I’ll admit it upfront: this post is something of a copout. But it’s a topic that definitely evokes lots of nostalgia in me, so I figured, what the hell? I’ll fix it up a bit, put a more personal spin on it and re-post it here. Think of it as a “director’s cut” of sorts.

This was originally written for RetroJunk early last year, and garnered some pretty positive comments. It wasn’t a smash hit or anything, but I felt pretty good about it. It’s one of my first attempts at writing “article-style”, and was one of the pieces that led up to me starting this nostalgia blog.

Hopefully, at least one of you will enjoy it.

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Usagi Tsukino is a klutzy 14-year-old girl who eats too many sweets and often fails her homework assignments. So who would suspect that with the help of a magical brooch, she can transform into Sailor Moon, soldier of love and justice? Furthermore, who could have predicted that she would be so influential?

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Sailor Moon premiered in Japan in 1992, but didn’t make the journey to Western shores until 1995. However, since it debuted in syndication and was often relegated to inconsistent early morning time slots, the series did not see much initial success and left syndication a year later. In 1997, USA Network picked up the series and aired it for several months, but then dropped it.

The future was looking bleak for Sailor Moon in the US, until the series was given another chance in 1998. Cartoon Network acquired and aired the series as a part of their fledgling afternoon action block, Toonami, which a lot of you probably have very fond memories of. Thus, the Sailor Soldiers were introduced to a much wider audience and helped begin a new era of popular culture.

One afternoon when I was about fifteen years old, I saw Sailor Moon while babysitting my nephew (who is now fourteen years old; time sure flies). Upon first glance, I dismissed it as weird and stupid, even going so far as to make fun of the art style. At the time, I had forgotten how much I had enjoyed Japanese shows such as Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics, Maya the Bee, etc. as a child. But I had never seen anything like Sailor Moon before. Girls that transformed into magical heroines? Special attacks? A contiguous plot in an animated cartoon?! Outrageous!

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In spite of the initial negative response, I kept watching it. I don’t know if it was out of habit, or if I was curious to know what happened on the next episode, or if I was just drawn to the fact that it was something radically different, but something about it grabbed a hold of me and, to this day, has never let go.

It had a huge influence on my creative abilities. I already liked to draw, but Sailor Moon’s art style intrigued me so much that I began to draw more and more, trying to mimic that “big-eyes-small-mouth” style. I drew the characters over and over, and eventually started making up my own Japanese-style character designs. Since I was drawing so much, my art skills improved greatly during that time. (Sidenote: In recent years, I’ve given up art to focus more on writing. And here we are.)

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The series has a strong plot. Also, it was often funny, sometimes downright wacky. There was a great love story and some very dramatic moments as the series progressed. The well-crafted characters were all very likable, and I found myself laughing with them, crying with them, wanting to be like them. You could even feel for some of the villains! All this from a “cartoon”? This was a pleasant surprise to me and I began to entertain the then-unpopular idea that animation isn’t just for little kids.

Shortly after I became a fan of the show, I started using the internet for the first time. (More nostalgia there.) I soon found out that Sailor Moon had been drastically changed from the original Japanese version. For instance, at the beginning of this article, I called her by her original name, Usagi Tsukino– roughly, “moon rabbit” –but most people in the US probably know her as Serena. Some important plot elements had been changed, the violence toned down, some episodes had even been left out entirely. This gave the show an element of mystery, making me want to know what the unedited original version was like.

In the North American adaptation, many things were edited and localized, except– for whatever reason –the Japanese text on background buildings and signs. I already knew that Sailor Moon was an example of The Art Form Formerly Known As “Japanimation” when I first started watching it, but all the Japanese text combined with my fascination with the original version of the show made me want to study the Japanese language on my own, which I did soon enough.

Anyway, the success of Sailor Moon would pave the way for other popular series such as Dragonball Z and Gundam Wing. In turn, these series would have a hand in further developing the “Japan-o-phile” subculture and setting the stage for a certain popular late-night programming block.

I’ll go off on a bit of a tangent here and say that Dragonball Z is also greatly nostalgic for me, since I caught it from the first day it aired on Toonami and stuck to it like glue until the infamous Five Minutes That Lasted Two Weeks. When the Gundam Wing craze hit in 2000, there was no turning back. I was officially an anime fan, and it was then that I started making frequent trips to the comic book store to buy manga singles (since they were 17 bucks a volume back then; oh, how far we’ve come) and began renting other anime titles from the video store.

In the following years, my love of Japanese culture would become a very important part of who I am. I wouldn’t have met the love of my life if I hadn’t been a big fan of all things Japanese, just like he is. Obviously, I am very thankful for that.

In a lot of ways, anime further cultivated my life-long passion for writing. I was also big into Star Wars at the time, so I was heavily influenced by that as well as Sailor Moon and Gundam Wing. (And what did I end up writing? A story about a rock band. Figures.)

Being an anime fan also made me a lot more open-minded in general. I would never have experienced some things if I had continued to be frightened and distrustful of the unknown. Not to mention I would never have eaten Japanese food, which is some of the best damn food on the face of this good green earth.

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There are a few different reasons why I chose to share this with you all, but the most important one is that the series is greatly nostalgic for me, and yet still relevant. It influences me to this day– I’m planning on writing my own “magical girl” story sometime in the (distant) future. I strongly believe that if it hadn’t been for Sailor Moon, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and that’s why Serena and her friends will always hold a special place in my memories and in my heart.

Want to see the original article, just for comparison’s sake? Here you go.

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