When I first heard the news about the new Sailor Moon anime set to begin next summer my 12 year old self squealed audibly (let’s be real, so too did my current 23 year old self). Back then, to me, Sailor Moon was the absolute BUSINESS. I would wake myself up with zest at 6am, even in summer, to catch the episodes that Fox kids UK would air at the most unholy of hours. I was captivated by my first foray into the magical girl anime genre and got swept up by the campy romance of five teenage girls in sailor outfits fighting for love and justice in order to defeat the evil Queen Beryl. Sailor Moon had a handsome, useless boyfriend to boot. WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?! Unfortunately for twelve year old me, I didn’t get to view the series in its entirety until several years later. They stopped showing it on Fox Kids not long after I had discovered it. They never even showed the S or Super S seasons (angry face)! Also I possessed no money with which to purchase the DVDs, no DVD player that would play American discs in any case and knew not of the wonders of illegal downloading. I made do with merely just reading about it on the internet until one magical day when I came across the whole thing on YouTube.
So I watched and watched and watched some more, frightened that it would be taken down before I could complete it. This wasn’t that long ago, so it was a slightly different experience watching it as an older person with better critical thinking skills and a better idea of what would be regarded as good quality. I enjoyed it, however I’m not sure if it would have the same appeal for someone my age who isn’t viewing it through the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia. As far as quality anime goes, it really isn’t amazing. The animation hasn’t aged well, the story is drawn out to Betsy with a tonne of filler (Hello Super S!). It also has a repetitive monster of the week formula which gets old fast. However one thing I didn’t notice the first time round is how hilariously crappy and campy these monsters of the week were. I realised that if I couldn’t exactly take it as seriously the second time round, I could at least giggle at the melodrama and silly adversaries. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy the story still, it’s just that despite some of its more mature and darker elements it is clearly a kid’s show, so it’s something to bear in mind while watching as an adult.
A recent delving into the manga has revealed that it too suffers from problems similar to the anime. While it seems to be slightly more mature in some ways, it possesses that same sense of repetition and monster of the week formula. In contrast, however, some of the story elements and characters are developed rather too quickly for my liking. You can really sense that Naoko Takeuchi was just in one of hell of a rush to get it published. Well, enough about my complaints, how about we delve into why I’m so excited about the new anime?!
For starters, what is so remarkable about the franchise, more so in the manga, is the subversion of prominent tropes often found in superhero comics and such. One whopping example of this is Sailor Moon’s romance that transcends time; her boyfriend, Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask/Prince Endymion. While he does have more of a role to play in the manga with helping the girls defeat the baddies, in the anime he throws a rose at various villains and hopes for the best. Yeah. In the manga he also plays the part of a femme fatale type character at several points. He is brainwashed constantly by the bad guys, and in one instane he is used as bait to seduce Sailor Moon and entice her to the Bad Guy’s lair. Here, we have the acknowledgment of female sexuality whilst simultaneously showcasing the potential of female heroism, huzzah! Sailor Moon is constantly rescuing him, rather than the other way around, again more so in the manga. Interestingly, Sailor Moon is portrayed as slightly more helpless in the anime, with Tuxedo Mask being given more opportunities to be chivalrous. Still, the girl power is strong with this one. There isn’t a useless female in sight! While it can be easy to criticise Sailor Moon for the costume designs that were so clearly created with the male gaze in mind, beyond that I would argue that the series as a whole is quite feminist in tone. The prominent message of the franchise is the strength of female friendship and the importance of banding together, with women fighting for themselves time and time again. It is refreshing to say the least, in a world where media portrayals of female relationships are for the most part bitchy, passive aggressive and shallow. The manga is again more successful in this regard. The anime does insert a lot more petty, typically teenage girl arguments in its attempt to flesh out the characters a bit more. Also Usagi (Sailor Moon) is a lot more irritating in the anime, with her crybaby tendencies turned up to eleven.
Of course like any other piece of media, it is a product of its society. Some of the Japanese norms and perceptions portrayed could definitely be construed as sexist and homophobic. Again, this is more so with the anime (Anime, dude, what’s your deal?!) the series as a whole is very lgbt savvy! We have an implied lesbian couple, gender queer characters, trans characters, gay characters, bi-curious crushes and a lovely queer makeshift family. And for the most part these things aren’t even commented on or judged as being weird. It could definitely be deemed as feminist and queer friendly despite certain flaws.
I think that a truly great reboot would take the positive elements of the original anime series and manga and fuse them to make the most epically epic story of teen world saving the world has ever seen. Or, maybe even just an entertaining show. It would be nice to have less filler, more character development of secondary characters and also the inclusion of characters left out of the initial series. It would be especially nice to see the outer senshi bond more with the primary cast. It would also be nice to see Mamoru be less of an asshole towards Usagi this time round. It would be amazing if Usagi retained her manga personality, where her crybaby tendencies and cowardliness are character traits that are fleeting rather than traits that define her. I really could go on and on with all the speculation and the hoping. And we still have a year to wait to see what sort of creative decisions shall be made. Let us pray to the anime gods that it will at least add something new to the franchise and rekindle collective faith in pretty soldier’s kicking the ass of darkness.