Many anime and manga fans will have one or two series that they’ll fondly remember as the titles responsible for opening up their world to Japanese culture. For most female fans from the Toonami Era, that series was Sailor Moon.
September marked the beginning of the Sailor Moon manga’s re-release onto American shores, after six years off the market. Volume One debuted in September, with the subsequent eleven volumes in the set released every other month. The new version includes a new translation and strict attention to detail, and will even include some color pages. Sailor Moon Short Stories, the collection of shorts scattered throughout the first Japanese printing of Sailor Moon, will be released as a two-book set at the end of the main Sailor Moon release schedule, in 2013. An added bonus to fans, Codename: V, the two-volume precursor to Sailor Moon that follows the exploits of crime-fighter Sailor Venus, will also release Volume One this month. It has never been released in the U.S.
This new Sailor Moon is published and produced by Kodansha Comics, the American division of the original Japanese publisher; the previous publication was handled by Mixx Entertainment (part of Tokyopop). Mixx Entertainment had two versions of the series, the first released with different story arcs under different subheadings, like the TV series (Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon R, Sailor Moon S, Sailor Moon SuperS, Sailor Moon Sailor Stars), corresponding to the first Japanese printing of Sailor Moon. However, Mixx’s second edition, and the new Kodansha Comics release, adheres to a later Japanese edition of Sailor Moon, which includes specially added artwork; lack of segmented subheadings; and the page count-per-book is shifted slightly, for a total of twelve main volumes plus the 2 Short Stories books, rather than the sixteen total from the original run. This way, it is not only easier for the new fan to get into the series, but also costs less.
Why is this release significant? If you were introduced to anime in the mid-to-late 1990s, chances are your “gateway series” is Dragonball Z if you’re male and Sailor Moon if you’re female. These two series, broadcast on Cartoon Network’s afternoon Toonami block, made anime readily available to every household with cable, five days a week. Around the same time, Fox and USA Network got into the game with anime being aired during the traditional Saturday and Sunday morning cartoon blocks, respectively. Thus began the great boom — and average-age-reduction of viewers — in American anime culture. This series is where it all started for so many — and now, new and old fans alike can again see the originating manga.
Also, this is the first official U.S. release of Sailor Moon — in any media — that maintains the original Japanese names of all the characters. Sailor Moon is a series infamous as a poster-child for “localization” changes in the early days of anime on U.S. daytime television. The T.V. series was dubbed with Americanized, or completely new, names for characters, including some gender changes. The final season, which included the cross-dressing Sailor Star Lights, was never aired. The previous manga release, while including all the “seasons,” was released in mirror-reversed left-to-right format. All of these missing pieces have been reinstated in Kodansha Comics version.
Women Writing What is Possible for Women
But there’s another reason Sailor Moon, and its availability, is significant. Aside from being important to anime’s history in the U.S., Sailor Moon also stands as a marker in the women’s rights movement in both Japan and America. Naoko Takeuchi, the writer and artist of Sailor Moon, comes as part of a line of female manga artists writing for girls in Japan — something that had only become mainstream a decade before; prior, the stories for girls were dictated entirely by male staff, once the market was determined to exist at all.
Making its way to America in 1994, Sailor Moon was one of the first series for girls in the States that included a female lead and empowerment of the female characters through fighting and action, something typical in male-oriented cartoons or exclusively allowed to male characters. Often, the token female character was billed as “the smart one,” but was forced to wait in the background while the action occurred. Moon is also significant as a story in which the characters live in a world that is not encumbered by sexism. When a girl goes to fight crime, she’s held to her abilities as her own person, not by the standards of being female as compared to a male in the same position. Traditional thoughts of girls needing to stay home from battle don’t even appear. In Sailor Moon, empowerment, grabbing destiny — both are possible to everyone, male and female, and who’s going to say “no”?
Even after six years off the market, a testament to Sailor Moon’s influence is that it continues to be a household name, attracting new and old generations of fans alike, and working as a bridge between them. No doubt the Kodansha team is looking to maintain its year of No. 1 hits by courting Sailor Moon fans with a release that aims to maintain the author’s intent and the title’s historical significance. For all of those who ever uttered “Moon Prism Power!” in their backyard when no one was looking, with a stick as their Moon Wand and a golf ball as their Sacred Silver Crystal, here, finally, along with the release of Codename: V, is the entire Sailor Moon manga universe, unabridged.
Disclaimer: The writer of this blog was an intern for Kodansha Comics while Sailor Moon and Codename: V volumes 1 were in production, and was one of those Toonami Children. However, she promises (held at pen-point by lawyers) that she in fact writing here as a fan and reporter only, in search of truth, love, and justice.