There will always be someone better than you.
Before ubiquitous personality tests sorted people into houses belonging to a certain British magical boarding school, there was still anime. Sailor Moon used established, color-coded sentai archetypes and applied them to its five heroines of the first season as shortcuts for their personalities, or even slight variations on the established sentai status quo.
Like any Sailor Moon fan growing up in the early 2000s, I wanted to be like the sailor soldiers, but I wasn’t an Usagi. If anything, I was probably an Ami, stashing books under my pillow at night, keeping my nightlight on because I was “afraid of the dark” and waiting until the final light was flicked off out in the hallway to read books when I was supposed to be sleeping. In my dreary days stuck at home with pneumonia, I wished to be Hotaru, with the dark power of ending the world in my chuunibyou hands.
Usagi, despite her many flaws, was someone who I wanted to be — kind, gregarious, and with a natural ability to make friends. I valued Usagi’s personality more with each passing episode, until impassioned words from those closest to her brought the true value of her love for others into sharper focus, something I could then express into words. Even if I didn’t know how to make friends or keep friends myself, here was a roadmap of how it should look like, what caring for a friend, especially other young women, could look like.
Ami, I identified with. Usagi was a goal. Makoto — Lita, since I was on a strict diet of the English dub until I was allowed freer reign on the internet — was cool, someone who I wanted to be with, if I was being completely honest with myself at the time (I wasn’t). Minako, or Mina, was someone I admired. I ignored Rei, thinking at times that she was too perfect and overly mean to Usagi for no reason.
Now rewatching the entire first season of Sailor Moon for the first time, Rei Hino/Sailor Mars is now one of my favorite characters in the entire franchise.
Within my first month of high school, I carried an armful of drop cloths down a narrow flight of stairs, deep into the heart of the old building, a place that few students knew existed. The door opened, pushed with a considerable amount of force by one of the upperclassmen. He loomed over us in the doorway, made slightly menacing by the grey lighting, somehow dull while still making us wince and cover our eyes. Dust rose and fell in small clouds at my feet as I walked, kept low by the autumn humidity. Beside me, the few other freshmen tasked with carting props and supplies back and forth from the auditorium shivered from a chill in the air.
The old building was connected to two newer buildings by narrow hallways that never seemed to quite fit in with the existing decor. My history class in that same building had Cold War blackout curtains. As we shuffled forward, stepping around a variety of odd furniture, textile piles, a candelabra, and a painted carriage, two of my classmates began to snicker, pointing at a hole in the insulation next to a sign that read, “Danger! Asbestos.”
This was a Cold War bomb shelter. It also was the drama club prop and set storage room.
Whenever I visit my parents’ house, I tend to travel along the same paths that I did when I lived there as a teenager and twenty-something. I grab a bagel at Bagel World, a breakfast staple that I cannot find in Los Angeles. I sit on the old heating grate as the air rises up to keep warm until pins and needles shoot up from my ankles, forcing me to shift my weight into a different position. I watch softly falling snow from the same vantage point — the window of my old room that faces the streetlamp. The curtains are now an odd purple color and the bed is a full-size, meant for guests instead of one young woman.
I don’t think I’m trying to relive the past, but in traveling these same paths, how much has changed in my life is brought into sharper focus. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder when I won’t feel like my parents’ child in their house.
When will I feel like an adult?
Minato Narumiya’s initial introduction is as a wide-eyed child at a kyuudou (the Japanese martial art of archery) event. He asks his mother about the sound that a bowstring makes when an arrow is released. After she answers, the series focuses on his back, turned towards the kyuudou tournament. It then cuts immediately to the broader back of an older Narumiya, rising to take his position in a kyuudou event. He solemnly goes through a series of motions before drawing his bow. Cut to the title screen. The visual transition seems clear. Narumiya, inspired by watching kyuudou with his mother when he was much younger, grew up to become a formidable archer himself.
Yet it was at this very event where Narumiya first failed. After he draws back that bowstring, he misses the target. Since that day, he has continued to suffer from target panic. When we meet him at the start of Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu he hasn’t left kyuudou entirely, but is instead torn between leaving entirely due to his target anxiety, and inevitably being drawn back to the art of kyuudou. This opening visual sequence sets up Narumiya’s plight perfectly, slightly subverting expectations while also making his emotional connection clear and strong.