How Did the Sailor Moon Cast’s Popularity Differ in the Anime and Manga?

Same Team; Different Results

Same Team; Different Results

Though we discussed several possible reasons behind Ami’s seemingly uncontested popularity already, even after looking at all the data we were still left with quite a few questions. Namely, why is it that ChibiUsa (one of the major characters in the series and practically second-billing in the SuperS anime) didn’t even rank in any popularity polls? Or how do you explain the fact that even Usagi herself did so poorly in the polls despite appearing on practically all Sailor Moon merchandise?

In order to try to make more sense of this, I went to the Nakayoshi Annual Popularity Polls1 for the five years that Sailor Moon was serialized in the magazine. In order to normalize the data, all characters that are essentially the same person (e.g., ChibiUsa, Princess Small Lady Serenity, Sailor ChibiMoon, and Black Lady) were tallied together. For that reason, characters have been ranked against each other to show how popularity changed relatively over time.

For the anime data set, I took another look at the Animage polls and decided to forgo the monthly totals and instead look at the year-end-reviews.2 Once a year, Animage would rank the top 100 anime characters from the past year, so this gives us access to more characters (including Setsuna and ChibiUsa). Once again, characters have been ranked against each other to show relative changes.

So what does the data look like in the Sailor Moon anime now?

As you can see here, the results when taken in aggregate aren’t too different for the anime, even when viewed relatively rather than their actual ordinal ranking (for example, though Setsuna ranks tenth place in compared to the other members of the Sailor Team, she was actually 71st place – two times lower than Michiru – in the polls). One of the more interesting things you can see is just how much of an impact Sailor Moon SuperS had on taking the outer team our of the social consciousness, since they all but disappear with the exception of Haruka.

What can we learn by looking at the Nakayoshi ratings, then?

To say that I was surprised by these results would be a disservice. I was absolutely stunned at how different this worked out when compared to the results of the anime. Ami, the far-and-away leader in rankings in the anime drops down to sixth and even seventh place in the anime while ChibiUsa firmly holds second place right after Usagi. You can also see the definite impact of being kept directly involved in the Dead Moon and Sailor Stars arcs, since they not only maintained their popularity, but little Hotaru actually comes in third!

The data really speaks for itself and there isn’t much further to say here, but it is definite worth re-evaluating the commonly accepted myth that Ami is the most popular of the Sailor Team. She was (and is) definitely popular, yes, but a lot of that comes from the fact that many popularity polls at the time were done in anime magazines aimed at high school anime fans and older. What’s more, most of those fans were men (judging by the fact that the vast majority of “favorite” characters in Animage’s polls were women; this trend has reversed in recent years).

The most important thing to remember, though, is that there’s no such thing as a “wrong” answer when it comes to favorite characters. Who appeals to you is what’s most important, of course. But we definitely can learn a thing or two about the two very different audiences of Sailor Moon back in the early- to mid-90s!


References:

  1. For the full data set, see World of Nakayoshi
  2. For the full data set, see Animage Top 100 Ranking

10 comments

  • My favourite character from Sailor Moon is anime!Mamoru and it’s ice to see he actually is included in the pools.

    • Definitely.. I’m glad to see that, at least in the manga, he got his proper dues. And in the anime (in the first season only, sadly) he actually was pretty popular it seems!

      • It’s really refreshing to see that other people actually cared for him! Nowadays he is sadly one of the most hated characters or target of internet jokes.

        I’m actually not a big fan of Crystal/manga version of the story and characters. ^^ I’m not trying to bash it, it’s really only because of my personal preferences.

        • For what it’s worth, I totally agree. I’m glad to see the renewed interest that Crystal has brought, but I’m not really much of a fan of the series. That’s probably just nostalgia talking, but there was something so… right about the original!

  • In Cygnus And In Health

    From what I can gather, Makoto is a lot more popular in the west then she seemingly is in Japan. She’s often at the top of peoples favourites.

    I guess her appearance and personality are more appealing/relatable over here, to both boys and girls.

    Poor Rei, both her characterisations seem to be polarising.

    Definitely surprised by Minako. Always thought most people just saw her as Usagi with a bow.

    • The anime definitely treated Minako like “Usagi No. 2” a lot, especially in later seasons, but I think the concurrently-running Code Name: Sailor V manga did a lot help her popularity and people may have even tuned into the show just to see her, which might have been involved.

      On an unrelated tangent, I’d love to know why the team always got split off how it did when you would see the girls hanging out with each other. In a lot of episodes you see Minako and Makoto running around together, but I’ve always wondered why that was. Not that they couldn’t be friends, but Ami/Makoto and Rei/Minako (in a platonic way!!) seemed like more natural matches for friends.

      One theory I read in a Japanese anime magazine was that Makoto and Minako were the two who were the most interested in looking for love (… i.e., boy-hunting?) and that’s why they ended up together a lot.

  • In Cygnus And In Health

    Oddly I enjoyed the rare pairings of the characters. Like that one episode in SuperS where they had Minako with Ami, and Makoto with Rei.

    And later on at the beginning of Stars with the Outers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *