Welcome to Total Lunacy! A new weekly series where in celebration of Sailor Moon’s international revival, senior Moonologist Anne Mortensen-Agnew will tell you a thing or two about the franchise. Up first is an overview of the franchise’s humble origins and just why it became the beloved powerhouse it remains today.
In 1991, Japanese comics author/artist Naoko Takeuchi was approached by her editor and given the opportunity to develop a new, one-shot comic due to the success of her first series, The Cherry Project. What she came up with was a story about a young middle school girl, not particularly bright but energetic and loving, who one day learns from a magic cat that she is a sworn protector of love and justice; a beautiful soldier against evil: Codename: Sailor V.
Sailor V was a hit and in 1992 expanded beyond its one-shot into an ongoing series, published monthly by Kodansha. It caught the attention of Toei Animation, who collaborated with Takeuchi in the creation of a spinoff, this one a team series. Launching in comics in February 1992 and on the air as an anime a month later, this was Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon.
While The Cherry Project and Codename: Sailor V were successful, Sailor Moon was unlike anything Takeuchi and her staff anticipated. The Sailor Moon comic ran for 18 volumes and 52 chapters, and was adapted into an globally distributed 200-episode animated series, 33 licensed video games, 28 musicals with over 800 total performances, and merchandise that is still sold worldwide.
Sailor Moon’s unprecedented popularity was not without reason: it was quite literally unlike anything before. Sailor Moon was a fusion of the Japanese sentai (action team) and magical girl genres. Sentai stories usually featured a team of five heroes fighting evil, and were almost always all male. If there was a female character, she was the only one of the group, such as the Pink Power Ranger or Princess Allura of Voltron. In magical girls shows, young girls were imbued with magical powers which they used for fun and for learning important lessons. Sailor Moon and her team used their magical powers to fight cosmic abominations and save the universe. Before Sailor Moon there were few female heroes, both in Japan and internationally. And while there had been a previous crossover featuring many heroes of the magical girl genre, there hadn’t yet been a franchise explicitly starring a group of girls together saving the world.
So what was it about? That’s a good question, because Sailor Moon ended up being about a lot of things. The premise is such: Usagi Tsukino, a junior high student, one day encounters a talking cat named Luna. Luna tells Usagi that she is the warrior of love and justice, Sailor Moon, and that she must defeat the forces of evil that want to conquer the Earth. Along the way, she falls in love with the mysterious Mamoru Chiba, who turns out to be her equally-mysterious ally Tuxedo Mask, and unites the rest of her guardian Sailors – girl genius Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury, cool and aloof priestess Rei Hino/Sailor Mars, feminine tomboy Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter, and excitable “goddess of love” Minako Aino/Sailor Venus, the former Sailor V. Sailor Moon discovers that she is the reincarnation of the Moon Princess Serenity, and Tuxedo Mask her lover Prince Endymion.
As the series continued, more Sailors were discovered – Chibusa, Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask’s daughter from the future, as Sailor Chibi Moon, the solitary guardian of time Sailor Pluto, the aloof and aggressive Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh/Sailors Uranus and Neptune, and sickly Hotaru Tomoe/Sailor Saturn. The Sailor Team (and Tuxedo Mask, when he can) together fight the forces of evil – from future terrorists to extra dimensional aliens to fallen evil Sailors from across the galaxy – to protect the Earth.
Sailor Moon’s comics and anime series wrapped in 1997, and since then the franchise has continued to be revisited through widely popular stage musicals and a one-season, forty nine-episode live action TV series, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Though, given Sailor Moon’s game-changing popularity it was only a matter of time before the series returned.
And in 2012, in celebration of the series’ 20th anniversary, Sailor Moon returned in a big way. Already having a resurgence in popularity thanks to the re-release of Takeuchi’s manga, a new wave of Sailor Moon merchandise was announced as was Viz Media’s plans to begin re-releasing a newly restored, uncut version of original anime with a new English audio dub. This biggest surprise, however, was a brand new anime series, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal.
Crystal will air through the online streaming service NicoNico bi-monthly starting on July 5th, and in preparation of that we here at Kabooooom! present to you this new weekly series. Swing back around every Monday for an in-depth exploration of the franchise, where we’ll cover topics such as the series’ season-by-season themes and a look at one of the musicals’ original story lines. Until then, check out Crystal’s trailer below, watch the original anime here, or brush up on the franchise here and here. We’ll see you next week!