6 Sailor Moon Life Lessons We Can All Learn From
Sailor Moon has been a constant delight with so many empowering messages at its core. Liz has made a list of the life lessons it’s taught her.
It was 1998 and I was sitting in Algebra class, counting the seconds as they ticked by on the clock. I was thirteen, and all I wanted was to get home and watch Sailor Moon. I doodled the moon stick on my notebook, fervently wishing it were real and I too could be a magical moon princess. I wasn’t listening to my teacher as he lectured, I wasn’t taking notes. At that precise moment in my life, Sailor Moon was the centre of my universe.
Fast forward 19 years and she’s still a surprisingly omnipresent force in my life. Chibiusa swings from my rearview mirror in my car, Princess Serenity and Black Lady are perched on my desk at work, and the moon stick I so desperately wanted as a teen rests against my vanity. Slightly more permanent is the ginzuishou — or silver crystal — tattooed on the inside of my wrist.
This is me cosplaying as Princess Serenity.
Read about the time I went to my first big anime con!
Though I certainly don’t obsess over the show and manga like I did in my youth, it’s only now that I feel I can truly appreciate the beautiful life lessons I learned from Sailor Moon.
Women Are Capable of Doing Any Job
When it comes to women in cartoons aimed at kids, you don’t see a varied career set. In fact, most of the time, the only woman you see is the main character’s mother, and she’s usually portrayed as a housewife. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a housewife, it’s important for young girls to see women in a range of different occupations — especially since women make up nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce.
In Sailor Moon, both main and secondary female characters are portrayed as having some amazing careers. Rei (Sailor Mars) is a shinto priestess, Makoto (Sailor Jupiter) dreams of owning a flower-and-cake shop, Haruka (Sailor Uranus) is a competitive race car driver, Michiru (Sailor Neptune) is a professional violinist, and Setsuna (Sailor Pluto) is majoring in physics at university.
Supporting characters also have impressive jobs — Saeko Mizuno is a doctor, Natsuna Sakurada is the Superintendent-General of the Metropolitan Police Board, and Himeko Nayotake is a freaking astronaut.
Self Acceptance is Key
Thanks to ridiculous western beauty ideals, unethical uses of Photoshop, and rigid gender stereotypes, modern society makes it incredibly difficult for people to love themselves as they are. As such, many are left struggling with low self-esteem. They might attempt to make up for perceived shortcomings by subjecting themselves to horrors such as skin bleaching, plastic surgery, and more. Women apologize for “faults” such as not being feminine enough, behaving in an “un-ladylike” manner, and being “over-emotional” or “bossy”.
Recognizing and accepting both your strengths and weaknesses is a big theme in Sailor Moon. Usagi (AKA Sailor Moon, Princess Serenity) freely admits that she’s lazy, clumsy, cries too much, and doesn’t do well in school. However, as the series progresses, she also acknowledges that she’s caring, optimistic, and has the ability to unite others simply through the strength of her love.
Other characters — notably Ami, Rei, Makoto, and Chibiusa — also learn to accept themselves for who they are, discovering that what they initially perceived to be faults were actually their greatest strengths.
Feminine does not mean weak
Have you ever noticed how “strong female characters” are often portrayed as tomboys whose strength and charisma come from outwardly detesting everything considered traditionally feminine? Usually, in those same stories, overtly feminine women are painted as weak, petty, shallow, and manipulative.
This is, of course, a symptom of societal bias — the idea that men are inherently good, women are inherently bad. If you want a woman to be seen as the hero of a story, she has to possess conventionally masculine traits.
“You ________ like a girl!” You can fill in the blank with just about anything. Whichever way you hash it, it’s meant to be an insult. This way of thinking has become so deep-rooted in our culture that even women can have difficulty perceiving it. But femininity is not intrinsically weak. Sailor Moon shows us this by demonstrating that the sailor soldiers’ power is a direct result of their femininity.
When they transform from ordinary school girls into planetary guardians, their transformation sequences include manicures, lip gloss, high heels, jewelry, and an abundance of ribbons and bows. The more feminine they become, the more power they have.
Even the ginzuishou, the greatest source of power in the universe, is housed in a jeweled brooch pinned to Usagi’s school uniform. As far as Sailor Moon is concerned, femininity equals power.
Queer is Beautiful
The queer representation in Sailor Moon made it an incredibly progressive series for its time. The most notable example of this would be the romance between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. Not only was it not remarked upon negatively by any of the characters, it was also a fantastic model for a healthy and stable relationship.
There was also a romantic relationship between the villainous characters Zoisite and Kunzite — although this only existed in the 90’s anime. Zoisite and Kunzite are not a couple in either the manga nor Sailor Moon Crystal.
Queer characters span the entire Sailor Moon metaseries, from the manga to Sailor Moon Crystal.
- Although the term hadn’t yet been coined at the time of her conception, Haruka (Sailor Uranus) has since been labelled genderfluid. Her gender presentation changes depending entirely upon her mood.
- In the manga, Seiya, Taiki, and Yaten (the Sailor Starlights) are women who crossdress as men. However, in the 90s anime, they physically change bodies while in civilian form, and change back when they transform into their Senshi forms.
- In the 90s anime, the gay villain Fisheye frequently crossdressed to attract male victims. Unfortunately, Sailor Moon stumbles, here. Fisheye’s characterization was problematic because although he wasn’t transgender, his portrayal supported harmful transmisogynistic tropes.
Though it had its faults, Sailor Moon opened up conversations and possibilities by having such a varied set of characters and romantic relationships. It showed us that it was okay to be different — in fact, it was just one of the things that made you unique.
You Can Do Anything With the Right Set of Friends
Time and again, women are given the message that they should view other women as nothing more than competition; be it love or career, other women are meant to be the enemy.
That’s why it’s so important that Sailor Moon exposed young girls to the idea that a large group of women can have a bond so strong that it’s enough to defeat evil. Though the plot of the Sailor Moon metaseries varies between incarnations, the friendship between the sailor soldiers still remains the focal point.
Naoko Takeuchi, the creator of Sailor Moon, explained how she she saved all of her love for the girls (rarely expanding male characters) because she wanted to show that it was their friendship that mattered most.
The cast demonstrated that smart, strong, independent women can form deep, loyal friendships — and they can kick ass whether they have boyfriends or not.
Girls Save the World
Though Usagi definitely has moments when she needs support, she’s not the damsel. Instead, it’s Usagi who continually has to save her boyfriend Mamoru (Tuxedo Mask) after he’s been kidnapped or brainwashed by the enemy. Despite being Earth’s prince, Mamoru is comparatively weak next to the sailor soldiers.
And that leads me to my last point — the one that still resonates with me to this day. Besides the amazing representations of women in general, Sailor Moon is also unique in that only women and non-binary folk can be sailor soldiers. The guardians of love and justice — the protectors of the universe — are non-binary people and women.
We have the power needed to save the world!