Last week here on Otaku Coming Home we got to know each other and chat about how FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST saved my nerdy life. Since somebody very special to that nerdy life is turning twenty this year, I think we can take some time out this week to wish her many happy returns...
See, before I was an “otaku” and long before comics were earning a cool $1.4 BILLION at the box office (Thanks, AVENGERS), I was just a young seedling of a nerd. A "nerdling," if you will: one who loved X-MEN comics and had long hair his mom wouldn’t let him cut because she swore it was “cool.”
While 12-year-old Nick suffered the slings and arrows of his peers with shorter, well-coifed hair, he discovered something new to help further alienate himself from his better-dressed classmates. He fell in love with “Japanese Cartoons”... you know, like VOLTRON and stuff?
Except this was different. It was... sorta girly? But still really cool. And, I mean, you know, the characters were all awesome and the story was really neat and there were monsters and fighting and stuff, so it’s cool, isn’t it? Even if it’s about a bunch of girls?
Here came a force that would dominate and influence my nerdery for the rest of my life - - my first girlfriend, SAILOR MOON.
Some of you youngbloods may not remember this, but for us old-timers, SAILOR MOON was something of a revelation in the bleak post-ROBOTECH nineties. Sure, we had things like SAMURAI PIZZA CATS trickle in from Japan, but... I mean... it was SAMURAI PIZZA CATS.
It was dubbed and geared toward young kids, had no ongoing story, and was... well... it was SAMURAI PIZZA CATS.
SAILOR MOON, on the other hand, represented an ongoing narrative to follow every day at 6 AM on WPIX-11. The ongoing battle between the forces of good and evil, romantic tension, and more than a few laughs at the expense of our clumsy but lovable lead “Serena” (thanks to DiC’s localization); all leading toward some big conclusion. In my young life, this was my first exposure to serialized storytelling on television.
Now, it may have had something to do with being raised by a single mother who didn’t bother to discriminate between what was for boys or girls, but the fact that this show starred all ladies never once put me off. It was just a great story with a rich mythology - - and it sucked me right in.
It wasn’t until a year or two later that my friends pointed out that it was a “girl’s show” but, at that point, I’d spent a small fortune tracking down fansubbed VHS, toys, and anything else I could find. Hell, if I couldn’t find episodes subtitled I bought tapes that were “raw” or unsubbed and just followed along with translations I’d print out from the internet.
So sure, maybe it was my upbringing - - and the lack of anybody saying “No no, little Nicky. That show’s for girls!” - - that let this show get its hooks in me. I think it had more to do with the show itself, though. It turned out to be the start of a revolution; not just in my brain, but in Japan, as well.
You see, SAILOR MOON was secretly a shonen show, too.
The show had a ditzy protagonist supported by a gaggle of her gal-pals, sure. However, despite the mostly-female cast and the sparkly transformation sequences we identify as shojo, the group dynamic, monster fights, and constant sense of peril caused first by Queen Beryl and later by the Dark Moon family, Professor Tomoe, the Dead Moon Circus, and finally the universe-destroying Sailor Galaxia... are distinctively shonen.
Yes, you could make the argument that Naoko Takeuchi aimed both the original short manga, CODENAME SAILOR V, and even PRETTY GUARDIAN SAILOR MOON at a female audience (the SAILOR MOON manga also features a weightier focus on the romantic aspects). However, both the manga and the anime have such strong shonen influences that another audience found themselves right at home in front of the TV each week.
Yep, boys were watching the adventures of a pretty princess and loving every minute of it.
The crossover success led to countless other shows in the same hybrid style, like ESCAFLOWNE and MAGIC KNIGHT RAYEARTH, that were successes in their own right. In a way, it created a new genre, a shojo-shonen lovefest that’s lasted for twenty years. And for almost all of those years, I’ve been unabashedly hooked on the mother to them all; always waiting and hoping for more.
With an accurate translation of the manga being released in English and a worldwide revival ramping up, there’s a chance for a new generation to set aside preconceived notions and dive right in. While previous English-language releases have been heavily edited, terribly translated, and poorly dubbed, I have a feeling we might see some new life in the original series. After all, with a new anime debuting next summer, old and new fans alike are going to want to see what came first. (We can only hope Funimation is chasing down the rights as we speak.)
So happy birthday, SAILOR MOON. Thanks for the memories, old and yet to come.
And for all you tough guys out there who want to say SAILOR MOON is just for girls, I’ve got just one thing to say:
Nick Tapalansky is an author of comics and other things, some of them nominated for awards and stuff. Read some comics for free at http://www.NickTapalansky.com/blog and find him on Twitter as @NickTapalansky.