As discussed in the last post, some art ages like fine wine. Characteristics that are gleaned in later years like patience, joy, and perseverance, solidify the meaning of a story. This happens in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In other artwork it tastes like milk, cool and then curdled much later. Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon series played its vital part in my adolescence, and will now remain tabled until my future children show interest. So for her 20th Anniversary (feeling pretty old now), here’s a tribute to the Pretty Soldier.
Two second-long clips of the dubbed Sailor Moon theme song illuminate outstanding art. The first is the character Sailor Mars launching her fiery attack, focused and precise. Her dark hair blows away from the flames, which spiral towards the television screen. Her gloved pointer fingers are pressing together so fiercely that you almost leap away from the strange, compelling inferno. Red shadows the background. She is a guardian to the world who controls fire, and this is how she does it. The next is Sailor Moon’s ancient ego, Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom. In a hazy screen of grays and blues, you see a zoomed-out picture of her standing in front of the moon. Her gown is rippled by the wind, and then there’s a close-up. Here Princess Serenity’s face is faded except for the luminous glow of her hair clips, the moon on her forehead (a lunar version of Harry’s scar), and earrings. Penetrating, reflective eyes tell the audience they’re in for some adorable story-telling. American fans would be interested to watch the Japanese theme’s beautifully-drawn, slow-paced images that didn’t make the English cut. What my twelve-year-old self expected and received after the opening credits was plot appreciation. Somehow a “magical-girl series” planted itself in the imaginations and schedules of youth all over the country. On the surface an odd cartoon from a different culture, it soon morphed into endearing, useful artwork and my journey into anime.
The premiere episode in North America is called “A Moon Star Is Born.” Serena Tsukino is an extremely air-headed, over-the-top goofball with a hairstyle that defies Newton. She is whiny and more six than fourteen, but her uniform was sassy and the talking cat she encounters made me stop to watch for awhile. The premise was simple: teenage girls transforming into beautiful soldiers that destroy enemies and find true love. I tuned in each day and grew more attached to loud, cheapish examples of friendship, romance, and bravery. Serena’s studious friend Amy seemed intriguing, and my favorite character Raye could both piss viewers off and look awesome in a kimono. The Sailor Scouts also fought monsters alongside Tuxedo Mask, symbol of mystery and passion. Every now and then, a catchy melody with completely American-90’s guitar solos played while the Sailor Scouts gave everything they could to defeat evil.
Watching this light fare directed me to search out the manga, and then the fan fiction, and then my own feeble attempts at new Sailor Scouts. This was great entertainment in eighth and ninth grade. Boys were on my mind, Mom and Dad seemed ridiculous, our church youth group was harping on the armor of God, and I really didn’t feel like studying for that Geometry exam. Then it was time to grow up, and realize that evil people aren’t completely evil. I’m sure Queen Beryl had a family, yet Sailor Moon knew it was righteous to blast her away with a moon scepter. We get a few references to bad guys needing sympathy, but not enough to satisfy the seventeen-year-old in me. Time to turn on Saturday Anime on the Sci-Fi channel, instead…
If your taste has always been more Vampire Hunter D, Armitage, or Death Note, this may or may not be a show for you. Many times you can tell that just by looking at a DVD cover, perusing a few images online, or hearing the theme song. Sailor Moon is Golden Girls to the afore-mentioned shows’ Game of Thrones. Cheesy villains, sweat drops every other joke, and junior high girls going to diners and malls are in abundance. That being said, the silliness of it all forges the path to some dramatic tension. Strong character development, interesting astrological connections, and fun voice acting (in both the original and dubbed) add to the show’s pizzazz. Few animated expressions are more hilarious than the ones found in this cartoon. It was the delight, smiles, dancing, shrugging, and musical pop that balanced out tough life in middle school. Now, it’s the fond memories of an innocent time when war, friends that betray, shattered dreams, and unnecessary casualties weren’t so prominent.
Deadly prominence at this age, though potentially frightening, cracks and crumbles under fearless love and grace. Though things are harder at 29, they are wiser and tap unknown beauties. What would be the fun if everyone figured those beauties out at 12?