Fictional Friday :: I think I should explain some things about Sailor Moon and I.

1 Feb

This is not an analysis.  This is not a review.  This is honestly just a personal testimonial.  Also, I’m discussing this on Fictional Friday because though mainly Sailor Moon was a television program, it was so much more to me when I was a kid.  It was the few hour-long movies, it was the card game I never properly learned to play but I did totally own anyway, it was all manner of toys, it was what amounted to my first unknowing attempts at cosplay, it was a lot.  Somehow, it feels righter to discuss it here.

I’ve been intending to write this out for a while, but what got me deciding to do it recently was this.  “What’s your favorite 90s cartoon?” the student body organization (I suppose, anyway — I am notoriously awful at knowing things like that about my own university) asked.  Almost everything listed was Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, something such as; almost everything predominantly featured either animals that were dudes or little boys.  And I’m not saying that’s bad.  But though I was/am aware of these shows but never really watched… almost any of them, actually.  (Pinky and the Brain, always.  [I never told the story about meeting Rob Paulson at ECCC last year and actually being on the receiving end of a “hello, nurse,” which was actually weirdly flattering, but that did happen.])  Why was this?  Well, everyone here knows that I spent a disproportionate amount of time in the 90s watching cartoons from the 80s, all of which had a lot of rainbows in them: Rainbow Brite, Care Bears, My Little Pony.  I did Animaniacs et al pretty regularly, I for a time was a devotee of a little-known series called Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders.  I watched a fair amount of Disney things.  But mostly, I was watching Sailor Moon.

I don’t remember exactly how I got started watching Sailor Moon.  I just remember that I entered kindergarten with a pair of Sailor Moon velcro sneakers and by the time I was in first grade, I had a plastic light-up musical copy of the moon locket (don’t quote me on the name, but that feels right) and I was demanding my mother make me a Sailor Jupiter costume for Halloween.  My dad used to come home at lunchtime to set the VCR to record episodes of  Sailor Moon off whichever network (usually Cartoon Network, later in its Toonami incarnation) aired it.  Clearly this started a long, long time ago.  This is also how I came to have entire shelves of VHS tapes of Sailor Moon episodes (by the time I was in fifth grade and four seasons had aired in the United States, I had probably twenty tapes of episodes, though some were duplicate, particularly of the earlier seasons).

I didn’t know anything about the manga.  I didn’t know anything about the origins of Sailor Moon.  I just knew I enjoyed the heck out of it; also, I was a teensy bit of a fictional misandrist, I guess, because I blatantly ignored other anime shows that centered around largely male groups of protagonists — I felt no animosity toward them, I just didn’t care.  Pokemon was the thing when I was in grade school: everyone just had to have their Pokemon cards, play them and trade them and make the little monsters battle.  I was extremely disinterested in Pokemon, I already had an anime to be devoted to.  And it even came with a card game, too!  Once I realized that, I (and a couple of my like-minded friends) set about acquiring many of the Sailor Moon cards.  It was sort of a complicated game, and yeah, we sort of made our own rules up, but it made sense to us.  And it was fun, and wasn’t that the point?

By the time I was in fourth grade, I’d settled into my “big girl” choice of Sailor Scout, as I’ve said before.  Jupiter was still pretty cool, but I knew by that point in my life that no, I really wasn’t a Jupiter in my heart.  I wasn’t a tomboy, I didn’t really cook, I wasn’t really that aggressive, I definitely wasn’t that boy-crazy.  And there wasn’t anything wrong with any of these traits, but I just didn’t share them.  I latched onto Mercury and I latched onto her hard; my fifth grade Halloween costume was from the same pattern as my first grade one, though we modified the bows, so this time, it was Super Sailor Mercury (in keeping with the most recently-aired seasons).

I don’t remember if my Mercury attachment preceded my acquisition of internet skills or vice-versa; I can imagine the two things were likely related in some fashion, though.  I learned to surf the internet by exploring every Sailor Moon fansite I could find (when told this, friends of mine recently expressed shock that I never stumbled across anything dirty).  I had probably hundreds of different pieces of Sailor Moon art saved to the hard drive from these websites, I had a collection of downloaded midi files of theme music, I had a freakish amount of trivia amassed in my head.  I also learned multiple things about the world from these endeavors, which I’ll discuss momentarily; I’m not quite sure how I never came across fanfiction at this early and impressionable age, but I was definitely writing it without thinking of it as such.  (I had enough friends into Sailor Moon that we had almost all of the scouts cast amongst ourselves, and we had grand designs on making our own [crummy] Sailor Moon movies, live-action; though we never made any of them, I definitely wrote multiple [ridiculous] scripts.)

But I think the real point of this whole long thing is to talk about what I actually did learn from Sailor Moon, or the ways that it shaped me or whatever.  Because there are a lot, many of which I didn’t consciously realize at the time.

  • I think I might have said this before, but Sailor Moon (in conjunction with Friends) taught me what lesbians were.  Or rather, it explained lesbians somewhat, then I asked my parents about it; to their credit, they were very straightforward about the whole thing.  And by the time that season three finally aired in the United States, we (knowing the truth, thanks to the internet) all chuckled when they tried to write Uranus and Neptune off as cousins.  It was funny then, and it’s still funny now, though in a sadder way; watching it over now (which I have done, yes, usually accompanied by some form of alcohol) I was picking up on all of these little things I didn’t think about when I was a kid, like the ways their eyes were animated to sort of glitter longingly in each others’ presences, and it just seems ridiculous.  (It’s also ridiculous that they were probably right in thinking that American audiences couldn’t have handled lesbians in kids’ cartoons.)
  • Sailor Moon is, though I didn’t admit it at the time (everyone probably knew anyway), the reason that I took Japanese for four years.  To this day, it’s still my favorite language that I’ve studied extensively, and while I never knew but a few kanji, I can still read hiragana pretty decently and pick up a few spoken words here and there.
  • Sailor Moon definitely was the first time I actually got sort of attached to antagonist characters.  In a lot of my 80s cartons, the antagonists were never really developed individually enough to get into, but Sailor Moon afforded a fair bit of time to its villains, so you got to know them.  I was never really attached to any of them in the first two seasons, but by season three, I appreciated them for their absurdity and campiness, and by season four, I was actually pretty devoted.  (A friend and I were really into the Amazon Quartet; my favorite was Para Para, mostly because she was colored blue and therefore matched Mercury, but looking at her page on the Villains Wiki, I’m actually having a lot of Drusilla feelings, which makes sense in retrospect.  Also, the Amazon Quartet, like the Negamoon Sisters before them, definitely did a turn-around and reevaluated their position in life, ultimately turning not-evil, and hey, that’s a thing I also like in retrospect.)
  • Sailor Moon was definitely the first time that I memorized absurd amounts of trivia about fiction.  I could still tell you just about all of the Sailor Scouts’ Japanese names, some of their powers, and their zodiac signs (for some reason, those fan websites were really interested in things like zodiac signs.  Also blood types, but I never committed those to memory).
  • Sailor Moon is in large part responsible for the amount of drawing I did as a child.  I can’t say I was particularly good, but I definitely had an “all the anime girls all the time!!” phase; to an extent, though it wasn’t particularly good, this had some bearing on how my still-kind-of-whatever-but-I’m-content-with-it drawing style evolved into what it’s like now (case in point, when I’m just working out of my own head and not from a picture, I still tend to draw eyes a little bit too large, for example).
  • Sailor Moon was the (admittedly kind of silly, but nonetheless legitimate) reason that I first stood up against censorship.  I’ve told this story before, so I’ll just link.  It was sort of a big thing, though.
  • Most importantly, Sailor Moon inadvertently set a lot of my fictional standards.  Sure, the characters were kind of silly, the stories were completely ridiculous.  Sure, there was kind of a goofy fairytale romance aspect to it (which even as a little kid I was bored by; one of the reasons Mercury was my favorite, as I’ve said before, was that she was the least of the original five into the whole dating scene.  She did have her Greg, but that was only occasionally relevant).  But at the end of the day, this was a series about a bunch of adolescent girls fighting evil.  Sure, they all partook to some extent in physical fighting, but for example, Mercury was much more the “smart one.”  They all brought different skills to the table, and that was never really looked at as a negative beyond the silly interpersonal rivalries (like with Serena and Raye) that were also found in regards to just about everything else.  They were a bunch of girls who fought evil, and most of the time, the evil they fought was at least partially also female.  And femaleness wasn’t seen as a negative either.  It just was, and that was that.  Essentially, Sailor Moon is responsible for why I expect varied and interesting women in… well, anything I partake of.

–your fangirl heroine.

ooh ah

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