If you are a Millennial, chances are that you grew up watching Sailor Moon on television and reading the English adaption of the manga. Even if you weren’t a die-hard “Moonie” as a kid, there’s no way that you didn’t catch at least a few episodes of Sailor Moon on television while fervently wishing you would meet a talking cat who would give you the power to save the world from the Negaverse.
A story about a high school girl who becomes a superhero might seem like it could be easily dismissed as “childish,” but the series continues to have a popularity and a loyal following that is unmatched. Not only is VIZ Media re-airing the original subtitled ’90s television show on Hulu, but they’re also re-dubbing the series and releasing the new reboot, Sailor Moon Crystal, too.
Sailor Moon has a fairly progressive legacy, showing television networks that a children’s show can still be popular and feature strong, empowered female characters. So, whether you are a die-hard “Moonie” or fondly remember watching a few episodes of Sailor Moon as a kid, here’s why Usagi’s story is one of the best feminist tales ever.
The Power of Friendship
In Naoko Takeuchi’s original manga, the main focus is on the female characters: Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon) and her best friends, Sailor Venus, Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Mercury, and Sailor Mars, otherwise known as The Sailor Senshi. Although one of the main plots in the manga is the love story between Usagi and her boyfriend Mamoru Chiba (Tuxedo Mask), their relationship is not the entire focus of the series. Takeuchi takes great pains to stress that while Mamoru’s love inspires Usagi, especially during the scene where she’s getting ready to face off with Death Phantom, Sailor Moon needs the support of her friends above all.
The Sailor Senshi are not merely Sailor Moon’s guardians, they are her best friends, too. All five women are bound by love and it is their combined power that allows Sailor Moon to defeat her enemies. In the first arc, the Inner Senshi sacrifice their lives to bring Usagi and Mamoru back to life so they can defeat Queen Metallia. After the battle, Usagi has the chance to become the new Queen Serenity, but she insists on returning to Earth to bring her friends back to life. Even when Usagi was devastated after discovering that Mamoru was kidnapped by Beryl and Metallia, her friends didn’t call her a crybaby and ignore her pain. Instead, they stood by her side and helped Usagi come up with a plan to save the man she loves.
The theme of the power of female friendship also comes into play when the Outer Senshi–Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, Sailor Pluto, and Sailor Saturn–enter the story. It’s through this bond that allows Usagi to use the Holy Grail to defeat Mistress Nine and the Death Busters. While Sailor Moon, in her form as the future Neo-Queen Serenity, is the Messiah who is destined to bring peace to the planet, she can only achieve that goal if she has the love and support of her friends.
Women’s Only Club
Aside from friendship, Sailor Moon is also unique in that only women can be Senshi. While Mamoru fights beside Usagi as Tuxedo Mask and is the Prince of Earth, he’s not as powerful as Sailor Moon. In fact, he laments to his own four guardians–Kunzite, Zoisite, Jadeite, and Nephrite–that he feels useless because Usagi has her four Inner Senshi to protect her. They remind Mamoru that Usagi is starting down the path to become Queen and she needs the support of both her boyfriend and best friends in order to rebuild Silver Millennium on Earth. Unlike usual fantasy novels where the dashing hero saves the damsel in distress, it is Usagi who saves the world and keeps Mamoru from dying more than once.
However, Usagi is not some all-powerful “Mary Sue” who can fight off villains with a wave of her hands. She is, at heart, still your average teenager. In the original anime, Usagi is portrayed as a clumsy 14-year-old who hates studying and often makes mistakes. Even when Usagi transforms into her powerful alter ego Sailor Moon, she still trips over things and gets scared of the monsters she is supposed to be fighting. Any woman watching the show will be able to relate to at least one of the Senshi. Whether it’s Usagi and her clumsiness or Sailor Saturn’s fear of being ridiculed for being “different,” female viewers will see themselves in many of the Senshi.
Sailor Moon was also revolutionary back in the ’90s because the original Japanese animation included a love story between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. Although their storyline was altered in the original English dub because LGBTQ characters were still considered risque back then, the English adaption of the manga was faithful to Takeuchi’s original story. The romance between the two Senshi was not put in for shock value, and aside from Usagi and Mamoru, the couple was a good example of what a healthy, stable relationship should be. Plus, many LGBTQ teens looked up to Haruka (Sailor Uranus) because she didn’t abide by the typical gender binary, dressing in suits and ties, which was a pretty bold move for the ’90s.
It’s for all these reasons that Sailor Moon still continues to be cherished by both old and new fans. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but today, with blockbuster movies still shying away from female superheroes, Sailor Moon proved that women could save the day with nothing more but the combined power of her best-friends. If only the rest of Hollywood would get the memo.