Q-Taku: “Sailor Moon” Is Even Better With All The Gay Parts

Q-taku is a new column by Rose where she discusses anime, manga and other parts of Japanese pop culture, and her take on it all as a queer feminist fan.


Sella Munn

The summer of 2014 is shaping up to be a big one for Sailor Moon fans. For starters, there’s a new reboot TV series based on the comics airing in July, as I’ve covered before here. But a little over a week ago, Viz Media dropped what is possibly an even bigger bombshell. What could be bigger than a reboot of a ’90s TV classic, you say?

Viz announced it had picked up the entire ’90s classic itself, after the original anime had spent years out of print in the United States. It began releasing episodes of the series in Japanese with English subtitles online last Monday; they can be found on Hulu and on Viz’s own NeonAlley, with new ones added each week.

The rescue is really more than a rescue, but a rebirth, as the anime was officially released in-full in the United States. For the first time, all 200, unedited episodes of the series will be available to American fans. But perhaps even more excitingly, Viz announced that it would create a new, faithful English dub of the series, to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray later this year in half-season sets. The new dub’s cast will be revealed July 5 at LA’s Anime Expo, the same day of the reboot series’ worldwide premiere.

sailormoon transform

“Faithful,” of course, not only means that fans will get all of the episodes that were cut from the original dub release, and characterizations that hew closer to the original Japanese ones for Sailor Moon and her friends. It means that queer fans will finally get the real representation we deserved in Sailor Moon. The series was hugely influential around the world not only for its butt-kicking magical girls, but for helping queer girls come into their own with two lesbian Sailors, Uranus and Neptune (or Haruka and Michiru, using their “civilian” names). Yet, in the English dub – as well as many others – the queerness was deemed “inappropriate” for children and cut out. Uranus and Neptune were made to be platonic cousins and given tacked-on male love interests. In addition, a gay male couple in the first season was made into a heterosexual one, and the fifth season, which featured gender-bending Sailor Senshi, was never released in America at all.

All that is about to change, as the new dub – as well as the subtitled releases coming out bit-by-bit on Hulu – plan to keep things queer. As the new release’s producer, Josh Lopez, said in an interview with Anime News Network about the series: “What we’re trying to do is make something that pays honor and respect to the original version of this, and that means we’re offering everything to fans this time. It’s not going to be censored, we’re not going to hold back any episodes or seasons, you’re getting everything.”

What’s more, the new staff is personally invested in making sure that the queer content is depicted accurately for fans. When asked about the parts they were most excited about adapting, Charlene Ingram, Viz’s Senior Manager of Animation Marketing, said:

Everything from the third season onward, I’m most excited about. I’m really excited about Haruka and Michiru’s relationship, and keeping it true to the original. I think we’re living in a really exciting time where that won’t be seen as scandalous. I think it’ll just be seen as a beautiful romance. I’m happy that it’s not just “Oh no, there’s lesbian characters, scandal!” It’s like “No, these are two people that love each other and they make sacrifices for each other, isn’t that beautiful no matter what gender they are?”

One of the best things about the original Sailor Moon series — speaking as someone who has read the comics as well — is how consistently the relationships are portrayed across the series. Haruka and Michiru’s lesbian romance is portrayed as just as supportive and loving as Usagi and Mamoru’s heterosexual one, and both are put on equal footing with the platonic female friendships among the cast. Sailor Moon celebrates all kinds of relationships, and as a queer fan who discovered her own sexuality partly due to Sailor Moon, it feels good to have the US translators finally on our side.

Everyone's favorite superpowered anime lesbians

Everyone’s favorite superpowered anime lesbians

So, all that said, you’re probably wondering what I think of the episodes on Hulu so far. I watched the old DiC dub on TV as a kid, and even though I’m very familiar with much of the rest of the franchise (even the live-action series), this is my first go-around with the subtitled version of the anime. Here are some first impressions:

As much as I’ve spent the rest of the article trashing the old ’90s dub, these early Japanese episodes definitely make me appreciate a little of what it was trying to do. The early episodes contain a lot — and I mean, a lot — of repetitive filler. To give some idea, Sailor Mercury, the first addition to the team, comes along in episode 8 of the Japanese version, but episode 5 of the old English dub. While kids often have short attention spans and can handle more filler, they also get impatient if they see a cool character in the theme song and she’s taking a while to show up. I know I would have been frustrated as a kid to wait that long for Mercury (who also was my favorite character). Cutting some of that fat doesn’t lose a lot except for hardcore fans who want to see it all, and while I’m glad the power to pick and choose is now in our hands (considering all the other stuff that the DiC dub cut), I’m not sure how much this particular case adds.

It also changes a lot of the dialogue, which in some of these early episodes may have been for the better after all, as in one episode that centers around a fitness center. The Japanese version is full of intense fat-shaming of Usagi for her heavy eating (even though she still looks thin throughout the episode), not only from her friends and family but from Luna, her cat mentor. The DiC dub was much milder.

Umino, Usagi and Naru

Umino, Usagi and Naru

The old dub also changed some characters’ personalities. The Japanese version of protagonist Usagi is perkier and more charming than the snarkier “Serena” (as she was called in the dub), and I’m not sure which version I prefer. But I do think I like the dubbed version of her friend Umino better; as “Melvin”, he was portrayed as a clueless nerd, annoying his friends because he didn’t know any better. In the Japanese, though, Umino is often just mean. It will be interesting to compare more characters as the series progresses. Lastly, while the DiC dub’s musical soundtrack fit each moment’s emotion exactly — scary music when our heroine is backed into a corner by villains, for instance — the Japanese version’s soundtrack is consistently jazzy and campy, never taking itself too seriously. Some may find this jarring or cheesy, especially if they don’t watch a lot of anime; I personally find it charming.

If all that sounds intimidating to a newbie, don’t worry! There are still a lot of things to recommend in these early episodes. While Usagi seemed useless and stupid to me when I was a little tyke who liked looking up to teenagers I watched on TV, she is far more endearing to my adult eyes. Her difficulty adjusting to life, fighting evil while also juggling bad grades and crushes makes her a relatable and strong character — especially knowing we’ll get to see her grow into a tough and capable woman later. There’s also some interesting patriarchal subtext in how a male villain, Jadeite, keeps choosing stereotypically-feminine hobbies and products — jewelry, weight-loss schemes, a love-letter hotline — to enact his energy-draining plots. When Usagi transforms into Sailor Moon to defeat him each time, she does so with a speech about the evils of preying on “young girls’ dreams”. It’s probably reading way too much into this series to interpret this as feminist commentary on consumer culture, but it still made me smile.

Jadeite in his super-'90s exercise attire

Jadeite in his super-’90s fitness attire

For the stumped-for-time, the website Den of Geek has an excellent Season 1 viewing guide for beginners, letting you know which episodes are must-sees and which can be skipped. Of the ones released so far on Hulu, only the series premiere is on their list. It’s worth checking out a couple more before Sailor Mercury shows up next week; I personally recommend episode 3, the “love letter” one, which was also included in the original English dub.

If you’re a long-time Sailor Moon fan like me, this summer is shaping up to be one full of wonderful surprises. If you’re not, but would like to check out this groundbreaking, and extremely feminist and queer, series, there has never been a better time!

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Rose is a 24-year-old Detroit native currently living in Boston, where she is working on her master's degree in musicology. Classical music, history, 1960s rock bands, cartoons, cats, Diet Coke, old movies and the Detroit Tigers are just a few of her favorite things. Besides Autostraddle, she works as a streaming reviewer for Anime News Network and has also written for Bitch and her own media-analysis blog. You should follow her on Twitter and Tumblr.

Rose has written 69 articles for us.

17 Comments

  1. Thumb up 1

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    This brings back quite a bunch of memories.I am German and watched most of the show in Japanese with German subtitles. There is a scene where Haruka and Michiru run into Usagi and a boy in the park, and the discussion is how the park is one for couples only,and then Michiru drags Haruka away, Haruka protests at her roughness and Michiru flirtily whispers something along the lines of “Just wait til we get home.”. I had to rewind that a few times,because I thought I didn’t hear it right. Haruka and Michiru are just epic. You can tell by the rose petals drifting through the screen when they appear,and, man, do they have the nobility thing down. You are going to love the show something fierce in the non watered down version.
    P.S.:My first gf, a manga aficionado, also told me, that the Americans went to the trouble to actually draw the skirts longer in some scenes, I do wonder if they changed that as well.Enjoy the craziness!

  2. Thumb up 7

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    Too. many. emotions.

    Xena, Sailor Moon and random phone sex commercials was important to my queer awakening when I was young. Every time I see Sailor Uranus and Utena, I sigh deeply and have the urge to watch all the yuri anime I have collected.

    Bye Netflix for now I’m going down a deep yuri rabbit hole.

    Rose, anyone really if you don’t hear from me because I manage to comment on this site almost everyday, you know why! :P

    *dives in*

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    Haruka and Michiru aren’t the only queer ones. Usagi wanted to befriend/stalk Rei at first because she was so beautiful(oh I know that feel, Usa). Even AFTER everyone figured out that Haruka was a girl, they all still wanted to tap that (lookin’ at you, Minako, Usagi and Makoto). Sailor Moon has always been deliciously queer when you look at the source material – even more so in the manga and in the live action interpretations.

    BUT YEAH NO THIS IS THE GREATEST YEAR IN THE HISTORY OF YEARS AHHH I AM SO HAPPY.

    I owe a lot of my current comfort with my sexuality with my late-in-life rediscovery of Sailor Moon. I mean, I knew I liked girls before then too, and I had dated girls, but I never really…acted on my impulses, a girlfriend just kind of happened? But since I’ve been watching/obsessed with Sailor Moon I’ve been a lot more active and a LOT more open about my sexuality. Whiiiich I would like to pin almost entirely on my unabashed cartoon crush on Minako Aino, Goddess of Love.

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    I hope that this is a thing which catches on with redubs. I’m so sick of trying to watch anime that has been imported and all the weapons have been edited out, the gays are straight and the heavy cross-dressing isn’t even dubbed to be aired (I’m looking at you, 4Kids!) I didn’t think much of Sailor Moon when I first tried to watch it but with a faithful English dub out there I might try again. :)

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      Well, 4Kids went bankrupt and stopped doing anime dubs, so you don’t have to worry about them anymore.

      But I think that whole practice is out-of-fashion except in stuff that’s strictly for kids. Dubs will change smaller things (like with the Attack on Titan dub: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/review/attack-on-titan/episodes-1 ) but fans get too mad if they make changes that drastic, thank goodness.

      Although for some reason, Crunchyroll still feels the need to black out the cigarette-lighting on their subs of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. All that graphic violence is totally fine, but god forbid we show a high-school-boy (who doesn’t look like any high-school boy who ever existed) smoking a cigarette!

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    Ugh, I got SO excited reading your article, having been a huge Sailor Moon fan back in the day only to be greeted on both Hulu and NeonAlley by the same “Sorry, our library can only be streamed within the United States” message.

    I mean, COME ON! What is the point of posting something FREE on the Internet if you’re only going to make it available for some people? That defeats the purpose of both “the internet” and the concept of “free”. “Free” doesn’t have a degree of comparison, it either is or it isn’t.

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      You can’t show these things around the world for free LEGALLY because they’re not licensed by the same people in every country, especially when you’re dealing with stuff in translation. Viz only has the rights to release Sailor Moon within the United States (and maybe Canada as well). That’s why it isn’t available to watch in other countries. And Hulu itself is an exclusively U.S. service anyway, if I’m not mistaken.

      This is true of pretty much every legal movie or TV streaming service, that certain sites only work in certain countries because of licensing. They’re able to make it available free to you via ad revenue. It’s only the illegal, pirate sites which are completely free everywhere, but obviously I’d rather not promote those.

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    I’m so jazzed. I was in college and graduate school during the 90’s, so I knew Sailor Moon existed, but I had to write papers. In a way, I’m glad I missed the original dub, so I can see the new dub and the reboot without comparative memories.

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    Fisheye somehow came to mind but she was a character pretty open to interpretation. Sailor Moon was my first anime and far from my last, its exciting to see my original anime re-kindled for a new version without all the censorship of making girls cousins, or changing genders of characters for the US release.

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    Ooh. Both more places to practice my Japanese, *and* an unexpectedly lesbian-queer show to watch. :D I haven’t watched Sailor Moon in a long time and don’t even remember too much of it anymore. This should be fun.

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    Just popped in to say thank you for noting a few things that were positive (or at least not objectively negative) about the DiC dub. I recently finished re-watching those seasons with a friend and even though we giggled and groaned at a lot of ridiculous dialogue and choppy edits, we agreed that it actually holds up better than we thought it would. For me that’s mostly because regardless of how you feel about the casting *choices*, the voice *acting* itself was well done. Terri Hawkes especially made me feel some feelings there (and don’t get me started on “chocolate parfaits”). It’s true the a lot of characters come across as having different personalities, but I’ve found I kind of have a place in my heart for both versions.

    When I originally watched the show in middle school Cloverway had yet to pick up dubbing where DiC had left off, so my friends and I made the jump to fansubbed VHS tapes off of eBay for the last three seasons. I still feel like we got the best of both worlds that way; “Go bleach your roots, creep!” on the one hand and sweet sweet lesbian superheroes on the other.

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      Thanks, I really appreciate your comment here! I was worried I would get some shit for noting any positives about the DiC dub because of just HOW AWFUL the negatives were. I saw some shit on Tumblr where people who’d so much as said “I miss sassy dub Serena” got responses like “HOW DARE YOU MISS THAT DUB AT ALL, YOU MUST NOT CARE ABOUT QUEER WOMEN’S REPRESENTATION” which I thought was a little ridiculous (also, by the time Haruka and Michiru came around, the dub was in the hands of Cloverway, not DiC, and I think that Cloverway dub had weaker voice-acting anyway). I’m glad we’re less all-or-nothing here, but I was still apprehensive. I wanted to be honest about what I thought the differences were for people who, like me, are more familiar with the English dub, and that includes acknowledging the pluses AND minuses.

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