Anime North is around the corner, so I would like to talk to you about Sailor Moon, a show that’s part of every Otaku’s heritage.
Bleach. Naruto. Death Note. Popular series, cosplayers in the hundreds, maybe thousands, and you know what? They all bore me. For you see, I am old. Many of the sensations you experience when watching them are old feelings to me. The emotional whirlwind the Elric brothers put you through I already experienced it back in the 90s courtesy of a magical girl called Sailor Moon. And it was fabulous.
(I’ll be using American names for this article because they are the names I heard when I watched it on TV and if you take issue with that then you should stop worrying about it.)
Shortly before the coming of Pokemon and the era of shows which cashed in on the anime trend, anime existed on children’s TV primarily as Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon with maybe a bit of Samurai Pizza Cats (Oh yeah!). Every kid in class watched Sailor Moon every day on The Zone. All the boys would lie through their teeth to deny it because the show has as many embarrassing qualities as endearing ones and at the time we were not so comfortable with men getting in touch with their shojo sides. Yet once it became a valid topic for discussion, the only subject was sharing mystic rumors about how different the show was in its native language. This one guy on the bus told me his brother knew a guy with some VHS of some subtitled version where the show has all kinds swearing and full-frontal nudity.
Typically episodes followed format as rigidly as Power Rangers and Scooby-Doo ever did. Serena’s teen girl squad would get enthusiastic about some new fashion thing or trend like a new disco or a fight club which it turns out is being used to suck energy for “The Negaverse”. With some dumb luck, Serena and friends would stumble upon this plot and proceed to murder the organizers, although I’m now questioning the legal ramifications of Serenca regularly executing sentient beings because they drained energy. Then Sailor Moon Says would explain the lesson we’re supposed to learn from the episode, like Stay In School or Don’t Do Cocaine or Regularly Update Your PC’s Programs.
So Sailor Moon (and her friends) big deal is that by dressing up as Sailors they become stronger and get powerful attacks to defend the universe, all because they’re space princesses. I’m not sure what the rationale behind Princess = Nautical Attire = Soldier is. That’s like proposing that if the aliens from Independence Day attacked London, the logical solution is for Prince Harry to put on an outfit like Popeye the Sailor and after some rehearsed posing he’ll be able to set things right.
The only time Sailor Moon actually involved any Sailing was in the pilot for the planned DiC series which would mix live action with animation. Check out the footage if you haven’t seen it; it’s really exactly why YouTube exists.
The cast started with Serena (also the title character), a rare blonde Asian with the metabolism of Shaggy from Scooby Doo. When she wasn’t trying to pick up boys or executing aliens in cold blood, she was eating or napping. Somehow she still managed to have no body fat because that’s how anime works for title characters. In the original Manga, she actually weighed less than her outfit.
Later she met her friends Amy, the Velma of the group and blue-haired softie before we knew it was a cliche. The next addition to the cast was Raye, who offsets Amy. Then to round out the core cast they brought back teen idol Sailor V from the preceding series (her background never really explored in detail enough to make an impact, so she was mostly the back-up blonde) and Lita. Lita was the hottest because she’s the tallest and most athletic and likes to cook. To give guidance and provide additional merchandise fodder was Sailor Moon’s talking cat, Luna, who despite being from the moon is not actually an evil pony.
Who is Tuxedo Mask, the mysterious dude who always shows up to save Serena at times when Darien happens to not be around? Well I made a chart and I’m pretty sure it’s either her long lost brother Rex or Polkaroo.
Eventually things got weird when they introduced the annoying Scrappy Doo that is Sailor Moon’s daughter from the future, Rini, and her boyfriend, a horse. You would think that since one of my favourite comic characters is “Cable” – also a main character’s time travelling child- that I would be endeared to Rini, but her high pitched voice and overall Seriously Creepy factor just made me lose interest. I guess if Rini is Cable, then Hotaru would be he show’s Deadpool? Fanfic writers, get on this.
Antagonizing the Sailor Scouts was Jedite, the boring one. After him came Neflite, who had one of the more intense impalements ever aired on YTV before 6 PM. (After he died, his teenage girlfriend Molly moved on to date The Melvin who was actually named Melvin. Not exactly trading up.)
Then Zoicite, the hot chick who totally was totally horning in on oblivious Malacite in a twisty relationship like something from Arrested Development. After Sailor Moon defeated Queen Beryl the next antagonists were Anne and Alan, a pair of affectionate siblings.
Later introduced: Sailor Neptune and Uranus. Dude. Lesbians are awesome! And another shy girl and a tall girl to complete the basic solar system. Further padding out the cast (and awakening all kinds of weird things in the underage audience) are a trio of transsexuals from space, which is a very Tim Curry sounding idea. I never really figured out what their deal was.
Let’s just pause for a moment here and address the recent developments with Pluto being downgraded from a full-on planet to one of several mini-planets out there: No. I will not believe in the current astronomical doctrine until new Sailor Moon chapters are written in compliance. Pluto is a planet, deal with it.
A few years ago I was downloading random files off of The Four Channel Website and downloaded “sailormoon.zip”. figuring that best case scenario, it would be the sound track, worst case scenario: Weird Japanese porn. I’m okay with either, but I lucked out and got to spend an hour listening to sappy heterosexual love ballads sung by the voice actresses. Most of the songs wouldn’t have been so bad if not for references to Sailor Scouts and magic crystals worked into the lyrics for branding purposes. Several of the songs have vocals from Sandy Howell who might be related to the Howells from Gilligan’s Island. But the real treat came in the final song in the album performed by Stan Bush.
Stan Bush’s most famous song is “The Touch” used for the 1986 flop “Transformers: The Movie.” He has since regularly milked that one song for all it’s worth and regularly vends CDs of his music at Transformers conventions. Stan’s music actually is pretty good though. Recently he’s done a new Transformers song for the credits of “War For Cybertron” and a sad cover of “The Touch” in a weird attempt to get involved with the Michael Bay films. So stumbling across Stan Bush’s name on a Sailor Moon Album is like finding out that Sailor Mercury has made out with, let’s say… Prowl. Now every time I see Stan at Botcon, all I can think about is how at some point he was actually paid to rock out about Sailor Moon. Also, as it happens, his non-cartoon related music is actually pretty solid, check it out.
A few years ago, a live action Sailor Moon series was made for Japanese TV. At this point file sharing and fan-subs were common enough that we didn’t need to wait for YTV to pick up the series. And that’s okay because it really isn’t a show YTV should have spent money on. Somehow everything looked less realistic than the poorly animated show and the main cast looked less convincing than most cosplayers I’ve hung out with. It was a live action adaptation that made the Aquaman pilot look good.
In the past year, the Sailor Moon manga received a new translation for release in America by Kodansha Comics USA. I am really glad this exists but I am not going to buy it myself since I’m busy reading the upcoming Black Spider-man Meets White Spider-man miniseries from Marvel.
Sailor Moon exists as something of a cultural icon. A symbol of how the North American children’s animation industry, coming out of the the late 80s trend of making kid versions of other shows, needed some filler so some weird Japanese thing was imported and opened cultural floodgates to progressively worse written and/or more fetish-driven series. The magical girl genre lives on today in the form of Pretty Cure and Puella Magi Madoka Moogly Magica. And Sailor Moon will forever be remembered as the show that made enough teenage girls first consider “Man, maybe I should give kissing other girls a shot.”
Sailor Moon Sez:
It’s okay to be a moonie.
-Michael Ryan, March 24 2012
I’m just waiting for the Watchowskis to do what Sailor Moon what they did to Speed Racer.