All my girls wear Mugler…and fight Evil By Moonlight
Perhaps one of the most groundbreaking mangas (and eventually anime) of all time, Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon reshaped Japanese art and introduced the world to Usagi Tsukino—a schoolgirl who loves boys as much as she loves food and video games—who transforms into the cosmic warrior Sailor Moon to find the “Legendary Silver Crystal” and defeat the Dark Kingdom. Assembling her team of close friends/Sailor Guardians—studious Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury), fiery Rei Hino (Sailor Mars), herculean Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter), and pop Minako Aino (Sailor Venus)— Sailor Moon defeats nefarious monsters sent by the Dark Kingdom. Unprecedented, Takeuchi elevated the magical girl genre by centering five girls who were actually fighting warriors: they weren’t just pretty girls with magical powers but warriors who defeated monsters and protected humanity. With their strength and feminine transformations, Sailor Moon revitalized the magical girl genre in the 1990s. As Elle Collins at Comics Alliance stated, “Takeuchi revived and reimagined the Magical Girl genre, and more than two decades later her influence is evident far outside the realm of manga.” Usagi’s journey from crybaby klutz to crybaby klutz fighting for love and justice captivated generations of eager readers and devoted fans around the globe for 25+ years. You can even see the franchise’s legacy inspiring shows such as Totally Spies!, W.I.T.C.H, Puella Magi Madoka, and current cult favorite Steven Universe. (I would even go further to say Sailor Moon inspired its contemporary Revolutionary Girl Utena as well!)
While Takeuchi’s story of love, justice, outer space and friendship mesmerizes audiences, her love for fashion, art, and design dazzles on the page. Her attention to detail made Sailor Moon special: it was artistically opulent and cosmic at the same time. An avid high fashion aficionado, Takeuchi was inspired by the runways and advertisements of the 1990s, bringing the designs of Thierry Mugler, Chanel, and Yves Saint Laurent to her stylish and devilish villains and protagonists alike such as Queen Beryl, Koan, Calaveras and the Sailor Guardians themselves.
Before jumping in, I want to acknowledge the labor and knowledge from blogs and websites that have discussed fashion/art influences in Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon. All of these scans/fashion comparisons come from blogs like silvermoon424, appleinspiration, fukufashion (especially their Naoko Inspirations link!), and missdream. I want to thank them and cite them for their hard work of flipping through 1990s magazines, referring to other manga inspiration references in Sailor Moon, and having so much more fashion/art references I couldn’t address in this piece. Please check them out (link in the names!) and the pages of more Sailor Moon fashion references and similarities!
Even her Sailor Guardians got the runway treatment!
It’s clear that Takeuchi used the runway to conceive character outfits, but what is less apparent is her use of Art to reflect on her outer space saga. Her manga and art style books are filled with detailed references from Japanese advertisements, Western art (specifically Art Nouveau), films, and music: these moments reveal her extensive knowledge on different art forms.
While Takeuchi illustrates how fashion/cultural production has shaped her manga, we also see the opposite happen. Some contemporary fashion moments/art references (subtly, overtly, or maybe even by coincidence) have pulled inspiration from the franchise. Anime enthusiasts on social media have always pointed out the similarities between anime/manga to real world fashion/art. (As an avid anime fan myself, I love a good anime parallel to other art forms). Inspired by evilgrandmother’s post on Tumblr, I want to draw our attention to contemporary fashion/art moments that point to Sailor Moon’s legacy.
Airship also has some modern day Sailor Guardian fashions worth taking a look as well!
Takeuchi’s love for detail, design, art and fashion shines in Sailor Moon yet fans’ also see how her art allows for fans to produce parallels of their own to the contemporary. This level of dedication reveals Sailor Moon’s legacy as a global cultural phenomenon.
Mohwanah Fetus is an empathetic shapeshifter and self-deprecating anime junkie. When not dying under the weight of her PhD research (at Northwestern University), you can find her at the nearest cafe writing romances and diatribes.