Senshi, Shitennou, and the “Miracle Romance”

sailor moon, usagi tsukino, sailor moon crystal, princess serenity, the sailor scouts cut usagi's hair, luna, artemis, rei hino, ami mizuno, minko aino, makoto kino

The sung benediction of “Miracle ro-ma-n-ce,” in Sailor Moon‘s opening, “Moonlight Densetsu” never resonated with me in spite of its inherent catchiness. For me, Sailor Moon was never about romance. Instead, it was about kicking butt – figuratively, in the case of Ami Mizuno, or quite literally, in the case of Makoto Kino – and looking amazing while doing so. Additionally, was the message that even I could find friends who would like me for who I was, as trite as that sounds. I may not have resonated with Usagi Tsukino, but I desperately wished for a friend like her.

Usagi Tsukino, in all of her iterations, remained a kind-hearted girl whose attitude and willingness to befriend others led to those others naturally flocking to her. We are are relatively unaware of what her past life as Princess Serenity was like, and only use her previous status as a reason for why such strife continues to follow Usagi in her present. Usagi’s future is used similarly, as a tool to affect her present-day narrative. Ami Mizuno, Rei Hino, and Makoto Kino all pledge their loyalty to the Usagi of the present, not Princess Serenity. The revelation of Usagi’s past identity as the princess of the moon further inspires the inner sailor scouts’ devotion to Usagi, rather than causing it.

My discovery of Sailor Moon happily coincided with my parents’ acquisition of a new computer. Naturally, my Sailor Moon affinity, innate curiosity, and new-found internet access led me into the depths of the Sailor Moon fandom. In addition to learning the basics – what yaoi and yuri were – I was also introduced to the term shitennou (four heavenly kings) as a name for the four generals that served Mamoru Chiba’s past self, Prince Endymion.

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Mamoru Chiba’s relationship with Usagi is an interesting case. The “miracle romance” of the opening song, the development of Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship in the Sailor Moon present varies from manga, to the original television series, to the newest series in the Sailor Moon franchise, Sailor Moon Crystal. However, what I always loved about Mamoru and Usagi’s relationship is the way that she inevitably enables him to open up to other people. Mamoru’s present is nebulous, with the majority of his memories missing and mixed up with memories of the Silver Millennium and his previous self. Usagi’s prying, along with her uncanny ability to genuinely care about others’ welfare regardless of circumstance, makes it possible for Mamoru to move forward in his present and go about having a future. Additionally, Usagi is always grounded very much in her own present, making her an anchor for Mamoru.

“You’re right. You aren’t the princess. You don’t need to walk the same path as her.”

-Rei Hino/Sailor Mars, Sailor Moon Crystal, episode 9

Episode nine of Sailor Moon Crystal reveals Usagi’s past identity to her inner circle of sailor scouts. Later on in the episode, Usagi wakes up to find that her hair has grown in response to the flood of memories. Awkward in her own body, her friends console her in a wonderful little bedroom scene reminiscent of junior high school sleepovers. They cut her hair, fret over her appearance, and assure Usagi that she is a stronger person than she gives herself credit for. I loved this scene as it, along with Rei’s words quoted above, reiterated the tried and true message that it’s Usagi’s life and actions in the present that matter most, particularly to those around her.

shitennou, sailor moon crystal shitennou, four heavenly kings, kunzite, malphite, zoisite, zoicite, nephrite, nephlite, jadeite, four bodyguards of prince endymion

However, the wrench that Sailor Moon Crystal has thrown into this message is in the continued existence of the aforementioned shitennou. As an adaptation without the stylings of Kunihiko Ikuhara, Junichi Sato, and Tatsuya Igarashi, along with countless others, this most recent iteration of Sailor Moon has been somewhat soulless for me, especially in its visual direction. Sailor Moon Crystal is arguably a closer adaptation of the Naoko Takeuchi manga with one notable exception: the shitennou do not die at their appointed times.

In the original 1992 television series, the four shitennou – Kunzite, Zoisite, Nephrite, and Jadeite – also stick around longer than their manga counterparts. In that version of Sailor Moon, they also are shown to lead lives separate from their past selves. For example, Nephrite has a heart-wrenching relationship with Usagi’s close friend, Naru Osaka, which delves into the guilt that he feels for his current, and previous, actions. Again, there is a focus on being a different person in the present, without remaining chained to transgressions from a previous life.

While the role that the shitennou will play in Sailor Moon Crystal remains to be seen, their continued existence smacks of a desire to neatly pair them up with their Silver Millennium romantic partners: Ami with Zoisite, Rei with Jadeite, Makoto with Nephrite, and Minako with Kunzite. This rings falsely to me because of Sailor Moon‘s past and continued assertion that it’s not who you or your family was in the past, but your actions in the present that matter. Mamoru and Usagi’s relationship is a miracle romance for many other reasons aside from their previous lives as Prince Endymion and Princess Serenity respectively. I would hate to lose that importance on who we are in the present, and how we affect those around us on a day to day basis.

2 comments

  1. The rumblings I’ve been hearing is what you exactly said. Sailor Moon crystal is more serious and follows the manga closely. What made the old version of Sailor moon was, it had charm – despite its flaws.

  2. It always bothered me, to be honest, that while Usagi got to meet up with her friends again in her current life, Mamoru was left high and dry in that regard. At the same time, I recoil from the possibility of romance between the Inner Senshi and the Shittenou – in particular, I feel troubled at the prospect of Rei ending up in a romance since her established character in the manga was of a person who specifically *wasn’t* interested in it. I also, quite frankly, liked that Kunzite and Zoisite were romantically involved in the original anime, so… *throws hands up* Well, for whatever all that is worth!

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