Sailor Moon was the first series that introduced me to the wonderful world of anime, and I won't be surprised if it was that way for a lot of people too. And even now I still wonder what it was about Sailor Moon that just made it a great anime. It's full of girls who take time out of battle to dance in the air and magically transform into these magical costumes reminiscent of schoolgirl outfits, only the skirts are much shorter. The leading man doesn't really do much. And there's more than a hundred episodes where they just fight random enemies in each episode. The storyline is fairly episodic until you get to the end of each season.
And yet, this series has a colossal fanbase. It lasted for 200 episodes and is always listed as one of the most influential and popular anime ever made. Even though it ended years ago, it continues to garner fans from all over the world. There are all these moonies on the Internet pseudonamed Sailor [insert any name here]. Hell, the fact that the term "moonies" is alive and well is evidence enough that Sailor Moon continues to live on in the hearts of rabid anime fans and romantic saps everywhere.
So yeah, what is it about Sailor Moon that just makes it incredibly special?
In a previous life, Usagi was the princess of the Silver Millenium, which is the moon's kingdom. Her name back then was Serenity. She fell in love with Earth's crown prince, Endymion. Then Earth proceeded to invade the moon, and the Silver Millenium was destroyed. Serenity and Endymion were killed. Consumed with grief, her mother uses the last of her own strength to invoke the power of the Silver Crystal so Serenity, her senshi, and Endymion can be reborn again on Earth. This actually had a dual purpose. Aside from bringing her daughter back to life, the queen ensured that the power of the Silver Crystal lives on. Only members of the Silver Millenium's royal family can use it.
Fast forward to the twentieth century. Usagi wakes up late and had to run if she wanted to get to school on time. Along the way, she finds a black cat being tormented by a bunch of kids. She shoos the kids away and finds that the cat had a bandage on her head. Upon lifting the bandage, Usagi found that the cat had a bald spot the shape of a crescent moon. That was the moment Usagi's life changed. I wonder if there's a doujinshi out there that explores what would have happened if Usagi didn't rescue that black cat. After all, the cat, Luna, was the one who gave Usagi a magic brooch that transforms her into Sailor Moon.
Then Usagi fails a test, which depressed her considerably that afternoon on her way home. In her frustration, she balls up her test and tosses it over her shoulder. It hits this strange guy over the head. The guy snapped at her, and instead of letting it go, he actually took the paper, uncrumpled it, and saw how Usagi messed up on her test. Whee. Definitely a way to make sparks fly. This is when we get a first glimpse of Mamoru, a.k.a. Endymion, a.k.a. Tuxedo Mask, a.k.a. Knight of the Moonlight, a.k.a. anime's favorite boyfriend.
Over time, Usagi finds the other sailor senshi, girls with powers of the planets and sworn to protect the princess of the Silver Millenium. Each of them have their own storylines, giving the story lots of depth. In fact, there was a fanbase for Minako that was so huge, the producers went ahead and created a special final episode for her. It's also not uncommon for viewers to gravitate towards a particular senshi. I always knew I'm Sailor Mars :P Anyway, Sailor Moon consists of five seasons: Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon R, Sailor Moon S, Sailor Moon Super S, and Sailor Stars. Over the show's 200 episodes, Usagi aged two years (14 to 16) and came face-to-face with her past self, her future self, and her future child. She also found a loyal pet, four best friends, a hot boyfriend, fierce bodyguards, and three idols.
In addition to the TV shows, Sailor Moon generated three movies, four specials, countless drama CDs, a ton of soundtracks, a lot of musicals, and a live action version of the anime. It should also be noted that Sailor Moon was a manga before it became an anime. It's the most well-known of mangaka Takeuchi Naoko's work. The manga is actually very different from the anime (surprise, surprise), but that's probably because it focused on the main story and didn't deal with a lot of the minor villains that peppered the anime, with approximately one villain per episode. There's actually a huge difference between the manga and the anime. For starters, the personalities of Mamoru, Rei, and Minako changed a lot between the two mediums. A lot of people consider the anime Mamoru to be cold and useless and does nothing but throw roses. In the manga, however, Mamoru is pretty intense, sweet, and actually had a special attack of his own. Rei in the anime was pretty bitchy and hot-tempered. And she made a play for Mamoru. In the manga, however, she was pretty reserved and brooding. And she didn't make a play for Mamoru. Lastly, Minako in the anime was just a huge ditz. In the manga, however, she was the leader among the senshi. No, Usagi's not the leader, she's the princess whom the senshi must protect with their lives. Oh yes, and Minako had her own series called Code Name wa Sailor V, which was a prequel to Sailor Moon.
Also, with such a huge cast of characters, there's a variety of relationships to explore, although sometimes I wish the writers explored Mamoru and Usagi's relationship more and other people's relationships less. One of the relationships in question was Haruka and Michiru's. Really, what was going on between the two of them? The anime hinted that there's definitely something going on, and the manga didn't really say more. This is one of those rare events when Sailor Moon's anime and manga agreed with each other. At a more platonic and kiddy level, there's also the relationship between Chibiusa and Hotaru, which sets a bunch of Sailor Moon S events into motion. Oh yeah, and there's the love triangle between Mamoru, Usagi, and Chibiusa. That was pretty disturbing. It only made Chibiusa more annoying to me.
Sailor Moon S would probably be my favorite season, simply because it deals with the senshi's relationships with each other and it didn't have a lot of Mamoru-and-Usagi angst. It also introduced Haruka and Michiru. The most forgettable season would easily be Sailor Moon Super S. I had to admit, the story just dragged with that one. But then again, it mainly focused on Chibiusa, so maybe that's why I didn't like it that much. Oh yeah, and Sailor Moon S' movie is one of my favorites too. Luna actually had a human form! The manga showed Luna, Artemis, and Diana all in their human forms though. But that's okay. I can settle for an animated Luna in human form. Not to mention Mamoru was pretty sweet in that movie too.
I'm still not clear on why this is such a great anime (although I know it is). I suppose any anime that can have 200 episodes is bound to be good because it can then have well-developed characters. Oh, yes, and Sailor Moon has one of the most kick-ass anime soundtracks out there. Granted, it would be hard to listen to "Moonlight Densetsu" without feeling like you're listening to a TV jingle, but "Kaze mo Sora mo Kitto" is really good. Even though I was racing through Sailor Stars to see what happens next, I would always watch the ending movie. You know, the one with the jigsaw puzzle slowly forming Usagi's picture while the song plays. "Seiya's Memories" is also good instrumental music. I still can't listen to it without remembering the rooftop scene. Then I'd have to watch it again. And if that's not enough, I would go watch the scene where Seiya was in Usagi's bedroom and he sees this picture of her with Mamoru *sigh*
Anyway, this anime is a must-have for shoujo fans. Even if you're not into shoujo, you need to be at least familiar with this. In other words, if you consider yourself an anime afficionado, you should be able to mentally simulate the rooftop scene. Right? Right. Hmm, maybe I should go watch that one again right now...