Can the Sailor Moon Movies Fit Into the Anime Canon?

Fighting against the Sailor Canon

Fighting against the Sailor Canon

When you spend a significant amount of your time analyzing fictional worlds, exactly what is “canon” quickly becomes an massive roadblock you need to concern yourself with — and one you’ll generally keep coming back to over and over again!

In Sailor Moon‘s case, trying to find out how the three movies fit into the anime’s timeline has always been the source of an not insignificant amount of debate.

Today we’ll be going on a journey into the Sailor Moon Cinematic Universe and see who makes, and who breaks, our precious timelines!

Apparently the movies are so far removed that you don't even need to watch them in order?

Apparently the movies are so far removed that you don’t even need to watch them in order?

As per usual, it’s important that we lay out the initial ground rules here before beginning any serious discussion so we don’t constantly find ourselves “moving the goal posts,” so to speak.

First and foremost, we’re going to leave the more general conversation of what’s canon in the Sailor Moon discourse off the table for now since we’ve already discussed that previously. Instead, the focus of our discussion here is on whether the original 90s1 Sailor Moon theatrical releases fit into the greater story of the anime and manga.2

Second, for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to ignore the “but they never referenced any events that happened in the movie!” argument entirely since it 1) doesn’t form a substantive argument; and 2) both the Sailor Moon anime and manga typically never reference past enemies or battles outside of each “season.”

Thirdly, we’re going to be ignoring the seasons in which the movies supposedly take place since, frankly, the series is all over the place with this stuff and it’s not really worth pursuing that line of reasoning.3

So with that all out of the way, let’s take a look at each of the movies!

Fiore's getting a little too handsy here, I'd say

Fiore’s getting a little too handsy here, I’d say

Sailor Moon R the Movie: Promise of the Rose

In order for this movie to fit into the anime’s timeline, we need to fulfill a few important conditions:

  • ChibiUsa knows that Usagi is Sailor Moon
  • Mamoru and Usagi are a couple
  • ChibiUsa is still living in the past

That being said, all is not yet lost. There are still two decent candidates where this movie could fit into the anime’s timeline without having to do too much in the way of mental gymnastics.

The first option is that the movie takes place right after Usagi and Mamoru getting back together4 and before the Sailor Senshi go to the future.5 Sure, it takes place in the middle of Esmeraude’s arc and raises some questions about why they’re largely unconcerned with the Black Moon during the movie, but hey, it’s not like it was uncommon for the Sailor Senshi to run around and hang out with friends during a normal anime season anyway.

The second possibility is that Fiore strikes immediately after the fall of Death Phantom but before ChibiUsa has a chance to return to the future. This is, from the best I can tell, a very small window, but it’s always hard to gauge how much time passes in the anime anyway.

There is one caveat to this, though: Director Ikuhara said himself that Fiore was something of a reboot of the Makaiju story. This means that it’s pretty hard to accept that both the Makaiju arc and Sailor Moon R movie are a part of the anime canon. In my opinion, that leaves you stuck with accepting either one or neither of them as canon.

Considering that the anime’s Black Moon arc offers no explanation for the Sailor Senshi reawakening or Sailor Moon’s new brooch and wand, I’m more inclined to accept the Makaiju arc over the movie. However, that’s just me!

What's that, Luna? A boy got an ice splinter in his eye and needs our help??

What’s that, Luna? A boy got an ice splinter in his eye and needs our help??

Sailor Moon S the Movie: Hearts in Ice

This one is a bit of an odd duck insofar that it should by all means be the most canon of them all, but suffers from the same issues that plague its predecessor in terms of fitting into the timeline.

What do I mean? Well, when you consider that the story was written by Ms. Takeuchi herself and that she took a very hands on approach in the creation of the movie, you’d think that it’d practically be guaranteed to fit seamlessly into the storyline.

The main problem that we face with fitting this into the primary storyline is just how cordial the Outer Senshi are with Sailor Moon & co. seeing that their relationship was quite strained throughout the majority of the time when Pluto was alive and kicking.

That said, fitting this into the anime’s canon is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Ignoring the fact that the girls all seem pretty upbeat and overly fixated on Luna’s love life when they’re in the midst of a life and death struggle with the Death Busters, it’s theoretically possible for the story to fit into the brief time period after Hotaru’s abduction.6

I'm so glad you're not dead, Pluto!

I’m so glad you’re not dead, Pluto!

Sailor Moon SuperS the Movie: Black Hole Dream

TLDR: Pluto’s very not dead in this movie and thus it can’t happen.

But ignoring for a moment the issues presented by Sailor Pluto not being a zombie and the Outers’ presence in general, this movie surprisingly presents very few actual continuity errors.

The Inner Senshi all have their Super power ups, everyone has the attacks you’d expect them to, and the only real character who’s suspiciously absent is Helios — though even that is hardly surprising when you consider that his issue is with the Dead Moon. Other than providing additional moral support to ChibiUsa, he has no real reason to get involved with all the drama surrounding Queen Badiane.

Be that as it may, unfortunately the existence of the Outer Senshi — and their subsequent surprise over Sailor Pluto being alive — throws all that out the window and destroys any chance of the movie being canon.

But is it canon?

But is it canon?

Honestly, I’m a bit conflicted with regard to how to close this one out. The simplest (and probably correct) answer is that these were fun side stories made to capitalize on box office sales with little concern for fitting into the series proper. In a sense, you can’t even blame them when you consider that the movies were being produced at the same time as the weekly episodes.

But that’s a boring answer!

If you’re willing to stretch a bit that the girls are good at multi-tasking and totally forget about the Seasonal ThreatTM to focus on the movie’s villains, I think we have a solid Maybe, Maybe, and No for the R, S, and SuperS movies respectively.

What about you? Do you think the movies fit into the series proper, and if so, where? I’d love to hear what you think!

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  1. Yes, I added that there for the one person eagerly waiting to comment about the Eternal movie(s).
  2. Honestly, I’m only including the “manga” here due to the S movie.
  3. If you want to get particularly pedantic, the timeline would completely go to hell when you consider just how often the crescent moon is on display in the series.
  4. Episode 77.
  5. Episode 81.
  6. Episode 122.

10 thoughts on “Can the Sailor Moon Movies Fit Into the Anime Canon?

  1. what the Director said aside what are the reasons why the r movie and the Makaiju arc cant take place in the same canon i know that Fiore did not have the tree so he should be dead but didnt he say that some how his frendship had some how given him the power to go on and Fiore was very little when he first came to earth is it possible that when he was little he got gut off from the tree and the other two and the reason that no one says how he looks like the other two is because he dressed not the same and the sailors run in to so meny weird things that they did not put the two together its been two long since i have seen the Makaiju arc is there any strong reason they cant take place in the same conan

  2. I have only seen the first film and not the other two so I’m only commenting on the first one.

    I think Chibiusa’s appearance can be handwaved either by setting the film either right after the Black Moon arc finished, before she went home, or just fanoning that Chibi came back for a visit for a week or summer etc. before going home again until she came back to leave in the past during season S. Least that’s how I would handwave it.

    For Fiore and the Makai Tree arc, while the tree said they took survivors with them to find a new one and eventually, only Ail and An were left. It’s possible considering in the midst of all the fighting, Fiore ended up in space at some point as he says he did or when the planet was destroyed, a few found themselves drifting in space and ending up in various parts of the galaxy.

    Or and this is a fanon I have, the tree mentions how the aliens grew more angered, malice etc over time, considering the xenian flower feeds and encourages hatred in their victims. That it’s possible its metior found the planet the tree lived on, and from there, it not just influenced Fiore when it possibly found its way to where the planet the tree and aliens lived.

    But helped to cause the fighting that destroyed the planet in the first place and took Fiore away to drift in space, to its meteor which is what he remembers “finding” it. So he would eventually land on another planet and repeat the process as it tries to do in the film.

    Course there’s nothing in the film or series that suggest this and it would require more threading or expanding to make full sense. But I just think it’s an interesting way of tying the Makai Tree arc and R movie together and fit into the anime canon since they are both great in their own right and I feel added a lot to Sailor Moon in general.

  3. The movie adaptation of Princess Kaguya’s Lover has the best chance of fitting in.

    The original manga short story sets the events in December but there is no indication that the events of Infinity take place in December. The girls are wearing summer uniforms in some chapters of Infinity. Oh Sailor Moon, so fantastic yet the timeline is a nightmare and the worldbuilding is meeeeh at times.

  4. This could equally apply to the other two major TOEI franchises: dragon ball z and saint seiya.

    His films take place in a parallel universe or alternate timeline that helps show other enemies or scenarios that could not be seen in the television series.

  5. I’m with you… the boring answer is the right one. They’re just not part of the same continuity. With Marvel diving headfirst into the concept of alternate universes and “variants”, I think people might be more willing than ever to accept the fact that the movies take place in an alternate timeline and it doesn’t need to line up with the anime series, and that’s OK.

  6. As I recall back in the day, it was generally a given that the movies didn’t fit in the slightest unless you chose a very short window when anything could have happened. Sailor Pluto’s existence for “let’s bring in all the active Sailors” kind of hampers much of the continuity.

  7. I vote that Pluto’s dad (Chronos) got drunk again and was screwing with the timeline for his own amusement, lol.

    Seriously, though, a lot of stuff doesn’t make sense, timeline-wise, in both the original anime and manga. Things always get screwy when you involve time travel, not to mention when you have a somewhat immortal character (she can die, but she gets better) who possibly exists outside of time itself, or has multiple versions of herself running around. Throw in a bunch of magic, reincarnation/revival, and a crystal that can basically do anything, and you have to suspend your disbelief a lot or you’ll go crazy trying to make logical sense of everything.

    For me, personally, I like the R Movie and accept that as canon, even if it makes Usagi and Mamoru strangled even more by the red string and does the whole Destined Lovers Meet as Children shtick. I can shrug it off, because the Destined Lovers thing is at the core of every version of Sailor Moon. But I like Fiore as a character more than Ail and An, and the Makaiju arc always felt too filleriffic for my tastes, so if I had to choose, I’d pick the movie. That said, I like the theory that he was just another member of their race who got lost or something. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to make that work.

    Luna randomly falling in love with a human was never my favorite plot (I’m an Artemis fan!) but the movie as a whole wasn’t exactly terrible either. I wouldn’t mind considering it some parallel universe story or a dream Luna had, something like that.

    The SuperS movie is my least favorite, but it can be entertaining if you’re in the right mood, and I will always enjoy Michiru’s “There are more fun things you can do as an adult” line and Haruka’s subsequent embarrassment. Really doesn’t work as canon any way you slice it, though, unless it all took place in some dream realm Chibi-Usa conjured up, as someone else suggested.

    The biggest crime, however, is that Hotaru/Saturn got the short end of the (moon) stick YET AGAIN. Tragic. I wish there had been another movie/special that gave her some love. If Crystal manages to finish some time this century, it would be interesting if they did some of the side stories or even a few original one-offs next, but I won’t hold my breath. Maybe a Sailor V prequel too, as others have suggested, but now I’m sounding like I’m the one stuck in a dream world. Well, who knows what the future will bring?

  8. I don’t think they were ever considered to be canon to the series. It’s like asking if the Playdia game or Another Story are canon. They are all their own thing.

    It’s the same with the manga side stories. Aside from (arguably) the exam battles, none of the other stories fit with the manga canon. Certainly not the Princess Kaguya story.

  9. I always assumed that SuperS the Movie, took place after the dead moon Circus, before Hoatru grew up. It would give the Outer Senshi better reason to return for the final season!

  10. I don’t have particular problems accepting the R and S movies as part of the canon, even with some mental gymnastics involved. I mean, it’s not like the Senshi didn’t have time to just head off to the beach at some point while the Ayakashi Sisters were still on a rampage, and they found Tokyo still standing when they got back, so… it’s not implausible for the seasonal villains to have some downtime during which, conveniently, the movies’ threat showed up. Contrived? Yes. Absolutely implausible? Nah.
    In the S movie one could even argue that the Death Busters were just as effected by the freeze and had to put their plans on hold until that blew over.

    As for the mutual exclusivity of the Makaiju arc and the R movie, we don’t know much about the alien race’s diaspora, it’s not implausible that there were other survivors that the Makaiju didn’t know about, somehow somewhere. There’s plenty of room for a handwave if one wants to fit everything.
    Ultimately, the canon is vague and lenient enough that I think it’s a matter of choice to believe one way or another.

    Oh, right. And then there’s the SuperS movie; but considering that on a bad day I’d rather pretend the SuperS series itself didn’t happen, it’s easy to extend the sentiment to the movie too. As a kid I hated it because if Pluto could just pop up unexplained, so could Saturn, and her absence idked me. That was way before I had even an idea of what canon was, so my rejection of that movie has very deep roots.

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