Bridging The Gap: Why The World Needs Sailor Moon


Can a shining light from the tail end of the brightest days of Japan be just what anime and manga need today?

 

 

There was simply no way I could resist. Ran to my local Kinokuniya to swipe up my own copy of the Kodansha Comics release of the girls manga-milestone Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon. It isn’t as if it required the more common internal debate that often clouds recent J-media purchases either. The tale of ultimate shoujo underdog, Usagi Tsukino & her meeting destiny as the leader of a celestial army of defenders against an oncoming onslaught of otherworldly weirdos has been a not-so-guilty favorite since I first discovered it through friends during the mid-1990s. And after reading this latest transtlation, along with stellar treatment, I can even see past what many will consider to be passe, juvenile, and even a little confusing since it in many ways through charm and energy (and possibly, even a sly amount of satire). And it also occurred to this writer as to what made this so exciting to more than one segregated audience. The truest definition of crossover, Naoko Takeuchi’s most beloved creation has seen fandoms even some of the most diehard mecha show fans could only dream of. Whether fans discovered it through the syndicated DiC version that played on tv screens, or merely by way of word of mouth, it only gained ground by leaps and bounds by the time the internet became more accessible to the masses. One might even venture the notion that a great deal of how we view and accept anime in a cultural sense owes a great debt to this very fandom.

 

By now, most fans of both printed and animated mediums since the 90s are well aware of Sailor Moon, and the various iterations it has taken around the world. In fact, it’s pretty hard to imagine modern fandom without it. Even long after Japan had become something of a shadow of the colorful wonderland portrayed in the comic and animated versions (oh, and even live-action), the optimistic worldview presented in it best encompassed by Usagi and friends as they struggled to maintain normal lives in between yoma invasions hit a fascinating chord with so many not even familiar with Japanese life circa the late 1980s-early 90s. It offered a window to this very culture, and in many ways gave off the aura of an idyllic, almost Disneylike utopian vision. Which was almost always in danger of destruction by way of any number of nasty (albeit beautiful) villains out to deprive the world of its spirit in the name of negative energy.

 

 

Even as the series broke ground by being a mainstream product that played with not only gender roles, but gender itself, the powers that be could never truly wash away how culturally challenging much of it really was, despite on the surface looking like little more than a hybrid of classic maho shoujo tales and super sentai legend. It was glaring proof that anime and manga was far more than the realm of boys, and opened the door for an entirely new, and untapped market. So a shiny, glass world of friendship and dreams in endless struggle with our lesser selves seemed a perfect means to usher in a whole new era of admirers of J-media. An era less content with being huddled away in the corner of a sci-fi convention shelling out VHS bootlegs for absurd prices, and vocal enough to make great strides in how the world viewed not only shoujo, but manga in general. The sheer impact of the series and its characters could be felt in nearly every facet of the ensuing years of growing awareness, and unexpected success. And all due to a wholly unique (to westerners at least) presentation, and attitude.

 

 

My initial experience with Usagi and friends came about through a most unexpected source. Through a sweet family of friends whom I had known for years, who’s elder sibling had a wholesale enthusiasm for the animated series. In fact, much of his enamored state came from seeing a vision so open to how gender roles played so freely within what seems like your classical superhero tale. It was like a door opened. So when it was time for me to investigate his obsession for myself, I was knocked aback by how different it felt alongside the largely testosterone-centric anime output that we had been privy to for decades. And then the manga took it galaxies further by further treating central relationships as matter of fact, and not so much as some kind of mutant novelty. Was very refreshing to witness. So when the fandom became something beyond anything I could ever have dreamed of with the shows I had grown up with, the writing was on the wall. Takeuchi’s creation had done something no other property to that date had done; connected beyond the already existing choir, and into something altogether different.

 

 

And most importantly…it was a creation intended for younger audiences! Remember them? Despite all that has been said, the real exciting element that helped make SM such a crossover phenomenon, was that it held within it  a certain balance of childlike innocence at odds with often mature terrors. Even if it often took on the guise of oh so many action shows, complete with extended battles, and recycled story techniques, there almost always seemed to be just enough wide-eyed wonder regarding the daily world to counter the harshess often doled out by the villains. And as Usagi must contend with what ostensibly is to be her destiny, she must also suffer the pains and foibles common to just being young. (insecurity, and an added dash of almost supernatural clumsiness on top of all this) So as she begins her journeys, and makes new and diverse friends along the way, there is a sense that stakes are indeed growing with each passing day. The identifiable character elements often transcend their seemingly simple demeanors, often granting the world of Sailor Moon something that can just as easily invite adults as well as children.

 

 

And after so many years of false starts, censorship, and unwavering fan support, Sailor Moon seems to be primed and ready for a definitive return. Naturally, the world has moved on dramatically since those bright and colorful days. But on the whole, the spirit of friendship amidst great, and terrible odds is something that is universal enough to work in any era. Applicability seems possible, as long as the character dynamics remain true to their origins, albeit within new, more challenging circumstances. The current landscape deserves not so much a shot of nostalgia, so much as a reminder of what makes the things we appreciate and respect so special. One can only hope that the recent release of both Sailor Moon, and the previously unreleased stateside Sailor V, that the still remaining embers of love for this franchise will flame up just enough for an entirely new generation to enjoy.

 

 

It was more than mere magic that helped create the contemporary anime and manga fan; it was the heart and ingenuity Naoko Takeuchi so iconically shared on the page. And even as a genre-hybrid work, it was and remains a reminder of what it takes to strike a chord with such a wild range of admirers. And while Sailor Moon is far from a perfect saga, it is filled with enough sweetness and sincerity to speak volumes long after its creation. Whether you’ve ever caught yourself talking with your cat, or retained all the wonders of young friendship, there is always a little of the Odango-atama in all of us.

 

                                          With a good, smart treatment. I’d watch it religiously.

6 thoughts on “Bridging The Gap: Why The World Needs Sailor Moon”

  1. You cannot imagine how happy you made me with your view on Sailor Moon. You touched me so deeply and I still cannot hold back the tears :D

    Thank you like a million times!

    SM FOREVER!

    It was with us in our very beginnings, stayed with us throughout our lives and is still there :D And shall always be there forever and ever!And have the true audience and fans throughout the time , in hope that all of them will understand the story Sailor Moon tells us and things it teach us! :)

    We LOVE YOU , Usagi Tsukino and the gang ;) FOREVER

  2. Cute K-On Sailor Moon! Current bishojo! Yeah, so nostalgic. Last time I saw was in the 90s, with TV! No streaming at that time! Sailor Moon was probably first major coquettish anime, prepared for moe to come.

    Odango atama! I remember getting akaten (F) at exams. Her catch phrase had rakugo quality, gengo doudan, oudan hodou!

    And Sailor Moon characters are now at least in early 30s, or arasaa (around 30). A lot of Sailor Moon generation girls are makeinu (losers) in marriage market, or simply they don’t and can’t get married, since the gender role has been diversified.

    They were middle school girls who were yet to enjoy loose socks. No cell phone. No pokeberu! No laptop, no internet! No mp3! Girls who spent adolescence during transition from analog to digital age. Girls who ended analog era and led this digital age to happen.

    And first generation to be yutori education and gender equal education, such as requiring boys to also take home economics class. First generation for boys to watch bishojo anime, yes crossover. Sailor Moon generation was the first one to get affected by bubble burst, destruction of life time employment myth, the dawn of the lost decades, ice age of employment. Just to become housemoms were yesterday’s dream. Make-up becomes bishojo warrior’s shining armor.

  3. Thanks for the responses, guys.

    Again, I understand that the world of Sailor Moon is largely a product of its time, but personally speaking, this is perhaps why I myself am so curious as to the possibility of how this concept and case would function in a world that has shifted so dramatically in the years since. I personally would prefer it if they didn’t shy away from this, as in many ways, the later-revealed outer senshi more or less offered hints of a world beyond the mantrap-thinking that at times truly dates the series. I’d love to see the characters pitted in between their starry-eyed idealism of the past and the roles that are now offered to them. Take the empowerment further, and in turn, see how the characters respond to it. I’m not the biggest fan of reboots, but like it when older works are reevaluated under more contemporary circumstances.

  4. Reading the first Kodansha trade paperback of Sailor Moon, I had a lot of conflicting thoughts. The art was still nice, and the comedy was still enjoyable. But the story seemed to have more leaps of logic than I remembered. I was reminded that the manga’s pacing is rather quick, while the anime’s pacing is awfully slow. Furthermore, there were a lot of plot points that made it clear that the story was written almost twenty years ago.

    Back in the late 90s, Sailor Moon was one of the first few anime/manga that I enjoyed. Sure, I had my pride as a guy, and liked a number of guys’ series and general audience material, but it helped me discover a few other girls’ shows. It seemed compelling enough that I followed a number of fan sites, and read quite a few fanfics. I like the concepts and ideals in Sailor Moon. But I’m not sure if I will ever enjoy it quite so much again.

    1. @ dork at large – I never read the manga before, but I’m…well, somewhat proud to say that I watched all the Sailor Moon seasons and movies. This was back when I was seriously sinking into the warm ocean known as anime. I loved every bit of it. However, after a few hundred shows and more than 10 years later, I know I won’t be able to watch any episode at all without getting really annoyed at the repetitiveness. And yes, you’re right. The anime’s pacing was painfully slow. Ah, what have the years done to me?? XD

  5. @DAL – Oh for sure, the manga has its issues. But the purpose of my post was more in celebration of works along this vein that are not only escapist, but deeply accessible. Which is why this is more an editorial than a review. Besides, one has to remember Sailor Moon’s target audience. But there are many other elements that speak beyond the child demographic, which explains its legacy.

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