Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sailor Moon - A Manga Where Teenage Superheroes (Some of them Queer) Fight To Save Our World!

Usagi (Sailor Moon)

Haruka (Sailor Uranus)

Michiru (Sailor Neptune)

Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi

Sailor Moon is the classic story of Usagi Tsukino, a teenage superhero with a child-like spirit who leads a team of young women to protect the Earth from forces bent on destruction. Drawing power from the planets and their own hearts, the Sailor Soldiers stand firm as the champions of love and justice. Through epic battles and quiet moments of daily living, this manga explores the rich relationships of the characters, their moral struggles and conflicts, and their dreams for their futures and their world.

It is a personal honor for me to write a review of Sailor Moon. This was the first manga I ever read. At first, I was drawn by promises of magical powers and suspenseful action, but I quickly found myself falling in love with the characters. Of particular note are Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, whose names are Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh. Haruka is a bold race car driver and identifies as both a man and a woman. Haruka’s girlfriend, Michiru, is an artist and a master violinist. This super-powered queer couple enters the scene during the manga’s third story arc. They are completely dedicated to their mission and carry each other through the overwhelming burdens of their duties and ethical dilemmas.

When I first read Sailor Moon, I had deeply internalized personal beliefs that made me see love between people of the same gender as broken, unhealthy, and wrong. Watching the tender affection and loyalty between Haruka and Michiru moved me deeply and forced me to question the authenticity of my beliefs. These characters opened my eyes to the beauty, diversity, and reality of love and launched me on a journey that would change my life. To them and to their creator, I will be forever grateful.

It is also interesting to note three new Sailor Soldiers who join the manga during the fifth and final story arc. These Sailor Starlights, Seiya, Taiki, and Yaten, come from another planet to find and protect their missing princess. They are women while transformed into soldiers but present as men while undercover as members of a pop idol boy band. Their easy transitions between genders break down the myth of a static male-female binary and speak to an understanding of gender that is fluid, complex, and personal.

I’d also like to note that I am deeply inspired by the egalitarian relationship between Usagi and her chief love-interest, Mamoru. Many boy-girl love stories are steeped in unhealthy and unjust power dynamics that reinforce disempowering gender roles. Happily for us, Usagi and Mamoru break down these barriers, protect one another from harm, and fight side by side for the common good. They are an inspiration to all those who seek stories of two people coming together as individuals to build a relationship based on mutual respect and shared purpose.

Sailor Moon is currently being re-published in twelve volumes and two collections of short stories. There is some fantasy violence and brief moments of nudity. I would have felt comfortable reading this manga when I was thirteen years old.

The author of this manga, Naoko Takeuchi, is my hero. Learn more about her here:

Review by Aaron Walsh.  Add your review of "Sailor Moon" in comments!


ivanova said...

Oh, Sailor Moon. It's funny, Sailor Moon has been a part of the wallpaper of the background of my brain for so long that I never really realized until now how much queer content it has. Great review!

Anonymous said...

Sadly I do not think the Starlights being transgender was really intended in a nice way. The thing is, they're not exactly original characters but the Hindu Holy Trinity, who are the masculine aspect of God from Hindu religion, and I don't think the author liked them very much. She also seemed to mean making them not born as cis gender men, as an insult. (She is actually a radfem and a misandrist and has made a lot of comments in interviews about male people being weak, masochistic, and needing to be dominated, things like that). So sadly, I would warn people, especially people from India, that the content of Stars season may be offensive.