How Were Ail, An, and the Makaiju Seen as Sailor Moon Villains?

Usagi Tsukino vs. Natsumi Ginga

Usagi Tsukino vs. Natsumi Ginga

The Makaiju story arc, exclusive to the Sailor Moon R anime, has always been extremely divisive among fans of the series. Not only did it not even exist in the manga, but it also feels more like an extension of the first season rather than as if it’s telling a whole new story.

And that, my dear friends, is exactly why I love the Makaiju storyline so much. It takes everything I loved about the anime telling of the Dark Kingdom arc, compresses it into a few episodes, and throws it all together into a “slice of life” low-impact story.

Today we’re going to take a look at an interview with Yumi Toma,1 voice actress for Natsumi Ginga (or better known as her alien form, An), about how she viewed and portrayed her character. If you love this story arc as much as I do, I’m sure you’ll find this pretty interesting!

The Doom Tree Box

The Doom Tree Box

I hate to go totally off topic, but one of the reasons why I absolutely love Ail, An, and the Makaiju so much is that it was something of a saving grace for me, probably not unlike what many young Japanese fans felt after the original series ended with such a dark twist.

You see, the channel that first introduced me to Sailor Moon took the series off the air in the middle of its run, leaving me hanging right before the final battle against Queen Beryl. Being the late 90s, I was without streaming options or even reliable internet to figure out what happened next, so my only choice was to desperately attempt to track down video tapes at a rental chain.2 After calling a few places in the city — yes, using a real phone, calling numbers that I looked up in a phone book — I finally found a few tapes.

Fast forward3 to a few days later, and I was finally able to see (what I believed to be at the time) the end of Sailor Moon. It was an incredibly bittersweet feeling. While I was so happy to see the show get a resolution, it ended with such finality. That was it. No more Meatball Head, no more Molly from Brooklyn, no more Darien. My favorite characters’ stories were now told, and that was that.

Or so I though.

Several months later I was at the mall to spend my birthday money when I ran across the “Doom Tree” box set. I truly can’t describe how much that meant to young Jason at the time, but I felt like the clouds had parted, like I was reunited with old friends. This meant I had 13 glorious episodes of brand new adventures.

Read also:  What's It Like to Be a Sailor Moon Cosplayer?

And that, my dear readers, is why I love the Makaiju story arc so much. It opened up the door to new Sailor Moon adventures for me, and even introduced me to the fact that there were stories beyond that. The rest, as they say, is history.

Alas, that has nothing to do with what we’re talking about today! What we’re here to take a look at is an interview with voice actress Yumi Toma, published in the June 1993 issue of the Japanese anime magazine Newtype.4 In this interview, she gives some interested insight into how she sees the character of An/Natsumi and about her motivations.

Yumi Toma Interview (June 1993; Newtype)

Yumi Toma Interview (June 1993; Newtype)

Playing the role of “An,” I don’t really see her as a villain. Sure, she and Ail may attack humans while seeking out life energy, but it’s not like they kill anyone. I mean, after their energy is stolen, the humans just get a little tired and sleep is all. (laugh) But to Ail and An, this life energy is a matter of life and death. If you look at it that way, I think it’s no big deal, since it’s something they have to do to live. I mean, hey, it’s just like a lion eating a zebra to survive. (laugh)

It’s funny — despite all the hundreds of articles I’ve written and hours I’ve spent obsessing over every little detail of Sailor Moon, I’ve never looked at it from this point of view. I actually think she’s got a good point! Compared to all the other villains, these two are easy to sympathize with!

If you were to take the Sailor Soldiers as “justice,” then that naturally makes An “evil.” However, I try to be sure to portray her time as Natsumi just like a normal junior high school student.

An is full of herself and devious, while Natsumi is — though maybe not quite as bad as Usagi — just a modern upbeat girl who lives to her fullest.

I guess the common attribute between the two is that they tend to fall head over heels in love. Right now, An (Natsumi) seems to be in love with both Ail and Mamoru, but I personally think that in the end it’s Ail that she really needs. Ail’s her true love, while Mamoru is her fallback… that kind of thing. She really admires Mamoru and chases after him, but in the end it’s Ail. When she’s in trouble, he’s the one she relies in on the end, right?

You probably don't want to mess with An...

You probably don’t want to mess with An…

This is another interesting point for me, since I’ve always felt the whole An⇔Ail→Usagi→Mamoru←An⇔Ail love… triangle? Octagon? to be rather confusing. It’s obvious that they’re romantically involved and care for each other deeply, and yet they still pursue others. On the other hand, I appreciate the effort Ms. Toma went to in portraying An and Natsumi characters in different ways. It’s amazing just how much control a voice actor exerts over their character.

Yet still, when she sees Mamoru, she still falls right for him. I mean, since she’s my character it’s only natural that I’d be supportive of her, but I’d say she’s “quick to fall in love” and “earnest.”

For some reason, I’ve recently been taking on a lot of roles where, just like An, I play the rival against the main character. But that is what it is. (laugh) I want to try to pull out the best in characters, even those different from what I’m used to. I hope you’ll keep supporting An and my other characters too!

Ail and An's apartment

Ail and An’s apartment

Personally, I found the additional insight into An’s character to be incredibly interesting. As I mentioned earlier, since the characters themselves are on shaky ground as it is in terms of their legitimacy in the series — especially after they basically were rewritten into Fiore and Xenian — it’s rare that you find any information about Ail, An, or the Makaiju.

Read also:  Did Mamoru Meet Usagi In the Hospital As a Child?

And now for that burning question I have for you: what do you think of the Makaiju story arc? Just a rehash of the Dark Kingdom story that had already been done better elsewhere, or maybe a fun and low-key look at the series? Basically filler in the worst way? I’d like to get some insight on how people feel about this unique side story in the Sailor Moon world!


References:

  1.  See Yumi Toma (Wikipedia)
  2. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, be thankful. For those who do, I’m talking about Blockbuster.
  3. Pun intended
  4.  See Newtype (Wikipedia)

9 thoughts on “How Were Ail, An, and the Makaiju Seen as Sailor Moon Villains?

  1. Awww, your story about finding the Doom Tree arc and falling in love with it is so cute. ^_^ I can understand why you love it so much!

    Personally, I don’t really like the arc and I always tell people to skip it. All it really does is provide an explanation for how everyone gets their memories back at the end of season 1, but that thing where they forget their memories was always kind of stupid in the first place, and you can summarize what people need to know for the rest of R with, like, a sentence.

    However, regarding some of your questions at the end of the article, I think this is the BEST way to do filler. The people who don’t wanna watch it can simply skip it, and the filler arc itself becomes one small, contained story that can be enjoyed on its own! Even though I don’t like this arc, I actually wish they had done this MORE often over the course of the series, instead of drawing everything out with so many skippable, formulaic one-off filler episodes. Imagine if there had been a 10 episode filler arc in between S and SuperS… wouldn’t that have been preferable to SuperS being ~25 episodes of filler and ~10 episodes of plot? I strongly think so.

    • I definitely agree with you that this is totally filler. As much as I love these eps, they add nothing constructive to the story other than, as you mention, addressing the memory thing… =p Which the anime kind of unnecessarily shoe-horned into the end of the first season in the first place.

      But if you’re gonna do filler, this is the best way to do it in my opinion, rather than tossing in random, meaningless eps in the middle of important story arcs. Even worse when they go the incredibly lazy route and pull out a clips episode. No one needs or wants that.

      The opening of Stars also did a pretty good job with this in my opinion with the quick Nehelenia arc. Not only did it give us a nice, concise story to work with and tie up some loose ends, but it also brought the Outers back into the story (who were suspiciously missing from the entirety of SuperS). I do wish that they went with a new villain rather than Nehelenia, though. Feels almost like a “Cinderella 2” kind of issue, where you’re left saying “Okay, but didn’t we already resolve this story?”

  2. I also loved this arc. It had all of the things that made season 1 great, which the series gradually forgot about later on: supporting characters (especially Usagi’s family), the girls’ normal lives when they’re not fighting, and the genuine fun atmosphere. … And it also compares quite favorably to the breakup arc which immediately follows.

    Thanks for the insights!

    • Yeeeeeeah, that whole breakup arc in the anime’s Black Moon story line always feels so weird and unnecessary. I much prefer the depiction here where Usagi is full-on pursuing Mamoru, and he’s just confused about the whole thing.

  3. I love those small bits of information on usually forgotten characters!
    Personally love Ail and An arc! It’s fun, all girls have their own episodes, Usagi and Mamoru have cute interactions… I really like it and don’t consider it “filler” at all. but I in generall like many episodes others descripe as “fillers”, there is ton of humor and character interactions in them! Only Supers felt a bit too fillerish to me.
    In general I also preffered Sato over Ikahura as main series director, I wished he stayed longer. But I’m one of those hopeless fans who love all episodes anyway.

  4. This bit is one of the reasons I like R so much and why I like anime original arcs since if you’ve already read the manga then here’s something new and unexpected. I never saw the Makaiju arc as a retread of the first season beyond the antagonists also wanting to drain energy from people, but it makes some sense when I think about how the first season had been successful and Toei was sticking to what had worked.

  5. At the time I loved the Doom Tree arc just because it was more Sailor Moon, and I desperately wanted more after the first season. Fortunately for me the episodes were being broadcast so I didn’t have to hunt for new ones yet.

    They handled the return of the characters’ memories reasonably well and Ail and An filled the role of bad guys just fine. I like that the bad guys had normal lives and secret identities just like the good guys, I think even more could have been done with that aspect of the show. I guess it sort of was later on, when Fisheye discovered their secret identities and it made for a very unique episode. Imagine if Usagi discovered Ail and An’s identities without them knowing it, that could have been cool.

    Looking back on the arc now though… it’s just OK. I don’t care for the Moonlight Knight at all. The story’s resolution seems a bit rushed, and then the R movie plays out so similarly with a similar looking villain. And the Black Moon arc was so great, easily the best of the show in my opinion, I wish it could have been longer.

    But it just was not to be! They couldn’t have started the Black Moon arc right away, and they needed to come up with something, so they did. It certainly could have been a whole lot worse! It’s far better than the adaption of SuperS and is arguably as good as Stars, so that’s definitely not bad at all… but it just doesn’t quite compare to the excellence level of the rest of the first three seasons.

    It worked out just fine in the end and I commend the writers for coming up with something pretty decent in a short amount of time.

    • I’ve always wondered how true the whole “the anime needed to give the manga some lead time” story is for justifying the whole Ail and An story arc. I mean, Sailor Moon S and Sailor Moon SuperS also dove straight into the same story line as the manga without needing to give the manga time to get ahead, and neither did the first season.

      In fact, the only other time we see something like this is in Sailor Stars with the opening Nehelenia arc. That kind of makes me think that the whole “not being able to start Black Moon right away because of timing issues” is just a fan rumor.

  6. Late reply but hello! Your story about why you like the Doom Tree arc is similar to mine. When I was a kid, and Sailor Moon was airing on Toonami, I ended up buying a VHS tape with the final two episodes of the first season on it. When those episodes came up in the airing order, I was smug that I had seen them already, and was expecting on the next day that it’d loop back to the start (which I hadn’t seen yet, I started watching when Jadeite died) and I’d set up my VCR recording to have that. Imagine my surprise when it was a completely BRAND NEW episode airing, continuing on the story instead!

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