love conquers all
by Diana Wehmeier
Between classes the girls of our middle-school gathered around excitedly to exchange thoughts and reaction of the latest episode of Sailor Moon. It was the 90’s and the show had just arrived in Germany and was the hottest thing. We waited in anticipation for each episode to see how Sailor Moon would conquer the next grotesque demon (or romantic trouble). My first experience watching was when i was 9, I somehow stumbled on to an episode of the show and was immediately mesmerized by the magic, transformations, planets, awesome outfits, cute cats and relatable personal issues. As a young, impressionable space-nerd it is safe to say: I was hooked. Some psychological theories show that events and encounters at this age can be very impactful…
Now Sailor Moon is approaching its 30th anniversary- the anime series that follows the Sailor Guardians of Love (and other things) named after the planets of our solar system and of course, the moon. Even 28 years after the series originally aired, it is still extremely popular and hasn’t seemed to have lost its meaning nor importance for young girls or boys or many adults of either gender. On the surface, Sailor Moon might seem like nothing more than silly-teenage-girl-entertainment, but at its heart, it really conveys a layered set of emotions, with characters that embody distinct personas that grow and show depth throughout the series. Our heroes, the Sailor Guardians lead by Sailor Moon struggle (with many mishaps) to save Tokyo (and their love lives) from time-travelling demons, ghosts and all other types of other baddies.
So, maybe this seems like so many other anime series that focus on a group of high-schoolers saving the world in secret from some sort of grand evil, but Sailor Moon has something special. What has made Sailor Moon such a relatable and cherished program for so many girls of all generations? What is the cause of the longevity and the status of being a girl power icon?
Sailor Moon (aka Usagi), is one of the most imperfect characters ever written. Like all of us she has many flaws, she is immature, a crybaby, constantly late, gets terrible grades, spends too much time playing video games and of course, she is totally clumsy. But in situations of extreme stress and peril, when the stakes are the highest, she also shows intense compassion and strength, full of spirit and a will that allows her to stand up for her friends when they’re in trouble. Always willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good, Usagi is a true hero. She is the Guardian of Love and Justice. When these core values are in jeopardy, she will overcome anything . It’s okay if you’re not perfect, you can still run the world.
Sailor Moon and the other main Sailor Senshi are a diverse group of young women: there’s the studious Ami, the fiery athletic Makoto, the pretty and brave Minako, the spiritually-guided Rei and the ditzy, but compassionate Usagi. Together, they make up a team of women that can kick-butt and save the world at a moment’s notice. Each has her own individual style and personality. As young women they each grow and mature upon these qualities and shape themselves into fierce fully fleshed heroines. Even the senshi that appear later, such as Sailors Pluto, Uranus, Neptune and Saturn bring strengths, as women, to the table. All sorts of women are strong.
When it comes to issues of the LGBT community, Sailor Moon does not shy away. A show that is primarily about the power and support of women. Additionally, there are also themes of empowerment in LGBT communities. Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus are girlfriends in the manga and Japanese anime versions and even more powerful than our previous Sailors. Unfortunately, they were censored to appear as cousins in American and European versions. Despite this, their relationship was quite obvious (even to naive middle school girls!) and their close bond can even be combined to create immensely powerful magic. Although they sometimes disagree on the direction of their quest, Neptune and Uranus have a thriving, long-lived and healthy relationship which continues happily in the end just like everyone else’s. It was 1992. Almost 30 years later, and mainstream television still won’t allow openly gay characters in youth media. Sailor Moon is not afraid to show the love between two women.
In the original Manga and in Sailor Moon Crystal, it is explained that Uranus has the power of both genders; in the 90s anime, which we are focused on, she is portrayed as a woman who is not afraid to embrace traditionally masculine norms and transform her understanding of gender. Interestingly, in Sailor Moon Stars three new characters are introduced, the Sailor Starlights who are heavily implied to be gender fluid. Seiya/Starfighter, Taiki/Starmaker, and Yaten/Starhealer. In the manga they were explicitly cis women in men’s clothing, in the 90s anime they are male until they transform into senshi and become female; all the other senshi respect their pronouns when they are men and when they are women. This opens up the viewer to questions that they may have never even considered, especially at the time that the anime originally ran. The The inclusion and positivity in the portrayal of these themes of homosexuality and gender fluidity not only aids those struggling for identity, but for everyone regardless of orientation or gender to learn acceptance and respect for all humans.
Even with so many chaotic and dangerous situations surrounding the team, most episode end with Usagi and Rei sticking their tongues out playfully at each other, or the girls poking fun at Usagi, or diving into cake or a meal made by Makoto or even playing video games at the local arcade, but almost always episodes end with the girls laughing and joking, in spite of a seemingly dire situation. For the Sailor Senshi, this was about hope: they always found hope in a bad situation, and because of that, they always found joy, even through their suffering. Stay Positive!
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1, 5)
Sure, it’s an old-fashioned notion, but what Sailor Moon does is take “love conquers all” and pushes it farther than just romantic love. At its very soul, Sailor Moon isn’t just about the love that Usagi shares with Mamoru (who has often helped the Sailor Senshi conquer monsters), but also about the love that the Sailor Senshi share with each other. Sailor Moon is about the love of friendship: even from the first season, this friendship shows us a group of girls willing to die for each other.
And last but not least (and most important to PLASMA) Sailor Moon’s characters are named after planets, even if not the most scientifically accurate, it brings a vivid picture of the solar system to a young girl, like I was once. At the mention of their names Sailor Moon, Mars Mercury, and all the rest, I imagined it was the planet they came from and pictured a tiny version of each planet next to them and how it related to their personality. And this emphasis and admiration for planets or especially the earth or the moon inevitably influenced me. The show taught me, it’s not just some rocks in empty space, every planet has a personality and quality for me, almost like an anime character. Every Planets has its unique characteristics.