Is Sailor Moon No Longer Meant for Kids?

What do you mean "not for kids"?

What do you mean “not for kids”?

Walk into any toy store or shopping center in Japan and you’ll find yourself faced with many of the “evergreen” titans of the anime industry: Ultraman, Dragon Ball, Pokémon, and more.

Yet, despite it’s massive resurgence in recent years, Sailor Moon is suspiciously missing from the toy aisles. Instead, you’re more likely to find this 90s kids’ entertainment colossus relegated to the stationary section, hobbyist stores, or even lingerie shops!

Today we’re going to look at a 2013 interview with chief manga editor Fumio ‘Osabu’ Osano and Sailor Moon’s voice actress Kotono Mitsuishi1  as they discuss how this transition happened along with some of their favorite memories from years gone by!

Fumio 'Osabu' Osano & Kotono Mitsuishi

Fumio ‘Osabu’ Osano & Kotono Mitsuishi

Interviewer: Over the past half year or so, you’ve released a wide variety of products, including cosmetics, figures, clothing, stationary, and even toys that look like the items that appeared in the anime. Today we’d like to discuss with you some of the behind-the-scenes conversations that went on when making these items. I understand that you were the managing editor of the manga, Osabu, but are you also involved in product development as well?

Osabu: That’s correct. Ms. Takeuchi and I work in concert to closely review all product plans and check on the quality of the products. Even with all the merchandise coming out, I can tell that it won’t work if you just haphazardly throw something together. Products that are in touch with the fans’ attitudes go over really well, but those that just throw on some old anime art and call it a day fail to gain any traction. These women who used to read the manga back in the day are now in their late 20s or early 30s and want designs that don’t stand out or feel unnatural when they’re out and about.

Interviewer: So merchandise that blends into your daily life rather than something that feels like anime merch?

Osabu: That’s right. In that respect, cosmetics are a perfect fit. The Bandai development team were really discerning about their “Shining Moon Powder.” Of course, Ms. Takeuchi also took a look at it and engaged in discussions with them about the thickness and so on. The cosmetics have greatly outpaced our expectations.

Kotono: It was really cute! [While looking over a past Comic Natalie article] The “Shimamura” you wrote about here, is that referring to “Fashion Center Shimamura”? That’s a surprising tie-up!

Sailor Moo x Peach John undergarments

Sailor Moo x Peach John undergarments

Osabu: We’re really lucky to have received a lot of proposals for fusing the brand with a lot of different themes. Also mentioned in that article is Peach John’s undergarment line with its head-turning designs. The first product announced for the 20th anniversary line was the “S.H. Figuarts Sailor Moon,” and I think we can safely say that it’s thanks to that product’s success that others were also allowed to come out. Had it failed, I feared that others might not be released.

Kotono: Really, you were worried about that?

Osabu: Oh, definitely.

Kotono Mitsuishi and a collection of Sailor Moon toys

Kotono Mitsuishi and a collection of Sailor Moon toys

Kotono: It’s popularity was practically a given! Fans’ hearts were longing for Sailor Moon. You know, about 10 years ago, I went to Nakano Broadway and wandered around the floors looking for some Sailor Moon figures, but much to my surprise, I couldn’t find a single one! I couldn’t believe how the world changed!

Osabu: Hahaha. Back in those days, we hadn’t really been releasing much.

Kotono: [Fans] were practically starved at that point, so getting your hands on the “S.H. Figuarts” was a real blessing. Though I have to admit that the first time I saw it, I couldn’t believe how small it was. (laugh)

Osabu: Apparently the size of the “S.H. Figuarts” also appeals to women. There’s a ton you can do to play with it, like posing it, putting it on your desk, or even taking pictures with it. Figures were generally seen as a product aimed at men so I wasn’t sure about how well it’d do, but apparently a lot of women went out to buy it. Did you have a chance to play around with it, Kotono?

Kotono: Yep! Though getting it to stand up is a real challenge. I also tried to get her into the “In the name of the Moon, I’ll punish you!” pose, but it didn’t quite pan out.

Osabu: Yeah, there’s a real skill to working with posable figures that makes them challenging in the beginning. Just a slight change to the angle of the face, for example, can really sell the pose.

Kotono: I guess I’ve got to practice, then.

Osabu: The “S.H. Figuarts” line usually only comes with 4 different faces, but we had the initial run of Sailor Moon include a bonus one, making a total of 6. It’s worth playing around with, I think. Sailor Moon fans have a pretty discerning eye, so we decided to go all in with this launch. (laugh)

Kotono: It’s pretty interesting. Just considering how you can really move the figure around and adjust things, there was nothing at all like this back in the day.

Figuarts Zero Sailor Moon

Figuarts Zero Sailor Moon

Osabu: In addition to the “S.H. Figuarts” line, a non-posable statuette “Figuarts Zero” will be released in March of next year. Here the pose is beautifully depicted and can be displayed as-is as a completed product.

Kotono: Is this one aimed at men?

Osabu: Ultimately I’d have to agree, but it would also fit in perfectly in a woman’s bedroom as well.

Kotono: I’d have to say that this is the first product I’d seen that really feels like a Sailor Moon figure. Was there anything like this back in the series’ heyday? I mostly remember dress up figures and soft stuffed dolls aimed at little girls.

Osabu: There were a ton of Sailor Moon products in the golden age of the resin “garage” kits, around 1995-1996. In fact, JAF-CON (Japan Fantastic Convention)2 started in 1992, the same year that the anime went on the air. Up until that point, resin kits generally depicted monsters or hero character — things aimed at men — but the launch of Sailor Moon really expanded the market for anime characters. Volks, the company responsible for making the design master, created a product that feels like a really high quality resin kit from the era.

Interviewer: What do you mean by high quality?

Osabu: Well, the detail work for starters is absolutely stunning. It’s been sanded down to a flawless surface and you can even see the purl stitching in the skirt and boots.

Kotono: You’re right, it’s really beautiful! But why did you go with a pose starring the Cutie Moon Rod rather than her usual “I’ll punish you!” pose?

Osabu: The prototype artist said that this was the kind of pose for Sailor Moon that they wanted to make, and I figure that you get the best end product by allowing someone to make what they want. We’ll be moving forward with this series as well. Mercury in particularly is quite impressive.

Kotono: That’s not just your personal tastes talking? (laugh)

Osabu: No, not at all! (laugh) But Sailor Moon is definitely far and away the fan favorite.

Kotono: Oh, you don’t need to say that just because I’m here! (laugh)

Sailor Moon shirts

Sailor Moon shirts

Osabu: No, it’s true! (laugh) We produced a line of t-shirts that had each of the 5 Sailor Guardians’ uniforms printed on the front and Sailor Moon was the top seller. Next up was Venus and the other three all sold around the same.

Interviewer: Has the popularity of each of the characters always been the same?

Osabu: It’s changed a bit over the years. Back in the latter half of the original run, Jupiter became quite popular, so much so that she may have been one of the most popular at the end of the series.

Peach Hips at a 1993 Christmas performance

Peach Hips at a 1993 Christmas performance

Interviewer: I remember just loving watching the 5 girls excitedly living out their lives and hanging out with one another in the anime back in the day.

Kotono: All of us voice actresses for the Sailor Guardians were really close, so much so that there was practically no difference between our private and work lives. We even formed a band.

Osabu: Moon Rips or something like that, right?

Kotono: Umm… close. (laugh) Peach Hips!

Osabu: Aaah, no! (laugh) Sorry about that!

Kotono: Hahaha. It’s fine, don’t worry about it. We had nothing like the kind of backstage support for seiyuu events and the like back then, so everything from the practice sessions to the costumes, and even the choreography, was all just kind of thrown together by all of us. We did have a lot of help from some of the older women in our lives, though.

Osabu: You were all in your 20s back then, too.

Kotono: Yeah, we were. Of course, were were all professional actresses, on the stage and elsewhere, so we were able to figure out where we all fit in in the bigger picture to deliver an impactful experience.

Episode 125... and a very popular redraw meme

Episode 125… and a very popular redraw meme

Interviewer: What was the most memorable scene for you in Sailor Moon‘s long run?

Kotono: Hmm, I think it would have to be the episode when Hotaru awoke as Sailor Saturn.3 Sailor Moon could no longer access her powers and was in tears, screaming, “Let me take your place!” I loved that.

Osabu: Why did you like that scene so much?

Kotono: Well, uh, I’d rather you not ask me that. I’d hate for you to think I’m some kind of weirdo. (laugh)

Osabu: That’s not a problem. (laugh)

Kotono: There are some scenes where it feels like the character’s mouth is moving in sync with my own as I read the lines. Usually, I change my breathing and adjust the speed that I’m talking at to match the mouth on screen, but in this scene, I felt like the animation was matching my own cries as I let it all out.

Osabu: Was that the first time you’d ever felt something like that as a voice actress?

Kotono: Right, Sailor Moon was the first time I’d ever felt like that.

Osabu: Huh, I wonder why that happened in that scene.

Kotono: Weird, huh? (laugh) It’s like the god of voice acting came down to Earth at that moment. What take is ultimately used is usually left up to the director, but that time I got swept up in my emotions and went all the way to the booth to tell the staff that this was the take I wanted them to use. (laugh)

Proplica Moon Stick

Proplica Moon Stick

Interviewer: The Proplica Moon Stick is going on sale in April of next year. How did it feel to record lines Sailor Moon after such a long absence?

Kotono: Well, I did the narration for the “S.H. Figuarts” promotional video, but I felt nervous, almost like I was a newbie all over again. I was really worried about if I could get back to the same level I had achieved before.

Osabu: It felt just like the old days.

Kotono: Hmm, I did watch some of the old DVDs just to check. Considering none of the old staff were still around, it was a rather lonely task trying to get back as close as I could. But I definitely gave it my all when recording lines for the Moon Stick.

Osabu: And did you pass?

Kotono: Yep!  I felt like I nailed it when we finished recording.

Osabu: I can’t even tell the difference between now and the old lines. I’m sure the fans feel the same as well, but we tend to glorify things in the past as time passes, so I’m sure that they’d be upset if your voice was the same as before. But I have to say that the hurdle must’ve been incredibly high to be able to be able to grow to such a level that you can make your voice sound as if nothing’s changed. I was impressed at the level of a true professional. It’s quite a treasure to have a Moon Stick with your voice in it, and I think they really went all in, from design and all, in making the best product they could.

Kotono: It feels like it came right out of the show. You definitely couldn’t sell a Moon Stick with a pointed tip like this to kids, though. (laugh)

Osano with a prototype Proplica Moon Stick

Osano with a prototype Proplica Moon Stick

Interviewer: Did you refer back to the manga when working on the role of Usagi?

Kotono: Definitely. I used to love reading Nakayoshi when it arrived at the studio every month.

Osabu: The perfect edition of the manga is being released now, so I was hoping maybe you’d read it… [Osabu hands volumes 1 and 2 to Kotono]

Kotono: Wow, thank you! The cover’s so beautiful! And it looks like some nice touches have been added to Usagi as well.

Osabu: Maybe the art was a little more flippant and carefree 20 years ago? Though I don’t think much has changed now. (laugh)

Kotono: Hahaha. All teenage girls are like that, you know.

Osabu: Back when the manga was in circulation, Ms. Takeuchi was greatly influenced by you whenever she was drawing Usagi. We’d look over the rough sketches together and she’d point out to a scene of Usagi yelping out and comment about how you said something just like that when you two were talking and mention how cute it was.

Kotono: What, really? That’s the first I’d heard of this.

Osabu: Ms. Takeuchi was generally quick to put to paper things that she was influenced by, so I think there are some parts of your mannerisms and personality that live on in her art. I think you can really start seeing Kotono’s influence around volumes 3-5 of this new perfect edition, so I hope you read on.

Kotono: Of course I will! Though I doubt I’ll actually notice myself in it. (laugh) In any case, I’m really happy. Thanks for telling me.

Interviewer: Do you have any parting message for the fans looking forward to the rest of the perfect release and the upcoming Sailor Moon 20th anniversary plans?

Kotono: I’m sure that all of you young girls who used to watch the anime and read the manga have grown up into fine adult women, but I hope you’ll keep the “Maiden’s Policy” forever in your heart. If you’d let it slumber, then wake it up. Irrespective of age, job, status, or anything else in life, let’s make this Sailor Moon 20th anniversary something everyone around the world can celebrate together! (laugh)

Osabu: Our plans for the 20th anniversary have only just begun and there’s a lot more in store. Stand by!

No kids allowed!

No kids allowed!

I think it’s interesting to see that the Sailor Moon franchise chose to do a complete 180° between their handling of the 10th anniversary (with the launch of the live action drama, PGSM) and the 20th anniversary.

While the former was aimed very much at appealing to a kid audience, the latter went the opposite direction and tried to reach back out to — and into the pocket books of — old fans of the series.

Though it’s purely conjecture on my part, it makes me wonder if the PGSM series may not have been as much of a financial success as they had been hoping. As Pretty Cure tells us, magical girls are still big business in Japan, so it can’t be that there’s no longer a market for shows like Sailor Moon.

Let’s hear from you! What do you think the reason for this pivot was?

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  1.  See December 13, 2013 Interview with Comic Natalie
  2.  See C3AFA TOKYO (Wikipedia)
  3. Episode 125, “The Shining Shooting Star: Saturn and the Messiah”

6 thoughts on “Is Sailor Moon No Longer Meant for Kids?

  1. Hey I’m really glad to see you posting again. It’s been a rough year, to say the least, so I hope this is a sign that things are looking up for you.

    Is there any chance that you will also post an update about the Kickstarter? Your last update promised the PDF in March. I’m sure there’s a lot of turmoil with the pandemic, but I think backers would really appreciate some kind of explanation for the delay. People are pretty understanding of life’s difficulties, but the long silence has been disconcerting.

  2. Firstly, I really enjoy reading interviews like this. It’s nice to see behind-the-scenes stuff.

    To answer why they might be trying to reach out to the older fans? Money, obviously. The younger generation might not be that into Sailor Moon as much as the original fans unless they were introduced by older friends or relatives, so they’d be less invested and less likely to spend money on merchandise.

    But to be honest, I didn’t see anything saying this franchise isn’t for kids either. Sailor Moon has always had mature themes in both the manga and anime (and other mediums?), but so very much of the merch really does seem marketed to kids, at least to me. That’s why I’m picky about what I buy. I have DVDs, shirts, CDs, buttons, and a few toys, but that’s about it for the time being. I don’t wear makeup, so I’m not interested in that. I’d rather not literally eat my purchases, so I haven’t tried any food items (though I also don’t think there are any available here). But the replicas of the attack and transformation items always look like little kid toys to me, no matter how expensive and shiny they may be. That Moon Stick? Looks like something I’d give to one of my young nieces (if they knew what Sailor Moon was) were it not for the cost. A lot of the jewelry and accessories seem that way too. I can think of ways they could make them look more grown-up, but the price would likely go up a lot too, and much of these things already seem pretty costly.

    Maybe PGSM isn’t the best example, but looking up at Moon there, if I didn’t know any better, I might have said she was a fancy cosplayer. The low-budget effects were what put me off watching it (and the character changes sealed the deal). If Sailor Moon ever had a proper live action movie with a real budget, I’d hope the costumes and effects looked a little less like a dress-up game for toddlers. Maybe I’m just too picky. But I prefer good ol’ 2D animation anyway, so that’s why I stick to the anime and manga and haven’t really bothered with the musicals (outside listening to some of the songs), PGSM, or the ice shows.

    Sorry for the gripe, but this has been an issue of contention for me since they started churning out the new products. I guess it means I’m not making my wallet suffer like some other fans, but sometimes I wish I had a bit more merch to show off. I am into figurines, so maybe I’ll check out some of those newer ones as a little gift to myself this year.

    As for the eternal debate as to what age group Sailor Moon as a whole belongs to, I don’t think you can say 100% one way or another, but if someone can handle the more mature content mixed in with silly comedy, melodrama, and Destined Romance, I’d say just about anyone of any age or gender can enjoy the series. Certainly we fans that read this blog are proof of that, right?

  3. Thank you for this! It’s awesome to learn that episode 125 meant so much to Kotono to the point of being a life-changing experience for her. You can feel Usagi’s pain in that scene and it’s got to be one of the best in any anime.

    I recently watched Neon Genesis Evangelion for the first time and was blown away by her role as Misato. I would love more articles about her! She seems like a very interesting, talented person!

    I really enjoyed reading this insight from two people who have worked on something that’s brought me so much joy

  4. Even though Precure just doesn’t do it for me, it is apparently giving fans what they want.
    Meanwhile, Sailor Moon is not treated that well by Toei. Bad animation, sloppy storytelling, and no character development in Crystal really hurt chances for Sailor Moon to make a real comeback.
    As much as I love the manga, it is not well-paced and is confusing and dry at times.
    It did not need a 1:1 adaptation but would have benefitted from following the manga story while having room to breathe.
    The horrible way the Dark Kingdom Arc was handled (Shittenou romance, mostly) should never have happened. That was thrown in in such a stupid way and I would have preferred to see them die as they did in the manga if they were not going to go all-in with this plot.
    I think season 1 needed at least 26 episodes to tell a complete story that included character development and any chance for us to care about the Four Kings.

    As for the merchandise, it is still pretty hit and miss. I buy a ton of it and while I think some sets do well (QPoskets, for example) a lot of it just doesn’t cut it when you compare it to the quantity and quality other series receive. And there is nothing for kids.

  5. Interesting article, as always!
    Honestly, when Sailor Moon 20th anniversary happened, they announced Crystal and talk a lot about how it’s aimed at mature audiences I felt a bit excluded. I was 17/18 years old in 2012/13 and did not remember Sailor Moon from TV, became fan in 2008, watched it in the internet. There had to be other younger fans that gey into Sailor Moon because of older siblings or watched re-runs later/

    I would love for 30th anniversary to be focused on old AND new fans, maybe with TV anime based on 90s anime and reinterpreting it a bit? Seems logical, as original fans now often have kids, to focus on family audience?
    but Crystal/Eternal manga adaptation is not finished yet (why it has to take so long…)

  6. I think Sailor Moon, in Japan, is one of those things that were once wildly popular, but after a while (I would say by the time Sailor Stars came out) most people got tired of it and never got into it again.
    I would compare that to Katy Perry as a singer. She was a true hitmaker in 2008-14, but nowadays she can barely make it to the Billboard Hot 100. She still has a lot of fans and attracts attention, but she became old news and most people don’t care about her as much anymore.

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