Sailor Moon is a manga series written by Naoko Takeuchi during the 90s. The story follows a 14 year old girl who discovers in an alternate universe she is the Queen of the Moon Kingdom, and that in the present-day she (along with a group of close friends) possess magical powers to transform into a Sailor Scout and defend the world from various evils.
The anime spawned 5 seasons and became wildly successful outside of Japan, especially in North America. It was before Buffy, Sabrina, Power Rangers and all the rest of the butt-kicking magical high schoolers we’ve grown up with and loved. Sailor Moon has been credited with introducing a whole generation to anime and manga (myself among them) and revitalising the entire genre of magical girls. But I didn’t know any of this as a kid.
I first discovered Sailor Moon when I was 7 years old on Fox Kids, a magic extra channel my Dad’s TV had. Sailor Moon inspired within me something between breathless, head-over-heels romance, and reckless, heady, addiction. I was obsessed, consumed with a breathless devotion, scouring the programming schedule, watching the +1 repeats straight after the original airings, endlessly telling my Fox Kids-less friends about the characters and plots and trying unsuccessfully to convert them to the power of the Moon.
This was before the internet, and everything I knew about Sailor Moon was from the show itself. It’s hard to imagine experiencing anything this way now, but there was nobody else who had seen the show to talk about it with (outside of the friends I forced to watch my own crude video tapes), there was no way to find out what happened next in the series after the Fox Kids episodes (they screened roughly the first 65 episodes of a 200-ep series), and there was certainly no option to buy merch to express my devotion. I didn’t know it was Japanese, or based on a manga, or even if other people watched and enjoyed the series.
These days I could have joined an active fandom, tweeting my love, searching tumblr for fan art, purchasing official merch on etsy, reading plot theories and story arcs on a Wikia. But as a 7 year old in rural North Wales, I felt like I alone was the only person in the world who cared about the show. Over the years my parents – though utterly confused by my enthusiasm for an obscure, complex show – did manage to procure various bits of Sailor Moon paraphernalia for me; the summer in America where we discovered an anime merch shop, the random shop in Paris with Sailor Moon t-shirts, a festival of Japanese culture in London (these days grown into HyperJapan) where a lady told me she liked my homemade Sailor Jupiter wand.
I was about 12 when I was able to use the internet and learn more about Sailor Moon online. This was still before the dawn of “fandoms” and on web 1.0, but I learned how little of the vast and complex storyline I had actually encountered, and after finding out Sailor Moon was based on a manga I saved up my pocket money and trekked between comic shops in London to get my hands on the imported comics.
The manga was a lot more intimate and grown-up than the anime. There were less high-school hijinks and “monster-of-the-week” fare. Serious romantic relationships took more of a central place in the story, and the history and backstory had a tragic angle that the anime never quite captured. Even the drawings looked more feminine and delicate; more mature. I devoured the 18 volumes through my teens. I’ve spoken before about my loneliness during my teenage years, in Sailor Moon I saw the friendships I wished I had in real life. I spent my time in that universe and related ones instead; greek mythology, outer space, music, Japanese culture.
These days, Sailor Moon is still something I love dearly, and though in about 3 seconds I could pull up dozens of fansites and dedicated insta accounts and have numerous friends who are also fans, it still feels like I have a personal relationship with the show – the way I did as a child. I’m not entirely certain children these days could experience something with the same sense of isolation; it seems everything is marketed with tie-in games, movies and merch to within an inch of it’s life. It’s only in revisiting the original series that I realise how deeply embedded the show is in my psyche.
As a child I thought Princess Serenity was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen; 15 years later and I am always drawn to white and gold combinations, owning a number of vintage white and gold crystal tiaras and a white and gold guitar. For years I’ve only ever cooked as a way to impress boys, just like my childhood favourite character Jupiter did.
These days I get paid to transcribe songs, something I first did aged 8 with the Sailor Moon theme tune, spending painstaking hours to slowly figure out the melody I so loved. I recently realised that one of my most used chord sequences in my own songs mimics the tragic, falling, chord sequence used in the original Japanese theme tune. And I’ve been drawn to sailor collars and outfits long before they became a blogger staple in 2007. Of course, all of those things could be a coincidence, but it’s hard to know how various themes and aesthetics can be imprinted on young minds.
Sailor Moon Crystal, a new adaptation of the manga, was released last year. The release was accompanied by numerous bloggers talking about their love for Sailor Moon; new fans adopting the themes of strength and female friendship to fit a new feminist aesthetic; new merch tied in with fashion trends and tumblr tags of the day: iPhone cases, bags with cat ears, laser-cut plastic accessories. Sailor Moon hysteria was still in full swing when I visited Tokyo earlier this year.
In a weird way, I didn’t really feel like I could join in. I’m a huge fan of the show, but it feels like something personal to me, not easily expressed in an instagram flat-lay or a round-up “my favourite shows” post. There’s some things in the world where I’ll always feel like the connection I have is ongoing and intangible, and it takes me a bit longer to try and articulate. Like Amy, like John, Sailor Moon is one of those things. It’s easy to write me off as some crazed adult fangirl but I’m still figuring out the ways the story has shaped me, and I’m forever grateful.