How Sailor Moon Changed My Life

Sailor Moon Says!

Sailor Moon Says!

Outside of the occasional anecdote or relevant personal stories, I generally avoid focusing much about myself or life experiences here on this blog. At its core, Tuxedo Unmasked isn’t meant to be a blog about me, but rather an objective look at the world of Sailor Moon and an in-depth look at the amazing people who made it possible.

But every once in awhile, as I interact with other fans who’ve also grown to become just as — if not more! — passionate about this series as myself, I start to wonder what it is that drew people to Sailor Moon and keeps them coming back for more.

Today I’d like to share with you the story about how Sailor Moon came into my world and how it quite literally made me into the person I am today. My goal here isn’t necessarily to get my story out there, but to encourage a dialogue for others to share theirs!

You have to admit, the English opening was pretty catchy

You have to admit, the English opening was pretty catchy

My relationship with Sailor Moon started in Fall 1997 when it was airing in syndication as a part of USA Network’s Action Extreme Team.1 The first episode I caught was “Jupiter Comes Thundering In,” Sailor Jupiter’s debut episode and the start of the Rainbow Crystal story arc.

Between the awesome art, the deep characters, and the rich story line, I was instantly hooked. What surprised me even more was the fact that when I tuned in the next morning, I found out that the story actually continued from one episode to the next. A serialized story in a cartoon, where each episode built on the last, was pretty much unheard of back at that time. Even today it’s far from the norm.

I happened to catch Sailor Moon during a particularly difficult time in my life. I was 11 years old, my parents were getting divorced, and I was confronted with the adult realities of life mixed with the powerlessness of being a child. Let’s just say that it wasn’t exactly a fun time in my life.

These old VHS covers will always hold a special place in my heart

These old VHS covers will always hold a special place in my heart

With all that going on around me, something about this story of love, friendship, righting wrongs, and triumphing over evil spoke out to me. For 30 minutes every weekday morning, my problems were gone.2 Unfortunately, like all good things, this gentle reprieve in my day came to an abrupt end with USA Network pulled Sailor Moon from the cartoon block mid-run, leaving me just my imagination for how the Sailor Scouts would manage to beat Malachite and topple Queen Beryl.

As I’m sure many of you also did, I immediately went to the nascent world-wide web to find out everything I could about this show, and boy was I surprised.

Read also:  What Kind of Sailor Moon Events Will Be at Universal Studios Japan?

This was a 200-episode Japanese show? They had different names?? There were male Sailor Knights and a Sailor Sun?!? Whoa! Where can I find more?

In those dark, early days of the japanimation fandom, it was really hard to find reliable information. Half of what you read was true, half was totally made up, and another half was a gross misinterpretation/bad translation.3 All you could really do was read as many pages as possible and hope to paint a semi-complete picture of what was going on.

My very first Sailor Moon manga, vol. 8

My very first Sailor Moon manga, vol. 8

Fast-forward a couple years and I was fully into anime, manga, games — the whole nine yards. But I wasn’t just satisfied reading about it, no. I wanted to read it for myself. I saw how these characters “voices” changed from one translation to the next and I wanted to know what their real character was. At 16 years old, I decided that I was going to study Japanese and ultimately become a translator.

Armed with my paper (yes, paper) Japanese⇔English dictionary and my copy of Sailor Moon volume 8, I immediately set about trying to translate the manga for myself. It went about as well as you can imagine: not very.

Of all the half-baked ideas I’ve had in life, this one definitely ranks near the top. I won’t bore you with the stories and challenges of learning Japanese, but let’s just say that it’s not something you do “on a whim.”

Fast forward six years and with a Japanese History degree under my belt,4 I decided the time was ripe for me to move to the land of anime, talking cats, and robots — I was gonna go to Japan to reap my fortunes! And by “reap my fortunes,” I mean “move to the Japanese countryside and earn a moderate salary teaching kids English.” It’s very easy to confuse the two, so I wouldn’t blame you if you did.

I did that for a few years while I built up my Japanese skills before making my move to Tokyo in 2011, half a year after the devastating Tohoku earthquake. This is how I got my very unexpected entry into the world of translation – I started out as a document specialist, volunteered to serve as a proofreader for the in-house translators, and eventually was made into a full-time member of the translation team.

The first manga I ever translated

The first manga I ever translated

After a few years of this and a chance-encounter with an American manga publisher, I finally broke into manga translation several years ago.  Though I no longer read much manga at the time, this opportunity rekindled my love for the medium and brought to mind all of the questions and doubts I had about the translations back when I was a young reader myself. A translator may not be able to set the pacing of a manga, but you certainly are responsible for the tone.

Read also:  5 Lessons Learned From Sailor Moon

Around 2015, I was doing a lot of soul-searching. Thinking about where I had come from, where I was, and where I was going. I was almost 30 and I wanted to start some sort of project, to refocus my energies on something I was passionate about. Sailor Moon was the first thing that came to mind.

As weird as it sounds, I love digging deep into mysteries and trying to uncover answers with few hints to go on. That’s why I love translation, and why Tuxedo Unmasked is so much fun for me to write. In a way, this blog is a sort of research project devoted to my younger self – my way of answering all those questions I never could quite figure out. Along the way, I’ve met many people I’m honored to call friends.

She's going to be a fan, mark my words!

She’s going to be a fan, mark my words!

Though life is by no means a linear line, I directly credit Sailor Moon with me being where I am in life today. After all, if it wasn’t for that fateful encounter on TV, I never would have learned about anime, never would have wanted to study Japanese, never would have moved to Japan, never would have met my wife, and wouldn’t have my lovely daughter.5

So that, in a nutshell, is my story of how Sailor Moon quite literally changed my life. It’s been a long, interesting road from my first chance encounter with Sailor Moon to living on the other side of the globe, but it’s been a fun trip. Remember kids – you can make your dreams happen.

If you have any stories you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them! I’m always fascinated to hear about what brought people to the Sailor Moon and what keeps them coming back for more.


References:

  1.  See USA Cartoon Express
  2. I also watched a lot of Extreme Ghostbusters at this time, but the less we talk about that, the better
  3. Please don’t look into my math on that — it checks out.
  4. My university didn’t provide a language-focus track, so I needed to major in something related to Japan in order to study Japanese for all four years. I didn’t necessarily care about history at that time, but it seemed a better choice than literature or religion. I eventually did fall in love with Japanese and Chinese history, however.
  5. Who is secretly named after an anime character, but don’t tell anyone about that. Shhh!

11 thoughts on “How Sailor Moon Changed My Life

  1. It’s great to see how profoundly an interest in Sailor Moon when younger affected your life’s direction.

    I only started watching it for the first time last summer, although I’d intended to watch it for some time before that. I absolutely adored the vivid aesthetic of the first arc, and within no time watched the full series and read the manga. I suppose there hasn’t been enough time for the show to have affected my life’s direction in any significant way, yet here I am on Sailor Moon fansites, so I think it may still yet.

  2. So cool to hear your story! I’m glad Sailor Moon was able to help you through a rough time in your life as a kid.

    My best friend introduced me to anime in general, but I discovered Sailor Moon on my own. I was 14 and was in the waiting room at my orthodontist’s office. This was back when Toonami aired anime on Saturday mornings. The ep that was playing was “Sailor Mercury Moving On?”, the one where Ami is thinking of going to Germany. Unfortunately, I only saw bits of it cause I had to go in for my appointment. All that really stuck in my head was Ami, or Amy rather, probably because she was the focus of the episode, and also because she had the same name as my best friend.

    When I next saw my best friend at school, I told her about it, and she told me more about the show, and that “Amy” was Sailor Mercury. Our group of friends (basically the people we ate lunch with) all pretended to be Senshi for a while after that. I wanted to be Mercury, but she was taken, so I ended up being Pluto. How we knew about Pluto at the time I don’t know, since I don’t think Sailor Moon S had aired in the U.S. yet at the time (or even those episodes of R that Toonami later aired as “Sailor Moon: The Lost Episodes”). But I think I got the role because I was the oldest in the group (I had started kindergarten a year late, cause my birthday is in October, so I was always older than other people in my grade). This is probably part of why Pluto became my favorite Outer Senshi.

    Over the years, I’ve gotten into many other anime and manga series. Like you, it’s gotten me interested in Japanese culture and language, though I admit I haven’t committed to it as seriously as you. But Sailor Moon remains in my top favorites (along with my first anime, Pokémon). Through it, I found out about Codename wa Sailor V and ordered that manga in French from Canada, since I took French in school, and it wasn’t officially available in English at the time. Of course, when the SM manga was re-released in English (along with the official English debut of Codename wa Sailor V), I bought that too. Along the way, I discovered PGSM and SeraMyu, giving me new ways to engage with the series, and then we got Sailor Moon Crystal too! It’s been a fun journey, and I think I’ll continue to be into Sailor Moon for a while yet. I can’t say it’s changed my life as much as yours, but I love the story and I am glad I found it!

  3. This was a wonderful and inspiring post, thank you for sharing your story with us!

    (And I do absolutely love that feeling of going as deep into the weeds, as far down the rabbit hole, as you can go with a subject you love).

  4. This was really lovely to read! I like to say that Sailor Moon is how I ended up English teaching in Japan too… And learning Japanese. I have wanted to know more about you so this is a welcome read! Looking forward to your future insights.

  5. I discovered the series while I was 16-ish, as it was first airing in Canada (where it was MUCH more popular than it was in the States, having a prime position on Canada’s YTV channel in the after-school section). It was right near the end of the first season, and I became entranced with the grouchy girl with the long, dark hair :).

    After seeing bits and pieces of episodes and figuring I should watch it regularly, I soon saw the INCREDIBLE episode about their past in the Moon Kingdom, and I was immediately shocked by how EPIC and amazing this seemed. The show went from “a show with cute girls” to “OMG I HAVE TO WATCH THIS NOW!!”

    My love for the show soon led to a love for anime and Japan, which led me on a school exchange in my last year of High School that was a magnificent experience. So much so that I went back a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it even more as an adult.

  6. That’s a really nice story. For me I had that same kind of intense fan appreciation for Sailor Moon and anything Japanese for about 3 years, but then I just burned out on it (too many bad anime shows that weren’t nearly as good as Sailor Moon) and didn’t come back to it for quite a while. I kind of wish I had been the type of person to stick with it and have an interesting life like yours, fully learning the language and living in Japan.

    • I also had a burnout. Honestly, I wish I’d burned out of it years earlier, I’d have saved so much money…or spent it on video games, I guess…

      I tried so many other magical girl series ranging from almost complete copies (Wedding Peach, Tokyo Mew Mew) to bizarre and not really my thing (Arjuna, Corrector Yui) to the amazing but nothing like Sailor Moon (Rayearth, Card Captor Sakura).

      By the time Pretty Cure came around, I was kind of tired of the Magical Girl genre in general, except for Sailor Moon, which I watched in some form almost yearly. I’ve still never managed to get into Pretty Cure. I intend to, but…part of me hates it because it gets the budget a new Sailor Moon series deserves and Crystal is only making the series look bad.

      I’d love to see some discussions on here comparing Sailor Moon to other series that had a similar premise, especially Wedding Peach.

  7. I was a tad older at 16 going on 17 when I got into it.
    As a younger kid, I’d seen the Fox ads and never given it much thought.
    My first brushes with anime were on Nick Jr. as a little kid. Of course, back then I didn’t know that my favorite shows: Maple Story, The Little Prince, Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics The Little Koala, Noozles and the Little Bits (plus several others) were all anime.
    But I never knew much of anime until Sailor Moon and DBZ.
    I couldn’t get interested in DBZ and didn’t even consider Sailor Moon…sadly, I don’t remember my first episode, though it was a part of R airing on Toonami.

    Then one weekend I was sick and had to stay in and they were running a marathon to catch up for the “Lost episodes” in 1999. I was hooked.

    By 2000 I was a Sailor Moon junkie and was hungry for more.
    The only access I had to the internet was at friends’ houses and it was very limited (and dial-up). Any clip or picture from later seasons was an incredible find for me.
    Also, imagine my surprise to find out they were all princesses except for Uranus who was also a prince (but only in Japan since the Chick/Tokyo Pop manga obviously had changed it!)
    That was the fault of Save our Sailors. I’m not sure why they felt the need to change things to fit their own bad headcanon. But, they did keep the fandom going I suppose.

    When S was announced for the states and it seemed to be a more faithful adaptation, I was head over heels. Then without any fanfare, SuperS began airing. This caught me off guard and I remember running home from a friend’s house to record it, missing the eclipse and then having to struggle to get my job to let me off in time each day so I could be at home to watch it (my VCR was unreliable at recording).

    It wasn’t until about 2002 or maybe 2003 that I saw Stars and the wait had seemed unbearable. Like a lifetime…I bought a box set from a totally reputable site called “SailorStars.com” (the domain is currently for sale for only $12,000!)

    Upon receiving it I got what I had feared, this was a bootleg. I was afraid at first I’d done something horribly illegal. But I watched it anyway, broken subtitles and all.

    From there my love for Sailor Moon has waxed and waned (no pun intended).
    Sadly, for my bank account, it also caused me to hunger for more anime and in the early 2000s I spent thousands on anime and manga.
    My love for anime has subsided to a much more casual thing, but I still love Sailor Moon and I imagine it will always be a part of my life.

  8. Sailor Moon has been a part of my life since its first airing on YTV on August 28, 1995. Even before that, because I remember watching the ads promoting the new show and being excited to watch that first episode.

    I watched every episode I could manage. I woke up at 3am to watch the east coast channels. I bought VKLL tapes from sketchy import stores that contained nothing but bootleg movies. I begged to buy cantonese versions of the manga off a girl in school and I read them with print outs of Alex Glover translations. When I finally was able to get online and gorge on Sailor Moon fan sites, I taught myself HTML and Photoshop to make my own shrine on Geocities. Probably one of the largest contributors to my current career in print. I played Sailor Moon Drops the night my father died, the comfort of those girls helping me through my grief.

    The series is my oldest and dearest friend. I don’t think I can truly sum up in words how much Sailor Moon means to me and how much it helped me throughout my childhood and adolescence. I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment either.

  9. I started getting into Sailor Moon around late-2014(Yeah, pretty late) and it was mainly when I saw that my mom used to have a few Sailor Moon VHS tapes lying around(2 Sailor Moon S VHS tapes and a Sailor Moon S Movie tape). During my early interests of the series, I started watching a Sailor Stars fandub by Fighter4Luv and started getting even more interested to the point of drawing my own characters based off of Sailor Moon and trying to watch the anime on Hulu when nobody was around

  10. Excellent article Tuxedo Unmasked. Sailor Moon changed my life as well. It came to me in a part of my life that was very dark and miserable. It wasn’t easy being a trans kid in the Bible belt and it provided a fun escapism for me. I also love the amazing story line and characters so it was cathartic. I am curious who were these Sailor Knights and Sailor Sun that the internet said in the series that were made up. Also I know I have said this before but I am dying with curiosity but you mentioned on the article on if Naru was going to be a more important character that there were some fan theories and beliefs on a different Sailor Saturn. Being a huge Hotaru fan and lover of obscure Sailor Moon information I would love if you talked about this. Again great article and as always love your work.

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