Rebooting Sailor Moon and raising a new generation of feminists

This summer has a lot of exciting news for fans of Sailor Moon.  The new series is set to premiere on July 5, and this year’s musical, Petite Étrangère, opens on August 21.  In the meantime, you can watch re-subbed and uncensored episodes of the original anime on Hulu.  Not a bad way to celebrate the anime’s 20th anniversary.

The news didn’t make me happy for my own sake; I thought about all the new fans this would create, namely the young girls it would inspired.  When I was 9, I became crazy about Sailor Moon.  I would get up at 6 A.M. to watch the cartoon and draw the planetary symbols on the corner of my homework.  I even planned out a Sailor Mars costume for Halloween.    Part of what attracted me to the show was that it was about girls of all personality types kicking butt, and part of it was seeing an Asian character, “Ray Hino”, in a cartoon for the first time.  Actually I was pretty lucky because around the same time, Princess Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic came out so there were two girls who kinda looked like me fighting bad guys.

Years later, my dream costume finally became a reality.
By Hell or High Water Photography

There are plenty of essays about the feminist elements of Sailor Moon out there so I’m not going to rehash what’s been said.  Instead I’ll direct you to articles from Autostraddle and Bitch Media.  Another great essay comes from nevermore999, as she notes the manga’s inversion of the damsel-in-distress trope and its focus on female relationships.  Sailor Moon is a manga created by a woman for women.  Vicky Win points out this fact in discussing the slut-shaming and objectification of the Sailor Senshi.  The series celebrated all aspects of womanhood, and the uniforms are only sexual because the viewer makes it so (after all, they are what every junior high and high school girl wears on a daily basis).

Here is where I have to make a distinction between the manga and the anime.  The manga comes across as more feminist because the characters are less stereotyped and more independent.  There’s no meanness from Rei or Mamoru towards Usagi, and the Sailor Starlights were women, which reinforces the female solidarity that the Senshi represented.  However, it’s worth noting that in having the Starlights possess male bodies, the Sailor Moon anime extended a hand to transwomen.  While it did curtail the development of Michiru and Haruka’s relationship, the anime seemed to be more queer friendly with the addition of another homosexual couple, Zoisite and Kunzite.  There were problematic elements with the depiction of Fisheye, a villain who dressed as a woman to pursue men, but he still provided interesting commentary on masculinity and homosexuality.

Sailor Moon may be a silly shoujo manga and cartoon to some, but it has introduced many girls to feminism and queer relationships. In fact, Sailor Moon herself has become an icon in both movements.

Sailor Moon image at SlutWalk NYC 2011

by athenia2011

 photo be3ac736-3ebe-4717-a10c-69ed6630add4_zpsc592d008.png
By Wild Card Graphix

Her timelessness proves that as dated as the art and plot may seem, the themes and characters are still ever-relevant and relatable. While the re-release of the anime and the reboot evoke a lot of nostalgia, they also have us looking to the future. People who grew up with Sailor Moon can now watch it with their sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews, and we’ll have a new generation of feminists fighting evil misogyny by moonlight.

Listening to: “Mugen no Ai” by Momoiro Clover Z

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