In The Name of the Moon
One of my earliest childhood memories is standing in the bathroom arguing with my sister and trying to figure out exactly how Sailor Moon held her hands. Was it like this? No, it HAD to be like this! It would take us years to figure it out.
Sailor Moon, for those of you unfamiliar, is the story of Tsukino Usagi, a high school girl struggling with her everyday life: her grades, her friends, her love life… and oh yeah, reconciling the fact that she is actually Sailor Moon: the reincarnated form of the Moon Princess, sworn to protect the Earth. Banding together with her fellow Sailor Soldiers, they take on various enemies from across the universe, all with the message of love and justice.
One of the things that drew me so much to Sailor Moon as a kid – and continues to draw me in – was the fact that Usagi wasn’t depicted as some kind of amazing, incredible wunderkind. She was a klutz, did poorly in school, had self-esteem issues, and was in general very relatable. I felt like Usagi wouldn’t judge me – she had no qualms about making friends with anyone and everyone, and there was no trace of malice or manipulation in her actions. She was nothing but genuine, and she was never going to push you away for being fat or ugly or weird or different. In fact, she would tell you those things were what made you great. People tend to dismiss Usagi for her perceived stupidity, but her strength is in her kindness. She’s a hero. She’s the greatest hero, if you ask me.
Another thing about Sailor Moon – the show this time, not the character – is that it focuses on ten girls, from widely different backgrounds, and the friendships formed between them. Romantic relationships, while they occur, are not the primary focus of the show. Rather, the focus is on the interpersonal relationships within the group, and how those dynamics affect them in and out of battle. One of my favorite episodes is one where the soldiers are split up and forced to work with a partner that they typically do not – Sailor Mercury, the intelligent, tech-savvy tactician, is partnered with Sailor Uranus, the ruthless, militaristic brute – and they have to realize that each has personally devalued what the other is best at. In the end, they come to accept those traits within themselves, and work together to use their strengths to break through and confront their enemy.
Who they are in battle is who they are in life. They never stop being normal teenage girls, but they never stop being soldiers, either. There isn’t a time when they aren’t both, and there isn’t a time when they don’t realize that. Yeah, they can fight a little bit with each other, but when it comes down to it, their dynamics as a group don’t really change. They continue to fight the good fight against all odds. It is so rare to have this amount of positive representation in the media – where female characters are typically relegated to the role of sidekick, to have ten ACTUAL female superheroes? It’s absolutely unheard of.
What sets Sailor Moon apart from its contemporaries, and hell, pretty much every show peddled to girls/women before or since – is the fact that that it was written by a woman for women. Naoko Takeuchi crafted an incredible story that silently praised the merits of girl power, and it has stuck with me for the past twenty-odd years. I’m looking forward to the reboot anime that’s coming out this year, because if it can reach another generation like it reached me and my friends? I’m all about that.