Please keep in mind that this article is about the anime based off Takeuchi’s work and it assumes that for the most part the anime and the manga match up.
“Thinking about how this sort of thing works, I am reminded of an AMV I saw last night on my iPod (see above) which focuses heavily on the “magical girl” transformations of Sailor Moon especially. The emphasis on women already being fairly strong, but also transforming into forms that aren’t overly sexualizing or animalizing seems to be more admirable. Though it is a bit problematic for the show to essentially conflate images of lithe, short-skirted, and magical lip-stick-wearing teens with beauty, purity, and heroism, it seems also a possible source of empowerment considering that these women fight for themselves, for others, and for each other using the power of their hearts, their wills, their agencies. The whole heart crystal thing is beautiful, in that it offers a way to be true to ones feelings and emotions without relegating them to some crystallized “essence” of femininity. There are still some things wrong with the portrayal of the Sailor Scouts, but I think there are a lot of things to appreciate about a story coming out of a birthing feminist awareness and desire to depict women’s agencies in manga and anime. I wish I could see some more of it (remembering that I was young when I saw it first…I even cried when it ended its run on CN). The matter of transformation is certainly important, authors use the transformation to tell us more about the characters inner qualities, the exposure of their potentials and an idea of secrets revealed. Kubo did no favors to Sun Sun, Mila Rose, Apache, and Halibel in their transformations (even though their toughness and determination was a nice breath of fresh air), Takeuchi at least allowed women to be more positively “transformed” into versions of themselves expressing outwardly the emotional, mental, and spiritual powers that are internal at all times, though she still has some issues of stereotyped “beauty” and “valor” to work out there.”
This article has been in my thoughts but came about after a correspondence I had with a good friend of mine on the topic of Halibel Tia, Mila Rose, Sun Sun, and Apache from Tite Kubo’s Bleach. I asked if I could post part of our conversation (the eloquent and sincere commentary above) and my friend agreed.
I consider this to be a tribute to what I both love and hate about Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon dubbed, edited, and somewhat torn apart for American television. I was so excited to learn, on Wiki for what its worth, that there’s a Sailor Moon revival in the works. All the years I saw Sailor Moon anime collection on sale, subbed and dubbed, and never scrapped up enough money to get it–how I regret that! By the time I realized that most anime comes from a manga, Sailor Moon the manga wasn’t even available anymore. I will be using the terms Sailor Soldiers and Sailor Scouts in this article although I prefer Soldier since Scout makes me think of little girls in berets trying to sell me cookies. 0_0
- blond hair, blue eyes AGAIN?: This is the same issue I have with Naruto and it doesn’t help that Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus look so much alike and are popular characters. Why are white characteristics consistently being mapped onto main characters, presenting them as the essential aspects of magical messiah-like characters? I admit, I like the brightness of the colors, but I don’t like what they potentially present on these pale-skinned heroes. Why’s the blond with pacifistic powers gotta have the top spot?
- By the purity of their hearts?: I understand it in a metaphorical, metaphysical way but I don’t think Sailor Moon’s power would be able to combat real violence. I’ve seen it and experienced it in my life so that part of me that has experience more than my share of hard knocks is unimpressed with the pacifistic sentiments in the show. In order to save yourself and others, there may come a time when force is necessary.
- Love, love, love the transformation: I don’t care if it’s the same every episode, I just like to see them. There’s something in those representations of power that I just love, that transcendence of normality. I felt like I was transforming with the girls, into a powerful self that could fight evil and dish out justice.
- slut-shaming: The villains were often portrayed as skanky in revealing outfits with fuller, curvier figures, often showing cleavage (though some of Sailors did, too).
- Uranus and Neptune, cousins?–Oh please!!!: They are so totally not cousins and I hated how Disney censored their relationship because it’s not heterosexual. This is the epitome of the lies suburban white folks tell their curious kids at the dinner table when they ask about two women/men kissing. I think they’re beautiful and I always have. As a matter of fact it confused me even more when I tried to understand whhhy they were being presented as cousins instead of lovers.
- Villains outfits again: I actually like the villains outfits and actually find them brighter, sharper, cooler, more mature, and sexier than the Sailor Scout’s/Sailor Senshi (Soldiers) uniforms sometimes.
- Young vs. old: With the exception of Luna and Queen Serenity, who appears to us in cat form for a vast portion of airtime between the movies and the anime, women past their tweens are largely villainized in the series. This could be read as a metaphor for how age sometimes comes with the loss of one’s dreams and spirit, bitterness, and a negative sense of disillusionment. Even with this reading, I find it kind of disappointing that only royalty and their servants, and, as my friend said, long-legged “lithe, short-skirted magical lipstick-wearing teens” can be good role models for young women and represent “beauty, purity, and heroism”.
- Sailor Stars: Not that I really minded, but I had to watch the Sailor Stars season in Japanese because American producers thought it was too complicated and risqué for their closeted audiences. This trio has a lot of significance for me and I’ve heard some transgender folks referencing the Sailor Stars as well. I would have liked to have seen it brought to America in English. Considering how they botched, censored, and edited the other seasons though, I don’t know how great it would have been….
- Sailor Mercury and Sailor Venus: All the other Sailor Soldiers, with the exception of Sailor Moon herself, had physical powers—Jupiter had lightning, Mars had fire, Neptune had water, and Uranus could crash like an earthquake. But Venus had…what? Love? And Mercury had, like…bubbles 0_o
- the moon as female: It’s both positive and potentially negative that the moon is portrayed as female. The representation of the moon is rooted in many myths but in a few words, its beauty, paleness, remoteness, and its relationship to the Earth. Mamoru (Prince Darien) represents earth and Usagi (Princess Serena) represents the Moon. In a negative way, the moon and earth metaphor reinforces not only heterosexist norms and Eurocentrism, but maintains certain ideas about beauty and women.
- Tuxedo Mask is the worst male archetype: There is definitely a European motif in Sailor Moon, starting with Tuxedo Mask, his tuxedo, his mask, his gloves, and his top hat. He literally appears to save the day when Sailor Moon is being an idiot.
- Saturn is the emo one–with her goth, lace-up fetish boots: Sailor Saturn probably has the most awesome power, seeing as how she can end the world by lowering her glaive. Too bad she doesn’t appear very often and everybody spent most of the series confusing her with Mistress 9.
- makeup compacts, mirrors, nail poilish, lipstick, pendants, butterflies, hearts, bubbles, flowers, crystals and jewels, unicorn, earrings, tiaras, gloves, ribbons and bows, sailor fuku, short skirts, pumps, boots, and high heels: that’s all I’m saying….
- Pegasus and Mini-Moon: One thing that bothered me about the relationship between Mini-Moon and Pegasus is the fact that it is contingent upon her innocence as a child. In the episode where Mini-Moon becomes a teenager and Sailor Moon is turned into a child, Pegasus would not answer Mini-Moon’s call with the crystal bell. As if every adult has no innocence and no dreams, he does not appear to her in this form.
- Essentially Feminist: As central as guys are to the majority heterosexual characters in the show, Sailor Moon is a show about girls and women running things, not guys running countries and planets. Otherwise the show would be about Mamoru running Earth instead of the moon queen and princess of the Moon. Take that Kubo’s Bleach and Kishimoto’s Naruto!