Manga Interlude: Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune!
Today is the Big Reveal on this week’s theme. That theme is the inclusion of LGBT characters in comics and related media, in recognition of Pride Month. We have never done a Pride Month thing at Adequacy, so it seemed overdue.
To recap the week:
- Iceman was recently declared as gay in Marvel’s comics by writer Brian Michael Bendis.
- Black Cat was established as bisexual years ago, by writer Kevin Smith in “Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do.”
- Albus Dumbledore was retconned by J.K. Rowling into being a gay character. I say retconned, because there is no real suggestion of it in the text.
- Batwoman, both the main continuity and others, has been a lesbian since here reintroduction to comics in the DC series “52.”
- Ral Zarek was recently extablished as gay in “Magic: The Gathering.” That’s yesterday’s post.
So today, on the final Pride post, I want to get into the strange story of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. Let’s get out of the way that I love Sailor Moon as an idea…all of the early, re-cut and re-edited anime offerings in the Western market make me incredibly nostalgic.
If you aren’t familiar with the basic concept of Sailor Moon, here’s the crash course. One of the most successful internationally syndicated television series ever, as well as one of the world’s most beloved children’s shows, Sailor Moon dominated Cartoon Network’s schedule in the mid-’90s. The series follows the story of Usagi, a teen girl who, with the help of a talking cat named Luna, realizes that she’s actually a Sailor Soldier, and must fight for peace and justice while also going to school and attempting to live a normal life. They go around finding other Sailor Soldiers, named for planets, who become Usagi’s friends.
Besides featuring great portrayals of female friendship, Sailor Moon is also known for introducing one of the first and most prominent queer couples to appear in Japanese media at the time. This came in the form of Sailor Neptune, a sensitive artist, and Sailor Uranus, a race-car driver and athlete. When fans inquired about the legitimacy of the relationship with creator Naoko Takeuchi, she stated that she definitely wrote the pair as a couple.
Okay…so what’s the “strange story?”
Although not the only LGBTQIA couple to appear on Sailor Moon, Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus, otherwise known as Michiru and Haruka, are the best known. The pair weren’t introduced to the series until Season 3, known as Sailor Moon S, but they were immediate fan favorites. After making their debut in the 92nd episode of the series, they quickly became one of the more popular, yet controversial, parts of the show for the remainder of its run.
When DIC bought the rights to air Sailor Moon in America, the English dubs provided made significant changes to the series, some of which were to make things less confusing for kids who wouldn’t understand certain cultural references, but many of which were to make the show a lot less outrageously queer than it is in the subtitled version. One of the more awkward tonal shifts was the idea to explain the close relationship between Neptune and Uranus by claiming that they were cousins rather than lovers, in order to avoid offending American audiences. This is weird for many reasons, most importantly because the characters spent a lot of time staring into each other’s eyes and flirting with one another.
Being clear…the LGBTQ elements of the plot that were’t seen as “palatable” for American audiences were just edited out. It was such a major plot with the two Sailor Scouts (Uranus and Neptune) that the censorship wound up weirder and more icky than the initial point in the story.
This was kind of par for the course in the time frame that it was imported, however. A whole lot of progress has been made since then, but there is still a whole lot of progress that needs to be made. We can’t just say, “Hey…now there’s some kind of representation, the job must be done.”
A comic book store that I work with pretty frequently here in Los Angeles is doing a fund raiser for Camp Brave Trails, a not for profit that is a sort of LGBTQ “summer camp.” Every dollar donated to the summer camp is matched by the shop itself, and they have generated a fair amount of money. I bring it up at the end of this post, and at the end of the week, because it’s a good investment in the future. Instead of being a place that deals with the hardships of being LGBTQ in modern America, it’s a summer camp that creates a positive environment that allows some of the social pressure to be relaxed, if just for a bit.
If that sounds like a good investment, it’s a tax deductible charity. That’s why it’s coming at the end of the post, and the end of the week. After school programs and other kinds of student engagement have been statistically proven to give students who are “at risk” in some way an advantage. This is just that sort of advantage, and if you didn’t click the link on the name above, you can click here.
Remember…even though modern superheroes tend to just sort of beat each other up in bright costumes, there was a time where a major amount of superman’s time was invested in saving kids. Getting kittens from trees, and blowing out fires. Even lecturing on the dangers of bullying.
I’m pretty sure he (or maybe the Sailor Scouts) would invest in friendship.
That’s all for this week, True Believers! Be excellent to each other.