Who Was Naoko Takeuchi Before Sailor Moon’s Debut?

Sailor Moon & her Sidekick: Super (Deformed) Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon & her Sidekick: Super (Deformed) Sailor Moon

Though it may sound a bit counter-intuitive, one of the things I love reading about most in interviews with Ms. Takeuchi is when she opens up about subjects other than Sailor Moon.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t love the Sailor-suite guardian of love and justice as much as the next strawberry Pop-Tart-obsessed Moonie. It’s just that it’s pretty rare to get some insight into not only the origins of Sailor Moon, but the person behind its creation.

Luckily for us, Ms. Takeuchi granted Puff, a magazine dedicated to the manga industry, just such an interview back in May 1994. Strap in for a trip down memory lane as we take a look into Ms. Takeuchi’s past, tastes in men, and other manga ideas she toyed around with!

May 1994 Interview in Puff Magazine

May 1994 Interview in Puff Magazine

The following translation comes from an interview Ms. Takeuchi gave to Puff magazine back in May of 1994 detailing her early career and some of her manga projects beyond Sailor Moon. You can find a full scan here.


I started submitting my stories when I was a senior at high school. I didn’t exactly intend to become a manga artist, but rather I was just drawing these stories as a way to escape my studies for university entrance exams — a pretty rare case, to be sure. (laugh)

I submitted four stories and it was the fourth one that got picked up as a “story to watch” in Nakayoshi Deluxe. My editor at the time spent was kind enough to pay attention to me and asked me to keep drawing. With all that going on and my heart still not set on being a manga artist, I somehow made my debut with a work called Love Call when I was still a second year university student.

It was one painful discovery after the next having debuted like that without having drawn many proper manga up until that point. I basically didn’t know anything and had to learn everything from the start.

I Love Manga

I love reading manga and still strongly identify myself as a “reader.” Even after I’ve become a professional, I still feel like I spent more time reading than drawing. Upon launching Sailor Moon, I was so busy with the series that this turned around entirely.

When I was younger, I used to buy and read so much manga that I was like an unstoppable monster. I simply loved manga so much that I just kind of happened to end up on this path.

At my peak, back during junior and senior high school, I was reading all of the shojo magazines. I’m amazed I managed to even afford it all. Once I was in high school, even shojo manga alone wasn’t enough for me and I got sucked into the motorcycle stories in shonen manga. I really loved Bari Bari Denstsu,1 Futari Daka,2, and Pelican Road.3 I read a lot of sci-fi, too.

But even that wasn’t enough for me and I found doujinshi next. Back then, our small little town hall in Yamanashi would hold a small direct sales event. I still cherish the doujinshi and stationary that I bought back then even now. They’re really quite valuable to me. (laugh) I never did draw any doujinshi — just purchased them.

I next got really involved in an art direction group. I’m a huge fan of Yuki Hijiri’s work on Locke the Superman.4 I remember being over the moon5 when the Shonen King series got picked up for syndication. Even today I still have the scraps I cut out of the magazine saved away somewhere important. (laugh) I love collecting memorable scenes and have a huge collection of color pages.

Though she doesn’t mention it in this particular interview, Ms. Takeuchi has also gone on the record quite often and mentioned how much of an impact the Super Sentai series had on her growing up and other shonen series.

It’s definitely interesting to hear that she was going to doujinshi events back in the 70s and 80s, though! It sounds like she was quite the manga fangirl.

Reika... a stand-in for Naoko?? (... probably not)

Reika… a stand-in for Naoko?? (… probably not)

A Science-Minded Woman

I was also a big fan of the bishojo anthology comic magazine, Petit Apple Pie,6 and read it often. I guess that was around the beginning of its popularity. I was a huge fan of Akira Kagami and absolutely loved the refreshing combination of cute girls with mechanical implementations.

I’ve loved making miniatures and plastic models ever since I was little. And telescopes, too. Kind of strange for a little girl. (laugh) My father often made miniatures for me, so I suspect that may have had an impact.  And of course there was an impact from a boy I liked, too.

I was good at science-related studies in school and always pursued that path in my studies.

In the past, potpourri and snacks were common tools throughout Nakayoshi while I used different, more boyish items.

Admittedly my knowledge of pre-Sailor Moon Nakayoshi is quite limited, but I think it would definitely be worth taking a look at some point and see just how much of an impact Sailor Moon had on the types of manga the magazine carried.

However, this is also backed up in other interviews with Fumio Osano, Ms. Takeuchi’s long-time friend and Sailor Moon editor, regarding how Nakayoshi was traditionally devoted to romance and comedy manga.

University Life

Between my club activities, drinking parties, and dance parties, I lead a fulfilling university life. I remember being busy having fun. (laugh)

Since I was majoring in pharmacology, I had a lot of lab classes and they were strict about attendance. The atmosphere was one of “I don’t care if you’re hospitalized, you better crawl here if you must!!” so skipping class wasn’t an option. I was pretty busy being a student at the time and didn’t draw much manga.

I got a job at a university hospital upon graduation. I wanted this job more than anything else, so it was a real challenge for me at the time to decide between giving it my all to become a professional manga artist or to work in my job.

Naoko has an interesting taste in men

Naoko has an interesting taste in men


I’m the type of person who prioritizes love over work when I find someone I like. That’s why the relationship I’m in at the time, and how we play off each other, tends to appear in whatever I’m working on at the time. My manga bears all. (laugh) In that sense, it’s kinda scary. (laugh) Male characters tend to be based on whoever I was dating at the time. (laugh)

I love the dark, silent types. I just love pushing these dark guys with all sorts of complexes to their limits. (laugh) Once I’m done with them, I’ll tell them to not get so down and cheer up. (laugh)

But these guys always runs away when I’m poking and prodding at them like that. Something great is waiting for them at the end, yet they don’t hang around. (laugh) Mamoru Chiba (Tuxedo Mask) seems rather cold and pathetic, right? That’s my type. My assistant’s always telling me “you don’t need to make him that pathetic, you know.” (laugh)

In reality, I’m not terribly interested in looks. There’s really no common physical denominator between all the guys I’ve liked, so I don’t think looks is the starting point [for love] for me.

The nuance of the word 情けない (nasakenai; miserable, pitiable, pathetic)7 can be hard to capture in English. Overall, the impression is that someone or something is so pathetic/unbecoming to the extent that it’s almost shameful.

Ms. Takeuchi provides a little more nuance about what she means with respect to men like this later on in the interview.

The Ideal Man

When I’m talking to one of my fellow manga artist friends and mention that my type is a “guy who is dark, quiet, gloomy, and a little scary,” she remarked that it sounded like Golgo 13. (laugh) Like, “Never stand behind me.”8 (laugh) But that’s not what I mean!!

I love Chirico, the main character of the Armored Trooper Votoms9 anime, and would describe him as pretty close to my ideal man. And probably [the titular character of] Captain Harlock.10

Miss Rain who is absolutely not Ami Mizuno

Miss Rain

I am without a doubt an ame onna (雨女; a woman who is said to cause it to cause it to rain)11 Of course, it’s not like that all the time, but it will without a doubt rain when I have a big event. In other words, when it doesn’t rain, I feel like something must not be a big event for me. Miss Rain12 is a manga that came to me when I was thinking about just such a moment.

Since Miss Rain was still a relatively recent release at the time of Sailor Moon‘s run — and ostensibly still being sold in bookstores — Ms. Takeuchi even wrote a note in the original print of the manga that Ami looked just like her.13 This has since been removed from all future releases.

The Legendary Syndicated Manga (That Never Came to Be)

Right when it was decided that Sailor Moon would start as a syndicated manga, there was actually a plan to carry an idol manga right at that same time. I had the characters all designed and even color advertisements ready to go. (laugh) The main character had dark hair worn in a bob cut, and I was really looking forward to drawing it! (laugh)

This is the first and only time I’ve ever heard about this mysterious idol manga being developed by Ms. Takeuchi. I’d love to find out more about it if there’s any other information out there!

Boys and Girls

Most of the men I’ve dated were all kind of pathetic. I can’t say why, but that’s who I always seem to fall for. Whenever we fight, I end up getting mad and they apologize over and over before giving in and I wind up thinking about how I need to pull myself together. That’s a pretty familiar pattern in my love life.

When talking with my friends about our love lives, I always end up coming to the conclusion that we can’t rely on men and need to end up doing things for ourselves. (laugh) Maybe that’s why Sailor Moon has become this story about girl power.

Future Plans

The artbooks that people have been begging for is on its way. Would you believe it, there are going to be three of them! Wow! (laugh) It’s basically going to be split up into Sailor Moon‘s three acts and I think the first one should be out this summer. I drew up some full color, more mature designs than I was able to put in the manga itself. I’d love it if you’d take a look.

I’m also releasing a new comic, Prism Time. I’d love for you to check it out, but I’m pretty sure people would be pretty surprised since the style and contents are quite different. It can be hard to recommend it for that reason. (laugh)

Prism Time (AKA Naru, Ami, Fuu, and Sailor Galaxia?)

Prism Time (AKA Naru, Ami, Fuu, and Sailor Galaxia?)

As I mentioned in the beginning, it’s pretty refreshing to read interviews with Ms. Takeuchi where they don’t recount the same old story.

While obviously I always want to know more about the little details that went into the creation of the series we all know and love, I find it absolutely mind blowing to know that she was actually far along in the development of a new idol-based IP before the Sailor VSailor Moon manga project got pushed forward.

What about you? If there’s one mystery about Sailor Moon‘s past that you’d love to see cleared up, what would it be?

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  1.  See Bari Bari Densetsu (Wikipedia)
  2. See Futari Daka (Wikipedia)
  3.  See Pelican Road (Wikipedia)
  4. See Locke the Superman (Wikipedia)
  5. Pun not in the original, but totally fitting and I don’t regret it.
  6. See Petit Apple Pie (Wikipedia)
  7.  See 情けない (Jisho.org)
  8. Ms. Takeuchi (mis)quotes a famous phrase from Golgo 13 — 俺の後ろに立つな; see this Golgo 13 shirt
  9. See Armored Trooper Votoms (Wikipedia)
  10. See Space Pirate Captain Harlock (Wikipedia)
  11. See 雨女
  12. See Miss Rain
  13.  See vol. 1 p. 49 of the original manga release

13 thoughts on “Who Was Naoko Takeuchi Before Sailor Moon’s Debut?

  1. This description of her ideal man surprised me, I thought it would be closer to Nephrite, prince Diamond or Haruka.

    By the way, has she ever described Togashi as “pathetic”?

  2. Hi! On my sailor blog I talked about the idol manga by Takeuchi sensei, I think it could be a manga version of “Key the metal idol” or maybe a commissioned manga for Nakayoshi that in the late 90’s became “cyber idol Mink”. But it’s only a supposition.

  3. After reading this interview, I think I understand now more than ever why Togashi and Naoko got married.

    Great aticle

  4. Wow, this is a really precious interview! Thank you so much for translating and sharing!

    About your question… there’s actually one thing I personally have been pondering about lately, as I’ve just started reading the manga “Miracle Girls”, which was serialized partially parallel to “Sailor Moon” in Nakayoshi (it started out earlier). I was surprised to find that although the story seems to be of a lighter nature and lesser complexity than our favorite (so far), the art style at times, especially in details (backgrounds, some poses, facial expressions – especially the funny ones), seems not that far away from Naoko’s drawings! E.g. small hand-drawn stars or little dots which sometimes happen to appear around the characters, look really very similar. That makes me wonder if both series, or both artists, have influenced each other in any way, or maybe had the same inspirations? Or the same assistants…? Then my thoughts wandered even further – wondering if Naoko might even have been forbidden by Nakayoshi to use any particular motives because of “Miracle Girls” – e.g. having twin characters seems to me like quite a plausible motif in the Sailor Moon universe, but Naoko-sensei might have been told not to do that, since they already had a popular series about twins. That in turn makes space for many what-ifs…
    Just my personal ramblings here ^^ looking forward to your next articles, as always!

  5. Wow. Thank you so much for this. I agree that this is the best type of behind-the-scenes content that a fan could possibly ask for.
    While you may be more fascinated in this mysterious never-made syndicated idol series, I have to say my interest lies more in the mention of those four short stories Takeuchi sent to Nakayoshi… Mainly because, unlike the idol manga, these *were* actually made and so I’m consumed by the burning desire to read them with my own two eyes. I also had no idea she sent so many of them before her debut with “Love call” in 1985! The only one I was indirectly aware of was “Kare wa no sugar”, which was sadly never published, but was still mentioned in the fan corner of the October 1984 issue of Nakayoshi (I’m no collector sadly, I’m just basing my knowledge on the scans provided by the gorgeous staff of Miss Dream). Interestingly enough, this means that “Kare wa no sugar” cannot be the most recent of the four, since Takeuchi mentions that the mysterious fourth story was picked up and recommended on the pages of the bimonthly Nakayoshi Deluxe, not of the monthly Nakayoshi. There’s so much unpublished goodness, but our chances of seeing it are so low! Though if you happen to come across some more information about these phantom stories, please don’t hesitate to spread the joyous news. ;P

  6. Great article. I also like reading interviews and hearing about her life outside Sailor Moon too.

    If there’s one mystery about Sailor Moon‘s past that you’d love to see cleared up, what would it be?

    I want to know more about the Silver Millennium or Queen Serenity.

    BTW, I think this site is eating my comments again.

  7. I always feel kind of bad that I love Sailor Moon yet NEVER check out Naoko’s other work, lol. Has anyone read much of “Miss Rain” or “Prism Time”? How is it? It always seems more cheery that Sailor Moon often ended up being.

    Her liking dark, mysterious guys is kind of interesting, as Mamoru only sort of comes off that way- he’s much more delightful later on, isn’t he? And of course in real life such men are much less “mysterious” and more “sullen and self-defeating”, so of course she got discouraged and heartbroken until she met a fellow manga geek, lol!

  8. I was today years old when I found out that Naoko Takeuchi was a fan of a magazine for paedophiles. Ouch.

  9. lol her passionate manga following and model loving sure sounds like she is a fellow autistic person 😀

  10. Did you know that in 1993 Gohan inspired Chibiusa? Gohan during the Cell Saga was the most popular Dragonball character and his popularity was so big that Naoko likely came across that point where Gohan defeated Cell then though “Why not give Sailor Moon a daughter?”

  11. I love reading these older interviews about Takeuchi “before the fame”, so to speak. There’s just so much stuff you hear about her over the years, with quite a lot of it being misinformation. Thanks for the translation!

  12. The mere idea that Naoko could have gone forward with a completely different manga series is some of the most fascinating information I’ve seen in a while. Fantastic find as always!

    It’s a shame that we really don’t have much more info to go off of as while I think the premise wouldn’t have been more interesting than what we got with Sailor Moon. The idea of more “lost” Naoko Takeuchi works intrigues me quite a bit; as she surprisingly has a lot of lost media. I know that before Sailor Moon was even started Nakayoshi ran several advertisements for the debut manga so maybe there’s some hidden material on the project still out and about in the void somewhere just waiting to be discovered.

  13. I would love to see a deep dive in Nakayoshi’s history pre, during and Los Sailor Moon. And how Sailor Moon impacted the magazine. 🙂
    I love your blog btw. Keep up the good work!

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