Was Sailor Moon Inspired by She-Ra: Princess of Power?

Proto Sailor Moon?

Proto Sailor Moon?

The internet, as I’m sure you know, is home to a great many bizarre theories, half-baked connections, and misunderstandings. But for every ten poorly-considered campaigns to buy breakfast pastries to save your favorite anime, there are at least one or two legitimate pearls of wisdom to be found. Today I want to take a look into a Japanese fan theory making the rounds on the internet that Ms. Takeuchi was inspired by the 1985 cartoon She-Ra: Princess of Power1 when she made Sailor Moon.

Dramatic recreation of me drinking coffee

Dramatic recreation of me drinking coffee

When I first heard about this from a friend over coffee at Starbucks, I laughed and said it was an utterly ridiculous idea that there would be any connection between these two series. After all, while there were a lot of cases in the 1980s of Japanese anime being imported into the West, it was (and still is) pretty uncommon at the time for Western cartoons to gain a foothold in Japan, with Disney being an obvious exception.

I decided to look into this a bit further when I got home and found out that – much to my surprise – the Masters of the Universe2 toy line actually did have a presence in Japan.

Takara He-Man Advertisement

Takara He-Man Advertisement

Imported and sold by Takara as a distributor for Mattel, the series was sold under title Legendary Magical Realm: The Battle of He-Man (魔界伝説 ヒーマンの戦い; makai densetsu hi-man no tatakai). I haven’t been able to find a clear date on when He-Man was actually being sold in Japan, but it’s a pretty safe bet that it was prior to 1986, when Mattel cut its relationship with Takara for importing and selling the Barbie toy line and entered into a joint venture with Bandai to make the MaBa Corporation.3

As it turns out, this wasn’t the only He-Man property to see the light of day in Japan. The 1987 box office and critical flop live action movie, Masters of the Universe,4 was also released in Japan – not once, but twice! Released in 1990 and 1992 by TV Tokyo and TV Asahi, respectively, the movie was titled Masters: Space Champions (マスターズ/超空の覇者; masuta-zu / choukuu no hasha).5 This practice was not uncommon in Japan, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

But now we’ve deviated quite a bit from the topic at hand of whether or not this had any influence on the creation of Sailor Moon. While the initial research detailed above seemed to imply that it certainly could be possible, unfortunately I ultimately reached the conclusion that any connections between the two series are probably coincidental.

She has a tiara, too!

She has a tiara, too!

The biggest connection that proponents of the theory point to is that both series – Sailor Moon and She-Ra – feature a blonde princess as the main character who transforms into a super-heroine in order to fight the forces of evil. While this may seem like a pretty strong connection at first blush, this story setting is actually far from unique – a very similar setup for Wonder Woman’s origin story,6 which I’m pretty sure we can all agree isn’t a Sailor Moon influence.

… actually, Sailor Venus’ Love Me Chain may have some connection to the Lasso of Truth, but that’s another story.

The theory falls apart even further from here, when you consider that Usagi wasn’t supposed to be blonde in the first place. According to Ms. Takeuchi’s notes, she was originally supposed to have pink or silver hair, so the image connection is out too.

The final nail in the coffin, though, comes from the fact that the Masters of the Universe toy line was a complete failure in Japan. They were on shelves for only a short period of time and, due to their lack of popularity, the toys never got past the first wave. Needless to say, no Japanese versions of the cartoon exist and it looks like no other products (books, etc.) were ever sold.

That means that She-Ra never officially appeared in Japan, in any form. Back in 1991, in the days of a very primitive, non-graphical internet, it’s hard to believe that Ms. Takeuchi would have had any knowledge of the 1985 American cartoon in order to use it as a base for her upcoming magical series.

She-Ra and her team

She-Ra and her team

While I can’t say absolutely definitively that there is no connection between She-Ra and Usagi, after taking a deeper look into the limited reach of Western animation in Japan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet to rule out this theory. Still, though, it was a lot of fun looking into, and makes me wonder if there are any other less-obvious Western connections that could have inspired Ms. Takeuchi. It’s worth taking a look!

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15 thoughts on “Was Sailor Moon Inspired by She-Ra: Princess of Power?

  1. “The theory falls apart even further from here, when you consider that Usagi wasn’t supposed to be blonde in the first place. According to Ms. Takeuchi’s notes, she was originally supposed to have pink or silver hair, so the image connection is out too.”

    Maybe, maybe not…don’t forget that Sailor V came before Sailor Moon…and Minako is and always was blonde. She was also eventually revealed to be a princess herself, although there is no way to know if that was part of Naoko’s original plan for Sailor V’s backstory.

    And really without knowing that full backstory of what Naoko planned for her original Sailor V series there is no way of guessing what inspired what for Sailor Moon… I mean for instance it’s quite possible that the Boss from Sailor V would have originally been the Moon Princess or Queen (since despite being from Venus we know from the start there had to be a moon connection with the compact/transformation phrase/Artemis). Which would have organically inspired the idea of Sailor Moon being the Moon princess when Toei ask for the team instead which to me makes it less likely the idea of a princess as warrior really drew direct inspiration from somewhere like She-Ra?

    So yeah I am sticking with her drawing much more inspiration from Cutie Honey (ordinary girl discovers she has power to transform and kick ass (and in fact is an android which sounds like Naoko’s original idea for Ami…coincidence?). Plus the Studio Pierot magical girl series from the 80s especially Magical Princess Minky Momo (Can’t seem to find it online to watch…but from what I have read about it sounds like a girl from magical kingdom is sent to Earth to watch over it. She does this by transforming into an adult version of herself as well as things like an airline stewardess, nurse, etc. Oh and there were magical jewels. Then at some point she dies and is re-incarnated as an actual Earth girl with real parents who has a magical pet that acts as a guide and helps her fight against an evil shadow monster.. Any of this sounding vaguely familiar?)

    • I’ve always wondered just how much of Codename: Sailor V was planned out prior to the development of Sailor Moon. When you look at the dates, only a few months had passed from Sailor V‘s original debut in RunRun and when early Sailor Moon sketches began appearing in Nakayoshi (I want to say around November 1991 or so… I think I covered this before in an article on Sailor Moon’s original title). Since Sailor V was originally made as a one-off story, I think it’d be relatively safe to say that either these stories were originally conceived together, or in relatively short-order the Sailor V storyline was spun off into the larger Sailor Moon universe.

      I think we can all agree that the She-Ra theory is totally bunk, though, since there’s really no supporting evidence other than finding similarities retroactively. =p

      As for more likely candidates for inspiration, I have a few series I’ve been meaning to write about that may have more directly influenced the show. Specifically, “Beautiful Masked Poitrine” (美少女仮面ポワトリン) seems to me to be a good candidate for early inspiration for Sailor Moon. It was one of the early live-action tokusatsu shows with a female lead and aired from January to December in 1990.

      One of these days I’ll get the free time to do a write-up on the history of the female tokusatsu shows of the late 80’s and early 90’s! I hope…

  2. I like to think that SM got some connections with Wonder Woman, seeing as Sailor Moon boots look really familiar to WW’s, her colour scheme and both using their tiaras as boomerangs

    • Hmm… it’s certainly a possibility, but I think it would be a a bit of a stretch. Back when Sailor Moon was created (in the early 90s), when the internet was barely “a thing” and there was little access to international media, I don’t think that Wonder Woman was big enough in Japan to have come to Naoko’s attention.

      Of course, it’s certainly possible that she had stumbled upon it, but when you consider that the last time that Wonder Woman was aired in Japan (as a dub of the TV show) was back in 1981, and that US comic translations wasn’t a big business until maybe the last decade or so, it’s probably unlikely that Wonder Woman was an inspiration.

      But it is possible!

    • You know, I’ve never actually see Rainbow Brite. It’s really strange, since I’m right in that age group, and I watched all the other similar shows from around that time (e.g., Jem, My Little Pony, Care Bears).

  3. I think one of the possibly Ms. Takeuchi’s ispiration is “Honey honey no sutekina boken” a 1968’s manga from Hideko Mizuno published by kodansha and adapted in anime in 1981. There’s no magical powers but the story is around Honey Honey and he cat. Honey is a waitress in Vienna. She is very similar to Usagi. One day, her cat heat a ring called “Smile of the Amazon”. This ring is owned by Princess Flora (she looks like a very young Queen Berille). In the manga and anime there’s Phoenix the thief, that have a cat too and is in love with Honey. He is very similar to Tuxedo mask.
    maybe you can try to find the manga (I have a kanzeban edition) or search the anime. Maybe Takeuchi sensei were a fan of it. 😉

  4. The only real connection the two have is that the in-between animators for She-Ra later worked on the infamous Toonmakers Sailor Moon pilot.

    Aside from that, the stories are too different. It is true that both are animations involving blonde princesses, but the similarities are pretty vague.

    A better comparison might be Chibiusa vs. the 80s toyline Moondreamers, but that too is a bit of a stretch. That toy and cartoon line featured girls who looked like little children, several with pink hair (one with red eyes) and magical animals. Blinky had a pink heart charm, pink pigtails and was usually around white animals and things that were pink and sparkly. Her wand in the later toyline had a pink heart. Sometimes, clips from their first VHS special pop up on YouTube. It’s a stretch but still worth noticing.

    • Hi! How do you know that some of the animators for She-ra and Toon Makers Sailor Moon were the same? I’ve never seen any information about this online, and I don’t think the TM one has an imdb- but I would really love to know more!!!

  5. You claim that lots of Japanese anime has been imported to the west but very few western cartoons have been imported to japan, which is ridiculous. American cartoons have and always will be MUCH more iconic and world renowned than anime. Outside of Disney, there’s Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Tweety, Wile E. Coyote and the roadrunner and all the rest of the Looney Toons, Betty Boop, Popeye, the Pink Panther, Fat Albert, all the Hanna-Barbera cartoons (Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones, Josie and the Pussycats, and the Smurfs, all the 80’s cartoons like Jem and the Holograms, Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, My Little Pony ect to the Simpsons, Family Guy, Adventure Time ect. Unless a westerner is a die hard weeboo, most westerners don’t know about any anime outside of Sailor Moon and even then, Sailor Moon still isn’t as known or as recognized as classic Disney or Looney Toons characters. This was proven when I watched a documentary about Cosplay on YouTube awhile back and one Japanese fan was complaining that it didn’t show many anime costumes and a girl that participated in the documentary responded, saying that they didn’t show as many anime costumes because they simply weren’t as recognizable to most people as Marvel and Disney.

    • Many (most) of the cartoons you’ve listed here either never aired in Japan or received a short release before being cancelled.

      For better or for worse, the Japanese market doesn’t really import many western cartoons outside of some of the big ones. Notable exceptions include:

      • some Disney shows (and even then just a small subset)
      • Simpsons
      • SouthPark
      • Ninja Turtles
      • Wacky Racers

      While, as you correctly point out, the characters themselves may be iconic (Tweety being a great example), the shows they’re from rarely come out to Japan or appreciate any sense of popularity.

  6. I’d say it’s probably coincidence rather than direct inspiration. However, the Toon Makers Sailor Moon live action/animated hybrid certainly could have been. Their version of Sailor Moon almost looks like She-Ra (or Barbie as a superhero…which pretty much IS what She-Ra looks like anyways).

  7. I have no idea why people are looking to Western properties for Sailor Moon’s inspirations when Takeuchi has always been *very* open that she was inspired by wanting to make a girl-oriented version of Super Sentai. And that franchise’s fingerprints are all over the manga and *especially* the first anime.

    Transforming girls were a very common anime trope too, to the point that the animators on the first season thought they were making a Cutie Honey rip-off. This trope predates transforming heroes in the West like She-Ra and Wonder Woman by decades.

    It’s not that Western media doesn’t often influence non-Western properties, but Sailor Moon’s connections are pretty obvious and never hidden.

    80s She-Ra and Sailor Moon have *nothing* in common beyond both properties featuring a transforming heroine. Like, on every level, She-Ra is a completely different show.

  8. Okay I’m not in to any of this but my daughter is a huge Sailor Moon fan. All I know is I’ve just seen a picture of She-Ra for the first time and all I could think of was Sailor Moon and the similarities.

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