5 Lessons Learned From Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon Says...!

Sailor Moon Says…!

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.

I swear, I learned the vast majority of my morals from Care BearsI swear, I learned the vast majority of my morals from Care Bears

I swear, I learned the vast majority of my morals from Care Bears

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.

Except the transformation sequences... they can be a bit much

Except the transformation sequences… they can be a bit much

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.

The Many Faces of Morga

The Many Faces of Morga

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.

Read also:  Could Haruka Actually Be a Race Car Driver?

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.

Me and my cousins do this all the time.

Me and my cousins do this all the time.

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 #SailorSquad

The #SailorSquad

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.

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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.

A romance never meant to be…

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.

Sailor Moon also taught me about being a commercial sell-out

Sailor Moon also taught me about being a commercial sell-out

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!


References:

  1. 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.
  2. Though there are obviously no hard statistics, ~65-70% of the readers of this blog and followers on social media identify as female
  3. See Inside the Secret World of Japan’s LGBT+ Slang
  4.  See Prince Uranus

13 thoughts on “5 Lessons Learned From Sailor Moon

  1. The importance of being yourself and growing into that self whatever that may be. 🙂

    Another one is supporting your friends in making the best choices for them.

  2. I don’t know if I learned lessons directly from the show, but being a fan of the show did inspire me to learn a lot of things about Japan.

    I’ll agree with your comments about the fandom… I didn’t encounter mean people, but there was just so much misinformation. Discussing Sailor Moon on the internet was probably my first introduction to the concept that so much of the information on the internet can be rumors, lies, and misunderstood information.

    About the LGBT characters… I mean, it was the early 90s. Including them at all was a big step, and the two most prominent ones were very popular and heroic characters who stole the spotlight from the other characters, even Usagi, for the third season. And Fisheye turned out good in the end, too. But given the times, I think it’s to be expected that some gay characters were seen as abnormal/strange/unrelatable and were used as villainous characters.

    • I think a lot of fans tend to forget the fact that Sailor Moon did come out in the 90s. So while that sort of portrayal/ignorance of various other lifestyles and sometimes inaccurate portrayal of the LGBT community shouldn’t be glossed over or looked at likely, it simply was a different time and social norms were entirely different.

      And, to be fair, Japan hasn’t really changed all that much in the past 20 years either.

      So you kind of have to just take all of this stuff in context.

  3. There’s so much that Sailor Moon has taught me and contributed to the person I am today! But I think one of the most important things that I learned from the series is being reliable and working hard, not only for others but for yourself as well. And that it’s okay to get upset and cry over things but not to let that get you down. 🙂

    • Usagi being a flawed hero is definitely an often overlooked, yet very important aspect of the series.
      She’s not even remotely perfect, and she even is less-than-pure-hearted on more than a few occasions (such as wanting to befriend Ami just to get help with her grades), but I think that is a really important lesson in the end.

      You don’t need to be perfect to be a good person, and to have a positive impact on the world.

      • This is my favorite lesson of the series. Usagi was my favorite for that reason. She had so many vices, but her heart was always her biggest virtue and I think that’s why she was a great leader. She would die (repeatedly) to protect her friends, loved ones, and the world and it was her love that brought and kept everyone together. Definitely a message that stuck with me throughout life.

  4. It’s very hard to explain it in english for me (I’m Italian) but I’ll try… Sailor Moon changed my life in many ways: I decided to work with comics and animation because of her (even if I’m an anime and manga fan since the ’80).
    She teach me to never give up.
    As part of the LGBT community I used many times Sailor Moon as example to my family or even for other LGBT people that was shame to be LGBT person, to say: that’s nothing wrong, it’s normal, you are you and you are not different from no one even if you are unique. She gives me “the strenght to carry on” (ahah!) and never give up.
    I learn how to respect people and try the best from every situation or trouble. My friends always said to me “You are our Sailor Moon. You keep us together” and sometimes when we have some troubles they say “Nino, please, call you Silver Crystal and save the day!”. Ahahah!
    As I said in another comment, I worked a lot for the series with TOEI and Kodansha, and is only thanks to Sailor Moon that I had realized my dream to work in publishing.
    Sorry my bad english.

  5. It helped teach me that it is okay to cry and have emotions, but to keep a level head when the time comes.

  6. Cute article. The most important one to me is the “original is not always better”. While I will always think of the manga as “the” canon lore, the anime is the version for me. I know it’s because of different mediums; the anime is giving me visuals and sounds that create feelings in me the manga just can’t provide.
    And while I don’t agree with several of the changes in the story in the anime, we have to give them credit for enhancing a lot of characters (notably villains) and scenes that Naoko just rushed through in the manga.

    • Agreed! I really started appreciating the series a whole lot more when I stopped looking at the anime and manga as being in competition with each other and as simply being different, but equally enjoyable, retellings of the same story.

  7. There were a number of times where Sailor Moon had to face some serious challenges alone due to being separated from everyone else (or worse). So I think the biggest lesson for me is that you are stronger than you think and you will still be okay even if you are on your own.

    • I know that romance is supposedly the major theme of the series, but I have to say that the importance of having friends that you truly can rely on is something not to be underestimated.

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