Thursday 8 September 2011

Sailor Moon Nostalgia Project, Part 1

-Up to 3x22 (Sailor S, Episode 111)

This is one of the first television shows I ever watched and discussed with someone else - I still have letters from when my cousin and I talked about the mysterious role the Moonlight Knight (we called him "jam jar", for obvious reasons) played in the second season (Sailor Moon R). I was nine or ten at the time. I've wanted to do a re-watch for a while now but a couple of weeks ago, my aunt's partner mentioned that his daughter had started watching the show, which surprised me since it had sort of disappeared during the years of Pokemon and Dragonball (and apparently, the original manga will soon be re-released in a new translation).

The show is very, very early 1990s. Some of the jackets Mamoru wears look like the kind of clothes I got as hand-me-downs from my cousin, back when kids didn't wear tinier version of adult's clothes. There are video cassettes and floppy disks.

Getting used to the Japanese voices took forever. Sadly, I'm not really picking up a lot. I now that "minna" means everybody (or "guys"). That's about it. Randomly inserted English phrases are highly amusing though. And I really like Mamoru's voice.

I'd forgotten how slowly the first season starts. It takes forever for all five of the core senshi to assemble. Minako only joins towards the end of the first season. The episodes in which Usagi is alone are not very easy to get through, and there are many, many filler episodes that are all structured identically but focus on a different character later on. 

Rei Hinu is still my favourite. I tried to match up the characters with a contemporary show but the only obvious comparison is between characters from Pretty Little Liars (never saw that coming!). Both Rei and Makoto remind me a little bit of Spencer Hastings. Makoto a little bit more (her introduction into the show is brilliant - she just immediately takes control of the situation, and her height, which makes her self-conscious, is often mentioned).

In my notes for the first few episodes: "Mamoru is such a Mr Darcy".

This is an actual piece of dialogue (in episode 13):

Sailor Mars: Only old men think men are better than women these days!
Sailor Mercury: That's right! Scorning women is positively feudalistic!
Sailor Moon: Down with sexual discrimination!

Of course there are still some other issues here: Tuxedo Mask constantly turning up to save the girls, the weird objectification/sexualisation going on with the transformation and the costumes in general (AND THE WHOLE CHIBI USA TURNS INTO BLACK LADY THING! - probably my least favourite part in the second season, the child-innocence, woman-femme fatale disaster) - but there is also a narrative about growing into a responsibility, and becoming less self-conscious. It's subtle and Usagi needs to be the clumsy, unfocused girl for comic relief, but the show, especially in later seasons, manages the transition to seriousness and drama quite well.

The show requires a lot of suspended disbelief over the fact that the characters apparently become unrecognizable once they transform, and this doesn't stop with the first season (what, you say, Mamoru is Tuxedo Kamen? Incredible!). The short period of time when the group sort of befriends Haruka and Michiru in the third season (Sailor Moon S) and battles Uranus and Neptune is actually the worst, considering how much both of them stand out.

I also noticed some of the parallels to Buffy for the first time: Luna and Artemis essentially play the role of Watchers, awakening the warriors and guiding them, and often worrying about their priorities. Tuxedo Kamen/Mamoru's allegiances are unclear in the beginning, and he sometimes tries to protect Usagi by keeping away (or randomly turns evil). A child appears out of thin air and joins Usagi's household (Chibi Usa is the prototype for almost every character Chloe Moretz has played over the past years). The show often portrays the struggle all the sailor soldiers face: how to live a normal life and plan a future while carrying the burden (especially Ami, who gives up on going to a prestigious school in Germany to continue the fight - there are other, more obvious similarities to Willow). The age-difference between Usagi and Mamoru is vaguely more awkward (or awkward in a different way?) than the one between Angel and Buffy, considering that she is a 14-year old school girl in the beginning of the show and he seems to be a 20-something college graduate (not that we ever find out what his job is). Awkwardness increases when Chibi Usa turns out to be their daughter from the future.

Sailor Moon S is by far my favourite season, even though Haruka and Michiru get much more character development in a shorter period of time than any of the other main characters apart from Usagi. I love that the lines between good and evil are no longer clear - they constantly struggle with the fact that they might have to sacrifice innocent people for the greater good (ironically, it turns out they have to sacrifice themselves/each other).

Also, a good part of season three consists of everybody (except Ami) developing a crush on Haruka, after finding out that she's female. Good times. I wonder how the US version managed to de-gay that aspect of the show.  And Haruka is such a flirt!

It surprised me how many openly gay characters and relationships the show has. I remembered the epic love story between Neptune and Uranus (and the fact that subs and dubs all over the world originally erased that relationship), but there are many other, smaller characters throughout the season who are also gay (especially the meta-text relationship between Zoisite and Kunzite in the first season, which was handled surprisingly seriously, considering that both worked for the evil side). In general, the show often makes a point of creating evil characters that eventually find forgiveness and redemption, and Sailor Moon's ability to forgive her enemies is one of her most important character feature (at times, she appears much more mature than her alter ego). 

Weird random religious elements that I am sure someone more familiar with Japanese culture might be able to explain to me. To the internet!

In retrospect, it is sort of fitting that Pluto isn't even a planet.

Can't wait for the Sailor Saturn story arc.

(oh, and to provide more opportunities to mock me: my other favourite shows were Knight Rider and Superman: The Adventures of Lois and Clark). 

No comments: