In all my years of writing about Sailor Moon, I’ve found that Sailor Moon SuperS seems to be the odd duck of the series. Some fans swear by it as peak Sailor Moon while others recommend skipping it entirely.1 And yet I hear none of these complaints levied against the manga. In fact, it’s generally well-loved among fans — which I suppose bodes well for the upcoming movies!
The reason for all this, of course, is due to the peculiar decision to take an extreme departure from Ms. Takeuchi’s storyline and try new things with the anime.
But that’s not good enough for me. I want… nay, need answers! Why did the anime production staff decide to deviate from the manga story? Why did they cut so many characters? And why did the story take such a comical turn?
Today we’re going to take a look into what the anime staff were thinking and the reasoning behind their changes. Sit back, grab a coffee, and read on — things are about to get Super!
If you had asked my why SuperS took such a drastic turn after Sailor Moon S,2 my answer would always have been that it was purely related to marketing and demographics. Sailor Moon had started off fairly strong, picked up a huge number of fans during R, and then took the series in a darker, more mature direction for S. All signs, as far as I’m concerned, point to the anime growing up along with their fan base.
Alas, you can only do this for so long before your fans “age out” of the series. So either you need to keep upping the ante (as the manga did) or you need to “reset” in a sense and go back to basics. I’ve always felt that’s what the anime production staff was hoping to do with Sailor Moon SuperS by focusing on only the core Senshi and putting an even bigger emphasis on the childlike main, ChibiUsa.
But does that theory actually hold water?
In the interest of sating my curiosity, I dug through a collection of magazines released in Spring 1995 to see how Sailor Moon SuperS was being promoted at the time. Fortunately, I found two interviews with the series producers that briefly touched on the change in theme.
I can’t find any information behind the reason for this change or the impact it had on the series, but considering that Producer Azuma was a relatively influential figure in the early days of Sailor Moon, I find it hard to believe that Producer Arisako wasn’t equally involved in shaping the show. It’s also worth noting that Producer Arisako was also involved in the planning of the SuperS movie and continued on as producer for Stars.
Back when the details for the anime version of Sailor Moon SuperS were first announced to the public, outgoing Sailor Moon producer Iriya Azuma offered some fans some interesting insight into the new season’s focus:5
I think one of the great things about ‘S’ was the different take on being a Sailor Senshi that Haruka and Michiru lent the series and the air of tension that came with it. The rest of the staff also picked up on this and gave the season a whole different mood and created some interesting confrontations with Usagi.
In a sense, ‘SuperS’ will be a test of sorts for Usagi and the rest now that their two companions are gone, though it will also be an opportunity to put the spotlight back on the five Sailors and, in particular, ChibiUsa.
So right from the get-go, we can see that the anime planned to ‘go back to basics’ even in spite of the fact that the Outer Senshi were massively popular.
But the story gets even more interesting in the June 1995 issue of Animedia where the magazine editors review the latest season:6
A 5+1 comedy troupe doubling down with powered up jokes!
After several paragraphs doubling down on the season’s renewed focus on comedy, the page closes out with a brief Q & A with incoming producer Toshihiko Arisako:
1: The depiction of daily life is what appeals to fans
A lot of people refer to Sailor Moon as an all-girl sentai team, but I think the series’ real appeal is how it depicts their normal, day-to-day lives. Sentai teams are brought together to fight, but that’s not who Usagi and the rest are. They just face threats whenever they happen to arise. They eat delicious food, get excited gossiping about love, and live lives that are remarkably similar to those led by real girls. Sometimes they have to do battle and get to engage in somewhat extraordinary lives, which can also be appealing to those who also wish they could transform.
The manga does an impeccable job at striking a balance between the ordinary and the extraordinary, which I think is what has led to the series’ popularity. The anime is similar in how it strikes this balance.
My initial reading on this was that the guy was simply insane. With how different the anime and manga versions of the Dream arc were, how could anyone reasonably say that they’re remotely similar?
But it starts to make a lot of sense if you read between the lines. After all, he doesn’t say that they “strike a balance” in the same fashion, simply that they strike the same type of balance between the ordinary and extraordinary. In that sense, SuperS actually does a fairly good job at that.
And then he drops another confusing bombshell:
2: More emphasis on input from the creator
Lately female manga artists have been much more direct in providing input in how they want the anime [based on their work] to be. I think it’s thanks to that input that we’ve seen a boom in the creation of more anime that meets female sensibilities. In my opinion, [Sailor Moon] does particularly well with that. In the past, the manga was left as its own thing while the anime version was created for men.
Bright, cheerful characters like Usagi designed by female creators are even popular among male fans now. I think that’s had a lot to do with the increase in popularity.
The strong implication here seems to be that Ms. Takeuchi had a high level of involvement in this process, though I find it incredibly had to believe that she would have been keep on how much the SuperS anime changed. If she was mad about the Sailor Moon R movie, it seems absurd that she would have been not only on board, but suggesting these changes.
So what can we conclude from all that? Considering that there was only a relatively minor change in staff between S and SuperS (nothing extreme like the SuperS→Stars exodus), I think that the change in producer may really have been one of the biggest influences on the change in focus for the season.
TV Asahi was making a pretty big drive at the launch of SuperS to pitch the series to anime magazines as a more comedic, slice-of-life affair. Or at least that’s how it was described in all the magazines writing about it at the time. It could simply have been that the more dramatic, far-reaching story that Ms. Takeuchi was telling was at odds with the anime’s vision and they simply opted to ignore it.
But what do you think? Why did SuperS take such a turn from the Dream arc in the manga? And, even more importantly, which telling do you prefer? Let me know down below!
- In case you’re curious, I fall into the latter camp for reasons too numerous to cover here. ↩
- Which you didn’t, but we’re going to pretend you did anyway ↩
- See Iriya Azuma (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Toshihiko Arisako ↩
- See p. 23 in the April 1995 edition of Animedia ↩
- See p. 11 in the June 1995 edition of Animedia ↩