Sailor Moon is More
When one say Sailor Moon, what do you think of? Sailor Moon is not just another shoujo. Sailor Moon is not just a magical girl anime. Sailor Moon is about a girl who becomes a princess whilst fighting demons and protecting the planet. Sailor Moon is an exploration of female power and friendship and the importance of healthy romantic and platonic love in our lives. Sailor Moon is more.
Usagi, Serena in the English dub, is not a female hero typical to the screen. She is not obsessed with grades, and does not have male companions to constantly berate about their grades like a child-mother. She’s lazy, not an overachiever–she’d rather be in the arcade or eating than studying or looking pretty. These characteristics of the female protagonist may seem small, but they are so important, especially for the time period. The tired trope of women knowing nothing about video games and only ever eating salad is not something we see in Sailor Moon. Usagi and her alter ego Sailor Moon is an individual, an individual not obsessed with being passively appealing or motherly to her male companions; although one of the show’s many failings is that Usagi and her pals stay extremely thin despite little exercise and a love of eating…at least they eat on screen. Ravenous hunger is a trait usually reserved for scrapping young boy heroes, and it instills the idea in girls that they shouldn’t be eating so much, which we all know can lead to serious health concerns in their teens. What’s more, you won’t see Usagi chiding boy heroes for eating too much or playing at the arcade like some perverted nagging wife/mother child figure. Sailor Moon’s entire team is made up of girls–diverse, capable, powerful girls who work together to explore their strengths and protect their family and community.
For instance, Haruka/Uranus and Michiru/Neptune, along with their friend Sestuna/Sailor Pluto, are the most powerful as well as oldest sailor scouts; they are also the most mature. The five main sailor scouts are childish and immature (when not in senshi form) however the three older scouts are brooding and complex women with separate and darker motives to their counterparts. Sailors Uranus and Neptune believe that sacrifice is necessary for survival, which causes friction between them and Sailor Moon. Hotaru/Sailor Saturn, the young but mature senshi of revolution believes that her life should be sacrificed for the princess (Sailor Moon) at all times. This diversity of philosophies among women is one of the most important aspects of the show. The sailor soldiers are also physically and personally diverse–Ami/Mercury is short and pale and obsessed with studying, Makoto/Sailor Jupiter is tall and tomboyish and scrappy, but is also interested in feminine traditions like home making. Uranus is very tall and has a “boys’” haircut, and loves traditionally masculine sports without losing her feminine identity. All 9 of the girls are physically and mentally diverse and I cannot stress enough how important it is for girls to see themselves as more than one thing. If women are not portrayed as three dimensional, diverse people in the media girls will find it hard to develop the confidence to live their own lives. Men, are, of course, central figures too, like villainous Doctor Tomoe and heroic Tuxedo Mask/Mamaru.
Tuxedo Mask, alter ego of Usagi’s boyfriend Mamaru, is one of the few male heroes in the series, and he is not presented as rough and tough man who saves the day for the less powerful girls. In fact, he is equally as strong as each sailor scout, Sailor Moon rescues him on many an occasion, and he does not react poorly–even jokingly– like he has been emasculated or embarrassed by having been rescued by a girl. Tuxedo mask is a romantic, and whilst he serves primarily as Sailor Moon’s love, he is still a well rounded and in depth character and thus we do not fall into the pit of reversed gender roles–which do nothing but serve to enforce them further. Tuxedo mask is not an exemplary partner for his actions in Sailor Moon R when he chose not to disclose his visions to Usagi and shut her off emotionally (which was not in the manga) however, he servers as actual support for Sailor Moon and not just as a plot device to cause her pain. Mamaru respects Usagi and her decisions and does not start pride-based, irrational fights nor is he shown as dominant over his girlfriend Usagi, who has her own agenda which does not revolve around but heavily requires her love life.
Tuxedo Mask is only one of many love interests in the series. Unfortunately, the trope of women drooling over men fanatically is something we see presented in Sailor Moon. Their sexuality, however, does not reduce them to blubbering fools, at the mercy of men. When it comes down to it, the sailor scouts are heroes and nothing–not even boys, stops them from protecting their friends and fighting evil. Female relationships are an integral part of Sailor Moon and the ways in which they are presented are refreshingly healthy and diverse, and certainly pass the Bechdel test, There are 9 sailor scouts in total and they each have diverse relationships with each other and with other characters.
The most complex relationship in the show is that between Usagi and her 12 year old daughter from the future, Chibiusa. The original 90s series does not handle this relationship very well, actually, I will admit. Because they interact like sisters as Usagi has not given birth to Chibiusa yet, they act like competitive sisters, and the object of their desire is usually Usagi’s boyfriend/Tuxedo mask. However! There are critical moments in the anime that reflect Sailor Moon’s undying motherly love for her daughter. Motherhood is celebrated in Sailor Moon, and mothers are shown as powerful and important, I.E. Neo Queen Serenity (Chibiusa’s mom, future Usagi) being the most powerful character in the second season. The senshi also have diverse relationships with each other. Sailor Moon is a friend to all, of course, though she has friction with Sailor Mars. Older senshi Uranus is protective of Sailor Moon, but thinks she is naive. Pluto is very fond of Chibiusa because she was her first friend. Sailor Moon is also watched over by her cat, a magical guardian sent to protect her by her mother. The matronly relationship between Luna the cat and Usagi important because it shows children a smart, independent, yet still caring and motherly figure and how she interacts in a healthy manner with the younger Sailor Moon. Luna is in a relationship with Sailor Venus’ cat Artemis, and they are always portrayed as loving and respectful of each other–in high contrast to the tired, nagging married couple unfortunately still prevalent in most series. One of the most important relationships in Sailor Moon is the love between Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus, the older senshi.
The term “Bury Your Gays” is regrettably well known today in 2018. What it entails is that, in most media, gay people simply aren’t allowed to be happy. Even in so-called progressive cinema, LGBT characters often end up dead or apart and depressed. This is not something that happens in Sailor Moon. Neptune and Uranus are girlfriends in the manga and japanese anime, though they were censored as cousins in American versions. Although they sometimes disagree on their quest direction, Neptune and Uranus have a thriving, long lived healthy relationship which continues happily in the end just like everyone else’s. it was 1992. 25 years later, mainstream television still perpetuates “Bury Your Gays” and still won’t allow openly gay characters in youth media. Sailor Moon is not afraid to show the love between two women, with such scenes as the end of Sailor Moon S when they find the talismans, and when they are struck down by Galaxia in Sailor Moon Stars.
When it comes to issues of the LGBT community, Sailor Moon does not shy away. Sailor Moon is a show primarily about the power and support of women. So, then, it must also be for the empowerment of LGBT communities. In the original Manga and in Sailor Moon Crystal, it is explained that Uranus has the power of both genders; in the 90s anime, which we are focused on, she is portrayed as a woman who is not afraid to embrace traditionally masculine norms and transform what gender meant to her. Interestingly, in Sailor Moon Stars three new characters are introduced, who are heavily implied to be gender fluid. Seiya/Starfighter, Taiki/Starmaker, Yaten/starhealer Whilst in the manga they were explicitly cis women in men’s clothing, in the 90s anime they are male until they transform into senshi and become female; all the other senshi respect their pronouns when they are men and when they are women. This opens up the viewer to questions they might not have thought of before, especially at the time that the anime originally ran: what does it mean to be a woman, what is the difference between a man and a woman, and who else is there? The other sailor senshi never mock the starlights and they respect them because they are all senshi. However, there is one rather distasteful trope on display in the anime in the depiction of Sailor Uranus/Haruka and Sailor Starfighter/Seiya; Seiya, who is sometimes female and in love with a woman, fills out the role of the lesbian rival. Sailor Uranus, a lesbian, instantly hates and distrusts Seiya, reinforcing the outdated ideas that butch lesbians don’t get along and lesbians are aggressive. Whilst this is concerning, the love that Seiya has for Usagi is never portrayed as predatory; it is akin less to the phantom of the opera and more to the classical Pierrot, a tragic pining figure. Seiya is a well rounded character who is insinuated to have been in love with his princess, Kakyuu. Sailor Starfighter falls in love with her friend Usagi, whilst Mamaru is gone. The friendship between Usagi and Seiya/Starfighter seems to have been a mutual bandaid for their heartbreak after losing their true loves (Tuxedo Max, Kakyuu), and whether or not Usagi would have returned her friend’s feelings if she was not waiting for Mamru is left unexplained. In Sailor Moon S, Sailor Moon seems to be infatuated with Haruka.
Sailor Moon is more than pretty transformations and catchy slogans. Sailor Moon is a story written by a woman about women and girls supporting and loving and respecting themselves and each other. Sailor Moon is the story of a beautiful healthy love between Usagi and Mamaru, her prince who respects and cares for her. Sailor Moon is an anime with a diverse female cast who have conflicting goals and personalities; it is an exploration of a healthy female community build on trust and friendship. It presents ideas about gender and sexuality that were revolutionary to the world of anime. It is also flawed because it sets unrealistic body standards for teen girls and depicts tired tropes of lesbian women. Sailor Moon is more than what you think.
What do you think? Leave a comment.