What References Did the Animators Fit Into the Sailor Moon Anime?
A question I (and many other Sailor Moon fans) often get asked is: Which do you like better? The anime, or the manga?
Nearly 20 years ago, when I was first getting into Sailor Moon, this was an easy answer for me — the manga, of course! It’s closer to Ms. Takeuchi’s vision and tells a more mature, concise story.
But now, I’m not so sure about that. As weird as it is to say, I think they’re both my favorites, but precisely because they are so different, and how much fun you can tell the animation staff had in creating some of their wacky monsters of the day and sub plots. Today, we’ll talk about one such episode!
Way back in episode 21 of the first season, we follow the story of an up-and-coming animator working in an animation studio. It’s not much of a leap to imagine that the animation production staff felt strongly about life in their chosen profession, and the episode is full a lot of little in-jokes.
Considering how hard the characters are working in this episode, though, they make it pretty clear that the occupation isn’t all fun and games. There’s obviously a lot of blood, sweat, and tears invested into being an animator and working on a popular anime.
Much like Toru Furuya’s misadventures as a father which later inspired an episode, here, too, we catch a glimpse into the personal lives of the staff dedicated to bringing this anime to life.
In the scenes with the animation director Asato, you’ll notice that he’s carrying a baby around on his back. This character is an homage to Sailor Moon‘s very own series director, Junichi Sato,1 who also had a very young child at home at the time this episode came out. Hopefully he didn’t actually take his kid to work…
Incidentally, apparently the baby was voiced by none other than Aya Hisakawa, the talented and versatile voice of Ami Mizuno.2
Also crossing the fourth wall in this episode are the two animators, Hiromi Matsuno and Kazuko Tadashita, pretty obviously named after the real life Hiromi Matsushita and Kazuko Tadano (husband and wife character designers and animators working at Studio Live on producing Sailor Moon episodes at the time).3
And before we go, one last fun little bit of trivia about this episode:
When Ami comes out of the book store and finds Hiromi’s dropped draft sheet, they actually put in the proper names of some of the staff members who worked on the Sailor Moon anime.
- Yoshizawa -> Takao Yoshizawa (episode director and storyboard in various episodes)4
- S. Dive Kurata -> not sure who this is (any ideas??)
- Itasaka -> Yasue Itasaka (color stylist and ink/painting)5
- Ikuhara -> Kunihiko Ikuhara (director)6
- Tadano ♡ -> Kazuko Tadano (character designer)7
- Igarashi -> Takuya Igarashi (episode director)8
And there you have it, a brief glimpse into the heads of the people behind the Sailor Moon anime. I’m sure there are many, many more references in this episode just waiting to get caught, but these are the ones I was able to pick up through my viewing.
Now that we’ve come this far, I guess it’s a good time to ask you, the reader, the question posed at the very top: which is your favorite version of Sailor Moon? Anime, manga, Crystal? Live action… musical maybe?? Let me know!