I was one of the interviewees for this book, so I’ve known some of the details and findings for quite some time. Not only was it great to take part in such a project, but it was also fascinating to read about so many different experiences of Sailor Moon.
This is a light-hearted, casual read that serves as a great introduction to one of modern anime’s most fundamental series. The Sailor Moon generation is grown up now, making our own culture and telling our own stories. This book helps explain why. As our generation creates more comics and TV shows, I can only imagine that Sailor Moon’s influence will become even more prominent, and all the experiences captured in this book (mine included) reveal the starting points.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Sailor Moon’s cultural impact. You don’t have to be familiar with the series at all–in fact, you may enjoy the book even more if you’re starting with little to no knowledge. Seasoned fans, on the other hand, will enjoy the throwbacks to Geocities and fansubbed VHS tapes.
Frequent tense-switching and wordy or passive sentences sometimes makes reading clunky, but the main points still come across clearly. Ultimately, this book is a collection of women telling their stories about their heroes, which are too often brushed aside.
I’ve been busy over the last few months and that combined with writer’s block has made me ignore blogging for a while. To fix that, I’ve put together some light posts based on a 30 day anime challenge I came across a few months ago.
I won’t be posting every day. Heck no. But I feel like I need to have some new stuff going while I finish watching some series and write some of the deeper posts that I tend to do here.
So without further ado, here’s #1 on my list.
The very first anime I watched? Sailor Moon.
I was in 3rd grade and I think the first episodes I saw were somewhere between the end of the Dark Kingdom arc and the start of the Doom Tree arc. It was the first thing I remember being obsessed with. I remember creating my own character with her own backstory and powers, the first time I’d ever responded like that to a cartoon. My favorite actual character, though, was Sailor Jupiter because she’s a brunette like me and isn’t super girly.
At some point, I acquired a Sailor Moon t-shirt with all the inner senshi on it, but I never wore it to school because I was afraid that people would make fun of me (hooray for internalized misogyny!). So, I’d come home from school every day, change into my t-shirt, and watch the episodes I’d recorded on videotapes. Sometimes, I got home early enough to watch Sailor Moon as it aired on Toonami. I was hooked and wanted all of my friends to watch it, but they weren’t quite as into the show as I was.
One day, I finally worked up the courage to wear my Sailor Moon shirt to school and hoped that no one would make fun of me for liking something so girly. By 3rd grade, I had already vehemently rejected skirts and dresses and wanted nothing to do with such “boring” things. For most of the day, people either said they liked my shirt or didn’t say anything at all. I remember one girl came up to me and we had some conversation about if Sailor Saturn existed (S had not yet aired in the U.S.).
Then, at after school daycare, a boy who found confidence in hating everything saw my shirt and asked me why I was wearing it in his mopey, there’s-a-giant-stick-up-my-ass tone of voice.
“Because Sailor Moon is cool.”
“Who’d want to watch Sailor Moon and her stupid Sailor Scouts?” he sneered.
That really hurt my feelings because I had been so afraid that someone at school would make fun of me and then it actually happened. I was not at all a confident child, so I had no snarky comeback. Instead, I left and sulked somewhere else.
Thankfully, I had a friend who either saw the whole thing or listened to me tell him about it and he (bless his heart) tried to make me feel better by saying that he thought Sailor Moon was really cool. We played together for the rest of the day, but even so, I never wore my Sailor Moon shirt to school again.
After that, my interest in Sailor Moon waned as I moved on to Pokemon and Thundercats. But it came back with a vengeance in 6th grade when what started as an inside joke between my friend and I about “that stupid show Sailor Moon” became a legitimate obsession, especially when we discovered the uncut Japanese version.
That, my friends, is how I became anime trash.
For the next year and a half, I downloaded and watched all 200 episodes and most of the OVAs and movies (I never saw the Stars movie). My friend bought the manga and I’d borrow the volumes from her. I read through every Sailor Moon website on the Internet, saved every gif and picture, and generally filled my head with as much Sailor Moon knowledge as possible. I wrote fanfiction and original fiction that heavily borrowed from Sailor Moon (which I thankfully never put on the Internet).
I also became a Christian around the same time and got the first taste of my mother’s conservative concerns over my interests and the state of my soul. We had some unpleasant conversations, but they didn’t stop me from liking what I liked. I just learned to be more lowkey about it.
My dad had a more positive view of the whole thing. He saw that I was writing, drawing, learning how to use Windows Movie Maker (for AMVs of course), and attempting to learn Japanese, which, in his mind, were way better hobbies and interests than what other kids my age were getting into.
So, that’s how it all began. 3rd grade me caught Sailor Moon on TV one day and 7th grade me explored it in depth. Now, I’ve seen tons of anime series, been to several cons, cosplayed a bunch, made amazing friends, started this blog and have been interviewed for a Sailor Moon book due to release sometime next year.
Next post: Favorite anime you’ve watched so far. Just take a wild guess, but don’t cut yourself up about it if you’re wrong.
Only 90s kids remember this cute commercial from a couple years ago because only 90s kids remember anything.
90s kids especially remember Sailor Moon and all of the awkward things DiC did to hide the gays, but no amount of “cousinly affection” can hide the fact that Tenou Haruka, AKA Sailor Uranus embraces both masculinity and femininity without experiencing any conflict between the two.
As I discussed in my previous post about Sailor Moon and feminism, the sailor senshi gain the power to defend the universe exclusively through femininity. Most of the senshi are already pretty feminine in their regular lives, so there’s not a stark change when they don femininity to rid the world of destructive evil.
No really, why not both?
Then, there’s Haruka. She’s androgynous, uses “boku,” and is the smoothest smooth talker in the solar system. She hits on Usagi a little bit in the anime and a lot more in manga. At the same time, she distrusts Sailor Moon for a good portion of the S season and it almost seems like she never fully trusts her for the rest of the series. She and Michiru have a very difficult time accepting that Sailor Moon is a competent heroine.
The complexities of accepting Sailor Moon as her leader and the major issues with the monster-of-the-season trying to take over Earth are what Haruka deals with more than any conflict of her gender expression. There may be a few instances scattered here and there, but they’re not major parts of her story.
What’s interesting about Haruka’s gender expression is that she embraces both the comfort of her masculine/androgynous presentation as a civilian and the power of her feminine presentation as a sailor senshi. The power that comes with becoming more feminine is more apparent in Haruka because of her more masculine presentation when things are peaceful.
This harmony between masculinity and femininity in one character speaks to a dichotomy among gay women that is gradually being broken down: the butch/femme dichotomy.* In one sense, Haruka is clearly the butch in her relationship with Michiru if they’re both walking around as civilians, but as sailor senshi, they’re both feminine (and it’s when they’re sailor senshi that their love really shines. Just remember their death in Stars). This shows that trying to define relationships between women in terms of butch and femme is both subjective and outdated. Butch and femme exist in harmony in Haruka, so which is she? Haruka’s character helps to break down this unspoken sense that a person has to choose whether or not they will always present masculine or always present feminine, especially if they’re a gay woman. Haruka’s civilian masculine presentation establishes her relationship with Michiru as butch/femme, but her feminine sailor senshi form subverts it because, for lack of better terms, the femme exists in harmony within the butch as opposed to only beside it. More generally, Haruka’s character is another way in which Sailor Moon supports different ways of being a girl. Once the plot tension eases between the outer and inner senshi, no one takes issue with Haruka’s gender expression. No one suggests that she should be more feminine to really fit the bill of “bishoujo senshi.” This isn’t even remotely implied.
It may be tempting to view Haruka’s femininity in sailor senshi form as a rejection of her masculinity, especially since it’s with femininity that she gains the power to save the universe. However, this would only be true if Haruka herself viewed her two identities as conflicting, which she does not. It doesn’t occur to her to strip away the power of one part of her identity with another.
Haruka is an example of a character who embraces two seemingly opposite expressions as part of herself. This is important because it shows that people can create their own identities instead of falling into society’s prepackaged expectations. Many people may fit those expectations and even fully embrace them–you could argue that most of the other sailor senshi do–but many do not. Haruka, I think, invites audiences to consider this. In the end, her existence in the series helps to solidify Sailor Moon as a series that really does celebrate women.
*The butch/femme dichotomy was once important for the sake of visibility, especially in the 1950s. For many, it’s part of how they identify today. Problems only arise when people are expected to choose one exclusively over the other when they may not want to.
Sailor Moon is heralded as an iconic 90s anime and for good reason. Besides being an excellent super hero show, it encompasses everything awesome about “girl power.” It’s not just that the central characters are all female or that they all have shiny attacks that set things on fire or occasionally make them explode. It’s that they’re all multi-faceted, well-developed characters and traditional feminine clothing/objects/what have you is a source of strength.
Before I go into aspects of the show itself, I need to clarify my framework because it might get a little confusing.
How feminism and femininity don’t always line up and why that’s a problem.
Feminism has always been about empowering the disempowered and since its inception it has divided into numerous branches as people continue to critique what traditional feminism leaves out. For example, womanism came about due to feminism’s lack of consideration of issues that specifically affect women of color. Egalitarianism, which isn’t exactly feminism per se, rejects the tendency to villainize men and perpetuate fear of them. It focuses instead on building healthy attitudes toward men and women and dismantles the idea of gender roles that are set in stone.
Unfortunately, nobody thinks this is feminism. When most people hear “feminism,” this is what they think:
-girls who hate anything remotely feminine with every fiber of their being
-oversensitive girls who just want attention
The list goes on. And it’s a problem.
So what I’m looking to address here is the whole “girls who hate anything remotely feminine” thing. Basically, we’re taught that if we’re gonna be good feminists, we should chop all our hair off and never wear dresses again, but you know where this idea comes from? The fact that femininity as a whole is still seen as weak and undesirable, which is exactly what patriarchy does in the first place.
This is why we have so many tomboy characters whose strength and likeability come from spitting in the face of everything girly. Girliness is seen as weak, petty, erratic, and shallow, mostly because it’s portrayed that way.
And trust me, girls don’t want to be any of those things. So, when everything remotely feminine is associated with those qualities, it’s really no surprise that girls who pride themselves on their knowledge and rationality won’t present in a way that makes them look fickle.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to wear dresses or fighting against crippling beauty standards. The problem comes with the idea that we’re conforming to weakness if we choose to express our gender in typical feminine ways.
It’s a fundamental truth of society that the more masculine someone is, the more respect they get. A lot of people probably don’t agree at all, but this is more of a subconscious thought process. That is, most people don’t actively behave in a way that supports that notion, but that doesn’t mean its effects are gone. For instance, it’s not a big deal for a woman to wear pants, not use make-up, and keep her hair short. This is because what is masculine can also be gender neutral. What is feminine can’t. Feminism has done an awesome thing by loosening the standards on how women can present themselves. On the flip side, it is a big deal when a man wants to wear dresses because the underlying question is Why would a man want go backwards? If you’re a person who isn’t expected to be feminine, why partake in any of it at all? It’s more acceptable for a woman to be a man than it is for a man to be a woman because femininity and the feminine are not seen as sources of strength, power, and intelligence.
This is why we need shows like Sailor Moon. As utterly vital as the Katnisses and Meridas are, we need stories and characters that combine strength and femininity.
Jewels, wands, and tiaras: accessories that obliterate evil.
One of the most important plot devices in Sailor Moon is the items that grant power. There are crystals, transformation pens, mirrors and more.
The most powerful item in the entire Dark Kingdom arc is the Silver Crystal, which in the anime consists of seven smaller crystals that span the colors of the rainbow. I wouldn’t expect to see that in a more masculine series. However, this item isn’t just a pretty jewel. It can cleanse any evil in the entire galaxy. Once Usagi obtains it, the Silver Crystal rests in a brooch she pins to her school uniform. Here, power is directly tied to femininity as the Silver Crystal’s container is a decorative accessory. The most powerful jewel in the galaxy could’ve had some intense treasure box as its hiding place with crazy metallic locks and a velociraptor guardian, but it doesn’t. Its presentation and power rests in that which is completely feminine.
Then there are the different types of wands shown throughout the series: the transformation wands and Sailor Moon’s constantly evolving healing and attack wands. Actually, most of them are more like pens, but whatever you call them the fact remains that they’re still pretty girly items. I don’t see the Power Rangers transforming with something like that, you know? But these pens/wands allow our ordinary protagonists to don the power of sailor senshi, the guardians of the galaxy. Even the following transformation sequences display how femininity is equated with power.
Although each sequence is different, there are some common patterns. The inner senshi get an instant manicure and the outers get lips gloss. They might also get long ribbons on their clothes, new earrings, high heels (like Sailor Mars), or a number of other super feminine decorations. Wings, hearts, bubbles, stars–all of this stuff is coming from a transformation item that is ultimately preparing these girls to rid the planet of the next dark organization trying to take over the entire galaxy. The transformations make them more feminine, and the more feminine they become the more power they have. This is especially obvious in Sailor Uranus’s and the Starlight’s cases. Haruka wears men’s clothes all the time, but she can’t save the galaxy unless she’s in her really feminine sailor suit. Likewise, the Starlights are disguised as men in the anime, but they can’t use their power until they’re in their uniforms. Once again, the correlation is obvious.
Finally, there are the tiaras. Although Sailor Moon and Sailor Jupiter are the only ones with special tiaras, the accessory itself is one of the first forms of power we see. Sailor Moon’s renders enemies to dust after only one hit. One hit. It’s easy to watch that and just think “Oh, that monster was weak.” I think that stems from the tendency to portray femininity as weak. If we didn’t subconsciously think that a rather plain looking tiara couldn’t do much, our natural reaction would be “Wow, that’s a strong attack.” Sure, plenty of the generic monsters are weak and the one-hit wonder doesn’t work on everyone, but the fact remains that Sailor Moon wears a tiara that kills things when she throws it. Sailor Jupiter’s tiara is even more awesome because she uses it to summon lightning from Jupiter. She’s basically the Thor of the series. This amazing power is being channeled through a tiara–a feminine accessory.
The Sailor outfit: strength is a pleated skirt
While the senshi’s outfits don’t look much different from regular school uniforms, they’ve become iconic in their own right, so much so that people will see characters from completely different series and say “Is that Sailor Moon?”
As I mentioned before, the main characters become more feminine when they transform. Their clothing isn’t just there to look pretty: they’re warriors’ uniforms. They wear those clothes into battles to protect the planet. For Sailor Moon, uniform changes become more feminine with each power-up. This is especially noticeable in the Stars arc when she becomes Eternal Sailor Moon (wings, shiny white boots, an even more colorful skirt). Also, the more she resembles her past self as Princess Serenity, the stronger she becomes and the better she can use the Silver Crystal.
Like accessories, clothing in Sailor Moon creates a direct correlation with femininity and power. It’s important to recognize and think about this because I think it’s hard even for women to connect the two. We grow up hearing phrases like “you hit like a girl,” which translates to “you’re weak. There’s no way you can hurt me.” This mindset becomes so ingrained into us that it’s extremely difficult to unlearn and sometimes it’s hard to recognize in the first place. Femininity is not inherently weak and Sailor Moon helps us see that.
According to Anime News Network, a new anime adaptation of Sailor Moon is set to air next summer. The only details released so far are that it won’t be a feature-length film and that Momoiro Clover Z, the group that created “Moonlight Densetsu,” will sing the opening for the new series. Rumor has it that this is the new song, but that’s up in the air. Correction: DALI was the group that created “Moonlight Densetsu” and that link is not the song for the new series, but check it out anyway because it’s cute and catchy. Thanks to beforjess for clearing that up! While the broadcast date is still unknown, the anime will be released on the same date worldwide.
So, this is the part where I fangirl myself into oblivion.
For the past year or so, a Sailor Moon revival has been happening all over the world (which is why we got a new manga printing) in celebration of the series’ 20th anniversary. Needless to say, I’ve been shocked every time something new happens with this effort, mostly because I never see it coming. The Dragon Ball Z revamp made sense; although I never got into the series, I assumed that it was infinitely more popular than Sailor Moon, meaning that of course DBZ gets updated and SM keeps its place in the 90s. Even when the new manga series came out, I reduced the idea of a new anime series to wishful thinking. A brand new anime is probably the ultimate dream come true for us lifetime fans, especially those of us in the U.S. who have DIC’s butchering of the series as their childhood memories, but hey at least it’s better than what these folks would’ve done.
As excited as I am for a revamp, I also have a lot of questions. Sure, the new anime will bring in the fans from the 90s, but will it attract any new ones? Is the magical girl genre, as Sailor Moon defined it, even relevant to contemporary audiences? When we have series like Puella Magi Madoka Magica that put such a dark spin on everything familiar about magical girls, can we go back to the cut-and-dry good and evil that Sailor Moon provides?
I would hope that the answer to all of those questions is “yes.” I believe that Sailor Moon has more than enough status and hype around its name to be a success. So then, this is a list of my hopes and dreams for the new anime.
Let’s be real here. As much as I know we all love the 200 original episodes, there is admittedly a TON of filler, especially in the first couple seasons. Cutting down on some of that could really make for a cleaner dramatic structure where character development is more obvious. In the original series, Usagi didn’t seem to mature much and stay that way until around season 4. Of course, some filler could be useful in drawing out certain parts of the manga that seem to move too fast. I might be alone in saying this, but I liked the Doom Tree arc. I could see each arc containing 26 episodes or less to give everything sufficient development without dragging.
Closer adherence to the manga.
As I’ve been reading the reprints of the manga, I’ve seen that Sailor Moon gets very serious very quickly. Perhaps the revamp could benefit from putting more focus on that seriousness to attract a new audience. Of course, the level of seriousness depends entirely on how the show is being targeted in the first place. Also, there are several places where the plot in the old anime greatly deviates from the manga plot, although I thought many of those changes worked well in the anime. Maybe a mix of adherence and deviance would be best? Plenty of characters later on in the manga got snubbed or completely cut out in the anime, so it’d be great to have them appear.
Stay similar enough to the old series, but implement some vital changes.
I’m talking in terms of art style, character design, and other things along those lines. Some updates are fine, but Sailor Moon is an iconic character and changing her too much would be a bad move. However, there’s at least some speculation that Usagi’s original voice actress might return for the new series. Hopefully that comes to pass and most of the voice actors are able to reprise their roles. Sailor Moon doesn’t seem to be too deeply rooted in the 90s, though. The time period is only obvious when the characters are in street clothes, which doesn’t happen too often. Also, when they get to the Black Moon arc and Sailor Pluto appears, she better be as dark-skinned as she is in the manga.
I’m sure as more information surfaces, there will be tons to speculate on, but for now let’s relish the excitement. What are some of your hopes for the new series? Do you think it’ll be awesome or are you convinced that they’ll ruin it?