Suburban Senshi IRC Chat #565: EDITORIAL: on Death and Rebirth”
#565: “EDITORIAL: on Death and Rebirth”

"...let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings..."
-William Shakespeare

"...while there's life... there's hope"
- The Third Doctor


First of all, before you read this, you might like to take a look at this page from SOS, if you haven't seen it already.

No, I didn't get my title wrong. I truly believe this a beginning, not an ending, even given that despite SOS' less-than-stellar quality of reporting in the past, I would have to concur in their assessment that, at the moment, the Sailor Moon anime is dead, slain by Toei and perhaps Takeuchi Naoko herself.


I am not quite sure how to follow up that sentence. With shock, bitterness, recrimination? No. Regret and nostalgia? No. Been there, done that. A call to arms? No. It's pointless and, frankly, unneccessary.

I knew this moment was coming-- as I had written in my previous front page editorial on Genvid, the signs were all there. I've grieved already. This piece is not about what has been lost, or the percieved injustice of it, or what have you.

This is about the future.

Not so much the future as in "let's all write incensed letters to Takeuchi-sensei", but the future as in "this is what Toei will probably do". It is soley my opinion, and I have no special connections to any of the parties concerned, so don't read anything into my words-- but still, I would like to offer some observations and speculations that run through my mind as I digest SOS's statement.

SOS in their analysis slams PGSM, perhaps out of bitterness for its killing of the anime. I felt that way at first, but as I pondered it, it occurs to me that it might be a blessing in disguise... perhaps even a harbinger of new and better things to come.

I take SOS' statements about PGSM's "failure" with a grain of salt. To me it seems they are grinding a very sharp axe. While I do agree that PGSM probably will *not* have replay value, that is because of the arc-based nature of its storyline. As for the ratings, they are actually quite decent for the timeslot, and I believe that as long as the toys sell, the show will survive to its planned length. As for the American producer who didn't like PGSM-- to be blunt-- and this hurts me, but it's true-- *Gaijin don't count*.

This show could never be made in America and we all know it. Further, even if someone DID bring it over, do you think you could have short-skirted teens backflipping around displaying liberal amounts of pantyshots on children's TV? Never. Parents would have it yanked off the air after episode one. The executive's opinion is less a denigration of the show and a tacit acknowledgement of the state of American TV and culture. Yes, PGSM would fail in America. It's a Japanese show for Japanese people with Japanese priorities.

To Toei, the fact that people from other cultures like it is nice, but not required or even desired. They [we] are not a blip on Toei's radar.

This extends to the anime as well. We miss it, but the Japanese tend to move on from one thing to the next without losing much sleep over it. Sailor Moon is an "old" anime in terms of production quality and style, and I find it highly unlikely that it would ever be replayed again in Japan. If you think about it, the repeats that *did* air around the time fo the 10th anniversary served to prime the pump for PGSM, which unbeknownst to us was looming on the horizon.

So, to use the parlance, we were "played", and Takeuchi-sensei has taken control, using HER manga characters for products as opposed to the anime characters, who were, after all, designed by other people. And the anime was axed.

But IMHO, crying about the lack of NA licensing is missing the bigger picture: As I will attempt to explain, I believe the loss of the NA market is like a sacrificed pawn in a much larger chess game-- a pawn that will eventually be recovered. Think about this: While it's sad we can't buy the anime in the store, that's not what we REALLY want-- at least not in the long run. More than DVDs or calendars of stories we've seen before,as fans of the franchise, what we want is NEW product. And for that, the health of Sailor Moon in Japan is of vital importance. If it's ailing there, then we're in trouble, because there is no incentive for new product to be made.

Could it be made? Yes. while old anime rarely gets replayed in Japan, this does not mean we will never see Sailor Moon anime again. Cutey Honey was remade, and so was Dr. Slump. Gundam is always getting some new iteration or other. Of course it has momentum... but so, I think, will Sailor Moon before all is said and done.

I think Sailor Moon anime will eventually be remade, and believe it or not, I think that its "ususrper", PGSM is a key player in a longer term strategy that will ultimatelty lead to its revival-- first in Japan, then, inevitably, here.

PGSM, as I see it, has a limited shelf life. By using live actors, the series limits its lifespan. Unless the producers plan to swap out team members every few years, the show will end when the actresses look too old to play the senshi. I think this dovetails nicely with the reports that their contracts run for three years. Assuming PGSM does not fail in the ratings, and sales are strong, I see it going for the three years, and maybe one or two more (depending on the looks of the actresses and other factors). But let's keep it at three for now, as that is the most that is "guaranteed" on the Actress' side.

What will happen during these three years? The toys, DVDs, *manga* and other goods will sell. I emphasize manga for a reason. Japanese fans may be less obsessive than we gaijin about anime, but they take their manga seriously. When Dragonball had its anniversary earlier, there was no new anime, but Akira Toriyama re-released his manga. Manga sells. Remember, the hot sales of Sailor V and Sailor Moon manga got the anime sold in the first place, and it was rushed to production to coincide with the manga.

This is critical to my analysis. Why the lull in new Sailormoon (SeraMyu excepted)? Takeuchi-sensei was waiting for the manga rights to come back to her. The manga is her baby, her creation, and she was dissatisfied with the way the anime diverged from the manga. As she said herself, the manga was made by a woman, and the anime by men. She wanted her control back. PGSM, for all its differences, is more the manga version of Sailormoon than the anime. (That has now changed-- by my reckoning, after episode 12 it became all its own entity, like the progeny of the two prior influences).

Now, PGSM serves many purposes. It keeps the Sailor Moon name alive, through merchandise and of course the pretty idol actors. Before PGSM, the brand was dormant in Japan, relegated to the hard core fans and those like us who remembered. PGSM brought it back. It also fulfills Takeuchi-sensei's desire to see the story done in a sentai-esque style.

It also sells the manga. The revised manga might have sold decently without PGSM, but with the publicity machine behind it, I'm sure it's doing far better than it would have otherwise. Note that all the toy art is manga style. In addition to showing Takeuchi's imprimatur on the series, it shows the manga is still an important focus. (the characters could have been line art drawings of the live senshi, but they weren't...)

Here begins my chain of interences: If the sales of PGSM and the manga are good, it is possible that Takeuchi-sensei, who is a mangaka first and foremost, might make new Sailor Moon manga. After all, money and merchandising are good things. By renewing the brand (over which she now has considerably more control), Takeuchi is a position to create new content on terms more favorable to her. And if PGSM does well, even if Toei might not want to do business with her due to splitting the take, the success will not go ignored by everyone. A new manga, furthermore, would have a wider audience, as manga is much more of a mainstream commodity in Japan. By renewing the brand first via PGSM, a new manga would come with a built in audience curious from PGSM. Also consider: PGSM is pitched at kids. Kids who will soon grow up into the perfect age bracket for a new manga. If they buy the manga, and it does well, the odds are good that some company will want to adapt it into an anime. And since she has more power now, it may be an anime closer to Takeuchi's view of the characters.

That is how I see the future of Sailor Moon in Japan. if that comes to pass, the original anime would probably not be re-released there for years, to make room for the new anime, but we would have something new.

What about this anime? Will it fade into the good night? Not forever. Say PSGM fails and there is no new anime. Eventually, Toei will relicense their material because there is no market to cannibalize. If there is a new show, after it had firmly established itself, the old show could be relicensed for nostalgic collectors. Relicensing the show now is the WRONG thing to do-- even if they aren't aiming PGSM at us, they may fear grey market imports of American-licensed DVDs, and they don't want dueling continuities at the moment. The manga is close enough to PGSM that there is not real danger of a competing vision interfering with the fanbase.

The way I see it, Sailor Moon anime right now is in hibernation, not dead or on some kind of critical life support. The universe is DEFINITELY still alive in Japan. This is not like Dragonball, where its creator has stated flatly he no longer wants to make more material. PGSM (and SeraMyu) is proof that Takeuchi-sensei and at least some people in Japan still love the characters and theitr adventures. And as long as she's interested, there is still hope.

Frankly, upon reflection, I disagree with what I said in my last editorial... Toei is not throwing away free money by delicensing the anime... they are playing a careful game of chess with one of their best-known properties, and if they use the right gambit, we might all end up being the winner.