Usagi Tsukino is a klutzy 14-year-old girl who eats too many sweets and often fails her homework assignments. So who would suspect that with the help of a magical brooch, she can transform into Sailor Moon, soldier of love and justice? Furthermore, who could have predicted that she would be so influential?
Sailor Moon came from Japan to Western shores twelve years ago in 1995. However, there were two major problems. The first is that it debuted in syndication and was often relegated to inconsistent early morning time slots. The second is that in order to meet the 65-episode requirement for syndication, episodes were cut and merged, and the show ended on a major cliffhanger. Not surprisingly, the series did not see much initial success and left syndication a year later. In 1997, USA Network aired it for several months, but then dropped it.
The future was looking bleak for Sailor Moon in the US, until the series was given another chance for success in 1998. Cartoon Network acquired and aired the 65 episodes plus the extra 17 that completed the first two seasons. It was featured as part of their fledgling afternoon action block, Toonami, introducing the Sailor Soldiers to thousands of viewers and beginning a new era of popular culture.
One afternoon when I was fifteen years old, I saw Sailor Moon while babysitting my young nephew. At first, I dismissed it as weird and stupid. I had never seen anything like it before. Girls that transformed into magical heroines? Special attacks that used stock footage? A contiguous plot in an animated cartoon?! Outrageous!
In spite of the initial negative response, I kept watching it. I don't know if it was out of habit, or because I was curious to know what happened on the next episode, or if I was just drawn to the fact that it was something radically different, but something about it grabbed a hold of me and has never let go.
For starters, the series had a huge influence on my creative abilities. I already liked to draw, but Sailor Moon's art style intrigued me so much that I began to draw more and more, trying to perfect that Japanese style of character design. I drew the characters over and over, and eventually started making up my own anime-style character designs. Since I was drawing so much, my art skills improved greatly during that time.
The series has a strong plot. Also, it was often funny, sometimes downright wacky. There were elements of romance and some very dramatic moments as the series progressed. The well-crafted characters were very likable, and I found myself laughing with them, crying with them, wanting to be like them. You could even feel for some of the villains! All this from a "cartoon"? This was a pleasant surprise to me and I began to entertain the then-unpopular idea that animation isn't just for little kids.
Shortly after I became a fan of the show, I started using the internet for the first time. I soon found out that Sailor Moon had been drastically changed from the original Japanese version. For instance, at the beginning of this article, I called her by her original name, Usagi Tsukino (roughly, "moon rabbit") but most people in the US probably know her as Serena. Some important plot elements had been changed, the violence toned down, some episodes had even been left out entirely. This gave the show an element of mystery, making me want to know what the unedited original version was like.
In the North American adaptation, many things were edited and localized, except-- for whatever reason --the Japanese text on background buildings and signs. I already knew that Sailor Moon was anime when I first started watching it, but all the Japanese text combined with my fascination with the original version of the show made me begin to study the Japanese language on my own.
The success of Sailor Moon would pave the way for other popular series such as Dragonball Z and Gundam Wing. In turn, these series would have a hand in further developing the "Japan-o-phile" subculture and setting the stage for a certain popular late-night Cartoon Network programming block.
Because of my love for Sailor Moon, I was caught up in the middle of this newly emerging pop culture phenomenon. Undoubtedly, this was the most lasting effect that the series had on me: introducing me to Japanese culture.
In the following years, my love of Japanese culture would become a very important part of who I am. I wouldn't have met the love of my life if I hadn't been a big fan of all things Japanese, just like he is. In a lot of ways, anime cultivated my life-long passion for writing. It also made me a lot more open-minded in general. I would never have experienced some things if I had continued to be frightened and distrustful of the unknown.
There are a few different reasons why I chose to share this with you, fellow RetroJunkies, but the most important one is that the series is greatly nostalgic for me, and yet still relevant. It influences me to this day-- I'm planning on writing my own "magical girl" story soon. I strongly believe that if it hadn't been for Sailor Moon, I wouldn't be the person I am today, and that's why Usagi and her friends will always hold a special place in my memories and in my heart.
Comments are much appreciated! Thanks for reading!