I’m sure it sounds really contrived to say this, but Sailor Moon left a large impression on me growing up. In addition to being a fun show/manga about magical school girls who triumph over the forces of evil, but it was full of all sorts of lessons that ultimately would have a direct impact on my life well into adulthood.
What makes this topic all the more fascinating, at least to me, is there there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to what fans can take away from the series. Depending on one’s culture, values, and life circumstances, the lessons that any given fan walks away with will be completely different from other fans.
Today I’d like to take a look at some of those lessons I took away from Sailor Moon and about the impact the series had on my life. And, while I’m at it, I’d like to invite you to share your stories about the effect the series has had on yours.
As a child of the 80s,1 I was no stranger to having my cartoons spoon feed lessons and morals to me after each and every episode (in the case of G. I. Joe and the like) or even be centered around the topic (Care Bears being a good example of this).
Putting aside the “Sailor Moon Says” lessons shoe-horned into DiC’s English dub of the series, Sailor Moon really had none of that. Instead, the series simply exposed you to various people, lifestyles, and situations and left you to do what you will with that information.
The following is a list, in no particular order, of just some of the lessons that I took with me throughout my life.
Femininity has nothing to do with sexuality
As a male fan of the series, that puts me somewhat in the minority in the Sailor Moon fandom.2 Not being Japanese and being older than the original target demographic takes me even further away from the audience the series wanted to reach. So as much as I can try to understand conceptually, there are some messages I’m bound to simply miss.
That being said, one thing that I greatly admired Sailor Moon for was its emphasis on these girls growing and maturing as women, but without sexualizing it. While a lot of good arguments could be made for and against the stereotypical imagery shown in the series, I feel like on the whole Ms. Takeuchi and the anime did a pretty decent job with the concept.
Original is not always better
… and vice versa, though this lesson actually took me a really long time to learn, and is probably something that fans still hotly debate today.
I was originally exposed to Sailor Moon through the English dub and thought that was the best thing ever. As I began to learn more about this ah-nee-may thing, and that the Japanese original was quite different, I immediately took a negative view of the dub and looked down on those who were still in favor of it. Later, when I learned that the anime itself was based on a manga of the same name, I started championing the Sailor Moon manga as the true version of the story.
As I’ve grown older and taken a look back on the series (including its myriads of dubs, subs, and even manga translations), I’ve come to realize that they each have their merits and bring something new to the series. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t flawed at times, but I think that each new adaptation of Sailor Moon typically brings with it some new angle worthy of looking at.
Sexuality and gender… in general
Without going into too many unimportant details about my childhood, I was well aware of, and even involved in, the LGBT community from a young age, so Sailor Moon wasn’t actually my first exposure to homosexual or transgender characters. It was, however, one of the first series where it was simply a part of who the characters were, and not treated like a big deal.
With the exception of Haruka and Michiru, I do feel that unfortunately the series — and many anime, actually — skews way too far to the side of representing most homosexual characters as evil and freely mixing together homosexuality, cross-dressing, and transgender identities. But while a lot of that is simply ignorance on the part of the anime staff, I feel that some of the criticism from western fans is misguided, and doesn’t take into account the unique circumstances of LGBT culture that’s developed in Japan.3 But that’s probably a topic article for another time.
The importance of friends and lovers
While finding a boyfriend is often a major theme in Sailor Moon, when you come down to it the characters are more interested in the concept of having a boyfriend over who the guy actually is. The characters want a “boyfriend” like someone would want an expensive handbag, or a muscle car. It’s not so much the bag or the car itself that you want, but the status it conveys.
At the end of the day, while Usagi and Mamoru may have a magical romance, Usagi’s relationships with her friends are what usually get her through her toughest challenges in life, both on and off the battlefield.
While I am married now, I still put a strong emphasis on building and maintaining friendships with people from various walks of life. I feel that having access to the wisdom and life experiences of all these different people makes me a better person, and also takes the burden of expectation off of your significant other. But maybe I’m overthinking this one.
There are a lot of mean people out there
This one is probably cheating, since it comes from the Sailor Moon fandom and not the series itself.
Maybe I was just young, and more than a little naive, but when I first got online in those early days in 1998 to learn more about Sailor Moon, it was absolutely amazing to me how much bad information there was out there. From Prince Uranus4 to Sailor Moon Pop-Tart campaigns, from guestbook flame wars to hate shrines, there was no end to the amount of flat out lies and hostility out there on the internet. Sadly, none of this has really changed in the past 20 years other than the methods used.
Though, like many medicines, this lesson left a bitter taste in my mouth in the beginning, it did teach me at a young age about critical thinking, growing a thick skin, and not caring if people like the same things I do.
Those are at least the lessons that I took away from Sailor Moon. I imagine that some of these are either obvious, questionable, or even flat-out wrong to some of you out there, but I thought that it was at least worth sharing.
So what about you? Did Sailor Moon have any lasting impacts on your life, or maybe the way you look at the world? I’d love to hear more about how the series affected other people. Who knows, there might be something I’ve totally missed about the series, and maybe I’ll even learn something new!
- As a side note, are you a “child of…” the decade in which you were born, or the decade in which you grew up? Being born in late 1985, I was exposed to a lot of the popular 80s cartoons and franchises growing up, but mostly in re-runs. ↩
- Though there are obviously no hard statistics, ~65-70% of the readers of this blog and followers on social media identify as female ↩
- See Inside the Secret World of Japan’s LGBT+ Slang ↩
- See Prince Uranus ↩