It’s fair to say that when Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon debuted in the mid ’90s few could anticipate how huge the shōjo series would become.
From the series’ manga origins, its original anime adaptation, all the way to 2014’s Sailor Moon Crystal, fans have loved following along as Usagi Tsukino, also known as the titular heroine Sailor Moon, has fought the forces of evil alongside her best friends and future husband.
As can be expected from a saga that has spanned 18 volumes of the original manga, 200 episodes, three movies, two reboots, and approximately three decades of adoration; there’s a lot going on with everyone’s favorite Pretty Guardians. So let’s go.
How Manga Artist Naoko Takeuchi Created the Characters of Sailor Moon
After graduating from Kyoritsu University as a licensed pharmacist, Naoko Takeuchi found her way into the manga industry working for the publishing company, Kodansha. Eventually, Takeuchi had the opportunity to develop an idea she had about teenage girl warriors and outer space.
This opportunity let her create a one-shot called Codename: Sailor V.
That’s right. With its sailor-suit wearing protagonist, Minako Aino (aka Sailor Venus), and her talking white cat Artemis, Codename: Sailor V actually came out before Sailor Moon.
As Codename: Sailor V progressed from one-shot to serialization in the manga magazine RunRun, Toei Animation expressed interest in adapting the series into an Original Video Animation or OVA.
While that OVA never came to pass, in December of 1991 shōjo manga magazine, Nakayoshi began serializing Sailor Moon. Takeuchi continued to develop both Codename: Sailor V and Sailor Moon, until RunRun was cancelled in 1997.
Perhaps one of the most revolutionary things about Takeuchi’s work is just how closely a fantastical series like Sailor Moon managed to reflect the teenage girl experience. This is not surprising considering how much of her own life Takeuchi poured into the series.
From actually wearing a sailor uniform in school, working as a shrine maiden herself (just like Rei Hino aka Sailor Mars), to naming characters after her own family members, in creating Sailor Moon Naoko Takeuchi managed to create a cast of characters fans care about as much as Takeuchi herself does.
Over the course of the series, fans follow along as clumsy and loveable Usagi Tsukino tries to balance her life as a teenage girl with her destiny to fight the interstellar forces of darkness as the super powered Sailor Moon. On that journey she is accompanied by a wide array of allies and foes, some of whom literally fall from the sky and most of whom juggle at least one secret identity, if not more. To make it a bit easier to keep track here are the key players.
SAILOR MOON – USAGI TSUKINO
With a name that translates to “Rabbit of the Moon,” a play on a Japanese folktale about a rabbit who lives on the moon (culturally equivalent to the western ‘Man in the Moon’), Usagi is a middle school girl who lives in Tokyo. Recognized by her iconic odango styled blonde hair, Usagi is often considered a bit of a lazy cry baby. She’s also fiercely loyal, sweet, and often hilarious.
Furthermore, aside from her secret identity as Sailor Moon, one of the Sailor Guardians destined to protect the solar system, Usagi is also the reincarnation of Princess Serenity. Princess Serenity was the daughter of Queen Serenity, ruler of the Moon Kingdom during the era of the Silver Millenium which was a time of peace between all of the planets in the solar system.
While Luna might look like a simple black cat with a crescent moon on her forehead, she’s actually much more than that. Aside from being a talking cat, she and her counterpart Artemis were advisors to Queen Serenity, back in the Moon Kingdom. When the Moon Kingdom was destroyed in conflict with the Dark Kingdom Luna was put into a long sleep until the Sailor Guardians would be reincarnated on Earth.
It is Luna who informs Usagi that she is Sailor Moon and presents her the equipment and know-how to fight the powers of darkness. However, along with being put into stasis while awaiting for the Sailor Guardians to re-emerge, a lot of her memories were suppressed. As such, she doesn’t know that Usagi is also the reincarnation of Princess Serenity.
TUXEDO MASK – MAMORU CHIBA
Mamoru Chiba is an older boy that Usagi has a tendency of bumping into. While the two tend to tease each other and get on one another’s nerves, it turns out that Mamoru is in fact the reincarnation of Prince Endymion of the Earth Kingdom. Back in the era of the Silver Millennium he, as Prince Endymion, was in love with Princess Serenity.
As a child, Mamoru was in a car accident in which his parents died and he lost a significant portion of his memories. Now, as a young man, he takes on the guise of Tuxedo Mask and armed with red roses he throws like shurikens, he aids Sailor Moon whenever she’s in danger.
SAILOR MERCURY – AMI MIZUNO
Ami Mizuno often gets described most simply as the brainy one. While she is incredibly smart and sensible, she is also kind and driven. She works really hard and is set on becoming a doctor when she grows up, yet often reveals hidden depths, like a secret desire to write song lyrics or the shy romantic side of her personality.
Great with tech, she often busts out her computerized visor or handheld computer to analyze the situation she and her teammates find themselves in, as well as offering a barrage of bubble, water, or ice themed attacks.
SAILOR MARS – REI HINO
Rei Hino is Sailor Mars. Raised by her grandpa, who is the vaguely lecherous priest at a Shinto shrine, Rei works as a shrine maiden. Due to her experience as a Shinto priestess, she has a spiritual sense of precognition, often reading the flames at the temple and dispelling evil with paper talismans or ofuda.
She goes to a different school than the other girls and takes her role as a shrine maiden seriously, but still manages to have fun even if she’s typically more serious and fiery than Usagi (the two of them often butt heads); as a fighter though, her fire based attacks are super effective.
SAILOR JUPITER – MAKOTO KINO
Sailor Jupiter, also known as Maokoto Kino, is known for being one of the tallest and physically strongest of the Sailor Guardians. After transferring to Usagi’s school, she joins their friend group and is soon revealed to be a Sailor Guardian herself.
A trained and capable martial artist, Mako, as her friends call her, is also extremely adept at cooking, sewing, and homemaking. She also has a soft spot for cute guys as they tend to remind her of the boy that broke her heart.
With powerful electric attacks, she is a beautiful example of someone who can embody both physical strength and martial ability, as well as the more gentle and caring side of her personality.
SAILOR VENUS – MINAKO AINO
Seeing as Sailor Venus was introduced in Codename: Sailor V before Sailor Moon started, it’s interesting that Usagi and the others actually know about Sailor V before they ever even meet Minako Aino.
While Usagi and others are playing the Sailor V video game, Minako was already on her quest to reunite with the other Sailor Guardians and find the Moon Princess; all with her trusty guide Artemis at her side. A perky blonde with a tendency to mis-phrase common sayings and words of wisdom, Sailor Venus’ love themed attacks and positivity bring a lot to the team.
As Luna is to Usagi, Artemis is to Minako. A white cat with a crescent moon on his forehead, just like Luna, he was also an advisor to Queen Serenity. When he and Minako join up with the other Sailor Guardians, Artemis and Luna are once again able to work together to advise the team on their adventures.
It also turns out that in the future, when the second coming of the Silver Millenium leads to the establishment of Crystal Tokyo, ruled over by Neo-Queen Serenity and King Endymion (future Usagi and Mamoru, of course), Artemis and Luna will have a daughter together: a pink kitten named Diana.
SAILOR CHIBI MOON – CHIBIUSA
In the original anime, Chibiusa literally falls from the sky, interrupting a tender moment between Mamoru and Usagi. Wearing the same double-bun hairstyle as Usagi, she introduces herself as also having the same name.
In Japanese “Chibi” is slang for “small” or “short” and as this new, little Usagi worms her way into our heroine’s life, literally hypnotizing her family into raising her as one of their own, little Usagi starts getting called Chibiusa for short. As the plot unfolds, it is revealed that Chibiusa shares a name and hairstyle with Usagi for a reason: Usagi is her mother.
Chibiusa is from the future where Usagi and Mamoru have become Neo-Queen Serenity and King Endymion, respectively. Together they rule over Crystal Tokyo in a renewed age of peace, again called the Silver Millenium. When dark forces put Crystal Tokyo at risk, Chibiusa flees to the past trying to find the Silver Crystal so she can save her mother.
Chibiusa also goes by a couple other names. Some call her Small Lady, which is in honor of her future role as a princess. At one point, the evil Black Moon Clan makes her grow up and turn evil whereupon she is called Black Lady. Later on, after returning to her own time in the future, Chibiusa returns to the present to be trained by the Sailor Guardians and becomes Sailor Chibi Moon.
SAILOR PLUTO – SETSUNA MEIOH
With Chibiusa bouncing back and forth through time, the Sailor Guardians find themselves needing to confront the realities of time travel. When they do, they find themselves face to face with Sailor Pluto, who guards the Space-Time Door. Later on, Sailor Pluto arrives on Earth as Setsuna Meioh, a stern, older girl who is one of the shared connections between the Inner Sailor Guardians (Sailor Venus, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Moon) and the Outer Sailor Guardians.
SAILOR URANUS – HARUKA TENOH
One of the Outer Sailor Guardians, Haruka Tenoh is Sailor Uranus. Dressing and presenting herself as a male when not dressed as Sailor Uranus, Haruka actually inspires minor crushes in some of the Inner Sailor Guardians when they first meet her. But it turns out, Haruka only has eyes for Michiru Kaioh, also known as Sailor Neptune.
While an older English language dub tried to portray their relationship as platonic cousins (as well as erasing other queer characters), the original material and the more recent English dub allowed for the romantic subtext tetween their characters between their characters. Either way, Sailor Uranus’ Earth Shaking attacks are undeniably powerful.
SAILOR NEPTUNE – MICHIRU KAIOH
Another of the Outer Sailor Guardians, along with Sailor Uranus, Michiru Kaioh aka Sailor Neptune is charged with protecting the solar system against threats from beyond the galaxy. As such, their powers are stronger than that of the Inner Sailor Guardians, at least to start with.
When they first arrive on the scene, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune work together as a pair pursuing their own goals, only occasionally aiding the other Sailor Guardians. Before their secret identities are revealed, all of the Guardians start to build a friendship with one another, but as Inner Guardians and Outer Guardians, they tend to be at odds until their goals align.
While Michiru bears the talisman of the Deep Aqua Mirror, Haruka has the Space Sword, and Setsuna has the Garnet Rod. In the original anime, when the three talismans of Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, and Sailor Pluto are brought together, they unleashed the Holy Grail, allowing Sailor Moon to transform into Super Sailor Moon.
SAILOR SATURN – HOTARU TOMOE
To start, Sailor Saturn is the Sailor Guardian feared most by the others. As the Guardian of Destruction, she has the power to destroy planets; not to mention the fact that when Hotaru Tomoe is first introduced, she’s struggling under the influence of her father, who is possessed by an evil interstellar force that’s serving an even greater interstellar evil force. Said evil force is trying to take control of Hotaru’s body.
After meeting and becoming best friends with Chibiusa, the Inner Sailor Guardians are determined to save Hotaru while also saving the world from her. The other Outer Sailor Guardians however want to destroy her before she ends up destroying the planet. Ultimately, it’s Hotaru who manages to defeat the interstellar evil, sacrificing herself in the process.
However; thanks to Super Sailor Moon, she is reborn as an infant. The Outer Sailor Guardians acknowledge the goodness in Sailor Saturn and the flip side to being the Guardian of Destruction: being the Guardian of Rebirth.
The Outer Guardians return baby Hotaru to her father who is no longer possessed, allowing him to raise her again.
Plot of the Original Sailor Moon Anime
Comprised of five seasons, each consisting of around 40 episodes, the original Sailor Moon anime had a plot that covered a lot of ground.
In the first season, Usagi meets Luna who gives her the magical brooch she’ll use to transform into Sailor Moon. After defeating a monster to save her friend Naru, Usagi starts to embrace her role as a Sailor Guardian. But it turns out, this monster is taking orders from a larger threat.
The Dark Kingdom, ruled by Queen Beryl, was the enemy that the Moon Kingdom was fighting against when the Silver Millenium came to an end. She is serving the evil entity, Queen Metaria, and it’s in order to steal energy and find the Silver Moon Crystal that Queen Beryl is sending out monsters.
Serving Queen Beryl are the Four Kings of Heaven: Jadeite, Kunzite, Zoisite, and Nephrite. In the original anime, Zoisite and Kunzite are portrayed as lovers, though of course the old English dub made Zoisite a woman in an attempt to hide the queer aspect of their characters, something the
After defeating her minions over the course of the season, the Sailor Guardians find out that they can access the Dark Kingdom from the North Pole. Once there, the Sailor Guardians are picked off one by one as they in turn take down the villainous DD Girls. Eventually, Sailor Moon has to confront a brainwashed Mamoru and a super powered fusion of Queen Beryl and Queen Metaria.
By using the power of the Silver Crystal and with the spirits of the other Sailor Guardians, Sailor Moon is able to defeat the powers of the Dark Kingdom and bring her friends back to life. However, when they all return to their regular lives, they’ve all lost their memories. Usagi included.
Season Two – Sailor Moon R
Without their memories, the Sailor Guardians and Mamoru have no clue who they were or that they were friends. When two aliens, Ann and Ail, arrive and start syphoning human energy to feed their Makai Tree, Luna and Artemis come to the decision to restore the memories of the Sailor Guardians.
Eventually, the group defeats Ann and Ail, who realize that what their energy sucking tree from outer space actually needs to thrive is the power of love
After Ann and Ail move along, Chibiusa drops out of the sky. By hypnotizing Usagi’s family into believing she is a younger cousin visiting from out of town, she becomes a part of Usagi’s life. Meanwhile, the evil Black Moon Clan arrives from the future as well, searching for Chibiusa and attempting to weaken the Crystal Tokyo of the future by seeding dark energy in the present.
It’s eventually revealed that Chibiusa is Usagi and Mamoru’s daughter from the future. After rehabilitating The Spectre Sisters and defeating the rest of the Black Moon Clan, the Sailor Guardians travel to the future to face the evil Wiseman, who had been pulling the strings all along. He corrupts Chibiusa, causing her to grow up and turn into the evil Black Lady.
Eventually, Chibiusa is able to break free from Wiseman’s grasp and summon’s the Silver Crystal from her own time, allowing for both she and Sailor Moon to defeat Wiseman once and for all. With the day saved, Chibiusa returns to her own time.
Season Three – Sailor Moon S
When creatures called Daimons start appearing, stealing the Heart Crystals from innocent people in search of three magical talismans, the Sailor Guardians find themselves facing a new foe.
This new foe just so happens to be the Death Busters, and under the guidance of Professor Tomoe, the Death Busters are determined to bring forth the evil Mistress 9, who will in turn act as a dark messiah, unleashing the evil Pharoah 90. As this is unfolding, the Sailor Guardians meet Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh and Chibiusa returns from the future to train.
Right around the time the Sailor Guardians meet Haruka and Michiru, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune show up on the scene. Eventually, the team realizes that their new friends are these mysterious new Outer Sailor Guardians.
While the duo is dead set to stop the resurrection of Pharaoh 90 at any cost, including killing people, the Inner Guardians are determined to find a different way. Sailor Pluto also arrives on the scene, introducing her alias, Setsuna Meioh.
It turns out that, unbeknownst to them Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, each possess one of the three magical talismans: the Space Sword and the Deep Aqua Mirror, respectively. Sailor Pluto has the third talisman, the Garnet Orb, in her staff. When the three talismans are united, they bring forth the Holy Grail, which Sailor Moon uses to transform into Super Sailor Moon.
The stakes are especially high once it’s revealed that Chibiusa’s new best friend, Hotaru Tomoe, is the reincarnation of Sailor Saturn, the Guardian of Destruction. Though she suffers from health issues and fainting spells ever since she and her father were caught in a horrific lab accident, she also has a power she doesn’t understand.
It turns out, at the time of the accident, Professor Tomoe allowed himself to become possessed by an interstellar evil in order to save young Hotaru’s life.
As such, Professor Tomoe is heading the search for the three talismans so he can get his hands on the Holy Grail. With the Holy Grail, the dark messiah will release Pharaoh 90. Unfortunately, Mistress 9 is hidden inside of Hotaru’s body meaning the Outer Sailor Guardians want to kill her while the Inner Sailor Guardians are determined to save her and Professor Tomoe want to use her to bring forth Mistress 9.
When Mistress 9 is finally released, after consuming Chibiusa’s Heart Crystal, she tricks Usagi into giving her the Holy Grail. As Mistress 9 attempts to bring forth Pharaoh 90, Chibiusa’s love for Hotaru awakens Sailor Saturn who then uses her destructive powers to defeat Pharaoh 90, sacrificing herself in the process.
However, the other side of Sailor Saturn’s destructive power is that of rebirth, and Hotaru is reborn as an infant. The Sailor Guardians return baby Hotaru to professor Tomoe to raise once more, now that he’s no longer evil. The Inner and Outer Sailor Guardians make peace before the Outer Guardians leave town.
Season Four – Sailor Moon Super S
Chibiusa has stuck around to continue her Sailor Guardian training. As she becomes more comfortable with her role as Sailor Chibi Moon, she starts to have dreams of a winged unicorn called Pegasus. It turns out Pegasus is hiding in Chibiusa’s beautiful dreams from the Dead Moon Circus.
The Dead Moon Circus arrived on the occurrence of a solar eclipse, descending in a creepy big top tent. Led by Zirconia, the Dead Moon Circus sends out the Amazon Trio to hunt for pegasus in innocent people’s beautiful dreams. It eventually turns out that the Amazon Trio are actually circus animals that Zirconia has put under a spell.
Ultimately, the Amazon Trio just wants to be human so they too can have beautiful dreams, and they turn against Zirconia to save Sailor Moon, dying in the process. As a reward, Pegasus turns them into humans with the power of the Golden Crystal.
The Golden Crystal is really what the Dead Moon Circus is after. Pegasus has a human form, a priest named Helios. It’s Helios’ duty to protect the Golden Crystal from the Dead Moon Circus because the Dead Moon Circus is secretly serving Queen Nehelenia, an evil queen who is trapped inside of a mirror.
Obsessed with youth and beauty, Queen Nehelenia started stealing the dream mirrors of her subjects, turning them into the creatures of the Dead Moon Circus. After trying to overthrow Queen Serenity, she was sealed inside of the mirror until she was able to capture the physical body of Helios. But Helios’ spirit escaped in the form of Pegasus along with the Golden Crystal, leaving her trapped until Zirconia could find him.
After the loss of the Amazon Trio, Zirconia brings forth the Amazoness Quartet. A powerful foursome of girls whom Queen Nehelenia gave powers and eternal childhood through four Amazon Stones. Over the course of the conflict between the Sailor Guardians and the Dead Moon Circus, the Quartet gets on Queen Nehelenia’s bad side and she plans on draining their energy.
It’s then that Sailor Moon convinces the Amazoness Quartet that growing up is ultimately better than staying children forever and by crushing the Amazon Stones they’ll be free of Queen Nehelenia.
With the help of the Amazon Quartet sneaking the Golden Crystal away from Queen Nehelenia, Sailor Moon is able to defeat her and the rest of the Dead Moon Circus.
Season Five – Sailor Stars
With interference from a new player, Sailor Galaxia, Queen Nehelenia returns for revenge. After cursing Mamoru, the Sailor Guardians enter Nehelenia’s nightmare dimension and defeat her there, but only after all the Sailor Guardians but Sailor Moon get trapped in mirrors.
It’s only by activating her final form of Eternal Sailor Moon that Sailor Moon is powerful enough to forgive Queen Nehelenia and break the curse on Mamoru. In doing so, she saves the others, purifying Nehelenia in the process.
Not long after Usagi saves everyone, Mamoru leaves to study abroad and Chibiusa returns to her own time. It’s at this point that a new group of enemies, called the Sailor Animamates, start attacking people for their Star Seeds at the behest of Sailor Galaxia.
Along with the new group of enemies, new allies arrive as well. The Sailor Starlights, comprised of Sailor Star Fighter, Sailor Star Maker, and Sailor Star Healer, help Usagi and company fight the Sailor Animamates.
However, when not in Sailor Guardian form, the Starlights present themselves as male pop idols named Kou Seiya, Kou Taiki, and Kou Yaten respectively. They are looking for their leader, Princess Kakyuu, who came to Earth to hide from Sailor Galaxia and find the “Light of Hope.”
Another new face to arrive is a small girl called ChibiChibi. Tiny and red-haired, with odangos, just like Usagi, ChibiChibi doesn’t speak much and tends to overuse the word “Chibi.” She ends up living with Usagi, much like Chibiusa did.
As things continue to unfold, it is revealed that, ultimately, ChibiChibi is the “Light of Hope” that Princess Kakyuu was looking for. Long ago, Sailor Galaxia was fighting Chaos—the ultimate evil force in the galaxy—and in an attempt to contain Chaos, Sailor Galaxia took this dark force into herself, expelling her own Starseed as ChibiChibi.
Over time Sailor Galaxia was corrupted by Chaos and proceeded to travel through space destroying planets, corrupting Sailor Guardians, and consuming Star Seeds.
Sailor Galaxia ends up consuming the Star Seeds of all the Sailor Guardians and Mamoru and Chibi Chibi, who at one point also transforms into Sailor Chibi Chibi, urges Sailor Moon to destroy Sailor Galaxia.
To help her, Chibi Chibi goes so far as to transform herself into the Sword of Sealing so that Sailor Moon can kill Sailor Galaxia. Ultimately Usagi uses her power and kindness as Eternal Sailor Moon to purge the evil Chaos from Sailor Galaxia, saving all of the Sailor Guardians who had their Star Seeds stolen.
Different Iterations: Sailor Moon Crystal and Beyond
There are a number of differences between the original Sailor Moon manga and the original anime. For the most part, the manga is more in depth, with more characters, slightly more complicated relationships and additional plot points that the original anime glossed over. But for English speaking fans, the differences are even more.
While in Japan, the original anime was televised from March of 1992 to February of 1997. In 1995 DiC productions released an English language dub that changed a lot of things. From character names, editing out queer characters, changing the gender of a couple of characters and more.
Combined with poor marketing, the English dub ended up getting canceled, only to be continued later on in the 90’s, eventually being aired on Cartoon Network’s Toonami programming block. Though there was never an initial English dub of Season Five.
Beyond the manga and the series, three movies were released titled Sailor Moon R: The Movie, Sailor Moon S: The Movie, and Sailor Moon Super S: The Movie, respectively. In Japan there was also a 2003 live action series called Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon as well as multiple live stage musicals.
These other versions tended to change up plot points to suit their production needs. For example, the live action TV show changed Luna and Artemis from live cats to stuffed cat plushies, so as to make filming easier.
In 2014 Viz Media started releasing a new English language dub of the original anime. Aimed to be as close a translation as possible, this new dub has restored the original gender and relationships to characters, as well as restoring the original character names. As of November 2019, the English dub for the final season of the original anime series was finally released.
Also in 2014, marking the 20 year anniversary for the original series, Sailor Moon Crystal was released. The new series was intended to be closer to the original manga source material. It also altered some of the character designs, using a more modern animation style that, along with poor pacing, didn’t go over particularly well with viewers.
By season three, character redesigns and the solving of pacing and animation issues allowed for a season that was far better received than the first two seasons of Sailor Moon Crystal.
As of right now, what would be Season 4 of Sailor Moon Crystal is set to be one story arch split over two movies. The first of which has a released date currently set for September 11, 2020 and is titled Sailor Moon Eternal. The two-part movie release is speculated to cover the Dead Moon Circus plotline from Season 4 of the original series.