On March 7th, 1992, the original Sailor Moon anime premiered in Japan. Now, 25 years later, we have two Japanese anime versions, multiple dubbed versions, various musicals, the manga and edited manga, a live action show, three movies, and the list goes on. Sailor Moon has become a worldwide phenomenon that creator Naoko Takeuchi couldn’t have expected, but here we are!
Because of how much Sailor Moon means to me and what it has done for me, I’ll be making a post every day this week to showcase some awesome Moon Pride. Think of this post as our appetizer.
Today… Wonder what exactly is it about Sailor Moon that has kept its popularity for so many years? Here are a few reasons for me:
Our protagonist isn’t your standard brave superhero.
Usagi is a crybaby. She’s 14, young, scared, and has no clue what on earth she’s doing. It’s showcased from the get go and we’re introduced to a hero that’s a bit more relatable than most. She’s your average junior high student who dreamed of a different reality, and when she got it… she couldn’t handle it.
That crybaby superhero? Matures gradually as the show progresses.
By the time we begin the final arc of Sailor Moon, Usagi has a better grasp of just what being Sailor Moon really means, and how to handle it. She’s 16 at this point, so she’s not a fully matured perfectionist; she’s still a teenager, still a kid. But it’s slowly becoming easier for her to handle what’s been given to her and her dealing with ambiguity skills are becoming more polished with time.
She’s nothing without her friends. They’re all pieces to one powerful puzzle.
Sailor Moon constantly draws her strength and power from her friends and allies. This includes Tuxedo Mask, the Sailor Starlights, and even villains at times. Sailor Moon’s heart constantly grows larger with more empathy, sympathy, and understanding for everyone; her heart is filled with love. We consistently see her drawing strength from her friends during the larger final battles (Beryl, Wiseman, Pharaoh 90, Nehelenia, Galaxia), and builds upon that strength to make herself stronger. It’s beautiful.
Each character offers something to love.
Not a fan of the crybaby female lead? Not to worry – you have all sorts of other characters to fall in love with! From the quiet, introverted genius girl Ami; to the wild and brash fortune teller Rei; to the one moment she’s kind and loves baking and flowers-but mess with her friends and she’ll break you Makoto; to the serious when she needs to be but hey look at those hot boys Minako… And then there’s the Outers, the Starlights, and tons of villains and side characters to get to know. There’s something for everyone – there’s someone for everyone. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to has a favorite character or two, or a character they relate to the most, or a character they’re most like. It’s easy for everyone to feel represented.
It’s the female Super Sentai. Where does one go wrong?
It’s been said that Naoko Takeuchi was a fan (is still a fan?) of Super Sentai and when Sailor Moon began forming, it was due to her wanting a female version of the popular tokusatsu series. A main team of five that fight against multiple villains and their endless baddies. Instead of five boys (as Super Sentai was geared toward boys) we have five girls. That aim to save the world from evil. The world they grew up on and love. And that evil is consistently evil from outer space. And they all happen to be color coded. Hmm…! They have allies of course, and the team is larger with the Outers and Chibi Moon, but the main draw is a team of five in average Sentai-style. A lot of people like to point out that “Sailor Moon was inspired by Power Rangers!” That’s not the case. Power Rangers came about in 1993, a year after its popular source, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, came about – February 21st, 1992. Sailor Moon first began in manga form in 1991, a few months after Codename: Sailor V came on the scene. So Sailor V and Sailor Moon got their inspirations from Super Sentai as a whole. Interesting, isn’t it?
You can kick butt in heels and skirts?!
The familiar sailor collars we all know and love are popular in school uniforms over in Japan. With our girls all being students, it’s a nice play that a main factor of their school uniforms be carried over to their battle uniforms. The front and back bows return as well, and their longer school skirts are replaced by shorter, more pleated ones. The shoes all vary, but it’s amazing to see the details in shoes, earrings, chokers, gloves, and hairstyles. Each girl adds their own flair to the sailor uniform to make them their own – this idea is played with more in later versions of Sailor Moon, like the musicals and the live action show, and in Sailor Moon Crystal. It adds to the earlier point – our Sailor Soldiers are female Super Sentai. Skirts, heels, makeup (the lipstick and nail polish that comes on during transformations, anyone?)… We’re going to kick your butt and defeat you, and we’re going to look damn good while we do.
Haruka and Michiru.
They never actually said the words “I love you,” but they never needed to. From their casual flirtations, to their playful banter, to the way they’d speak to each other, plan with each other protect each other… The relationship between Haruka and Michiru was very clear. And it was very beautiful. And it was a surprise for an anime in the early ’90s! So much so, that the Cloverway English dub of Sailor Moon S in 2000 and 2001 switched them from a romantic relationship to…cousins. Interesting. They were a pair that went well together like good wine and cheese, supported each other, understood each other, finished off where the other started. They were there for many fans when they didn’t have representation in many other places. They were role models. They…should’ve gotten their own movie in SuperS but ANYWAY.
Whenever Sailor Moon went in on a task, so did her team. Hell, it even got to the point that multiple villains had changes of heart and turned good thanks to Sailor Moon’s pureness. The anger, hate, and animosity that the Sailor Starlights had washed away and they, too, join Sailor Moon’s side completely. Girl power. Teamwork. Unity. You’re strongest when you’re not alone. Each character had their fear, their weakness, but together they were able to patch the holes that each weakness and flaw brought along, and instead turned them into one tough entity to deal with.
There are certain parts of the ’90s anime that were unique to the ’90s anime…for whatever reason. The original anime is known for being 75% filler, and it is true. Filler episodes were created as Naoko Takeuchi wrote along the manga. Technically, Sailor Moon was supposed to be just one story – the Dark Kingdom arc. But because of its popularity, the show continued for four more seasons. The manga came out first and was paced much faster. So to fill in the gaps between volumes, Toei Animation brought along a multitude of filler episodes. You can’t hate on them though – they provided great laughs and moments.
SuperS and Stars are where the most notable changes happened. Personally, I cannot stand the original SuperS anime. For me, it became The Chibiusa Show and drove the focus away of our main five. I also didn’t like that Neptune, Uranus, Pluto, and Saturn magically vanished for an entire season. And I certainly noticed a dip in animation quality… I digress.
Stars did a 180 from its manga counterpart. The Sailor Starlights were never supposed to have such huge roles, and they were never supposed to be men. It’s thought that both of these things happened because Toei wanted a replacement to fill in Mamoru’s absence. And why replace Mamoru with a girl when you can replace him with a guy? Hence, the dual genders of the Starlights for the majority of the ’90s anime. It’s a mega topic of discussion to this day, 20 years later. I can’t hate on the original Stars, though – the Starlights are some of my absolute favorite characters from the show.
There are other changes throughout the series compared to other versions, as well. Why didn’t Chibiusa become Sailor Chibi Moon during the Dark Kingdom arc? Why weren’t the Amazoness Quartet healed and revealed to be Sailor Soldiers as well for Chibi Moon? Why did Rei’s personality shift so drastically between versions? Why were Haruka and Michiru so much colder in the original anime compared to other versions of Sailor Moon? Why was Mamoru a college student instead of a high school student? Sailor Moon Crystal is filling in a lot of those gaps and silencing a lot of those questions, but it still makes you wonder… What would the original ’90s anime have been like if it followed the manga more exactly?
Regardless of what did and didn’t happen, Sailor Moon was and is a timeless classic that people associate with their childhoods, mostly on Toonami on Cartoon Network. It helped many people grow up, form friendships, and make changes in their lives that you wouldn’t expect a show to do for someone. Sailor Moon is still a major topic of discussion and a popular draw at conventions and geeky pop culture events. It’s pretty fantastic to see.
A lot of people haven’t read the manga, or watched the musicals, nor the live action, and maybe they haven’t seen Crystal yet… But if they know of Sailor Moon, they know it thanks to the original ’90s anime, however they saw it. That’s the common link. That’s what still makes this show so iconic 25 years later. Even for longtime fans, watching all 200 episodes can be a bit of a drag, but there’s nostalgia there, and deeper than the nostalgia – there’s love. And that love is what’s going to make this series go on for probably another 25 years.
For love and justice.