Welcome back 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. Today we continue our in-depth look at the series’ themes, with a focus on the comics.
Aaaaand we’re back! Last time around (remember that?) I talked about Sailor Moon‘s first arc and its themes of destiny and history repeating itself. Arc two took a different approach, exploring family and power.
Chibiusa, Usagi and Mamoru’s daughter from the future, joins her parents in the past and brings the terrorist Black Moon clan chasing after her. Usagi is intensely jealous of the attention Chibiusa gets from Mamoru and her family–who were brainwashed into believing that Chibiusa, like Dawn Summers on Buffy, was there the whole time. She is envious and resentful, feelings that are only heightened when the Black Moon starts kidnapping members of the Sailor Team.
Chibiusa in turn desires to be like her mother, Neo Queen Serenity. Usagi’s future self is beloved, strong, and graceful, and by comparison Chibiusa is upset because she feels extremely inadequate. She’s 900 years old, looks like she’s five, and can’t even transform into a real Sailor Guardian! She forms a strong bond with Sailor Pluto, the guardian of time, who is just as lonely as Chibiusa feels. The two become each others’ family and only friend, and their love for each other is the only thing able to later save Chibiusa from the Black Moon’s brainwashing.
The Black Moon are a family of terrible people headed by Prince Dimande but actually lead by Wiseman, the Death Phantom, into decimating the future in order to rule it. They want to take the world for themselves and only themselves, even if they have to destroy everything to achieve that goal.
Sailor Moon has a fascinating relationship with power and it is a consistent theme of the series. Power is held by nearly every important character; however, the type of power held is different depending on the agent of that power. There are essentially two types of power: power-over and power-to.
To quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Sailor Moon pitted “those who define power as getting someone else to do what you want them to do, that is, as an exercise of power-over, against those who define it as an ability or a capacity to act, that is, as a power-to do something.” Each of the villains wielded power-over in different ways – Queen Beryl often employed mind control, for example – but this arc was the first time a difference between power-over and power-to was really touched on in depth.
Power-over is Wiseman’s entire schtick. He tries to overthrow and conquer Earth twice, and when it does not work he manipulates others to do his bidding. He uses his crystal to control the Black Moon clan, and when Saphir and Prince Dimande do begin to question him he just brain-zaps them into doing his bidding again.
His most vile act was his manipulation of Chibiusa. Chibiusa desires to be like her mother, but because she is young and doesn’t really understand what makes her mother powerful, he twists her desire and turns her into Black Lady; a parody of what a little girl thinks it’s like being an adult woman.
Chibiusa desires to have power like her mother, but because she doesn’t understand it, she is manipulated into Wiseman’s path of power over. As Black Lady she battles her friends and brainwashes Mamoru into loving her, a perversion of the paternal love he had shown her before. When she breaks free she transforms into a Sailor Soldier, finally gaining her mother and comrades’ power-to.
Prince Dimande, while ultimately a pawn for Wiseman, is one of the most famous examples of power-over in the series. He is obsessed with Sailor Moon because of her future self, Neo Queen Serenity. When the Black Moon clan invaded Earth, Serenity and Dimande saw each other, and he was struck because she looked at him in defiance. His obsessive “love” stems from a need to bend this woman to his will and turn that defiance into devotion for him. Dimande’s obsession with power takes him to extremes: his gift from Wiseman is a mind-controlling third eye and, as the leader of his clan, he sets his sights on destroying the utopic future Earth and eventually spacetime itself. But Dimande, for all his need for power, is easily manipulated by Wiseman into being a pawn for the latter’s own revenge.
The Black Moon arc put family and power over/to into the limelight in Sailor Moon. But the next arc, Infinity, would meld these two together, while also bringing to the forefront themes that had underlined the series from the start: death, rebirth, and sacrifice.