Moon Prism Power, Make Up: An Overview

I choose three aspects of Sailor Moon I wanted to highlight that shows why anyone and everyone should watch it. I also wanted to give some background on the intention and making of Sailor Moon to show how progressive and positive it is, especially for young children and women.

Naoko Takeuchi/Toei Animation/VIZ Media/Sailor Moon

Synopsis
An average 14-year-old girl, Usagi Tsukino1 (Serena), becomes the crime-fighting soldier of justice and love Sailor Moon. She also makes friends with other reincarnated sailors of the Silver Millennium2; they must protect the world (and entire Milky Way) from evil. On the flip side, Usagi and her friends are shown balancing those big responsibilities with being regular school girls and going through puberty. (Priorities, priorities, priorities!)

Who run the world? Girls!

There are about 882 known characters total for almost every incarnation of Sailor Moon, most of which are females. Ladies dominate the scene as heroes, villains, and sidekicks. The presence of so many women removes the burden of representation from any one or two female characters as is the case in most shows and movies: Rather than make Usagi the perfect heroine, she is an average girl who is emotional, flighty, and boy-crazy, and still a wonderful heroine because she doesn’t represent all women. It’s refreshing to enter a world where women are free to be heroes, villains, and anything in between.

In the Sailor Moon universe, girls can literally be anything they want. They are ace students like Ami Mizuno (Amy/Sailor Mercury). They are vindictive commanders like Queen Beryl. They are sassy superstars like Minako Aino (Mina/Sailor V/Sailor Venus). They are badass queens like Queen Nehelenia. They are thrill-seeking racecar drivers like Haruko Tenuo (Amara/Sailor Uranus). They are world-class violinists like Michiru Kaiou (Michelle/Sailor Neptune). They are lovable meatball heads like Usagi, who can become elegant queens. Beyond the glitter and sparkle, these characters are relatable because they are characterized as realistic and complicated human begins. (Le gasp!) Heroes are fallible, but never shamed. Villains have some redeeming aspects. Fans can understand or sympathize with various characters’ emotions, motivations, and habits.

Let’s not forget that Sailor Moon is just fucking fun. Totally awesome team-ups happen between powerhouse characters! Hidden abilities are revealed at climactic moments! Villains become heroes! Heroes become villains! Alternate future selves return to the past to warn of timelines gone wrong! The scope of the story increases with each arc, revealing a vast intergalactic sisterhood of soldiers with different outfits, customs, and struggles.

Feminism
The fact that Sailor Moon (a shoujo3 manga) is still extremely popular, both in Japan and internationally, is a big fucking deal! It’s popularity states that girls don’t have be masculine to be considered strong. That emphasis on the power of young women is perhaps best illustrated by that fact that the Sailor Senshi4 get their powers from magical makeup and fight with winged wands and sparkly tiaras.

I know, it doesn’t exactly seem empowering, but hear me out: Japanese society is extremely patriarchal, deeply segregated by gender. There’s even a feminine form of speech, which has a tendency to put women down a little bit by making their speech sound “softer” and more “submissive.” Not to mention, female professionals have pretty strict gender roles placed upon them. Even if they have powerful occupations, they feel the need to subvert that power by adopting preconceived gender identities, such as housewife. So though women are important figures, even they try to downplay their power so they seem less threatening. It’s sad, but true.

But then you see the Sailor Senshi use their gender identities as a source of power instead of using femininity to seem less threatening.—And, damn, are they hella fierce when kicking ass!

Not to mention, in every episode of the series, girls are shown working together to solve the problems they face. Much of the Sailor Senshi’s strength stems from their reliance and friendship with other girls, rather than the love of any boy. In fact, you can see how much more important friendship is over romance by all the posters and art where the Senshi are positioned together front-and-center, while Tuxedo Mask is in the background if he’s even in it at all.

Moreover, the dialogue and subtexts of the anime just scream “Feminism!” They don’t put up with misogynistic comments, nor do they stand for villains using consumerism to take advantage of young women. In the scene below, Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury, and Sailor Mars defeat male villain Jadeite, whose many schemes to harvest human energy typically involve exploiting female’s urge to uphold beauty standards (e.g. jewelry shopping, dieting).

[Sailor Moon Season 1 Episode 10: VIZ Media Version5]

Power of Love
Sailor Moon has an interesting take on the “hero” concept. Most shows depict heroes defeating villains with physical strength or superior fighting skills. However, Sailor Moon is not a hero because of her physical strength or magical abilities. What makes Sailor Moon a great hero is her ability to draw her strength from her capacity for compassion, a trait constantly associated with women. To have a show that puts forth a superheroine who uses a stereotypical feminine trait to defeat enemies, which is shown to be even stronger than stereotypical masculine traits such as aggression and violence, is a very positive message. Sailor Moon is a perfect example of a pacifist superhero, because she always seeks peaceful resolutions when possible. She is firmly believes in the “exhaust all diplomatic options” doctrine.6

Sailor Moon is assigned those typical protagonist character traits such as an unshakeable sense of morality, an unyielding sense of good, and a lack of inner darkness. Though her unparalleled goodness seems almost too perfect to be relatable for many young girls, it’s actually for the better than there are little to no cracks in her righteousness. For example, when Sailor Moon faces an extremely tough foe, she resolved to fight her enemy with love (even at the cost of killing everyone she loves). Sailor Moon’s decision to “make love, not war” is admirable, because it says that it is okay to call out people’s shit and try to help change their meanness by showing them love.

Naoko Takeuchi
Naoko Takeuchi mentioned in a 2013 interview with ROLa Magazine that many older male workers at Nakayoshi Magazine tried to dictate her characters’ appearances and attributes.7 However, Takeuchi ignored their complaints. She wouldn’t let “old men” decide how she should write her story for young girls, because they did not respect female authors in the first place. (But seriously, what would those geezers know about shoujo?) Rebellious Takeuchi followed her gut and infused each heroine with femininity and grace. She revitalization of the magical girl genre with her beautiful fighting Sailor squadron, earning her the title of Queen of Shoujo.


1 I will be writing the characters names in Western format (first name/surname).

2 The Silver Millennium is the Moon Kingdom (Queendom) ruled by Queen Serenity in the past and Neo-Queen Serenity in the future.

3 Shoujo (literally “young girl”) refers to manga/comic books for teenage girls and generally centers on female relationships.

4 Sailor Senshi (セーラー戦士; Sailor Soldier) is a term referring to the main female protagonists of all versions of Sailor Moon. In official merchandise, the term “Senshi” was translated as “Soldier,” and several songs in the anime and musicals included the term “Sailor Soldier” spoken in English. However, in the live-action series, Sailor Moon Crystal, and the re-release of the manga and original anime, the same kanji was translated as “Guardian.”

5 VIZ Media version is verbose but awesome. However, the DiC version of this scene is simple and resonating as well: “Together we fight for love and justice, / and together we will triumph. / United we’re invincible!”

6 This isn’t to say that Sailor Moon is incapable of being a badass; there are times in the series where she must destroy a villain with her powers. Not to mention, all the Senshi are soldiers who excel in different areas of combat: Sailor Saturn and Sailor Pluto have the most amount of power, respectively being the Guardian of Time and the Soldier of Death and Silence. Sailor Neptune can see through illusions and sense the future. Sailor Mars is exorcises evil spirits. Sailor Jupiter and Sailor Uranus are the physically strongest among the soldiers and excel in various fighting styles. Sailor Venus is the most athletic. Sailor Mercury is the most calculating in her attack strategies. So yes, while they do draw a lot of strength from their ability to love—They all are just hella powerful!!!

7 Interview Translations: ROLa Magazine and God of Backstage Show (Note: I reformatted it)
Aya: It’s fascinating that all the girls in the show are so beautiful.
Takeuchi: Yes. But that’s how girl’s comics are. It’s important, right? But back then, the old men at Nakayoshi didn’t really get that. From the onset, I said “I want to make a comic series about a squadron of five beautiful fighting girls,” and they said, “Hold up. In a fighting squadron, there’s always like one comically obese character, and another nerdy one that wears glasses. How are you going to make all five of them beautiful?” and the complaints went on and on. Oh, those old men… I think they didn’t understand girls comics at all…Back then, I thought, “I’m going to show these old grandpas that beautiful girl characters can be good for business, and I’m not leaving my concept in the hands of old men.” So I had to work hard to develop a sense of beauty and elegance in my characters, no matter what their type was. Back then, the old man editors at Nakayoshi magazine thought I was being stubborn, and they didn’t much care for the opinions of us lady authors, it was a difficult time.
Aya: So you think the old men didn’t understand the sensitivity or nuance to your idea.
Takeuchi: Definitely. It was also a challenge when it came to deciding on a color scheme. At first I had proposed using a pastel color palette, and the old hat, old timer editor grandpas said: “You need to use bolder colors,” “If you want the magazine to sell you need to use lots of blues and greens, or bright yellows,” “If you’re going to use pink, use a dark pink,” and they made all kinds of demands about it. Actually, when I first decided on the color of Sailor Moon’s hair, I wanted it to be silver, but the old grandpa editors didn’t like that decision either, and they really got upset, and said that the magazine would never sell if I used such a dull color. When I first said that I thought blonde hair would be a more Princess-like choice for the main character, someone chuckled and said “At least it’s not grandma-style like last time.”


Read More: A Ridiculously Comprehensive History of Sailor Moon – Part 1: Made In Japan
A Ridiculously Comprehensive History of Sailor Moon, Part 2: Coming to America
A Ridiculously Comprehensive History of Sailor Moon, Part 3: Tales from Fandom

Feeling the Moon Pride

My love for Sailor Moon runs deep and strong. It burns brighter than a thousand suns. It cannot be expressed in this one post, nor will it. This explanation of why Sailor Moon means so much to me will serve as a prelude to my new series of blog posts!

Growing up, I felt distant from my classmates and had little to no friends. I had a hard time because I lacked the confidence and language skills (Vietnamese is my first language) to communicate with people. Then, I began watching the Sailor Moon series in 2000, when it had already been completed. The show helped me not only improve my English, but also connect with people. Sailor Moon had a major influence in my life, teaching me about friendship, feminism, and justice.

Left to Right: Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Moon, Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Venus

Sailor Moon and the Sailor Soldiers1 always fought for what was right, protected what and who they loved, despite heartbreaking/muscle-aching pain. They taught me to embrace my femininity, and to view it as a source of my strength, instead of a weakness. Sailor Moon was the only series I saw at the time that showed that women have the ability to kick ass, not so much with violence but with the power of love! Sailor Moon inspired me to be kind and uplift, not only my friends, but strangers as well.

Not to mention at the end of each DiC2 English dubbed episode, there was a short segment that featured the Sailor Soldiers rehashing life lessons they learned from the events of the episode. They touched on dieting, exercising, relationships, recycling, and honesty among other things. Some of their more crucial lessons included being independent, being kind to others, taking care of yourself, respecting yourself, and standing up for your beliefs.

DiC Entertainment/Sailor Moon/Sailor Says/Episode 9

As I got older and rediscovered my love for the series, it helped me through overcome my depression. It was the only thing that gave me strength to face my problems, if not living. Watching Sailor Moon again gave me the strength to keep smiling and to continue to walk out my door each day. Sailor Moon taught me to never give up and keep trying, even if the whole universe is against you. And I did. Hell, I probably wouldn’t be around today if it weren’t for Serena’s2 bright attitude towards everything, even when times were tough. She showed me that love and justice can defeat all evils; and that if you believe in something with all of your heart, you can achieve anything you want.

Moreover, Sailor Moon helped me better myself as feminist. I always thought that all the Sailor Soldiers were really independent and liberated. They interacted with the world around them with the freedom most usually see men have. In fact, the freedom of women to make their own decisions and mistakes (something highly valued by feminists) is highly emphasized. Take Sailor Moon for example: She acts however she likes and chooses whatever she wants with little to no influence of others. Her ability to do so sends a message to young girls—that they can deviate from the norms and paths set by others if they want to. They can just be girls who have the power to be magical.

I owe Naoko Takeuchi an enormous THANK YOU for creating this positive and empowering series.

Spa Magazine/Naoko Takeuchi


1 I have recently began to call the Sailor Senshi “Sailor Soldiers,” because the term “Scouts” is not strong enough and the term “Guardians” is an incorrect translation of senshi.

2 Because I primarily watched and rewatched the DiC version, I will (unfortunately) use the American names DiC gave the characters.

Coming Out as Asexual

I would like to thank my friend, Aiden, for giving me the courage to come out. He is an inspiration and a wonderful friend.

“That’s not normal. Is something wrong with you?”

“Are you sure?”

“You just haven’t met the right person yet.”

These are the most common statements I receive whenever I tell people I’m uninterested in sex in general.

During my childhood, I didn’t pay much attention to crushes or kissing. I was confused why some young girls in school and in TV shows made such a big deal out of them. This confusion followed me into my early adolescence when my close friends talking about relationships and having boyfriends. Whenever they asked me whether or not I liked someone, I became very awkward because I always had the same answer: “No, I don’t like anyone. Sorry.” Sometimes I felt very uncomfortable, but most of the time I felt like I just didn’t fit in. I wondered what was wrong with me. Was I sick? Was something wrong with me? Was I the only one on this planet who felt like this?

Why was I so different from my peers who fantasized about physical relationships and even sex?

These questions led to my noticing the astounding prevalence of sex in the media and world around me: music videos almost always had some sexual content or lyrics in them; pornography ads appeared on the sides of the webpages; shirtless or suggestive people were plastered on billboards and magazine covers. I was puzzled that the entire world could be so obsessed with this one thing. After taking life science, I had viewed sex as nothing more than a mere tool of reproduction—A rather unhygienic and time-consuming tool. I feel alienated in this culture, because I felt no sexual attraction or drive. The thought of just…being with someone like that? Gross.

 

Fast forward to my junior year of high school. I started noticing that my friends talked a lot about who they thought were attractive. They spoke of checking out shirtless guys and looking at people’s butts, and I didn’t understand what they were talking about. I finally realized how different I was from them in terms of physical and sexual attraction.

I don’t remember how, I heard about the term “asexual.” I knew it existed but that was it. Over the winter break, I finally looked up the word on the internet. Eventually, I stumbled upon the website www.asexuality.org, more commonly known as AVEN, which stands for Asexual Visibility and Education Network. Reading the forums and resources on the website prompted me to think I may be asexual.

At first, I was extremely happy that I was not alone and had figured out who I was. Then, worry and doubts set in. If I was romantic, would I ever find someone? If I was aromantic, how would I create the life I wanted for myself? How was I going to come out to other people? How would I know if I was experiencing sexual attraction if I didn’t even know what it was like?

Because of these concerns, I wasn’t fully convinced that I was asexual at first. I held the false notion that I couldn’t be asexual because I was a hopeless romantic. That idea kept me from accepting my asexuality.

Yet, I created an AVEN account anyway and continued reading the forums, which helped a lot. I started thinking about coming out to people. Then, about eight months later, I couldn’t stay in the closet anymore.

 

There was one friend I knew who would know what asexuality was and what it implied, which I thought would help. I decided to start with him. I knew he would be fine with it, but I was still incredibly nervous.

Fast forward to senior year, I finally asked him if we could talk in private. Then I came out to him. He was, and continues to be, extremely supportive.

Coming out to him was just the tip of the iceberg. I had still had a significant amount of doubt, but just saying the words “I’m asexual” made me feel like I had finally figured myself out, and I knew I was going to be okay. Soon, I gained the courage to tell other close friends—and eventually my parents.

 

My parents are fantastic and progressive people. They always emphasize my limitless potential to do great things. They know I do not need a family or a husband to be successful or happy, because they place great importance on independent soul-searching and traveling. My parents usually brush off stuff like marriage and kids as secondary to financial success and globe-trotting. Yet, they had been completely thrown off when I came out to them. They assume that marriage and family is something that will just happen to me naturally in the course of time, which is why they have a difficult time accepting my asexuality.

I know my parents are disappointed; they want me to find someone, get married, and have kids. I know that they mean well—After all, they want the best for me. But that’s not what I want. Yet, I remain optimistic about the future, hoping that in time they will come to accept my asexuality.

 

Now, I am still trying fully accepted myself as asexual. I still have some concerns occasionally, but I think that is normal. I’m still in the process of learning more about asexuality and reconciling my romantic notions with it. As Audre Lorde said, “Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat.”


For more coming out stories from Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, check out Q&A Space.
Update Jan 2016: This story was submitted to Q&A Space! Check it out!

If you’re a person of color, check out Asexual People of Color.

For posts about asexuality and culture/race/ethnicity, check out Carnival of Aces.

For a comprehensive list of resources on asexuality and race, please check out this amazing list.

Is Hogwart’s Sorting System Bullshit?

Note: I wrote this essay as a supplement for a college application. This is not the complete essay. In fact, I edited it to make it flow better. (Not sure if that worked.) Also, the title is new.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Westeros (CaptnArrri/Ariana Filippini)

What do you think about the Hogwart’s sorting system? How do you feel about the Hogwarts house you were sorted in?

Power structures lead to groups, which may have labels placed upon them. These labels are little boxes. Once one is put into a little box, one cannot escape. Every decision one makes and every action one takes will be explained as a characteristic of the little box that he or she is in. For the sake of this essay keep in mind that labels are evil and categories are bad. They put limits on human beings. Got it?

Now, it is your first day at Hogwarts and the Sorting Ceremony is about to begin. Will you be placed in Gryffindor with the brave, Ravenclaw with the smart, Slytherin with the clever, or Hufflepuff with the kind?

To be honest, little eleven-year-old you are probably a mixture of all of these things. However, you must be put into a house which will determine who you are for the next seven years—in some of the most crucial, developmental years of your life, when you change all the time.

Nevertheless, the Sorting Hat is god and he knows best.

 

Therein lies the problem.

Eleven-year-olds have so much potential. Putting them in one house over another creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once in Gryffindor, they will act more like Gryffindors and act less like Slytherins. This is because people not only build their identities based on what they think they are, they build them in opposition to things they think they are not. By doing so, all of these young witches and wizards self-regulate their identities, their passions, their capabilities, and their potentials.

It is as ridiculous as it seems.

These young witches and wizards are thrown into a power structure that limits their ability to express other interests and uphold other values in order to maintain a general social order. They are expected to exhibit the characteristics their houses embrace and fill the established roles of their respective houses. In other words, students are forced to assume the tropes of their assigned houses: Gryffindors are the heroes. Ravenclaws are the strategists. Slytherins are the villains. Hufflepuffs are the sidekicks.

All of these groups, these students, are unreasonably pressured to fit into molds which cause them to interact differently (and sometimes unfairly) with each other. Gryffindors and Slytherins antagonize each other. Ravenclaws are known as the nerds and oddballs. Hufflepuffs get written off as pushovers. This dynamic leads to students placing trite stereotypes, which stem from prejudice and discrimination, on fellow students. The tension this breeds among the population is apparent in petty house-rivalries. The remedy to this problem may be getting the students to stop labeling and defining their peers’ character by their houses’ values.

 

That being said, I believe that it is unfair for others to dislike me for my association with and pride in the House of Slytherin. This house teaches its students to be analytical, self-confident, and firm. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, shrewd, cunning, or achievement-oriented. Thankfully, powers structures are fluid, with change occurring constantly. That allows the roles and labels within power structures to change as well, because a name is only what you make it. So it is up to me and my fellow Slytherins to use our resourcefulness, our ambition, and our cunning for the betterment of all.

Slytherin House Poster (Society6/LiquidSoulDesign)

Part II: Bringing back the good vibes

Letter to myself.


Dear Elaine,

Go look at yourself in the mirror and try to see a loving daughter, a promising activist and intellectual, a strong-willed girl who doesn’t let anything get in the way of her dreams, and above all a girl who others can look up to and say, “I want to be like her someday.” Is that conceited? Yes. Do you want to hear it? Don’t lie to yourself, of course you do. You blush but secretly glow with pride when others tell you such things. And that’s okay because you deserve it.

 

Let’s look at what you have done: You have reached out to Vietnamese-American voters and genuinely helped them. You were featured in KPCC for that. You have contributed to a survey project that reaffirmed that importance and influence of the AAPI electorate. You have connected with amazing people and organizations through the past year. You have assumed the top leadership position of the one club you have dedicated your whole high school career to.

 

You have something to show for pushing yourself so hard. You found some direction and purpose in life at seventeen years-old! Be proud of what you have accomplished, Elaine. Not many people can claim similar-caliber accomplishments, considering the percentage of activists and politically active young people recorded.

Brown and other universities are not the judge of how smart and hard-working you are; nor does rejection mean you are not capable or worthy of attending them. Only you know yourself well enough to judge your ability. You are your worst and best critic. How you react to setbacks determines the real strength of your character, Elaine.

 

As all of your family, friends, and mentors have said, “It’s their loss.”

We all fall short of our goals now and then. The important thing is that we have the courage to pick ourselves up again. Failure can only make you stronger, and the best payback is success.

Stiff upper lip, girl. And happy birthday! You’re eighteen; you have plenty of time to plot your revenge.

The Master Hang (Elaine)