In the Name of the Moon!: Strong Female Characters and Magical Girl Role Models

sailor moon

sailor moon
Sailor Moon is no book (although technically, I guess we could consider the manga a book, so I’m off the hook here), but is a story nonetheless. When I sat down to write this post, I did not intend to touch on the hot-button topic of “strong female characters” (which, the word itself is problematic, but that’s not what I want to dwell on today), but rather geek out over my favorite anime returning to television this summer. Sailor Moon was a huge part of my childhood, and its very real characters left quite an impact on me, whether I realized it at the time or not.

Who could blame little me, coming home from school everyday to tune into my favorite show about baddie-battling magical girl super-heroines, who still liked to frequent the arcade and had a snazzy hidden headquarters? A girl who isn’t afraid to show that she’s scared of a giant, otherworldly monster that’s 8 feet tall and has a tail (because let’s face it, you would be too!). A magical girl who still has to explain the ‘F’ on her latest test to her mother. A girl who eats donuts, gets mad when she loses video games, and giggles at the prospect of using her magic pen to transform herself into an undercover princess. And that’s not even touching on the other characters in the show, who are just as round and developed.

There’s a lot of debate about the term “strong female” character. Personally, I’ve never bought into the term so literally, but rather just looked for interesting, relatable characters in books, film, and narratives. Stereotypes and archetypes of both genders exist, and narratives often rely on archetypes for a reason. But that doesn’t mean that new archetypes can’t be created, or that archetypes can’t be broken. In life, some women are physically strong. Some are not. Some are graceful, some klutzy. Some immature, some serious. One archetype cannot cover all of the human beings out there.

And the great thing about women, about people? They don’t have to be one thing or another, they can be some of both, they can fall on a spectrum in between the black and the white.

No character in a story will ever be exactly like me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relate to the characters I read about (male or female). And largely, there’s at least one trait of most characters that I can latch on to as a reader or a viewer. But Sailor Moon stands out in my mind because of its diverse cast (and I’m talking about diverse in character traits; diversity is a whole other topic of conversation) and realistic spectrum of personalities. Sure, Usagi is a klutz who happens to be our beloved protagonist, but she’s far from perfect, and gets under the skin of others quite frequently. Ami is studious to the point of severing relationships because she is too focused on her academics. Who says Makoto can’t kick your butt in karate and then go home and bake a cake?

And don’t even get me started on female friendships. There may be love interests for some of the characters throughout the series, but it’s the girls’ friendship that comes first.

So for the last two weeks I’ve been reminiscing over my childhood spent perfecting my magical girl transformation sequence, and thrusting my hand skyward while shouting “Jupiter Star Power!” after painting my nails. And while yes, I’ve been searching for a talking black cat for longer than I’ve been waiting for my lost Hogwarts acceptance letter, what’s stuck with me is ensemble of realistic heroines (who are “strong” in their own regard) that have served as my role models. Not to mention some pretty inspiring 90s fashion choices (this or this, anyone?).

The moral of the story is this: Sailor Moon is streaming on Hulu (for free! With two new episodes every Monday!) and it’s worth the watch!

Who was your favorite Sailor Scout and why? Tweet me or tell me in the comments below!