I hadn’t even been born when Sailor Moon made her debut, both as a serialized manga and later on the small screen where it went on to achieve cult status. My introduction to Sailor Moon was at the age of four when someone gave me a pack of CDs of children’s games. One of the CDs was a dress-up game featuring all of the Sailor Senshi (or Scouts, for those familiar with the English version). I ended up losing the CD in the years that passed but rediscovered it when I was 12.
I shared it with my friends and soon we were all Sailor Moon fans. We loved the colors, the humor, the romance… but most of all, we loved the fact that five highly dissimilar girls could be the best of friends, support each other through thick and thin, and accomplish seemingly impossible tasks as a result of their united front.
Sailor Moon introduced me to girl power and feminism.
Each girl on the show finds her own path and learns to be strong-willed and accountable along the way. Usagi Tsukino, the titular Sailor Moon, goes from a whiny cry-baby to a slightly less whiny leader; Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury) is bookish and learns to find her voice; Rei Hino (Sailor Mars) is a loner with a fiery temper but becomes a dedicated friend; Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter) isolates herself but becomes an outgoing romantic; and Minako Aino (Sailor Venus) is often self-centered but has a strong sense of justice. These are all very real traits, some of which I share, and showed me that women and girls can be multifaceted without losing any sense of worth.
Young girls who are imperfect but embrace their personalities.
Each Sailor Senshi has her insecurities and drawbacks – no one on the show is perfect. The show depicts their journey and transformation into strong-willed young girls who are imperfect but embrace their personalities. Each girl rises above and beyond her shortcomings, and it was important for me to see that the Senshi underwent this transformation to become the best versions of themselves – ones that they were happy with and not ones that society demanded. They are also allowed to exist as is and the learning journeys they go on do not alter their essence. They become both fierce and vulnerable, mature yet juvenile, heroes and girls.
The show was also inclusive and normalized same-gender relations in a way that young girls had not been exposed to in that era. The fact that Haruka Tenoh (Sailor Uranus) and Michiru Kaiou (Sailor Neptune) were in a relationship – insultingly erased in the American version – was a tremendous affirmation of positivity and inclusion. Similarly, in the final season, the Sailor Starlights were women who were men on Earth, but women in their Senshi form. These aspects of the show truly created a directive for viewers everywhere: inclusion is part of positive change and action!
Sailor Moon is not perfect, but it did teach girls to love themselves.
The monster-of-the-day format of the show also included great feminist messaging. There are episodes where the Sailor Senshi are directly feminist and/or echo feminist ideology. Whether it was fighting materialism targeted at girls, defending each other, or fighting overtly sexist villains, the Sailor Senshi did it right and with pride. There are too many individual instances to list here – that’s how feminist it was!
There is undoubtedly criticism of Sailor Moon when it comes to their costumes. The fact that the Senshi obtain their power after transforming into impractical miniskirts, heels, and tight bodices (often called weaponized femininity) have been highlighted for many years now. There are also comments in the show that are transparently fatphobic and negatively target the physical appearance of many characters.
Sailor Moon is not perfect, but it did teach girls to love themselves and take control to do what is right. It certainly taught me to be open-minded, confident, unafraid, and goal-oriented. It also taught me to value my friendships with other girls, opened my eyes to unfair gender structures and expectations and led me to explore “girl power” in other places – all at a very young age. In that way, Sailor Moon was my gateway to feminism and will always be a feminist icon in my heart.