When you spend a lot of time analyzing the ins and outs of a given series — and especially one as expansive as Sailor Moon — you’re going to eventually find yourself confronted with the question of what is and is not canon, and what sources you can actually derive meaningful information from.
Over the past 25+ years, we’ve seen the story of Sailor Moon presented to us in the form of a manga, anime, musicals, video games, a live action TV show, more musicals, a completely different anime, and countless book adaptations spread throughout. While I personally like to believe that there’s a general thread of an overarching “one Sailor Moon universe” running between
all most of them, the answer is a little more complicated than I’d hope.
So join along, my dear reader, as we take a stroll through the Sailor-verse™ and try to suss out how they all fit together. I hope you like puzzles, because this one’s a level 8!
Long time readers1 may recall that I already briefly touched on this issue in an article regarding Ms. Takeuchi’s aptly named one-shot, Parallel Sailor Moon. If you haven’t read that yet, or don’t know what Parallel Sailor Moon even is, then you may want to check that out now. Don’t worry, I can wait.
… all caught up? Great!
While Parallel Sailor Moon is a pretty egregious case of “definitely not canon,” many of the other different stories we’re confronted within the series are a little less clear. So unclear, in fact, that there’s actually no correct answer to this question — unless you happened to be named Naoko Takeuchi, of course.
Though I may not be able to answer this beyond a shadow of a doubt, I can at least provide some insight into how I approach the Sailor Moon universe, and explain my reasoning behind it.
Where do we start? Well, with a list, of course! Specifically, we basically need to list out all of the various tellings of the Sailor Moon story before we can start tying them together. Don’t worry, I’m absolutely going to forget a few. I assure you that someone in the comments will let me know down below.
Sailor Moon Sources
- Manga (main story)
- Codename: Sailor V
- ChibiUsa’s Picture Diaries
- Lover of Princess Kaguya
- Casablanca Memory
- The Exam Battles
- Parallel Sailor Moon
- 90s anime (original, R, S, SuperS, Stars)
- Audio dramas (original, R, S)2
- Anime movies (R, S, SuperS)
- Ami’s First Love
- SuperS Special
- Bandai musicals
- Video games
- Live action sentai series
- Sailor Moon Crystal
- Nelke Planning musicals
That’s not even counting the animanga books that served as truncated (or sometimes altered) retellings of the Sailor Moon anime,3 or the various other kids’ books that just made up their own stories.
I think it also goes without saying that we can probably safely ignore all commercials from the canon as well. If real actors can lie on TV just to make a quick buck, then so can the Sailor Team.
So first off, let’s cut out the easy ones!
The musicals, interesting though they may be, contradict far too much with the series lore and… well, often just go off on wild and wacky tangents (Bandai) or tell their own self-contained story (Nelke). So it’s safe to say that those shouldn’t really be considered a part of the overall Sailor Moon lore.
Similarly, the 2003-2004 live action series (PGSM) tells a self-contained story that deviates drastically from the original manga, so I’m comfortable counting that out of our list of university-approved usable sources. The story is canon, sure… but only as it pertains to itself.
Sailor Moon Crystal is a hard one because it could really go either way. It’s based strongly on the manga… but it deviates from the original story in several key places. What’s more, since the series isn’t finished yet,4 I have a hard time relying on it as a source when there’s still the very real possibility that they may make additional changes to the lore in subsequent seasons. So for that reason, I currently avoid relying on any information in Crystal when it comes to analyzing the series.
Video games are obviously out. Another Story may be fun, but it certainly isn’t canon.
That leaves us with the million dollar question: can the anime and manga story lines be taken together as one solid canon?
In my opinion, yes… and no. As I just mentioned with regard to all of the other series, the anime and manga tend to differ in a lot of key places, which should disqualify them right off the bat.
However, Ms. Takeuchi was kept in the loop on the macro direction of the show throughout the original run of the anime,5 so at least on some level we know that she was involved in its production.
Her supposed disdain for the show (even going so far as to buy the broadcast rights and then prevent the show from airing in Japan) is too complex of a subject to delve into here — and one that I plan on writing about in the near future — but from her own writings throughout the original run of the anime, she was still at least fairly optimistic about the series.
My general rule when it comes to mixing information from the anime and manga is: if the two series don’t conflict (i.e., one series is silent on an issue), then I’m willing to say that we can use information from one in another. Ikuko gives her age in the manga, for example, but I see no reason why that can’t apply to the anime. Rei’s grandfather is totally different between the anime and manga, so you have to analyze them individually.
The anime tells us that Mamoru’s family died when he was six, the manga tells us that it was his sixth birthday. I don’t know about you, but I won’t lose sleep at night saying that it was his sixth birthday across both versions.
So if we’re going to consider the anime and manga to at least somewhat share a line of canon…osity?… between them, that leaves us with one final question that we need to confront: how are each of the series internally consistent?
The Sailor Moon anime is tough, because obviously the movies don’t fit anywhere into the story line. No matter what mental gymnastics you do, you can’t really explain away where they fit into the timeline. ChibiUsa went home at the end of the Black Moon arc, so why is she there in the Sailor Moon R movie? Is the Black Moon just relaxing while they take care of this whole Fiore thing? Sailor Pluto is pretty dead at the end of Sailor Moon S, so her casual appearance during the Sailor Moon SuperS movie with nary a word on the subject is inconsistent, to put it politely.
Even with that in mind, I would still consider the information presented in the movies canonical, though the actual plots themselves to be considered side stories.
What does that mean?
Mamoru and Usagi meeting as children in the Sailor Moon R movie can probably be taken at face value, and you can probably tell a lot about the limits of the Sailor Soldiers’ powers from how they use them in the movies. But since the major plot points themselves can’t fit into the greater story line, you’re best ignoring them.
The Sailor Moon manga, on the other hand, is a lot easier. Since the manga moves on a much more accelerated timeline, it’s not too hard to imagine squeezing the side stories in — especially since they don’t really interfere with the mainline story all that much.
The only exceptions are the obvious Parallel Sailor Moon issue, and probably the fourth ChibiUsa Picture Diary, “The Secret Hammer Price Shrine.” That’s just too far out of the realm of believability that you could probably safely discard it.
That’s my take on the safest way to analyze the Sailor Moon series, at least. So what’s yours?
Do you think it’s ever reasonable to take the anime and manga together as one story? And, possibly the even more divisive question, what do you think about Sailor Moon Crystal and its application to the series lore? Let me know down below, I’d love to see what other people think about all this!
- Brief shout out to all you lovely long time readers! ↩
- They possibly went beyond S, but I don’t recall seeing any from SuperS or Stars. These were released on cassette tape and CDs. ↩
- See Animanga Books ↩
- With any luck, it will finish someday ↩
- She mentions in Act 3 of the original manga release that Jadeite’s different implementation in the story (bus driver in the manga vs. temple worker in the anime) was only because she changed her mind for the manga at the last minute. Though obviously she had disagreements about the way episodes were directed, she was still involved in the overall direction of the show. ↩