Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saturday Morning Cartoons [1]: She's The One Named Sailor Moon

Welcome to a new feature here on Watercolor Moods! Every other Saturday, I'll be discussing my favorite animated series and shorts - predominantly anime, with the stray drama or *gasp* American cartoon. Feel free to join me here for chills, thrills and the inevitable whinging when I encounter a disappointing series finale.

To start things off, I'll be posting a mini-series within a series: Viva la Mahou Shoujo. And of course, when I talk magical girls, there's one series I always come back to...

So if you’ve been following me by now on any relevant port of social media I keep, you might know that I’m a little obsessed over Sailor Moon.

Okay, maybe a lot obsessed.

It’s been fun trying to wrestle my feels down into something coherent for an audience, but it helps that – though I adore magical girl series on the whole – it was Sailor Moon that made me feel why the trope is so powerful, important and enduring.

Let’s begin with my own personal Sailor Moon story. Every 90’s girl seems to have one, after all. Mine is, alas, not heavy on the usual dashing about in a self-made cosplay outfit, geeking out over fanfiction and loading up on whatever merchandise was available (though, believe me, if I didn’t have a present, albeit strained,willpower, I’d be quickly rectifying that).

I actually watched a good handful of Sailor Moon’s English dub (ah, valley girl Usagi…I wish I could say you were missed), was mildly intrigued and then left off for perceived new horizons – a.k.a. making a nuisance over myself by proselyting Studio Ghibli to any captive listener I had, which I will never regret, thank you very much.

If anything, these past few years have been the majority of my newfound Sailor Moon experience and adoration, and though I regret not watching them when I was younger, I know that I needed them just as much now as a late teenager and into my post-teenage years.

Which leads into the first reason I adore Sailor Moon – it is one of the few shows that I can honestly and truly say that I feel is feminist and girl empowering without worrying about dismissing or ignoring problematic material (and of course, there might be something I'm forgetting here, so feel free to set me straight if you feel the need).

We all know that there’s a war on teenage girls (unless, of course, you’re not a girl and am one of those annoying people who are waging said war on teenage girls while insisting that you aren’t doing anything of the sort).

Everything we love, or loved, is trite, overdone – or else underdone.

It’s cliché, it’s soppy, it’s – quelle horror – a chick flick.

By subjecting yourself to a fandom predominantly cultivated by teenage girls, you’ve lowered your IQ and your self-respect. You’re buying into a trend. You’re going along with something no one else likes. 

You’re undermining politically correct expectations on what you should be reading and dumbing yourself down in the process. (And mark this as the first and last time I cite a YA click bait article as evidence for anything than the existence of a joy police in this world.)

Usagi is a teenage girl at war with more than vicious energy vampires. She struggles over her weight, her tears, struggles with her grades and is in a relationship but it’s (very) complicated. 

Usagi in action.

She is nearly everything I was at thirteen, believe it or not. I remember crying over nearly everything – over stress, the unfolding nightmare that was my high school experience, about the fact that one of my best friends was miles away in the city and another (soon to be ex best friend) was overseas and the one that would give me a reprieve in the form of introducing me to blogging and bolstering my creative self-confidence didn’t even know I existed yet.

(And vice versa, to be fair.)

Thirteen-year-old Kaye needed to know that there were other girls, other story lines, that were as fraught as her life was at that point. Sometimes, I regret that she didn’t have Usagi when she needed her.

But she does now.

And so many other girls do.

Always looking out for her girls.

To me – barring some issues with representation and economic background – the Sailor Scouts could be taken as archetypical teenage girls. We might not all have a rocking transformation sequence or a well-done catchphrase on our first try or win our demons over once and for all – if ever, if any of them…

But we all have heart. It takes courage and fortitude to live as a teenage girl, in this world, in these bodies. It takes a tough spirit and steel nerves and bird bones that we ourselves might underestimate but can pierce a man through if he dares to try and crush us between his fingers.

We’re resilient. We keep fighting.

Teenage girls really aren’t ever given enough credit. And Sailor Moon, to me, tries to pay back what they, what we, were and continue to be due. It acknowledges the daily battlefields that we keep treading and the inner struggles within the Pandora’s box of a still developing soul.

It is so refreshing to have a series that gives agency to our inner strengths – that you can be in pain, you can be frightened, you can hunger for something beyond your reach, and still rear up like a lioness for your friends, do what needs to be done and push yourself beyond your own self-deprecation and doubts.

And now that I’ve embarrassed myself thoroughly by waxing poetic (and very badly at that), on to the next reason why I adore Sailor Moon so deeply.

The friendships. 

I’m a girl who survived high school because of the girls I had surrounding me. They were my confidantes, kept me firm on my path and not freaking out over the little things like SAT scores and wearing the right thing to big wedding parties and the fate of the world as we know it (just, you know, the little things), so…yes, I also have a lot of feels about friends, good friends, and the way they weigh you down and keep you secure.

There is so much to love about each of the Sailor Scouts and how they put their hand out for their friend when it’s needed. I mean, they might argue, they might get petty, they might not agree with every decision – but they still have that bond and they literally put that bond over whatever else might come their way.

 It’s just that theme around the power of love, and it not just being the bond between Usagi and Mamoru (though you know I’m not complaining about that). I always adore stories that celebrate sisterhood and close friendships and how they blossom and bear up under tribulations.

And speaking of Mamoru – can I just say how refreshing it is to have an awesome, loveable male counterpart who dashes in, sweeps everyone off their feet…and then literally doesn’t do much else?

(Okay, so, he throws a rose. He offers confidence and encouragement. And then, particularly in the first few episodes, he just steps back and lets Sailor Moon do what he has to do.)

He is like the perfect love interest to me because he doesn’t barge in and go, “Ha ha! It is I, the man you have been waiting for! Conveniently swoon into my arms while I take care of things for you.”

Presented without context.
(Well, I don’t think any love interest actually speaks like that outside of a really corny, really bad spoof. But you get the idea.)

Exhibit A, right here:


Rock on, Tuxedo Mask. Rock. On.

So, now that I’ve rambled on and on and on (if you’ve ever been fortunate – or not – to receive an e-mail from me on anything other than strict business, you probably know that I have the habit of unnecessary parentheses, unexpected trains of thought and the occasional irrelevant tangent) – now for the fun part.

Who is Kaye’s favorite Sailor Scout?

Well, if you follow me elsewhere, you probably know the answer to this. But if you don’t…

Have you heard the good word about Sailor Mercury?

Isn't she lovely?

I mean, come on. You really don’t know me if you don’t think I wouldn’t choose the awesome, beautiful, serious about her books and her studies and definitely tech-savvy Ami to be my patron Sailor Scout. What’s not to like about a girl who adores research and the written word?

(The answer is nothing. There’s nothing that’s not to like.)

The reviews are in on Sailor Moon: You need to see it. You won’t regret it. It’s not too late to become a fan. It’s never too late to suddenly decide that after all these years, Sailor Mercury is your absolute favorite Sailor Scout.

Yes? Yes?

Well, it was worth a try.

ETA: I just realized that the majority of this feature focuses on classic Sailor Moon, and there’s a reason for that. I still haven’t gotten around to seeing Crystal. 
The main reason for this is that I’m doing a rewatch of the classic series and I’m not even doing a good job of that due to a certain K-drama you might hear about later on in this series (shush, you, I know it’s not an anime).

If you’ve watched it, spare me the spoilers but you can definitely pop your predictions for what I might think or need to expect in the comments.

So, what’s your take on Sailor Moon? Is there another mahou shoujo anime you’d like to see my take on in the coming weeks of this mini-series within a series? 


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