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The Secret Queer History Of Sailor Moon

If you saw the American dubs, you might never know how many characters in the popular anime series were LGBTQ. There were quite a few.

Ash Griffith | October 2, 2018

Everyone has a memory of the first lesbian couple they saw on television. For many of today’s younger generation, that memory is likely to be of Adventure Time’s Marceline and Princess Bubblegum. But those of us who grew up in the 90s remember an entirely different dynamic duo.

Originally released in 1992, the anime adaptation of the Sailor Moon manga series brought to Japanese televisions a set of five fearless teenage girls together known as the Sailor Senshi (loosely translated into English to mean Sailor Soldiers). Later in the series they would introduce two more soldiers to the mix – Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, also known as Haruka and Michiru.

Canonically, Uranus and Neptune were a lesbian couple who fought evil farther out in deep space to protect the Moon Kingdom. However, when Sailor Moon S, the third season of the anime series, finally premiered on American shores, they were very lazily introduced as “cousins,” because American-dubbed anime is usually why we just can’t have nice things.

Aside from being the token lesbian couple, Haruka and Michiru brought an entirely different dynamic to the series, which made for a significant shift in character and plot development. While the audience was used to seeing five teenage girls goofing around and having crushes on the cutely drawn boy of the week, Haruka and Michiru were a little older and brought the gravity of two people who were genuinely in love with each other, on the level of a married couple.

Each of them always spoke highly of the other one and their love, and they were never seen apart in artwork, promotional or otherwise. At one point in the series, Uranus is willing to put another Sailor Soldier’s life on the line in order to save Neptune (and also for their princess… but mostly Neptune, honestly).

Uranus, aka Haruka, specifically changed most of the series’ dynamic singlehandedly. She brought a more masculine vibe to group, along with the idea of being gender fluid. The running joke throughout the beginning of the S season (in which the duo made their debut) was that the girls all had crushes on Haruka, because they did not realize that she is actually a woman.

It should be noted that the crushes really didn’t back down after the realization was made, which adds support to the argument that the girls are all bi (which is an investigative article of it’s own — we’ll deal with it another time). Specifically Usagi, the titular Sailor Moon, is the one flirted with the most (naturally). And she never once opposes it, even when her boyfriend Mamoru is standing directly beside her.

Haruka always opts for the masculine version of the uniform for Mugen School, which she and Michiru — Neptune — attend as civilians. In fact, all of her civilian clothes are more masculine in nature. She is comfortable in her skin, and enjoys who she is. Her main hobby is driving her beloved racecar. She is one of the best racers, and is only opposed when she finally takes her helmet off to reveal that she is — gasp — a woman.

Neptune and Uranus are of course not the only ones who are blocked at the door of the English translation team. The series itself is filled with plenty of LGBTQ representation that was denied to American and Canadian audiences.

The first series, fanonically known as Sailor Moon Classic, introduced us to the couple of Malachite and Zoicite. The original characters were both men, but in America, instead of allowing two men to be in a relationship, Zoicite was given a female voice actor and all pronouns referencing him were changed to she/her.

Most famously, the final series (Sailor Moon Stars/Sailor Stars) was denied from American audiences altogether because of the inclusion of the Sailor Starlights. In the anime, the Sailor Starlights are male members of a pop band in their civilian lives, but when they transform into the Sailor Starlights, they become female. This could have been used as an allegory for the transgender community and representation — but instead, it wasn’t used at all.

So, in light of all this previously unknown information, does Sailor Moon hold up in 2018? Naturally the answer depends on which version and translation that you are looking at. If you look at it in its best possible version, the answer is absolutely yes. Sure, much of the original anime can now be considered dated, but the way it deals with certain things that the LGBTQ community, and specifically the lesbian community, go through is still relevant.

Haruka being constantly mistaken for a man by strangers, and then said strangers having conflicting feelings when the realization hits (and although it isn’t covered, this in another situation could have become dangerous for Haruka — ask Hannah Gadsby), or her having to defend her being with Michiru (who is unobjectively gorgeous) to straight men who don’t understand why she deserves Michiru more than them.

Sailor Moon, especially the original series, is at its core a show with a positive message targeted toward young girls. This is even more important in today’s climate where girls need this kind of representation, even just as a conversation piece, especially if they are LGBTQ. In light of the resurgence that Sailor Moon has experienced in the last few years, she’s definitely not going anywhere. And for that, we can be thankful.