What Is Considered Canon In the Sailor Moon Universe?

Did they every really wear these princess dresses? Well...

Did they every really wear these princess dresses? Well…

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!

That time Sailor V hung out with Sailor Moon

That time Sailor V hung out with Sailor Moon

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
Sailor Moon Anime Books

Sailor Moon Anime Books

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.

Hey, umm, Makoto…?

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.

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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.

Another Story is, however, a great game

Another Story is, however, a great game

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.

The intensive process behind developing the Sailor Moon anime

The intensive process behind developing the Sailor Moon anime

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.

THIS is why you should buckle up

THIS is why you should buckle up

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?

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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.

So, uh, why are you in the SuperS movie, Pluto?

So, uh, why are you in the SuperS movie, Pluto?

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.

The Sailor Tuxedos, however, must be canon

The Sailor Tuxedos, however, must be canon

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!


References:

  1. Brief shout out to all you lovely long time readers!
  2. They possibly went beyond S, but I don’t recall seeing any from SuperS or Stars. These were released on cassette tape and CDs.
  3.  See Animanga Books
  4. With any luck, it will finish someday
  5. 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.

16 thoughts on “What Is Considered Canon In the Sailor Moon Universe?

  1. ” 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?”
    What if Chibiusa stayed in the past for a couple of days more (maybe she wanted to have some vacation) before coming back to the future and that’s the time when the entire Fiore plot happened? 😉

  2. If I recall correctly, one of the Chibiusa diaries — I believe the vampire one — has issues fitting in where it’s supposed to (during Black Moon) because Chibiusa appears to be fully aware of the identities of everyone and is going to school, yet Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter hadn’t been kidnapped yet, which doesn’t work out chronologically with the events of Black Moon. But it’s been a minute, so I may be mistaken.

    • You’re probably right on that one. The Picture Diaries (and even the exam battle, to some extent) are kind of questionable as to where they fit in the timeline.

  3. Generally, the Bandai musicals are vastly inconsistent and each musical should be seen as canonical to itself only. The three Dracul musicals are direct continuations, but you have the revisions to complicate matters. Also, the Dracul musicals are just bananas. I have no idea how they were ever made. I mean, Gilles de Rais and Elizabeth Bathory show up alongside the Amazon Quartet. de Rais stares into the distance, recollecting the burning of Jeanne d’Arc, crackling fire and screaming in the background. Now let’s cut to the Amazon Quartet’s comic relief!

    To go off on a tangent, why must they keep rehashing the Dark Kingdom arc? It’s the classic Sailor Moon story but I’d like to see something new. Plus everyone wants to see Chibiusa and Hotaru fighting evil in Crystal Tokyo with the Sailor Quartet at their side. Like, literally everyone.

    • To go off on a tangent, why must they keep rehashing the Dark Kingdom arc? It’s the classic Sailor Moon story but I’d like to see something new.

      Absolutely this! I love the Dark Kingdom arc. It’s a great story.
      But I’m getting really sick of seeing it rehashed over and over again. It’s hard to get excited about yet another retelling of the story arc.

  4. This is very similar to how I deal with continuity issues in SM, though I also tend to make notes on whether something was mentioned directly in the source, comes from supplemental materials like the Nakayoshi Anime Albums, or is mentioned in interviews and such. Because sometimes it turns out something was explicitly -planned- to be included but wasn’t, and depending on how the final version turned out it may or may not still work in that continuity. Adaptations are always a mess in terms of writing. But then, I almost never analyze things purely from in-universe perspective anyway.

    On the other hand, -some- of the info from the extras appears to be a case of things from the manga being retroactively recognized as ‘canon’ in the anime -because- they happened to not contradict that continuity. Which always makes me wonder just how the anime managed to deviate so much from the manga in the first place.

    Also, yes, the audio drama series ended at S. (Shame… They’re like the SM anime on crack. Well, on even more crack than it was already on. XD) And you might want to include other audio sources here, because image songs in particular are supposed to be related to their parent series, since they’re from the characters’ perspective.

    • Image songs, now THAT is definitely an interesting question in terms of canon! Fortunately, it usually only talks about the character’s feelings and nothing actual factual… but considering at least some of the image songs were penned by Ms. Takeuchi herself, I suppose we probably should count them as canon.

  5. Um… when talking about Pluto´s death in S, you skipped straight to the SuperS movie, but even the Picture is from the S movie? It looks like a little error has slipped in (of course, her appearance in the SuperS movie does not make sense anyway, since she was absent for the whole season) 🙂

    • Ah, you’re right… this pic is from the S movie.

      Though that’s not as much as a continuity error, since it’s unclear where in the story the movies take place. You could probably argue that the S movie takes place sometime during the story arc and before Pluto dies.

  6. Actually, speaking of manga and “internal consistency”… While most of the differences are not large enough to qualify as retcons, there WERE some pretty noticeable changes between its editions (and before that, between the magazine version and the original book version). Eternal Sailor Moon’s transformation phrase is one such example. Sometimes, it seems like the usual “manga vs. anime” continuity comparisons do more harm than good when they fail to account for development quirks like this.

  7. I find it easiest just to acknowledge each new iteration is it’s own canon. I don’t consider the movies, specials or side stories canon with the anime and manga, not even sure about the Kaguya part of the manga as that seems a bit off too, if nowhere near as much as the film.

    I doubt any adaptation is ever going to be 1:1 with the manga.

    Speaking of which, how would you rate the importance of each canon?
    I used to hold the manga at a much higher level of esteem, but I think both it and the original anime are pretty close in how important they are.

    I’d still consider Crystal a pretty accurate version, even if the Four Kings stuff was unnecessary and can be ignored.

  8. Pingback: How Did the Voice Cast React to the End of Sailor Moon? | Tuxedo Unmasked

  9. I have a similar approach in that I consider each medium as its own continuity, while still accepting non-contradicting information from the anime and manga as mutually appliable.

    That said, I love the first two movies too much not to try and do the mental gymnastics required to squeeze them in. After all, I’m pretty sure we’re not meant to think we’re seeing a day-to-day depiction of the girl’s lives in the anime, so there might be time slots for the movies to happen.
    For one thing, the enemies’ plans might take days to hatch (research target, implement weapons / MOD, and so on), so there might be some time off between attacks. Also, the R beach episode is (sadly) canon, so if ther girls could take a day off and the world was still safe from the Black Moon Clan, it’s safe to assume the enemies have downtime too. And for that matter, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch for the Death Busters to have kept a low profile for a few days during such apocalyptic weather conditions, and focus on research instead of attacks.
    In short, yeah, it’s helluva lucky coincidence that the enemies were quiet when Fiore and Snow Princess Kaguya were giving the girls their handful, but it’s not too much for my willing suspension of disbelief to withstand.

    That leaves us with the SuperS movie, which I personally don’t like (as the rest of the season), so I don’t really care to try as hard to fit. It could have been all Chibiusa’s dream while she was put into that deep sleep by Nehellenia, for all we know: there’s a Helios lookalike for her to fancy, her dear Puu is alive and well, she’s the centre of attention, the general theme is dreams like in reality, and she even gets her own Kaleido Moon Scope to fight. That works for me.

  10. What about the sound dramas? I would hate to count them as cannon since they are mostly parodies and break the fourth wall, you can’t really take the storylines seriously at all. Furthermore, the way they portray certain characters goes completely against their personalities and personal growth during the story. For example, the way they portray Mamoru doesn’t correlate to his personality, his treatment of Usagi as the love of his life, and his values.

    However, I have no problem counting Sailor Moon R: The Movie and Sailor Moon S: The movie as cannon. The Sailor Moon R movie fits around episodes 77 and 82. Meanwhile, the Sailor Moon S movie fits around episode 122. For the sake of the story, it’s fine that they don’t mention the current season’s main villains. The storylines take place over many months, I doubt an attack happened every single day, there has had to be a few weeks between where no activity was going on and the movies occurred.

    I have problems with Sailor Moon SuperS: The Movie as cannon since Pluto appears without any reaction from Uranus and Neptune but then in the following Sailor Moon Sailor Stars season when Pluto appears Uranus and Neptune are shocked that she is alive since she died during Sailor Moon S. If not for that detail, the movie could fit in the anime timeline.

    I count the Sailor Moon SuperS Special as cannon without any problems, the story fits nicely into the season and I like that they provided some insight into Uranus and Neptune’s whereabouts during that time.

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