usagi tsukino

[Ten] To my younger self, in defense of Rei Hino — Sailor Moon

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.

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A Return to Sailor Moon Crystal

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Near and dear to my heart, the Sailor Moon franchise is something that means a lot to me personally. I know I’m not alone in this, and my story isn’t particularly special. Sailor Moon resonates with an enormous amount of people, making it one of the most well-known anime franchises both in Japan and the west.

Upon watching the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal back in July 2014, I was ecstatic. While there were recognizable problems — primarily with the translation of Naoko Takeuchi’s character designs from the manga into animation — I overlooked them. Sailor Moon was back, with a promise to follow the manga more closely than its first anime iteration. My initial reaction was one fueled by nostalgia and emotional resonance.

As the weeks passed, poorly animated scenes, weak cinematography, and a general sense of laziness permeated Sailor Moon Crystal‘s presentation. Their schedule of one episode every two weeks made such glaring visual mistakes unforgivable in the eyes of the community. For me personally, Sailor Moon Crystal just made me sad to see a property that I cared about so much fail so miserably in creating any sort of resonance with me beyond my initial, rose-colored nostalgia glasses. After sticking with the first season for longer than I probably should have, I dropped the series.

It wasn’t fun. Sailor Moon Crystal was bad.

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Madoka, Madoka, Madoka, and Me

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When Puella Magi Madoka Magica initially aired in 2011, watching it was an experience. Following up on my experience with Star Driver, Madoka was the second water cooler series that I participated in, eagerly vomiting my thoughts into the ether, and chatting with various people on Twitter about the show. When the final two episodes were released, I was one of the eager fans continuously refreshing their browser while waiting for translations. Watching the finale as soon as I possibly could following the fansubbed releases, I jumped into the fray that was unpacking the entire series with vigor.

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Senshi, Shitennou, and the “Miracle Romance”

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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.

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