Were Haruka and Michiru Viewed as Lesbians in 1990s Japan?

How Did 1990s Sailor Moon Fans See This?

How Did 1990s Sailor Moon Fans See This?

As Sailor Moon‘s popularity began to pick up in the west, and the decision ultimately came down to not continue dubbing the series (despite efforts from the fans), the fans started to reach out on the early internet for more information about the undubbed seasons and about the other, mysterious Sailor Soldiers. Fans went back and forth on the nature of the relationship between the little-known Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune – both women! – with people going so far as to make up lies about fake origins, gender transformations, and more.1

A tender embrace

A tender embrace

Though the dust has ultimately settled and, with the more direct statements in the Sailor Moon Crystal, both fans and creators can agree that they are clearly a lesbian couple now,2 this still leaves it unclear as to how their relationship was viewed in Japan. After all, if there was so much confusion in the US, wouldn’t it be natural for there to be confusion in Japan as well?

While it’s difficult to say what a country believed as a whole, I’m basing much of my statements on an article published by Newtype,3 one of the top three anime magazines in Japan. This article was published shortly after episode 126 of the anime aired,4 presumed to be the end of Haruka and Michiru’s story line. The title of the article is:

“Farewell to the Soldiers of Love – The Dramatic Tale of the Soldiers of Forlorn Love, Haruka & Michiru, Comes to an End”

The article is a bit long to provide the English and Japanese in their entirety, but the following is a translation of the relevant parts where the author describes his/her interpretation of episode 110.5

“Neptune, took the bullet from Eudial in order to save Uranus’ life. Uranus took her own life with the gun that was used to shoot Neptune. Didn’t you [the staff charged with creating episode 110] find this to be just a little sexy, in addition to its seriousness?”

“I would like you to read the following as just one interpretation of dramatic expression, as that is all it is. Thinking of this in a Freudian manner, a gun is symbolic of male genitalia. Though they appear to be lovers, neither of them has male genitals. Is there some meaning to the fact that the more feminine Neptune took the shot of her own will while the masculine Uranus shot herself of her own will (that’s right, the one who shot and the one to be shot couldn’t be reversed!)? Then, a symbolic so-called gun comes between the two of them (who do not have any male genitalia) and “talismans” are born from their bodies after they have been shot through. Almost as if a child had been born from within them…”

“The relationship between the two of them is reminiscent of the love between a man and a woman, but it was a deeper connection between spirits that was somehow even stronger than that. I think this scene was drawn out amazingly, with a hidden subtext of sexual symbolism of the depth of their relationship.”

Sailor Uranus and Neptune Investigating a Heart Crystal

Sailor Uranus and Neptune Investigating a Heart Crystal

The author manages to say both a lot and nothing at the same time, which makes it a bit difficult to interpret. Ultimately, though, I think the takeaway that you can get from this article is that if one of the biggest Japanese anime magazines was talking so frankly about the relationship, it’s fair to say that the general consensus among anime fans at the time was that there was some sort of sexual relationship between the two (even if some people chose to read into it in a Freudian manner).

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Considering how important the rise to prominence of homosexual and transgendered characters was to fans in the west,6 I’m glad to see that it was seen similarly in Japan and hope that it had similar impacts. Though the anime certainly did downplay Haruka’s mixing of genders, the message seems to have gotten across fairly well, as showcased in a tagline underneath a screenshot on the same page:

“Michiru casually responds ‘Well then…’ to Haruka’s risque line of ‘I’m not letting you go home tonight.’ This was a meaningful scene that only the two of them could have.”

Haruka and Michiru, driving home

Haruka and Michiru, driving home

As for the sexuality of the other Sailor Soldiers? Well, fan theories are abound and the jury is still out, but it’s at least nice to get a glimpse into what Japanese fans thought of Haruka and Michiru’s relationship back in 1995! This does bring one question to mind, though: did the anime really do less to advance the obviousness relationship, or possibly more? As I re-watch the series, they definitely didn’t shy from anything! What do you think?


References:

  1.  See the Prince Uranus Rumor
  2. See the Interview with Charlene Ingram
  3. See pp. 90-91 of the March 1995 edition of Newtype
  4. Aired February 18, 1995
  5. Aired October 15, 1994
  6.  See How Did Sailor Moon Become an LGBT Phenomenon

10 thoughts on “Were Haruka and Michiru Viewed as Lesbians in 1990s Japan?

  1. They definitely were not shy about this in the anime. I’ve always said proudly how they were clever enough to never say it clearly but CLEARLY imply it whenever they got the chance. So many great and clever puns that children would never get but adults would not only get but LOL about them. And also implying it even more, maybe even trying to be as direct as they could without getting in trouble, with the not-so-well-known SuperS Special episode were they even got jealousy issues. I’ve always loved them and their relationship during the 90s anime, I love-love Crystal but I will always miss those “There they come! Quick! The rose petals and cue music!” moments. Thank you for this article.

    • I always felt that this was one of the few places where the anime actually handled character relationships better than the manga. Haruka and Michiru still had a lot of cute scenes together in the manga and the nature of their relationship was pretty clear to see, but I felt like the anime actually went above-and-beyond to actually make Haruka and Michiru seem like a proper couple. It’s probably just thanks to the fact that the anime had more time for character development and Sailor Moon S was practically dedicated to them, but I still really appreciated it.

    • “…I will always miss those ‘There they come! Quick! The rose petals and cue music!’ moments.”

      You and me both! Haruka and Michiru’s first entrances at the arcade in Sailor Moon S are two of my all-time favorite animated moments, Sailor Moon or otherwise.

      • What I really liked about them and their appearance in Sailor Moon S (both as a couple and as characters) was that they were mysterious yet approachable at the same time. All too often, in order to make a character “mysterious” an anime or manga will just not develop the character and only show them sparingly, but Haruka and Michiru were both fully developed characters.

  2. If the guns are supposed to be male genitalia, what does it mean for the other victims?

    It’s imho over the top psychology. The heart crystals sit inside the hearts, the only alternative to shooting them out would be horror movie style cutting them out. So guns of any type were the more elegant solution. Especially because kids in Japan don’t really consider guns a real life threat in Japan but more like something out of sentai group or kamen rider fantasy worlds. So it’s far less scary for small kids.

    And as it had been established over the run of anime that they have a relationship, to protect the person you love, be it a child or a partner, is the most natural thing to do. Especially for Neptune, who was the more emotional partner of the couple. Protecting her beloved Uranus was the most important thing for her, possibly even more important than their mission.

    And Uranus and Neptune had always acknowledged that this mission may cost their or their partner’s life. Especially Uranus was determined not to let get anything in her way. Even if it means someone dear to her would suffer or even die. Just think of the part when she had given up on Neptune, and Moon basically told her to stop doing that and try to save her partner. So when she realized that the talisman she had been looking for was inside her heart, Uranus was determined to give her life for her mission so Moon and the others had a chance to finish the mission and summon the messias. There was nothing sexual about it. If anything, it’s closer to Kamikaze pilots who gave their lives to sink the enemys’ ships and thus stop them from landing in Japan and hurting their families.

    • This was a psychological analysis by a totally unqualified anime magazine writer, so I’d really take his deeper readings with a grain of salt.
      Making matters worse, Freud was also pretty crazy in over-sexualizing anything and everything, so we’re already starting off with a flawed base here anyway.

      But personally, the actual analysis by the writer here wasn’t so much of interest to me. What I found meaningful about the article was that even back in the 90s, the nature of Haruka and Michiru’s relationship was commonly accepted and realized. It’s not like it was something that people picked up on years later after looking back on it.

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  6. I can be pretty dense about these things. For the most part, even though it was obvious they were lovers in S, I felt it was very well disguised most of the time, almost like they could even be friends at times, rather than lovers (I knew in advance or I would probably have been too dense back then to see it at all.)

    In SuperS movie and Stars, however, it is quite obvious. Michiru’s teasing and comments and the way Haruka blushes is fun!

    Back when this was controversial and frowned upon (young people today don’t realize how hostile the environment of the late 90’s could be towards homosexuals compared to now) I was surprised in myself how little their relationship bothered me and how in many ways it helped me open my mind.
    Here was a relationship being portrayed in a positive light without gratuitous sex and overt themes. It was respectable, more so than most straight relationships in media at that time.

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