Welcome to the first true installment of Mooniversity, our monthly look at all things “Sailor Moon.” We spent the summer revisiting Naoko Takeuchi’s manga series, and now we’ll begin looking at the TV shows, films, and stage musicals in the run-up to the release of Sailor Moon Cosmos next year. Today, we’re starting from the beginning, or at least the beginning of my relationship with the franchise, and unpack why it enchants me to this day.
Now, a little broadcast history: the original Sailor Moon anime was broadcast in Japan from 1992 to 1997. DIC Entertainment dubbed the first two seasons into English from 1995 to 1997, while Cloverway Inc. localized the next two in 2000. (The fifth season, Sailor Stars, would not be dubbed into English until Viz Media had the whole series rerecorded in the 2010s.) Fox Kids broadcast the DIC dub in the UK every weekday from 1999 to 2000, when I was 8-9 years old, and that was the first time I ever saw Sailor Moon.
It might sound silly conveying how you felt about something as a child, since you didn’t have the language to articulate it at the time, but I think my abiding memory of the show was how touching it was for something starring a crybaby kid in a glorified school uniform; all the dramatic moments landed as hard as they were supposed to. This was certainly the case with the flashback episode about the fall of the Moon Kingdom, set to dub composer Bob Summers’s music box-esque arrangement of the main theme, a somber moment of devastation you wouldn’t expect on a children’s show.
Although advertised, Fox Kids ultimately never broadcast the seasons dubbed by Cloverway: we’ll probably never know why, unless someone tracks down and interviews those in charge of the channel at the time, though for all we know, they may not have even been aware a different company oversaw those seasons. Regardless, with Sailor Moon over for the time being in the UK, I naturally drifted away and obsessed over other things, although I would eventually look up the series on Wikipedia, and learn about the characters I never got to meet.
It wasn’t until 2014, when the anime reboot Sailor Moon Crystal premiered, and Viz announced they were commencing a new, uncensored dub of the original, that I started to realize from social media how much of a profound impact Takeuchi’s creation had on so many of today’s current comics & animation writers and artists, especially women, non-binary, and LGBTQ+ creatives. As a result I decided it was time to find a copy of the Cloverway dub, but its censorship of Sailor Uranus and Neptune’s relationship (awkwardly depicting them as cousins instead of lovers) didn’t sit well with me despite its age, so I decided I would wait for the two new projects to finish the story instead.
It was in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Redraw Sailor Moon challenge trended, that I realized Viz had finished the redub, so at long last, I was able to watch the entire series in English, from beginning to end. Suffice to say, it was like discovering the whole show for the first time again, and somehow, even after watching (and rewatching) all 200 episodes, the films and specials, I still wanted more, so I embarked on learning everything I could about the comic, the cartoon, and every other iteration, as well as the fandom. I think that’s one reason I’m such a fan: this is a story that took over two decades for me to finish, and it’s been all the more rewarding for it.
There’s another major reason Sailor Moon is so close to my heart, but I’ll have to paint you an impression of my childhood first. Growing up, I watched a lot of Chinese TV with my grandparents, even though I did not (and still cannot) understand Cantonese or Mandarin. About half of these shows were period pieces, while the other half were set in contemporary Hong Kong, giving me a lot of familiarity with my family’s hometown, even though (at the time) I had only been there as a baby. My mum would play Cantopop in the car, and whenever we went out for dinner at Chinese restaurants, karaoke videos always seemed to play in the background. Occasionally, we’d eat at the legendary North London mall Oriental City (yup, weird name), which was home to an amazing Sega arcade.Continued below
I don’t watch Chinese TV with my grandparents anymore, and my mum can’t remember the names of the music artists she used to listen to. Oriental City was sold off, and remained derelict for years before being demolished: a Chinese restaurant and Asian food hall are all that remain of the original site today. When I watch Sailor Moon, and see the protagonists head to the arcade or hairdresser to the sound of Takanori Arisawa’s jazzy original score, all these memories come flooding back: it may be a Japanese cartoon, but its present day Tokyo setting offers a far more personal swell of nostalgia than any other piece of media I grew up watching. I don’t know whose music my mother would play on cassette, but I know I can always listen to Sailor Moon‘s J-pop soundtrack instead.
See you all next month for a look back at the first season of the cartoon: may the light of the Moon protect you all until then.