How Has the Sailor Moon Fandom Changed Since 2000?

You're the 352 Moonie to visit Tuxedo Unmasked!

You’re the 352 Moonie to visit Tuxedo Unmasked!

Over the past 20+ of my life that I’ve been following the franchise, I’ve always found myself in awe of the fact about just how great of a time it is to be a Sailor Moon fan right now. However, I can think of few years as pivotal as 2000 was.

After all, it wasn’t every day that you finally got a brand new season of your favorite show after a three year hiatus. Sailor Moon S hit North American shores with such immense force that it wouldn’t soon be forgotten… for better or for worse.1

Today I’d like to take you back through time for a glimpse into the Sailor Moon fandom back in the year 2000 as we analyze just how much it has — and hasn’t! — changed in the past two decades. Stick around, read along, and don’t forget to sign my guestbook!

Sailor Moon World marked the series’ 10th anniversary

Before we begin our discussion on how things were looking in North America, though, we should probably talk about how Sailor Moon was doing in its homeland back at the turn of the century.

In the Land of the Rising (Sailor) Sun

While by no means forgotten, the franchise was pretty much running on auto-pilot in Japan at this point in time. The original manga volumes were selling respectably and the anime could still be caught in re-runs, but the only “new” material really being generated were Bandai’s biannual SeraMyu musicals along with a smattering of fan-made “garage kit” resin models.

It wouldn’t be until 2001, with the launch of the Sailor Moon World-branded toys, cards, and associated other products, when we would see any new life breathed into the series. I think Ms. Takeuchi and the formation of her license-management company, Princess Naoko Planning, played a major role in that revival.

Pioneer’s 1999 adaptation of the Sailor Moon R movie

Every Rose Has Its Thorns

While Sailor Moon was happily coasting along in its homeland, the series was finally beginning to build up momentum in North America after several years of wallowing in syndication.

On August 31, 1999, Pioneer Entertainment released English subtitled versions of the Sailor Moon movies with edited English dubs to come the following year.2 While it was groundbreaking at the time to finally get uncensored official Sailor Moon media, censors once again reared their ugly heads: while the dub was rated as appropriate for 5 year olds, the subtitled and unedited cuts got a rather strict suggested audience of 13+.3

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

While this may have been a source of annoyance for the still-nascent anime community in the West, things were about to get turned on their heads in the summer of 2000 when an English dub of Sailor Moon S finally hit the airwaves — the first time that Sailor Moon fans would see a new English episode since Fall 1997.4

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There was only one problem: Cloverway Inc. (CWI), the representative office of Toei Animation for the Americas,5 seemed almost as intent on whitewashing series as their DiC predecessors. I’m sure you’re all aware of the Amara (Haruka) and Michelle (Michiru) being cousin’s along with the latter’s “first kiss with Brad, the cutest guy in school.”

Sailor Moon Says!

Sailor Moon Says!

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

With that little history lesson out of the way, I think we’re in a good spot to take a look at how the Sailor Moon fandom responded as a community to the newest developments in their favorite franchise. For anyone who’s been a part of any large online community for any period of time, you can probably guess.

You had your purists (“subs rule, dubs drool!”), your centrists (“it’s okay even with its flaws”), your apologists (“CWI is just doing what it has to do to be on air”), and the happy people who know nothing about all this drama. Websites, forums, and mailing lists were filled with heated conversations between these various groups as each argued the merits of their own views. Pretty much just like you see in discourse nowadays!

I do think there’s merit to some of the the more forgiving arguments, however. While 20 years on we can talk about how absurd it is to edit cartoons so heavily, we shouldn’t readily evaluate actions in the past with the same value set that we have today. Funimation themselves even tried to explained — and apologized for — their extensive edits to Dragon Ball Z on their official FAQ:6

Q. Why do you censor the show?

A. Believe it or not but we hate censoring the show as much as you hate seeing it censored. The level of censorship is determined by the broadcaster, not FUNimation. The first 53 episodes were created under the censorship authority of Saban. Each episode had to be blessed by an independent censorship authority before it could be aired. These episodes were also created for “free TV” which requires stricter FCC censorship guidelines than cable. We at FUNimation agree that many of the censorship issues have been pretty ridiculous and that the series should remain as pure to the original form as possible. This has been a constant battle for us since we feel most of Dragon Ball Z is perfectly suitable for all ages and teaches great moral traits such as honesty, friendship, good vs. evil, etc..

In my opinion, CWI’s biggest fault was one of consistency. The writing was all over the place, from highly adapted episodes that only loosely followed the Japanese to other episodes with stilted, literally translated dialogue. Attack names and transformation phrases varied from one episode to the next. Some characters were renamed (Setsuna→Trista) while others were inexplicably left alone (Hotaru→Hotaru).

"Troublemakers and All Things Naughty" -- a fan page devoted to Sailor Moon villains

Troublemakers and All Things Naughty” — a fan page devoted to Sailor Moon villains

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

While the version of Sailor Moon that fans got may not have exactly been ideal, this new injection of content helped to reignite the passion in fans who had moved onto newer series and drew in much-needed new blood into the community. In fact, many of you reading this right now probably first cut your teeth, so to speak, on this version of Sailor Moon!

Even with all of its shortcomings, this new dub led to a flurry of activity among new and old fans alike. Fanfiction, character shrines, and even simple web pages devoted to pointing out the discrepancies and “educate” others about (your take on) what is the true story of Sailor Moon became common place.

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Lacking the massive social media networks that we have now, many fans were left to explore their hobby in a solitary manner in the hopes of using that as both of an outlet to express themselves and as a way of finding community.

Honestly, I think the edits kinda made sense sometimes...

Honestly, I think the edits kinda made sense sometimes…

It’s always hard looking back on the past because it’s far too easy to come across as either overly critical or to glorify “the good old days.” While I look fondly on those days of my misspent youth running my own Sailor Moon fan site, moderating Sailor Moon message boards, and even staying up late into the night arguing with people on guest books about things that didn’t really matter, I realize that it’s the memories that I treasure and not necessarily the events themselves that were important.

That being said, I do believe that this was a critical time for the North American Sailor Moon community. Were it not for the young kids who grew up watching the show on Toonami in the early 2000s, I’m not confident that there would have been nearly a strong enough fan base to justify all the amazing US-only merchandise we see nowadays or the theatrical releases.

So that’s enough of my rambling on. What was your first exposure to the Sailor Moon franchise? I’d love to hear about any memories you’d like to share down below!

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23 thoughts on “How Has the Sailor Moon Fandom Changed Since 2000?

  1. Actually, I’d love to read an article about the Japanese fandom only and how it changed since 90s. I have an impression than (because of the language barrier and not living in the same culture) it’s difficult for us, fans from outside Japan, to know what Japanese fans think: what they like about the franchise the most, what they think about Crystal, PGSM, manga vs anime, does Sailor Moon still get new fans or are they mostly nostalgia ones, what caused discussions in the fandom etc.

  2. awesome article! this is so interesting to read about. my first introduction to sailor moon was on youtube when i was about 5 or 6 years old lol (im 17 now)… i watched a mix of the subbed or dubbed versions depending on what i could find. now that im grown, i think all the time about the censorship and how that impacted the series, but i dont remember spending much time thinking about it as a kid! im sure i noticed the differences, but i was just happy to be watching my favorite show 🙂

  3. I started watching in 1998 I remember it as being ’99, but sources say otherwise) during a marathon, I think it was a marathon that aired just before the “Lost episodes” on Toonami. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YG2Z581WXWE
    I was sick and stuck inside, so I wanted to watch some cartoons and oh no! All that was on was that show that used to be on Fox, Sailor Moon!
    I’d never watched it on Fox (it was too early for my blood) but now, stuck inside I was mesmerized by the attacks, transformations and for Cartoon Network, a great storyline. I was so intrigued that this was an ongoing story and at the time I had no idea how many episodes I’d “missed” before the “Nega Moon” arc.

    I watched a few episodes here and there and then saw the lost episodes and then repeats of the first season and then that was it for a long time.
    But I was hooked, I started buying what Sailor Moon goods I could find at the local comic store, a big, dark store that I liked going to anyway.
    The Sailor Moon rage had just started to hit and though the comic store owner admitted he didn’t see what the fuss was about, he had a table set up dedicated to Sailor Moon near the front.
    My mind was blown…there were more Sailors? I saw figures of Rini as “Chibi Moon” which made no sense to me, Neptune, Uranus, odd colored Plutos, and even a large Pegasus figure that I couldn’t have afforded, and wouldn’t have bought if I could because he looked so out of place to what I knew.
    I was always short on time and cash when I visited and I usually reserved that for the “Chixx Comics” or the CCG.

    Oh if only I’d known, I would have saved up for that merchandise instead, since most of it I’ve never seen again.

    Then I bought the RPG book and “Scout Guides” and by this time I’d forgotten the color schemes of the figures and dolls and since the RPG guide was b&w I had to imagine what Uranus, Neptune, Saturn etc. looked like. (in my mind, Neptune MUST be a redhead.)

    I had no internet access at this period, so when Toonami started airing the new episodes ads https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SavHiLN8Ozo I almost lost my mind! I was so excited and no one could understand why.
    By this point I already knew that (gasp!) there were lesbians in the show and I was a bit confused by the cosuin angle, I didn’t expect the lover angle to show up, but the cousin one a bit odd even then, since i thought it must be canon, too.
    When I did start reading online I found that people had mixed opinions, but for the most part it seemed fans understood that to get it aired here we had to expect some changes. And they were right. It was that or nothing. Sure, with a better budget and more time and better writers, they could have handled it better.
    But I’m glad we got it one way or another and it even opened up all kinds of interesting debates that other shows were not generating.

    “I do think there’s merit to some of the the more forgiving arguments, however. While 20 years on we can talk about how absurd it is to edit cartoons so heavily, we shouldn’t readily evaluate actions in the past with the same value set that we have today”

    I agree. We can be understanding and forgiving without saying it was right or good. I think too many of the people who criticize those decisions now were born later or were very young when it aired and don’t remember the fallout even adult shows had from featuring gay characters.
    Since the alternative was to never see Sailor Moon at all, I forgive them.

    As for Funimation, they are still all over the place. Some series, like One Piece and DBZ they’ve gotten better with, but others that they think they can get by with, they inject random political ideologies (even if I agree with some of the ideas, such as not objectifying women, having characters go on a tirade NOT in the original is dishonest and just as bad from an authenticity perspective)
    Viz has done the same. So the butchering of dubs is not done with apparently.

    Anyway, thank you for the article, reading about the “good-old-days” makes my day. XD
    Now, go bleach your roots!

  4. My first exposure to Sailor Moon was in 2017 when I first watched the sub on Hulu Plus. It is my favorite anime of all time and the anime that got me into Maho Shojo. I first heard of Sailor Moon from a DB YouTuber, and when I heard them say it was great like that was, that’s when I jumped right into the Sailor Moon anime and became a Moonie. Also, as a side note, Sailor Moon helped me find my second favorite anime of all time, PreCure!

  5. Im glad that I got into Sailor Moon later than everybody else as I got to experience the uncensored Viz dub which served as a great introduction for me

    • It was only American Dub in the 90s that was edited. It was uncut all over the world. (Well for the most part, Korea is another story on its own ) To me the 90s original dub as a special place in my heart because its what got me into learning about Japanese culture. I loved it for what it was, but as I got older and information was more easily available I grew to love the Japanese and Spanish version. Spanish is my native language, but it was pretty much a direct translation of the original Japanese dialog. Anyone who watches the VIz dub, im glad you got to love this show. Just don’t look down on people who love the original one growing up. Its what brought us all together in the first place <3

  6. Interesting stuff! I remember the old days of Webrings and Character Shrines! And ohhhhhhhhhhhhh my god all the third-hand information from somebody who heard from somebody who got a translation of the manga and guessed what some of the phrases meant, lol!

    I remember loving the dub and then being struck by the revelation of everything that had been cut out. Hooooooooo boy was I happy to get the real finale of the first season when somebody uploaded it to YouTube ages ago.

    • I really miss auto-playing MIDI character songs on Geocities website. I fell in love with Makoto’s image song “Starlight Ni Kiss Shite” that way. The Orgel version is even now, still my gentle wake-up alarm 🙂

      • It really depends on the midi for me. =D
        Some of those awful renditions of your favorite songs blaring in your ears with no way to stop them… that was painful.

  7. I remember going online in ’96 for the first time. Had me convinced Galaxia was Serena’s aunt for years.

    • Flat out lies online were bad, as were fanfiction-based sites that didn’t properly mention that their information wasn’t canon.
      I remember being convinced for several weeks that there were Solar Knights that fought alongside the Senshi in a later season only to later learn that was just someone’s fanfic.

      • Some of them were infamous, such as ‘Tomb of the Little Known Senshi’. Then you had all the geocities shrines, fansite reviewers, the roleplay groups. Ah, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

        • I loved the Amazoness Quartet’s Worst of the Web. It was a great site that not only brought to light some of the awfulness out there, but they also offered constructive feedback.
          The Lemure Files provide a great snapshot in time of what people in the Sailor Moon community were talking about back in the day.

          • Of course alot of the crazy things I believed about Sailor Moon as a series didn’t come from the internet but from a friend of mine who made up some of the most outrageous lies about the series I ever heard.

          • Aww, yes. Sites like those are honestly why I downloaded the 1 TB Geocities scrape, because so many amazing Sailor Moon sites were on Geocities. Hard to believe Tripod and Angelfire are still around!

      • Solar Knights eh that is interesting were they related to the Sun? I guess for me a strange rumor that wasn’t true that I believed for a long time was that Queen Serenity and Queen Nehellenia were sisters and alot of people tended to mix Nehellenia’s 90s anime backstory with her manga story as they mixed the DiC English stuff with the Japanese story. Like you would have sites calling Queen Metalia by her correct Japanese name and then saying that she rules the Negaverse.

        • I believe the sister rumor originated from the manga. During the flashback, Nehellenia talks about Serenity and herself. Going from memory, the dialogue is about light and darkness being two sides of the same coin and how they all have the same origin (ie cauldron town). Basic jist of the scene. Some people took that to mean they’re literally sisters.

  8. I got into SM when I was little, maybe 7 or 8. As soon as Cartoon Network had the Toonami anime block, I was there. Up till then, I had been on a diet of Merry Melodies, Disney, and Batman, so I was totally entranced by the animation style, the story of the fall of the moon kingdom, and surprising enough, the DIC music, which I believe better captured the drama and magical feel of the show. Of course, Moonlight Densetsu will always be on top.

    My best friend at the time was a guy, and we would play SM tag during recess. He played Prince Diamond, and I was Sailor Moon. We had a third friend who kind of looked like Sailor Venus, which was the character she ultimately wanted to be. Others eventually joined, too. It was a blast. This was in addition to hours spent drawing Sailor Moon/Neo Queen Serenity, Tuxedo Mask/Prince Endymion, and Wicked Lady/Chibi-Moon. I also remember bugging my dad to take me to Universe, the one store miles away that sold anime merchandise. He bought me volume 1 of the English manga, a fabric poster of the Inners, and an iron-on patch of Sailor Moon that made its way onto a red tee. Unfortunately, Universe went out of business, and I wish I had the money to buy the rest of the English manga volumes, however clumsy the Mix translations were.

    Today I have a more intellectual approach to SM, tracking down music (have more Moonlight Densetsu covers than I can count), learning about its literary influences (from such sources as this fantastic blog!), and occasionally reading fanfiction, some of which is generated by really talented writers. While my fan activity is fairly subdued, I know SM has had a lasting impact on me. I still like to express my appreciation in small ways, e.g. most, if not all, the various tones on my iPhone are SM sound effects or BGM excerpts!

  9. (This is sort of belated,) Every once in a while I remember Sailor Moon and come here to read the articles, because it’s one of the few anime-related blogs I consider a worthwhile reading nowadays. Today, in particular, as I was making my Neocities website, I was about to write about my experience with Sailor Moon fandom because it was quite literally the WORLD for ~9-year-old-me, so I was excited to find a few links here!

    Being born and raised in South America (specifically, in Brazil …) my experience is actually different from those of people based in the US and Japan so it’s always interesting to know a bit on how things were elsewhere. While some things were the same here – Internet crowded with Sailor Moon fansites hosted in either some local free hosting website or your own Sailormoon.com email? Check – some things were positively different – the manga wasn’t published here before the 2010s (!) because of some licensing drama so we couldn’t even read scans; the anime had built a strong local fanbase after a 1996 run of SMC on free TV but we only got SMR onwards in nearly-2001 on cable TV ; official merch was scarce and there was a whole debate on the 1996 dub cast being better than the 2000 dub cast (which, well, it was lol). There are 2 versions of Moonlight Densetsu as VA and lyrics were changed for the 2000-onwards run, and people were pissed off. (Our “fanclub membership card” was probably being able to sing both versions.)
    But it was a pretty big and strong fanbase despite all the setbacks (or maybe because of them) and I always find myself thinking – if it wasn’t for Sailor Moon my life would be so different in many ways, and it’s crazy that in prime 2020 I can go to the mall and get licensed manga and shirts. Now it’s vintage so it’s cool? Feels “hey! We knew you were there, sorry we were quiet for 20 years” lol.

    It’s just that there are as many Sailor Moon fandoms as there are countries where Sailor Moon aired, and boy that’s a lot. And to this day we get to enjoy having an active fandom, new merch, releases and all – for something that was sort of “what’s it? Sailor girls? Dunno, but I like it!” at its time, growing up with it and just seeing it being acknowledged as this “epitome of y2k anime aesthetic” is so, so cool. Something to be thankful for.

  10. 2020-06-17… I just started watching Sailor Moon, , for the first time, through the VIZ sub last month. I’m approaching 70 and I think it’s wonderful ! I’ve seen all of Season1 & 2 (R) and up to EP 22 of Season 3 (S). It has surpassed my expectations in almost every way. Not only do I get a laugh from every episode, I’m frequently struck by the cleverness or impact of an image, or by the drama, tension or emotional connection. You are never too old for good story-telling and engaging characters !
    I love the teen-aged shallowness mixed with passion, the friendship and that these warriors fight with the weapons that make any human truly powerful – a loving heart and indomitable Will !

  11. This was a fascinating article. I used to have a forum account on Sailor Scouts UK circa 2003, which hosted episodes of PGSM in WMV format along with further details of the anime. As you may be aware, Sailor Moon did very badly in the UK and it was cancelled after airing the first two seasons.

    I miss those guys sometimes. ^^

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