Suburban Senshi IRC Chat #819: “Raison D'etre”
#819: “Raison D'etre”

Dr. X here, the other co-author of Warriors of Legend, along with Jay. As you may have noticed, I haven't been doing much updating on this site due to various factors such as terminal sloth, the obligations of everyday life and some tinkering with Suburban Senshi. I thought I'd take a moment to explain why I chose to work on Warriors of Legend and what the work as a whole means to me, and also take some time to address concerns about the book that seem to be percolating through the fan community.

Warriors of Legend was a project first conceived back in the misty days of late 2002, when Genvid was just getting off the ground. The site itself was primarily an outlet for Sailor Moon related comedy and comics, generally a locus where fans could come to experience something new in the universe of the Sailor Senshi. Jay had been a fan of the series for ages, going back its North American Premiere-- I myself came late into the game in 2000, but liked what I saw. I was dismayed by the fact that there was no more of the series to be seen, and so wanted to add to it-- first in the form of fanart, and then later in fanfiction and the odd sprite comics. But all this was tangential, something to amuse myself and others with, work that while amusing to the fans of series, did not do much to actually honor the true depths of the source material from which it derived.

Being a somewhat eclectic individual, my interests academically were many and varied. I saw depths and resonances, both culturally and mythologically in Sailor Moon that went beyond mere superficialities. In most anime, characters are given cool "Engrish" names to lend them some kind of exotic air-- "Rockman" (known to us as Megaman) for example-- where "rock" is associated not with stone but with "cool" heavy metal music-- and beyond the nomenclature, the relationship ends. Sailor Moon, on the other hand, suffused its characters with the mythos behind their names, even if this was not immediately apparent. The imagery and symbolism that surrounds the senshi on all levels in both the anime and the manga is a rich tapestry that cross connects not only Japanese, but Greco-Roman and even Babylonian and Hindu tradition. Naoko Takeuchi-sensei was well-versed in the ancient lore of old, and this showed through in her work, if one knew where to look. It was this universe, the hidden backdrop to the series concealed behind the candy-coated attack names, the stock footage attacks and the attractive bishoujo protagonists, that I wanted to explore and bring to light.

At the same time, I was an occasional student of Japanese culture mainly because Sailor Moon ( and to an extent Ranma) got me interested in the day-to-day surroundings of Japan. Sailor Moon depicted the everyday life of a teenage girl, albeit with superpowers. (I had not heard of Sailor V at the time, the manga which does this even moreso, from a more domestic standpoint, since Sailor Moon focused a lot on the school side of life and Sailor V on the leisure pursuits of Minako). I would routinely hit the Internet to find out more about subjects like the Japanese school day, the life of a student, what typical life for the Japanese teenager was. A lot of this research was done to satisfy my own curiosity and to help provide a better backdrop for my works of fan fiction (which turned out to be pointless since I opted for grand parody instead), but I ended up becoming more and more knowledgeable about a place and culture that heretofore had been completely obscure to me.

The characters, of course, were fascinating in their own right. Usagi, the typical girl-next-door wrapped up in her fantasies of meeting a knight on a white horse. Ami, the overachieving student. Rei, the mysterious Shinto miko. Makoto, the ostracized tomboy. Minako, the starstruck idol-chaser. Mamoru, the wealthy, elite, ideal man. All archetypes in one way or another. For the average viewer, they were endearing because most everyone could relate to at least one of them. For me, the armchair sociologist, they were doubly interesting because they reflected facets of Japanese society, perhaps not as their primary reason for being, but they did so nonetheless. To use a rather mundane example, It would be like an alien watching Batman and wondering about Police Commissioner Gordon and his role in the universe. Why does he have a gun? Why do policemen need guns in Gotham? What kind of duties does he have to perform in this dangerous place? To us, these questions are banal, and perhaps even stupid. But that's because the archetype of a police commissioner is so familiar to us we barely bat an eye at it.

Similarly, Japanese who watch Sailor Moon probably don't see anything particularly fascinating about Rei's shrine duties. What to them is commonplace is to us at once mysterious and interesting.

What I wanted to do, along with everyone else on the Warriors of Legend project, was to effect the opposite of what the early dubs of the series had done. They tried their best to take the Japan out of Sailor Moon, and in the process homogenize it to a more generic Americanized (well technically Canadians setting). I wanted to help put the mystique back into the show, to explore the characters themselves, to help give them a greater depth born out of the circumstances they were in, and at the same time use their place in the world to show us, the foreigner, more about the world they inhabit.

Ami, for example, is not a study-monger because she's a geek with nothing better to do with her time. Japanese society pushes kids to study extremely hard, especially in preparation for high school admission. While Ami's exploits were a little over the top, they are firmly grounded in a harsh reality of Japanese culture. Her goals and attitudes are shaped by a very cultural motivation that operates in tandem with her personal goals for the future. Hino Rei, in the manga, says more than once she has no time for men. Fans have used his as a chance to question the issue of her sexuality. But, aside from her issues with her father, and her experiences in the Casablancas side story, much of manga Rei's attitude springs not from a latent misogyny, or a desire for female companionship, but rather from her duties as a miko, a subtext that would be totally lost on the Western audience. I wanted Warriors of Legend to bring these details to light. (Anime Rei, her polar opposite in that regard, also owes her attitude to her surroundings as a "Roppongi Girl", something the book touches on as well.)

This book has been a labor of love for me for the past 3 years. Through studying for the Bar exam, going through the death of my father, searching for work and running Suburban Senshi, I researched facts, debated strongly with the others on the team, watched the anime and read both the Sailor Moon and Sailor V manga backwards and forwards many times to pick up on any information that could be of use. I prepared maps and art (the latter sadly, never really got to see the light of day.). It is not a slap-dash project thrown together in five minutes to make a quick buck off the fans. Indeed, we were told time and again this project would not make money, that no one would buy it, that Sailor Moon was dead.

But that did not matter to me. This work is a heartfelt tribute and thank you from me to Naoko Takeuchi, thanking her for all the depth and detail she put into the Sailorverse, from Sailor V to PGSM. Yes, I suppose it could have been dumped all over the Internet, that most ephemeral of media, for free, but even in this digital age, when information is cheap and the value of data is ever-diminishing, I still felt there was a place for something tangible, physical, something one could sit down with and read at their leisure, a reference work to be stored on a bookcase and referred to again and again, handed down from parent to child as years pass.

This work is not your average piece of Sailor Moon merchandise. It does not simply regurgitate or recapitulate what has come before in the series, as say, a fanbook would. (I have one, and cherish it dearly, but that's not the point.) Warriors of Legend is a top-down, academic analysis that takes a whole new approach in analyzing the series characters and their world. Like other works that analyze series in this manner (Pikachu's Global Adventure: The rise and Fall of Pokemon, The Nitpicker's Guide for Next Generation Trekkers, and The Gundam Explorer, we speak freely about the copyrighted work of Sailor Moon without using their copyrighted material. This is a legitimate practice used by literary critics and explicators since the dawn of the printing press. We use none of Toei, Kodansha's or Takeuchi-sensei's artwork or imagery. This does not mean, however, that we are like those cut-rate books on series like InuYasha that are merely reprinted Internet FAQs. If we were, we would not be receiving the press that we are from places like Animation Insider, icv2, Akadot and Anime News Network, among others. We are quite serious about the quality of this book and stand behind it 100%. We have, at great expense, gone out and done independent research, gotten our own photos of relevant locales in Japan, and set up the text so the sufficiently interested viewer can freeze-frame the anime and actually see the real-life counterpart to the Sailor Moonlocation, as well as learn of its history and relationship to Tokyo and Japan.

As a practicing attorney myself, I did take the time to examine the legality of a project such as ours, and believe me, I would have not let it go forward if I was concerned at any point that the authorship of this work would have been illegal. Is it unauthorized? Yes. Illegal? No. (You will note that their covers even use silhouettes, just as ours does.)

Why did we go "unauthorized", then? Is it because we wanted to deprive Toei or Takeuchi Naoko of their royalties? Of course not. Our book could only have benefited from the inclusion of their imagery and artwork into our product, making our arguments even stronger and giving us even more evidence and material to include directly with the text. It was always one of our goals-- a point of pride, even-- to have been able to come forth and declare ourselves "the first new officially licensed work on Sailor Moon in over half a decade." But alas, that decision was not one we were allowed to make. We made every attempt to negotiate terms and secure a license for Warriors of Legend. Did you ever wonder why we continually stated on this website, even to the point of lamentation, that Toei was not renewing their Sailor Moon< licenses for anyone-- not ADV, not TokyoPop, not Cloverway or DiC? Because at the same time, behind the scenes, we ourselves were doing our best to secure one for Warriors of Legend. But, for whatever reason, Toei had decided to-- and continues to-- lock everyone out, big players and small fish alike, Because of this, the big publishers who might have been able to back us further considered the Sailor Moon property dead, and so we were locked out in the cold. At that point we had two choices-- let the project die, or eat the bill ourselves and get this book out the door. We chose the latter.

What that means for us is that this book truly is a labor of love. Those of you who think we're going to get filthy stinking rich off the proceeds from Warriors of Legend have another think coming. The only way to make money in publishing is if you have a deal with a big publisher, like J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame does. WoL is a print-on-demand book, which will not be found in your local bookstore unless you specifically make a request for it. We make only a small fraction of any book sale, and even less when sold through Amazon. We are literally losing money in encouraging you to buy the book through Amazon so the book will be cheaper for you.

Moreover, books do not magically appear from the ether-- at least not if you want their content to be sufficiently innovative and unique. You might think it's as easy as sitting at a keyboard and banging away for a few hours, like churning out a fanfic (a process with which I am quite familiar). No, a book is a far more complicated endeavor, involving translation from Japanese to English, fact checking and in-depth historical / cultural research, the hiring of photographers and basically an excursion throughout the entire history and territory of the franchise from 1991-1997. We have poured thousands of dollars and entire paychecks into the Genvid project and Warriors of Legend, receiving little in return monetarily. It costs a lot of money to get a book ready for publishing and getting a company to try to negotiate the license. Our forums barely manage to cover their own server cost each month and the T-shirts broke even from the hundreds we paid for them. Genvid never put a Paypal button on its site, never placed advertising or banner ads even during the height of PGSM when the traffic generated would have surely netted it some profit. We have silently covered the cost on our own. Frankly, we will be grateful if, over the next year, we can even break even, through the small amount we make each book, to pay the high debt we went into to publish it and work this website.

So why do we do it, then? Because we are fans, just as you are. We wanted to add something permanent and tangible to the mythos above and beyond "today's polemic on Johnny X's website about why Uranus' aura colour is blue or gold". Some fans do fanart, some do fanfics, and others, like us, write books, pouring in thousands of hours, time that could have been spent working summer jobs or earning our keep, instead choosing to translate, research, and write this work. It is first and foremost our testament to the great work that is Sailor Moon, and to Naoko Takeuchi herself. Our intent is not to take money from her pocket, or from Toei or Kodansha, or to take money away from the market for licensed Sailor Moon goods (of which the new ones in North America are exactly 0 in the last few years). We are even trying to get a copy of this work into Takeuchi-sensei's hands ourselves. If Toei were to offer us a license today we would glady and happily take it.

At any rate, Sailor Moon has given me a great deal over the years, and speaking purely for myself, Warriors of Legend is my way of giving something back, both to its fans and to its creator. If it seems like we here at Genvid are pushing it quite hard-- of course we are. This work represents 3 years of our very lives. We are proud of it, and I think justifiably so. In time, of course-- relatively soon in fact-- this site will go back to what it was before-- the place to go for comedy, criticism and commentary on the Sailor Moon universe-- but for now we hope you will join us as we seek to learn more about the Warriors of Legend in Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon.