- Tasakeru Book II Chapter 3: Complete!
- Shattered Skies Chapter 15: 8 pages done
- Magical girl photography project: 8 pictures taken, pending editing
Progress, progress, progress! After a couple slow weeks, I kicked it back into gear this week. As you can see, I got a lot done on my photography project, and the new revised chapter of Tasakeru just went up a few hours ago.
I'd like to devote the rest of the space this week to something that's fresh in my mind, and itching to get out. My best friend VDrake (he of Changeling of the Guard) and I have been watching the classic Sailor Moon anime on Hulu for the last two years. It's been my first time seeing it in Japanese in its entirety, and his first time seeing it at all. Having grown up with Sailor Moon, I've been thrilled to revisit it and commentate on it with VDrake... for the most part. Unfortunately, as any who have watched the first anime at length are aware, after Sailor Moon S, there's a steep drop in the show's quality, from which it never recovers.
Now, I've maintained for many years that SuperS is the worst of the classic anime's five seasons by far. However, now that we're three episodes from the end of Stars, the fifth season, and I'm watching it for only the second time... I've revised my opinion. 90s!Stars is far, far worse.
What follows is a RANT, so please keep in mind that most if not all of my opinions will not be objective. Also, SPOILERS for a 20-year-old classic anime, and for the original Sailor Moon manga, which will (hopefully) someday be adapted for future seasons Sailor Moon Crystal. If you're watching Sailor Moon Crystal without knowledge of the manga continuity, everything past this point can be considered MAJOR SPOILERS.
The cracks started showing in the original Sailor Moon anime in SuperS, of course. They gave control of the show over to a man who disliked what made it stand out in the first place, and who hated one of its main characters with a passion. That main character was Mamoru Chiba / Tuxedo Mask, Usagi's destined lover. But this man hated him, and decided Usagi would be better shipped with Rei, and besides that, that the anime would be better if it were less about fighting evil and monsters and more about fairy tale romance. Toei also decided at around that point that what the series needed more of was Chibi-Usa, since she was popular with the target audience (young girls), so she was to receive increased focus. As it happened, that managed to gel more or less with her role in the fourth arc of the manga, which SuperS would be based on.
The problem was, Mamoru also had an increased role in that arc, with him coming into his own as the bearer of the Golden Crystal, the counterpart to Usagi's Silver Crystal. How to adapt that with a showrunner who hated him? And how to adapt the increasing darkness of the manga in general?
By not doing so at all, apparently.
In SuperS, Chibi-Usa took over the show, was featured in every episode, and suddenly became smarter and more worldly than the entire rest of the cast, frequently lecturing them on the errors of their ways. Usagi became a supporting character in her own show. Poor Mamoru was shoved into the background, made to look stupid whenever possible, and sidelined for the final battle. They even took away the Golden Crystal, more or less removing his connection to it entirely. All of the great fight scenes from the previous seasons disappeared, the monsters of the day ceased to become any threat at all and only showed up out of obligation. The important subplots of the manga's fourth arc were completely discarded, as was its fleshing out of the series's mythology and backstory, as was its nightmarish imagery. All this was changed in favor of more time spent of Chibi-Usa and her burgeoning romance with a horse.
To say this backfired horribly was an understatement. Sailor Moon SuperS actually got the series briefly cancelled, and was only brought back as Sailor Stars after a program of massive changes.
To be fair, there were massive changes in store for Stars in the manga, too, but the two approaches to the story from there are night and day.
The Stars arc of the manga was the darkest by far, with the new villain debuting by savagely killing Mamoru before a traumatized Usagi's eyes. It introduced the Sailor Star Lights, a trio of alien Senshi disguised as male pop idols. It delved into a destructive war for the fate of the galaxy against corrupted Sailor Senshi, with the characters we know dying one by one until only Usagi is left. It ended with a spectacular finale at the center of the Milky Way, in which Usagi confronted the source of all the evil she had ever faced, and made the ultimate sacrifice to save everyone and everything she loved. It brought the series full circle, ending on her rebirth and ascension to the throne of Crystal Tokyo, her conception of Chibi-Usa, and her marriage to her beloved Mamoru.
90s anime!Stars has some of the right notes, but it plays the music completely wrong.
There's still a war for the galaxy, the corrupted Sailor Senshi, the death of Mamoru and the other characters, and the debut of Sailor Star Lights... but in each of those cases, they chose the worst possible ways of implementing them.
It's the Star Lights I'm going to be focusing on, in a section I'd like to call:
Lost in Translation, or Why 90s Anime!Seiya is a Horrible Douchewaffle
In the manga, the Star Lights were bit characters at most. They were there to set the stage for what was to come, have a minor subplot looking for their lost Princess, and die in the last quarter of the story. They were never important, they were never supposed to be love interests for any of the major characters, and most importantly, they were NEVER men. At any point, at all. They dressed as men as part of their pop idol disguises, but were always, always, always fully women. Naoko Takeuchi said it herself as a cardinal rule: only women can be Sailor Senshi. She wrote and drew the damn manga, so if anyone should have authority, it's her.
Toei wanted to bring the audience back for Sailor Stars, so with the new showrunner's help they decided to take the controversial step of giving Usagi a new prospective love interest. That role went to Seiya Ko, Sailor Star Fighter. To further drum up controversy (one assumes), it was decided that the Star Lights would be male in civilian form and female when transformed. This had absolutely no basis in the manga, baffled Takeuchi, and kept the final season from being legally viewable in America for twenty years. The Star Lights also hogged the spotlight just as Chibi-Usa had the year before, to an even more annoying degree. Taiki / Sailor Star Healer and Yaten / Sailor Star Maker are flat, unpleasant characters, trying to be likeable anti-heroes and failing miserably, but they're at least preferable to Seiya.
Instead of being a disguised girl completely devoted to the search for her beloved Princess, 90s anime!Seiya was a male stalker. There's really no other way to put this. He repeatedly pursues Usagi despite her telling him point blank, multiple times, that she has a boyfriend that she's in love with... whom she doesn't know is dead, but that's beside the point. Seiya keeps pushing and pushing, asking her manipulative questions like "Am I not good enough?" and trying to date her, even though there's already a Princess from his world that he's supposed to love with all his heart, and an important mission to complete that doesn't leave time for fooling around.
This is disturbing enough, but more disturbing is that the show keeps trying to push them together and portray Usagi as conflicted about whether to reciprocate, even though Mamoru is her destined lover and she knows it. The show is pulling her one way, but everything we've come to know and love about her character is pulling her another.
All this comes to a head in a scene with an ending that I had forgotten since I watched Stars for the first time ten years ago. Sailor Moon is under attack from a villain, and someone throws a rose from on high, just like in the old days... Finally, finally, she thinks, Mamoru is back! We even hear his classic Tuxedo Mask theme music and see his silhouette...! Wait, nope, it's just Seiya with his jacket over his shoulder like a cape, in an incredible coincidence that nonetheless comes off as a complete dick move.
So the sight of the rose sends Usagi into a full breakdown, where she bursts into tears and wonders why Mamoru hasn't called or written to her in months. She collapses to the roof of the school, sobbing "Mamo-chan... Mamo-chan! I want to see you... I want to see you...!"
Here's the part of the scene I had forgotten. Seiya kneels down to the near-hysterical Usagi, pulls her way too close, and says...
"Can I take his place?"
Can I take his place.
This is so royally fucked up that I'm actually astonished I didn't remember it, even after all this time. Seiya, dude, there is a teenage girl in front of you, having a heartbreaking emotional crisis that you triggered, intentional or not. She's weeping because she hasn't heard word one from her beloved boyfriend in months, and she's been worried sick. This is in addition to the constant attacks on her life, and the lives of her friends. And your response is to ask her, at one of the most miserable, vulnerable moments of her life, "Can I take his place?"
This is not the behavior of someone in love. This is not the behavior of someone desperately looking for a lost loved one (whom, I stress, he has already found at this point.) This is not the behavior of any sort of virtuous figure. This is the behavior of a psychopath, or at very least an insensitive asshole. It is not romantic, at all, in any way. And yet, I've seen Usagi/Seiya shippers, on this very site and elsewhere, holding them up as the series's OTP. If anything, it gets worse in the following episode, where during what they think is their goodbye, Seiya says these two lines to Usagi in close succession, if not one after the other: "I'm planning on stealing you away... I hope you see your boyfriend soon." I didn't remember those lines either, but hearing them a few hours ago had me goggling at my monitor in disbelief.
I don't often do this, but I've got to ask: Usagi/Seiya shippers, what the hell is wrong with you?! Even putting aside the havoc that pairing would wreak on the story, the thought of Usagi reciprocating is wildly out of character, or the contrived circumstances, what part of Seiya constantly trying to pressure Usagi into a romance despite her repeated refusal is okay? What part of Seiya trying to take advantage of her heartbreak during a breakdown is remotely acceptable?
The events of the two episodes I've described did the near-impossible: as I've said above, they convinced me that the 90s anime version of Stars is actually worse than the Chibi-centric antics of SuperS. If you couldn't already tell by the length of this rant, I'm appalled and disgusted... frankly, it sickens me that one of my favorite anime series of all time could put forth something like this, something so purely fucked up from the very inception... and even worse, expect the audience to agree with it.
I'm so disgusted, in fact, that I'm actually having trouble finding words to articulate it. Maybe it was a desperate attempt to save the show that failed horribly, maybe it was a relic of the time, or Japan's often-backwards attitudes on gender and romantic relations. I don't know, I'll need some more time to think on it... but I'll say this much. After we finish the last three episodes, this will be the second time I've seen the 90s anime's Sailor Stars arc all the way through... and also the last time. Anime!Seiya has made me so mad that I'm swearing off an entire season of classic Sailor Moon for good. That's almost unbelievable, knowing me.
To sum up in conclusion: 90s anime!Seiya is the series's Edward Cullen, and if I were a less mature and more petty person, I'd seriously consider him showing up in Shattered Skies just to have Joker gleefully kill him off.