Scan | Journal of Media Arts Culture
Volume 9 Number 1 2012

"Moon Prism Power, Make-Up!": Sailor Moon and the Transformation of the Multiform Story in Modern Media

Lynn Gelfand

Today, a comic book narrative is often refracted into a colorful array of genres, media formats, and expressive consumer uses that can include films, toys, and fan-made products that entirely rework stories and characters. This multifaceted storytelling process, while appearing to grow out of the new proliferation of contemporary media, actually harkens back to the traditional "multiform" tale of orality, where the fluid and flexible format of oral performance allowed tale tellers to explore the plot permutations that were inherent within the parameters of a given story. As classicist and oral performance scholar Albert Lord notes, the multiform tale is, by its nature, a storytelling structure where every performed tale is "haunted" by alternative plot possibilities "simply because the theme involved can lead in more than one path." By closely examining the Sailor Moon media franchise, we can explore the new incarnation of the old oral multiform story and see how a modern comic book narrative changes in terms of: (1) genre adaptation (i.e. transferring older folkloric genres like folk tale, myth, and fairy tale into newer popular culture genres like "magical girl" and "battle team" tales); (2) media adaptation (i.e. transferring a comic book series into an animated series and a live action television show), and; (3) consumer adaptation (i.e. transferring producer-oriented materials into consumer-created products e.g. fan fiction, fan music videos, etc.). Each new adaption, it can be argued, transforms the narrative of Sailor Moon in much the same way that the title character of the comic books is transformed from an ordinary schoolgirl into a warrior-princess; each transformation of the story into a new genre, a new medium, or a new audience-made product makes the original printed story richer and more powerful.

The Multiform Story

In The Singer of Tales, Albert Lord demonstrates that oral compositions, unlike written texts, are not fixed artifacts frozen in time. Rather they are fluid, protean entities, containing additions, subtractions, and digressions from one telling to the next (101). An oral story can change subtly or dramatically depending on a constellation of factors in an ever-shifting environment that affects how the story unfolds. Who is the narrator? Who is in the audience? Why is the tale being told? How is the audience reacting? A stranger who is telling a story to entertain very young children might not linger on the parts of a tale that could frighten a child, but may accentuate those aspects of the tale for dramatic effect while narrating the story to an adult audience composed of close friends. However, if the narrator's purpose is to instruct children, s/he may emphasize the more ominous elements of the tale in order to highlight a particular message. Moreover, an oral tale, unlike a written text, can shift direction as it is being told; a tale of romance might gradually become more action-oriented if that appears to be the preference of those who are listening.

A multiform story is not an actual story. Instead, it is an aggregate of the many variants of a story-a type of conceptual meta-story containing all the possible branching pathways that can exist within the boundaries of a single narrative. For example, the French version of "Cinderella" incorporates the famous fairy godmother and stresses forgiveness and harmony among siblings at the end of the tale (the stepsisters are given in marriage to noblemen). In the German version of "Cinderella," however, the magical helper is a tree over the grave of the heroine's dead mother and the fate of the heroine's stepsisters is much grimmer (their eyes are pecked out by birds). In the Zũni version of "Cinderella," magical turkeys richly attire a poor girl, thus enabling her to attend a village festival, but the tale ends on a sad note-the girl forgets the turkeys' plea to return to them in time and the heartbroken turkeys depart, leaving the girl once again bereft.

While the French, German, and Zũni versions of "Cinderella" are clearly distinct from each other, they are still structurally identifiable as "Cinderella" tales. All three variants rely on the same key features:

1) Similar character types (a menial heroine and a magical helper or helpers).

2) Similar thematic episodes (the call to an important communal event, magical aid, and a rags-to-riches transformation).

3) Comparable plotlines (a poor girl must magically assume the persona of a wealthier and/or more powerful individual in order to attend a significant social gathering).

Though different narrators can flesh out the skeleton of a story in a multitude of ways, the basic structure of a tale-the character types, thematic episodes, and overarching plot-works as a constraining mechanism that enables oral tale tellers to maintain the general stability of a narrative so that it remains recognizable. At the same time, the narrative structure provides a level of flexibility that enables narrators to reshape the features of a tale as needed, thereby ensuring continued interest in the story.

The Basic Storyline of Sailor Moon

The protagonist of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (full title) is a modern Japanese teenage schoolgirl named Usagi Tsukino. Usagi is the reincarnation of Princess Serenity, a princess from an ancient moon kingdom. The name Usagi Tsukino translates to "rabbit of the moon" in Japanese, a play on the Japanese folk custom of perceiving a rabbit's face on the surface of the moon. The term "sailor" in the title Sailor Moon is a reference to the sailor-inspired uniforms Japanese schoolchildren are required to wear. Such uniforms carry the connotation of youth and, therefore, imply innocence and purity of spirit.

Princess Serenity's kingdom, Usagi discovers, was destroyed a thousand years ago by the queen of a rival kingdom who had been corrupted by forces on the dark side of the moon. The queen was jealous of the romance that existed between Princess Serenity and a prince from earth named Endymion. The forbidden affair between the princess and her earthly lover (the heavenly and earthly worlds are not meant to mix) ultimately led to the destruction of the moon through warfare.

On earth in the late 20th century, the queen's forces of darkness are gathering again, this time with the intent to destroy the earth. By using a magical brooch given to her by a talking black cat named Luna from the old moon kingdom and reciting a magical incantation, Usagi regularly transforms into a warrior-princess wielding a jeweled baton in order to fight the forces of evil. She is assisted by the reincarnated Endymion, known in this time by the name Mamoru (which means "protect"). Like Usagi, he has a secret alter ego that is referred to as Tuxedo Mask. Usagi is also aided by eight reincarnated former female soldiers-special guardians-from the princess's former moon kingdom. Each guardian has an ordinary, earthly identity and a celestial aspect that is based on the planet whose power the guardian embodies. Sailor Mars, for example, is hot tempered and can control fire, while Sailor Pluto is cool, quiet, and can manipulate time and space.     

Genre Transformations

Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon comic book series, which was published from 1992 until 1997, draws its storyline from five different genres. The first three sources for Sailor Moon derive from the venerable realms of folk tale, myth, and fairy tale, while the latter two sources, "magical girl" and "battle team," are genres associated chiefly with contemporary Japanese manga (comic books) and anime (animation). Takeuchi's series fuses traditional folk narratives with modern popular media in a manner that redefines and transforms the original source materials while still retaining the essence of each genre: a present-day manifestation of the old oral multiform tale for a media-saturated society.      

The first source for Sailor Moon is a Japanese folk tale known variously as "The Tale of Princess Kaguya" or "The Bamboo Cutter." A folk tale is a traditional fictional narrative that has its roots in orality. "The Tale of Princess Kaguya" details the life of a mysterious girl found inside a stalk of bamboo by a poor, childless bamboo cutter. The bamboo cutter and his wife raise the girl as their own child. After taking the child in, a nugget of gold is found in every bamboo stalk the bamboo cutter harvests. The family is soon rich. As the girl grows, news of her beauty reaches distant lands. After setting her suitors many tasks and falling in love with an emperor, the girl reveals that she is a princess from the moon who was sent to earth to protect her from a celestial war (in some versions she was sent to earth for an unspecified crime). She must now return to her own world, much to the sorrow of those who love her. Like Princess Kaguya in the Japanese folk tale, Takeuchi's Usagi has a secret past as a royal personage that is at odds with her seemingly humble origins on earth. Moreover, like Kaguya, Usagi is a girl who has come from the moon. Both young women are earthly beings and celestial creatures simultaneously, and both have been denied romantic relationships with human men by forces beyond their control.

The second source for Sailor Moon is the Greek myth of the lunar goddess Selene, who fell in love with the beautiful shepherd boy Endymion. In other versions of the myth, Endymion is a mighty hunter or a king. A myth is a narrative that supports the cosmology of a culture. Unlike a folk tale, a myth is (or once was) intended to be believed as true. In the myth of Selene, Zeus, the ruler of the gods, places Endymion into an eternal sleep (in some versions to punish Endymion for his affair with the moon goddess, in others at the request of Selene who asks that he be granted eternal youth). With his beauty preserved forever, Selene visits her beloved sleeping mortal every night. As with the Japanese folk tale of Princess Kaguya, Takeuchi draws on the Greek myth of the goddess Selene to portray the intersection of the celestial and human worlds through traditional moon lore, and to address issues of loss and love that is unfulfilled. Eternal sleep (Endymion in the myth) and death (Endymion in the manga) are mere breaths away from each other. The tragedy of lovers who belong to different domains-one lunar and the other terrestrial-is what sets the events of Sailor Moon in motion.

The third source for Sailor Moon comes from a variety of fairy tales. A fairy tale is a traditional fictional tale that is marked by certain aesthetic principles, such as: simplicity (an absence of unessential details e.g. an archetypal princess or castle); clarity (extremes and contrasts e.g. goodness vs. evil), and; an emphasis on visible surfaces and clearly delineated objects (e.g. swords and gold slippers) (Lüthi 50-54). Like a fairy tale, Sailor Moon is grounded in a hieratic and abstracted world that contains archetypal characters (a princess, a prince, a villainous queen), a storyline that is marked by extremes and contrasts (actions that are purely good or purely evil), and objects that stand out in their clarity and brilliance (magic jewels, crystal castles, and golden batons). In addition to reflecting the aesthetic style of the fairy tale, Sailor Moon merges the content of two well known-but very different-fairy tales to create a modern, gender-bending fractured fairy tale, one where the heroine of "Cinderella" (a poor girl who leads a secret life as a princess) can morph into the hero of "The Dragon Slayer" (a prince who defeats a monstrous being that threatens the safety of a kingdom).

The fourth source for Sailor Moon comes from a popular modern genre that evolved within the conventions of Japanese manga and anime. It is known as the "magical girl" genre and it is part of a larger category of stories that is collectively referred to as shōjo ("young girl"). Thematically, shōjo stories revolve around personal growth and conflicts that involve friendship and romance. Stylistically, such stories are marked by delicately drawn lines, organic images that connote warmth (hearts, flowers, and small animals), and inorganic materials that sparkle (effervescent bubbles, crystals, and gold). Magical girl stories, such as Magical Angel Creamy Mami and Hime-chan's Ribbon, draw on such shōjo fare. In a typical magical girl story, a little girl obtains an enchanted object (a wand, a ribbon, a bracelet, etc.) that enables her to change into an older form of herself and/or other personas. Often, the enchanted object is a piece of jewelry or cosmetic tool-symbols of femininity and womanhood that would appeal to little girls who dream of being grown up. The girl in the story learns from her various personal experiences, overcoming an assortment of obstacles and usually winning the heart of a boy she loves in the process. Using her power to change identities, the girl is able to do things that she would normally be unable to do as a child, such as become a famous pop singer-however, the new identity must remain a secret. A common staple of the magical girl genre is the clash between the young girl's glamorous but clandestine older persona and her more mundane life as a child. This duality is a frequent motif in Sailor Moon, where the secret magical life that Usagi leads as a warrior-princess from the moon stands in sharp (and often humorous) contrast to her experiences as an ordinary schoolgirl who struggles with homework, personal insecurities, and romantic confusion.

The fifth source for Takeuchi's series springs from another modern popular genre, one found in Japanese manga and anime as well as live action television. This is known as the "battle team" genre and it falls within a category of tales called shōnen ("young boy"). Shōnen tales feature boldly drawn lines and emphasize conflicts that take place in a context of epic adventure and action-driven storylines. The anime series Voltron and the live action television show known in the United States as The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are representative of the battle team genre. Battle team tales revolve around a group of young people (often boys) who must band together during combat (using either giant robots or highly developed martial prowess) in order to overcome an evil foe or dangerous cosmic forces. As with battle team narratives, cooperation and group dynamics are central to the story of Sailor Moon. Throughout the series it is clear that however powerful she may be, Usagi cannot not regularly defeat the dark forces that threaten her new homeland without the help and companionship of her friends and her lover. The characters must function as a cohesive unit if they are to survive and save the earth from the powers that tore apart the civilization of the moon.

For the Sailor Moon manga, Takeuchi took five different genres (a folk tale, a myth, the fairy tale, the magical girl story, and the battle team narrative) and synthesized them into something entirely new: a very modern fairy tale with strong mythic overtones featuring a young girl who magically transforms into a princess from the moon in order to battle the forces of darkness while aided by her truelove and a group of female warriors.

Media Transformations

Between 1992 and 1997, Takeuchi's eighteen-volume, black and white manga was made into a colored, animated television series that ran for two hundred episodes. This was followed by a forty-nine episode live action television series that aired between 2003 and 2004. Each incarnation of the story in a new medium reinterpreted the story and characters in a new way. For example, despite the common graphical element, Takeuchi's manga differs significantly in terms of structure and content from the anime television series, and both the manga and the anime television series are distinct from the live action television series, even though animation and live action are both kinetic art forms.

As a medium, a comic book is unlike a textual book with illustrations. An illustrated book simply places words and images side by side. In a comic book, words and images are interdependent, and the empty space between frames is charged with significance. This empty space is where the human imagination must take two separate images and/or texts and personally create a logical link between the two (McCloud 66). There is a pleasurable sense of agency in navigating the visual complexity of a comic book page that differs from the forward moving, linear, word-by-word route associated with text-heavy books. The reader of a comic book has to actively put a narrative together by moving through a variety of information spaces: circles containing dialogue, bubbles containing thoughts, captions containing descriptive text, pictures without words, and the empty spaces between frames.

Despite the fact that both Western comics and Japanese manga fall within the realm of the comic book, the structure of Japanese manga is somewhat different from the structure found in Western comics. Western comic books tend to be dominated by pictorial sequences like action to action transitions (e.g. a frame of a batter getting ready to hit, followed by another frame of the batter swinging); subject to subject transitions (e.g. a frame showing a runner crossing a finishing line, followed by a frame depicting a stop-watch clicking); and scene to scene transitions (e.g. a frame of a person sitting in a bar, followed by a frame showing the exterior of a house with the caption "Meanwhile...") (McCloud 74-75). Japanese manga, by contrast, emphasizes moment to moment transitions (e.g. a frame of a person opening her eyes wide in shock, succeeded by a frame of the same person closing her eyes with a pained expression) and aspect to aspect transitions (e.g. a frame of wind chimes gently blowing in the breeze and another frame showing a small garden pond: images that evoke a sense of calm and peace) (McCloud 78-79).

Japanese manga tends to place a great deal of emphasis on small details and mood to convey a story (Kelts 62). This is especially true in shōjo manga, where frames of different sizes and shapes are often embedded into or overlap other frames, creating a more fluid relationship among frames than is commonly found in the sequentially-driven, box-like frames of Western comic books. This enables shōjo manga to achieve a more cinematic approach to narrative. One often finds in shōjo manga the sudden "close-up" frame in the middle of a set of action panels, a "panning" across peripheral settings, and diverse "camera shots" of a single scene (Kelts 42-43). This cinematic quality can be seen in the first volume of Sailor Moon when Usagi meets her reincarnated lover at a lavish masquerade ball, with neither yet knowing of their past-life connection.

In Takeuchi's manga, Mamoru is college student who is haunted by inexplicable dreams that compel him to search for a mysterious crystal, leading him to adopt the nightly disguise of

Tuxedo Mask as he tries to acquire the object and unlock the memories of his forgotten past. Usagi is searching for the crystal as well in order to defeat the villains she must face. Mamoru and Usagi each believe the other is an enemy as their paths continually cross in the hunt for the crystal. On the manga page depicting their meeting at a masquerade ball, we see a tall, rectangular frame of Mamoru in a tuxedo and an eye-mask (the attire he usually wears as he searches for the crystal). He is standing alone against a balcony with a crescent moon hanging in the night sky. Below this is a long rectangular frame of Usagi, who has used her magic bejeweled baton to clothe herself as a princess in order to fit in at the masquerade. She has snuck into the party uninvited to look for the magic crystal, which might be hidden among the jewelry at the opulent mansion. She is wandering the room searching for people she might know. Below this is a tall, narrow frame depicting a multitude of people at the party chattering happily in a ballroom, which is dominated by a high ceiling and large, arched windows, emphasizing the vastness of the room. Next to this is an even narrower frame of Usagi looking forlorn and Mamoru turning to notice his rival. Right beside that frame is a shorter but slightly wider frame with a close-up of Usagi appearing desolate, with the text "I'm dressed up as a princess...But all alone...How lonely." The frame next to that simply contains words spoken by Mamoru, "Beautiful princess...," and is followed with the turn of a page by a long, large rectangular frame that extends across two pages, with Mamoru asking "May I have this dance?" as he sweeps his surprised rival into his arms for a dance. Unlike the neatly concise and regularly sized, action-oriented frames usually found in Western comic books, in Sailor Moon, several frames of varying shapes and sizes-taking up a total of three pages-are used to establish a certain mood through cinematic techniques.         

Despite the cinematic quality of the Sailor Moon manga, the televised, weekly anime is very different. On the whole, the anime is lighter and funnier than the manga, with more emphasis placed on sight gags and the personality quirks of the main characters. In both the manga and anime Usagi is depicted as somewhat clumsy, prone to laziness and more than a bit dense at times. Nonetheless, the humorous moments in the manga involving Usagi's differences from the regal Serenity are balanced by numerous lushly romantic scenes (e.g. the masquerade ball discussed above) and a slow but steady pattern of growth as Usagi confronts her weaknesses and matures into a woman who is not unlike the princess. In contrast, Usagi in the anime is mainly cast as the antithesis of the moon princess. Her dissimilarity from Serenity is continually highlighted in the show and played for laughs. In the anime, Sailor Moon functions as a medial point between Usagi (who is a rather ditzy and easily flustered schoolgirl) and the calm and patrician Serenity (who holds a position of adult-like responsibility as a princess). The anime takes advantage of its kinetic environment by using a great deal of slapstick humor to distinguish the earthly Usagi from her solemn, heavenly counterpart. This humor also allows viewers who tune in each week to quickly grasp the dynamics of the show, establishing a strong sense of continuity; while Usagi might not appear to be up to the task of saving the world, as Sailor Moon she always pulls through by the end of each episode, giving hope to real life schoolgirls (and schoolboys) who are at a stage where they too feel socially awkward, physically clumsy, and frequently confused.  

The kinetic dimension of the Sailor Moon anime means that the anime has to be more action-oriented than the manga. In contrast to the manga, which advances its storyline in a fairly linear manner, each half-hour anime episode centers around certain formulistic devices, such as the characters' transformation scenes (from ordinary girls to magical warriors) and their battles with various weekly villains who are in the employ of the evil queen. Action sequences-like battles between the main characters and the weekly villain-work better in animation than they do in print since animation can convey the speed and agitation that accompanies combat more easily than still pictures. Transformation scenes also look better in the anime. In the black and white manga, a transformation scene might be portrayed with one or two frames. By contrast, an animated transformation scene depicting sparkling stars and shimmering reams of color might run from 30 seconds to over a minute-taking up a great deal of temporal "real estate" in a show that is only about 25 minutes long. Such carefully animated transformation scenes-as well as large portions of the combat scenes-usually depend on stock footage that is repeated in every episode, thus making such scenes more cost-effective to use and less time-consuming than having animators create entirely new scenes from scratch.

Formulaic devices like stock footage of transformation scenes and weekly plotlines that always culminate in a battle also aid the animators in their storytelling since, unlike the author/artist of a manga, animators have to produce an entirely new story each week that performs a dual function. The episode must be a self-contained story, with a beginning that sets up an ordinary situation in which the characters eventually discover or are confronted by a villain; a middle where the characters fight against and defeat the villain; and an ending where the "ordinary" story with which the episode started is wrapped up. Each episode usually explores the life of the characters in some manner or expands on their interests, eccentricities, personal dilemmas, strengths, and shortcomings. At the same time, the self-contained episodes must also move the larger, sweeping storyline forward (the need to defeat the source of evil that threatens the earth). Transformation and combat sequences are stable cores around which animators can construct weekly episodes within a short amount of time.

The differences between a printed manga (where one can linger over detailed illustrations) and a televised storyline that has to be tied up in a half hour is demonstrated in the anime's version of the masquerade ball in episode 22 of the first season. Unlike the manga, the anime scene does not focus exclusively on the star-crossed couple. Instead, the scene is intercut with other scenes involving peripheral characters who move the plot of the hunt for the crystal along. Moreover, in the anime's portrayal of the ball, the connection between Usagi and Mamoru is more direct. In the manga, no motivation is given for Mamoru asking Usagi to dance other than an undefined attraction he feels for a girl he believes to be his enemy and his inferred pity for Usagi's crushing realization that she is all alone in the midst of a glamorous crowd. In the anime, less effort is made to emphasize the feelings of despair that draw Mamoru to Usagi. Rather, Usagi seems only slightly downhearted that she is by herself and the audience is given access to Mamoru's thoughts which show that he asks her to dance because seeing her in her ball gown triggers certain memories, causing him to realize that Usagi is linked in some way to the nameless girl who haunts his dreams. Content that the manga leaves as implied has to be made explicit in the anime so that the audience can easily follow an action-oriented story that is packed with events in a relatively small amount of time.

Though the televised, weekly live action Sailor Moon series also relies on the broad humor, extended transformations scenes, and battle sequences found in the anime, the live action series is in many ways darker and more dramatic. It brings out other, more sophisticated features in the story that are not present in either the anime or the original manga. In the live action series, the role of the princess and her relationship to her present, earthly incarnation is more complex than in either the anime or the manga. In the live action television show, the princess is not merely goodness personified but instead represents both the light and dark aspects of the moon. The princess is kind and has the power to heal others magically through her loving nature, but her grief and rage over the death of Endymion, who dies trying to protect her during the celestial war, causes the destruction of the moon, wiping all life from its surface and leaving it in the barren state in which it now exists. As the live action series progresses, the comically obtuse but essentially goodhearted Usagi matures as she struggles with this duality, using the magical powers of the princess to protect the earth while trying to rein in the destructive potential that comes with such power.

Though the weekly live action series does employ the requisite battle sequences that characterize the animated series, less emphasis is placed on combat scenes since such scenes are harder and more costly to reproduce using live actors. Instead, more time is spent on the personal growth of the heroine and the complicated inner lives of her friends, a focus that emerges naturally from the dramatic format of a live action series that fleshes out narrative elements from previous, simpler stories. In the live action series, the contrast between the goofy but ever-friendly Usagi and the powerful but isolated princess is central to the storyline; it is an opposition that does not align precisely with the farcical-Usagi/dignified-Serenity duality found in the manga and anime. The storyline of the live action show shifts the focus from a young girl growing into the role of a princess to an exploration of the ambiguous nature of power. The question in the live action show is not "How will Usagi become the princess?" but "Should Usagi become the princess?"

Once again, the masquerade scene illustrates the multiform nature of a narrative that is refracted through different media formats. The elegant masquerade ball of the manga and the anime is replaced in episode 4 of the live action series by a more realistic Halloween party that seems strictly comedic on the surface. Mamoru is dressed as his alter ego Tuxedo Mask, but Usagi, instead of being dressed as a princess, is in a bulky brown bear costume, emphasizing the vast difference between the earthy, cheerful Usagi and the celestial, somber Serenity. Usagi's costume makes it difficult for her to see and she trips, automatically putting her arms around the person in front of her to stop herself from falling. She looks up and realizes that the person she has embraced is the mysterious young man she keeps running into as Sailor Moon. Mamoru, however, only sees a ridiculous costume and brusquely walks away to search for the crystal, not recognizing that the rival he is falling in love with is beneath the absurd disguise. Though Usagi sighs in longing as the enigmatic Tuxedo Mask retreats from her, she quickly regains her exuberant spirits when she gets an idea. Approaching the DJ, she requests that a song from "Moon Girl" be played for "Masked Man"; nothing keeps the optimistic live action Usagi down for long. Unlike the brooding princess, Usagi is adept at forging strong affective connections between people, bringing them together despite the odds. This scene also embodies the concatenation of hidden identities that is associated with Usagi in the live action series: inside the heavy costume is the lighthearted Usagi; inside the lighthearted Usagi is the martial Sailor Moon; inside the martial Sailor Moon is the ethereal princess; inside the ethereal princess is the power of creation and destruction.

As with the anime, the live action masquerade scene between Usagi and Mamoru is interlaced with other scenes that move the plot along. However, the live action masquerade scene is also intercut with emotionally charged scenes between the shy Ami (Sailor Mercury) and the surly Rei (Sailor Mars) that do not appear in either the manga or the anime. Ami and Rei both struggle with emotional wounds that they strive to hide, reinforcing the masquerade motif and the theme of nested identities. Each girl is lonely in her own way and each learns to find strength in the other's companionship during this episode. Usagi's moment of despair at the masquerade ball in the manga, which is largely absent from the anime, is transferred to her two friends in the live action show, multiplying and magnifying the sense of loneliness by giving it a level of depth and significance that did not exist in the manga. This makes the united battle at the end of the live action episode more compelling since it demonstrates the growing bond between the characters and the positive influence that the goodhearted Usagi is having on her friends. As the live action series progresses, Usagi will find that she needs their staunch friendship as she faces her own inner darkness in the form of the dual-natured princess who dwells within her.

Producer-Consumer Transformations

A number of commercial products associated with Sailor Moon have also been released, including music CDs and trinkets like key chains and collectable figurines. Various types of toys for children are available, such as plush animals, dolls, and replicas of objects seen in the series (i.e. play jewelry, make-up tools, and batons). There are also a number of video games based on the story. These games repackage the known tale by adding interactive features in which players control the characters as they move through virtual spaces, collect objects, acquire powers, battle their opponents, and solve puzzles. Early games focused chiefly on combat and the special attacks associated with the characters, while the later, technologically advanced games relied on role-playing and more fully developed stories in addition to combat, introducing new villains and new plots. (One such game, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Another Story, has two possible endings. Depending on how the characters perform at the end, the game can culminate in triumph or conclude in bittersweet sadness.) The massive popularity of these commercial products throughout the 1990s and into the first half of the first decade of the new millennium demonstrates how strongly Sailor Moon resonates with its fans.

The media franchise has also spawned numerous products created solely by fans of the series, such as fan fiction (or "fan fic"), which can delve more deeply into the lives of the characters or fill in the "gaps" between stories. In "Shattered Ice," author "shanejayell" elevates a secondary character, the gentle and bookish Sailor Mercury, to the position of heroine in her own story, creating an intense and moving tale filled with drama, bloodshed, and tragedy. "Sun and Moon" by "Anon Masako" examines how and why a princess of the moon came to fall in love with a prince from the earth. Masako constructs a detailed background story that is not present in the manga, anime, or live action versions of the story.

Fan fiction can also explore alternative directions in which the canonical story could have gone, or set the characters in an entirely different fictional universe. In her story "Sacrifice," author "Lily" explores what would happen if Mamoru found himself attracted to the quietest and most mysterious guardian, Sailor Pluto, who controls space and time. In this fictional story outside the accepted fictional universe of Sailor Moon, it is revealed that the cryptic Sailor Pluto has been in love with Mamoru for a long time. By the end of this fan-written tale they recognize that they cannot pursue their desires. "Earth doesn't go with a planet called Pluto," Mamoru realizes, "It goes with the lovely Moon." In this tale, Lily does not simply reproduce the theme of forbidden love found in the original story but amplifies it by setting such love between two well known characters who are denied a relationship by both the order of the heavens and the gravity of their roles in the canonical story. In "Sleeping Beauty of the Silver Millennium," "Jyuoa" re-imagines the well known fairy tale of the slumbering princess with the characters from Sailor Moon, spinning a coming-of-age story while ironically playing with the established quirks and personality traits associated with the characters.

Other fan products include fan art (self-contained pictures of the characters and settings drawn or painted by fans); doujinshi (manga created by fans that employ the same elements as fan fiction); fan-run web sites (which usually contain fan fiction and fan art as well as detailed essays and analysis of the series); FMV (fan music videos that set scenes from the animation to music); and "cosplay" (costume play where fans dress up as their favorite characters, often using outfits they have personally sewn or put together). Each fan-produced text, picture, web site, music video, and costume offers new interpretations of the story through the fans' imaginative recreations of the narrative and is a vivid depiction of what the story means to the audience who receives its message. That so many fan-created products are available in so many different media formats suggests that Sailor Moon fans are not passive consumers but are themselves often active producers of new textual and material variants based on their personal interests and interpretations of the story.

Given its rich blending of text and graphics, it is not surprising to see the comic book at the center of the renaissance of the multiform story in modern media. More than any other medium, the comic is marked by a sense of presence (the dynamic content on the page) and absence (the spaces between frames that the reader must imaginatively fill in). The comic book is a format that, by its very nature, invites multiple interpretations of a narrative, which, in turn, encourages the creation of narrative variants. The Sailor Moon manga, anime, live action series, video games, and fan-authored tales tell the same story, but from different perspectives. Narrative elements that might lie dormant in one medium can be brought to light in another medium: new parts of the tale can be actualized in new contexts. With its roots in traditional oral genres (folk tale, myth, and fairy tale) and its reach extending to contemporary digital media (video games and fan fiction disseminated via the Web), the Sailor Moon manga, like its title heroine, draws its power from its ability to transform. 


Jyuoa. "Sleeping Beauty of the Silver Millennium." Fan Fiction.Net, 18 Oct. 2009. Web. 16 Jan. 2012.

Kelts, Roland. Japanamerica. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Print.

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