A title that almost everyone knows by name, and most people have some sort of connection to however loose, but not something I see a ton of discussion about in 2021. Sailor Moon was one of the landmark moments for animanga on the same tier as Dragon Ball and One Piece; it’s a hugely important title that’s essential in order to understand the works that have followed it.
I read the entire Sailor Moon manga and watched the first season of the anime. I do have plans to continue watching the rest of the anime, but I haven’t seriously set out to do so yet. Because my knowledge of the anime is limited, I’ll quickly mention it and move on.
If one thing defines the first season of Sailor Moon, it is filler. There are 46 episodes, and about half of those are filler; that’s insane. This is because the anime was airing at the exact same time that the manga was writing; when this happens, the anime always advances faster than the manga. However, because the producers of the anime can’t’ simply waive their spot on TV for the week, they have to put something out there; thus, the concept of filler — an unimportant, usually irrelevant story that has no bearing on the plot — was born. Most of the filler is very boring and irrelevant, but towards the second half of the story, a filler subplot that focused on attaining the Seven Rainbow Crystals was introduced; this actually had bearing on the plot even though it wasn’t mentioned in the manga, and was quite well done; I did appreciate this. Another thing the anime did better over the manga was how it fleshed out the four bishounen villains Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, and Kunzite. Those four were quite boring in the manga and didn’t really have a role, but they were much more interesting in the anime.
The series is broken up into five distinct arcs, each having a new antagonist that tries to stop the Sailor Guardians. All the antagonists desire the mythical energy source that gives Sailor Moon her power, the Legendary Silver Crystal. As is standard for shounen/shoujo stories, the Sailor Guardians power up after defeating the antagonist at the end of an arc, and get a new part of themselves tested and trained by the next antagonist. Arc 1 (known as the Dark Kingdom arc) was about friendship: it was the exposition of the series where everyone met each other and became friends, and it also tested their friendship in order to cement it for the future arcs; Arc 2 (Black Moon) posed questions about life, death, and immortality by introducing time travel as an important part of the series; Arc 3 (Infinity) introduced internal conflict to the team and made its narrative focus how the team would come back together with outsiders in the ranks; Arc 4 (Dream) went deeply psychological and questioned each of the Sailors’ identities and dreams; Arc 5 (Stars) ended the story by building off of everyone’s development and hammering home how important friends and convictions truly are.
My favorite part of the story was Arc 3, titled “Infinity.” The science-fiction aspect that dominated the story was unique to this one part, and it was done very well for a story that focused on fantasy. But the most important and best part of the arc is Sailor Saturn’s character. She is the “Messenger from the Abyss of Death,” only awakening to her powers as a Sailor Guardian when it is time to eradicate everything that exists and start anew. However, when she is in human form and unaware of her powers, she is the sweetest and kindest character in the story. She became close friends with Chibi-Usa while she was unaware of her powers, giving the young girl who felt alone in her surroundings a true friend. These facts make it all the more sadder that almost all of the Sailor Guardians vote to kill Sailor Saturn in her unawakened state to prevent her coming to destroy all life. (It was inevitable for her to do so; the antagonists of the series, the Death Busters, threatened all life themselves anyway, so she would awaken to stop them.) However, Sailor Moon stopped them, hoping that there was another way out. There was; Sailor Saturn did rend the universe, and she herself died, but manipulation of stopping and starting time during the process let her be reborn as an infant. The conditions that surrounded Sailor Saturn’s life and how the potential coming of the end of the world was handled makes Infinity the best part of Sailor Moon, in my opinion.
While reading some opinions from the community, it seems that many are not fond of Arc 4, the “Dream” arc, calling it too lighthearted coming after the new darker themes that Infinity introduced. I do not share this opinion. Dream is as dark, if not more so, than Infinity; while Infinity threatens humanity as a whole, the specific threats to it are vague. Dream poses a threat to each and every Sailor Guardian; when their dreams and motives are questioned, they go through turmoil in a fashion not unlike Shinji’s in Neon Genesis Evangelion. They lose sight of themselves, say such nasty things that they would never say to another person’s face; their darkest parts are exposed, and they must face them. They end up doing so, despite all the pain and revulsion that one feels when one retreats inward, towards one’s true self. They remember their friends and the threats they’ve all had to face in the past. Once you find a place you love and belong in, you will take almost any measure to maintain that place for yourself. Acceptance from those who are dear to you is the first and last motivator for almost all human action.
Overall, I love Sailor Moon. I can’t remember what my original motivation was to read it; I began way back in November, but I only read the first arc at that time; I didn’t finish the manga until February. But whatever the reason, I’m very glad I did read it. It’s a vastly important series that has genuinely deep themes that go far beyond its purported scope as a shoujo. Additionally, although it is purely a product of the 1990s, it’s aged very well and has continued to be a strong influence on animanga; if I ever watch Puella Magi Madoka Magica (my favorite show) for a third time and do a grand writeup about it, I’ll be sure to highlight the numerous things that PMMM borrowed from Sailor Moon. Known by all, but containing much, much more than meets the eye — Sailor Moon.