These Books Made Me

Manga Edition: Sailor Moon, Part 1

December 09, 2021 Prince George's County Memorial Library System
These Books Made Me
Manga Edition: Sailor Moon, Part 1
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Moon prism power, make up! This week we have both new and familiar voices transporting us to the world of Usagi Tsukino as we dive into manga for the first time with Sailor Moon. The iconic series by Naoko Takeuchi is perhaps the most widely beloved example of shojo manga and both the print and anime versions are standards in the 90's  Girl Power canon. In this episode we talk about everything from the magical girl trope, those outfits, censorship, and moon rabbits.

These Books Made Me is a podcast about the literary heroines who shaped us and is a product of the Prince George's County Memorial Library System podcast network. Stay in touch with us via Twitter @PGCMLS with #TheseBooksMadeMe or by email at TheseBooksMadeMe@pgcmls.info. For recommended readalikes and deep dives into topics related to each episode, visit our blog at https://pgcmls.medium.com/.                                       
                                       
We mentioned a lot of topics and articles in this episode. Here’s a brief list of some of them if you want to do your own further research:

Shojo manga: https://www.jappleng.com/culture/articles/anime-manga/117/what-is-shoujo-shojo-genre-anime
Magical Girl genre: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MagicalGirl
Moon rabbits: https://www.bokksu.com/blogs/news/japanese-folktale-rabbit-on-the-moon
Beautiful Fighting Girls: http://www.jstor.org/stable/26401943

Maria:

Hi, I'm Maria.

Heather:

I'm Heather.

Vilma:

I'm Vilma.

Darlene:

I'm Darlene.

Maria:

And this is our podcast, These Books Made Me, Manga edition. Today. We're going to be talking about Sailor Moon. Friendly warning as always. This podcast contains spoilers. If you don't know yet, who Chibiusa's mom is continue at your own risk.

Darlene:

All right. So Sailor Moon is a manga and the demographic is shojo, the shojo are manga that target girls and young women, there is no definite age range and the target age demographic ranges from 7 to 18 years old. The original run of this manga was from December 2 8th, 1991 to February 3 rd, 1 997. The original English release date was from 1998 to 2001. It was initially collected in 18 tankōbon volumes. And then the second edition was 12 volumes and the third edition was 10 volumes.

Heather:

So I will say that the different editions caused problems for me when I was trying to reread, because I was moving between additions. And so they were chunked differently and I was super confused, but it was really fun to revisit. So I wanted to ask you guys, what did this book series mean to you? Was this your first time reading? Did you read it as a child? How did it stack up to your memories of Sailor Moon from when you were younger?

Darlene:

So this question kind of brought back a core memory. I guess. I distinctly remember watching it after school. I would go up the hill. Uh , I was supposed to go to my babysitter's house, but I'd always take a detour to like her neighbor's house cuz she had cable. And so I would always watch it and it would be on , uh , Cartoon Network at like 4:00 PM. And so I distinctly remember watching it and finding a lot of comfort in it cuz I , uh, did not really like my babysitter < laugh > so it was like a nice little like memory. I was like, wow, I had completely forgotten about that. I guess it's always given me a sense of comfort and I always come back to it, I think for that reason, but I didn't discover the manga until later for me

Vilma:

I have fond memories of Sailor Moon. Um, I approached it in a different way though. So when I was in middle school, my friends and I didn't necessarily watch t he show, but one of us was like a really big fan. So she was like, oh you're this and you're this and you're this. And I was Mars. Um, I'm hoping it's more cause of my long hair than my temper. Who knows, this is in seventh grade. So it's that weird age where it's like, you're no longer a kid. You don't quite feel like a teenager. So it helped us to kind of be childish, but also teenage superheroes and be cute. So that's kind of how I was introduced to it. Like I said, one of my friends was a fan, so she would let me borrow her movies. And it's actually really funny. Um , my cousins in El Salvador, I went to visit and they had the game and the music on their computer. So I was actually introduced to the movies, the game, the concept way before I ever read the manga, I didn't actually read the manga until I was an adult and the show I watched very sporadically, but yeah, definitely for me it's it's that nostalgia of childhood reclaiming childhood. And it was just cute. I just remember that the aesthetic was very cute.

Darlene:

Your friend that would assign everyone. Did she assign herself Sailor Moon?

Vilma:

No, actually she assigned herself Sailor Mercury. She was super smart.

Darlene:

Oh ok.

Vilma:

She was super smart, so it was just funny. She got Sailor Mercury, u m, the twins cuz there were two twins in our group. They were Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus.

Darlene:

That makes sense. Oh that makes sense. [Laughter]

Vilma:

And um , my other friend Theresa, she was Sailor Jupiter, which she thought was ridiculous cuz she was the shortest of the group and she like just, it was always like that doesn't make any sense.

Darlene:

Yeah. I guess everything couldn't fit perfectly, but yeah,

Heather:

She was like a short queen inside. She was like big like personality maybe. [Laughter]

Maria:

Yeah, for me I knew the manga first because one of my classmates had a Sailor Moon. I think this was around first or second grade for me. And she had a Sailor Moon sweatshirt, a cute little pink Sailor Moon sweatshirt. And I asked her what it was. She had the manga and she would show it to me. And then like when it aired on TV, I like freaked out because I was so excited. I was finally gonna be able to like actually see it and hear it in English because she tried to translate it for me because it came in Mandarin. It was a big thing for me also growing up, I was very much a tomboy. So sometimes I'd be like, oh I'm so what is Jupiter? And that I like sports and I like to just beat up. < laugh > like random little kids who bothered me, but then like I got shy as I got older. Yeah. I remember coming home like early and watching it and then Dragon Ball Z would follow as well. So yeah, it's definitely a great memory for me.

Heather:

Yeah. I think I'm like Darlene and, and Vilma that I was aware of the anime before I got to the manga. So I did 'em out of order as well. And I liked the amine. I mean, I , I remembered it, you know, more like nostalgically. Like I didn't remember all of the details of it or anything, but like of course I remember the song mm - hmm, < affirmative > , you know, it's a very iconic aesthetic as well. And for some reason it's like very tangled up in my head with Buffy. So I think like I was feeling girl power, like at the time or something. Um, so I read the manga when I was a little bit older and I really liked the manga a lot. Like it was definitely one of the series that got me into manga and really just enjoying manga overall. Um, and so Sailor Moon was a gateway series for me I think, but yeah, again just kind of like nostalgia and , um, it was very interesting revisiting it now as an adult because I had forgotten a lot of things. Mm-hmm <affirmative> , especially from the anime , um , where I was just kind of surprised to be rewatching it now with adult eyes and being a little bit more critical of what I was seeing < laugh > uh , but it was, it was a fun romp to, to do both again.

Darlene:

Yeah I think because the anime was so comforting for the longest time. It was what I preferred, but I think in recent years, like cuz I revisited the series as a whole like very often. And I think, I think maybe this time around when I was reading the manga, I was like, you know, I actually prefer the manga. I do think that I had like a nostalgic lens over the anime for so long. And so like I held onto it, but I do think that the manga reads better in terms of like making a more tight-knit plot. Yeah. I do like revisiting stuff for that reason too. Just how much your opinion of it can change.

Heather:

Darlene, you did some research on the history of the magical girl trope for us. Did you wanna tell us a little bit about what you found?

Darlene:

Uh, yeah. I thought it may be beneficial to bring it back to the origins of the genre that Sailor Moon hails from. Um, and so in the name of the moon, I will throw some information at you <laugh> <laugh> Um , magical girls is a sub of shoujo or shojo shows and mangas aimed at teen girls and they feature girls who possess supernatural powers. The shows usually depict these magical girls coming of age or maturing while getting a handle on their powers, which both aid and complicate their lives. So two series in the late 1960s that are credited with starting this beloved genre are Mahoutsukai Sally. So Little Witch Sally in 1966 and Himitsu no Akko-chan or Akko-chan's Got a Secret! which debuted in 1969, both existed as mangas before being made into anime. And these animes were ripe for success given the popularity of the American TV series Bewitched in Japan. Little Sally Witch was heavily influenced by Bewitched. While Akko-chan's Got a Secret! Was loosely based on the American movie I Married a Witch from which Bewitched took inspiration. So elements of the magical girl genre include magic adventure, secret identities and colorful transformations and costumes.A popular subtrope within this genre is the magical girl warrior, which is the combination of a magical girl and a super heroine. It is within this trope where the internationally successful and beloved series, Sailor Moon exists. Its creator, Naoko Takeuchi started off with the idea of Sailor V a young lone warrior for justice in a sailor suit. The character featured in the serialization Code Name Sailor V in 1991, which ran in the manga magazine Run Run. It proved popular. So Takeuchi expanded on the idea, combining it with another of her favorite anime trope, the superhero team up. And that is how we got Sailor Moon.

Heather:

One thing that I really liked that you mentioned was that like she sort of turned it into a, a team thing rather than focusing on the sort of lone wolf, super heroine. When we were doing our prep for this pod, we did bring up Buffy multiple times. And I also brought up Wonder Woman, which was probably the first like comic super heroine that I read, but she was always in a group with a bunch of men and like Buffy also had guys in the group, like then I was trying to think of an, any sort of similar time period shows where really it was a group of girls that were operating like that. And I didn't really come up with anywhere. They really were super heroine ones. I mean, I thought of like Jem was kind of similar time period and maybe sort of a similar idea was it was much more like girl power or, and it was really focused on the girls, but it was interesting to me because I think we think of like American entertainment as being a little bit more empowering to girls in certain ways than, than Japanese entertainment. In this instance, it feels like the opposite happened where like the American versions that were sort of running on the same, like idea was like, no, we have to put men more prominently in it or it's not gonna sell or something. I was just thinking about that when you were talking, cuz I , I feel like that was an interesting, unexpected thing as we were revisiting it where I was like, you know, this is really a lot more progressive yeah than you would think it would be, especially for the time period. Yeah. When it came out.

Darlene:

Yeah. And I feel like I was trying to get a sense of if there was anything around in Japan at the time that was the same because when she listed like the team that she, like, they were also like they featured mostly men or like a combination as well. And so I kind of wanted to delve into why she chose all , uh , girls, but I think that had more to do with her own upbringing. And I think like the friends and like the office mates that she had or her coworkers rather, and just like talking to them and getting advice from them and support from them. And so I think it was more so like her life experiences that made a, her want to have a superhero team up. But yeah, I agree that we didn't see that till much later. I think in American media, like I'm thinking Charmed, like Charmed really comes up in my mind once I think about the nineties girl power. And then I also think of , uh , early 2000s with , uh , Powerpuff Girls and Totally Spies.

Maria:

Yeah .

Heather:

Yeah. It definitely seems like that was drawing from Sailor Moon rather than that the American entertainment was out in the lead with the concept, which is interesting, especially like going back to it the earlier series that you mentioned, like Little Witch Sally being based off of maybe Bewitched, it's interesting to see sort, sort of the interplay between the two different industries kind of shaping what the other one's doing.

Speaker 3:

Each episode, our intrepid researcher will enchant us with scintillating factoids relating to our book in this case our manga.

Vilma:

Hi there, everyone. Welcome to our Cultural Corner. The part of the podcast where I tell you about some of the neat things that we've learned while doing some research about Sailor Moon. So one thing was moon rabbits. So fun fact, Usagi Tsukino actually has a meaning behind the name. Usagi means rabbit, hence the frequent appearance of bunnies and speech bubbles to indicate that Usagi is the one speaking. Tsukino means of the moon. So Usagi's full name means rabbit of the moon or moon rabbit. This is a reference to the Japanese folk tradition that the image forms on the moon surface by its topography is that of a rabbit making mochi, which is rice cake in the west. Traditionally the surface of the moon conjures images of a man in the moon. While in many parts of Asia, people saw a rabbit in the craters and mountains of the moon surface. Beside the rabbit is a mallet. And in the Japanese interpretation, this mallet is used pounding mochi rice cake. As for how the rabbit came to be on the moon. The Konjaku Monogatarishū records that a rabbit, a fox and a monkey came across an old man who had lost his strength and lay dying. Each wanted to help the old man and the monkey gathered nuts and berries for him to each while a Fox caught some fish in the river. But try as it might, the rabbit could find nothing with which to help the old man after lamenting its powerlessness. It asked the Fox and the monkey to build a fire and cooked itself for the old man to eat. Touched by this act of self-sacrifice the old man revealed himself to be the Buddhist deity Śakra and sent the rabbit to the moon so that all would know of its good deeds side note that Konjaku Monogatarishū also known as the Konjaku Monogatari is one of Japan's oldest collections of stories. It contains more than 1000 stories, many of which are supernatural folk tales and not only do China and Korea also share similar tales of the rabbit on the moon, but legends of moon rabbits are also among the indigenous people of the Americas. These legends are derived from lunar pareidolia, seeing familiar objects or patterns in otherwise random or unrelated objects or patterns. Also Usagi's hair is meant to bring back the idea of the rabbit.

Heather:

I, I told you guys, I was skipping editions when I was trying to do the reread mm-hmm < affirmative > and in one of the additions that I was using, it had the American names for the characters and she's Bunny and those mm-hmm <affirmative> so it was super weird, just like read it. And they're like, Bunny, do this, Bunny do that. Like, yeah, Bunny's crying again. And I'm like, ah, what's happening here. And I was very confused, but that's yeah, they just like directly translated it.

Vilma:

I have those, I showed them to Maria and it's like funny. And knowing that her name is Usagi, it wasn't too weird for me cuz I already went in with that knowledge. I don't know what the American reader would've thought.

Heather:

No, it would've been super confusing because it's like, why is, why is that her name? Like some of the names translated. Okay. I mean, Ami is Amy, which right. That makes sense. But yeah, for the other ones they weren't particularly like related. It seemed like. And so if you didn't have context for that, cuz people aren't generally called Bunny in the United States, I don't know is Usagi like a common given name in Japan or was that like equally odd to people reading it in Japanese? I wonder,

Maria:

I think it's, I mean there is a graphic novel out right now and it's Usagi and and the warriors, I think, I can't remember, but it's also a rabbit with its ears pulled back in a ponytail as if he were a samurai. So I think it might be a normal concept for them, but I mean, she became Serena in the American anime and I guess they pulled that from princess Serenity.

Multiple speakers:

Serenity!

Vilma:

So even then, but yeah, I don't know. I mean also Japanese names, a lot of them tend to have meaning, their names do in general have meanings. I don't know if it was popular, then I feel like it had to get popular afterward Usagi. Oh yeah. I don't think it was probably too weird for them. I actually thought it was very cute in her of her to do that, you know, connecting her Sailor Moon to the moon and which is why I was so surprised when it took them so long to realize she was the princess. I was like, come on < laugh > you can't get more heavy handed than this.

Heather:

Yeah. There's a lot of foreshadowing. < laugh > so rereading this as grownups now, what do we think about Sailor Moon? How did it hold up

Darlene:

Every time I read it, I think that I'm always reading it out of nostalgia. And so I don't think I'll ever think anything negative of Sailor Moon, but I tried to look at it with a more critical eye this time since we were talking about it. And I do think, and I thought this before, but I know that the creator also mentioned in this, in an interview, but she kind of knew that she didn't have like a tight knit plot and that , uh , there were certain things that she felt were lacking in her writing. And so she like that actually was to her advantage or to the advantage of the popularity of it because she felt like she kind of established enough lore that the fans kind of took over and they kind of filled in for her. And I do think that that really did add to a lot of the popularity that in had internationally, cuz people could make it their own or if they had any questions that she hadn't answered, they could come up with their, an their own answers. I do see that I do. There was like several questions that I had while reading it. And just a lot of things that I feel like the manga kind of just tells you, you're supposed to accept, like you're just supposed to accept that she's gonna become queen of like the silver millennium in the future. But then it's like, is that just Tokyo? Is that like the whole world? And like how does she become queen? Like the politics of that was < laugh > trying to get your , uh , like head around. That was like, how is that even gonna happen? But I feel like that's where fans could come in and I feel like most successful properties are like that too. Like people kind of fill in where they feel like the author didn't answer their questions. I also felt like it gained its popularity at a really interesting time in Japan, cuz it was just after , um, or equal employment opportunity opportunity law in 1985. And so that helped with more women going into manga. So I do think that just even having like a women's perspective in manga was like very important to helping it develop internationally. I don't know. I'm really like the, for it like just like Heather, I think that it was my gateway into different mangas and different anime as well. And so while they're not the best written characters, it's still an important piece of work. And I just think that it was also very instrumental in like popularizing manga and anime in the west. I don't, I'm forever thankful for it. And I do say this jokingly often, I wonder like how much of inspiration Sailor Moon and Buffy took from each other, but there's nothing to say that Joss Whedon was influenced by Sailor Moon. Although I did see in one of his biographies, someone say that the director of the movie when he was doing rewrites had suggested he look at Sailor Moon, but I think that they're too close in like release date that I don't know how true that is. Again, I'm not trying to < laugh > I'm not trying to go against the director of the Buffy movie, but it just feels like,

Heather:

No, it sounds kind of apocryphal to me too, because the release dates are so close to each other or that you have to think that the movie was pretty much in the can at the point that the manga would've been available for him to suggest, but the similarities in some regards are really striking. And I don't know, you know, how much of that is to say like, oh, well these are common tropes, but I feel like at the time these weren't particularly common tropes, othey felt very fresh. So it is interesting that they kind of ran parallel to each.

Darlene:

and I mean, it could be that she put forth that as like an inspiration and maybe he didn't do, he didn't use it as much in the movie, but maybe took some of those ideas into the show because there are like the fact that they both, you know, spoiler have to kill their loved ones with like a sword because they're possessed. Like I think, yeah, that was a really strong parallel between them and even just the way that they're portrayed. U m, I , I actually think that that's like a larger nineties thing where it was kind of like let's legitimize the fact that like these, u m, like very girly and feminine qualities can still be very powerful. And I think sometimes it went like not too far, but like it kind of went a little campy, but yeah, I, I just associate them with each other for that reason as well. Cause I think Buffy as in the earlier seasons was very much like an unwilling heroine.

Heather:

Absolutely.

Darlene:

And it was kind of like against her. Yeah. She did not want to be the Slayer. And then she was also very like girly and just wanted to be a teen and , um, was a little ditzy and like it was her friends that really kind of had to help her like figure some things out.

Heather:

Yeah, I, I think you're right though. Like the parallels are very, very strong, especially once you get to the show and you've moved away from the movie, cuz it is, it's the idea of this reluctant teen girl heroine. Who's just like very put upon with the burden of this sort, a responsibility of being a superhero put on her where she's like, I really just wanted to go to this party. I really just wanted to go play at the game center. I, you know, I didn't wanna fight this guy today and, and yeah, and like how her friends sort of support her and they all have a role to play in the fights in her maturation. Um, and watching a girl grow into her power, I think is really, you know, I don't, I can't think of anything before Sailor Moon or Buffy where that was the arc that I took away from watching it or reading it , um, so much so. Yeah. I, I, I think there's just a lot there , um , with similarities and it is interesting too, that you brought up with like Japan's equal opportunity sort of employment law coming about because she was sort of the next generation of women manga writers, cuz there was this year 24 group that really started the shojo genre. Um , and it was, they call it that cuz the women were all born roundabout the year 1924, I suppose. But they were so pigeonholed, like they only could write in that genre and that genre was very specifically just for girls there wasn't like crossover appeal to it. And so it, it is really interesting seeing how like she sort of reflected maybe societal changes that were happening in, in the manga as well. Cuz I think that you do see that it's, it's owning the femininity and saying it's okay to like all of these girly things and to, you know, be very much a sort of the stereotypical girly girl. It doesn't make you weak, you know, it doesn't, it doesn't mean that you're less than you can still be really important and you know, be a hero in your own story essentially. And I , I think that's a, we always ask like is , uh , is a work reflecting what was happening at the time in the world. And I think for Sailor Moon, it definitely was. And then how that, that shaped girls going forward, cuz I think that's important too, you know, representation and a superhero story that's really important. Um, but yeah like you, Darlene I think, yeah. There's this strong element of nostalgia when revisiting it. I thought the manga held up pretty well. I gotta be honest. Like there's some things where I'm kind of like, oh I forgot that there was like this much of an age difference or like that's a little weirder. Cause like again, like middle schooler with a, like basically a senior in high school though, it's less weird than it is in the, the anime, which it's like, yeah, I don't think he's even in school at that point. He's just like a guy. And then like all of the stuff with Naru and Nephrite is like super disturbing the anime, but the manga held up pretty well. Um, one thing I did notice though in the edition, the Bunny edition that I had, they also had all of these sidebar where they talked to the author and like half of them were about the anime, you know, they were asking her little questions and she said like in these little sidebar that were clearly like written for like 12 year old girls, she was like, well it's men doing the anime. So they made a lot of changes basically. And it's like, yeah, they really did because then you watch the anime now and I have forgotten a lot of stuff. Um , the anime is a lot more problematic than the manga. Yeah. Because I think, you know, it does retain clearly like some of the major themes, but the male gaze in the anime, like you can't get away from it at all. And it's real disturbing at point weight, but we we'll have more to say about that. Um, how did, how did it hold up for you? <laugh>

Vilma:

Uh , right. So when it comes to Sailor Moon, I agree with you guys, the nostalgia, you know, you can't avoid it. Like , um, and like I said, for me, it was an interesting journey because I didn't even read the manga until I was in my twenties. I was introduced through it through like the movies and the merchandising and the pretty pictures that you find online, the fan art, like that's the stuff that introduced me to it. And the fan art was not necessarily reflective of the anime, more reflective of how you interpreted the anime. So it's just, it was interesting. Um, so I read it for the first time in my mid twenties and I have to say, I did not like Usagi I did not like it. I was like this cry baby. And I was just so disappointed. Like she was not the leading lady I was looking for and it was really a bit of a shock. I was like, I don't remember this < laugh > so now rereading it for this. I had to keep reminding myself to be forgiving of her because she's a child at the beginning of it. Mm- h mm < a ffirmative> and I think it's so easy to forget that cuz like, especially when she does her transformation and you get this womanly body, but it's like, this is a 14 year old girl who didn't go looking for adventure, like Ash Ketchum, you know, she's not off g allon. She was literally walking down the street and she does have protector qualities. Like she saw Luna getting beaten, beaten up in the street and she like intervened. So she's just this, you know, sweet kind of ditzy girl and she kinda gets thrown into this madness. And I , you know, I had to, when I got frustrated with her, I'd have to remind myself, how would you have reacted, Vilma at 14 when you've got creepy vampire gold monsters coming after you I'm like, I probably would've stood there and cried too. Like that's honestly that would've been my response. So yeah, the nostalgia and trying to be more understanding of her has helped me this time around. And of course, despite all its faults, we shouldn't forget the fact that this anime, this manga put these five teenage girls constantly saving the world and like through bigger and bigger threats, they got stronger and stronger. Each one of them, u m, became more mature. And I think that's a great message cuz it basically shows growth. You know, all of them, especially with Usagi they really grew. They matured and that's an important message to give to girls. You don't have to start out being the strongest or the smartest or whatever. U m, and also the fact that it talked about unity, it talked about emotions, which are usually devalued, um, in society it's like, you know, stop being so emotional, be rational, no in Sailor Moon, it's like use your emotions, use your heart. This is where your power is coming from. It's not taking away from it. So yeah, with Sailor Moon it's it has a lot of good things, like I said, but then like you guys have also said, there's a lot of stuff in it that is kind of like, uh skeevy, the, for me and Maria, we talked about this earlier, the Chibiusa stuff. That is huge thing. Her obsession with who spoiler alert is her father, you know, her romantic obsession with him was just every time I saw it, I would just cringe and get really uncomfortable. And I was like, what was the mangaka thinking by focusing so much of the story on this? Like it just, I didn't see how it added to this story. It added a weird conflict and tension between this family unit. So like I said, pioneer problematic. U m, the fact that Usagi at times had to be bullied into it. Like I think it was episode four of the anime where Luna was like, I will claw your face if you don't transform right now and fight the monster. So I was like, Jesus, Luna at the same time, I understood the frustration. And then there was the fact that at different points, it seemed like the other Scouts would've been better leaders than Usagi, but you know, Usagi had the innate power. Like she had to be their leader, but it's like, did she grow enough? Because she would constantly be immature was, you know, it's a ride, it's definitely a ride < l augh> throughout it again, when I would start getting frustrated, I'd be like, remember through all of this. I think most of it happens in that one year period mm-hmm < affirmative> and then like that last arc there in high school. So literally it was like one year where all of this stuff was happening to her. So being understanding is kind of important, keeping an open mind and never forgetting, you know, just how important she is overall. To how we view heroines today in general.

Darlene:

It's interesting you say that about Chibiusa, because for the longest time I thought the same. Side note, like I kind of wanted us to do like a TikTok of like where the sailor Scouts would go, like what branch they would go to <laugh> and so I was like, I was like, well , um, I, I would have to say that Chibiusa would be at Beltsville. We do have that little mural with the white horse. Oh. Um , and I was like you know, I'm not biased cuz I actually do not like Chibiusa I would not like her within, like 10 feet of me. U m, but I was like rereading the manga and I was like, I don't, I don't know if this is giving Takeuchi like too much credit, but it almost felt like Freudian in a way, like, because she's 900 years old. And I don't think I picked up on that like several times, like for a while. And then I was like, well, why did she stay such a, like, why did she stay so childlike? And I think it's obviously cuz she was coddled and she grew up in a time of like immense peace and yeah. Like, and she was lonely as well. Like I , I think they thought that because she had everything, she didn't really need like friends, you know, cuz there was no enemies, there was nothing like bad going on in her life. And so I think I just gained more appreciation for that black lady arc in a`[] way that I didn't have before. Like I used to really hate that arc actually. Yeah. Yeah. But the evil person in that arc was promising her, u m, like to actually find grow up and the way that they explored that and like the evil side of that was in maturing as well. And kind of going into her sensuality was that she also still had this obsession with her dad. Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, I mean I think it's just, c uz there's nothing there's no love or anything else that she's ever known m m-hmm < affirmative> and so she's never been able to like grow or experience anything and mature in any significant way. You're right. It's just, it's a very like stunted development. Yeah. It's like she got stuck. Yeah. And I think she resents them a little bit for it and then feels a little guilty that she resents them for it. So think that's also why she kind of can be antagonistic towards uh, Usagi a lot of the times.

Maria:

Yeah. I mean, and there's also the, what happened with Neo-Queen Serenity. I mean, when she was like in that deep sleep, I mean we see, we wonder if this disillusion, when she meets Usagi versus like her mother who's known as like almost like a savior in crystal Tokyo, and then she comes across this person, who's her mom, but is a brat. So it's just like, well you're a brat. So I get to, I get to be the per- the, the good one. And I get to be the one who should one day end up with Mamoru, my dad, which is just still, but like, I mean just, I guess go along with this . I mean, can we just talk about how many non-consensual kisses there were in the manga <laugh> it was just, I mean from like, like the black moon arc with , um, Prince Demande and then Haruka who's a Sailor Uranus and then even like the Sailor Stars arc as well. I mean she's mostly just like either caught off guard or she's just having some emotional breakdown then just randomly gets kissed.

Heather:

Yeah. There's consent issues like from the jump.

:

Yeah. Yeah.

Heather:

And sailor moon, like I , uh < l augh> yeah. It's tough. And as an adult interrogating that, how much does that compromise? The whole like kick girl power, like, oh, we're out here. We are, you know, owning our power. Okay. But at the same time we've embedded all of these messages that are kind of concerning, like they are not the things you would want to have like a young girl internalize, like at all. I think we, we talk about like how does something ha- handle, u h, you know, difficult issues and is it something that like over the course of time, would we. still recommend it to somebody? And, and this one, I feel like, yeah, I would still recommend it because I feel like there is something very like, you know, universally appealing to girls, especially about sailor moon. But I do feel like I would want to have a discussion about some of this stuff that's in there that like, I definitely did not have a discussion about when, when I was experiencing it, but in some of it, I just forgot about, you know, like it didn't even register to me as problematic when I was younger and now it's just, okay, wow. That's not great.

Darlene:

Yeah. Yeah. And that exists from her lens too. Like you would expect that, I guess in the anime, but like, it actually comes from her manga as well. And I, I wonder how much of it is just like how she grew up in her experiences and like it's almost like wanted attention. Um, in, at the time, I don't know, like it presented in a way where it's almost like a positive, like people are just naturally drawn to her and like her light and her , um, and just how loving she is. But yeah. I don't think it ever well explores anything.

Heather:

Well, it's there with other characters too, like Maria's saying like, it's not like it's just limited, to Sailor Moon either. Because like, even from a very beginning in the manga, you know, Naru the whole thing with yeah. Oh like that, that to me was very, cuz again, you're like, wait, they're in middle school, like she's 14 and this is being presented as totally. Okay. Like the problem is like, well, a bad guy, it's not like, he's really an adult. He's old. He's, you know, a predator. It's just like, well, no he's evil, but that seems completely disconnected. And then his sort of like, he has like a redemption arc basically. Yeah. Like they give him a redemption arc. So it's like presented as, I don't know, that was concerning to me cuz that's like, there's nothing with Naru at the beginning. She's the normal person. Right. She's the one that any of us could be cuz she doesn't have any superpower. She's just, she's just a neat girl, you know? And she's a good friend and she's there, it's a little concerning that like her love story. It's just so fundamentally flawed. Like just the very basis of it is this 14 year old girl's purity and love redeemed, this evil person to the point that their love is beautiful. And it's like, no, it's not. Cause yeah, he's old and also still like evil, but like it, oh yeah, no that one and the anime is like way, way bad on that one. Cuz like I had forgotten the part like where he gets like hit with the, the thorns, you know,

:

m m-hmm < affirmative>. mm -hmm <affirmative>.

Heather:

and they, she is like full on ripping her shirt off to bandage him and it's like, oh no. Like he just like veered into like another like genre of this is not appropriate. And yeah, it, it was wild and there are issues here with consent from the beginning. And I did, I even went and looked up like age of consent in Japan. Cause I'm thinking like maybe this is a cultural thing where the age of consent is 14 or something and that's just very different from here, but it's not. Yeah.

Maria:

I mean, I think I'm gonna take it back a little bit, but I think similar to what we discussed in the Felicity episode of American girl, I mean, there's that whole like romanticizing a relationship with someone older than you. And I mean most many of, I mean, I, I was about 13, I think when Sailor Stars came out and I was like watching it at five in the morning and I was just like, I mean, yeah, it's the appeal is there. But like now like reading, it is just like what is going on?

Heather:

Yes. When you're a child, when you're 12 or 13, you might be crushing on someone that is way out of age range for you, like in a boy band or you know, an actor or something. And it would be completely illegal if it were to ever to happen. But is that because we've been damaged by media telling us like, no, this is cool. Like this is fine. I mean, I don't know. I guess I'm sort of like torn between like how much of this stuff is like a natural impulse.

:

mm -hmm <affirmative>.

Heather:

of a girl that age versus how much of it is a. n impulse, because we've had media sort of program us to think like that's what you should be wanting when you're that age, which is kind of scary.

:

Yeah. Yeah.

Vilma:

And I mean, a lot of that is all the fact that an 11 year old girl does not understand what a relationship with an adult man is actually gonna entail the fact that as a child, like we didn't see what was wrong with it. Cuz all we saw was, you know, oh, a hot character who was becoming good for her and maybe they were gonna hold hands and oh they might kiss. But I don't even think we fully processed that far.

Heather:

They couldn't go get their chocolate parfaits, goodness

Vilma:

...dates and he'll buy her presents and it'll be so sweet. But like there are aspects to a relationship that, you know, a child and an adult cannot have for legal reasons, moral reasons. Just, it's definitely the consent issues in Sailor, Moon throughout. And not even just with the female characters. When you think about it, mm-hmm <affirmative> Memoru l gets like knocked out and then has random evil women like kissing him. His own daughter was one of them and it's kind of like, that's actually really skeevy too.

:

M m-hmm < affirmative>.

Vilma:

Because he's being kissed by all these people when he's unconscious, but he clearly doesn't want it. It was just, non-consent all over the place. And that's definitely one of the more problematic things I think about Sailor Moon. Like even when Usagi stays over at Mamoru's apartment, like there's no one there it's just them . Like what? So what's been happening, do the parents now. It's yeah. It all over the place.

Heather:

Well, I mean that too, like < laugh > the adults in Sailor Moon are just < laugh > they're either nonexistent or they're just like the worst. So I mean, I don't know. They're they're so checked out that it's like,

Darlene:

Yeah, there was a throwaway line in one where it's like, oh, I'll just tell my mom I'm sleeping over. I'm like what mom is gonna be okay with that. And then they make a joke out of it where Mamoru is like, it's like, oh they'll lose trust in me. And I'm like, why haven't they lost it already

Vilma:

That wasn't the first time.

:

Yeah.

Heather:

Like one of the girls just lives by herself.

Darlene:

Oh yeah.

Vilma:

Leda, her parents died. Um

Heather:

And it's like what?

Maria:

It's a, a very common trope too in a lot of the manga .

:

mm - hmm < affirmative > ,

Maria:

it's, they're always by themselves and it's just like, is this just more space for them to just, I don't know, get independent or just like grow.

Heather:

Yeah. Like the adults would just get in the way of development of the character or the plot. So they're just kind of conveniently shunted off to the side. Um, one other thing I wanted to talk about with , uh , how it holds up is on the issue of body image.

Maria:

Mm oh.

Heather:

So I mean obviously in the anime, it's a lot more extreme than in the manga. Just everything. I mean, how, how the transformations are depicted, how long they linger on the transformations, like just general male gaze issues and sort of the ideals that are sort of promoted. But one thing that I thought was really interesting is that Sailor Moon, at times they do touch on some issues like that. Like they will be critical of that very issue. But then at the same time, it seems to be promoting the opposite thing. So like Usagi's diet comes up a lot. Like they talk about like, oh no Usagi, you're eating too much. Like you're gonna get fat. Like don't do that. And then like everybody's obsessed with exercising and things like that, but they seem to be criticizing that everybody is doing that, like that they're concentrating too much on that. They're too like obsessed with the exercise and left them open to be exploited by, I don't know it was Jadeite at that point or whoever, but like one of the bad guys to like get their energy and stuff. But then, you know, the end of the episode is basically like no Usagi, you're eating too much again. So like, it seems to like go back on, like you think they're trying to make a point about this. Like, all right, they're, they're being critical of this thing. This is what this story is meant to be. The take home is like, don't be so obsessed with your image. Don't be so obsessed with this. But then repeatedly they go back to like reinforcing this idea that like, you need to be thin, you need to be curvy. So like all of the like costumes, essentially that like Usagi will put herself into like, oh, in this situation, I need to look like the beautiful princess. I need to look like the flight attendant. Like those types of things, the way that that's drawn is very sexualized. It is very like, she's very curvy. She's very skinny. She's, you know, a, a very westernized mm-hmm <affirmative> , uh , appearance of beauty. She has these huge eyes, she's blonde. Um, so I don't know. I wanted to bring up at least the body image issues, because that is something that I don't, I don't feel like registered for me at all, again, as a younger reader and watcher, but as an adult, they were jumping out at me a lot more. It's like, that's maybe not great. < laugh > you know, like, I wonder, wonder how, how you'd be experiencing this as a kid. Like yeah.

Darlene:

I feel like the contradictions in the anime could maybe be explained by just them wanting a very general audience. And it's like, this is the, like, this is what we should say because teen, you know, we want this to be like an educational show for like teen girls. But then this is what we wanna say because this show also should appeal to boys or ideally it should , um, because we want as big of an audience as possible. So I don't know if that sometimes affects like what message they would

Heather:

An interesting theory. Like they're trying to be everything to everybody,

Darlene:

You know? Yeah. Because I feel like it wasn't just the body positivity one. It was also like, there was definitely some ne aging mm-hmm <affirmative> and like, it was almost like, they wanted to say like, you know, you should age, like naturally, but then they still like worry about it all the time. And then there are elements of the story. That's like, well, they don't actually age. They like stop age or Usagi will stop aging at 22. And then she'll like live for thou- like hundreds, thousands of years. And she'll still look the way that she does. And so that's, there are conflicting messages about yeah. A lot of things actually.

Vilma:

Yeah. It's definitely. And I mean, you see this in society too, like actresses and models are criticized for getting Botox for having surgery. Like she's had two kids. What do you expect her, you know, breasts to look like after feeding two babies? Like, but then at the same time, if she said like, who was it? I think it was Lucy Liu decided to use a surrogate when she wanted a child and she was criticized for that. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so like, women are not supposed to do things to help themselves. They're supposed to age naturally, but if they don't age beautifully, then obviously they did something wrong. Like why didn't they do something to help themselves like obvi - it's just, it drives me crazy.

Maria:

Vilma and I were mentioning it earlier today that like colorism, I mean, in Japan, like the notion of beauty is typically light skinned or like, I mean, Usagi, she's the epitome of that beauty that grace she's the blonde, like you said, had their big, beautiful round eyes. And like, and what we see is that we were, as we read, I mean, Pluto had actually darker toned skin in the manga and in the nineties revisiting the nineties, anime has her that way. And I think it's, Kunzite one of the other, u m , v illains also was a darker tone, but in Crystal, Pluto is light-skinned. So we thought that was definitely like an i nteresting kind of change to it. I mean. yeah. In the nineties, was it more progressive versus now like

Darlene:

I mean, that's strange that they would go backwards on that. Um, because you would think that whenever they rerelease a show.

:

y eah.

Darlene:

Or they explore a show again, they, they try actually very actively to be more progressive of then it's original. But in this case that wasn't it.

Heather:

Yeah. That is interesting because they did make some changes, at least with the anime rerelease.

:

Yeah.

Heather:

To undo some of the like regressive censorship that was done on the American version. M m-hmm < affirmative> so like, especially like around LGBTQ issues, the version that was initially released in north America, like really drastically altered a pretty core relationship < laugh> y eah. To make it more palatable, I guess, for Americans and Canadians, but then when they rereleased, this media took that kind of stuff out, they added vaccines that had not been in the initial release here and, and they made it track more closely with the storyline that it was meant to have, but that's very strange on the colorism issue that they would lighten characters in the most recent.

Maria:

yeah.

Vilma:

Few steps, unfortunately.

Darlene:

And I mean, thinking back to that, to the nineties anime and the , uh , LGBTQ representtion is. actually funny, cuz I , I feel like as a kid you picked up on it, like you thought that was weird, right?

:

Yeah. Mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Darlene:

I can't remember what grade I would've been in maybe fourth, but even I was like, O, I feel like they're closer than cousins, but like, I don't know why I had that feeling at that time, but it's because you know, visually they were written that way. And you could just tell that they just did a lot to try to change that dynamic and it just didn't work. yeah

Maria:

I mean the gazes, they would give each other, sorry to interrupt. I mean, you could see it when they, when I think the names they were giving here in the states was Amara and Michelle.

:

mm -hmm <affirmative> ,

Maria:

but they were like, they would give each other, these looks and it's just like, they don't look at each other like cousins.

Darlene:

It was really weird the way that they tried to change it for like US media. And it was weird cuz it was already very educational to begin with mm-hmm <affirmative> because like we said, they did try to be educational about certain topics and have certain messages, but then they felt like they needed to go further. And then they had that whole Sailor Moon says segment for a bit in the American release, but yeah. Um, Sailor Moon has gone through a lot <laugh> yeah,

Maria:

But I mean we never even got to see Sailor Stars air. Yeah. Because of it. I mean we had gender bending Scouts coming in from the different solar system and it's just like, we never got to see that and it would've been such a great thing to show. I mean, even now, hopefully it'll still come out, but there's still no, no news. Whether that's even gonna happen

Vilma:

Also for the LGBTQ plus representation, there are questions about Usagi's sexuality. So she, and Mamoru have the whole star crossed lovers who've been in love for a thousand years and they'll be in love for 2000 more or whatever. But there are hints that she's not necessarily straight, like the first thing that hit me and it's probably cause it was like the third chapter in the manga was that the first time she sees Ray, she gets like heart eyes. And she's so struck by her that she like follows her off the bus, which by the way is really creepy. If a grown man had done that to a teenage girl, we would not be like, oh haha, that's funny. Now we'd be like, somebody call the police. Now Maria was telling me about other things that she had caught. Like I did not catch the one with Jupiter. I think, see I

Heather:

Was gonna ask wasn't there something with Jupiter. But I remember thinking that there was, there was a spark there too. Yeah. Not just that like, oh Usagi loves to eat and Jupiter is a good cook. Like there was more to it than not. Um , yeah. That's interesting cuz yeah, I think there's a little bit of like tension there as well.

Darlene:

I was gonna say, I wouldn't wanna take away from that representation or that reading, but just add to, at that, I feel like in a lot of Asian media and literature, I often see, I feel like I see it more like women admiring to the point of being like embarrassed or like nervous about another woman's beauty mm-hmm <affirmative> um , so I don't know if there's also just like a cultural element as well, but again, I would never take going from the reading that there's a fluidity there as well. I've definitely

Vilma:

Seen that. Yeah. And especially when the character that everybody's infatuated exhibits, traditionally masculine characteristics, usually it's a teenage girl, usually in high school, she's got a fan club like as like the popular prince character does. And it's always like, okay, I mean a girl can be tall and like, and this doesn't necessarily mean that you should immediately objectify her to be your prince. I don't know. Anime is weird. < laugh > there are certain things that you're just like

Darlene:

Yeah, they do that to Haruka a lot

Vilma:

Yeah. Mm-hmm <affirmative> oh Yeah. A lot of them are like obsessed with Haruka pretty quickly. Although I did with Haruka, it was always interesting cuz I mean, you talked about the plot holds and the fact that she left a lot kind of open to interpretation mm-hmm <affirmative> with Haruka we never really got any real confirmation on anything. It was like when we were first introduced to Haruka, it was, he pronouns like a male, like we thought it was a male and then we realized, no, they are, you know, female. They use she when they were wearing the scout uniform. And I think it was Neptune that kind of threw in , uh , they are neither female nor male. So that finally brought in, you know, non-binary but it was never really fully addressed. And then it was just kind of like we're gonna move on now.

Heather:

Yeah. I mean I think so for the time that was still very open-minded and progressive. Like I , I feel like that was a pretty bold choice to make for the time, you know, now I guess it's kind of like, well I wish she would've done more with that. Like that could have been interesting to explore That more.

Darlene:

It also could be that she didn't know like the language to kind of carry that further because I feel like people have asked her they're like, okay, well what is she? And then she's like, no, well she's, she's a woman because like sailor, soldiers are only, women, are only girls. And so I think now she's kind of come more like hard on that issue where she's explicitly said that Haruka is a girl, but I feel like maybe she probably could have wanted to explore that, but maybe just didn't really have the language to do so. Yeah.

Vilma:

And a big part of that I think is that the Japanese language doesn't really do gendered pronouns.

:

mm -hmm <affirmative>. so it's very easy to kind of not have to ascribe. He and she, whereas, you know, English, everything has a feminine or a masculine tint to it. So I don't think that helped her in being able to translate it the way she would've wanted.

Heather:

So the Sailor Moon universe is just too big to hold in one episode and we'll be returning to this conversation in part two. In the meantime, please check out our blog linked in the episode notes as always feel free to drop us a tweet. We're @pgcmls on Twitter and #TheseBooksMadeMe with suggestions for books in manga you'd like t o see us cover in the future.

Intro
What is Sailor Moon?
What did Sailor Moon mean to us?
Magical girl trope
Sailor Moon in the context of other superheroine media
Cultural Corner
Names and their meaning and cultural resonance
How did it hold up?
LGBTQ+ representation
Reluctant teen girl heroines
Consent issues & problematic relationships
Where are the parents?
Body image and beauty standards
LGBTQ+ representation
Outro