If you know me, you know I love Sailor Moon. Among magical girl anime, I think it’s safe to say it’s one of the more popular ones; even if you’ve never seen the show, the characters are pretty well known. We’re going to talk about why I love this anime so much.
It was an afternoon in fall of 1997 or so. My siblings and I were gathered around the television for a thing called Toonami which started at 4PM and the first show up was Sailor Moon.We gathered in the living room to watch a teenage girl and her teenage friends fight the bad guys in the name of the moon.
This episode, the baddies were defeated. However, something unique happened. They died defending a human girl named Molly (in the localized version). She was a friend to our heroines. In the wake of his death, Molly cries in anguish… and so do the heroines. Every single sibling joined in that moment of sadness. We used the adrenaline rush of Dragonball Z to pick up our mood before doing homework and having dinner, but something stuck with me.
Cartoons, history, and villainy
Long before I would ever touch my first anime (which wasn’t Sailor Moon), I would watch several others like He-Man, Thundercats, My Little Pony, G.I. Joe, and other titles which are lost to time. In those, the good guys and the bad guys were clear and static; there wasn’t the concept of an anti-hero then. Megatron was always bad. Optimus Prime was always good. The more complex stuff was reserved for live action, adult television. Some of those shows were for girls, others for boys. You knew exactly which was which, too.
My enjoyment of the transformations and powers aside, Sailor Moon changed how I felt about villains, heroes, and my view on animated media and the stories it could tell as a whole; suddenly, I had stories that had just as much depth and substance as the things that were “for the grown-ups”.
Fast forward to my siblings and I gathered in the living room in 1997. I’m sad because the bad guy is dying. I wanted them to succeed in doing a good thing. The bad guy was trying to do a good thing and failed and everyone was sad about it.
The Bad Guys™ had feelings you could empathize with. They fell in love with enemies or each other. They could learn things and change their minds and join the good guys. The good guys could have reasons to become bad. They were whole people on a show that was made for children to watch.
There was still room for people to be evil and defeatable, but there was a lot more grey than black and white and we were left to feel things and process those feelings, boys and girls alike. The thing about Sailor Moon for me, at the time it reached me, was that I was allowed to watch a show that, had it been American, it would have been “this show is for girls” but because they could love people and also blow things up with fireballs, it was fine.
Further, it made me hungry for more complexity and depth to the things I saw. The complicated relationships characters could have and how characters didn’t have to be static, but could evolve and make you feel things about them.
The good guys weren’t all A+ students. They made mistakes and had to fix them. They had things they were sad about. They missed people and felt lonely and wanted to go to the arcade because they were bored with class. They didn’t always know what to do. They recognized that they were in situations much larger than they were and openly talked about how afraid of things they were.
We were glued to the television every day for years, invested in what would happen to the girls and the people they loved. We found ourselves hoping the bad guys would lose so that they could learn to be better and not just to be done with the monster of that episode. We found ourselves watching the girls grow in their own way as they overcame their struggles and fears and found the courage to do whatever the challenges before them required… even when it was sacrifice.
It gave me a whole world of emotions and narrative types to pursue with no shame for being a boy and enjoying this show. It became a foundation that future me would go on to write about and bring to life in their own way via tabletop games. This show and its impact on 17-year-old me could hardly be overstated.
My enjoyment of the transformations and powers aside, Sailor Moon changed how I felt about villains, heroes, and my view on animated media and the stories it could tell as a whole; suddenly, I had stories that had just as much depth and substance as the things that were “for the grown-ups”… and that, for 17-year-old me, was powerful.
So yeah. Moon Prism Power, Make up!