In the name of the moon
Steven proclaims a new religious holiday (20061211.2040):
If Ron Karenga can do it, so can I. The newly-formed Otaku religion celebrates Anime Day on December 25. It’s a jenn-you-wine traditional Japanese holiday (that I just made up) which otaku celebrate by putting up life-sized cardboard cutouts of Sailor Moon.
It occurs to me that you could constuct a religion based on Sailor Moon that would be at least as worthy of belief as the one for which Tom Cruise and Kirstie Alley are evangelists. (I only recently began a systematic study of the Bishoujo Senshi mythos and I don’t have deep knowledge yet, so my remarks are necessarily tentative.) Let’s see: we have a prophet: Naoko Takeuchi; sacred texts: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon (manga and anime), Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon and SeraMyu; a pantheon of supernatural warriors for good and evil; a bit of eschatology; and, a focus on Important Matters (i.e., lunch and naps).
A religion based on Sailor Moon presents many opportunities for traditional religious fun. There’s false revelation to tempt the unwary, i.e., the English dub. There are heresies: Haruka and Michiru are cousins? There are apparent inconsistencies between the different texts to reconcile, enough to keep theologians quibbling for decades. There’s apocrypha (is Excel Excel Usagi’s next incarnation?). If, as Takeuchi has allegedly revealed, only females can be Sailor Warriors, then by implication only women can be priests of Usagi. This gives those Catholics who think that women should be ordained a place to go when they get tired of sniping at the hierarchy. A strict interpretation of this principle also rules out Sailor Bubba: another advantage. There’s a possibiity of religious war someday between Usagiists and Haruhiists (but probably not between Usagiists and Haibanists. It’s unlikely that any army will ever head to the battlefield under a banner of Reki).
A couple of particular virtues: the ceremonial garb for women is charming and looks good on any young woman with a decent figure. (Guys aren’t so lucky, though, unless they like tuxedos.) The music associated with Sailor Moon is superior to much recent liturgical music. I’ll take “Densetsu Seitan” over “On Eagle’s Wings” any day, and “La Fatalité” would be a stirring recessional.
If cosplay popularity is any indication, informal Usagiism already has a large world-wide following. This is particularly noteworthy in that Takeuchi’s revelations are currently hard to find in America.
Post script: Shamus puts it all in perspective.
Earlier this year I finished watching the first season of Sailor Moon. Compared to Cardcaptor Sakura, it’s hopelessly primitive. None of the characters have much depth. Disbelief must not be merely suspended but locked away in a trunk in the attic and the door barred shut. The monsters of the week are as ridiculous as the love-love monsters in Magical Project S. And so on. Nevertheless, absurd and downright stupid though it sometimes is, overall I enjoyed watching Sailor Moon. I’ll write more about it later (which may be a while; don’t hold your breath).
Rabbit of the moon
This past week was tech week for the Nutcracker. Although I’m not on stage this year, I was still in the auditorium with my camera, and I have negatives of about 300 pictures to scan and run through Photoshop. (Next year at this time I hope to have a good digital SLR so I can download the pictures directly to the computer and skip the most tedious parts of the process. Also so I don’t have to change film in the middle of a pas de deux, grrr.) Don’t expect much activity here for a week or two.
I haven’t had a lot of time to watch anything recently. My current, insane project is to watch the entire first season of Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon to see just exactly what it is all about. I’m limiting myself to one episode a day, which is probably the safe maximum for someone who is not a giddy youth, and I immediately follow it with an episode of Cardcaptor Sakura to restore my sanity. I’m about a third of the way through. Thus far it’s primarily farce. The central character, Usagi Tsukino, makes Excel Excel seem intelligent and thoughtful. (Both Usagi and Excel were played by Kotono Mitsuishi. Later she did Mireille in Noir. Is there an actor with a broader range?) She is joined by Ami Mizuno, who is quiet and studious and has an IQ of 300, and Rei Hino, an irascible, boy-crazy miko. After transfoming into Sailors Moon, Mercury and Mars, they somehow manage to defeat the Monsters of the Week, which are nearly as silly as Pixy Misa’s Love-Love Monsters. Often the pretty soldiers need the assistance of a dork in a tuxedo who throws roses.
Ridiculous? Certainly. But it is watchable. Great art it ain’t, but it often is funny, and while there’s nothing subtle or sophisticated about Sailor Moon, it does have a certain rude energy. I gather that later in the season it gets more serious. The penultimate episode is said to have traumatized the children who watched its first broadcast in Japan.
Cardcaptor Sakura improves with repeated viewings. The story is well-constructed and the characters are three-dimensional and generally sympathetic. Everything is done right, from the background music to the pacing. It’s refreshing after the crudeness of Sailor Moon. Jonathan Tappan recently watched the series; his reaction is here. Robert’s Anime Corner Store lists the complete set of Cardcaptor Sakura for $70, which is an even better price than at that other place. The word is that Geneon’s license is about to expire and will not be renewed. Once these are gone, they’re likely gone forever. (N.B.: don’t read the synopses of individual discs.)
Music, horror and Sailor Moon
You will be relieved to know that there is no Duran Duran Christmas record. However, I regret to inform you that there are, not one, but two Sailor Moon Christmas albums, in which Kotono Mitsuishi and her colleagues sing in character as Usagi et al. After listening to “Seija ga machi ni yatte kuru” (no, I didn’t know that “When the Saints Go Marching in” was a Christmas carol, either) and other amazing performances, you may want to cleanse your ears with Twisted Sister.
My fourth-favorite song refrain of recent years*:
It’s from “Galaxia Gorgeous,” which is included in several of the SeraMyu musicals.
The SeraMyu productions, which began in 1993 and ran through 2005, are as absurd as you would expect musicals based on Sailor Moon to be. I’ve watched several, both with and without subtitles. They make about as much sense either way, but the jokes are less embarrassing when they’re left untranslated. The story in each usually begins as dumb comedy and progresses through senseless action, futile magical combat (shouted Engrish, sound effects and flashing lights are as effective against villains on stage as they would in real life), mawkishness and attempted tragedy, to an apocalyptic finale, in which Sailor Moon saves the universe from eternal darkness or whatever through her purity of heart or some magical doodad. Then the senshi who got killed (usually all of them, sometimes even Usagi herself) are miraculously resurrected, and everybody comes back on stage to sing (or lip-sync to) “La Soldier.” (Sometimes the resurrections occur earlier and everyone is present for the Final Confrontation.)
Sound stupid? I’m afraid the SeraMyu musicals aren’t exactly Lerner and Loewe, and I can’t recommend them. But they do have some saving graces. The performers are appealing and take their roles seriously. Most are better than their material. And the music, composed by Akiko Kosaka, is quite listenable, albeit often disco-influenced. Several of the battle songs — “La Moon,” “La Fatalité,” “Sailor War Supreme,” “Solar Miracle Make Up” — are among my current favorites.
*Favorite: “You’re so vain/You probably think this song is about you.”**
Second: “I’m dead but I don’t know it/(He’s dead. He’s dead)”
Third: “Peach Pie! Pippikippippippi!”
**It’s later than the Beatles, so it’s recent by my reckoning.
It’s foolish to say that now I’ve heard everything, because no matter how absurd something is, sooner or later I’ll come across something else even more bizarre. Still, it’s going to be a while before I find anything to top this magical attack:
To answer Steven’s question: the screen capture is from Sailor Stars, the fifth season of Sailor Moon. It’s hard to exaggerate how bizarre the show is; at times I half-expect Pixy Misa to strut onstage. The character in the picture is one of the Sailor Starlights, who are sometimes guys and sometimes gals.
Just wondering: where exactly is the lower pair of wings attached to Eternal Sailor Moon? Does she ever sit down?