Girls Do Like Comic Books: Sailor Moon Re-Released This Month
The Sailor Moon graphic novels are being re-released in America this month in a new English translation, a fact that may or may not have made me squeal at my desk. As Noah Berlatsky writes in The Atlantic, Sailor Moon, created by female manga artist Naoko Takeuchi, proves that girls can be into comic books and superheroes, too — provided that writers and illustrators give them something to get excited about.
At 14, I was very excited about Sailor Moon. I printed out hundreds of images uploaded to fansites from the manga, painstakingly cut them out, and taped them up all over my childhood bedroom. My parents were ordered to bring back “anything they could find” on a weekend trip to Canada. (Their finds were two action figures and a comic book — goldmine!)
The series follows the adventures of Serena (nicknamed “Bunny,” in the English version), a temperamental teenage girl in Japan who discovers a talking cat named Luna — and through Luna, her destiny as a warrior named Sailor Moon who will defend Earth from bad guys.
There is a lot of awakening to your true destiny in Sailor Moon, coupled with remembering who you were in your past life. As we wend through the series we discover that Bunny was the Princess of the Moon, sent to the future to protect her from the Dark Kingdom. But there is also a lot of high school — finding friends, keeping friends, going to the mall, and navigating the most terrifying aspect of any high school: lunch. As she discovers, she is not alone — classmates and friends around her are also Sailor Scouts, each named after a planet, with their own distinctive personality.
Sailor Moon rather emphatically passes the Bechdel test, to say the least. All of the main characters are girls, and they spend most of their time talking about how they are going to defeat evil, do their homework, or remember a past life. Sailor Moon does have a love interest, of course — the mysterious, handsome Tuxedo Mask, who always shows up at just the right moment to save the day. And who may or may not be the same person as the handsome, brooding Darien, who is always urging Bunny to be a better person and do the right thing.
I tore through the manga sitting on a friend’s bed, and watched the television show on Cartoon Network at 4pm whenever I could. The anime was a little disappointing — I’m not an aficionado of the style, and worse, Cartoon Network had seriously dumbed down some of the more “adult” themes of the series. Two of the characters are in a lesbian relationship in the comic books and Japanese series; in America, they were “cousins,” which was actually pretty confusing for the untutored viewer.
Ultimately, though, it wasn’t the manga or the anime that hooked me onto Sailor Moon. Each of the girls on the show had detailed biographical information about them on the then-fledgling Internet — you could find out, for example, Sailor Jupiter’s height, star sign, favorite food, least favorite food, career aspirations, favorite classes, and areas of life she “had trouble with.” My friends and I argued over the characters, choosing to champion the ones we thought we represented the best. (I’m not sure why this is so appealing for girls, or even whether or not it is entirely healthy, but it has certainly happened since then, in shows ranging from “Sex and the City” to “My Little Pony.”)
I was Sailor Mercury (which seems comical now, but perfectly suited me at the time); a good friend was Sailor Jupiter; the other two girls in my group jostled over Sailor Moon herself. In middle school — where uniformity was daily reinforced and championed — Sailor Moon was the only cultural information we got that celebrated diversity, even if it was only nine different kinds of diversity. All of the girls brought their own strengths to the table, and as a team, they succeeded. It was okay, in Sailor Moon, to be different. It’s a lesson for teenage girls, but I was a teenage girl, and that’s when it counted.
All this being said, I am an adult now, and I can see some of the flaws with Sailor Moon. It’s fun and spunky, but manga often can be problematic in its portrayal of teenage girls. Sailor Moon’s characters are all thin and doe-eyed, with impossibly long legs and tiny, tiny skirts. Their costumes hover on the border between preteen cute and adult sexy, an unsettling uncanny valley of its own. And funnily enough for a Japanese comic, most of the characters appear white.
Graphic novels certainly are no stranger to ridiciulous costumes, whitewashed casts, or physically contorted heroes, but the genre has also had the benefit of excellent critiques, such as Alan Moore’s The Watchmen, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. I’ve loved them all, and I would love to see an adult, gritty, postmodern take on the teenage fluff manga that was Sailor Moon.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook
- 10 Shaq Confident He Will Eventually Make Funny Quip on TNT