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Why Sailor Moon is beloved by so many, 30 years later

Sailor Moon (center) with Sailor Venus (from left), Sailor Mars, Sailor Mercury and Sailor Jupiter. Together, they battle evil supernatural forces that threaten the world.
Naoki Takeuchi/PNP
Toei Animation Co.,Ltd. via Viz Media
Sailor Moon (center) with Sailor Venus (from left), Sailor Mars, Sailor Mercury and Sailor Jupiter. Together, they battle evil supernatural forces that threaten the world.

Sailor Moon burst onto Japanese television screens 30 years ago and captured the hearts and minds of young people around the world. Usagi Tsukino — or Serena, to American viewers — was an average 14-year-old living a normal schoolgirl life. Then one day, she meets a talking cat who helps her transform into Sailor Moon and tasks her with fighting supernatural forces. Eventually, she'll meet other girls with similar magical powers and, together, the Sailor Scouts battle to keep evil at bay.

Briana Lawrence is fandom editor at The Mary Sue, and a longtime Sailor Moon fan. She recently wrote about the anime for The Mary Sue, in an essay titled "Revisiting the First Episode of Sailor Moon 30 Years Later Makes Me Appreciate Usagi Crying About How Stressful It Is to Be a Magical Girl", and she sat down with NPR's Juana Summers to talk about why Sailor Moon still endures.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

On the reasons why Usagi's crying used to annoy her as a child

I think when I was younger, it annoyed me because I was projecting what other people would say. So I was like, "Yeah, why are you complaining? You're supposed to save the world. You're supposed to do this." And then, I got older and I got tired. I was just like, '"Wait, why do I have to push myself to the breaking point to get things done? Why can't I take my time?"

I actually am working on a book series about magical girls, and so I re-watched Sailor Moon while I was writing it, and I was like, "Oh my God, I understand why she's crying! This is upsetting to go through!" Like, you're a 14 year old. There's a cat that tells you that you have to save the world, [and] the cat doesn't really give you that many details [about what you're supposed to do.]

Sailor Moon was right this whole time. She should be able to go to the arcade and crush on the boy and then take a bath and relax.

On what it is about Usagi and the rest of the Sailor Scouts that keeps drawing new fans and people to the show

Partially, I think we're making up for lost time because now, we're getting to — here's the actual episodes unedited. Here's the actual queer content that wasn't in Sailor Moon, here it is now. The other part is just, for me personally, the staying power is the message for me changed when I got older. You know, kids are pushed hard, and when you're in the middle of being pushed, you don't see what you're doing to other people. So as an adult, I look back and I'm like, "Oh God, yeah, I'm really sorry." Sailor Moon was right this whole time. She should be able to go to the arcade and crush on the boy and then take a bath and relax.

On the show's lesbian couple Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune - who were turned into "cousins" in the English dubs of the show - and why Sailor Moon resonates with its queer fanbase

I think, for me personally, it resonated because it was censored, and I'm like, "Oh, more queer content that we're not getting." I came out when I was 18, and I have been with my wife since I came out at 18. We've been together for 20 years. So I remember we went to tell her parents, and the response was like, "Okay, but you don't have to talk with anybody else. You could just keep it to yourself. You don't have to say anything." And I think that's why [Sailor Moon] resonated with me so much because [the queer relationship between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune] got locked away for so long and people thought that was necessary to do to protect the children or whatever. When I finally saw what the content was, I was like, "God, this is what they censored? This is what they were worried about?" Because it's just people being themselves. Uranus and Neptune just hang out together. They don't even kiss or anything. They just hold hands or talk to each other. It was such a relaxed thing that we got robbed of.

There's no reason to go back to how it was 30 years ago. We can actually have this now. So anytime someone's upset about [queer content in television shows coming out today], that they might have a queer thing in it, it's like, "Really? Are you going to go back to when you turned [Uranus and Neptune] into cousins? Really? Is that the hill you want to die on?" And it's like, no you shouldn't. We are supposed to be progressing further than what you guys were doing when we were children.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Megan Lim
[Copyright 2024 NPR]

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