Why was Ami the Most Popular of the Sailor Soldiers?

Ami – A Political Powerhouse

Ami – A Political Powerhouse

One of the enduring mysteries of the Sailor Moon franchise is that of the perplexing popularity of Ami – the shy, bookish brains of the Sailor Team – especially among fans in the West. I’m sure it’s no mystery at all to those who count themselves among her fans, of course, but from a purely objective perspective, it seems a bit strange that the soft-spoken, brainy character (who didn’t even have a particularly abnormal amount of episodes even devoted to her, mind you) would end up constantly ranking at the tops of Japanese polls. So how is it that Ami came to be the most popular of the inners, and what does it tell us about Japanese fans of Sailor Moon as a group?

Before testing any theory, though, it’s important to first see if there’s any truth to your hypothesis. So we should first ask: is Ami actually popular? And how do we know?

In order to answer this question, I dug through the archives of the Japanese anime magazine, Animage,1 and tallied up their monthly “favorite character” rankings, which allows all of their readers to vote for their favorite anime characters and tallies them up. Since the anime runs on a schedule of March to February and the magazine ships early, I’ll be comparing seasons from June through May for the magazine results. They’re actually pretty surprising! [Note: Popularity counts from 1 down to ~20, so 1 is the highest.]

Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon (March 1992 – February 1993)

Sailor Moon (3/1992 – 2/1993)

Most surprising to me here isn’t quite Ami’s meteoric rise to fame (though that is impressive) so much as.. Zoisite? Really? He actually started ranking in around January (which would have been the issue right around when he died), but it’s pretty impressive that he made such an impact on fans.

Sailor Moon R (3/1993 – 3/1994)

Sailor Moon R (3/1993 – 3/1994)

Zoisite still hung on until October, surprisingly enough. However, here we can see the trend continuing of Ami essentially owning the polls. What was even more surprising to me, though, is how strong of a character Minako was! I know she had the Codename: Sailor V manga and was definitely more of a developed character in the Sailor Moon manga, but I always personally felt that she was given short shrift in the anime and virtually ignored.

Sailor Moon S (3/1994 – 2/1995)

Sailor Moon S (3/1994 – 2/1995)

The results from Sailor Moon S were quite a surprise for me. Haruka definitely came in strong and beat out all the other Sailor Soldiers (except Ami and Minako) for most of the year. Hotaru, despite having very little in the way of merchandising or character goods throughout the original anime run, was also surprisingly popular. Here you can also see the interesting decline of Usagi’s popularity, even losing out to Makoto for a few months. I never would have expected that.

Sailor Moon SuperS (3/1995 – 3/1996)

Sailor Moon SuperS (3/1995 – 3/1996)

Sailor Moon SuperS is unfortunately the season where we start to see the popularity of the Sailor Soldiers waning not just in relation to each other, but against other anime as well. Rei makes a showing in only one month, and Michiru not at all. I guess it makes sense when you consider the new focus on Usagi and ChibiUsa and with the outer senshi basically cut from the series.

Sailor Moon Sailor Stars (3/1996 – 2/1997)

Sailor Moon Sailor Stars (3/1996 – 2/1997)

By the time Sailor Moon Sailor Stars rolled around, I think it’s pretty apparent why this was the last season for the show. As popular as it was, the rankings were clearly dropping, though Ami did hold a respectable ranking throughout the entire run of the series. Haruka even hung in there, which is impressive.


So then, we finally come to the point where we finally try to answer our question: why was Ami the most popular character? What gives??

Well, the truth of the matter is that she is… and she isn’t. The fact of the matter is that though Ami may have ranked highly in polls in Animage, it’s worth noting that the demographic for Animage is not the same as the demographic for Nakayoshi or the Sailor Moon anime. In fact, the magazine is geared toward high school students, university students, and young adults (it frequently contains materials and characters from midnight-run anime, so not for kids).

You’ll also note that ChibiUsa (and Setsuna, actually…) is suspiciously missing from these popularity polls, mostly due to the fact that though she was popular, she was popular with young fans.

So while Ami was indeed incredibly popular among anime fans, she was popular for reasons you wouldn’t normally expect: she was popular with people who were struggling through high school and university entrance exams. She was the awkward, shy character for those awkward and shy adults who enjoyed computers and anime. Ami, essentially, was popular because many people saw themselves in her.

I’d love to know more about the rankings of the Sailor Team nowadays and especially among other age groups back in the 1990s. This is definitely a topic worth re-visiting!


References:

10 comments

  • Minako, Zoisite and Haruka being so popular was not something I expected! I was also surprised to see Makoto start ranking so low, but then I remembered she never really got a lot of time to shine in the 90s anime.

    I’d be really interested to see what the kid rankings are too, if you can find them. Perhaps between the two, we’ll be able to figure out why characters received the amount of focus they did. The adult rankings alone make me think seasons like SuperS/Stars may’ve fared better with some extra Haruka goodness, lol.

    • As an unapologetic fan of Rei, I was really surprised to see how quickly her popularity faded (and how low it was to begin with). Even more interesting, the Makoto/Rei popularity shift is the opposite in the manga, with Makoto nearly beating out Rei for the entire run of the series.

      One of the things I’ve always through was really strange, though, is that while the manga came out once a month and had to span just a few pages to tell its entire story, the anime had 25+ minutes every single week and around 40 episodes per season. And yet, even then, it had less focus on individual characters. =p A shame, I tell ya!

  • haha wow, this sure is an interesting diagram XDD I always knew Ami was ranked high on popularity contests.. but not THIS high and so consistent through the entire run?? hahaha.

    Interesting find Jason! Keep up the good work 🙂

    • The follow-up topic, taking into consideration the Nakayoshi votes, gives a much clearer view of the Sailor Team I think… but yeah, I was pretty surprised to see just how far ahead she ranked in Animage. =p

      Though to be fair, I think a better title for this post could be: “Guess who just installed a chart-making package on WordPress??”

  • I think Ami is the “ideal” Japanese girl. She’s hard-working, focused on studying, quiet, and polite. That’s probably why she ranked so high with Japanese fans.

    For Western fans, everyone I know loves Sailor Mercury because she was one of the first members of the team, and easiest to identify. Everyone knows her as “the smart one” and she has all these cool gadgets. The anime didn’t do enough of fleshing out character development so I think that is why the others suffered. And, again, for the fans I know of, we had the highly-edited English version growing up, so most of the later seasons didn’t even show up for a long time.

    On another note, I was also surprised Rei did not rank higher, but again, in Japan, it isn’t “ideal” to be hotheaded like her character. She may also be too “elite”, coming off as snobby, if you go by the manga.

  • Sailor Jupiter is the least popular is so surprising, she was my favorite

    • I think she was a really good character, but she (and Minako!) didn’t get a lot of screen time in the anime, sadly.
      I would’ve loved to see more about her background, childhood, etc.

      • In Cygnus and In Health

        I think with Makoto, her plain-Jane, and masculine like appearance isn’t considered appealing in a country like Japan, compared to say in the west. And given that she was originally conceived as a Sukeban as you once mentioned.

        Even Naoko didn’t bother much with her. And the only reference to her Parents death was in a bizarre bit of flirting. Even the Live Action Series didn’t do much either outside of pairing her up with Motoki.

        The Anime provided us with a hint of backstory in the form of Shinozaki. But her life between being orphaned and her first appearance remains a bit of a mystery.

        I’ve actually formed my own personal canon that she grew up with distant relatives in the countryside, perhaps working on a farm. Hence why she has such a well built physique. And later on moved back into her parents old apartment that she inherited.

        • I wonder what it was about Makoto’s character that made the anime staff just generally avoid her, or not bother making too many stories about her.
          Was it her lack of popularity? Or was it the fact that she didn’t appear much in the show that she wasn’t popular?

          It always seems weird to me that they just never really played around much with her character development.

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