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!