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.
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.
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.
In junior high school, I fell seriously ill. Confined to the house, with occasional field trips to the doctor’s office or hospital, I developed an odd schedule due to fevers and medication. I missed approximately two months of school – spread out over the course of three months – and managed to keep up with my work at home. Piles of books grew beside my bed and underneath my pillow, accompanied by watercolors, crayons, and pencils that gradually scattered themselves on the carpet.
When I wasn’t bound to my bed, I wandered the house like a ghost. Sleep was fitful, and one morning I found myself watching television around 4 a.m. when I stumbled upon the English dub of Sailor Moon.
“I have so many things to do today! Go home early, eat snacks, and finish the rest of my game.”
-Usagi Tsukino, Sailor Moon
Such is the busy, active life of a reincarnated Moon Princess whose after school time is also dedicated to fighting monsters that are trying to take over Earth.
Sailor Moon was a formative anime experience for me, and one that provided an easy escapist fantasy. Usagi Tsukino was a average junior-high girl, just as I was an average junior-high girl. Her problems of having to study for exams while wanting to relax with her friends or search for that perfect romance were also my ordinary teenage girl problems. After watching the first two series, I searched online and discovered the rest of the Sailor Moon universe. I begged my parents to drive me to the closest bookstore chain to pick up the manga, which I would devour on the car ride home. I wished for something magical and tragic to happen to me, in order to selfishly prove how wonderful I was. I wanted to be Hotaru Tomoe.
However, when I think back to the things I actually valued in high school – warming up before cross country practice, passing notes in English class, pigging out on pizza and taking turns playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for my 16th birthday – they were all very ordinary moments with friends. If I had somehow acquired Hotaru’s power to destroy the world, I unwittingly would have used it to protect those whom I cared for: my family, my friends, and my much-maligned ordinary life.