When a series has been around for as long as Sailor Moon has, any change to the lore, artwork, or even terminology will invariably give rise to arguments among its fans. “Back in my day…” is probably a refrain many in the Sailor Moon fandom are quite familiar with.
The global rebranding from “Sailor Soldiers” to “Sailor Guardians” was, and continues to be, one such contentious topic among fans. What makes this even more interesting, however, is that at this point our favorite Sailor Senshi have actually been known as “Guardians” for far longer than they ever were branded as “Soldiers.”1
So what gives? Was it simply a change of heart, a retroactive change to the story, or just a matter of legal wrangling?
Today we’re going to take a deeper dive into the Sailor Guardian title and see what we can learn! Grab a cup of coffee and maybe a snack, because we might be here for awhile!
First off, I should probably start off with a bit of a disclaimer: I’ve never liked the Guardian label and don’t use it in this blog because I don’t believe it actually describes what they do. But I’ve written about that at length before.
Second, no one has gone on the record to say why this rebranding happened, so I can’t exactly give a definitive answer to that question. However, what we can do is explore all of the facts surrounding this change and try to see what we can conclude from the timeline.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to it!
Let’s Talk About Rights, Baby
As many of you may already know, the Sailor Moon franchise was started as a joint venture between Naoko Takeuchi and Toei Animation, though TV Asahi, Kodansha, and Bandai even had their fingers in the pie.2 While I’m a big fan of collaboration,3 this ultimately wound up making things more than a little complicated when it came to rights management.
Though the details are a bit hazy, apparently Ms. Takeuchi and Toei Animation had a disagreement in the early 2000s over how much she was owed in royalties over the Sailor Moon anime and she ultimately wound up purchasing the broadcasting rights for an undisclosed sum.4 It was at this time that the company known as Princess Naoko Planning (“PNP”) was established to manage Sailor Moon licensing. I believe this happened in late 2001.5
It’s often reported that Ms. Takeuchi took control of all Sailor Moon rights at this time, but that’s not quite accurate. While Ms. Takeuchi purchased the television broadcasting rights to the 90s anime and PNP handles Kodansha’s copyright claims to the series, she still doesn’t personally own the entirety of the Sailor Moon franchise.
From Soldiers to Guardians
Now why did I spend all this time talking about the formation of PNP and the redistribution of how rights pertaining to Sailor Moon were handled? Because that’s central to our understanding of the Soldier → Guardian rebranding.
This momentous change to the franchise took place in September 2003 with the concurrent release of the shinsouban remastered manga (September 22, 2003) and the airing of the live-action Sailor Moon TV show (October 4, 2003).
As it turns out, Princess Naoko Planning filed multiple dual-language trademark applications for “美少女戦士セーラームーン” and “Pretty Guardian SAILORMOON” on September 9, 2003 — less than 2 weeks before the series relaunch.6
Considering that PNP is essentially a company created and run by Ms. Takeuchi, I think it’s fairly safe to say that she was the one behind the transition from Sailor Soldier to Sailor Guardian.
One interesting note, however, is that the Bandai Sailor Moon “SeraMyu” musicals retained the Pretty Soldier name until the end of their run in winter 2005. From then on, it’s been pretty much consistently Pretty Guardian ever since.
While I’ve never been a fan of the Pretty Guardian name, and this doesn’t exactly make me like it any more, I feel a lot more willing to accept it as the official translation knowing that it was almost certainly at Ms. Takeuchi’s direction. Somehow, it just sits better with me that way as opposed to it being the work of some execs at Toei who thought “guardian” sounded better for their new all-female tokusatsu TV show.
What about you? Does this change how you look at the title? Did you even care about it to begin with? It’d be interesting to see if there was a difference in outlook depending on when fans got into the series!
- The “Guardian” label came to be in 2003, 17 years ago when this article was written in May 2020 ↩
- That sounded really bad. ↩
- Actually, not really. I tend to enjoy working alone. ↩
- See Background and Developments in Sailor Moon (Wikipedia) ↩
- The earliest reference I can find to PNP is December 2001, which coincides with the opening of the official Sailor Moon “Channel” site; see Sailor Moon Channel (December 2, 2001) ↩
- See Trademark Application 商願2003-78163 (T2003-78163) ↩