Sailor Moon

What sets anime apart: A look at anime through Sailor Moon

In my previous post I uploaded a video of my initial reaction as I watched the first episode of Sailor Moon (1992) and the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal (2014), and then compared the two. This can be viewed here.

As I experienced watching the two shows throughout the video, I was somewhat unclear as to the direction of my investigation. I couldn’t quite articulate the differences I was seeing between the two shows and I put it all down to the lack of experience I have in watching anime.

As a child, Sailor Moon was the first anime I had been introduced to. Besides this and the ever popular Pokemon, I had never been exposed to anime. For the film buff and aspiring entertainment journalist that I am, I have always been more concerned about the more western productions. I’m now ashamed I haven’t considered broadening the scope of entertainment. So for my individual autoethnography project, I’m taking the first step towards broadening my experience by starting with anime.

Anime in general is quite a large topic and a very divergent one at that. Yet I have noticed that they also carry something similar that sets anime apart from every other animation. Their use of expression and other tropes.

Sailor Moon had a more emphasised and obvious tone clearly showing it was anime especially through the expression (this can be seen in the above featured image). Sailor Moon Crystal has been made 22 years later and with modern computer graphics. From initial assumption, I thought that Sailor Moon Crystal had been targeted towards a more western audience because of this slight change, as well as the less obvious tropes included in the show. I tried briefly researching this to see if it were true, but nothing has been mentioned about the possibility of target audience change.

When trying to research Sailor Moon for even the basic information (dates, series info etc) there wasn’t as much information as I thought, not to mention conflicting information. The main sources are from Wikipedia and fansites, although this is a great indication and help to start off with, if I wanted more reliable and scholarly information, it will prove to be quite difficult. Therefore I’m narrowing my focus for the project. I will concentrate my autoethnography project strictly to anime art tropes, using Sailor Moon as a base. Finding more reliable sources to help me recognise what sets anime apart from cartoons.

A YouTuber called LavenderTowne redesigns Usagi (aka Sailor Moon) into a cartoon, giving a great insight to the difference of anime designs and cartoons. In her video she mentions how anime is more realistic due to the closer depiction of human anatomy compared to western cartoons which tend to be more exaggerated. I thought this was a good place to start as LavenderTowne uses her own experience and memories of cartoons growing up, referencing and giving examples of current and previous cartoons helping the audience relate and understand easier. This reminded me of a journal, Autoethnography: An Overview by Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams and Arthur P. Bochner. In the journal Ellis et al states, “they [researchers] seek to produce aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience” (Ellis et al, 2017). Here is LavenderTowne’s video:

 

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

LavenderTowne, 2017. What if Sailor Moon wasn’t an anime? Redesigning Usagi 3 ways!. Online video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm4CwGYifp4

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Fight Like a Girl

It took me a long time to understand how to begin an autoethnographic study. The term itself is not hard to grapple but it is difficult to wrap your head around once you’ve spent almost four years at University taking yourself out of the equation and supplementing it with work from other people who are far more intelligent that you.

But after a lot of looking around, Hoppes (2014, p.64) summarised it perfectly, “autoethnographers’ methods vary, but generally include discussion, reflection, note-taking, emotional recall, and identification of categories and themes yielding a narrative that affords both the inside view of a research participant and the outside view of a researcher”.

 

Autoethnographic research is also somewhat of a Pandora’s box. It takes you on a journey way, way, way to the right so you are immersed in a different culture. But then spins you around and around and expects you to run all the way back in the opposite direction so you can tell people of your journey.

But as Hall (Chang 2008, p.34) eloquently suggests, the key to studying another culture is to not to simply understand a foreign culture but to better understand our own or to be better equipped.

This is particularly accurate for me as I am exploring tones of feminism through the text Sailor Moon. Initially I was annoyed that there was loud, huge sign that said, “here is the feminist part, ding ding ding”! On reflection, I feel quite stupid because there is absolutely none of that in my own culture so why would I expect if from another?

The genre that Sailor Moon falls under is Shoujo which often addresses a “girl’s first love, and the innocent excitement and sometimes painful drama that comes with it. It also deals with friendship and personal development” (Lai, 2015). Conversely, Lai (2015) says that another genre targeted towards female audiences is josei which uncovers what it means to be an adult, what it means to be a woman and with it a sense of maturity and readiness for adulthood.

This was interesting as I did not know that there were so many levels and areas of manga and anime. So maybe I am placing too much ‘pressure’ on Sailor Moon to be a feminist text much like you would not expect the Saddle Club to be teaching girls about what it means to be a woman.

Despite all this, Newsom (2004, p.58) does make a point regarding the Sailor Scouts who are powerful and feminine characters as well as their power being dependent on femininity. Femininity is a literal requirement of being a Sailor Scout.

Sailor Scouts also represent a planet and this is believed to be refelctive of their personality and behaviour.

  • Sailor Moon/Usagi Tsukino  – she is extremely protective of her friends and the Moon is supposed to be the ‘Queen of Astrology’ and represents our emotions, moods and thoughts.
  • Sailor Mercury/Ami – Mercury represents communication and is often associated with intellect. Ami  is possibly the most intelligent girl of the whole group and often berates the group for not doing their homework
  • Sailor Mars/Rei Hino – Mars is passion. It also represents assertiveness and action and can have aggressive urges. Rei is the hot-tempered, aggressive chacrter who ofen finds herself in the midst of an argument
  •  Sailor Jupiter/ Makoto Kino – Jupiter revolves around expansiveness. They desire new experiences and getting to the top. Makoto is independent and after her parents died while she was young, she’s been taking care of herself and others.
  • Sailor Venus/ Minako Aino – Love & pleasure is the name of the game for Venus. The most important theme about Venus is harmony in interpersonal relationships. Minako is the stereotypical pre-teenager who is often dreaming about finding love.

sailor moon crew.jpg

The winning combination of these girls enables a stronger connection with the characters as you are able to identify yourself with at least one of them. Similar to the Spice Girls who were also riding the wave of Girl Power in early 2000s. Everyone knew if they were Sporty, Baby, Posh, Scary or Ginger.

It truly is a coming of age piece that exemplifies what it means to have friends and that they will have your back no matter what. The only other observation that I have recently made was the fact that the evil woman Queen Beryl is wonderfully evil and has the greatest cackle ever. I was apprehensive when I saw that many of the female characters who are evil tend to have submissive males, as I thought it really could go into the realm of misandry. But it has not from the little that I have observed thus far.

Overall, this show is all about amplifying the ‘girls only club’, the power of friendship, kicking some evil butt and all whilst looking fab-u-lous in those outfits, heels and with hair always on pointe – yes, that was supposed to be sarcasm. I still loathe it.

Chang, H, (2008), ‘Autoethnography as a Method’, Eastern University,  http://www.academia.edu/1244871/Autoethnography_as_method

Cooper-Chen, A, (1999), “An Animated Imbalance: Japan’s Television Heroines in Asia,” International Communications Gazette, vol.61, no.3, pp.293-310

Ferris, A, (2014), ‘Why Sailor Moon Is One of the Greatest Feminist Stories Ever’, The Absolute Mag, accessed 19 September, http://theabsolutemag.com/26731/longreads/why-sailor-moon-is-one-of-the-greatest-feminist-stories-ever/

Hoppes, S (2014), ‘Autoethnography: Inquiry Into Identity’, New Directions fro Higher Education, vol. 2014, no. 166, pp. 63 – 179

Lai, A, (2015), ‘Looking at female characters in Anime and Manga’, The Mary Sue, http://www.themarysue.com/female-characters-anime/

Newsom, V.A., (2004), ‘Young Females as Super Heroes: Super Heroines in the Animated Sailor Moon’, Femspec, vol.5, no.2, p.57 – 81

She is the One Named Sailor Moon

She is the one named Sailor Poo!” I used to sing every time the show began, just to annoy my sister who was far more invested in this series than I ever was. Well, I pretended to not like it simply because she did. And if we are being honest, I did the same for pretty much every show on Cheez TV.

However, rediscovering this classic before-school television show under the strict guidelines of an autoethnographic study has shed new light on this series and I may have judged it too quickly as a kid.

Sailor Moon is one of the most popular anime and manga series, which has sold over 35 million copies worldwide.

The series is a Japanese shōjo manga series which is a category of manga aimed specifically at a female audience rather than writing for a specific genre. Sailor Moon is about a young school girl, Serena who unbeknownst to her, is a guardian destined to save the Earth from evil and sets about establishing a team called Sailor Scouts – Mercury, Mars, Venus and Jupiter.

I initially found it difficult to find the original, full-length episodes that did not involve me climbing over Internet walls lined with dragons ready to bug my computer at any minute. But maybe I was looking in the wrong place as many of the sites were – I assume – in Japanese and I was not able to understand where to click and where not to.

However, after many exhausting hours – in reality it was about one hour that ended in complete frustration – a quick scan through good-old YouTube lead me to Season 1 Episode 1 and it was the English dubbed version. Disappointing. But so began the nostalgia

Ellis et al (2011) suggests that autoethnography involves the interpretation of a text which is often influenced by our own personal experiences and understanding. It is then coupled with a “thick description” of a culture to help facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders.

I began with the first episode to reacquaint myself with this series as it has been many years since watching early morning TV.

I had to change to another episode later in the series where she had transformed into Sailor Moon to examine the spectrum that is the character of Serena and Sailor.

From watching the first episode and episode 30 (where she becomes Sailor Moon) there were a lot of first impressions and many observations were things that I had not noticed when I was a child viewing this series

  • Theme song really catchy and bubbly – almost sickening. Also “fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight”
  • Introduction or beginning scenes are  really vibrant despite watching it on YouTube
  • Seemingly accurate portrayal of Tokyo where the series is set as the city is large and there are various malls
  • The lines of expression coming from their faces and bodies to exemplify and exacerbate the characters’ emotions are helpful. Something like the laughing tracks added to sitcoms showing you where to laugh
  • Melvin or Marvin, a male nerd who wants to help her study seems awkward and describes Serena as, “beautiful but a shopaholic”
  • Being able to pause and digest is different from initial viewings back in the days of box televisions where you were not able to pause, rewind or even record
  • Mouths do not move at the same time as their words in the English dubbed version – annoying but understandable
  • Character’s names are incredibly hard to follow – there was Queen Beryl and another Emporer of blah-blah and other names such as Chibiusa – and they are not phonetic either. It got a bit overwhelming and there were a lot of WTF moments
  • I really liked that they accurately portray a young, teenage girl who is struggling to find a way to tell her mother that she failed her Algebra test – something Serena and I have in common.
  • She is obsessed with boys and has arguments with her friends and heavily blushes when she is embarrassed.
  • She seems to be a typical teenager which enables a stronger grasp on what is happening even if you cannot figure out who we’re fighting or saving or hating – much like the roller-coaster that is teenage life.
  • Why does she wear such a short skirt as Sailor Moon? I mean, how can you possibly fight crime and the bad “guys” when your skirt barely covers your bum?

I hope to explore more of the English episodes of Sailor Moon – as finding a subtitled full episode of the Japanese television show is proving difficult – too add to the data and and examine this series through the lens of feminism with the help of Newsom (2004). Although it is not an autoethnographic article, it does examine this topic in depth and has some incredible insight into the world of Sailor Moon as well as some juxtaposition between Western female roles and Asian female roles.

I want to delve deeper into the question of whether this is a war cry to all the strong women out there or whether it is hiding the traditional, over-glossed, dominant not strong female role.

Once the creative juices have begun to flow again, I hope to present this in a research essay as I feel that this topic needs some arguing along with the autoethnographic method. But for now.. “fighting crime by daylight, winning love by moonlight….

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E., Bochner, A.P, (2011), ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no.1, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Newsom, V.A., (2004), ‘Young Females as Super Heroes: Super Heroines in the Animated Sailor Moon’, Femspec, vol.5, no.2, p.57 – 81

That time of the year…

So now comes the time where I take a long hard look at everything I’ve researched, and try to narrow it all down into a singular topic. This part is hard. I feel as though the information I have collected can equally contribute to what I would like to express within my research essay. The hardest part will be coming up with a question to really narrow my focus. Hoppes (2014) believes that “the research question may not be evident to the writer and is one of the last puzzle pieces to fall into place.” (pp.66) Which has certainly become the case for myself. Judging from what Hoppes has said I need to look closely at all the information I have collected, and brainstorm a number of questions that could be relevant to the topic.

Looking back at my previous posts I can most definitely see a connection. Each aspect of Sailor Moon I have looked at from a Western perspective in comparison to the Eastern perspective. Whether that be the changes within in content, the exportation of both the anime and manga, and the globally accepted female characteristics.

I feel that having watched the anime as a child provides me with an advantage when looking at it from a Western perspective. However I also feel that my nostalgia may affect my ability to look at the show from a critical level. The one thing that may play to my advantage is that I have watched the original dubbed version as a child, and I am now watching the new re-booted Japanese version (with subtitles, because I am unfortunately not that talented) as an adult. This experience is allowing me to garner a whole new out-look of the series as a whole. I eventually plan on reading the manga, but unfortunately that won’t be for a while, because – you know – assessments, and stuff.

So to finish off this series of blog posts I leave you with an article explaining pretty much everything you need to know about Sailor Moon, and a comparison of both the original and new and improved anime. Later Sailor Scouts!

sailor-moon-old-vs-new-usagi

Hoppes, S 2014, “Autoethnography: Inquiry Into Identity”, New Directions For Higher Education, no. 166, pp.63-71

A controversial topic…

So this week I will be looking at the controversy surrounding Sailor Moon. The video above gives a short look at the differences between the Japanese and American (Western) versions of Sailor Moon. In case the video isn’t working, or you just cannot be bothered watching it, i’ll give you a short run down. Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus are dating! *GASP* shock horror!

Or at least 90’s America thought it was.

Nawwww!!

Nawwww!!

However the world is changing. And fortunately for Sailor Moon fans everywhere (well outside of Japan anyway, because let’s face it, they are pretty ahead of the times when it comes to this sort of thing) we are finally going to be able to watch this romance play out before our very eyes.

When the original series was dubbed for Western Audiences Neptune and Uranus were shown as cousins. And as you can see in the YouTube video, their scenes together became pretty awkward, pretty quickly. As a consumer of Sailor Moon I feel robbed. I grew up with the dubbed versions of these shows as I have only just recently discovered the beauty of the Japanese versions.

Feminist site BitchMedia praise the series for helping “girls around the world come to terms with their sexualities” (2014) with the writer herself exclaiming that she grew up wishing for a romance similar to that of Haruka and Michiru (Uranus and Neptune). I myself grew up with a pretty open understanding of different sexualities, and although I am straight, I have a number of close friends who are not. A number of those friends found it hard to come out to friends and family for a number of reasons, and I can’t help but think that if they had children’s programs, such as the Japanese version of Sailor Moon, would’ve they accepted their sexuality earlier in their lives?

However, all is not lost. According to CAAM, Viz Media, who have just acquired the Western rights for both the original and re-boot, are releasing 200 original episodes un-cut. They are also promising to keep the new episodes the same as the Japanese version, when they eventually dub them over.

Here is a video promoting their progression.

Bridges, R 2014, The Feminism of Sailor Moon, BitchMedia, http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-feminism-of-sailor-moon

Fighting for love, justice and… feminism?

One of the aspects of Sailor Moon that drew me towards the show was its portrayal of strong female characters. There were an abundance of super hero cartoons on television at the same time as Sailor Moon; however the heroes were almost exclusively male. To watch school girls who were so much like me, kick some dark kingdom butt – it was exhilarating. My eyes were opened to a whole world of possibilities , but to think that watching Sailor Moon as a child could have some sort of link to feminism as an adult seems incredible.

Kahn (2014) believes that the link between Sailor Moon and feminism lies within the characters that Takeuchi has created. “Usagi can be emotional, flighty, and boy-crazy,” characteristics most females can relate to. The Sailor Scouts are all so different that even if you don’t fully relate to Sailor Moon (Usagi) there are 8 more planets that could suit your fancy.

“They are avatars of death, as with Sailor Saturn, whose power is to bring about the apocalypse. They are elegant, thrill-seeking race car drivers like Sailor Uranus, in love with world-class violinists like Sailor Neptune, and they are ace students like Sailor Mercury.” (Kahn, 2014)

The video that I’ve posted by Ravenclawgirl29 gives a pretty decent outlook on the feminism values within Sailor Moon. Although the speaker gets a little lost on her own tangents occasionally she provides some great points. In particular the point raised on how all shows that are marketed as being ‘gender neutral’ are predominately male characters, with a few females thrown in every once and a while. Sailor Moon was one of the only shows in the 90’s marketed as ‘gender neutral’ with a mostly female cast.

So if you have watched the video, what do you think? Do you agree with the points raised by Ravenclawgirl29?

Kahn, J 2014, Nostalgia As A Weapon: The Sailor Moon Renaissance Is A Feminist Mission Behind The Lines Of Pop Culture, Comics Alliance, http://comicsalliance.com/sailor-moon-feminism-renaissance-nostalgia-women-role-models/

Sailor Moon – The Global Phenomenon

So as I have mentioned previously I will be talking about a different aspect of Sailor Moon over the next few weeks to really mesh out just what my final project will be about. To really give you an idea on how much I know about Sailor moon, I will give you a bit of context. I first started watching Sailor Moon when it aired on Agro’s Cartoon Connection sometime within 1992-96. I was obsessed. There is no other word for it. I owned my own moon wand, and legendary silver crystal. I had the action figure and the costume. I grew my hair long so I was able to turn myself into ‘meatball head’. I was going to be Sailor Moon and no-one was going to stop me.

As it turned out, I was not the only one in the world who acted like this.

Looking into the global phenomenon that is Sailor Moon I have discovered a number of interesting facts. The first is that fans have continued to stay loyal to both the anime and manga, even after it stopped playing on global televisions. Social media pages are flooded with fan-art, fanfiction and discussion about both the manga and the anime. Even a simple search through Tumblr came up with a number of results. The popularity was great enough for a re-boot of the anime series to become a reality.

Sailor Moon Crystal premiered May this year, and is fast becoming just as popular as the first. At the moment it is exclusively Japanese with English subtitles. However, American Company Viz Media has recently purchased both the original and new content. Watching the new and (in my opinion) greatly improved anime has once again sparked my love for the super heroine that is Sailor Moon.

So what is it about this crime fighting Sailor Scout that the world seems to love?

Dailot-Bul (2013) believes it has something to do with anime being a unique genre that global audiences had never seen before. “In practical terms, the mixture of Asian and non-Asian traits has provided the manga and anime industries with a distinct export advantage.” (Cooper-Chen 1999, pp.297)

However, with popularity comes criticism. The original Sailor Moon anime was criticised for not being close enough to the manga. The re-boot criticised for being too different to the original. Personally, I am just enthralled that I get to fall in love with Tuxedo Mask all over again!

Cooper-Chen, A 1999, “An Animated Imbalance: Japan’s Television Heroines in Asia,” International Communications Gazette, vol.61, no.3, pp.293-310

Daliot-Bul, M 2013, “Reframing and Reconsidering the Cultural Innovations of the anime boom on US television,” International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol.17, no.1, pp.75-91

Auto-ethnographically discovering Sailor Moon.

So the time has come for me to start narrowing down my final research question. As my theme for the past few weeks has been Sailor Moon, I hope to continue with this trend. However, I am not entirely sure of which path I would like to continue down. There are a number of different avenues I can explore, however there are three that I am mainly interested in: the globalisation of anime, controversial topics and how they translate to Western audiences, and the portrayal of female characters within Sailor Moon.

For the next three weeks I will be writing a more in-depth look into each of these aspects of the Sailor Moon phenomena. My study will conclude a look at the Manga created by Naoko Takeuchi, the original anime series (1992) and the re-booted Sailor Moon Crystal (2014). I will be basing my auto-ethnographic research, on previously conducted research on each of the topics.

Auto-ethnographic research is something that comes quite difficult to me. Within my three years of uni, I have been taught to critically and academically think about certain topics. However, this normally means keeping my own voice out of the research. Hoppes (2014) believes we all yearn for understanding and that life is all about asking questions. The questions we repeatedly ask are usually about ourselves, and where we fit in this crazy world. However, Hoppes believes that it is the questions we ask about ourselves that will help define the questions we ask in auto-ethnographic research.

For my research I have decided to follow Hoppes’ views on what auto-ethnographic research involves. This includes: “discussion, reflection, note-taking, emotional recall, and identification of categories and themes yielding a narrative that affords both the inside views of a research participant and the outside view of a researcher.” (Hoppes 2014, pp.64)

I feel that emotional recall will be something that comes easy, as I have a childhood connection to the original Sailor Moon cartoon. As I re-watch the re-booted Sailor Moon Crystal I fell this connection returning. However I believe that discussion and reflection are to be the two most important factors of this experience and will try to focus the majority of my research around them.

Until next week, Sailor Scouts.

Sailor-Moon

Hoppes, S 2014, “Autoethnography: Inquiry Into Identity”, New Directions For Higher Education, no. 166, pp.63-71

Join the Club!

So can you believe that there are people who have never watched Sailor Moon. Crazy, I know! I mean this show was my everything so to learn that there are people who are new to the phenomenon blows my mind.

The YouTube channel SourceFedNERD uses people’s lack of knowledge to their advantage. In fact they have created a whole club dedicated to this. The anime club is a series of videos that record the separate reactions of a person who is a fan of a certain anime and one who has never watched an episode before. The audience is gaining a different kind of perspective through this experience as opposed to watching a regular review.

So Reina is a Sailor Moon fan. You can tell by the excited tone of her voice, the bouncing on the couch, the movement of her hands. William has never watched an episode of Sailor Moon before in his life. His reactions are dull compared to Reina’s although he still looks as happy having watched the rebooted first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal.

The most beautiful part of this experience is watching Reina’s face as William begins to explain the parts he enjoyed the most. It’s almost as though she is saying – I have shown him this, I am the reason he likes this. It’s a proud moment. One that a lot of us will experience. I mean, there has been so many times where I have recommended a TV show or a book to a friend, and sat there waiting for them to tell me everything they loved.

There is nothing more satisfying than having someone enjoy a show you recommended. However it could go pretty sour if they severely disliked it. This style of review is an interesting concept. It would be interesting to see more of this style with books, movies and other various television shows. If only purely for the look of absolute joy on the face of the person who recommended it.

The Champion of Justice

If I heard the name Kotono Mitsuishi a week ago I wouldn’t have bat an eyelid. Today, however the name means so much more. For those of you who don’t recognise the name I’ll give a little description. Mitsuishi is a 46-year-old voice actress who lives in Tokyo, Japan and is famous for providing the voice of our favourite crime fighter – Sailor Moon.

Now although I consider myself a long time fan of Sailor Moon I had never watched a Japanese version until recently. The voice I remembered from my childhood was whiny and slightly deeper than the voice Mitsuishi provides. It was also extremely American. After watching the new improved Sailor Moon Crystal (of which Mitsuishi is revisiting the role) I’ve realised that Mitsuishi is Sailor Moon.

To watch Mitsuishi transform into the character is something to behold. In the video above, you see her talking to the crowd normally. She seems courteous and polite. There is even perhaps a hint of shyness to her stance. However as soon as she begins to talk as Sailor Moon her body transforms. She is no longer Kotono Mitsuishi – she is Usagi – champion of justice and fighter of evil.

Now Sailor Moon is not the only character Mitsuishi has voiced – just the most famous. She has provided her voice for over 90 separate characters ranging from guest starring roles to major characters. It’s interesting to note that Mitsuishi has only been involved in one Western created cartoon within television or film. It would be interesting to learn why she chose to have a guest starring role in the Japanese dubbed Adventure Time. It could be that creator Pendleton Ward has mentioned a number of influences – one of which being some of the works of Studio Ghibli.

It seems fitting that the first anime I remember watching is connected with the first anime voice actor I have come to know. I have now watched two episodes of the new Sailor Moon Crystal and am immensely enjoying watching Mitsuishi’s Usagi come to life. I have found myself feeling more connected to the character now than I ever did before and I have Kotono Mitsuishi to thank.