While it’s easy to look at the Sailor Moon series now, in its long history spanning nearly two-and-a-half decades, and to say that its monolithic success was basically guaranteed. I mean, when you look at its legacy – an immensely successful five-year run for both anime and manga, a long-running musical, a television drama, and countless other product lines – it’s hard to not look at it with our 20/20 hindsight and say that the series was destined to end up this way.
But is it really that simple? When you take a look at some of the decisions Ms. Takeuchi and the animation staff made, there’s some room to wonder if some emergency plans were made to cut the series short, specifically before Makoto made her appearance. Let’s take a closer look!
First things first, according to Ms. Takeuchi’s concept drawings and preliminary information on the Sailor Team, there were always supposed to be five sailor soldiers, though there is some slight dispute about Naru being a potential sixth. As we’ve learned time and again, however, a lot of Ms. Takeuchi’s original plans for the Sailor Moon series were either scrapped or reworked. Indeed, entire characters were cut out of the manga!
We know that when Sailor Moon first came out, it was the beginning of the shojo action genre, meaning it was something of a risky investment for those involved. According to Japanese fans,1 when you take a closer look at first season, it seems pretty apparent that they wrote the series in such a way that it could be ended with short notice. The most likely cutting point? The appearances of Sailor Mars and Sailor Jupiter.
The Japanese television broadcasting industry, you see, runs in 13-week seasons known as a ku-ru (クール;2 from the French word cours).3 This would probably explain why Jadeite’s death happened to coincide with episode 13 of the anime – other television shows and anime were wrapping up at the time, so it was as good of a time as any to tie up his part of the story. Sailor Jupiter makes her appearance right at episode 25, just before the end of the second 13-week cours. Nothing strange about that, right?
Well, there kinda is if you take a look at how the series flowed up until that point. In the manga, Sailor Moon, Mercury, and Mars were all introduced in rapid succession, and since the Nakayoshi volumes go on sale one month prior to their cover date, this means that the appearance of Sailor Mars in Act 34 was already on news stands (and known to fans) by the time the anime debuted on March 7, 1992. That lead time would explain why the anime’s original opening only showed the first three Sailor Soldiers.
Following the appearance of Sailor Mars, then there was a sudden cooling off in the manga in Act 45 before Sailor Jupiter’s introduction in Act 5.6 As far as the anime timeline goes, this means that Jupiter would have been known to the anime staff in May, around the time that the first 13-week cours was coming to an end. So why wasn’t the anime opening updated at this point and why did they wait until September before she appeared?
My theory is that the parties involved in the production of Sailor Moon (including Ms. Takeuchi and the anime staff) had decided before the series had even began to take a wait-and-see approach to decide if they wanted to end the series on a 26-week, two cours season with just three Sailor Soldiers,or see if they wanted to continue for the full year and introduce all five. This decision was probably made between late March and early April, which explains away the reasoning behind Act 4: it gave time for anime television ratings to come in while showcasing the three-soldier team.
So what would have become of the series if the ratings had been poor? Well, this is all just wild speculation on my part, but I assume that the Nephrite arc would have ended sooner and with the discovery of the Princess and battle against Queen Beryl would have been accelerated. Sailor V had already been mentioned in episode 1, so she would have probably made an appearance, at least.
I assume that by the time the television ratings did come in and it was obvious the show was a success, Ms. Takeuchi got the go-ahead to continue with Makoto’s introduction and take the story out to one year. As for why the anime stretched out Nephrite’s story arc and delayed Sailor Jupiter’s debut? In all likelihood they had already scripted, drawn up, and recorded multiple episodes ahead of time, so the earliest they could tie up loose strings and introduce her was in episode 25.
Of course, I really should stress that this is all conjecture on my part and built up all on circumstantial evidence. But taken as a whole, it’s pretty interesting to consider just how different Sailor Moon could have been were it not for the high anime ratings!
- See the blog by Leo16 ↩
- See クール (Jisho.org) ↩
- See Cours (Broadcasting) (Wikipedia) ↩
- See the April 1992 edition of Nakayoshi ↩
- See the May 1992 edition of Nakayoshi ↩
- See the June 1992 edition of Nakayoshi ↩
6 thoughts on “Was Sailor Jupiter Almost Cut from Sailor Moon?”
Yeah I’m just having trouble seeing it. The late 80s to early 1990s were a significantly different time for TV networks. It seems to be that when a Japanese station ordered a show they ordered the full first season of 30+ episodes up front and basically ran it to the end almost no matter what?
Between 1987-1993 (those are the points I arbitrarily stopped, could have gone further) I do not see a single new anime that was cancelled that aired for much less than a year with around 40 episodes with the exception of Ranma 1/2 which was only sorta cancelled after 18 episodes as it was then immediately re-tooled and started airing again only a month later to much more success. True early cancellations just did not seem to happen back then… (The fact that Toei also owns a portion of tv asahi would also have seemingly meant Sailor Moon had an even better chance of completing its first season order)
For that matter considering that Sailor V was a decent success, and that the entire idea of Sailor Moon being about a team of 5 to capitalize on the super sentai craze was Toei’s idea…it just makes no sense that Toei was expecting this series to potentially fail before they got the full team they wanted in place? If anything I would have though that had the show started slowly in viewership they would have included Jupiter and possibly even Venus much sooner in the shows run to try to change the formula to their final one and boost ratings? Of course the thing is that right out of the gate Sailor Moon was a pretty big hit and became one of tv asahi’s premier shows? So even if before the show aired there was initial pessimism, I don’t see how they wouldn’t have known even 3 months in that the show was not in any danger of being cancelled? With the rapid anime production cycle of the time (with many episodes being produced the week before they aired) to me that if the sole reason for delaying Jupiter was in case of need a finale, then once they knew that wasn’t a factor they could have easily moved that debut up much sooner than the 6 months? But they did not…so to me I just lean towards thinking that there was more to it such as liking the chance to build the characters of the smaller cast…or Toei being too cheap to hire a voice actress to play another lead role for more episodes. Or heck even for merchandising reasons. Since the show started out with just Moon/Mars/Mercury all the merchandise in stores since the start of the show featured just those 3. Add another senshi and who wants to buy merchandise with just 3 of the 4 featured on it making all the stuff on the shelves obsolete too quickly? Of course with that said I guess I wouldn’t totally discount the idea of the cours. Just like with American TV with their winter finales and such the idea of doing something dramatic to get people talking about it at a point when other shows are ending/starting where there can be some audience shuffle still makes plenty of sense? So I could definitely still see holding the debut to the end/start of a cour for that reason.
Anyways going back to the idea that Toei/Naoko was pessimistic about the success of the show. Wasn’t there also a heavy promotional and merchandising push from the start of the series too? Which seems unwise if you think this show was going to be potentially cancelled quick? Plus while I guess technically Sailor Moon was the first pure shoujo-action hybrid series… It was far from the first shoujo anime in Japan? (unlike America where it was). There had been plenty of successful (enough to get a full season at least) shoujo animes before then, and heck even magical girl series like 1990s Magical Angel Sweet Mint which got its full 47 episodes. There was no reason to think that adding action to the mix would kill it either…I mean even going back to the 70s stuff like Cutie Honey (a magical girl warrior shonen) was well liked by girls while Majokko Megu arguably laid some of the groundwork for Sailor Moon as a shoujo that started to introduce action elements like actual villains that tried to occasionally kill the hero and occasionally touching on darker themes, as well as moments of fanservice to try to draw a few more male eyeballs to a female targeted show. Then in the late 80s shows like Ranma 1/2 (which certainly has a romance plot at its core its just more subtle than like Sailor Moon) and DBZ had surprisingly strong female audiences despite being aimed primarily at dudes? Also there were OVAs like Studio Pierrot’s successful magical trio series which I think were more aimed at girls but started incorporating more action/fighting elements as the series went on.
So while I can definitely see a second season not at all being a sure thing, I just don’t see any reason for them to have been that pessimistic about finishing their initial order for the first season? I guess to me I just don’t see Sailor Moon as having been nearly the risk that some make it out to be as the “first of its kind”.
I don’t think it was so much intended to be “cancelled” mid-season, per-se. I think that they hadn’t necessarily decided to continue beyond two cours (26 eps) or not at the very beginning of the series. If you take a look back at many other anime series of the early- to mid-90s, there are a ton of anime series and live-action television dramas that were made to be single season (13-week season) arcs. Especially when you consider that this was a high-risk time slot (Saturday evening, the so-called “Golden Hour”), TV Asahi had a lot of money riding on this being a success. If they didn’t get the proper amount of viewers on it, they’d be looking at some pretty shocking losses.
As I mentioned, of course, this is all just a theory, but the way the numbering lines up and the way in which they chose to extend the anime (extending the Nephrite story arc and the whole Naru / Nephrite thing) seems a bit odd and like they were trying to kill a bit of time.
Interesting idea, I think it’s definitely plausible. It’s impossible to say just what the studio execs were thinking or would have done if the ratings had been poor.
If I were to make a completely uneducated guess… I’d imagine that they felt the show was likely to succeed (though I doubt they imagined it would succeed so well) and didn’t have ready plans to cram in Minako and wrap up the story in the final batch of episodes if the ratings were low. Maybe they would have created those plans if 16 weeks in they realized they had 10 more episodes to wrap it all up. I’d guess they’d find a way to cram both Makoto and Minako into the show though.
I also have no idea how strongly the TV station was committed to this show, or shows in general in 1992. For American TV these days, a show can be cancelled very quickly if the ratings aren’t solid early on. There have been some shows with a weak first season that got much better and saw improved ratings later on… and those shows would have been killed in their infancy these days.
Definitely… it’d be nice if we could ever get a look at some of the internal docs. In one of the Sailor Moon anime material books, they admit that some work WAS done on a Sailor V anime pilot before Sailor Moon was made.
Fumio Osano said during the 20th Anniversary talk show on NicoNico that they were really afraid of getting cancelled when the anime started, because apparently this *had* happened with Toei’s earlier projects. The manga was already rushed, the anime ran in parallel at an even higher speed, so the whole thing was initially very risky. Furthermore, they were still in danger of getting cancelled until merchandise sales went high enough – this was the sort of series that’s supported much more by merchandise than by ratings, which were actually good.
This may also be the reason why Toei refrained from introducing the Shitennou apart from Jadeite until after the latter was killed (so they could give the series some sort of closure after 12-13 episodes in case it fails), despite Nephrite making his first appearance in Act 3.
For all the credit that Sailor Moon gets for being the first superheroine anime (which I really don’t think it is — it was just the first one that became so popular), I think it’s greatest credit actually comes to having been able to pull off being a multimedia marketing machine from the get-go, unlike most series which had to establish in one media (such as manga) before branching out elsewhere. They even had video games out within 9 months and the musicals started shortly after the first year, I think. They took a lot of risks with the series, and I don’t think people realize just how close it came to being cancelled if it hadn’t been immediately profitable.