content by

Katie Gill

How Sailor Moon Revolutionized the Magical Girl Genre

When we talk about an “iconic” show or franchise, how do you define what makes a piece of media iconic? I suppose you could try to define it simply by the sheer amount of merchandise produced—if that were the case, Sailor Moon would be iconic and then some. If you were a child in the 1990s and you liked Sailor Moon or knew someone who liked Sailor Moon, the series could feel omnipresent. Aside from the manga and the anime themselves, there were Sailor Moon dolls and stuffed toys, Sailor Moon party favors and decorations, Sailor Moon CDs, print novelizations of Sailor Moon episodes, a Sailor Moon collectable card game, Sailor Moon action figures, Sailor Moon lip gloss, and probably dozens of other Sailor Moon items that I can’t think of right now. (If you were a child in Japan, you might also have encountered Sailor Moon tissues, Sailor Moon puzzles, a Sailor Moon stage musical, and a Sailor Moon-themed toy fax machine which, as far as I can tell, never made its way to the U.S.)

But… plenty of absolutely flop properties churned out piles of merchandise on the way to flaming out. Maybe iconic media is something that people collectively remember fondly and still think about, even thirty years later?

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Sailor Moon at 30: Looking Back at the Iconic Series

On December 28, 1991, the magazine Nakayoshi ran the first chapter of the manga Sailor Moon, written and drawn by Naoko Takeuchi. About two months later, on March 7, 1992, the first episode of the anime Sailor Moon aired on TV Asahi. The series became an instant hit. The manga was a runaway bestseller in multiple languages and the anime aired in dozens of countries including (but not limited to) Japan, the United States, France, Spain, South Korea, the Philippines, Germany, and Italy.

At its core, Sailor Moon is the story of Usagi Tsukino, a clumsy fourteen-year-old girl. She meets a talking cat, Luna, who tells her that she is destined to fight evil as the legendary warrior Sailor Moon. As she embraces this destiny, Usagi meets her four friends and teammates: shy and bookish Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury), hot-headed priestess Rei Hino (Sailor Mars), bubbly aspiring pop idol Minako Aino (Sailor Venus), and the muscle of the group, the very feminine, extremely strong Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter). Together, the five young women battle villains and try to keep Earth safe while still dealing with the normal struggles and obligations of their daily lives.

Sailor Moon became a runaway hit, revolutionizing the magical girl genre as well as inspiring a legion of diehard fans—and one of those fans was my little eight-year-old self, who devoured the anime as it aired every day after school and bought the manga from Books-A-Million with whatever pocket money I could save. But thirty years later, how does the manga hold up? Plenty of properties lost their luster over time, or don’t age well for one reason or another. So, what about Sailor Moon?

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