Why Is Sailor Moon Talking About Safe Sex?

Sailor Moon STI Condom (Front)

Sailor Moon STI Condom (Front)

While I’ve certainly written more than my fair share of off-color topics in the past, from what the Sailor Soldiers wear under their skirts to their mathematically-derived bust sizes, I never thought I’d actually be writing about an authorized Sailor Moon… condom, with Ms. Takeuchi’s seal of approval. While this isn’t the type of trivia I usually discuss, this seemed worthy of a further look and something I thought would be fun to share with fans in the west. So, what’s all this about?

It's all a part of nature, Ami!

It’s all a part of nature, Ami!

On November 21, 2016, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) made a press release1 announcing its joint collaboration with Ms. Takeuchi to make a Sailor Moon-branded poster and leaflet to educate young women on preventing sexually transmitted diseases/infections (STD and STI)2 and on the necessity for early detection and treatment. The catch phrase for the project is:

「検査しないと おしおきよ!!」
If you don’t get checked, I will punish you!!

An obvious play on Sailor Moon’s famous catch phrase from the anime and manga.

Since Japanese schools rarely have a proper “sex ed” component to their educational programs,3 a great many young men and women in Japan are ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of safe sex — a problem which is exasperated by people getting married later and later and, in turn, having more partners.

Yes, girls, it really IS that bad...

Yes, girls, it really IS that bad…

Without getting too gruesome, the MHLW notes that rates of syphilis have gone from 621 reported cases in 2010 to 2,697 in 2015 — a growth of over 4x in just five years. They believe that one of the causes for this is a lack of general understanding and knowledge of proper use of condoms (more on that later!).

In order to help turn this around, the MHLW reached out to Ms. Takeuchi to make a plan to make use of the Sailor Moon series (which has a wide-reaching fan base) to educate women on practicing safe sex, on the prevention of STIs, and the importance of getting checked.

The materials being produced in this campaign are: a poster / leaflet and a heart-shaped package with a condom.

Sailor Moon STI Pamphlet

Sailor Moon STI Pamphlet

According to Japanese news sites, this is an all-knew illustration done by Ms. Takeuchi herself just for this program. While I’m not an expert, this does seem to be new to me, so it could very well be!

On the front of the pamphlet is an appeal to get checked early and emphasizing the importance of treatment. It also includes materials on where to find clinics to get checked and has some basic information on safe sex practices.

The back contains information on recent trends in syphilis, herpes, other STIs, and HIV/AIDS. I’m trying to be as mature here as I possibly can, but I will say that a part of me finds it incredibly difficult to keep a straight face when confronted with a picture of Sailor Moon right above a line about the risks of oral pleasure.

Let’s not stop and think about how old the Sailor Moon cast is.

Sailor Moon STI Condom

Sailor Moon STI Condom

Here we have the heart-shaped condom packet, of which 60,000 were produced to be handed out by local governments. While some sites have said they’ll be given out at the Coming of Age day ceremonies on January 9, 2017,4 it’s not clear where or how these will be distributed.

As with the pamphlet itself, it urges the reader to get checked out early and often and provides a link to clinics, in addition to explaining what STIs are. Above the included condom is the phrase “Let’s Prevent!”

The MHLW announcing the new BSSM STI program

The MHLW announcing the new BSSM STI program

According to the Asahi Shimbun,5 Ms. Takeuchi had this to say:

I hope that fans and otherwise will understand Sailor Moon’s message and that many more people can carry on with healthy lives through getting checked.

And there you have it! If you’re like me, this may leave you with more questions than answers, but I was definitely interested to see this very obvious acknowledgement that Sailor Moon has grown up, as a series, along with its original generation of fans.

Jokes aside — and, I assure you, Japanese twitter and elsewhere is full of them — I think this is a wonderful step in the right direction in a generally conservative country, especially when it comes to the concept of women and sex. I’m glad to see Ms. Takeuchi fully on board, too.

Do you think we’ll start seeing other programs like this? I wonder what other series will start being used to reach out to adults…


References:

17 comments

  • Actually, both pictures were drawn by Naoko in 2003 for the shinsoban release of the manga – check the following link:
    https://missdream.org/raw-sailor-moon-downloads/japanese-sailor-moon-manga-shinsobon-edition/sailor-moon-manga-shinsouban-volume-1/

    …Quoting from you: “The back contains information on recent trends in syphilis, herpes, other STIs, and HIV/AIDS. I’m trying to be as mature here as I possibly can, but I will say that a part of me finds it incredibly difficult to keep a straight face when confronted with a picture of Sailor Moon right above a line about the risks of oral pleasure. Let’s not stop and think about how old the Sailor Moon cast is.” Am I reading way too far or does this really mean that you think Usaghi and Mamoru’s relationship is not physical? Because it is heavily implied that they’re regularly making love, at least starting from Act 19, which means that she lost her virginity at 15 (Mamoru’s 18th birthday being due in a couple of days). And let’s not forget that Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion’s relationship was intimate, too – evidence is in Act 13. I am making all this fuss about it both because I am a nerd fangirl whose OTP is UsaMamo and because I think that this theme is just soooo important for feminism, and the SM manga is a perfect example of that (man, just compare it with the old anime!)… if I am not too crazy and what I mean is understandable. Well, I guess that’s about all.

    PS: Do you mean that you have a thing such as sexual education classes in the US? :O
    PPS: Sorry for any grammar mistake, please feel completely free to point at them.

    • Ah, you’re absolutely right! Honestly, I haven’t really seen any (many?) new illustrations from Ms. Takeuchi in a long time, so it seemed pretty strange that she would suddenly draw something new just for this. Thanks for the link!

      There’s a lot of argument between fans as to whether or not Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship was intimate. While there is one line in the manga in which Usagi assures her other that her and Mamoru have a “pure” relationship (implying that there’s nothing sexual between the two of them), I don’t think that’s compelling enough evidence to say that there isn’t anything going on between the two of them. After all, what teenage girl openly tells her mother that she’s going to her boyfriend’s house TO be intimate?

      I mean to write an article about this eventually, but I still need to get together a few manga quotes. Hopefully I can get around to it soon!

      As for sexual education, there definitely is in the US. I went to a private (Catholic) school, and even there we had proper sexual education classes on the importance of safe sex, etc. I think it’s unfortunate that they don’t talk about these things in Japan.

      • You’re welcome! Naoko did in fact draw a whole lot of illustrations especially for the shinsoban release, many more than what she did three years ago for the kanzenban release (at least judging from what I’ve seen on the Internet, since this last edition is probably going to be published next year here in Italy). The years 2003-2004 were full of new gorgeous art by her, then she stopped for many years: in the period between 2004 and 2013 the only new drawings she made are those present in some Sera Myu pamphlets and as banners for the Sailor Moon official site – if you don’t know what arts I am talking about, feel free to ask, I have spent sooo many hours exploring the Internet for rare/unreleased Naoko art during the last years. Then in 2013-2014 the sole and only new illustrations she made were the ten covers for the reedition of the manga, but during this very year she again graced us with something else new, between the promotion for the Ropponghi Hills exhibition and the homage to that Russian ice-skater. Ehm, I realize I have written way too much answering a question you didn’t even ask… Anyway, last and for all, you can assume that the bigger image was drawn approximately around 2003 also because it features live-action Sailor Moon (look at the brooch), back when it was airing – there would be no point in promoting it now that almost no one even remembers it; this is even more blatant, in my opinion, in the illustration made for the back cover of PGSM Short Stories volume 1, featuring Princess Sailor Moon herself, that was indeed created by Naoko but hasn’t ever had anything to do with the manga.

        Ooh, I can’t wait to read your article! This topic is so dear to me, as you may have already understood ;p But honestly, I cannot see why someone would debate that Usaghi and Mamoru didn’t start making love at least in Act 19: I mean, they’re kissing that way on the floor, than there’s this 50’s-y cutscene and then they reappear from a room (probably Mamo’s) with Usaghi wearing his shirt but not that something she used to have under her dress, so what more evidence do they need? Is there really someone who thinks that you need to be as explicit as in Act 60 to make sure people understand that your characters made love?
        About that line, I think you might be referring to Act 38, am I right? That’s very strange for me to hear it, since the edition I’m basing onto simply says “After all, we’re not going to do anything bad” (which, in my opinion, enfurthers even more the thesis that Usaghi and Mamoru are indeed used to doing “something bad” but this time they aren’t going to because there’s Chibiusa). I don’t know, maybe it’s a sentence that may be interpreted in several different ways, or maybe Manuela Capriati (the Italian translator) just decided to do things her own way because she’s a fangirl like me ;p Could you please explain me what that line is supposed to mean?

        Man, you’ve simply left me speechless! I find it very strange to talk about a thing such as sex in a school. On the other hand, I, being a feminist, strongly encourage sexual education among teenagers, even if I don’t find it this necessary because, hey, we don’t live in a manga, people here don’t have the chance to get into a serious relationship before they come of age. (I mean, it would be wonderful to find true love at an early age and enjoy it to the fullest – “my uterus is mine and I choose how to use it” -, but it just doesn’t happen often.) But this may very well be just a wrong impression of mine, because things like this vastly vary depending on the type of school, and the one I attend is a sort of Grammar School where you simply cannot afford not passing all your time studying like crazy. I am not good enough to explain it, just read this xD : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liceo_classico I guess the situation is totally different in schools that are not so difficult.

        • Personally I have no doubt that Usagi and Mamoru were intimate. Maybe Usagi once told someone otherwise, but maybe she just didn’t want to admit it! The images in the manga say it all if you ask me.

          Gaia, I assume you are from Italy? How do people there learn about sexual education topics there if it is not taught in school?

          You are right, it is strange to be part of a Sex Ed class here in America. It was awkward, for both the students and the teacher I think, but I think it’s a good idea to have it. In case you’re curious, in middle school (6th to 8th grade) we have gym classes where we learn and play sports during the warm weather, but in December through February we alternate between having indoor sports, and doing a week of study on health issues (healthy eating, biology of the human body, learning different muscle groups, things like that).

          On one of the health class weeks, for two of the days they sent the girls to one room and the boys to another. The gym teacher awkwardly read some information about human reproduction, showed some simple charts, played an educational video, and then answered any questions from the students (no one wanted to speak up to ask anything, haha).

          It really only taught the very basic things, warned about STDs, and recommended the use of a condom. Apparently a lot of American students either don’t pay attention in this class or forget what they learned, because even with these mandatory classes, a large percentage of American teenagers believe crazy stories like “you can’t get pregnant if it’s your first time” or “STDs only affect gay people”. Some people just don’t learn! Maybe if we had animated characters teaching us, it could actually help?

          • Quote: “Gaia, I assume you are from Italy? How do people there learn about sexual education topics there if it is not taught in school?” That’s a good question indeed. Maybe they assume you are ought to read about it on books or ask someone older (surely not your parents, whoever would do that?). They simply don’t care about your sexual education and leave it to yourself, thinking you are grown up enough – and I can’t possibly blame anyone for that. The most similar thing to sex ed is the study of anathomy, including genitals, which I remember having done back at Primary School, in Year 5… to say, they tell you about how children are born when you are not too young to be scared but not too old to be interested in sex; moreover, talking about the anathomy of your intimate parts is different than talking about how to have safe sex. That’s a sly thing… But I should really search for some information about the number of young pregnancy in Italy.

          • Good news! Italy has pretty low rates of teenage pregnancy (ages 15-19) – 6 per 1,000 women. Japan is a bit lower, at 4.
            America, always eager to be the leader in absolutely everything, has an abysmal rate of teenage pregnancy of 24 per 1,000.
            (source: Adolescent fertility rate (Worldbank))

            Syphilis rates aren’t so good, though. Around >500 reported as of 2012. Considering that Italy has nearly half the population of Japan, that means its rate of infection is a fair bit worse than Japan. However, I think testing is uncommon in Japan, so it’s hard to say.
            (source: Infectious Diseases of Italy)

            Such a fun topic, no?

          • Yes, that’s depressing to say the least ;p That’s why I wasn’t that willing to look for information myself… Anyway, I don’t think it’s that surprising: if you think about it, no one would be eager to use condoms in order to avoid pregnancy, because it’s not exactly the most romantic thing in the world (or, at least, that’s the idea I’ve got from reading so many lemon fanfictions, since I’m surely not one who could go and ask someone older about it). Moreover, a much better contraceptive is the birth control pill, which, apart from serving that purpose, allows you to skip 3/4 of your period, which makes it the very best invention of history by far. And it’s so easy to get, you can just go to the doctor, tell him/her that your period hurts, do a blood analysis, and you’ll be given permission tu buy it – I’ve read somewhere that it’s not this easy in Japan, though, am I right? The thing is, avoiding conceiving a child is not the only thing to think about when making sex (avoidoing diseases is surely much more important), and this is something no one teaches you. I think the only solution is having your partner checked and not switch them too often ;p

  • It’s great to see another article on here! And yeah, this is one of the weirdest official Sailor Moon things I’ve ever seen. I mean, imagine the Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers or something like that promoting safe sex in the US!

    But hey, just because it’s weird to Americans doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Why not use any avenues possible to promote sex ed?

    • It reminds me of the anti-drug campaigns using cartoon characters in the late 80s, definitely. Though the strangest part of all this is that… you know, she’s a 14 year old girl. o_O A lot of Japanese message boards and blogs have been bringing this up too.

      Not like it really matters. In the end, if it gets more grown women to think about their behavior, I think it’s a great program! Though they definitely need to try to educate men more as well. Guess we need a companion Dragon Ball campaign?

  • This is great for fans, and the age of the characters is not a concern to me to be frank – they are portrayed around the same age as students are when sex education starts in public schools in the United States. (For STI prevention to be effective, you want to start teaching kids before they’re sexually active, not after.)

    The only very real downside to this is that, as usual, all the responsibility of STI prevention and birth control is placed on the woman, not the man, when they should share equal responsibility. (I understand Sailor Moon has plenty of male fans but this program seems to be primarily targeting women.) Coming from Japan though, I guess it’s not surprising… Anyway, safe sex is not WOMAN’s issue, please don’t call it that. That places all the blame and burden on women.

    • I totally agree. I think it’s a bit odd that they’re putting the onus here on women when, in reality, the vast majority of the spread of STIs is through men.

      At the end of the day, though, I guess it’s kind of a “best choice in a bad situation” kind of thing. While it shouldn’t be women’s responsibility to have to do all this work and be blamed for the spread of STIs, it’s unlikely that all these young women are going to find considerate, nice-guy partners who will do the right thing. So at the very least, “here’s how you can protect yourself” is probably the best way to go forward.

      And I guess that’s enough discussion on politics and gender equality for today. =p

  • In Cygnus And In Health

    I can’t help but find the idea of using a female oriented children’s character to promote items relating to the genitalia, rather peculiar (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type).
    But already I’m predicting a lot lewd jokes involving ‘Moon Rods’. <_<'

    And now you won't be able to un-think that…

    I know I should probably be taking this more seriously, but this to me is just so Japan.
    Funnily enough Dragonball did do some short public service videos way back in the eighties.

    Personally speaking. Even though I have zero interest in all that shipping/pairing type fluff, as I'm far more engaged in platonic friendship stuff over romance. I'm not to comfortable with the idea of Usagi and Mamoru having it away at that age and so soon.
    I know the laws are different over there. But I would of preferred them to have taken it slower.

    Granted this is mainly because I was brought up in a household that taught the idea that marriage/intimacy and all the things that go with it, is something you don't take lightly or trivialize. Which is why I'm quite content to wait for the right person.

    • I don’t want to seem too rude, but I think you’re taking it the wrong way. First af all, Sailor Moon is not children-oriented at all – the anime is, but this campaign concerns the manga, which is clearly teenagers-oriented (not counting the fact that it’s a shojo and not a kodomo).
      This is the sort of conception that society wants to inculcate in your mind to make you think that, being a woman, you should not be the owner of your own sexuality – all of this is of course heritage of a sexist and religious conception. Moreover, it’s very clear that Usaghi and Mamoru don’t take it lightly at all, they were not children, they were deeply in love, the knew each other for long time and they both wanted it. That’s what is required to make love. And it’s not like they went with the first person ever, it’s undeniable that Mamoru was the right person for Usaghi and viceversa.
      And why are you talking about laws? Making love is not a matter of law, as long as both parts are okay with it, and sexual abuse has nothing to do with this particular topic.

      • Gonna jump in here for a sec… while the anime was targeted at kids and families, the Sailor Moon manga was still very much orientated to the pre-teen market. While nowadays a lot of adults are reading the manga, that’s simply because they grew up with it. Nakayoshi and RunRun (the magazines that carried Sailor Moon and Sailor V respectively) are marketed nearly exclusively toward the 10-14 year old female demographic. You can tell by the types of stories they run, the fan letters they publish, and the product advertisements carried within.

        Just my two cents!

        As for the law issue… well, while ‘love’ and ‘law’ are two unrelated concepts, when we’re talking about underage characters, I think the issue can come up. Gets kinda sticky (no pun intended) since we’re talking about star-crossed lovers, magical romance, and fictional characters. But as I wrote about before, Usagi and Mamoru would totally be okay under Japanese law anyway. No problem here!

        • Saying that all the older fans of Sailor Moon are only motivated by nostalgia seems reductive to me, one can easily discover the manga and fall in love with it at any age. Moreover, because of the block that Sailor Moon underwent between 2004 and 2010, nowadays not many people know about the franchise any more – I, for one, didn’t know anything about Sailor Moon, I didn’t even hear about it at all, since when I found it in the comic book store, said “Why not?”, bought it and adored it to death at age 15. It is not that impossible.
          I am not willing to go against the opinion of an expert, but I have read tons of stories published in Nakayoshi and other shojo magazines such as Margaret or Shocomi, and I definitely don’t think that they’re aimed at pre-teens. Without mentioning other works, just think about Sailor Moon: it’s full of creepy and/or violent scenes that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film (any child would simply DIE of fear seeing certain panels), it is centred around very deep themes, the characters are involved in a physical relationship, not to mention their ages – in fact, the all of this was toned down in the anime in order to make it suitable for children. I don’t want to seem rude in any way contradicting you, but I am firmly convinced that the manga is targeted towards teenagers – you yourself have even given a wonderful explanation of the word “shojo” in an article of yours, and that suits this idea, not the other one.

          I can see your point, but I just don’t understand while the issue should come up with any underage person: “not of age” doesn’t mean “child”, of course, and I cannot understand why someone should even think of the legitimacy of the act when the person is fully grown – in this case, Usaghi is 15, so there’s no way she could be considered faulty for making love.
          PS: Sorry for the very bad English! ;p

  • In Cygnus And In Health

    Oh, I’m not taking it the wrong way. And I don’t really get what your driving at. But never mind.

    Tuxedo Mask is correct. Sailor Moon is a pre-teen franchise, as I’m tired of people trying to tell me otherwise. There’s plenty of evidence to support that.
    It only appeared more mature because censorship in Japan back then was quite lax compared to the west.

    Usagi and Mamoru in the manga especially, are very much an example of a classic fairytale perfect couple, rather then something realistic. So I can’t really identify much with it.

    But like I said, that side of the franchise doesn’t really interest me much.

    • Sorry, but what does it mean that you don’t get what I’m driving at? I was just trying to confute your thesis, that’s all.
      And sorry if this sounds rude again, but I could very well say that I’m tired of people trying to tell me that the Sailor Moon manga is aimed at people younger than teenagers. I have given just some of the ample evidence that proofs the contrary, now you just mention there are other that support your thesis but don’t present even one of them.
      How is that bad that UsaMamo is probably the best love story ever, anyway? On the contrary, the deepness of their relationship makes the story shift towards even more adult themes. And I feel sorry for you for not being interested in what, apart from being the most complete human sentiment, is the most important theme in the Sailor Moon manga – how can you appreciate it if you’re not interested in the love story between Usaghi and Mamoru, which is the core of the plot?

Any thoughts? Leave a comment!