The story, at least according to Moonie lore,1 is that Sailor Moon’s licensed toys weren’t meeting Bandai’s sales targets. As one of the series’ major sponsors, they
put the screws to politely asked Ms. Takeuchi to create something a little more toyetic to boost their profit margins, to which she responded with the beloved-yet-awkwardly-named Moon Stick.
Though a tad scandalous, it all sounds pretty par for the course when money-making enterprises are involved. What’s the problem?
Well, like many of the Sailor Moon facts we take for granted, the story isn’t quite as cut and dry as we’ve been led to believe. So today we’re going to travel down the rabbit hole2 and see whether Sailor Moon’s most iconic wand was really a money grab in disguise!
While I can’t exactly speak for where this theory comes from, I do have some ideas why it’s persisted so long. Like all good rumors, it has just enough of a solid, factual foundation that it sounds entirely plausible. Namely:
- Toei, TV Asahi, and Bandai have had a very lucrative relationship with the Super Sentai series going back decades
- Bandai was a major collaborator on the Sailor Moon franchise from the start
- People like to believe scandalous things about capitalism
- The Moon Stick does seem to come out of nowhere in both the anime and manga
- When released, the Moon Stick toy sold like hot cakes (which apparently sell very well)
While these are all fair points, I think it’s worth digging a little bit deeper. Specifically, I’d like to break this story up into its three primary components and see how well it actually holds up in light of what we do know.
Bandai Wasn’t Making Money on Sailor Moon Toys
Much to my surprise, Bandai’s first Sailor Moon toy to hit the market was actually a play makeup set known simply as the “Pink Nail Gloss.” In addition to the obvious, it also included an opening compact that you could store the gloss inside.
Even more surprising, this actually did involve some interference from the toy giant. If you ever wondered why all of the Sailor Soldiers have beautifully manicured nails prior to having gloves appear over their hands during their transformation sequences, it’s because Bandai wanted a connection for their nail gloss product.3
Within its first ~9 months on the shelf, this toy would go on to sell 400,000 units alone. To put that into perspective, a toy manufacturer generally considers a line that sells 100,000 units to be a success.4
While this was ultimately overshadowed by the Moon Stick’s impressive 500,000 units sold,5 it’s hard to say that Bandai was fretting over profit margins at this time.
If anything, it looks like Bandai was the one that hadn’t been prepared to put its resources behind the Sailor Moon merchandising wagon. They only released a single Sailor Moon doll in 1992 while the rest of the Sailor Team would have to wait until April 1993 to get their own dolls — a massively successful toy line that sold over 1 million dolls in less than a year.
Naoko Was Asked to Create Something Bandai Could Sell
As I mentioned, I can’t really say one way or another about this. However, we do know that she did work with the toy producers at least later in the series when she was designing the Spiral Heart Moon Rod:6
Takeuchi: You know, there’s something I’ll never forget – I was talking to our manager at Bandai about pricing, and they said, “If we try this, we can shave off .04 yen.” When I think about that conversation now, I think he was talking about manufacturing costs in China and how to keep them down. Our managers used to negotiate on costs down to the single yen. I was really shocked by that.
Takeuchi: It was impressive – there was a female manager at Bandai who kept saying that “aura is really important.” What was this “aura” she kept talking about? I used to think to myself – maybe she means that it should be round. “Please make sure this has the right aura,” or “this aura here” – she used to talk about it all the time, “aura” was her keyword, and she did everything in her power to make sure it was in the items.
So did Bandai have some say in how items were portrayed in Sailor Moon? It certainly sounds like it. But it doesn’t sound like they were driving the creation of series lore, at least to me.
Naoko Obliged and Everyone Got Rich(er)
This ties closely in with the point above, but I broke it out for one simple reason: the timeline simply doesn’t work.
The Moon Stick was first introduced in Act 5 of the manga (published May 1992) and episode 25 of the anime (aired September 5, 1992) with the toy hitting store shelves in the same month as the anime.
Unless Bandai was incredibly upset at their nail gloss not flying off the shelves literally within days of Sailor Moon‘s March 1992 release, there just wasn’t enough time for them to badger Ms. Takeuchi to create a new item in the fledgling series. In order to hit a May publishing deadline, she had to have been working on Act 5 throughout April, if not sooner.
If you consider the time needed to design, manufacture, and ship these toys from China — especially in a pre-internet age! — it’s far more likely that either the Moon Stick was planned to be a part of the series from the very start or that Bandai asked for a prop they could easily sell to be added in during the initial planning stages with Toei, TV Asahi, and Ms. Takeuchi.
So is the story true?
In light of all the information provided above, I think we can quite definitively say… maybe, with a very large and emphatic question mark after it. No one can say for certain what back room conversations took place 25 years ago, but I think we have enough evidence here to suggest that, at the very least, the Moon Stick was always meant to be a part of the Sailor Moon universe. At least to the extent that it wasn’t an afterthought.
But that’s just my take on the situation! What do you think? Is the Moon Stick a sign of capitalism rearing its ugly head, or Ms. Takeuchi’s take on a Super Sentai staple? Let me know down below!
- A special type of very unreliable lore passed down from one Geocities website to the next until it eventually ends up on Wikipedia ↩
- Pun intended. ↩
- As revealed by Junichi Sato in an interview conducted on June 18, 2018. ↩
- See p. 34 of the February 1993 issue of Animage ↩
- See p. 23 of the June 3,1993 edition of Nikkei Marketing Journal ↩
- See the November 2013 issue of ROLa magazine; translations by Miss Dream with edits for clarity ↩