Making a Way by Moonlight: Charlene Ingram and Sailor Moon R’s North American Journey

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For kids of the 90s, Sailor Moon is a classic beloved series, despite its rather unpredictable run on network television. While many of us managed to catch at least up to the second season or Sailor Moon R, we might not have gotten a chance to watch beyond that. That’s where Viz Media comes in, with a newly remastered version of the Sailor Moon R movie.

Screenings were held in theatres all over the United States from January 19 onwards, and Canadian Moonies are set to see their favourite senshi on March 1. I spoke with Charlene Ingram, Senior Marketing Manager at Viz Media, about the journey Sailor Moon and friends have taken from Japan to the shores of North America, and her own personal connection to the series.

How did you come to find Sailor Moon? What’s your background with the series?

Charlene Ingram: I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana and I discovered it after–it kind of all melts together–I went into a comic shop because I was reading things like Ranma 1/2. I noticed some pictures of what was Sailor Moon. Coincidentally, it was showing on TV where I was living, and it was really early in the morning. When I went to college, it was on in the afternoon. I kind of just caught it a few times, and I wasn’t transfixed at first, but then I was seeking it out, and then I wanted to find out more. I learned it was also from Japan, and there were these cool art prints that my local comic book shop had, along with the anime comics that had episode scenes laid out like a manga. I’d pick those up, and I discovered that there were other Sailor Guardians (senshi) besides the Inner Guardians and I just kept wanting to learn more.

I participated in online communities and so on and so forth. That and manga were my tipping point to get really into anime. After that, the rest is history. I really got into the music and manga, I loved the characters, I loved the villains. It was very important to [my experience of]fandom, because the very first convention I ever went to was actually in Toronto. Anime North was the closest con I could get to, and I drove all the way from Indianapolis to get there. It really, in many ways, set off the next chapter of my life, and stuck with me a lot longer than other shows and books I was really into at that time. Later on, I learned that it wasn’t just a Sailor Moon thing, but an anime thing–that anime had this power to capture my attention like nothing else has. I owe a lot of who I grew up to be to Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians.

In an interview with Anime News Network, you mentioned that you’re a big fan of the Sera Myu musicals.

Yeah I got really, really into the musicals. When I’m working, the old Sera Myu soundtracks are very popular in my playbook. I listen to a lot of showtunes in general, but lately my playlists when working on budget things is a lot of Anza Ooyama and Sera Myu. I like the new musicals as well. I bought every single Sera Myu album from Japan, and I went three times to see the musicals, and I’ve gone once to see the new set.

Funny story: my first trip to Japan to see Sera Myu, I went with a couple friends of mine and we were walking around Ginza the day before the show. There was this beautiful poster in the subway, and I had no idea what it was, but it was so gorgeous that I couldn’t stop staring at it. My friends said “Oh, that’s Takarazuka!” I thought, “Oh I have to go, I have to go!” They said, “you can’t go anyway, it’s sold out and it’s the top star’s retiring show.” That top star was Makoto Tsubasa, and I became a huge fan of hers. But in that show was Yuga Yamato, who eventually became a top star herself, and is now playing Tuxedo Mask in the new musicals. Really, it’s these musicals that have brought me full circle. It’s hard to not smile when I listen to them. If I could take one part of Sailor Moon with me, it’s probably those old musicals.

Is Anza Ooyama your Moon then? Or Fumina Hara?

I like all the Moons! Anza, Fumina Hara, Miyuki Kanbe, and Marina [Kuroki] all have different takes on it. Miyuki Kanbe was so playful and Marina, I just remember her being so elegant and poised. They’re all sufficiently different, and even the new cast are just different enough. You can tell there’s a lot of care in the casting. That the new musicals have so many Takarazuka actresses is really great for me, because I can go “oh I remember when she was in this show and that show!” That’s super musical nerdy of me. I think that’s why I like going back to it, because it’s so far removed from my end, the anime.

So coming from such a deep background in the anime, and then going to the musicals, could you take me through how you started to get involved with Sailor Moon at Viz Media?

That was quite a magical twist of fate, because the anime industry is very very competitive when it comes to titles. Everybody wants the best. So Sailor Moon was that title that everybody wanted, because it’s one of those few shows that has pop culture recognition, which is still pretty rare in anime. It’s even more rare for an anime not tied to Shounen Jump to make that leap. Most of the mainstream anime that hit the zeitgeist tend to come from big publications like Shounen Jump.

But Sailor Moon was the number one most recognizeable shoujo series out there. I had joined Viz Media in early 2013 and leading the anime marketing team, I gave my advice and sat in on the acquisitions meetings. [I] discovered that Viz was bidding on Sailor Moon, and that was very surreal working on proposals for that, and trying to keep my expectations in check because of course you want a show that really shaped your coming into your own as an adult. To hear that it was happening–every step of the way, I had to check myself and check my team to be like “don’t hope until this thing happens, or until that thing happens.” Sure enough, all the pieces fell into place and it became time to plan the announcement. That was really surreal because it was something that’s so much bigger than you and your team, and the stakes are really high. It means so much to so many people.

In a role like mine, you can’t just work on the things you really like. You have to work on things that are important, and you have to have that perspective of what things mean. Sailor Moon is so much bigger than any of us, and that is where the pressure came down. Everybody loves Sailor Moon, so it’s really easy to have an affinity for it. Planning that roll-out, that announcement, and then working on something that’s 200 episodes long, and then Sailor Moon Crystal–that took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to set up. I remember that whole process was such a whirlwind, and the day that they announced it, I was shaking up in my hotel room, not unlike the way Usagi felt when Luna started talking to her.

We have a great production team here, and wonderful people that we’re talking to in Japan, and everybody wants to see this succeed. Everyone here at Viz and Toei, we’re all in it together, but it’s still kind of like “Don’t look down!”

How long did the pitch process take?

It varies for every title, and it’s not something that can be definitively answered because you don’t necessarily know when the process has started. There’s a lot of feelers, a lot of proposals that go up out front, and then when those proposals go to the original people, the creative team from Japan, there’s a lot of back and forth. For the majority of planning, it started long before [this announcement]. I remember working on the announcement before the holidays, but it was still light plans until after the first of [2017] because of all the naming and style guides and videos, and a huge task for our production team. It was a huge undertaking. Working on the title and acquiring it was much [earlier]than then.

In Japan, they want their titles to go to the best home and it’s really a total package of what a company can bring to the table. It’s not just the highest bidder; it’s really the total package. Sometimes it’s how much energy you can focus on the property, or how many different shows you have in any different quarter, or how does it fit among your other titles and what kind of titles a certain company specializes in. How much communication, how much back-and-forth between the U.S. side and the Japanese side can be expected, what kind of marketing can you do behind it?

The great thing about the North American anime industry is that every company’s got a speciality. So there’s a lot of good homes for things to be done. I’m just really happy that Viz was chosen. It’s been quite a challenge to work on something so big.

It’s just the biggest shoujo manga series in the world.

(laughter)

The Sailor Moon R movie is my favourite of the series, and I was quite delighted to know it was going to get a North American premiere, and specifically a Canadian premiere as well. What was the casting process like for the new dub?

First I have to say thank you for supporting the screening! It’s something that we worked really really hard on with ElevenArts to make it available in Canada. It’s still really difficult for anime films to get theatrical runs, so we’re super happy that the 39 Cineplex theatres are going to be supporting it on March 1st and 2nd.

For a lot of people, the Sailor Moon R movie is the favourite. For me, it’s tied with the S movie, but “Moon Revenge” is one of my favourite songs. As for casting, we have a whole production team that works very closely not only with our studios in Los Angeles, but with Japan to find the appropriate voices and how the characters feel and sound and are paced throughout the movie. For Sailor Moon R, my producer here is so detailed, and trying to find the perfect Fiore is something I know he put a meticulous amount of effort into. Working with the gang at Studiopolis, it was a very intensive process.

Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians and Chibi-Usa–they had already been cast because they were in Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon R. The new characters are Fiore and the Xenian [Kisenian] Flower, and I think the team did a great job finding the perfect voices for them. Fiore is just so delightfully evil, and you can feel the pain in his heart when he’s so lonely. Benjamin [Diskin] and Carrie [Keranen] just did a fantastic job in those roles. I can’t imagine them any other way. The credit is due not just to the Japanese [team], but to the Viz production team for really getting down to the nitty-gritty and finding the perfect voices.

That sounds great cause I thought the voice actors for Fiore and the Kisenian flower were perfect. This was my first time really hearing the new dub, and I noticed that there was a deliberate choice to keep all of the Japanese names, like Ami and Makoto and Minako. Was that decision on Viz’s side, or was it a decision made with the Japanese creative team?

It was a mutual decision. When Viz picks up a title, we like to release it to be as true to the Japanese version as possible. That was the goal. Especially with Sailor Moon–the recent manga put out by Kodansha keeps all of Naoko Takeuchi’s names for the characters. With the anime fanbase and pop culture in general, there’s definitely a demand to keep the original names as they originally were. Those are the main reasons why all the names are the same, keeping it as original and uncut as possible.

Are there plans to bring more of the movies into North American theatres? What other Sailor Moon properties would you love to see here?

A lot of the other properties, like the tokusatsu series (Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon) and the musicals have very different licensing agreements than the anime and manga, so anything is possible, but very difficult and not often pursued. Those [properties]are created with domestic audiences in mind, and not international in mind, and given the age, it’s nearly impossible to say.

But as for the theatricals, we acquired the 200 episodes, all the specials, and the movies. So they’ll all be coming out at some point, but as for theatrical [screenings]–if the R movie continues to do well, we could bring the S and Super S movies out as well. It all depends on the first one. If people support it, we would love to bring them out. At the end of the day, if the theatrical does well and the home media release goes well, then all signs would point to yes, but we’d have to wait for all the numbers to come in.

I’m excited to hear what people think of the movie, because I know a lot of people might be like “wait, there’s a Sailor Moon MOVIE?”

The Sailor Moon R movie is a great introduction to the series, because with 200 episodes, that might be a big ask of anybody. Bring a friend with you, or grab a copy on April 18th when the home media comes out! The more people keep supporting Sailor Moon, the more Sailor Moon stuff there’ll be.

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About Author

Angel Cruz is a writer and boy band scholar. You can also find her at Book Riot for endless discussion and flailing over all things literature. Ice cream, Broadway musicals, and Arashi are her lifeblood.

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