NOSTALGIA AS A WEAPON: THE SAILOR MOON RENAISSANCE IS A FEMINIST MISSION BEHIND THE LINES OF POP CULTURE
By Juliet Kahn
Sailor Moon did not enter my life so much as consume it. I was eight, and in the space of a few weeks I learned all the attack names, bought the first two issues of the manga, went through three different understandings of how to pronounce “Takeuchi”, and developed a tiered list of my favorite characters.
I spent hours spelunking the MIDI-laden cave that was Geocities, learning the language of dub-versus-sub wars, exploring webrings, indulging in awful pidgin Japanese, and realizing that I was not actually the only person in the world that loved this show. I filled the drawer of my nightstand with printouts of art book pages (I never did anything with them, but they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen and I needed to possess them somehow). I scraped up a special outfit — a white turtleneck and blue pleated skirt, with my hair in pigtails — just to wear while watching the show.
Opinions crowded my head, the first ones I’d ever really developed on my own: on translation choices, best and worst story arcs, ideal romantic pairings. I didn’t just write Sailor Moon fanfiction — I wrote Sailor Moon poetry. It was, by far, the most vivid and vital part of those last few playground years.
Today, Sailor Moon is inescapable. There’s the new anime of course, and the new musicals, the merchandise, and the retranslation of the manga. But it’s the emblem of a wider renaissance as well, a resurgence of love for mahou shoujo, or magical girl anime and manga — a movement led by women well out of their childhood years.
A quick stroll through Tumblr reveals Sailor Moon cupcakes, punky Sailor Moon jackets, heartfelt essays about what the portrayal of lesbianism in Sailor Moon meant to the reader, dozens of artists working together to reanimate an episode of the anime, Sailor Moon nail art tutorials, cats named Luna, Beryl, Haruka and everything in between, hand-sculpted figurines, ornate embroidery projects, and an endless avalanche of fanart. Sailor Moon as an Adventure Time character. Sailor Moon cheekily clutching a Hitachi Magic Wand. Sailor Moon as a vicious biker chick. Sailor Moon protesting the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling.
Sailor Moon fans have not so much rediscovered their love for Naoko Takeuchi’s sword-and-sparkle epic as they have elected her queen mother of their imaginations and ultimate aspirational self. She is, simultaneously, symbol, cause, and leader.