Reflections On Sailor Moon

I'm an early Millennial, which means that I grew up watching mostly American cartoons during my early childhood, because that's most of what there was on TV. I think the one foreign show that I knew was foreign was David the Gnome, and that's because it used the metric system to describe how small the gnomes were. What anime I encountered during my first 10 years was rare and as Americanized as possible: Noozles, Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics, the Little Bits. Stuff that wasn't set in Japan and could easily have the cultural serial numbers filed off for the benefit of Americans who knew absolutely nothing about other cultures

Akira (1985) had become a cult classic in the US, but anime in general wasn't a term most people had heard, and it wasn't a common sight on American TV. In fact, if you look at these images from American cartoons of the 80s and early 90s, you can see how a lot of cartoons had realistic proportions and a similar general Look:

He-Man and Shera, from Masters of the Universe Captain Planet and the Planeteers Megan and Sundance from My Little Pony The main cast of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon

Then, in the second half of the decade, 3 shows began an explosion of availability and popularity of Japanese media in the US: Dragonball Z, Pokemon, and Sailor Moon.

I cannot overstate what a HUGE influence these shows were on Millennials. Even if you hated them, you knew what characters like Sailor Moon, Ash, Pikachu, and Vegeta all looked like because they were suddenly everywhere. The average American kid went from zero knowledge of anime to loving one or more of these shows overnight. (How many of us used to act out Moon Prism Power or the Kamehameha in our rooms? Probably a lot.) Even if you didn't know that these franchises were Japanese, you could tell that they had a common artistic style that was way different from what America was producing. Compare the screenshots above this paragraph to these:

The Z fighters from Dragonball Z Sailor Moon and the Inner Senshi Ash, Brock and Misty from Pokemon

Big, expressive eyes. Exaggerated body proportions. A different approach to cel-shading. Even the youngest children could tell that something was different here. Later, when shows like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Cardcaptors, and Digimon hit American airwaves, we saw that same general anime style. Fox Family's JETIX anime block had short commercial spots from Tokyopop about Japanese culture. Teens and young adults started collecting manga in earnest, to the point that major bookstore chains now had a manga section. But that was all later. What we're gonna talk about here is one misfit kid and her reaction to Sailor Moon.

I saw the 90s English dub, which means what I got was heavily edited by DIC and CloverWorks' localization teams. A cheesy "Sailor Moon Says" life-lesson bit was added to the end of each episode to appease the FCC's "Educational and Inspirational" guidelines. The characters' names were all changed, and the voice acting wasn't always the best. But I loved this show, warts and all.

Sailor Moon Says segment with the caption: And if you're shy, know that you're not the only one!  The world needs all kinds of people including shy people.

I was 10 or 11 when I discovered Sailor Moon. My parents had decided I was old enough and responsible enough to have a TV in my room, so I got one of these bad boys. (I'm not sure if it was the same brand.)

A small portable television with built-in VCR

What this meant was that once I finished my homework, I could finally watch whatever I wanted on TV without having to fight with my little brother over it. And on Fox's afternoon cartoon block, I saw Sailor Moon.

This show blew my prepubescent mind. Characters who wore different outfits from day to day, instead of having one Standard Outfit! An overarching story! Multiple female characters who actually had personalities beyond just The Girly-Girl or The Tomboy!

The Inner Senshi in street clothes.

I had been taught from a very early age that every little girl must strive to be ladylike. Sit a certain way, don't laugh too loud or make a fuss, dress a certain way, so people know that you are A Lady. It was a little stifling, to be honest. Seeing that it was okay to like silly things, or to not do well at something, or cry, or be tough and girly at the same time was revolutionary for me. I was too young to catch the gay subtext or to realize that Zoicite was really a man, but just what I saw made me feel like there was finally a TV show for kids like me.

Usagi and Makoto eating lunch at school

I felt like people would mock me for watching a kids' cartoon, so Sailor Moon was my personal little secret for years. At age 12, I was forbidden from watching cartoons because my grades were slipping. I got very good at quick channel-changes from Sailor Moon to sitcoms or the news when my parents went to my room to check on me. I tried to draw myself in anime style. I imagined little stories that only existed in my own head, where they would be safe from the mockery of my classmates, or my father's ruthless insistence that I "grow up" and quit liking kids' stuff.

Sailor Mercury

When Sailor Moon stopped airing I was devastated. I hadn't recorded any of it on VHS, or bought any merchandise, so for years my beloved series only existed for me in memories. I didn't even search for it on the Internet for the longest time.

Then, around 2006 or thereabouts, I finally took the plunge and googled Sailor Moon. I was so happy I did! There were so many fansites, so many resources to learn about the original manga and the Japanese version of the series, so many beautiful avatars and blinking GIF images by devoted fans. I felt like I had as a little kid, first watching Serena transform.

By the time the first volume of the Viz re-dub and Sailor Moon Crystal came out in 2013, I was open about having loved Sailor Moon as a kid, and discovering some of the wonderfully-imaginative fanfiction out there. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a new generation pick up a show that meant so much to me and see what it's all about. Even if you hate it. Really. I'm just glad you gave it a chance.

So if you're looking for a piece of anime history, especially if you love magical girls and weird-looking villains, check out the OG Sailor Moon. And remember kids:

Sailor Moon Says segment with the caption: You deserve the best.  Don't you settle for less!

For a more in-depth look at Sailor Moon and its lasting influence, plus the hilarious "Saban Moon" concept, check out these video essays by Ray Mona on YouTube: Part 1 Part 2

More Fansites!

Sailor Moon Uncensored--A detailed list of all the changes made by the 90s English dub

Sailor Suited Soldiers

Sailor Soapbox