What References Did the Animators Fit Into the Sailor Moon Anime?

Think the Sailor Moon offices looked like this?

Think the Sailor Moon offices looked like this?

A question I (and many other Sailor Moon fans) often get asked is: Which do you like better? The anime, or the manga?

Nearly 20 years ago, when I was first getting into Sailor Moon, this was an easy answer for me — the manga, of course! It’s closer to Ms. Takeuchi’s vision and tells a more mature, concise story.

But now, I’m not so sure about that. As weird as it is to say, I think they’re both my favorites, but precisely because they are so different, and how much fun you can tell the animation staff had in creating some of their wacky monsters of the day and sub plots. Today, we’ll talk about one such episode!

Asato & Baby

Asato & Baby

Way back in episode 21 of the first season, we follow the story of an up-and-coming animator working in an animation studio. It’s not much of a leap to imagine that the animation production staff felt strongly about life in their chosen profession, and the episode is full a lot of little in-jokes.

Considering how hard the characters are working in this episode, though, they make it pretty clear that the occupation isn’t all fun and games. There’s obviously a lot of blood, sweat, and tears invested into being an animator and working on a popular anime.

Much like Toru Furuya’s misadventures as a father which later inspired an episode, here, too, we catch a glimpse into the personal lives of the staff dedicated to bringing this anime to life.

In the scenes with the animation director Asato, you’ll notice that he’s carrying a baby around on his back. This character is an homage to Sailor Moon‘s very own series director, Junichi Sato,1 who also had a very young child at home at the time this episode came out. Hopefully he didn’t actually take his kid to work…

Incidentally, apparently the baby was voiced by none other than Aya Hisakawa, the talented and versatile voice of Ami Mizuno.2

Hiromi Matsuno &Kazuko Tadashita

Hiromi Matsuno & Kazuko Tadashita

Also crossing the fourth wall in this episode are the two animators, Hiromi Matsuno and Kazuko Tadashita, pretty obviously named after the real life Hiromi Matsushita and Kazuko Tadano (husband and wife character designers and animators working at Studio Live on producing Sailor Moon episodes at the time).3

And before we go, one last fun little bit of trivia about this episode:

When Ami comes out of the book store and finds Hiromi’s dropped draft sheet, they actually put in the proper names of some of the staff members who worked on the Sailor Moon anime.

  • Yoshizawa -> Takao Yoshizawa (episode director and storyboard in various episodes)4
  • S. Dive Kurata -> not sure who this is (any ideas??)
  • Itasaka -> Yasue Itasaka (color stylist and ink/painting)5
  • Ikuhara -> Kunihiko Ikuhara (director)6
  • Tadano ♡ -> Kazuko Tadano (character designer)7
  • Igarashi -> Takuya Igarashi (episode director)8
Giving away the credits before the episode's even done!

Giving away the credits before the episode’s even done!

And there you have it, a brief glimpse into the heads of the people behind the Sailor Moon anime. I’m sure there are many, many more references in this episode just waiting to get caught, but these are the ones I was able to pick up through my viewing.

Now that we’ve come this far, I guess it’s a good time to ask you, the reader, the question posed at the very top: which is your favorite version of Sailor Moon? Anime, manga, Crystal? Live action… musical maybe?? Let me know!

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9 thoughts on “What References Did the Animators Fit Into the Sailor Moon Anime?

    • It’s funny, first I was all over the anime until I discovered the manga, which is when I decided that the anime was just a watered down version of it.

      But the more I watch, the more I see the love the teams clearly put into making the anime, you can really tell it’s more of an expansion on the same story.

      And PGSM is just plain awesome!

  1. The anime is definitely my favorite (particularly the S season); it was my first foray in and the one I return to the most often. I only recently read the manga, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. The difference in pace took some getting used to at first, but I really came to appreciate how quickly it moved and how action-packed it was. There’s just no substituting the character development in the anime for me, though; while the monster-a-day formula can get a bit tiresome, the length of the anime seasons really gives all the senshi time to have well-defined personalities and relationships. Crystal for me was mostly a disappointment, though I didn’t hate it at all. I think it improved between the first and third seasons, but I don’t know that I need a fourth and fifth.

    • I think you put this quite nicely into words. The manga tells a great story, but it moves so fast that you have a hard time really getting a handle on the individual personalities / character developments of each of the Sailor Soldiers.

  2. I personally find the Sailor Moon Manga extremely overrated, as controversial as that may be. Nor did I find it particularity deep, or mature for that matter. But to me it read more like a rough draft, rather then a proper polished product.

    No surprise really, given how rushed Naoko was in pumping it out. But this meant we ended up with things being introduced, and then suddenly being forgotten about by the next chapter.
    A narrative that jumped from one moment to the next without any real build-up or breathing space in between. Hence things like the Outer/Inner feud ended up feeling horribly forced, because it comes right out of left field.

    Likewise the characters felt more like outlines rather then actual personalities. Which is another problem as Naoko really didn’t care that much about anyone outside of Usagi, Mamoru and Chibi-usa.
    The Inners for example, are pretty much useless after the first arc. In Black Moon, they are all conveniently abducted. Apart from Minako, who (and let’s be honest) doesn’t do anything.
    And of-course Infinity introduced the Outers, who ended up making them look completely redundant. And with Stars, everyone who wasn’t Usagi, got royally shafted…
    And don’t get me started on how horribly boring and interchangeable all the villains were.

    I mean even Naoko herself has gone on record, that she herself was unhappy with how her work turned out.

    I guess it’s no surprise that Crystal for me, turned out as horrible as it did. They’re just wasn’t enough substance being provided. It relied heavily on you being familiar with both the characters and story beforehand, rather then trying to stand on its own.

    As for PGSM. I have tried to get into it, but the whole soap opera aspect just doesn’t engage me. To say nothing of how dated the effects are, and the amount of wooden acting outside of Keiko Kitagawa. Who for me pretty much carried the whole thing.
    Over-all, I prefer the musicals to it. I don’t think those really get enough love.

    I guess the Anime for me is the best all-rounder. Not to say I don’t pretend it isn’t perfect, but then again what is? But the characters were so much fun and down to earth, it was hard not to enjoy it.
    Classic is my personal favourite. I find S somewhat overhyped, to be controversial again. But it was Rei and Usagi’s relationship that made the show for me. It’s my favourite thing in the whole franchise.

  3. The thing I love about Sailor Moon is the fact that there are great things about every version and there’s something each version excelled in. I love the anime because it takes the characters of the manga who don’t get as much focus and makes them shine like for example, manga Haruka and Michiru lack the charisma of their anime counterparts, and the Inners feel less explored in the manga. In the anime they all get fully realized. And the villains are a lot more exciting and enjoyable in the anime, in the manga they just exist to be killed off with minimal development, where as the baddies in the anime have unique motives and approaches and relationships.

    My favorite characters are Usagi, Mamoru, and Chibiusa and, while I LOVE them in the anime, I sometimes feel like the anime’s focus on them was lacking. The manga really made those three seem a lot more deep and to me that’s the manga’s biggest strength. The way Usagi was actually quite introspective and grownup in the manga was left out in favor of making her more silly in the anime. And while I enjoy silly Usagi, but it would have been nice to see her grownup side more than a 2 or 3 times a season. (to be fair we do see it come out occasionally but she did get “flanderized” for sake of humor in the anime to use a TVtrope) I never took Usagi in the manga for a fool, she seemed smart at a lot of things just not school work.

    While I adore Mamo and Chibiusa’s in the anime, I feel like a lot of the writers post-R didn’t seem to want to write for them. In spite of that possibility, I don’t think Mamo and Chibiusa were ever written OOC or bad, there was just rarely any episodes post-R that made great use of them. One reason why SuperS was disappointing was they had all the time in the world to do things with Mamo and Chibs that had actual substance but instead we got stories written AROUND Chibiusa, who is depicted rather sagely and clever that season, rather than being about her. I mean we got a few here and there, but the manga did a lot to the benefit of Mamoru and Chibiusa and if the anime tried to it would have been cool. (Especially since both get unceremoniously shuffled out in Stars after the Nehellenia wrap-up arc, poor Chibs doesn’t even get to show up as a photograph/flashback in epi 200)

    So in a way the anime and manga combined make up for any shortcomings. I also really, really love PGSM. It’s a really exciting and unique take on the Classic arc that excels in showing the cast interacting like real people and almost every senshi has moments together that show that they have a dynamic friend group where everyone is close. And no other version explores the personal lives as well.

    • Seems like a pretty solid connection to me! I love all the little things they put into this episode. I imagine they were under a lot of stress working on the show, so things like this helped make the work a little more fun.

  4. I’d like to inform you guys that I actually had an internship at an Animation Studio in the 90s (around the time the series originally aired), so this Episode speaks to me personally!

    Now I might lack much of the talent for drawing, but back then I had to take the opportunity to at least try it out as the topic and the process behind it all fascinated me. Still does.

    Maybe I should concentrate on just writing the stories and let the rest up to the unfortunate, underpaid Assistants? *Mwuarrharrharr*

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