You can't throw a rock at 90's-era anime without almost hitting a mention about one of the most influential magical girl series of the decade, if not all time: Sailor Moon.
In the name of the moon, I'll punish you!
Sailor Moon, also known as Bishōjo Senshi Sērā Mūn, is a shōjo manga series written and illustrated by Naoko Takeuchi. With its original run serializing from 1991 to 1997 and containing 60 chapters (18 total volumes), it has sold over a 35 million copies worldwide and generated over $13 billion of worldwide merchandise sales. Of course, being as popular as it is, there have been numerous types of adaptations of the series, from:
And trust me, some of these adaptations are wild!
Interestingly enough, the anime was only supposed to run for approximately 6months. However, it was extended to five years because of its skyrocketing success in popularity. Most people comment that it had an interestingly shonen tone for being a shoujo anime. For those curious: Shonen anime/manga is mainly directed at a young teen male readership, with stories often characterized by high action and humorous plots featuring male protagonists. Shoujo manga/anime often are directed at a female audience, often depicting more of a romantic storyline.
(Another great example is Ouran HS Host Club(shoujo) and MHA (shonen).)
Now, what made this series so famous, you might ask? It's a combination of elements; from its portrayal of solid friendship alongside its broader, more shonen tone. The series brought the magical girls in a power rangers-type team, often facing two styles of enemies: a "Monster of the Day", or a more "feeling" and "realistic" type villain. This meshing of ideas was hardly seen by American audiences. But, of course, Americans ate it up, albeit not without some censorship.
One interesting keynote is that when the original series came to the west, it faced some LGTBQ+ censorship, as the series was not 'heteronormative' enough at the time. While researching for this article, I read a piece by Sociology professor Rhea Hoskin. She describes the censorship as the "removal of homosexual and gender fluid characters in the 1990s. Sailor Moon highlights the disparity of what was otherwise a representation of LGBTQ in a female-leaded superhero show" (Hoskin). In short, it showcased not only strong, powerful women but also issues that weren't the norm at the time(such as lesbian relationships).
While Sailor Moon ultimately became an international success (even popularizing the Shoujan manga style), how did the series start? Well, most hardcore fans probably know, but the series is based on Naoko's personal experiences in middle school for those who aren't entirely aware.
Naoko even went as far as naming Usagi's family after her own!
Furthermore, she named the neighborhood Usagi lived in after the community she grew up in. She wanted to write this series to express the stress of middle school life.
The main plot revolves around our protagonist, Usagi Tsukino. Usagi is an infamously clumsy middle schooler and a rather big crybaby at that. (In fact, episode 1 of the series is titled: Crybaby Usagi's Magnificent Transformation). However, her life takes an interesting turn as she literally stumbles upon Luna, the talking cat.
Luna soon informs Usagi that she is one of the chosen "sailor scouts." She must find the legendary silver crystal and prevent the earth's (and ultimately the solar system's) destruction. Of course, she can't do this kind of task alone (not that she would want to anyway knowing her personality), and thus starts her job of befriending others, having Luna turn them into fellow sailor scouts (whose names are also celestial-themed: Sailor Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, etc.). Eventually, they all come together to help protect the earth and the entire solar system.
The "sailor scouts," as they're called, are one collective group but are effectively "halved" into 2 smaller groups: the inner sailor scouts and the outer sailor scouts. The inner sailor scouts consist of:
(Photo Credit: Sailor Moon Wiki)
And the outer sailor scouts consist of:
There are some notable differences between the outer sailor scouts and inner sailor scouts: the outer scouts tended to be colder, more aggressive, and prideful. They preferred not to develop close friendships with the inner sailor scouts and develop more psychic abilities. The inner sailor scouts were often a bit more emotional, fiery, and were seen as more ‘aloof’ (as described by some of the outer sailor scouts). Despite their differences, when the universe needs their help, the scouts often quickly put their differences aside. Lastly, they all become better friends later in the series!
The scouts are occasionally accompanied by outside heroes, the most notable being Tuxedo Mask, whose actually Mamoru Chiba, a boy from their high school.
The series spans five significant arcs. Below will be a comprehensive summary of each season, so excuse me if I miss some details!
Now over 30 years since its initial release, the Sailor Moon franchise is still as popular as ever-
with numerous adaptations, cross-overs, and scores of artists referencing the franchise as inspiration. With adaptations of the franchise alone, we see:
Outside of the franchise's material, there have been notable crossovers. For example- Sailor Moon has been in almost everything from car commercials (a 2016 Ford Fusion campaign), to crossovers with her husband's series (Hunter x Hunter) specifically, episode 138, where Alluka plays with dolls similar to Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask.
Other notable works outside of anime include: The Princess Diaries, the Justice League show(issue 27, where Martian Manhunter disguises himself as a woman named Hino Rei), and webtoons such as the show Bee and PuppyCat to western cartoons such as The Amazing World of Gumball and American Dad all have had Sailor Moon crossed-over. Artists such as the Barenaked Ladies also mentioned the series in their hit: "One Week."
With as many types of crossovers the series has been in, it's no surprise that it has inspired many: from athletes to artists. And with its approachability, the topics, and hardships that the characters face-from middle school awkwardness to LGBTQ+ awareness, it's no surprise that its staying powers are also strong!! So hopefully, this article was out of this world!
Now, we'll be going from outer space to the inner confines of a robotics lab with next week's piece: Ghost in the Shell!