It was an afternoon cartoon, scheduled between other familiar kids’ shows. The art was a little different, a little more dynamic and alive, more unabashedly feminine than I was used to seeing, even at eight-years-old. I don’t remember seeing commercials for this new show, with its pigtailed heroine in a sailor suit, but I remember the theme song like it was yesterday. I remember learning the words, and I remember the childlike adoration I felt for this silly, creative, poignant show about five best friends who happened to be powerful magical girls.
March 7, 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon anime premiere in 1992. It’s hard to think of those years as they are–a solid, indisputable block of time that has seen the original manga grow into a pop culture giant. Sailor Moon’s iconic floor-length pigtails have followed the series from adaptation to adaptation, from bookstore to TV screen to stage and back again, from a Japanese series to a worldwide phenomenon. They have also followed me from childhood to college to the cusp of my thirties, through the most turbulent years of my life to the future I’m building brick by brick.
I have loved Sailor Moon for only half as long as it’s existed, and that love is something I can’t credit to my own taste. The series, at its core, is about Not Being Alone: Usagi might be Sailor Moon, but her powers and her existence are supported, always, by the people who love her, and who she protects fiercely. Her small community is essential to who she is, and who she becomes, and 98% of that community is made up of fellow women.
My adolescent return to this childhood favourite was paved by two women, my college roommates, who had brought home DVDs of Sailor Moon S one humdrum Sunday afternoon. “Come watch Sailor Moon with us!” they’d said, “we have the third season!”
“…What third season?!” I exclaimed back, vaulting off my bunk bed to stare at the DVDs myself. I had had no knowledge of the show past Sailor Moon R and its wildly dual plotlines, and learning that there were a whole three other seasons (THREE! SEASONS!!) plus three movies (as the kids would say, we are #blessed) to catch up on was the kind of nostalgic gift one can’t quite envision until they’re holding those three sets of DVDs.
I caught up quickly and blissfully, and my freshman year of university is just as tied to memories of Sunday afternoons watching Sailor Moon S with my roommates as it is to trying not to fail out of my Tagalog-language Philippine History class. I wrote out the senshi’s names using the Alibata (the Philippine syllabic alphabet) to practice for writing exams in said class, which might be the nerdiest moment of my life to date. I loved staying up with my roommates contemplating which senshi we were, and whether Tuxedo Mask was ever actually helpful. (I love the guy, but he needed to do less standing on light posts and more helping.) And so it went for a couple weeks, until I decided to search for Sailor Moon communities on LiveJournal and quite literally changed my life forever.
I won’t bore you with the details of how I found a small writing community who loved Usagi/Serena and Mamoru/Darien, mostly because I can’t remember exactly how I did it. What I do remember is this: it was the first LJ community I had felt comfortable enough to participate in, and the first one in which I found friends. There was some hesitation, of course. The internet was not quite this open field of personal essays and status updates on social media, not yet. To add a friend on LiveJournal meant opening up your diary in a sense, your identity hidden only by a userpic of Sailor Moon threatening to defeat her latest enemy in the name of the moon.
And yet I would open that door for a few new friends from North America, tentatively, uncertainly, smiling when they left me comments on my latest whiny entry about midterms, and reciprocating with a kind comment on their posts from my home across the Pacific. Talking to these new friends about Sailor Moon made the loneliness a little easier to bear, kept me afloat during years of personal and social upheaval. These friendships, as unlikely and unpredictable as they were at the start, would become the longest-running friendships I have, but I didn’t know it at the time. I’m glad I didn’t, as much like Usagi, I might have cried and run away from the sheer overwhelming knowledge of it.
It’s with them that I found my way to the delightfully campy live-action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, to the Sera Myu musicals, to a new home in Canada, to moments of unabashed joy that sometimes still don’t feel real, even as I look at photos on my phone. I’ve livetexted La Reconquista with these friends, spent a weekend rewatching old PGSM episodes and laughing over Tuxedo Mask with them. My two best friends in the entire universe–two courageous, beautiful, incredibly talented women–the Mercury and Mars to my Venus, were in that small LJ community. They are a text away from me now; they indulge me in winding, rambling conversations on FaceTime and IRL visits for hours. They have kept me alive, figuratively and literally.
In that light, could I have taken any other message from Sailor Moon than the knowledge, if not always the belief, that I would never be alone? I imagine not. From the start, rediscovering the series had always come hand-in-hand with friendships that I never dreamed I’d have, with experiences that shaped who I am and who I believed I could be. Like Usagi, and Ami, and Rei, and Mako, and Minako, I never expected to be here, with the life I have. And granted, I’ve never had to slay a youma made of house plants, or fight an evil shadow entity buried deep inside an Arctic mountain. But in my darkest moments, on the days when it feels like I’m stuck on an asteroid hurtling towards destruction, I can take solace in knowing that I don’t have to do this alone, that the friends I found through this series might be right there on that asteroid with me, lending me their strength and saving my day.
It’s hard to think of the next 25 years–perhaps Sailor Moon will begin to fade into obscurity now, perhaps it will continue its renaissance. The day may soon come when DVDs will gather dust, and the manga stops filling shelves. 25 years might not be long for some people. But in my small life of change after change after change, the knowledge that Sailor Moon has been around for this long, and that it’s brought me companions that have stayed as long as they have, is irreplaceable. It’s worth the universe, and I think Usagi might just agree.