If you were a young girl in the 90’s, chances are you would have encountered Sailor Moon, and loved the ever-loving moon out of it. Most kids were introduced with the anime show, which aired from 1992 to 1997, but it originated as a manga, the Japanese word for “comic,” by Naoko Takeuchi and ran from 1991 to 1997 in eighteen volumes. The manga and anime were colossal hits and the series popularized the “magical girl” genre. The series follows a young girl named Usagi Tsukino (Serena in the old anime dub) who becomes the magical warrior Sailor Moon and is tasked with protecting Earth from evil along with her friends, calling themselves the Sailor Senshi.
To commemorate the series’ 20th anniversary, Kodansha re-released the English manga with updated translations and cleaner images. Also to celebrate the anniversary, Toei Animation (the studio that produced the 90’s anime) announced a remake anime which is currently airing this year called Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Crystal, which they say follows the manga more closely than the anime did. Many fans rejoiced at this news, as some id not like the changes and slow pacing that the old anime did in contrast to the manga. Along with the anime adaptations, there have been live-stage musicals and drama CDs released as well due to the popularity of the series.
I did not grow up with Sailor Moon (if I did watch a few episodes, I was too young to remember them): I have read the majority of the manga since last year and I am now watching the new anime, which has five episodes. I ask myself how something like Sailor Moon have such an impact upon people and the entertainment industry. While the story itself has many plot holes and the magic system is flimsy, I believe that the show’s popularity comes from its characters. There is a large cast of characters with their own diverse personalities, from the friendly and clumsy Usagi/Sailor Moon to the quiet and calm Rei/Sailor Mars; the audience will come to relate and idolize a character.
The series has been praised for its “girl power” message of young girls defeating evil and growing up into mature, independent women over the course of the story. It is also quite progressive in regards to social groups: Uranus and Neptune are a lesbian couple, gender ambiguous characters which appear later on in the manga and women take the lead role while the main male lead, Tuxedo Mask, is often captured by the villain.
The art style itself is also a popular one and is easily recognizable to outsiders who are unfamiliar with Japanese culture. The girls possess the classic shoujo look: wide, orb-like eyes and highly idealized faces and body proportions. The large eyes is a way to make them more feminine and empathetic in regards to the villains who have narrower eyes. The backgrounds in the manga have many stylized effects, such as flower petals and soft lighting in a romantic scene to emotionally heighten the scene and therefore get the reader in the mood.
Sailor Moon helped to breathe new life into the magical genre and it helped pave the way for successful series, such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Pretty Cure. The comic could be both light-hearted and also dark at times, which allows a larger audience to enjoy the story. Even if the show itself is campy and makes no sense, it is still a highly influential medium that will continue to attract old and new fans alike. Hopefully with the success of Crystal, more of the manga will be adapted and allow Takeuchi’s work to bring in more people. You can find the comics at any book store or Amazon. You can stream Sailor Moon Crystal legally on Crunchyroll and Hulu.