In August of 1991, manga-ka Naoko Takeuchi created a sailor suited soldier named Sailor Venus, or Sailor V for short. Sailor V was initially just a short story, combining Takeuchi's love of tokusatsu and magical girls into one. Sailor V followed Minako Aino a 14 year old middle school student. One day during gym class she lands on her soon to be guardian cat Artemis, scolding the cat for getting in her way. Minako is plucky, endearing, and terrible at most school subjects. The manga was popular enough to catch the attention of Toei Animation, who were interested in Sailor V. Initially Sailor V was going to be an OVA created by Toei, but that idea was eventually scrapped. There is a concept art floating around, but I haven't been able to track it down for years at this point.
On a personal note, I got into the Sailor Moon anime in 1995. Around that time my local comic shop got a copy of Sailor V in. I was just learning Japanese, and while I recognized Artemis, I couldn't figure out what the hell Minako was wearing. The art was a little creepy to me too. I don't know why, I was 8.
But Takeuchi wanted to expand on this universe. If you've read the Sailor V manga, you already know that the main five Sailor Soldiers appear in the series. So in March of 1992, Pretty Solider Sailor Moon was born. Sailor Moon had come at a time when the magical girl genre was on life support (as I've talked about before) and honest to God gave it life again. Initially Takeuchi was only going to do one arc, which revolves around the Soldiers finding their lost Princess Serenity and defeating the evil love scorn Queen Beryl. However Sailor Moon proved to be a money making hit, and Toei and Kodansha wanted more. There have been rumors over the years that Takeuchi was initially annoyed by that. The ending of the first arc was perfect.She got to work on the Black Moon Arc, but while she was making it Toei went ahead and created a filler series, the Doom Tree Saga.
Takeuchi had a lot of other ideas for Sailor Moon initially. She wanted it to mimic the popular sentai (Power Rangers) formula, where the girls would have a central command station where they would gather fighting information against the enemy. This sort of stayed in tact. The girls have a meeting point below Crown Arcade, and they are all color coordinated. The Crown Arcade post was eventually forgotten about, but thankfully everyone's colors kept in check. She had also wanted to originally kill them off, but that idea was rejected. Toei however took that idea and did kill them during the last few episodes of the first story arc…only to bring them back. In Japan Sailor Moon was huge. There were stage shows (Sera-Myu), movies, a live action Power Rangers like show, more toys that you can shake a doll at, and more. In my own collection I have more Sailor Moon than I wish to publicly admit too.The Sera Myu musicals are by far and large amazing, and I'll talk about that another time.
1993 would have been Sailor Moon's first dip in the North American pool. Bandai and Toon-Makers had attempted a half live action half animated Sailor Moon show. You can find clips of it online, and I own a few of the animation cels as well. A part of me wishes it had come to be, but I'm also glad it didn't. It looked awful. Thankfully in 1995 DiC acquired Sailor Moon for the North American market, throwing Sailor Moon into the English speaking limelight.
But Sailor Moon's initial North American release was nothing short of a disaster. DiC heavily edited the series by cutting several episodes and splicing episodes together. Some characters were changed outright, and the dub was sometimes laughable. However the voice acting wasn't actually bad! That being said the series did poorly after it's initial run so DiC opted to not re-new. Once Sailor Moon hit syndication on Toonami, the series was given new life. I came into the fandom around 1995 and very clearly remember one group–Save Our Sailors–being largely vocal about bringing more Sailor Moon to the states. Because of the sudden surge in popularity, DiC purchased the remainder of Sailor Moon R which gave us two sort of complete seasons in North America. Cloverway eventually picked up the next two seasons and dubbed them quickly. The dub for Cloverway isn't up to par. Many of the original voice actors did not return to this dub. They were still largely edited, and Cloverway made it abundantly clear that the last season of Sailor Moon would never be brought to America as they felt many people would find it's content objectionable. Pioneer had released the first two seasons completely uncut on DVD, and ADV released the next two uncut on DVD. Pioneer also released all three movies both edited and uncut, finally giving us a more complete Sailor Moon.
The manga has not fared much better in America. In 1997 a brand new manga company known as Mixxzine announced they had gotten the rights to translate Sailor Moon. In their new magazine named after their company, Sailor Moon was released along side Magic Knight Rayearth and Parasite. From the get go the translation was laughable at best. Names switched between the English dub and the Japanese version. Some Japanese nuances or sayings were simply lost in translation. Mixxzine started to publish Sailor Moon in "pocket zine" format, which was just a fancy name for graphic novel. This was also a problem. In some cases you would have to break the spine in order to read the comic. At the same time Mixx had announced their newest magazine Smile aimed at teenage girls.
Bear with me. I lived through this and distinctly remember the absolute shit show surrounding Mixx.
Mixxzine had dropped Sailor Moon from their lineup and started publishing Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon R in a regular American comic format. At the same time Sailor Moon S was being published in Smile. There was no effort made by Mixx in regards to continuity or respect to fans, as they sincerely expected us o pay for the single issues, pay for Smile, and pay for the graphic novels as well. It was a glorious money making tactic that eventually made them the laughing stock of the manga world. There's a reason why they changed names 4 times and then eventually closed up. I hear Mixx is back (under a different name), and I hope whomever is running the company now isn't a complete and total ass. I'm still waiting for some kind of explanation as to why Sailor Moon was so messed up, but I have a feeling former Mixx president Stu Levy has largely removed himself from the industry.
So for a while Sailor Moon sat on the back burner in America. In 2011–just in time for the 20th anniversary–Kodansha announced they were translating the manga themselves for the North American market. And they were releasing Sailor V as well! I bought the entire series again, and this translation is fantastic. Of course the anime was still in limbo. Rumors were flying that Funimation would pick it up, but in 2014 Viz announced they had acquired the rights to all 200 episodes and all three movies. Fans went wild, and Viz knows what they're doing. As of now you can watch Sailor Moon on Hulu and you can buy them on blu ray. Let me tell you. I really never thought I'd see the day. I own the series on laser disc, but I've enjoyed watching it on Hulu as well. You can also watch the new Sailor Moon anime, Sailor Moon Crystal, on Hulu!
Sailor Moon has stood the test of time. It's one of the most recognizable anime franchises in the world, and helped introduce a whole new generation of fans to anime. Sailor Moon taught me a lot growing up, and it's still to this day one of my favorite anime. If you've never watched it I strongly urge you too!