A History of Sailor Moon

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The Sailor Moon series originally began in early 1992, when manga (Japanese cartoons/comics) artist Naoko Takeuchi published a comic called Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon in a shoujo manga magazine called Nakoyashi. The series, featuring five schoolgirl superheroes, was a spin-off of an earlier, experimental comic by Takeuchi called Codename Sailor-V, whose heroine Aino Minako later become one of the main characters in Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon. A month after the manga was released, the first episode of the Sailor Moon anime series aired on television in Japan.

Within a year, ratings of both the manga and the show skyrocketed. Sailor Moon toys were selling out of stores at unprecedented rates. It became clear by the end of the first season of the anime that Takeuchi had a potential pop culture icon on her hands. After its scheduled one year run, the series was renewed for a second season of the same length. Soon, the show began appearing in other mediums of entertainment. In late 1993, a Sailor Moon musical, nicknamed Sera Myuu, debuted and became a complete success. Likewise, Sailor Moon movies proved to be a smash hit at the big-screen box offices around Japan.

In September of 1995, Sailor Moon came to North America in the form of an English dub produced by DIC. The craze was evidently internationally contagious. The show was so popular that it played a pivotal role in incorporating Japanese anime into mainstream America. Unfortunately, the relationship between Bandai, the Japanese company that holds the rights to the show, and DIC turned sour, and Sailor Moon often became a casualty of company egos. Of course, the North American Sailor Moon fan base would have none of it, pany, until eventually Cartoon Network, Toonami, Cloverway, and Pioneer had all gotten a piece of this unexpected phenomenon.

For five years, Sailor Moon continued to return to television in Japan as Sailor Moon R, Sailor Moon S, Sailor Moon SuperS, and Sailor Moon Sailor Stars. With a whopping total of 200 episodes, it was one of the longest running shoujo anime series in television. Over the same period of time, Kodansha released 18 full-length volumes of the manga graphic novels, altogether spanning 52 individual installments (called Acts). After half a decade of unbridled popularity, the show came to a close in early 1997. The show is still in syndication in Japan, and the Sera Myuu musical performances continue to be performed to this day.

But it was far from over in North America. Fans refused to rest until at least the first four season of Sailor Moon had been dubbed and aired on television. Furthermore, in spite of a largely successful underground fansub movement, many fans remained unhappy with the censorship North American dubs often inflicted upon the show. They called for a professionally subtitled version and were rewarded when Pioneer finally released subtitled versions of Sailor Moon S and Sailor Moon SuperS. As 2001 drew to a close, it seemed the battle for Sailor Moon had finally
died down.

It wasn't until 2 years later, in the summer of 2003, when the stirrings of another Sailor Moon frenzy began. Rumors of the production of a new Sailor Moon anime series spread rapidly, only to be quelled by an even more implausible rumor: the production of a Japanese live action version. The prospect of live action Sailor Moon was met with a unanimous disbelief and mixed feelings. Some felt the show would be ruined for them, others were ecstatic. Then came AD Vision's surprising announcement that the first two seasons of the anime series would be released subtitled and uncut on DVD. On top of that, Takeuchi and Kodansha announced that the manga series would be re-released, with new cover designs and minor changes here and there.

All rumors and announcements were confirmed. The first episode of the live action Sailor Moon television series aired on October 4, 2003, and the first volume of the new version of the manga was released that same month. Known as Bishoujo Senshi Sailomoon to its Japanese audience, the live action series and the new manga were the first of the Sailor Moon incarnations to officially attach an English title to the show.* Though the anime and original manga versions were commonly referred to by the English speaking audience as BSSM or simply Sailor Moon, non-Japanese Sailor Moon fans quickly adopted this new official English title. Today, references to the acronym PGSM in the Sailor Moon community are usually specific to the live action series.

As a result of improved technology and the existence of a firmly established and dedicated fan base, North American fans had no trouble accessing the show this time around. Though PGSM was at first met with lukewarm and sarcastic reactions, it looks like more and more Sailor Moon fans are warming up to the live action series as the show progresses. Which brings us to the question: at this rate, will Sailor Moon ever really come to an end? Will a day come when new incarnations of this icon in shoujo manga stop manifesting?

We certainly hope not.

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