How Many Sailor Senshi Are There in the Sailor Moon Universe?

Sailor Soldiers Assemble!

Sailor Soldiers Assemble!

It’s amazing how stupid this question sounds on the surface, but when you stop and get down to it, it’s actually a lot harder than you’d think to count all of the canonical Sailor Soldiers. The biggest impacting factor on answering this question is your imagination what you’re willing to consider canon in the Sailor Moon universe.

As much as I’d love to write a long intro and drag this out, we’ve got a lot of discussion ahead of us, so let’s get this started!

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What Weapons Were the Inner Soldiers Supposed to Wield?

The Sailor Team Attacks

The Sailor Team Attacks

One of the interesting key differences about the Outer Sailor Soldiers is that, unlike the Inners, they all have their own weapons / talismans. Even Sailor Moon and Sailor ChibiMoon get on the trend and have their own various sticks, rods, and kaleidoscopes! So why is it that the Inner Sailor Soldiers miss out on this pattern and don’t have their own weapons? The fact of the matter is: it wasn’t always meant to be that way. So what were the Sailor Soldiers armed with?

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Are the Sailor Soldiers’ Bust Sizes Unrealistic?

Rumor has it that Makoto's got talent

Rumor has it that Makoto’s got talent

Before we even begin discussing this question, let me just start out by saying that there’s absolutely no way to talk about this without sounding just a little creepy. For me, it’s not so much an interest in discussing this particular issue — namely, the bust sizes of the Sailor Soldiers — and is more of an interest in trying to figure out how one could go about answering this question. Since the world of Sailor Moon is fictional and the creators didn’t actually bother making up real world data for a lot of questions, fans are left to fill in the gaps. Like, for example, just what exactly the body proportions for the Sailor Soldiers actually are.

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Why Does Sailor Moon Heal Everyone?

Mooooon Healing ESCALATION!

Mooooon Healing ESCALATION!

An alternative title for this question is probably: “Why Doesn’t Sailor Moon Kill More People?” But that seemed a little dark, so I decided for some nicer phrasing. It’s not like we actually want Usagi to kill, right?

One thing that makes this question interesting is that, if Sailor Moon had been a cartoon originally made in the United States back in the early 90’s, I wouldn’t give this a second thought and it wouldn’t even occur to me that it’s odd that the vast majority of the monsters of the day (and even the major villains!) end up being ‘healed’ or otherwise brought over to the side of good. Even when the villains do wind up being killed in the anime, they usually die at their own hands, by being backstabbed by a colleague, or for some reason unrelated to the Sailor Team. But this is Japan, where the concept of showing bad (or even good!) people die in children’s media isn’t considered to be so wrong.

Detective Conan can be surprisingly dark...

Detective Conan can be surprisingly dark…

Take Detective Conan for example. Its target audience is mainly young children, and yet since the anime began its run in 1996, a total of 334 people have died as of episode 631.1 Since the story is meant to take place over just one year (without any of the fancy time-resets Sailor Moon is granted), that works out to 0.9 deaths per day!

Even in the live-action Super Sentai series,2 which Sailor Moon‘s concept is based on, at the very least the daily monsters were generally killed without a second thought.

The first, and most obvious answer, is the argument related to sexism (though not necessarily in a bad way): the Sailor Soldiers are girls, and thus are seen to be pure and shouldn’t be killing people. What makes this a particularly difficult to refute argument is that the Sailor Moon series essentially created the fighting superheroine genre3 in Japan, so we don’t have a lot of examples to go off of. But I personally don’t think that’s 100% of the story.

Moonlight Mask

Moonlight Mask

I wonder if, perhaps, this might be partially related to the major thematic element of the series – the moon. In fact, Japan’s first tv superhero, Moonlight Mask,4 also fought as a “soldier from the moon.” His name (月光仮面; gekkou kamen) actually comes from the Japanese name of the Buddhist bodhisattva Candraprabha,5 whose name is written in Japanese as 月光菩薩 (gakkou bosatsu; Moonlight Bodhisattva).

So how does this connect to the Sailor Soldiers always choosing to show mercy over killing? Well, Moonlight Mask’s motto (as a throwback to his Buddhist inspiration) might be the key:

憎まず、殺さず、許しましょう

“Do not hate, do not kill – let us forgive.”

Moonlight Mask was also known for not killing his enemies, possibly in reference to the Buddhist origins behind his name, but I also believe it’s related to the perception of the moon as a source of unsullied purity; a light in the darkness. This connection also is carried through into the Sailor Moon series, from the purity of the characters themselves and even back to the peace of the Silver Millennium, which was only put to an end due to the greed of humanity. But what about you? Do you think it’s simply a matter of tv viewers not wanting to see women kill, or is there possibly some other, deeper explanation that I missed?

As an interesting aside, between his turban, name, and all white outfit, he’s pretty clearly the inspiration behind Moonlight Knight, and also the second time Mamoru is based on an old Japanese superhero.

How Did the Sailor Moon Cast’s Popularity Differ in the Anime and Manga?

Same Team; Different Results

Same Team; Different Results

Though we discussed several possible reasons behind Ami’s seemingly uncontested popularity already, even after looking at all the data we were still left with quite a few questions. Namely, why is it that ChibiUsa (one of the major characters in the series and practically second-billing in the SuperS anime) didn’t even rank in any popularity polls? Or how do you explain the fact that even Usagi herself did so poorly in the polls despite appearing on practically all Sailor Moon merchandise?

In order to try to make more sense of this, I went to the Nakayoshi Annual Popularity Polls1 for the five years that Sailor Moon was serialized in the magazine. In order to normalize the data, all characters that are essentially the same person (e.g., ChibiUsa, Princess Small Lady Serenity, Sailor ChibiMoon, and Black Lady) were tallied together. For that reason, characters have been ranked against each other to show how popularity changed relatively over time.

For the anime data set, I took another look at the Animage polls and decided to forgo the monthly totals and instead look at the year-end-reviews.2 Once a year, Animage would rank the top 100 anime characters from the past year, so this gives us access to more characters (including Setsuna and ChibiUsa). Once again, characters have been ranked against each other to show relative changes.

So what does the data look like in the Sailor Moon anime now?

As you can see here, the results when taken in aggregate aren’t too different for the anime, even when viewed relatively rather than their actual ordinal ranking (for example, though Setsuna ranks tenth place in compared to the other members of the Sailor Team, she was actually 71st place – two times lower than Michiru – in the polls). One of the more interesting things you can see is just how much of an impact Sailor Moon SuperS had on taking the outer team our of the social consciousness, since they all but disappear with the exception of Haruka.

What can we learn by looking at the Nakayoshi ratings, then?

To say that I was surprised by these results would be a disservice. I was absolutely stunned at how different this worked out when compared to the results of the anime. Ami, the far-and-away leader in rankings in the anime drops down to sixth and even seventh place in the anime while ChibiUsa firmly holds second place right after Usagi. You can also see the definite impact of being kept directly involved in the Dead Moon and Sailor Stars arcs, since they not only maintained their popularity, but little Hotaru actually comes in third!

The data really speaks for itself and there isn’t much further to say here, but it is definite worth re-evaluating the commonly accepted myth that Ami is the most popular of the Sailor Team. She was (and is) definitely popular, yes, but a lot of that comes from the fact that many popularity polls at the time were done in anime magazines aimed at high school anime fans and older. What’s more, most of those fans were men (judging by the fact that the vast majority of “favorite” characters in Animage’s polls were women; this trend has reversed in recent years).

The most important thing to remember, though, is that there’s no such thing as a “wrong” answer when it comes to favorite characters. Who appeals to you is what’s most important, of course. But we definitely can learn a thing or two about the two very different audiences of Sailor Moon back in the early- to mid-90s!

Why Was Ami the Most Popular of the Sailor Soldiers?

Ami – A Political Powerhouse

Ami – A Political Powerhouse

One of the enduring mysteries of the Sailor Moon franchise is that of the perplexing popularity of Ami – the shy, bookish brains of the Sailor Team – especially among fans in the West. I’m sure it’s no mystery at all to those who count themselves among her fans, of course, but from a purely objective perspective, it seems a bit strange that the soft-spoken, brainy character (who didn’t even have a particularly abnormal amount of episodes even devoted to her, mind you) would end up constantly ranking at the tops of Japanese polls. So how is it that Ami came to be the most popular of the inners, and what does it tell us about Japanese fans of Sailor Moon as a group?

Before testing any theory, though, it’s important to first see if there’s any truth to your hypothesis. So we should first ask: is Ami actually popular? And how do we know?

In order to answer this question, I dug through the archives of the Japanese anime magazine, Animage,1 and tallied up their monthly “favorite character” rankings, which allows all of their readers to vote for their favorite anime characters and tallies them up. Since the anime runs on a schedule of March to February and the magazine ships early, I’ll be comparing seasons from June through May for the magazine results. They’re actually pretty surprising! [Note: Popularity counts from 1 down to ~20, so 1 is the highest.]

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How Did Fans React to the Deaths of the Sailor Soldiers?

Some Serious Sailor Moon Fans

Some Serious Sailor Moon Fans

Though it seems that Ms. Takeuchi was stopped at the last minute by her editor, Fumio Osano, from killing the Sailor Team at the end of the Dark Kingdom arc, their anime counterparts weren’t quite so lucky. For a show which strayed even more into family-friendly territory (which can be seen often with the comical moments between Rei and Usagi that didn’t exist in the manga) and even cut out some of the deaths from the series (such as Jadeite being killed in the manga and frozen in to an eternal slumber, Princess Serenity’s suicide in the manga after the death of Prince Endymion, etc.), it’s a bit odd that they’d go the opposite direction and actually kill off the main cast in the epic climax. So after being lulled into this false sense of security, how did the fans react? And, by extension, their parents?

June 1993 Animage

June 1993 Animage

The information for this article comes from the June 1993 issue of Animage magazine.1

The first, and most widely-publicized, story comes from a midnight radio DJ for Radio Fukushima, Arata Owada.2 As the story goes, he used to would watch Sailor Moon together with his daughter every Saturday and was shocked to watch the Sailor Team fall one by one. He was so upset by this that he actually called up TV Asahi and demanded to know what they planned to do about the characters. Since he often discussed anime on his late-night radio show – and was vocal about his concerns – he eventually caught the attention of Animage, which asked him to do a phone interview.

In the interview, he said that his daughter was so shocked by the ending that she came down for a 40°C (104°F) fever and stayed home from kindergarten for a week. When he finally took her to the doctor, he was told it was autointoxication3 and the doctor asked if she had suffered some sort of trauma or shock recently.

Nothing Can Stop a Fan

Nothing Can Stop a Fan

Another – and perhaps more interesting – story comes from a fan-letter section in the same issue of Animage called “Mom’s Too!” In it, a 32 year old mother offered her opinion on the matter. She noted that in real life, people don’t die and then magically come back, so she was opposed to the idea of the Sailor Team so imply being “reset” and then coming back to life as if nothing had happened. She was concerned that her daughter would take away the opposite lesson: that people die and come back, that death isn’t permanent, and may lose out on the importance of life.

Looking around on the internet also gives various anecdotal stories from people about their classmates not coming to school or the author themselves not being able to eat for several days after watching the climax to the first season, so it’s pretty apparent that the impact these episodes had on Sailor Moon fans was huge.

Personally, though, I think it’s a good thing – it really shows that what could be written off as a simple anime really did touch people’s lives, and that the TV Asahi staff did a wonderful job of making these characters real. Isn’t that really the greatest compliment?