Revisiting the First Episode of “Sailor Moon” 30 Years Later Makes Me Appreciate Usagi Crying About How Stressful It Is to Be a Magical Girl
Having to save your best friend from a monster posing as her mother is A LOT!
Spoilers for Sailor Moon (the anime)
On March 7th, 1992, the very first episode of Sailor Moon aired in Japan. Thirty years later, Naoko Takeuchi’s creation is still one of the most impactful series in pop culture—not just in Japan, but all around the world. While the Champion of Love and Justice wouldn’t arrive in the U.S. until 1995, the anime holds a special place in my heart as being one of the first series I’d seen where the heroes were all girls.
I will admit that, back in the day, Usagi (or Serena) wasn’t my favorite. I was very much of the opinion that she cried entirely too much and needed to suck it up and fight evil by moonlight. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, not just in the anime community, but within the series itself, as some of her teammates were pretty vocal about finding her lazy and irresponsible.
As I got older, my opinion shifted, as I realized that despite her tears Sailor Moon would absolutely get shit done. It’s right there in the lyrics to that extremely catchy theme song we all sang along with back in the day: “She will never turn her back on a friend, she is always there to defend” and so on and so on. And, well, they’re right! At the end of the day, she really was there to fight these otherwordly battles with god-like cosmic powers that she just found out about.
But then? I got even older and a lot more tired. I started to realize just how many of these stories place a whole lot of responsibility on children. Considering how stressed I would get about trying to make sense of my own life as an adult, I started to realize that characters like Sailor Moon would be appointed to “world savior” in the blink of an eye, be expected to go along with it, be criticized if they didn’t get the hang of it fast enough, and when they finally DID beat the big bad to have a peaceful life … they’d be pulled back in.
So now I look back at the series and realize that, wow, the reason I was so hard on Usagi was probably because of the number of times we’re told to “toughen up” when we’re rightfully upset about something, or that you’re “not trying hard enough” if you mess up a task that you’re supposed to be good at. When thinking about this series thirty years later, Usagi crying in that first episode is a lot more powerful than I originally gave it credit for, not just because it literally becomes an attack, but because it illustrates how much pressure she was under and how despite being told crying would get her nowhere, it actually helped!
What happens in the very first episode?
Usagi Tsukino is an ordinary girl with ordinary problems. Her grades are bad. Her little brother is obnoxious. There’s an annoying guy who keeps pestering her (one who she totally won’t fall in love with, nope, not at all). But even with her having pressing anime girl issues like “making it to school on time,” she’s goodhearted enough to stop a bunch of kids from picking on a stray cat.
That cat, Luna, would end up finding her later, start talking, and tell her that she is the one named Sailor Moon. That’s already a lot to deal with, especially when your mother is pissed about you failing an exam at school. But this is anime land, so Usagi does what the cat tells her and, to her surprise, ends up transforming into a real-life magical girl. I should point out that, up until that point, this is something that Usagi only saw in fiction, as she plays video games based on a heroine named Sailor V who absolutely, positively, does NOT end up joining her crusade, nope, she sure doesn’t (wink wink).
All of this is a lot to process, but then you realize who Usagi’s first opponent is as Sailor Moon. It’s not just some random monster picking on a helpless civilian, it’s a monster posing as her best friend’s mother! That’s a horrific thing to have to deal with seconds after a cat tells you to become a superhero. This, honestly, is a good showing of Usagi’s character, as she has about a million questions but pushes them aside when she hears Naru in trouble (or Molly, if you’re a 90s watcher like me).
Usagi doesn’t even know what to call herself when the monster questions who she is, she just knows that Naru’s in trouble, so she needs to do something. As to be expected on your first day on the job, it doesn’t go well at first. Sailor Moon is being attacked by possessed shoppers, so even if she did know how to fight, it’s not like she could blast innocent people to the moon and back. Between that, concerns for Naru’s safety, and not even knowing what powers she has (Luna didn’t get a chance to tell her) I can’t blame her for breaking down and crying.
Her crying actually helps, and it’s amazing
It’s here that Tuxedo Mask shows up to help, offering the oh so helpful advice of “crying won’t solve anything.” Normally, this would be the part where the heroine wipes her tears, stands up, and figures out a way to win the day. Sailor Moon does get to that point, but not before she actually sits there and just … cries. She’s scared, and she’s stressed, and, you know what? She should be able to have a good cry after watching a monster choke her best friend, a monster who looks like a twisted version of her best friend’s mother.
What’s truly remarkable is that Sailor Moon is able to use her crying as an attack! The sound echoes around the room, and it’s so powerful that it stuns her enemies long enough for her to be able to vanquish the monster of the day. Not only that, but the supersonic waves knock out the innocent shoppers so Sailor Moon can focus her main attack (Moon Tiara Action) on the monster. She, legitimately, HAD to cry in order to win. She had to let it all out before she was able to take a breath and do what needed to be done.
The crying attack isn’t used much in the series (just one other time in the anime, as far as I know), but that doesn’t stop Usagi from being vocal about the way she feels in certain situations. She doesn’t shy away from telling Luna what she does and doesn’t want to do, no matter how much she’s told that she HAS to go into dangerous situations. I think that’s important that she expresses her fears and anxieties about the tasks she’s given instead of quietly going along with everything as it’s presented to her, especially when you find out the rest of her story. Because it turns out she’s a reincarnated princess who was sent to Earth with her loved ones SO SHE COULD LIVE A HAPPY LIFE. Her own mother risked her life to give her daughter a second chance at life, now that daughter has to fight again.
This isn’t the life Usagi was supposed to have, and frankly, that’s a terribly tragic thing to learn about yourself. However, she marches on anyway—give or take some moments where she needs to be upset because, well, this is upsetting news to hear. It speaks to me in a way that I couldn’t quite grasp when I was younger, but now that I’m older I think about the exhausting situations I go through that I tell my own mother about, only to have her say, “I went through something similar and hoped you wouldn’t have to experience it, too.”
So yeah, if the reincarnated heroine who was supposed to be able to live a regular life wants to eat sweets and take a bath, let her – and she’s far from the only one on the team who treasures those moments, whether it’s Makoto/Sailor Jupiter fawning over a guy who reminds her of her old boyfriend, or Minako/Sailor Venus being on the same wavelength as Usagi in wanting to have fun.
Or Lita and Mina because, you know, 90s dub.
Happy 30 year anniversary, Sailor Moon, a series that I continue to look back on as I get older and realize that navigating life requires good friends, plenty of cake, and a good, long cry session.
(Image: Toei Animation)
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