Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon; it’s a show title that goes down in classic anime history. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the show is a pop culture explosion. In addition to the original manga series, there was a two-hundred-episode anime series, a failed American live action/animated hybrid, three theatrical films, a series of stage musicals that ran consistently from 1993-2004, and a live action series in 2003. Then, there was a second wave of stage musicals from about 2014 to present, plus the remade anime series Sailor Moon Crystal. There is a Universal Studios Japan 4D attraction, and more merchandise than us bootleg-starved kids could ever hope or dare to dream of.
Seriously- from clothes, to jewelry, to props and toys, to makeup brushes. There is Sailor Moon inspired everything.
But while the series deserves every bit of celebration it receives, that doesn’t make it perfect. The franchise undoubtedly had a multitude of successes, from showcasing the power of strong, capable females. The strength of love and friendship. Positive representation of LGBT and queer characters. A miracle romance. All wrapped up in a very charming design filled with unforgettable characters and a charming aesthetic. But lurking within the lore and the innermost core of the story are a lot of elements that well…plain don’t make sense.
And if we have to see the series start over from the Dark Kingdom arc one more time, we’re going to freaking scream.
Don’t get us wrong, we love Sailor Moon. We have spent countless hours watching and reading the show and manga and have had many a drunk conversation about why we like it so dang much. We understand what it is like to see something as a kid and become completely enamored with it. We also have grown up and gone to college and with that experience under our belt going back and revisiting it, it just doesn’t hold up like it used to. We are less inclined to blindly accept what is given to us and we have a few things we want to talk about.
So today on PopLurker, we’re going to take you on a two-part journey. We’re going to tackle Sailor Moon, primarily the manga and Naoko’s vision from a writing perspective and segue into questions that the story (manga or anime) simply forgot to answer.
Because in the words of feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, “We must be critical of the art we love.
It’s not only possible but important to be critical of the media that you love but be willing to see the flaws in it.”
And believe us…we are.
Starting from the very, very first manga itself, the precursor to Sailor Moon, we must first acknowledge Codename: Sailor V. We don’t think we’re going out on a limb here with this statement: the writing and story barely made any sense. It ran in sporadically released chapters ranging from 1991-1997, and starred thirteen-year-old Minako Aino, a Japanese girl with magical powers ruled by the power of Venus, but has accessories shaped like a crescent moon, who lives in England and helps the police bust baddies.
The singular Minako Flashback episode in the first season of Sailor Moon showed she was in love with a grown man named Alan who had feelings for a woman named Katarina. When Minako realized the two of them were in love, she pretended to die in an explosion so they wouldn’t have to worry/think about her anymore, therefore free to date and be in love or whatever.
That’s some morose stuff
This isn’t the first time Naoko Takeuchi got real grim with the other main characters who aren’t Usagi/Sailor Moon and her destined love Tuxedo Mask nonsense (we’ll come back to that shortly) but why are those other poor girls so shafted in the love department? No lie, it feels like a vendetta. With the amount of characters that want to bone Usagi and Mamoru throughout the series (Umino/Demando/Haruka/Seiya/Queen Beryl/Unazuki/Sailor Pluto/Fisheye/and the rest), why can’t these poor girls even get a date? If there’s some rule about chastity among the Senshi (which would be so sad considering how clearly sexually active Usagi and Mamoru are in the manga/Sailor Moon Crystal) just come out and say it.
According to rumor, she didn’t even want the fan service episode where they are at the beach to come out in America for fear of what boys/men would do upon seeing them. Whether it was due to underdeveloped story or because she wanted to put the focus on Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask, it feels incomplete. There will never be that feeling of comfort in knowing that the other Sailors have a full life themselves, save for Haruka and Michiru. Even Sailor Pluto’s sleazy obsession with King Endymion is a sad trope that makes it so Naoko didn’t have to give her a backstory, other than she wants to fuck the king.
Get in line, sister.
Now, there is one important element to remember here; these girls are fourteen years old. That is very, very young. There really isn’t any good reason why a set of fourteen-year-old girls need to find long-term boyfriends. But these poor girls, Ami/Rei/Makoto/Minako, they weren’t even able to get their flirt on. In a world bloated with filler episodes, could we have one where a potential love interest is at least a tickle in the clouds?
Makes you wish Taiki had gone ahead and shown Ami his telescope in that episode with the teacher in the viewing room.
The main set of girls getting figuratively shafted in the love department (both in the anime and manga) is what makes the whole Destined Couple theme even more strange and convoluted. Let’s take a moment to break down the dynamics of this supposed “destiny”:
- The Prince of the Earth meets the Princess of the Moon
- They fall in love
- They both break the rules of their respective kingdoms in order to be together when it’s very likely that Prince Endymion was betrothed to a woman in his own court/kingdom/planet.
- They commit suicide to prove a point, therefore setting off a war that destroys both kingdoms
- Let’s just stop to ask real quick, who is Princess Serenity’s father? How did Queen Serenity make this child by herself? Is it immaculate conception? Does the Silver Crystal make babies? Was there no King of the Moon? Was Princess Serenity born from the unholy union between Queen Serenity and the king of some other random planet?!
- But going back to her, Queen Serenity, using the power of her Legendary Silver Crystal, basically grants a wish that her daughter, her guardian soldiers, and the dead prince will one day be reincarnated and meet again.
- And again
- And again
This isn’t fate; this is a damn cursed loop. Usagi/Mamoru/the rest of the royal court are literally stuck together for the rest of eternity. And in their next life, the one in modern-day Japan, they’re forced to transform into Sailor Senshi and fight evil for the rest of time because they’re somehow immortal. Immortal, guys!
The lore behind the second arch, Sailor Moon R or The Black Moon Arc is where the timeline really gets confusing. This is the side story where Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask are presented with a little pink-haired girl named Chibiusa, their future daughter from the 30th Century. 30th Century Moon? 30th Century Crystal Tokyo on the Earth? The details get fuzzy after twenty years of fandom and confusion.
We remember watching the Sailor Moon R arc and just having a lot of questions. Such as, who are Neo Queen Serenity and King Endymion? Are they another reincarnated form? Or did the crew somehow stop aging? The arrested development seems to be the agreed upon occurrence in the realm of fandom. If we’re not mistaken, we believe the story goes that once Usagi gave birth to Chibiusa at age twenty-two, she was unable to transform into Sailor Moon and simultaneously stopped aging. But what about the rest of her entourage? What made it so they stopped aging? Were they blasted with the power of her moonlight when Chibiusa popped out and they were all light-washed with the power of immortality?
Going back to the 30th Century and the Neo Queen Serenity premise: How did they just become rulers of Crystal Tokyo? Citizens and civilians just came to accept that? Did they use one of the moon magic tricks and just change everything overnight? There is really no explanation as to how all that came to be. Which is weird when you think that the series covers present day; there are political constructs in Japan put in place much like they are today. They just abolished, thrown out the window for the new King and Queen of the EARTH and everyone was like “Cool, we didn’t like democracy anyway”.
Piggy-backing onto things that don’t make sense, we need to discuss the premise of backstory. We’re convinced at this point that Naoko incapable of coming up with side stories. The manga is full of “this exists” bursts. Aside from the two volumes of manga of short stories, but the main universe is dead in the water, proven by the creatives involved to continuously tell the Dark Kingdom arc over and over again. Why not branch off from the puzzle pieces we’ve been given? What happens to Chibiusa or her adventures with her own Sailor Team, the Sailor Quartet? There are tons of people who are absolutely in love with Chibiusa in her adult form, there are boundless interpretations of her as a grown woman because No, we didn’t get enough of her in R as Black Lady or when Usagi and Chibiusa reversed ages in SuperS.
Or segueing into the Sailor Stars arc; let’s talk about the Sailor Starlights on Kinmoku. This is a fascinating story of three run-away soldiers who abandoned their planet (in ruins) after their princess abandoned them. They made a conscious decision to follow her energy to earth, disguise themselves as men (either in drag manga style or full-body anime style, it doesn’t matter) and sing as pop idols until their energy attracted hers. This is all a very big deal and it’s completely glossed over. Would a few chapters of backstory kill someone? Would an episode dedicated to the Starlights’ “daily life when Kinmoku was thriving” have been such a bad thing? What was going on with Naoko Takeuchi and the show runners at the time where they were okay with presenting a world filled with layers and layers of lore and not going into any of it?
Or how about the fact that the final villain of the series, Sailor Galaxia, the evil genius who was smart enough to make beautiful women run around in their lingerie clearly knew that only Sailor Senshi have Star Seeds inside of them. But for some reason, when training Sailor Iron Mouse, Sailor Lead Crow, Sailor Aluminum Siren, Sailor Tin Nyanko (and this Animamates that never made it out of the manga like Heavy Metal Butterfly), she forgot to give them that little piece. Instead, she took their Star Seeds, gave them some bitchin’ arm cuffs, sent them into the wild, and was all “Yeah, just keep blasting randoms until you find the Star Seed.” None of this should have been a surprise to her! She herself took Star Seeds from Sailor Senshi! She took Mamoru’s Star Seed of the Earth! She knewthat she, Galaxia herself, was missing a star seed! How in the world was any of this allowed to happen?!
Pardon us while we reel in the nerd rage.
Speaking of backstory, let’s discuss a few more gripes. In the short stories there is a parallel universe where Chibiusa has a little sister, Kousagi. Why not a miniseries of her? There is such a thing as eight-minute-long anime; why not give us something like a short cute series from the short stories? Or even better, let’s dive more into the backstory of the Moon Kingdom and its lore. Because think about it- do you remember the Sailor Moon S end credits with “Tuxedo Mirage” and it shows each of the girls in their princess dresses? Plus, the manga drawing of the girls in princess dresses from their respective kingdoms? Whyshould we accept that they were each guardians of their own planets and princesses and yet they served the moon? The Earth’s moon, at that. Was it all because Queen Serenity had the Silver Crystal? Was it a training mission that went terribly wrong? Were they isolated on these planets to stand guard like Pluto stands guard at the Time Door or did they have kingdoms themselves?
It’s almost as if none of the girls ever had parents…ever. Not on their guardian planets. And not on Earth. Not in Codename: Sailor V when Minako was a Japanese girl in England. Not when Ami had a “Doctor Mom who worked long hours.” It’s common knowledge that in young adult/coming of age adventure stories that parents (to a degree) need to be absent in order for the adventure to move forward. This is seen most prevalently in 80s movies where kids just have adventures on bikes. Fine, we can suspend our disbelief to an extent.
But Sailor Moon just takes it to a crazy place.
We know many people reading this are going to think we’re insane. But that’s just the flavor of impassioned nerd we are around these parts of the Internet. That’s the best part about art- it’s open to interpretation. Especially shows and franchises that made as much an impact on us as Sailor Moon did. We welcome conversations and disagreements- where in the series do your confusions and gripes lie? Tell us about it in the comments and help get a conversation going! Because in spite of any open ends and broken storylines…the moonlight really does carry the message of love.
Come answer Loryn’s questions on Twitter.