Originally written: Feb. 20, 2007
Updated: Nov. 15, 2009
Around late 1995, I was in seventh grade when first heard about Sailormoon through commercials advertising the show’s dolls. There were two kinds of Sailormoon dolls: one with all the girls’ boots knee-high and pointed towards the knee and the other where the girls had the right footwear (Mars with her heels, Jupiter with her ankle-length boots, Venus with her ankle-strap heels). The animation looked interesting enough to check out the show. Probably the very first episode I saw was “Little Miss Manners,” where Serena/Sailor Moon took up a princess-training class which turned out to be a front for the Negaverse to steal some energy. The show seemed cool enough for me to continue watching. By the time I saw the episode “Sibling Rivalry” when the last two Four Sisters were turned into normal people by Sailor Moon, I was hoping to see what would happen next. Instead of a new episode, the very first episode of the show aired. Though I was bummed out that a new episode did not air, I took the chance to catch up on the ones I missed.
I took a break from Sailormoon sometime around 1996. When my interest returned, I started drawing the characters rather frequently and collecting some merchandise from mini-posters to sticker and regular cards, 1 set of playing cards, a Sailor Jupiter figurine, and so on. The first poster I had pictured Sailor Moon in a white sailor suit with yellow and blue trim, clear light pink sleeves and a large matching bow in the back. Two new characters were featured there and I guessed that they were Sailors Neptune and Uranus. I figured out their names because the characters’ symbols are planet symbols. Around early 1997, a classmate gave me some printouts on Sailor Moon from Hitoshi Doi’s Sailor Moon Encyclopedia web site. I looked up the site and I was surprised to see there were more episodes of the show, more characters that I didn’t know about such as the Outer Senshi, Sailor Moon had constantly upgraded her forms such as Super Sailor Moon (as seen in the aforementioned poster) and Eternal Sailor Moon, and it originally aired in Japan in 1992 and was about to end its run in 1997. I was confused on the information but I remained curious. As I continued looking up the show, I realized that the one I’ve been watching on TV is a heavily-edited, English dubbed version of the unaltered Japanese original.
Then on April 29, 1997 I got the best birthday gift: another classmate let me borrow a fansub of the Sailor Moon S Movie. Makes up for not being able to go to U2’s Pop Mart concert in San Diego. Then again, I was back at home in Hayward and it was a school day. I watched the movie and I was surprised how it differed from the dub! I was shocked to hear the original Japanese voices of all the characters, especially Usagi (Serena in the dub) and Luna (her original voice is certainly not an English old lady). I was thrilled to hear the original music, in particular the Outer Senshi transformation music. I first heard that piece as a MIDI file online and to hear the real deal was extraordinary.
I wanted to see more of the original Japanese show but finding it was hard to come by because the original had yet to reach U.S. shores in its entirety and only several dubbed episodes were released on VHS. Then, just a few weeks after I started the ninth grade at Moreau Catholic High School, I heard an announcement that the school’s anime club was going to show the original Sailormoon’s two-part first season finale, when Sailor Moon and her Sailor Senshi (not Scouts!) fought Queen Beryl at a tragic price. Yes, that’s the one where Sailors Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus and a restored Prince Endyminion/Tuxedo Kamen/Mamoru Chiba (Prince Darien/Tuxedo Mask/Darien in the dub) were killed off but resurrected. I’ve read the synopses of those episodes but I was stunned to see them up on-screen. Since seeing those episodes, I could never go back to the English-dubbed version the same way again.
When the “lost episodes,” or the last 17 episodes of the original Sailormoon R series, I immediately taped them and took notes, citing changes and other things since those episodes supposedly stayed true to the original versions. At that point, I could no longer watch the dub without wincing. Hearing the badly dubbed voices such as Wicked Lady’s (Black Lady in the original) was bad enough. Seeing the numerous edits and other changes to the original was worse.
As time went on, I was able to acquire some more original episodes: two Mandarin-subtitled Sailormoon S episodes, the Sailor Moon R Movie, Sailor Stars episodes 167-174 (the first four in Japanese without English subtitles, the last four with English subtitles). At the same time, I was so immersed in the school’s anime club that I’ve watched other non-Sailormoon anime titles such as Project A-ko, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Iria: Zeiram the Animation, Tenchi Muyo, and the original Bubblegum Crisis series. My anime interest shot through the roof when I watched more anime in 1999, ranging from Card Captor Sakura, Neon Genesis Evangelion and their two movies Evangelion: Death and Rebirth and The End of Evangelion, Lupin III movies, Rose of Versailles, and more Sailormoon. This time, I got to see all of Sailor Moon S and Sailor Stars in their entireties, the short movie Ami-chan no Hatsukoi, the three-episode SuperS Special, nearly all of the first season, most of the first half of the R season, and the SuperS Movie.
About a year before I graduated from high school in 2001, my anime interest waned because I was busy with my studies, getting ready for graduation and college, and I’ve been burnt out from watching plenty of anime. I still watch and enjoy some anime from time to time, though I have not watched quite as frequently as before, and attended my first anime convention in 2003. In the summer of 2004 and January 2007, I revisited Sailormoon in its entirety. On watching them, I remembered why the Silver Millennium and its 2-part Beryl season finale were among my favorite episodes, the S season one of the best seasons, Sailor Stars second best season (especially the 6-part Queen Neherenia arc), the R season even better than I remembered after seeing the entire season and now tied with Stars, the R Movie one of the best movies, the S Movie and SuperS Movies decent but not on par with the R Movie, the 3-episode SuperS Special and Ami-chan no Hatsukoi both good entertainment. The only incarnations of Sailormoon I still haven't seen are the fourth season SuperS, most of the Sera Myu live-action stage musicals (I have the first 5 soundtracks of the musicals and the best one out of them so far is the SuperS musical), and the live-action TV series Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon.
Side note: After debating which season is second best, I now consider the R season better than Stars, the latter which I rank as third best. The R season appeared to move quicker storywise with a few filler episodes between, something that the S season did as well. Stars started off strong with the Neherenia arc but faltered during the Galaxia arc, only to pick up in the last 14 episodes. Even then, the story's finale felt rushed and the series could have had more substantial episodes. The last season had better animation style and musical score, though.
As much it was fun seeing Sailormoon again, it's time to move on. My interest in Sailormoon and anime in general peaked in 2000 and since then, both have taken a backseat when new interests and responsibilities occupied my time. In addition, as I'm approaching my mid-20s, I’m beginning to feel a bit old for the anime even though most of the Sailormoon fans are in their pre-teens to 20s. Also, so much of the series has been viewed and talked about on and offline that there is not much left to say except reminicing and debating.
In the end I still like Sailormoon and in some way, it has become and will remain a part of me, no matter how I move forward. I appreciate that it opened the door for my interest in anime, Japanese culture, and seeing movies or shows in the original language as they were meant to be heard with the help of English subtitles. All of this would not have happened if I had not seen a commercial advertising dolls based on characters from a heavily-edited, English-dubbed version of an original Japanese magical girl anime series. I give a huge thanks to this series, its creator Naoko Takeuchi and everyone involved with the series, and the fans for making all of this possible 12 years ago.