December 30, 2011

The Heart of Sailor Moon: Usagi

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 9:29 pm by starsamaria

Like so many others, I first got into anime through Sailor Moon. I remember being six years old, sleepily watching Sailor Moon’s final battle with Queen Beryl at 6:30 in the morning. A few years later, when Sailor Moon began airing on Toonami, my classmates started watching the show as well, and we would pretend we were Sailor Scouts (which is a bit embarrassing to admit now). This prompted the question: who is your favorite Sailor Scout (or more accurately, Senshi)? Even though I was always chosen to play Mars because we both have black hair, I could never relate much to either her haughtiness in the anime or her more mysterious nature in the manga. When the anime originally aired in Japan, Sailor Mercury was the most popular, but I never cared for Ami’s shyness.  And even though the Outer Senshi are extremely popular, I find their aloofness to be off-putting. The two Senshi I like most are probably Makoto, whose tough exterior hides her kindness and femininity, and Minako, who is just goofy and charming. But there isn’t much appreciation for the heart of the series: Usagi herself. So I want to take this chance to defend her.

I’ve heard many people complain about Usagi, who is commonly criticized for being an annoying, clumsy, scatterbrained, overeating crybaby. But as someone who reads a lot of shojo, in my opinion, there are many other female leads who are far worse than her, such as Miki from Marmalade Boy, who cries and complains over simple love problems, or the weak-willed Hatsumi from Hot Gimmick. If either of these females were faced with the daunting task of protecting the world, I don’t think they would be as courageous or strong as Usagi was. And because I didn’t read Naoki Takeuchi’s manga until several years after watching the Sailor Moon anime, the show’s portrayal of Usagi has also influenced my overall opinion of her. The anime exacerbated many of Usagi’s foibles – almost every episode features her tripping, dressing up as a ninja to stave females away from Mamoru, or saying something goofy during a battle scene (“Supreme Sundae,” anyone?), while in the original manga Usagi is a bit more mature. But at the same time, I feel like the filler episodes of the anime also highlighted Usagi’s kindness. For example, in episode two of the series, when Usagi gets her fortune told, she chooses to visit a kind old fortune-teller on the street rather than the new fortune telling shop nearby that everyone else is visiting. In one episode of SuperS, Usagi helps a starving artist by making him fried rice (which he gratefully devours despite the food’s scary appearance). And when she uses the Silver Crystal to deadly results in the R movie, Usagi’s strong will to protect her friends is heightened.  Thus, the anime sharply accentuated both the good and bad of her character, while the manga Usagi is a bit more balanced, thanks to Takeuchi’s craft. Usagi’s compassionate nature is what ultimately prevents me from seeing her as ‘annoying,’ because there are few anime characters more selfless than her.

But there are reasons why I love Usagi that aren’t explored much in the anime. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of sympathy for Usagi, who struggles not only with her role as Sailor Moon, but also her past life as Princess Serenity. One scene I love is in Act 8 (published in volume two of TOKYOPOP’s release of the manga), when Usagi’s hair starts growing out upon recovering the memories of her previous life. This scene is present in the anime, but her fear that her body’s changes signify that she’s becoming somebody else isn’t mentioned at all, and it adds a sense of realism to her character. Most importantly, I feel as though the manga did a better job of bridging the gap between Usagi and her past and future selves. Both Princess Serenity and Neo-Queen Serenity are elegant and feel highly romanticized, which is why it’s hard to reconcile these two identities with Usagi.  Yet in Act 24, which is volume seven of the TOKYOPOP release, Neo-Queen Serenity is revived and wishes to see Sailor Moon despite the fact that it is forbidden because it could change the course of history. Yet Sailor Moon wishes to see her as well, and against all odds, they meet and thank each other. What I love about this scene is that no matter how different Neo-Queen Serenity may seem from her, she’s still Usagi on the inside. The heart of Sailor Moon is Usagi’s maturation, and the fact that she remains so compassionate despite her struggles is a huge reason why I still love the series so much. And I think I may love it even more now.

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8 Comments »

  1. [...] Lewis takes a closer look at Usagi, and talks about the anime sometimes exaggerating her bad [...]

  2. simpleek said,

    I always liked Usagi more than the other scouts I think. She is more of a character you have to see past the surface to understand and appreciate more. I agree the anime heightens her bad flaws a great deal more than the manga does, but they did highlight the best of her personality too. Usagi is the kind of person who tries her best even though she isn’t always perfect. She doesn’t deny the fact that she has faults too. She acknowledges them and is aware of what needs improvement. This is what attracted me to her as a heroine because it grounds her in reality to make her more relatable. There is the desire to want to do our best in life even though we may not always succeed at it. Usagi isn’t afraid to fail and she is more apt to try again. I admire that.

    • starsamaria said,

      I definitely agree with what you said, which is why I get frustrated sometimes when people say Usagi’s annoying or one of the worst anime protagonists ever (I’ve heard a few extremely harsh criticisms against her character over the years, though some of those were definitely from non-Sailor Moon fans). Sure, she’s not perfect, but I think the fact that she took on the responsibilities of being a senshi and the princess despite her strong desire to live a normal life shows how admirable Usagi is.

  3. simpleek said,

    I’m completely with you on that. If Usagi was just a shallow, selfish whiny teenager I highly doubt she would have the maturity it would take to have to accept being a senshi and a princess. She probably would have run away from such huge responsibilities if she wasn’t the selfless, emotionally mature person she proves to be in the anime/manga. Usagi also undergoes a major evolution as a character compared to all the senshi in the series. She goes from being this reluctant, clumsy girl into a wise, confident, and mature woman. It’s evident in the glimpse we see into the future when Usagi becomes Neo-Queen Serenity of Crystal Tokyo. Usagi really comes into her own. She’s definitely a misunderstood character in Sailor Moon.

  4. soaringwings said,

    I agree with everything you say here. I never much liked anime Usagi, but I do admit she isn’t half bad (and I actually enjoyed how silly she was). But I will forever have two issues with the anime. One you already mentioned: the anime makes her princess versions really mature and almost a totally different person. I never really liked that and it bothered me even more after I read the manga that the anime went to such lengths to make them so different (remember the skating episode? Where Luna said Serenity was a brilliant skater but Usagi couldn’t even stand with skates on?) as the manga did the opposite. I remember the short flashbacks and Serenity was just as spunky and immature as Usagi. There was one where Mercury was telling her to study but she just sneaked off to Earth anyway; typical Usagi behaviour. xD

    My other issue is how obnoxious they made Chibiusa in the anime. I really really disliked Chibiusa in the anime. Chibiusa in the manga was actually pretty likeable and I loved how Takeuchi really made a nice mother/daughter bond between them in the manga. The anime just makes them seem like sisters that can’t get along and that was a lot less special, especially since it’s so rare to see stories about mothers and their daughters in manga/anime.

    Anyway I loved Jupiter back when I was younger as well but I’ve really come to love Ami now (since I’ve grown an appreciation for school). Moon, Jupiter, and Mercury are my current favourites, but I really love them all because all of them are so well characterized that it’s hard not to grow attached to them. :3

    • starsamaria said,

      Even though Princess Serenity is a bit more mature and glamorious than Usagi, I’ve actually always liked that image of her, even though that also makes it harder to connect Serenity to Usagi. And while I definitely agree with you that Chibi-Usa and Usagi have more of a sisterly bond in the anime, I do feel a mother/daughter bond between them at certain points in the anime, such as at the end of R when Chibi-Usa goes back to Crystal Tokyo and they say their goodbyes (with Chibi-Usa calling Usagi ‘mama’), as well as during most of SuperS.

      I loved Jupiter too, and I actually think I have a better appreciation for her character now that I’m older because I love how feminine she is while still being kick-ass.

  5. ShaiHH said,

    Usagi grows on you, she wasn’t my favorite back then when I watched the series for the first, second or third time, but now 10 years later I really appreciate her.
    She is incredibly strong-willed, which is just hidden in every-day life by her other character traits.
    Obviously the Manga shows her much more mature and balanced, but it’s all there in the Anime too. Just leave out the filler episodes and watch the episodes that advance the plot and it’s easy to see. Even in the bizarreness that was season 4 (Super S), but she never is stronger than season 5 (Sailor Stars), the episode when she finally breaks down under her loneliness (after Seiya had his Tuxedo Mask moment) is beautifully sad.

    • starsamaria said,

      Thanks for commenting! Usagi is probably the kindest character in anime, without feeling like a Mary Sue since she does display jealousy and possessiveness occassionally. She’s incredibly sympathetic in the first season, when we see that with all of the responsibility she has to deal with, Usagi just wants to be a normal girl. And her ditziness never bothered me the way it does for some fans – she’s actually one of the funniest characters in the cast!


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