Silver Millennium Anniversary
I swore never to speak of such things again. But there’s no way I can get out of talking about this, is there?
This past week, as of this posting, was the 25th Anniversary of the premier of the first animated adaptation of Bishōjo Senshi Sailormoon, or, as it’s better known in the west, Sailor Moon. Like most Japanese pop media, Sailor Moon actually started as a manga first, and thus the *true* 25th Anniversary of the series was last year. But the first anime is considered by the overwhelming majority of fans to be the definitive version of the story, and is certainly the most well known internationally. So this is the date that’s going to be seeing the most widespread attention and acclaim from critic and fan circles. Sailor Moon is one of those huge anime shows that even people who aren’t familiar with Japanese media will instantly recognise. It, along with Dragon Ball Z and Ranma 1/2, defined the anime landscape of the early 1990s and was an integral part of the international anime breakout. It was also far and away the most interesting of the three to my eyes, which is what I thought when I was looking to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of Japanese media a few years back. Quite simply, you can’t claim to fully understand the history of global pop culture without looking at Sailor Moon.
And thus I’m spending Women’s History Month writing about one of the most infuriatingly fraught examples of Mirror Darkly female empowerment in all of pop culture history.
But I get ahead of myself. As if it wasn’t clear, Sailor Moon and I have a history. I have a special relationship with this series, and, in this case, “special” does not entirely mean “good”. I was drawn to Sailor Moon after coming off of a high spent writing about Dirty Pair for Vaka Rangi, and it seemed to me at first glace that Sailor Moon was the natural and fitting, if slightly counterintuitive, successor to Dirty Pair in terms of mass-market young adult Japanese fiction targeted primarily towards girls. It also served as a curious contrast to that series: Whereas Dirty Pair came out of the otaku scene of the early 1980s and was thus heavy on the hard (or hard-ish) science fiction (and failed somewhat spectacularly), Sailor Moon came out of a later generation of Japanese nerd culture, dropped the science fiction altogether and was unique in the sense it was the first large scale manga-to-anime franchise helmed by a woman who wasn’t Rumiko Takahashi to gain universal success and acclaim.
Like I do with all such series, I sat down to read the manga first before I checked out the anime to get a feel for creator Naoko Takeuchi’s original intent. And things promptly went downhill from there.
There is no other franchise I have ever followed or studied that has caused me as much grief, anxiety, confusion, self-doubt, anguish and pain as Sailor Moon. I wanted more than anything to adore it, yet I despised almost every moment spent with what I found to be a seemingly willfully incoherent, juvenile (and at times shockingly bigoted) piece of sequential art, aesthetically and creatively compromised even by pulp serial standards. Reading Sailor Moon was a simply miserable experience for me, made altogether worse by the franchise’s hit squad of a fandom, who used my every comment about it (almost all of which of which were at the time deliberately praiseworthy in an earnest and sincere attempt to stay positive, for my own mental health if nothing else) as basis for unceasing personal attacks. Privately, I chronicled my slow descent into hopelessness on now-abandoned social media profiles, pushed to the depths of desperation and self-loathing at my utter inability to see what everyone else in the world saw in Sailor Moon.
And yet, even so, in the years since I have been utterly unable to leave Sailor Moon behind. It remains a permanent fixation in my pop culture lens and has remained with me longer than almost all of the other series I’ve studied, even the ones I’ve said I’ve actually enjoyed. I keep coming back to Sailor Moon to sift through its ashes over and over and over again in the way I gather some people do (or at least did) with the Star Wars prequels, desperately searching for answers. Because, as awful as it most certainly can be, it also does some absolutely miraculous things nothing else I’ve seen in pop culture has ever done. It is quite possibly the greatest Curate’s Egg in all of manga and anime. As a result, as much as it hurt me, I’ve come to know Sailor Moon better then a lot of other things. It’s gotten to the point of becoming a series I almost love to hate…and perhaps hate to love. In its own terminology, Sailor Moon is an Enemy. But it’s my Enemy. It is my greatest rival, my equal and opposite, and no-one else is allowed to fight it with as much lust and intimacy as I am. The second anime adapted a story arc about a traumatic apocalypse that literally killed the future in 2016, and it was, and still is, the only thing that’s been there for me.
I am not going to be doing an in-depth review or analysis of Sailor Moon. Not here, and possibly not anywhere. Ever. Sailor Moon almost transcends critique for me and, frankly, if I can avoid its fans, I’d prefer to. But I do feel obligated to share a few thoughts and observations on this drawn-out and entirely appropriate Silver Anniversary. Like a lot of manga-to-anime adaptations, the original version of Sailor Moon is far less well known then the animated series that displaced it. Unlike a lot of similar franchises, however, the original manga-ka is still held up as the singular creative visionary of Sailor Moon, in spite of her actual comparatively diminished creative role in the anime. While Rumiko Takahashi is certainly beloved and well respected, most fans of Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2 and InuYasha seem quick to admit the anime adaptations generally improved on the source material to some degree or another (indeed, in the case of Urusei Yatsura, it’s the movie Beautiful Dreamer that is held up as the greatest thing the franchise ever did. A film that was directed and envisioned primarily by then-up and coming filmmaker Mamoru Oshii, and which Takahashi herself is rumoured to have actually despised).
And in truth, while they won’t slag off the original manga, almost every Sailor Moon fan (at least in the West) will have indescribably formative nostalgia for the first anime adaptation, and probably won’t have a lot to say about any of the other versions of the story (which, aside from a second anime series the fandom only seems to begrudgingly accept, also includes a live-action TV series, several stage musicals, a bunch of actually-not-terrible video games and even an AU written by the original manga-ka herself). It is exclusively this interpretation of these characters and this story that most people seem to prefer to remember and headcanon as the definitive ones. This is particularly interesting, because even by manga-to-anime standards, the original show changes a *lot* about Sailor Moon. To someone coming to the show from the manga, these characters are simply unrecognisable, and I’m sure anime fans feel the same way about the manga. Most of the time this helps, because Naoko Takeuchi has a terrible habit of writing her characters as so stock and two-dimensional they become actually indistinguishable from one another, a problem exacerbated by her own art style.
So for example, from what I can gather (oh by the way confession time: I have not watched this series all the way through. It’s fucking long for one thing, but also, after finishing the manga I had negative desire to do so), Rei, Sailor Mars, a character who, near as I can tell, basically spends the series as “generic shrine maiden” and “programmatically aloof” is transformed into one of the most multifaceted and beloved characters in the franchise. Meanwhile, Ami/Sailor Mercury is “the bookish nerdy one”…That is, unless the plot requires someone to hold the idiot ball and act like a dumbass (well more of a dumbass than usual anyway) to facilitate a plot contrivance, at which point it will inevitably be her. The anime gives her a lot more interiority and time to form a close bond with Usagi (the titular Sailor Moon) before the other Senshi show up. This is a problem all of the non-Usagi Sailor Scouts have: In the manga, they’re all introduced within the span of literally pages and are never really given the chance to become distinct characters in their own right, never ascending beyond the rank of Usagi’s doting supporting cast. Similarly, anime fans would be shocked to learn how superfluous and forgettable the iconic Queen Beryl really is, who in the source material is merely the first in a parade of increasingly indistinguishable Cackling Evil Queens.
The expansionist approach taken by the anime does, however, have its disadvantages. Haruka/Sailor Uranus and Michiru/Sailor Neptune, who debut in the third story arc, are in my view arguably the greatest idea Sailor Moon ever had. Introduced as a pair of grown-up, “big sister” Sailor Scouts who have a different mission and get their powers from a different source then the core “Inner Senshi”, Uranus and Neptune are based on Takeuchi’s belief that Takarazuka, all all-female musical Revue in which women play both male and female roles, is “the highest form of empowerment” a woman can aspire to (a debatable claim, but one that explains the multitude of tie-in soundtracks to the first anime, the existence of the Sailor Moon stage musical and the heavy emphasis on Takarazuka-style melodrama, music and imagery in the second anime) and are also in a committed romantic relationship with one another (now is not the time to discuss what *kind* of relationship Haruka and Michiru have. Suffice to say blood has been shed on this topic. Mostly mine). Haruka, Sailor Uranus, is even explicitly stated to be “both man and woman”, and that this is where her power comes from.
It was Haruka and Michiru that drew me to Sailor Moon in the first place, partly because it’s been claimed they were possibly based (at least in part) on Kei and Yuri from Dirty Pair, but mostly because they’re fascinating characters in their own right with or without that connection. And truth be known, as soon as they show up the Sailor Moon manga takes a *dramatic* turn for the better. Takeuchi seems liberated writing for them, and you kind of wish there was a whole manga just about them. Their introductory arc, Sailor Moon Infinity, is no less plagued by structural or conceptual problems than the rest of the manga (and even ends on some fairly disgusting heteronormativity and reproductive futurism, another *huge* problem with Sailor Moon), but when it’s actually working, simply nothing can touch what it has to say about gender. However the first anime, in its attempt to add depth to the characters, re-envisions Haruka and Michiru as ends-justify-the-means Knight Templar 90s antiheroes (and if they’re not, this is the part of them I see most praised in out-of-context Tumblr posts), which they absolutely were not in the original manga, and that makes it very, very hard to sympathize with them.
This results in an odd reversal of their intended role: In many ways, Uranus and Neptune *upstage* the Inner Senshi in Sailor Moon Infinity, and while their methods seem strange and hard to understand, Takeuchi is always careful to frame it in such a way that the Inner Senshi are our viewpoint characters. Ergo, the only reason Haruka and Michiru seem strange to us is because this is children’s fantasy and the behaviour of adults sometimes seems strange to children. But Haruka and Michiru are elders who truly have the best interest of their juniors at heart…Even if the finale shits all over this in a multiplicity of ways. Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune were clearly intended to be Naoko Takeuchi’s definitive statement on gender and female empowerment (she even calls Haruka her “ideal woman” and a role model she herself openly aspires to be like. This is in contrast with Usagi, who is an author insert character fraught with so many layers of self-deprecation it at times borders on self-parody), and this nuance is completely lost in the first anime version of this story.
But nobody in the cast gets hurt by the manga-to-anime translation worse than Sailor Venus. Venus is probably my favourite Senshi, even accounting for the Dirty Pairishness of Uranus and Neptune, but the character I love and the character Sailor Moon fans know are two entirely different people. At the root of this is the inescapable fact Sailor Venus and Sailor Moon are basically the same character, with one being the prototype for the other. Naoko Takeuchi had previously written a parody of Super Sentai-type series called Codename: Sailor V, which starred Minako Aino, the character who would later become Sailor Venus. The series was unexpectedly popular and Takeuchi was asked to turn it into a franchise, but after all the changes and revisions were made during the transition process it became Sailor Moon instead. Something that, while clearly sharing the same lineage, was manifestly a different entity altogether.
The Sailor Moon manga gets around this by writing Minako as the hero of another story and considerably downplaying her role in the series: She’s the loyal, noble, honourable and hypercompetent commanding general of the Sailor Senshi and the right-hand woman of Neo Queen Serenity (Sailor Moon’s past/future/alternate/true self. Sailor Moon Metaphysics gets confusing), but that’s about all it tells us about her. When she’s introduced in Sailor Moon, she’s already established as a hero in her own right and is always off running other errands elsewhere (much like Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, actually). The anime, however, in its attempts to differentiate Usagi and Minako, effectively turns Minako into a giggling and comically inept airhead. While Minako in the source material did occasionally have these qualities, they were more often then not attempts at obfuscating stupidity for the benefit of her enemies…And flamboyantly, self-consciously awkward plays at fitting in for the benefit of her friends. This is a girl who knows deep down in her heart she’ll never truly belong anywhere.
Minako is always shown to have very powerful hidden depths, but they appear to be deliberately left unexplored. The most we ever get is the very subtle implications of arc 4, Sailor Moon Dream, that Sailor Venus has some unspoken extradiegetic connection to Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune as their peer (indeed in the preceding Sailor Moon Infinity she’s even the only Sailor Scout other than Uranus to take on a male alter ego), and the odd offhand comment from Minako herself that, unique among *all* of the Senshi, she is in truth the avatar of a goddess. This is as it should be, and while the anime does eventually give its Venus a character arc that, though profoundly different from the one the Venus of the manga gets, is still a satisfying development of that particular character, it loses all of these oversignified subtleties. But an argument could be made this is for the best: The first anime does cut out most of Sailor Moon’s confusion, both negative and positive, and distills the story in such a way it was able to become a global pop culture phenomenon.
There are other problems too. Naoko Takeuchi is praised very highly for her attention to detail when it comes to symbolism: Like most anime characters, the cast of Sailor Moon all have birthdays and blood types that are supposed to give us hints about their unique characterizations, provided you follow the framework of Japanese astrology (an appropriately syncretic system combining elements of both Western and Chinese astrological symbolism). In the case of Sailor Moon, the Senshis’ birth dates were chosen not just based on Zodiac signs, but what their associated element is and where their ruling planet would be. So, Sailor Jupiter is born on December 5 because that makes it so her Zodiac sign is Sagittarius, which is supposed to be a clue as to what her personality is like, and also because it makes Jupiter her ruling planet. The associated element for that combination is wind, so Sailor Jupiter has wind-based powers.
The problem is, none of this actually makes sense or holds together in practice. Sailor Mercury’s astrological symbolism gives her water powers…But Neptune is the god of the sea and Sailor Neptune has control over the ocean. Sailor Neptune and Sailor Mercury never interact, in case you were wondering, even in Sailor Moon Dream where the “Inner” Senshi are paired up with mentors from the “Outer” Senshi (except for Sailor Moon, who gets her True Love Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Venus…who gets nobody). Similarly, both Sailor Jupiter and Sailor Uranus have wind powers and never interact (though Uranus’ is supposedly more “sky” based, but really), and Sailor Pluto and Sailor Saturn are both associated with death.
(This would almost work given the reading that Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune are heroes from another story, so there might be some expected redundancy in that case, that is if they weren’t swiftly retconned into being generic Sailor Senshi after their debut story arc.)
Sailor Pluto is also retconned to have a very vague and ill-defined connection to Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, who were introduced later than her, seemingly just because they’re all “Outer” Senshi and are thus “supposed” to go together. There’s a handwavey invocation of the Imperial Regalia of Japan (Uranus’ sword, Neptune’s mirror and Pluto’s…staff with a sparkly bit at the top. That’s like a jewel, right?) to link them together, even though what the Three Talismans, as they’re called in Sailor Moon Infinity, do has absolutely nothing to do with what the actual artefacts of Amaterasu-ōmikami-sama are supposed to do. And none of this has even the remotest connection to the underworld, which is what Sailor Pluto was originally the guardian of.
And while it’s a cheap shot bringing in Sailor Venus again as she was created so much earlier than everyone else for a series with an entirely different set of symbolic and mythological associations, she was retconned in and thus we have to acknowledge how she complicates things. Sailor Venus’ astrological symbolism is a mess, apparently being *both* a Libra (which would fittingly make her ruling planet Venus) *and* a Sagittarius (which wouldn’t) depending on which point in the series you start reading. The earliest drafts of the manga have Minako’s birthday as November 22, while all later materials retcon it to be October 22. However, it’s seemingly back to November 22 in the graphic novel The Lover of Princess Kaguya (written and taking place after Sailor Moon Infinity, a good *three years* into the run of Sailor Moon), because the Senshi throw a party to celebrate Christmas *as well as* the joint birthdays of Minako and Makoto (Sailor Jupiter), apparently because Naoko Takeuchi simply forgot she changed it.
Sailor Venus even complicates the symbolism of the other Senshi too. Mars is linked to war and has fire associations, and while Sailor Mars *does* have fire powers, it’s Sailor Venus who, apart from being an actual military commander, actually says she is “the goddess of love and war”. And while I’m sure this gives Mars/Venus shippers one more tool in their arsenal to beat the drum of a ‘ship that, like so much else fans seem to like about this series, is for all intents and purposes exclusive to the first anime, we have to grant this was a later expansion to the franchise. Speaking of Venus, funny thing about her is that while her powers are ostensibly love-based, she seems to use light- and sun-based attacks just as much, if not more so: Some of her powers also involve a lot of Star and Crescent symbolism, which can represent the admixture of Solar and Lunar just as much as it can the Moon and Venus. Also, the Sun is evil in Sailor Moon for some reason.
So the goddess of love and light is retconned into subservience to the exalted messianic lunar feminine. I’ll just leave that there. Do with it what you will.
The first anime, to its credit, changes and streamlines all of this, removing any and all ambiguity when it comes to the astrological symbolism of the Sailor Scouts. Sailor Venus is explicitly and definitively a Libra born on October 22, for example, among other things. And while this and other such changes to the story (such as savvily using filler arcs to add a Dragon Ball Z-style Wandering the Earth tone to an otherwise hypercompressed serial) certainly makes the mythology less confusing and more cohesive, from a critical standpoint it also makes the series a bit less interesting. Granted much of what makes the Sailor Moon manga interesting is due to sloppiness and general screwups, but still: Sailor Moon’s noble failures are crucial to understanding what it really is and what it’s really about, and they shouldn’t just be glossed over or ignored. You must ask yourself what you’d rather have: A tight and cohesive story you can sit down and watch for entertainment uncritically as a discrete package, or something that forces you to think about its implications and symbolism, both positive and negative? Do you want to *enjoy* Sailor Moon, or do you want to *know* Sailor Moon?
That wasn’t a rhetorical question, and I truthfully cannot answer that. That’s up to you to decide for yourself.
But all this is a roundabout way of addressing the elephant in the room here. If the anime *just* streamlined the manga’s story and made it more accessible a la Urusei Yatsura that would be one thing. But at least in the case of that series, almost everyone eagerly acknowledges, accepts, and indeed embraces, the differences between Rumiko Takahashi’s vision for the series and Mamoru Oshii’s. This does not happen in Sailor Moon fandom. Naoko Takeuchi is treated like James Cameron, or perhaps more fittingly Gene Roddenberry or George Lucas: The singular visionary behind the entire franchise and absolutely everything it ever does. And that’s simply not the case.
Takeuchi is certainly actively involved in everything Sailor Moon, but to say she’s directly responsible for all of it is misleading. It is far more accurate historically speaking to draw a line between the original Sailor Moon anime and that of Revolutionary Girl Utena (which was helmed by one of the series’ directors and is in many ways a *direct response* to it) than it is to draw one from the original Sailor Moon anime back to Naoko Takeuchi’s manga. This is something I think Takeuchi herself would even admit, as she’s said a number of times she was shocked by some of the changes made to the first anime and freely admits she doesn’t think she could capture the look of the show with her own drawing style. Disregarding the influence of Kuniko Ikuhara (director of the first four seasons of the original Sailor Moon anime and Revolutionary Girl Utena) is being willfully ignorant of history and unfair to both him and, frankly Takeuchi: This move to deify her in spite of everything seems like a deliberate attempt to paper over her own quirks and eccentricities as a writer in an attempt to attribute only the best of Sailor Moon to her…while conveniently pretending the worst doesn’t also exist.
The absolute most egregious and unforgivable example of this is the vitriolic reception the second anime, Sailor Moon Crystal, has received from hardcore fans of the first show. It is positively raked across the coals for being incoherent, at times deeply objectifying and sexist, and reliant on stalling techniques to hold up its really weird pacing, which seems to give almost no time for important things like character development and altogether too much for exposition. And this is, in many ways, true, but it’s only a half-truth. What *nobody* who has critiqued Sailor Moon Crystal has *ever* been willing to admit is that *every single* criticism that’s been hurled at Crystal could be, and should be, raised against the original manga as well.
I’ll admit I’ve only watched the third season (again, I have absolutely no desire to go any further with this than I already have), but from what I can tell, Sailor Moon Crystal is a *fiercely loyal* adaptation of the manga. Far more loyal, in fact, than the original anime, and far more loyal, it would seem, than Sailor Moon fans are comfortable with: I saw zero appreciable difference between the manga and Crystal versions of Sailor Moon Infinity (in fact, the Crystal version felt noticeably tighter and more coherent to me, though critically without losing one drop of the intended symbolism of Infinity‘s story), with the plot being instantly recognisbale at a shot-for-shot level. The backlash against it strikes me as being born of a mixture of rose-tinted nostalgia and insecurity: A desperate hope that we can justify our childhood tastes in media to ourselves, and a desperate wish to not have to blame Naoko Takeuchi for anything.
And I get this, in part, anyway. It is very hard to say unkind things about Naoko Takeuchi, who by all accounts seems like a perfectly sweet lady who only wants the best for everyone. *I* hate having to be mean to her, and I *especially* hate having to eviscerate her magnum opus, which seems to have done so much good for so many girls the world over. But I simply cannot condone this latent desire to scrounge together a liberal fandom canon comfort zone around it with a (Female) God at the head. Not being honest with Naoko Takeuchi, and with ourselves, is doing her an even worse injustice: Not truthfully engaging with her positionality and the material reality of her work, choosing to selectively remember only the parts of it we like and granting only our happiest memories to her at the expense of everyone else who was involved in a multi-billion-dollar international franchise, is nothing short of the height of irresponsibility.
After all, isn’t Sailor Moon, in spite of everything else it may or may not have done, ultimately a series about being true to yourself?
March 15, 2017 @ 1:54 pm
Bless you Josh! I sometimes feel that way about certain popular things that I downright despite. I kind of thrive on being in the minority. Of course reading your essays on Deep Space Nine, which I’m currently watching, we may disagree on the direction it went in, but I can at least empathise with your point of view. Hope you feel better.
John G. Wood
March 15, 2017 @ 2:10 pm
“You must ask yourself what you’d rather have: A tight and cohesive story you can sit down and watch for entertainment uncritically as a discrete package, or something that forces you to think about its implications and symbolism, both positive and negative?”
I can’t really comment on Sailor Moon – I’ve never seen it in any form (though some of my friends liked it), and I now know massively more about it than I did before reading this essay – but I can at least answer your (non-rhetorical) question.
However, my answer is a definite “maybe”. Basically it depends on my mood – sometimes I just want a bit of popcorn entertainment, sometimes I want something meatier to chew on. And I do like a bit of symbolism, if it’s not too heavy-handed (or makes it clear that heavy-handedness is intentional).
March 15, 2017 @ 4:21 pm
I’ve watched Crystal, never watched the original anime or read the manga. And I do see a lot of serious flaws, mostly seeming to derive from uncritical acceptance of gender norms and idealization of fairy-tale notions of romance–but then, that’s why we have Revolutionary Girl Utena. So basically if Sailor Moon were better, it wouldn’t have provoked Ikuhara into creating the best anime ever made. I’m willing to accept the problems with Sailor Moon on those grounds.
March 17, 2017 @ 3:58 am
Sailor Moon was the first Manga I ever read. In the context of being 8 years old, having no experience with any other forms of Japanese media, having only witnessed American comics, the Sailor Moon manga was utterly entrancing. I loved the romance. The ethereal nature of the artwork, the way the text seemed to float like leaves on the wind. I loved the way in which the story turned a feminine aesthetic into something so powerful it could save the earth, stop time, bring back the ancient moon kingdom, and whatever else the Sailor Scouts did, I don’t know, I never finished the series.
It’s a shame I failed to finish the series when I would have enjoyed reading the end. I came back to it a few years ago, hoping to remember a bit of the wonder the series once inspired, and all I got was confusion. This was the series I had loved? It was a shallowly-plotted mess. The characters had legs that were thrice as long as their torsos. Frequently the text would hog half the available panels, leaving the characters stuck in a contextless void while I tried to figure out what the hell was going on. The relationship between Usagi and Tuxedo mask had about as much plausibility as it did in Sailor Moon Crystal. This was the series that I had adored? What was I thinking?
I was thinking “Wow this looks cool.” I wasn’t especially critical of the things I read, at that age.
So much of our cherished childhood stories are ruined when we come back to them decades later, after having read more sophisticated work.
Not every series goes through this. Elfquest holds up pretty damn well, despite showing its age in the places where its late-70s-ecofeminism influences show most clearly. Tintin will only show its age when the last vestiges of the 20th century are gone. I still get a kick of reading Calvin and Hobbes.
But there are some series that only look good if you read them for the first time as a child, and ye gads is Sailor Moon Manga one of them.
March 17, 2017 @ 4:38 pm
Perhaps it’s because I don’t interact much with the fandom at large, but I’ve not seen this deification of Takeuchi. Whenever I see her mentioned, it’s usually as a controlling jerk who comes down with an iron fist on anything that doesn’t meet with her approval, and whose bloodthirsty tendencies had to be tempered by her editors. She’s a subject of fear, not of reverence.
The ’92 anime certainly has its ups and downs. S is probably the strongest season, and in many ways works quite well as a test run for Utena (the Witches 5’s meetings, for example, are a deadringer for the Student Council meetings). Ikuhara did more to make the show a success than anyone, and the drop in quality that it suffered in StarS is quite evident. There are some interesting ideas going on in that season, but it’s just not the same. It doesn’t fall to the depths of SuperS, but it’s hardly the quality of the first and third seasons. If you haven’t, I’d recommend S as the season to watch. You can skip R and go right into it.
Crystal’s first two seasons were rushed and anemic. They followed the plot of the manga, for better or for worse, and missed that the best part of the 92 series were the “filler” episodes where the show had time to breathe and let you know the characters a bit. The third has been a bit better, chiefly because the animation quality has been bumped up a ton, and they’re no longer using the bizarre and lifeless 3d animation.
I would also protest that Mars/Venus is exclusively an anime thing. I mean, it’s difficult not to feel the yuri dripping off the pages here: https://imgur.com/a/H7U1S (apologies for the low quality camera work)… Sure, she might be referring to Princess Serenity, but then again…
March 17, 2017 @ 7:44 pm
I honestly argue that that the second season, Sailor Moon R is actually the best of the anime as it has a “filler” arc that is marvelous fun and a nice change of pace in how small scale it is. Villains who actually sympathetic and human in their motives. (Well except for Death Phantom who is the embodiment of a nihilistic all-consuming patriarchy which make him a good ideological adversary for Usagi) Gives all the Inner Senshi their time to really shine. (they have that in S too but there tend to get push to the sidelines in favor of the Outers) and actually makes Usagi and Mamoru’s Miracle Romance feel real and genuine by putting it under great stress to test it as opposed to the perfect fairy tale romance in the manga. Agree about the sentiments on Sailor Stars and Takeuchi though.
March 20, 2017 @ 3:44 pm
I won’t throw any shade at R. The first thirteen episodes in particular are delightful, and the rest of the season is quite fun, depending on your Chibi-Usa tolerance. Personally, I just think that S is the strongest season, and it’s the one I would show skeptical folks I was trying to win over.
If I had to rank them, I think my personal list would go:
But again, that’s my personal list, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for having different opinions. Each of them has their own merits and flaws, and I can see arguments for each one being the “best” season, except perhaps for Super S. If someone can write a convincing defense of that one, I’d genuinely love to read it.
March 18, 2017 @ 6:52 am
I’m not going to comment on your issues with Sailor Moon itself because arguing about people’s tastes is usually futile. I am going to dispute your statements about the Sailor Moon fandom, because I have been part of it since the early nineties, and it’s pretty clear you don’t actually have much knowledge of the inner disputes of that community in the past or present.
Critique of the manga and conflict between those who favor it and those who favor the first anime has been raging ever since the first few seasons of the show, at least among the US audience with a further complication: the dub of the show in the US distorted the characterization of everyone to some degree, especially the amazingly bad dub of Sailor Moon S (which attempted to turn Uranus and Neptune into cousins).
Thus, you’ve had a three way fight between those who are most deeply attached to the US Dub, those who are most attached to the original, with subtitles, and those who read the manga, which for a long time in the US was really hard to get all of, especially the later parts.
This created endless arguments over everything and it’s a fight which re-ignited over Crystal; many people hoped for basically a cleaned up version of the original anime, without the problems created for the original anime by its simultaneous release with the manga, and the ability to plan ahead, knowing where the story is going.
Instead, you got something which looked awful and was neither faithful enough to make manga fans entirely happy… and was too close to the manga for many fans.
It is in fact, fairly common for fans of either version of the anime to read the manga and be disappointed by it and willing to critique it. Such a thing is currently underway at one of the tumblers I follow.
And tons of people basically blamed the failings of Crystal on the manga. Like me. Produced under stress at a high speed, the manga has a ton of flaws and even the people who love it are usually not blind to some of its problems.
I also haven’t seen any deification of Takeuchi. Especially not by those who don’t like the manga. Certainly, her name gets pimped in promotional stuff for the endless spin-offs, but I’ve never seen fans actually giving her the kind of auteur status you speak of.
March 18, 2017 @ 7:59 am
Well, I am going to watch this today with my family members. I already invited everyone for dinner. I bought this from ebay by using ebay coupons and promo codes through All Best Coupons. All best coupons is the best coupon provider where we get 100% working coupons
March 20, 2017 @ 12:34 am
To be fair to me, I freely admitted I’m a newcomer to Sailor Moon and consciously avoided the fandom at large. Because the only fans who ever interacted with me bullied and made fun of me because I didn’t like the manga in spite of the fact I wanted to. And because I said the manga was different from the anime.
So, you know, that didn’t leave me with a particularly positive view of the fandom.
No, I didn’t watch Sailor Moon in the 90s and thus did not partake in its fandom. I was, in point of fact not allowed to. I’m sure there are plenty of healthy intellectual debates that have gone on in the fandom over the years. I haven’t seen them. Nobody let me participate in them. That doesn’t mean they don’t happen.
I knew writing about Sailor Moon was a terrible idea. It never, ever goes well for me.
I’m never talking about this series again.
March 20, 2017 @ 1:24 am
It’s perfectly fair for you not like it and you do have very understandable reasons for those feelings that go beyond “it offends me for not being radically feminist enough.”
And yes, the discourse in nearly all Anime/Manga fandoms is much much much worse then in Star Trek fandom or Doctor Who’s fandoms and often is just people been bullied for not having the right opinions or even for liking the “wrong” series. This is why I mourn that Phil and Jack have zero interest in the medium, as they could cut right through that kind of shit and bring a real unique voice to the table. Especially the Mobile Suit Gundam fandom with it’s horde of homophobic fascist sympathizers.
March 20, 2017 @ 4:10 pm
Sorry to hear you were treated so poorly by folks, Josh. That ain’t right.
I’m surprised that “I didn’t like the manga” is that controversial of a statement. Lots of people don’t. It’s a weird series with rushed pacing, minimal characterization, strange logical leaps, and no breathing room. The art is creative, but Takeuchi has three bodies and two faces that she can draw. I mean, I’ve been a fan of the franchise for, jeez, 20+ years now, but I can admit it has its shortcomings. I won’t say there aren’t weirdos out there in the fandom (because, there definitely are. For example: http://www.wewantserena.com/ ), but the dangers of an uncritical love of media is, well, that’s a much larger topic than can be covered in a single comment, isn’t it?
And anyone who thinks that the manga isn’t different from the anime clearly hasn’t read/seen both of them. Because you could fill a book with the differences. Not to be uncharitable, but is it possible you were having a discussion with a bunch of chowderheads?
I found the ’92 cartoon much better than the manga because it had breathing room. For as much as folks complain about “filler episodes”, those are the ones where you actually get to know the characters, get to see things happen that aren’t tied into the inevitable conclusion. Part of the reason why I haven’t enjoyed Crystal much is due to its taking much of the flaws of the manga, rather than the strengths.
Kunihiko Ikuhara really made the ’92 series his own, and it lead into Revolutionary Girl Utena, one of the best shows to come out of the 90s. Is it a perfect show? Far from it. If you’re interested in some pretty good discussion about the differences, history, comparisons between the various dubs and subs, the Sailor Business podcast is worth a listen: http://www.wax-work.com/sailor/
June 18, 2017 @ 11:15 am
Have to agree with John Biles above that I don’t think that the extended Sailor Moon fanbase has the same kind of mentality as you have encountered. Lots of people who did criticize Crystal after all were themselves people more familiar with the 90s anime than they were with the comic, which greatly fanned the flames of that debacle (e.g. peeps who complained about Crystal not being as emotive & having “funny faces” as the 90s one).
I think, atleast with the sections I follow, the fandom has accepted more readily the “food menu” mentality these sorts of big Japanese media franchises operate on: Each line feeding into the generalized whole than rather one being the solitary “true canon” (tho favourites ofc emerge, thus you can have people who prefer manga/tokusatsu’s take on Rei but still preferring the 90s anime, but also like the musicals as their definitive take on Uranus & Neptune for example).
“It was Haruka and Michiru that drew me to Sailor Moon in the first place, partly because it’s been claimed they were possibly based (at least in part) on Kei and Yuri from Dirty Pair”
May I perhaps recommend checking out Pretty Cure then, someday?
The first two shows in particular is clearly partially based on the Dirty Pair duo dynamic, and they are fun shows that does things quite differently from Sailor Moon. (nowadays most have gone to the more Sentai-style teams, but some still retain that duo dynamic)