Culture

Nephrite’s Moonlight Confession

Hello once again to my readers! I hope you are all well. However it wouldn’t surprise me if I confused you somewhat with that title. Well you see…it’s time I talk about something I’ve considered writing about for a while. I may write articles mainly on audiobooks or occasionally superhero comics, video game music and other similar detours but I think it’s time to discuss something that’s helped keep me relatively sane throughout all of this year’s chaos. That something?: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon. But before I get to that? I should probably do a little explaining.

Part One: The Basics, And Just A Little More

Some of you will have heard that name before, or at least be familiar with the mid 1990s English adaptation (both beloved by some and derided by others) that made its way to our shores. This section is mostly to jog those few memories and to briefly explain for those who have no idea what I’m talking about.

In simple terms: The show follows Usagi Tsukino (Serena in the 90s dub) as she ends up saving a poor purple cat with an unusual crescent moon mark from bullies on the way to her school. That simple act of kindness leads the cat named Luna – who can talk – to gift Usagi the power to transform into the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon as they fight monstrous creatures called youma– for an explanation of what that name means see my review of the audiobook The Book Of Yokai by Michael Dylan Foster – under the thrall of Queen Beryl and her four generals.

Whilst they fight the generals and the rest of the Dark Kingdom (Negaverse in the 90s English dub…standards were different then) Luna and Usagi search for both the other Sailor Senshi– Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus –and the Princess of the Moon Kingdom, often being helped by – and occasionally hindered by – a masked man with a penchant for red roses, top hats, capes and domino masks known as Tuxedo Kamen/Tuxedo Mask as well as a rather…irritating nuisance called Mamoru Chiba (Darien). That’s the first season at its core.

The anime series which introduced me and many others to the series first started in 1992, being based on a shoujo manga series by Naoko Takeuchi which ran from late 1991 to 1997. Shoujo is the Japanese name for a series most commonly aimed at girls with Shonen being the boy centred equivalent. And here is 99% of the reason I hadn’t discussed it before now. I am very aware I was never the main intended audience of the series even as a youngster when I first discovered it. Sure periphery demographics and audiences are a thing and Sailor Moon in particular is famous for having a fan base that’s very evenly spread between women and men but it’s still somewhat awkward to talk about even now. But I’m sick of hiding my fondness for the series and pretending I either grew out of it, or all I have are fond slightly fuzzy memories of talking cats, warrior girls with planet powers or somewhat elaborate and extensive transformations.

I’ve technically snuck a few references to Moon in over the course of my articles…with the most obvious being my pseudonym. I wrote my very first articles for The Orkney News whilst in the midst of watching my collection so the first name that came to mind was one of the evil generals I mentioned. Or if you prefer his official title from the mythology and gemmology which inspired his name? Nephrite Of The Four Heavenly Kings, who holds the title of Western King and according to what little information I can find on the subject equates to King Of North America.

Part Two: My Memories And The Effect of Moon On Me

To be fair though my memories of the series are simultaneously fuzzy and very vivid. This is for one simple reason: Despite my memories of watching the series as a child being quite vague indeed, some aspects of the series found their way into my everyday life. The original 90s English adaptation by a Canadian company known as DIC Entertainment made many many different changes to the series with one of the most obvious examples being the removal of the original Japanese soundtrack by Takanori Arisawa and several other musicians.

They replaced it with an original in house soundtrack designed to make the series’s music somewhat more similar to American cartoons of the era. Several pieces from that soundtrack burned their way into my brain and my soul and never left. The various pieces used during the transformations became recurring tunes in my head for years but they weren’t the only ones. Certain sadder re-orchestrations of the main theme from some infamous scenes in the second series stuck with me as well as did the music for the Star Locket from late in the first series.

As a result of this, the series overall had quite the impact on me growing up. Not even counting the music, I blame the series for my fascination with roses. I grew up in a family very fond of gardening in general but I think I can blame a certain tuxedoed gentleman for my fondness for roses in particular above all else. I also had quite the shock a few years ago when I tried to trace the origin of certain personal beliefs of mine which have since evolved over time and I found that quite a few of them had their starting points in an anime TV series I first watched when I was still in my relatively early childhood. Which is even more surprising when you consider it was only on TV in the UK for about two or three years as the later series were never brought over here. The characters even found their way into my subconscious and my dreams more than a few times. But there is more to my personal stories.

Part Three: My First ‘Rediscovery’

Eventually however I did almost forget about the series. Almost. Many many years later I rediscovered the series rather oddly. During secondary school examinations one year I was in the midst of a test and struggling somewhat to think of a way to continue the answer I was giving. I took a moment to think at that point only for my mind to push a tune into my brain which I then began to hum for a short while. The Star Locket music I mentioned previously. I couldn’t remember exactly what it was as I had begun finalising my answer for the exam but my mind was convinced I’d heard this music SOMEWHERE before. It eventually dawned on me what it was and I was somewhat shocked as I hadn’t thought of Sailor Moon as a whole or that music in particular or even heard that particular song in somewhere between 10 and 12 YEARS by that point.

This led to me enveloping myself in the series and the fan base on and off for about five years. As well as searching for certain pieces of music some of which I only found earlier this year. Partly because I genuinely still felt and feel an attachment to these characters alongside the nostalgia and partly because the fan base does wonderful work in its’own right. The fan writers often have a core of dedicated people who work magic by continuing Takeuchi’s story in ways that make sense, or take the characters and place them in all sorts of environments and having everyone just do their own thing. I even tried it once or twice myself…although I won’t say where to find mine. The fan musicians managed to turn Sailor Moon and her friends into some of the mascot symbols for the entire sub-genre of future-funk hence the Sailorwave albums and fan artists have achieved miracles in their own way. But I didn’t stay for good. It took some other miracles for me to never want to leave.

Part Four: The 20th Anniversary Celebrations, The Birth Of Crystal And Sailor Stars

After I’d been checking in on all things Moon for a few years, the fan base got a bit of a surprise to put it mildly! As part of the 20th anniversary it was announced that there would be a new Sailor Moon animated series known as Sailor Moon Crystal which was intended in spirit to be closer to the original manga and had some moderate level of involvement from Takeuchi herself as the original creator. As well as this the original 90s anime was getting completely redubbed into English with a new voice cast along with all the censorship from the original dub being removed. That was, however not the only shock. Sailor Stars (The fifth and final series of the original 1990s anime which was never dubbed into English) was included in the deal! That final piece of news? Made me absolutely ecstatic.

As you might be able to guess…this basically resulted in the entire fanbase simultaneously being overjoyed and self-destructing. Without going into much detail Crystal…has flaws even if I’m a fan and the wars in the fan base between original Japanese, the 90s DIC/Cloverway version and the modern Viz dub are…extensive. On the other hand there are quite a few people (including myself) who just want to enjoy themselves and are just happy we have options.

Part Five: Lockdown, Collections, Fellow Fans And Coping Mechanisms

Then we get to 2019. I’d still been keeping a loose eye on Sailor Moon and company for about a year waiting to see if the DVDs or Blu-rays available stateside would venture to the UK. To date they still haven’t officially and probably won’t period. I managed to get lucky however as it turns out Australian Blu-rays work just fine in the UK. As such I grabbed a few Moon Blu-rays for both Crystal and the original 90s series. I was waiting patiently for a chance to grab Australian Blu-rays of Sailor Stars however around that point was when…2020 decided to…2020.

As a result I ended up throwing myself even further into the vortex that is the orbit of Sailor Moon, partially as a nostalgic coping mechanism as I have now done this a few times over the years and partially because talking about it to other people is very enjoyable. I’ve gotten involved in many a protracted fan debate and in some cases had it pointed out to me that the opinion I held was…intriguingly flawed. And I’ve had more than a few laughs over traditional fan craziness. (Thanks Fano, Skully, Aquafina, Orion, Luna, Eclipsa, Eli,Cloudymars, Rabbit On The Moon and everyone else!) I’ve also added to my collection somewhat over the course of the last year or so by adding some CDs containing pieces from TakanoriArisawa’s original Japanese soundtrack to my personal collection.(It still baffles me that despite the soundtrack being full of positive songs or epic sounding songs my personal favourite is still what equates to a positive sounding but heartbreaking when you actually listen to it breakup song for Venus.)

I even managed to watch the dub of Sailor Stars I have been fascinated by for years. Watching the show in general was a calming go to during the initial lockdown period. To be honest? I know all this sounds completely weird and probably doesn’t make that much sense but it’s better than a lot of other options! It feels good to get this off my chest. Now I should probably conclude my literal lunatic ramblings

Part Six: In The Name Of The Moon

In conclusion yes this confession is rambling. Very rambling. And yes I’m fully aware that I don’t need to feel self-conscious about enjoying it any more than I would any other anime but nonetheless it feels good to say all these things. To admit, even under my writing pseudonym about my fondness for Usagi Tsukino, Ami Mizuno, Rei Hino, Makoto Kino, Minako Aino, Luna, Artemis, Diana, Chibi-Usa and everyone else. I’m sure there is quite a fair bit of life in these girls yet! After all the Sailor Moon Eternal movies (Basically series 4 of Crystal in all but name) are coming out next year, we have the new Eternal Edition translations of the original manga available in the UK including digitally and 2022 will be the 30th Anniversary of the anime! Who knows what’s coming next. Just beware people named after jewels!

My next article will be a return to audiobooks once again…discussing an old friend of ours. Agent James Bond 007.

The Moonlight Is A Message Of Love

Nephrite…Of The Four Heavenly Kings

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