Nostalgia Kick – Appreciating the 90’s Sailor Moon Anime
With 2014 as the year that revived the franchise on our screens with Sailor Moon Crystal, let’s rewind the clock to appreciate the original outing of animated Sailor Moon with the 90’s presentation.
The brainchild of Naoko Takeuchi, Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon (Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon, or more recently redubbed Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon) was born out of its first creation: Codename: Sailor V. This starred school girl Aino Minako bequeathed with the power to transform into the sailor fuku*-clad Sailor V to fight against the forces of evil. Sailor Moon was created with a team framework in mind, and the Sailor V character would migrate over, joining the main group as Sailor Venus. A lot of the comedy aimed at the genre through the Codename: Sailor V manga itself was phased out with its successor.
(*Fuku (Seifuku) = sailor suit/uniform. The sailor fuku type uniform is commonly worn by Japanese school students (which is what the Sailor Moon outfits take the basis of their design from), and is modelled on the European-style naval uniforms.)
Sailor Moon, at the time of its release, was unlike any other magical girl show on TV and quickly revolutionised the genre with its astronomical popularity, setting the benchmark with which other such shows of its type have since tried to emulate.
Throughout its run, Sailor Moon encompassed a story of destiny, love and friendship as the Sailor Soldiers battled to save the Earth from the many forms of evil that came to threaten it. The story revolves around the titular character, real name Tsukino Usagi, an underachieving cry-baby with a heart of gold. A fateful meeting with a talking black cat, Luna, reveals to Usagi that she is the Sailor Soldier, Sailor Moon, and it is her mission to defend the world from evil in the name of love and justice. Also, she and her fellow Sailor Soldiers would become tasked with locating their princess and the ‘Legendary Silver Crystal’, a source of great power. Through her tumultuous battles, she is aided by the mysterious Tuxedo Kamen (Tuxedo Mask), whose symbolic red rose would announce his arrival. He would dashingly swoop in to protect Sailor Moon and offer her encouragement to fight on to victory. Romantic threads are weaved between the two characters as the plot begins to unravel about their pasts, shaping a destined path before them.
The anime ran for five seasons with three movies and special spin off episodes – they were produced by Toei simultaneously with the creation of the manga. While elements of the base story carried over to TV, there were many very distinctive differences in how characters and scenarios occurred. Many villains had their lives extended, or weren’t actually killed off at all, with their stories leading to redemption with the lighter tone of the anime. Many key parts of the manga story were cut out (things like the Galaxy Cauldron with the Sailor Stars arc, which reshaped huge changes in how the ending played out in the anime), whether or not this was to streamline or make the plot less complicated, or because Toei may have gotten a little too far ahead of Naoko while she was producing her manga that they were only taking the important aspects of her story plan and making their own ideas from it. At the beginning of the Sailor Moon R series, there was a whole arc with the Makaiju (In the English version known as the ‘Doom Tree’) that never appeared in the manga; a good example of padding out, which could have been to do with where the anime production was at in comparison to the manga.
There are so many wonderful episodes that I want to gush over, but I absolutely must give a shout out to the Sailor Moon SuperS Special – Ami-Chan no Hatsukoi (Ami’s First Love), a thoroughly entertaining short episode encompassing the studious Ami, Sailor Mercury, in her own personal battle between cram studies and her rather extreme reaction to receiving a love letter. It also has her use Mercury Aqua Mirage as a onetime only special attack, which was actually a commonplace attack in the manga.
With the anime taking a more leisurely pace with its storytelling, there was plenty more time for focus on characterisation for both the heroines and the villains. There was time to expand upon relationships between characters, even with the invention of new ones – one that particularly springs to mind is Nephrite and Naru from the first series, where the evil general finds himself captivated by the sweet young friend of Usagi. There was also broader dynamics between the relationships of the main characters, like with the rivalry of Usagi and Rei, who constantly spent the course of the anime bickering and trying to one up each other over ridiculous things. Honestly, I preferred manga Rei over this as she was a much more refined and less cattish in her approach to others.
The animation throughout the seasons of Sailor Moon was beautifully hand drawn, though varied in it manner of appearance by the different animators who produced each episode with their own design flare. The style of animation was always so fun to watch, and they weren’t afraid to go over the top with exaggerations to dramatic and funny situations. The goofiness was a charm that worked well between some of the more serious aspects of the show.
But the show wouldn’t have been complete without a stellar soundtrack. Not only was there perfect voice casting, but the outstanding music that accompanied the show made it incredibly memorable. An exceptional piece was the opening theme song, ‘Moonlight Densetsu’ (Moonlight Legend), which was used for the first four seasons, and for the finale of Sailor Stars; a perfect send off for the entire saga.
The 90’s anime is a pure classic of television entertainment, and even without the CG animation techniques of today with their flashier and more defining performance, Sailor Moon was still memorably beautiful, enjoyable and an instant hit that cemented itself in the hearts and minds of young Japanese admirers, and even Western ones when the English language adaptation emerged in the mid to late 90’s. Whether or not you actually enjoyed the English version is another thing altogether – some of the music they added in was quite good, everything else… not so much. Though with a new English dub nearly upon us, courtesy of Viz Media, this time without the trigger happy censoring and the accurate use of Japanese names, maybe it won’t be quite so terrible, and may even bring on a new generation of Western fans.
Sailor Moon taught us that no matter who you are, even if you are not academically strong, that with friendship and a good heart, nothing can keep you down. And that the power of love – even if a little cheesy – gives you strength to overcome the odds. There were no greater lessons than what the anime gave us; that we should always be altruistic, magnanimous and caring to the people around us, even those who have been led by misguided thoughts. We can be thankful that a new generation will get to experience a new Sailor Moon series and all the wonderful heart warming sentiments the show brings, but without forgetting what the original did to capture the hearts of the previous generation, and even beyond as it timelessly lives on through enduring popularity.
90’s Sailor Moon, we doff our hats to you!