If you’ve ever watched the Japanese manga Sailor Moon, you may know that it was pretty popular in the 1990s. But did you know that it has since developed a huge cult following, has been adapted into various other forms, and continues to be popular among both kids and adults today?
Sailor Moon was a groundbreaking story in the world of Japanese manga and anime. It heavily influenced Japan in a number of ways–from setting the standards for future manga and anime styles, to impacting video game creation, to empowering a generation of girls and women.
Of course, the appeal of Sailor Moon isn’t limited to Japan; it has been translated into many different languages and spread throughout the world. So how was Sailor Moon conceived of and developed? What are the various forms of media it was adapted into? And why did it become so popular? Keep reading to find out!
A Brief History of Sailor Moon and its Influence on Japan
The Sailor Moon manga was originally released in 1991. Written by Naoko Takeuchi, the series was largely inspired by the popular Japanese TV show Super Sentai, which later became the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers when it came to the United States.
Takeuchi later said her original goal, when writing Sailor Moon, was to “make a story like the Power Rangers series–a girls’ version.” The similarity is clearly seen in the premise of Sailor Moon, in which five girls transform into fighting warriors with magical powers who use these powers to fight bad guys and save the solar system.
The manga was originally supposed to cover a single story arc, but it expanded into five connected arcs that were released in 15 books. Somewhere along the way, Toei Animation got involved and began producing Sailor Moon as an anime. The anime ran for 200 episodes and was also produced into three full-length movies.
From here, Sailor Moon exploded in popularity, becoming so well-loved that it inspired musicals and spin-off shows and video games, and even amusement park rides.
In a sense, Sailor Moon took Japan by storm.
Though it was derivative of other stories that had come before, it was new and different in ways that captured people’s attention. The illustrations in the manga were breathtaking, and the idea of a team of 5 magical warrior girls caught on more strongly than anyone had anticipated.
For these reasons, Sailor Moon not only influenced future manga and anime, but cemented itself in the hearts of its largely female audience. It taught girls, both in Japan and beyond, that femininity isn’t weak, but rather powerful.
But more on that in a bit.
The Many Adaptations of Sailor Moon
As mentioned, Sailor Moon began as a manga, which is a Japanese comic book. But even as the manga was still being written and released, the story and characters began making appearances in other formats as well. Anime, movies, musicals, novels, and video games all came about as spin-offs of the original manga.
Sailor Moon Anime
Sailor Moon anime, produced by Toei Animation, began airing in 1992, just a year after the original manga debuted. The anime and the manga ran concurrently for the next few years, and the anime, in particular, began spreading beyond Japan as it was translated into other languages.
Even though they were both being released at the same time, the anime differed quite noticeably from the manga in several ways. Many of the characters were given different personalities. Plot details were changed, and the overall tone of the show was much more colorful and vibrant.
In 2014, a new anime series known as Sailor Moon Crystal was released, subsequently running for 4 seasons. It was nearly as popular as the original show and received generally good reviews.
Sailor Moon Films
In addition to 200 half-hour episodes, Toei Animation also released three full-length Sailor Moon movies.
More recently, a new film called Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie was released in Japan. The movie is set to make its worldwide debut on Netflix in June of 2021.
Sailor Moon Musicals
From 1993 to 2005, a series of stage musicals put their own spin on the Sailor Moon story. There were 30 musicals in all, and for the first few years, the story stayed pretty close to what was being released in the manga and anime.
Then, in 1997, the manga and the anime both ended, so the musicals began to take on a life of their own. Many creative liberties were taken as the story continued, and new characters were added.
Though the last musical in the series was released in 2005, a new musical, known as La Reconquista, came in 2013. This set off a new generation of Sailor Moon musicals that continued through 2019.
Sailor Moon Novels
In addition to the manga, numerous authors have produced novels, graphic novels, and other books set in the Sailor Moon universe. Some of these books are still available today, while others are out of print.
Sailor Moon Video Games
As manga and anime gained worldwide popularity throughout the 1990s, many Sailor Moon video games were released. These came in all sorts of styles and genres, from fighting games to puzzle-type games and everything in between.
Other Sailor Moon Media
In 2003, Toei Animations released a live-action TV show, which came to be known as Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon or simply PGSM. The show took plot and character details in a whole new direction and received mixed reviews.
The show came to an end in 2004.
Why was Sailor Moon so Popular?
So, there’s no doubt that Sailor Moon was popular (and, in many ways, still is). But why was it so popular? What are the reasons behind the international success of this “magical girl” story?
A New Type of Feminism
Many fans of Sailor Moon point to the fact that the girls in the show are all, well, girls. They wear cute dresses and makeup, have boy problems, and cry sometimes. None of these things are seen as weaknesses, but rather as strengths.
Many women who grew up watching Sailor Moon say that the show taught them that it’s possible to be both strong and feminine.
The Artwork was Breathtaking
Both the manga and the anime, as well as other spin-offs, have featured stunning artwork and vibrant colors. The illustrations and animations alone have done a lot to capture the attention of viewers everywhere.
As mentioned above, the artwork of Sailor Moon has had a huge impact on the manga and anime that have followed it.
The Characters were Relatable
Another thing that has made the show so popular is the characters themselves. They weren’t perfect, they had their struggles and fears and weaknesses. And, as the series progressed, they faced many of those struggles and became stronger because of them.
So many girls watching the show were able to relate to the characters’ struggles, as well as to their desire to do the right thing. Seeing the characters face their fears and fight against evil empowered girls to face their own life struggles with courage.
The Sailor Moon franchise has had a huge influence on girls and women not just in Japan, but throughout the world. The show’s depiction of strong but relatable girl characters as well as its stunning artwork has made it a lasting favorite and has helped to shape the standards for manga and anime that have come after.
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