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Sailor Moon is, quite literally, everything that is stereotypical of anime. It’s the grandmammy of the “magical girl” sub-genre, and has titling that continues to be lampooned by people as being patently ridiculous.
Regardless, for all that is goofball about the series itself, it’s the sense of camaraderie and some of the show’s thematics that I tend to be drawn in to most by this series.
Sailor Stars was, indeed, the only series of the Sailor Moon universe that I had seen from beginning to end, so my own exposure to the fandom is pretty limited. That said, the series really did illustrate a sense that the titular Sailor Scouts were able to defeat evil using power and grace.
Putting aside how silly the transformation sequences are for a second, the Make Up sequences elevated what was likely a very droll outfit and a despised part of Japanese schoolgirl life in to a battle uniform. Makeup became something that wasn’t a concealer but a way to transform. Brute strength didn’t matter because magic was a force that was always thwarting whatever snarling beast the Scouts faced. Despite the Adonis-styled body shapes at play, those are some ideals that I can get behind.
These girls still carry a sense of grace along with might. It’s not something that is easy to define, as I think on it. On the one hand, they’re magicians of impressive ability. I mean, Usagi hugged the main baddie of Sailor Stars in order to defeat her and won. That’s both impressive and surprising, especially after all she’d been through up to that point.
On the other hand, though, it plays up to the same sorts of ideas of what is feminine that many are trying to sweep away. The Sailor Scouts pose, sashay and flaunt. Usagi is an absolutely whiny creature. Their personal interactions still strike as contrived at some times. The series is both empowering and insulting. Or it’s entirely possible that I’m reading far too deeply in to this stuff. But then I think of Sailor Moon’s coquettish pose as she readies for battle and my brow creases deeper in confusion.
Perhaps this is all tied in with my previously written-about disconnect with anime in general. But regardless, the actual senshi themselves are a lovely group when they work together, and they use the assumptions of being a delicate, soft flower of a woman as a literal weapon. It’s not really changing the rhetoric or shattering presumption, but it is at least turning it in to a source of power.
My very good friend Jess used to watch this show like mad. I don’t know that she does anymore. But I remember the way she looked when she did watch the show. She seemed to be comforted by it. It took her to a place where the burdens of being “pretty” were a fount of power instead of a burden of societal idiocy. And in the end, the show was about relationships–among friends, lovers and sisters. It was about the bonds that bend but don’t break no matter what the storm.
Sure, there are shows that do it better. But even those shows can’t deny that they wouldn’t be around without Sailor Moon. It might be a discordant mixed message to me, but it has its place in the annals of pop iconography for a reason…and that reason is likely for its morals as much as its campiness.