Sailor Moon Sailor Stars laserdisc featured Columns 

Mooniversity: Sailor Moon Sailor Stars

By | April 4th, 2023
Posted in Columns | % Comments

Featured Laserdisc art by Katsumi Tamegai.

1996 poster art

Welcome back to Mooniversity, our column for all things “Sailor Moon.” Today, we’re revisiting the fifth and final season of the ’90s anime, Sailor Moon Sailor Stars, which adapts the ‘Stars’ arc across 34 episodes originally aired from March 9, 1996, to February 8, 1997. Directed by Takuya Igarashi, it bows out the adventures of Usagi and friends in suitably apocalyptic fashion, with the coming of the Sailor Starlights, Chibi Chibi, and Galaxia and her Sailor Animamates. While not the strongest season, it is probably the most unique, with Chibiusa and Mamoru largely absent, the former returning to the future, the latter leaving to study in the States, while Usagi becomes entangled with pop star Seiya Kou, aka Sailor Star Fighter.

A couple of preambles first: after four years of “Moonlight Densetsu,” the show got a new main credits song, “Makenai” (“Don’t Give Up”), written by Naoko Takeuchi herself. While nowhere as timeless as its predecessor, it does a great job of reflecting Usagi’s growth from a girl dreaming of a moonlit romance, to a hero who never gives up. It ties into how Usagi spends the season writing to Mamoru, unaware of his true fate at the hands of Galaxia: her question is no longer, “Who is my lover?,” but “Do I have the strength to persevere in his absence?” It also signifies that this is indeed the final season – by changing the theme, Toei were effectively saying this was the last chance for a new one, and that they were definitely seizing the opportunity.

The Sailor Guardians, Chibiusa and Endymion, together for the last time against Nehelenia

Secondly, the season kicks off with a six-part arc where an unseen Galaxia reawakens Nehelenia, that basically repeats the ‘Dream’ arc to cover major beats not adapted last season, from the return of the Outer Guardians, to Usagi gaining her Eternal form. The sight of Uranus & Mercury, Mars & Neptune, Venus & Pluto, and Chibiusa & Saturn teaming up, plus Makoto going it alone protecting Usagi, instantly demonstrates how much more interesting SuperS could’ve been. Curiously, Pluto’s return after her sacrifice in S is never explained; perhaps the creative team had internalized the explanation from the manga so much that they simply forgot. Regardless, it’s a great start that reinforces how skippable SuperS was.

On to Sailor Stars proper: the first major difference from the manga is how the Starlights, instead of merely crossdressing, physically transform into men while presenting as the Three Lights, complete with male pronouns. The reason for this decision is unknown, although it does allow Seiya, Taiki and Yaten a bit of maneuverability plot wise, letting them appear shirtless in episodes like “The Screaming Dead,” where they’re filming a movie by a lake. Perhaps it was to avoid the impression the Inner Guardians were subconsciously attracted to girls, since all of them (and even Luna) become smitten with the group, although it doesn’t really change the novelty of our leads having a trio of genderfluid love interests this season.

Seiya's transformation into Sailor Star Fighter

The Starlights are essentially bad boys, who’ve turned cynical after losing their homeworld, and hope the Sailor Guardians can distract the Animamates while they search for Princess Kakyuu. The Animamates turn humans into Phages whenever they pluck out their star seeds, and the Starlights are unconcerned about killing them, forcing Usagi and friends to always emphasize restoring them to normal. Seiya’s feelings about Usagi are a great reflection of this: he’s initially bewildered she thinks he likes her, until — in a frankly quite realistic touch — he’s won over by her sweetness and courage, and realizes he’s fallen in love with her. The theme of cynicism is also touched upon by the original antagonistic Guardians, Uranus & Neptune, who, in a shocking turn, betray the others in a failed attempt to outwit Galaxia.

As is often the case with the series’ villains, the anime versions are more likeable than their manga counterparts. The main characters aren’t slaughtered until the final arc, but we get a feel for how cruel Galaxia is beforehand from how she executes her minions for their lack of progress, causing them to grow anxious as their failures mount. While the show’s villains have killed each other before, the way Galaxia dispatches the adorable Sailor Iron Mouse in front of our heroes, or Aluminum Siren despite the pleading of her close friend Lead Crow, is far more vicious than anything Beryl did.

Continued below

The anime's Galaxia in her interdimensional throne room

Galaxia herself gets a more sympathetic backstory, as it’s revealed she was once the galaxy’s greatest Sailor, until she was corrupted by trapping Chaos within her own body. Even though Usagi and Chibi Chibi share a voice actor in both the Japanese and English versions, the little Guardian does not turn out to be Usagi’s future self, Sailor Cosmos, but Galaxia’s star seed, whom she sent out into the cosmos as a “light of hope” that would help stop herself. In the finale, Chibi Chibi transforms into a sword for Usagi to wield against Galaxia, and gifts her a pair of true wings as well as her princess dress, while Galaxia’s bracelets break, and she becomes the bat-winged Sailor Chaos, turning them into modern versions of the archangels Michael and Lucifer.

Chaos proves too much for Usagi, shattering the sword, and forcing our heroine to fall back on her greatest superpowers: her compassion and empathy. Like the source material, she ultimately defeats Chaos by embracing her, simultaneously dismantling the cynicism of the Starlights and the Outer Guardians, while restoring all of her loved ones to life. It’s such a compelling reminder of what makes Sailor Moon a unique hero — her unashamed femininity — that you can almost overlook how she and the redeemed Galaxia are naked (as innocent as the day they were born) in this sequence – while certain body parts are censored in the same manner as the Starlights’ areolae, it’s still very, very awkward.

Galaxia and Usagi during and after their final battle

So, a strong ending, and yet, despite it being 200 episodes, we’re left wanting, and not simply because we don’t see Usagi and Mamoru’s wedding: it feels off that Chibiusa doesn’t return in the final episodes outside of a dream sequence (she’s not even in the finale’s end credits), or any of the rest of the surviving characters. It is the shortest season, and tellingly, we don’t check in with most of the first year’s supporting characters like previous ones did (Naru, Umino, Motoki, Yuuichirou, and Rei’s grandpa are all no-shows.) Aside from a few exceptions like Usagi’s mother, all of the civilians here are only there to be turned into Phages, which is a real shame, as they’re an important reminder of who superheroes are fighting for. Ultimately, Sailor Stars‘s finale is a solid conclusion to the season, but a somewhat empty one for the whole show… almost as if Toei was counting on fans like myself to restart where the time loop begins in R.

See you next time, for when we round out the Japanese Golden Age with a revisit of the ’90s film trilogy.


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Christopher Chiu-Tabet

Chris is the news manager of Multiversity Comics. A writer from London on the autistic spectrum, he enjoys tweeting and blogging on Medium about his favourite films, TV shows, books, music, and games, plus history and religion. He is Lebanese/Chinese, although he can't speak Cantonese or Arabic.

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