For January’s Muse of the Month, I want to talk about a comic book series that has been inspiring me for nearly two decades: Sailor Moon!
Image sourced from mangastyle.net.
At ten years old, I picked up what would be my very first manga book. If you’d told me beforehand that what I was holding in my hands was a “magical girl” story, I might’ve hesitated, or even put the book back on the shelf… a lot of what I perceived as “girl stuff” was too pink and frilly for my taste. But it wasn’t long before I realized that Sailor Moon wasn’t just about magic powers and pretty outfits, and soon I was back at the bookstore looking for the next books in the series.
I’m sure that when most people hear me gush about Sailor Moon, the first thing that comes to mind is the campy 90’s cartoon show – and, admittedly, that has its own special place in my heart, too. But that would be ignoring the fact that, in creating Sailor Moon, author and illustrator Naoko Takeuchi revitalized and revamped the magical girl genre. She popularized the idea of a team of young girls working together and using their powers to fight against the evils that threaten our world, a theme which has become something of a standard in manga storytelling since then. And while the whole idea that “friendship is magic” is probably seen by many as trite and overdone at this point, there is still something very reassuring and empowering about a story that places high value on the love shared between friends, and the idea that, together, you have the power to fight and triumph over seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Plus, let’s be real… who wouldn’t want magical powers and a cute outfit to match? Images sourced from mangastyle.net.
Not only that, but the main character, Usagi Tsukino, does all of this while feeling as scared and unsure of herself as any teenage girl. She cries a lot, eats often, takes naps, and can be pretty lazy sometimes. But what so many people often see as negative traits were, to me, the most important parts of her personality.
Scans from my copy of the new edition of Sailor Moon 1.
Takeuchi showed me that a hero doesn’t have to be strong or brave or smart all the time. A hero could be someone who’s really good at video games, not so good at math, and yet is still capable of fighting for what she believes in and saving the world. She could be both a powerful soldier and a crybaby, and as someone who’s been a bit of a crybaby – okay, a huge crybaby – for just about their whole life, this was the first time I realized that being quick to get scared or upset didn’t automatically make me weak or a failure. If Usagi could be thrust into a frightening and dangerous world and still find strength and courage within herself, what did it matter if she cried a little along the way, so long as she was willing to stand up and fight for what’s right in the end?
Images sourced from mangastyle.net.
Sailor Moon has shaped who I’ve become in so many meaningful ways, that I’d be hard pressed to list them all here; the books had me questioning gender roles and sexuality at a young age (I’m sure I wasn’t the only reader with a crush on Sailor Pluto), and the presence of art nouveau motifs throughout the series was my introduction to an art style that I’d soon grow to love. But as cheesy as it sounds, the most important lessons that these books taught me were that I didn’t have to be flawless to be capable of doing great things, and that it was okay to need help every so often from my friends… in fact, having a loving support group could mean the difference between success and failure. I never expected to need or receive that kind of affirmation from a Japanese comic about a group of teenage girls with magic powers, but looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t hesitate in the bookstore that day.
As a kid, the Sailor Moon books inspired me to draw, dress up, and imagine myself as someone who could change the world for the better, and, in my own small way, I’m doing that now with my blog and my artwork. And though the books might be a little dated by now, the messages they sent out all those years ago will always be relevant:
If you’re passionate about making a difference, fight for it.
Always do your best to do what’s right, even if it seems impossible.
And never give up.
(Bonus: Eleven-year-old me on Halloween in 2001, taking my role as Sailor Moon very seriously. Watch out, evil-doers… I’m ready to fight for justice!)