December 30, 2011
The Heart of Sailor Moon: Usagi
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.