It seems the biggest wonder for Nostaligia Critic is why Sailor Moon, even in its most awkward English adaptation, grew to be one of the most popular anime of all time. It is about a “stupid” girl with her superficial interests being saved by more capable friends and the guys she hates. He can see formula and agree it’s done well enough to keep young audiences interested.
“At least, it gives girls the fantasy that they can become the hero,” Nostalgia Critic notes. Hit the jump to see Nostalgia Critic’s video and see why Sailor Moon is so much more than that.
It can be argued that Sailor Moon is the quintessential “Magical Girl” anime. A magical girl is essentially a young girl empowered with superhuman abilities that fight evil. It is true that Sailor Moon, as well as other magical girl anime, gives girls the image they have the power be the hero. However, it seems Nostalgia Critic overlooks just how important that is and why it resonates, and resonates loudly.
Sailor Moon creates a world where femininity is not something to be ashamed of, it’s a source of power. While Nostalgia Critic implies Sailor Moon’s interests in make-up, video games, and boys are useless and vapid, Sailor Moon uses her make up to transform into a superhero; she learns to fight evil using a video game with a powerful female protagonist; and Tuxedo Mask often finds himself being saved by Sailor Moon more often in the anime and the manga than vice versa.
The girls don’t use their pretty clothes and jewels and compacts as playthings to impress men- these things are all weapons against evil, and powerful ones. They declare themSELVES pretty, needing approval from no one. Our hero possesses all the typical “chick” attributes- emotional, tearful, forgiving, loving, nurturing- and she uses these attribute to triumph and kicks ass. She burns monsters alive with the purity of her love, sends out supersonic waves that shake the villains down when she bursts into tears, and her friendship and forgiveness is the most effective superpower one could ask for. The “girly” emotions and affectations are not something to be ashamed of or suppressed, but the source of the power these girls wield. They don’t have to imitate guy heroes at all or act “masculine” to be taken seriously- girliness is just as powerful.
Over and over again, Nostalgia Critic sneers Sailor Moon’s stupidity and cowardice. He points out the opening theme lyrics state that Sailor Moon will never run from a “real fight” and he shows clips of Sailor Moon doing just that: running away screaming. However, The Soapboxing Geek points out in her 2012 article about The Feminism of Sailor Moon.
Our heroine. Our very flawed heroine. And how refreshing that is! Instead of a very boring Superman who could do no wrong, here was a fairly young teenager thrown into an overwhelming situation, and reacting negatively to it. She’s clumsy, she’s a glutton, she’s a crybaby. And that’s okay! Teenagers are allowed to have flaws, and superheroes should too. Usagi has demonstrated time and time again that her love for her friends and family is more important to her than anything else in the world. She will give anything, including her life, to make sure that they live on in peace and happiness.
Nostalgia Critic fails to point out if clips are from the first episodes of Sailor Moon, when Serena is only beginning to learn how to fight and thus totally understandable to how she reacts to an overwhelming situation, and fails to show Sailor Moon during the dire fights against Queen Beryl. Therefore, if we’re talking about “real fights” here, such as one that is a matter of world ending proportions and not just “monster of the week” then we do see a very clear difference between “stupid” Sailor Moon to the Sailor Moon who lays down her life to save the people she loves.
Nostalgia Critic also points out the minor detail about the disguise pen, which Luna explains can transform Serena into anything she wants. He asks, why doesn’t she just use that as her transformation sequence or use it to turn into Godzilla? While it does go back to Serena because an intentionally flawed character, and note that’s meant to be a good thing, Serena namely uses her transformation pen in order to sneak into situations she would not have access otherwise, and it is namely to investigate a situation to avoid direct confrontation. It is quite similar to Power Rangers never using their morphing powers unless they have to.
At the heart of Nostalgia Critic’s concerns is the sexualization young teenage girls, namely focusing on their presumably naked transformation sequences and short skirts. He brings up the disconcerting facts of Japan’s overall struggle with this issue. In a 1997 issue of MixxZine quoted creator, Naoki Takeuchi, stated that “the anime has a slight male perspective to it, since much of the staff was male. My original version was written by a girl (me) for girls.” So, Nostalia Critic’s concerns aren’t ungrounded. However, this particular cultural issue of gender, sexuality, and sexualization, how it manifests itself in Japanese entertainment, and how it effects the globalization thereof is a discussion that goes beyond Nostalgia Critic.
Despite having a male perspective, Sailor Moon is a series made for girls and it doesn’t shy away from issues that girls at that age will go through, which does and will include budding sexuality. Nostalgia Critic himself states his 14-year-old self was quite pleased with watching animated 14-year-old girls in a way most young teens will look at each other anyway.
In addition, most fans will point out Naoki Takeuchi’s original manga illustrations and art books portray much more sensuality than the anime. Again, it is important to note characters in the manga are generally 14-18 years old and Takeuchi does not shy away from placing her characters in sexy poses. She does, however, portray sexual encounters occurring between consenting parties within the same, legal, age range; and at the end of the manga, where Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask as clearly in bed naked together, they are older and about to be married.
I guess you could argue that she likes” these things because she has internalized sexism and wants to please her male editors. I guess you could say that. Or you could say that maybe Naoko Takeuchi really likes looking at and drawing powerful sexual female figures, and imagines that her female readers would too.
Unlike Nostalgia Critic, who flat out calls Sailor Moon’s outfits “slutty,” Takeuchi in no way shames or portrays sex, sexuality, or even dressing in short skirts as something negative. To take it one step further, another fan states:
Usagi (Serena) is pure-hearted, but she isn’t pure” in the archaic sense. She’s sexual. And I love that she can be both. She’s the amaranthine avatar of goodness and love and serenity in the universe she is every cherished ideal we hold of what it means to be a magical girl.” She stands for truth and freedom and hope. She wears floaty pastel clothes and enormous pigtails and her weapons are covered in hearts and stylized angel wings. She’s often drawn with angel wings herself! And she has sex. It doesn’t make her dirty, or suddenly “inappropriate” as entertainment for young girls. She doesn’t lose her power or her magic. She is a multifaceted young woman who loves sweets and comics and vanquishes the forces of evil and also has sex.
In the end, Sailor Moon isn’t even about sex.
This is a story about women- tons of women. Every personality type you can imagine. Young women, old women, queer women, straight women, ditzy women, brainy women. This is story about the bond of friendship between these women and how they are the most powerful people in the universe. Sailor Moon is classic superhero stuff- eldritch villians, secret identity drama, the power of friendship, face-melting horror, epic battles- but it’s set in a world where teenage girls are the greatest heroes.
While Nostalgia Critic tastes may just be well beyond anything related to anime or the magical girl series, Sailor Moon’s clear and empowering message of acceptance of one’s sexuality and femininity seems to be totally lost to him.
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