Why Are the Sailor Moon Characters Always at School?
When the Sailor Team aren’t being shown at school, the vast majority of the misadventures our girls of love and justice get into seem to take place on the way to – or from – school. While the sailor-inspired school uniform is obviously an important part of the story’s theme, the schoolwork itself plays a very minor role in the series. So why are the characters always at school, then?
Before you say “because it’s a cartoon, you jerk!” – and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong, on either point – it’s probably worth pointing out that there actually is some historical significance behind this.
Today we’re going to take a look back at the early 90s, and how the Japanese Ministry of Education’s policies affected the world of Sailor Moon. If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, I don’t know what will!
It’s actually kind of funny when I stop and think about it, because when I first started getting into Sailor Moon, and anime in general, this was somewhat “well-known” trivia that was shared among fans.
At least it was among the fanfiction-writing circles,1 seeing as you kind of needed to know a little something about the school system if you were going to write stories set in Japan.
So what am I talking about? Well, my dear reader, I’m talking about the 5-day school week that we are all so familiar with.
You see, going to school five days a week is actually relatively modern to the Japanese school system. Even nowadays, Saturday is still something of a grey-zone in Japan when it comes to being a day off.2 If a national holiday falls on a Saturday, for example, sucks to be you. There is no “make-up” holiday on the preceding Friday or following Monday to compensate for this like there is on Sundays.
The same goes for many corporate overtime policies, where Saturday pays out at a different overtime rate than Sunday or holiday hours.3 But that’s neither here nor there.
What is important to know is that, back in 1992, Japan was still enforcing a 6-day school week, with only the second Saturday of every month being a holiday – and that was only started in September 1992!4 Another day off, the fourth Saturday of the month, was later added from April 1995.5
That means that over the course of the series, on average Usagi and the Sailor Crew had the day off from school (manga arc name in parentheses):
- Sailor Moon Classic (Dark Kingdom)
- First half: 4 days a month
- Second half: 5 days a month
- Sailor Moon R (Black Moon): 5 days a month
- Sailor Moon S (Infinity): 5 days a month
- Sailor Moon SuperS (Dream): 6 days a month
- Sailor Moon Stars (Stars): 6 days a month
So you see, unless this was over summer or winter vacation, back when the series was on the air, our favorite Sailor Soldiers actually didn’t really have that much time to themselves. This kind of explains why, except when they were going off on grand adventures, their lives seemed to revolve almost entirely around school. Because, you know, their lives actually did revolve around school.
When did this all change? Well, it wasn’t April of 2002 when the Ministry of Education promulgated6 a revision to the Ordinance for the Enforcement of the School Education Act, the Japanese law which sets forth the rules for public schools, from elementary to high school.
While this seems like – and probably is – a pretty minor change in the grand scheme of things, what makes it interesting is it’s yet another way in which the original telling of the Sailor Moon story differs with the 2003 live-action version and the more recent Sailor Moon Crystal series.
Not only did the live-action Usagi have her very own mobile phone, when ’92 Usagi would have been happy just to have a pager, but she was going to school far less than her predecessor.
Live-action Usagi was also on target to graduate in a horribly depressed job market and facing the collapse of many multinational banks, but let’s not worry about that.7
So there you have it, yet another small way how Japanese lawmakers inadvertently affected the world of Sailor Moon! It may be a tiny detail, but when you take all these “tiny details” together as a whole, it’s actually pretty interesting to consider just how different of a character Usagi is in each of the consecutive reboots of the series.
This is probably a long-shot, since I doubt few other people have an obsession on late-1980s to early-1990s Japan like I do, but if you have any questions about what the situations were like back in Japan at that time, I’d love to hear them!
- Yes, I wrote fanfiction. No, I will not say what my pen-name was. I will take it to the grave. ↩
- See Is Saturday a Holiday in Japan? ↩
- Source: Me? I’ve worked in Japan quite awhile and have seen a lot of employment contracts ↩
- See Five Day School Week (Wikipedia) ↩
- See History of the Five Day School Week ↩
- Yes, promulgate is a word; see Promulgate ↩
- See the Lehman Shock (Wikipedia) ↩