Harmony Gold would continue distribution throughout the early 1980's.

CONTINUE RIGHT HERE

SOURCES

Text Sources:1) Brubaker, Charles. “Little Lulu” Anime.” Cartoon Research 7 May, 2013 https://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/little-lulu-anime/
2) “リトル・ルルとちっちゃい仲間” Kiokunokasabuta Unknown Date http://kiokunokasabuta.web.fc2.com/k-index.html
3) Nippon Animation Official Site [English & Japanese]http://www.nipponanimation.com/https://www.nippon-animation.co.jp/
Picture Sources:1) Japanese Paragraph and Advertisement: http://kiokunokasabuta.web.fc2.com/k-index.html
2a) Wilbur (comics): https://drive.google.com/file/d/11A8M5IBsjBOKGIDwwOi4q7IoeXU8v9e9/view?usp=sharing2b) Wilbur (anime): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrwIotLP0s0&t=4s 2c) Westside Gang (comics): http://www.hembeck.com/WordsAboutPictures/HalloweenLulu.htm2d) Westside Gang (anime): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPfxacnY_Uw&t=293s
3) Little Lulu main image: https://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/little-lulu-anime/
Additional Sources: 1) 2016 Auction: https://aucfree.com/items/w139065223 https://twitter.com/doughnut_f/status/1301071090421178368?s=19