By this point in time, it might be a little more than obvious that we here at PopLurker are just a little bit obsessed with Sailor Moon. (Okay, fine, we’re obsessed with most anime, really). And what anime fan can’t at least appreciate the glory that is Sailor Moon? Rightfully hailed for its groundbreaking work in the magical girl genre, Sailor Moon achieved goals that no other anime at the time had- especially with LGBT visibility and representation.
With so much beauty and fullness surrounding the exciting action-team-fighting-comedy-drama, it might be easy to mistakenly overlook another representational element the show pulled off well.
Mental health. Specifically, representation of a character with clinical depression and maybe even anxiety and bi-polar disorder. And this representation isn’t simply handed off to a random character with little or no impact to the show. It was assigned to a lead character, Mamoru Chiba, known to all by his alias Tuxedo Mask.
Some Sailor Moon fans are more understanding than others. For example back in our day, teenage girls in the anime community would jokingly refer to Mamoru as The Poster-Child for Domestic Abuse. Granted of course, there is absolutely nothing funny about Domestic Violence. But what was it about Mamoru, the man Sailor Moon is tied to by destiny, her (seemingly) one and only true love, the father of her child, and the man she is assigned to for the rest of her immortal life (who in the future will rule alongside her as King) that caused all of us to raise an eyebrow, point at this guy and say,
“Are you sure he’s up for the task?”
Mamoru had a tough life, and evidence in the show demonstrates his inability to stop wallowing in his despair. Somehow, the incredible gift of reincarnation, magic, eternal love, and immortality just isn’t enough for those who are truly and honestly depressed.
5) Mamoru’s Childhood Was Traumatic
Mamoru’s parents died violently in a car accident (sadly enough, on his sixth birthday) and he’s been alone ever since. This story about the loss of his parents appeared twice in the series, once in an actual series episode and again as the subplot of the first movie, Sailor Moon R: The Promise of the Rose. While the show explicitly states that Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter) lives alone after the death of her own parents (plane crash), the series doesn’t discuss Mamoru’s fate post-parental loss.
Granted, it’s a huge discussion in the Sailor Moon fandom as to how and why Makoto was allowed to live by herself for so long. No one took that shit lightly. But what in the hell about Mamoru? Did he grow up in the foster-care system? Was he subject to unstable homes where he felt unsafe or not nurtured?
Was he exposed to any forms of abuse or neglect?
Sure, we see that his apartment is fancy as hell. That man has a badass Alfa Romeo and a super cool motorcycle. Thus, we can assume his parents left him money. But as we all know, some people can have all the money in the world and still never be happy. Because Mamoru has no friends or family in his life, he’s possibly making up for his loneliness in the form of material objects.
4) Mamoru is Constantly “Down” with Mood-Swings
Sure, Gizmodo, you can call him an asshole all you want, but Mamoru’s behavior still suggests depression. He’s lonely, wants company, yet he’s still stand-offish. He doesn’t trust anyone with his feelings and hides them (immediately after their first meeting) by bullying Usagi. He’s irritable, has no confidence, and is full of self-doubt.
It’s truly easy to wonder if perhaps Mamoru’s entire relationship with Usagi (at least on his end, in the beginning) is forced. Like he thinks he has some sort of obligation to her that he can’t find in himself to keep. In fact, he doesn’t even submit to attempting to care about her until they regain the memories of their past lives. Remember, that is when he decides to give her a chance.
Perhaps there’s something in there, too. Just because two people have ties in the past and spontaneously reconverge doesn’t mean they have to exist forever-forever. The 30th Century Crystal Tokyo arc shows a now-immortal King Endymion ruling alongside Neo Queen Serenity.
Who is…encased in a crystal.
There is fan head-canon that insists that Crystal Tokyo was never meant to happen. Quite possibly (Fan Theory Alert) Mamoru was supposed to rule alongside Queen Beryl all along, leaving Princess Serenity/reincarnated Usagi to one day end up with Seiya Kou after all. Perhaps Endymion/Serenity/Tuxedo Mask/Sailor Moon’s “destiny” was the result of a mistake of lust and passion, a terrible decision the Prince of the Earth made when he destroyed his kingdom because of his love for the Moon Princess. It cost him his kingdom, his four generals, and maybe even his future wife (Beryl).
And if all of that is plausible, then looking at Usagi might be a depressing reminder of the mistakes he made in his past life and the life he’s drowning in today.
One simple slip of destiny changed the course of thousands of years in existence.
3) Mamoru Welcomes Alternate Realities
Forgetting the past. Getting brainwashed. Ignoring the present. Affecting the future.
It seems like Mamoru welcomes it as a means of changing his destiny and getting away from the “fate” that’s tied him to this life. He’s brainwashed by Queen Beryl and does her bidding…to an extent…but isn’t exactly able to complete the tasks assigned to him.
In an effort to hurt Sailor Moon after Chibiusa is transformed into Black Lady, Mamoru is once again brainwashed. This time, he completely surrenders to the darkness and goes as far as kissing his own daughter. Like those really cool “not just friends” kisses.
Then there is Queen Nehelenia at the start of the fifth and final season of Sailor Moon. He gets shard of evil cursed glass in his eye, turns on Usagi, treats her like garbage yet again, and then becomes a limp, unresponsive brainwashed slave to her, the queen of the Dead Moon.
Hell, the actual series (Season One) starts with him having memory loss and not understanding why he transforms into Tuxedo Mask. All he knows is that he’s supposed to protect Sailor Moon (which he only sort of does with minimal effort). Mamoru wants someone to tell him he’s worth something.
All it takes is for someone to kiss him and tell him he’s pretty and his course glides right over to them.
2) Mamoru Sticks to the Confines of his Comfort Zone
And doesn’t do much to go outside of it. Mostly, his world exists over here, and Usagi and her crew sort of exist over here. Even when he does go out with Usagi and her friends, he doesn’t really engage or add much to the situation.
He just sort of lingers on the perimeter. He even has a history of avoiding his girlfriend all together when he’s not in the mood to be around people.
For example, when he started having spontaneous visions of Usagi dying and the world collapsing in the second season (surprise, nightmares force-fed to him by his future self, that dick) he breaks up with her.
He very easily could have informed her of the visions, the fear, and explained that he’s avoiding her to “save her”. At least a heads-up would have been nice. But for Mamoru, it’s easier to avoid, evade, and run away. He assumes he’s the problem, therefore Usagi being near him is the problem.
He walks away without confidence that he can change anything. He’s full of self-doubt. Meanwhile, if Usagi was the one getting visions, she would do her fullest to change the situation or at least cherish her time with Mamoru to the best of their ability.
People with depression often assume they are the problem and the situation would be better if they simply weren’t around. Which might explain why in Sailor Moon Season Five (Sailor Stars) when the evil Sailor Galaxia kills Mamoru, we see a man succumb to Galaxia with very little fight. She uses her magical power gauntlets to laser blast a small crystal called a Star Seed out of his chest, which is basically like his core power essence. Dying, he stares at the sky with a soft smile on his face, and peacefully slips away.
1) Mamoru Doesn’t Know How to Make Others Understand
Simply put, Mamoru is in a relationship with a girl who has no idea how to deal with a partner with depression. Usagi often blames herself for Mamoru’s moods, actions, or reactions. What she doesn’t understand is when someone is depressed, it isn’t anybody’s fault. The depressed party can’t help it. Usagi constantly asking “What’s wrong?”“What did I do?” or “How can I fix this?” is only making the situation worse.
Mamoru’s depression is also shown in his physical affection with Usagi. Sometimes he’s on top of her in bed. Other times, he won’t come near her even for the smallest kiss. Unfortunately, this back and forth behavior is not only conducive to Mamoru’s condition, but it’s emotionally abusive for Usagi who is only fourteen years old and has lived a very happy, carefree, and easy life.
Adding Mamoru to the mix not only adds feelings of first love, but his depression makes for a very intense introduction to dating.
See, that everyone? Lesson learned.
Always go for that nerd in the class who thinks you’re cool.
Because following your destiny might be more depressing that you realize.
Authors: Loryn Stone / Breana Ceballos / Alexandrea Orozco-Lau