Sailor Moon encompassed all of my favorite things as a kid: astronomy, super villains, and super heroes. Oh, and total cuteness.
What it didn’t encompass was reality and how young women actually are.
At eight-years-old I had printed cutouts of Sailor Moon and pasted them all over my walls. At ten, I taught myself HTML and head started a Sailor Moon fan site, complete with online galleries of all the sailor soldiers. At 14, I sold my amateur Sailor Moon drawings through GaiaOnline for faux internet loot. And now, at 22-years-old, I find myself analyzing what my former obsession has taught me about feminism.
And it turns out; the show (then and now) is quite delusional in presenting us with even a fictionalized version of girl power.
I was appalled at the new image of the Sailor Scouts recently released before an episode of Sailor Moon Crystal even came out. A part from being leggier than they were before, they also became alarmingly stick-thin with high-pitched, girly voices.
Yet, beyond the first image, I had the utmost belief that it could regain its strength and find a way out of the stereotypical sexist Japanese drawing aesthetic. I was wrong.
Something should’ve changed in the planning room that day when our producers and artists decided to make a Sailor Moon anime only about an accurate representation of the manga series. They should have also fixed the show’s misogynistic and racist rhetoric. The Sailor Moon produced now doesn’t stand a chance against us girls who want more for ourselves than to be a “pretty princess” (and, no, don’t tell me fourteen year old girls think like this.) In hindsight, the old anime did have minor glimpses of the soldiers offering us a feminist perspective to crush Usagi’s patriarchal dreams.
In the introduction of Sailor Moon Crystal, the song already regards her as a “pretty guardian” with her long blond, odd-styled hair flowing in the wind. The introduction is a take on the original Sailor Moon series introduction of Usagi (her American name being Serena) transforming into her sailor persona, Sailor Moon. Yet, the show still screams stereotypical femininity and a false notion to move forward in perceiving young women’s identity.
My prediction: Sailor Moon Crystal won’t be able to survive in the girlsphere of American cartoons. In an era where we have motion pictures like Frozen and Brave, the new Sailor Moon that hasn’t moved past long-legged, “pretty guardians” will only come as a regression to empowering young women.
The women watching this show are the ones that grew up with our “pretty solider” fighting villains and eating fun Japanese treats. Yes, she was leggy. Yes, they were all the same size. And yes, the American show did work to exclude lesbian sexuality in Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. But that Sailor Moon was produced over 20 years ago when issues like birth control and women’s politics took a backseat in cultural production.
In the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal, the show begins with 14-year-old Usagi. She’s still quirky, clumsy, and day-dreamy. “The princess in my dream was so beautiful. I wish I was a princess too,” says our soon-to-be Sailor Moon. We catch her gazing out the window wishing to quit school to become a full-time pretty princess. We are caught in her gaze as she pictures herself in a white dress, stars gleaming all around her. We are already introduced to a young woman who feels completely useless about herself, failing classes and wishing to ultimately start anew.
In retrospect, the show has never coined itself a feminist show. But the show begs for interpretation since it’s been in the cultural consciousness of American and anime-loving girls everywhere.
But can we expect more from our 2014 Sailor Moon? Here are some suggestions.
Give Usagi some agency and confidence besides her magical powers, for once
And stop making her seem like a girlchild
And remove the noticeable unhealthy relationship to food and fear of gaining weight
And the need to find a beau
And also, stop the sexualization of all the women in the show.
Give our soldiers and all the individuals in SM different body types and different ethnicities (not just the villians, damnint!)
Bring back our LGBT characters
And our trans characters
Stop the male superiority and the unrealistic gushing over Tuxedo Mask
And the constant need for a man to save her
And let’s not make Usagi’s ultimate dream to get married and have kids
And give Tuxedo Mask a personality instead of just making him a beefcake.