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When it comes to the most important anime and manga series of all time, few can live up to the legacy that Sailor Moon has crafted. Our Sailor Moon history and overview guide is here to explain just how this pop-culture icon of a manga series came to be this way.
The Sailor Moon history and overview are vast, spanning more than 30 years since its creation. With so many different anime adaptations, characters, movies, and the like, it can be quite overwhelming for newcomers. But, worry not, as we have the full breakdown for this series to get you started.
Bottom Line Up Front
Sailor Moon was originally a manga created by Naoko Takeuchi, a renowned mangaka who brought us this magical girl series in late 1991. It would go on to span 60 chapters of the manga and many, many different anime adaptations, episodes, films, and more.
Sailor Moon is a cultural icon around the world, representing many young fans’ first foray into anime and manga and also being among the most popular magical girl series of all time.
What Is Sailor Moon?
Sailor Moon is a manga and anime series created by Naoko Takeuchi that tells the story of Usagi Tsukino, a young girl who encounters a strange talking cat, which enables her to turn into the magical girl guardian known as Sailor Moon. The job of Sailor Moon is to fight back against the evil ones who would want to take over or destroy Earth.
Using her magical powers, she can transform into Sailor Moon with an extravagant transformation sequence and use special abilities to fight against foes. However, she is not alone in this fight as she is later joined by the rest of the Sailor Guardians in taking out the enemies from the Dark Kingdom and beyond.
Sailor Moon is a shoujo series, first and foremost, which means “girl” in Japanese. It is an all-ages franchise that is mostly geared towards girls, but it has quite a lot of action to make it appealing to everyone at the same time. While there is action, the tone of the series is quite lighthearted, with lots of comedic moments sprinkled throughout.
In addition to the comedy in the series, Sailor Moon is also quite romantic and dream-filled, with plenty of heartwarming moments to fawn over. All of the characters are quite attractively drawn, allowing the fans to find their favorites, be it the girls or the guys in the group.
Even still, some moments are quite serious and even grim at times, but nothing too beyond the usual confines of an all-ages series like this one. That is part of the appeal of the series as it offers a little bit of something for everyone, ensuring that it is well worth checking out.
Sailor Moon is also basically single-handedly the cause of the magical girl genre in the manga and anime space, causing a cultural revolution at the time in the 1990s that would lead to countless other series trying to claim a piece of the pie.
Even today, though, Sailor Moon is among the most successful in the genre, and few have even come close to touching it in terms of popularity and quality.
Sailor Moon History: Manga
Sailor Moon began its run as a manga on December 28, 1991, with the creation overseen by fabled mangaka Naoko Takeuchi. Takeuchi has become synonymous with this series as it is the only main manga series that she has created in her career; not that there is any need to make anything else given how popular and successful it has been.
Before the launch of the first chapter of the manga in late 1991, there was a one-shot series that Takeuchi created called Codename: Sailor V. This came out several months earlier, on August 3, 1991, and was the testing grounds for the eventual magical girl series that would later come out.
Rather than focus on Sailor Moon, this initial manga centered around Sailor V. Though they look visually similar to one another, they are two different characters, and Takeuchi eventually did way with Sailor V as the main character. In her place, Usagi would take over as Sailor Moon and lead the main manga.
That said, the legacy of the Sailor V one-shot and how it birthed this franchise is not to be taken lightly. Sailor Moon itself even referenced this fact with Sailor V’s inclusion in the manga as one of the Sailor Guardians. The series even references the fact that she is an existing hero, unlike the other girls who newly discover their powers when they are introduced.
Sailor V eventually becomes Sailor Venus and a major member of the Sailor Guardians group. Her original one-shot was important enough that it would get its continuation of the prequel series that follows her adventures alongside Artemis outside of the main story.
As for the main Sailor Moon manga series, it would run for just over five years until February 3, 1997. In total, 60 chapters were released in this time, and it followed a unique format where Takeuchi was developing the manga chapters and story arcs as the anime adaptation was being made.
This allowed for a fascinating scenario where each one influenced the other, and there was the opportunity for a simultaneous creation process. After completion, the 60 chapters of the manga were divided up into 18 volumes in total that fans could purchase physically.
Interestingly enough, this was only the case for the first edition of the manga volumes. A second edition came later on that improved the overall structure of the series and removed a bit of filler to reduce the overall volume size to only 12 now.
That was then succeeded by a third edition of the manga that reduced it even further to only ten volumes in total, which is the current state of the series. Even then, there are more versions of the manga that are coming in the future, including the Naoko Takeuchi Collection that will be released by Kodansha Comics, with the first volume of the series coming in 2022.
The Sailor Moon manga series is among the most popular in the world, especially within the shoujo genre, with more than 35 million copies sold at this time.
Sailor Moon History: Anime
It did not take long after the publication of the first Sailor Moon manga chapter for an animated series to begin. The original Sailor Moon anime was created by Toei Animation of Dragon Ball fame and began airing on March 7, 1992, with the first episode released only a few months after the manga began.
It would run for a total of five seasons in its initial series, with the 200th and final episode airing on February 8, 1997, just a few short days after the final manga chapter was released. This unique take of publishing the manga and releasing the anime episodes right around each other strangely worked.
The anime version was able to adapt all of the main story arcs from the manga as they happened in real-time, though it did contain some drawn-out sections and somewhat filler content to keep the show going as the chapters were released.
In addition to the main anime series in the 1990s, three films came out with their unique storylines separate from the manga. Sailor Moon R: The Movie was the first one to release in 1993, after which the other two movies came out annually from there.
Sailor Moon S: The Movie followed in 1994, while the final film, Sailor Moon SuperS: The Movie came out in 1995. With the success of anime and manga in Japan, it did not take long for companies in the US and Canada to start looking into localizing the show.
It began airing in 1995 in the US and Canada but was quickly found to be a failure overall due to several reasons. That said, Cartoon Network would give it another shot years later in 1998 as part of the Toonami programming, and this is where the show finally took off.
Sailor Moon became successful on Toonami, and the remaining episodes began airing until 2002, when the series was finally completed in English. This eventually led to popularity around the world as Sailor Moon became the first anime for many young fans at the time.
However, that is an anime that is about 30 years old itself, which is not too welcoming for newcomers who want better-looking animation. As such, Toei Animation decided to create a reboot of the franchise that would welcome a new audience of fans into the mix with updated visuals.
Another goal of the new series, officially known as Sailor Moon Crystal, was to better adapt the manga in a more one-to-one way.
This was seen quickly in the fact that the story arcs were more akin to the brief nature of their manga counterparts, with the first season only containing 14 episodes and finishing this part in a fraction of the time it took the original anime.
On February 7, 2015, a second season began, and it adapted the second arc of the story known as the Black Moon section. It would run for only 12 episodes this time around, continuing the brief nature of the rebooted anime series.
And finally, the last season of the series to date adapted the Death Busters arc and began on April 4, 2016. It would run for only 13 episodes and complete that part of the storyline. While it does look like there will be no more seasons of Crystal, for now, some movies are coming soon.
Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie was released in Japan in 2021, adapting the Dream arc from the manga. Since this was a film and not a series, the arc was divided up into two movies to cover the entire part.
Unfortunately, this is all for now. There is still one more story arc left for the series to finish with no announcements of another movie or season at this time.
Setting and Main Locations
The setting for Sailor Moon takes place in modern-day Tokyo as the young Usagi Tsukino goes to school and lives life as a typical teenager. Though there are fantasy and sci-fi elements to the manga series, most of it takes place in the present day, so there is a real nature to it in a way.
That said, this is a different version of our Earth in which there are magical powers that girls can awaken to allow them to transform into special magical guardians to protect the planet. Some evil villains have their own goals for the world that have to be stopped.
By far, the most magical part of the series’ locations is the Moon Kingdom, a place that is mentioned over and over across the series. It is also one of the more confusing parts of the show and how exactly this entire kingdom from long ago links up to the story of Usagi and the rest of the Sailor Guardians.
What’s with the Moon Kingdom?
To help with the mysterious part of the Moon Kingdom in the Sailor Moon series, we have a simplified breakdown of what this place is and why it is important to the series. That said, this does include some spoilers for the first arc of the series, as it is intentionally hidden from you during this part for a reason.
If you do not mind finding out more about this lore section of Sailor Moon, then continue onward. As the name states, this is a kingdom that was once on the moon but is no longer there. They reigned millennia ago in a different time from our own with advanced technology and powers.
The Moon Kingdom was the counterpart to the Earth Kingdom that was on our planet. Both had their royalty and crystals that they had to protect at all costs from their enemies. The people of the Moon Kingdom were forbidden, though, from setting foot on Earth.
In the end, a young girl named Princess Serenity came to be born who happened to look exactly like Usagi of the present day. This is actually because they are the same person, with Usagi being the reincarnation of the moon princess from the ancient past.
In the time of the Moon Kingdom, Princess Serenity from the moon fell in love with Prince Endymion, who was from the Earth Kingdom. Their love was tragic as evil beings tried to steal the crystals and ended up destroying the Moon Kingdom in the process.
But Princess Serenity, also known as Usagi, and the rest of the Sailor Guardians were saved from this destruction and reborn in the present day as their current selves to save the world from the new threats that exist. These are all events that happen before the story of Sailor Moon but play an integral role in the events that happen in the series, which is why fans must understand this part.
Main Characters: Sailor Guardians, More
The main characters of Sailor Moon are the Sailor Guardians themselves. They begin with Sailor Moon or Usagi, as she is known in her normal teenage self. She is a young student who finds herself mixed up with Luna and awakens the power to transform into Sailor Moon.
Usagi is an emotional girl who wears her heart on her sleeve but cares dearly about her friends. She will do anything to protect them and planet Earth to the point of doing whatever it takes. She is the reincarnation of Princess Serenity from the ancient Moon Kingdom.
Then there is Luna, the talking magical cat that appears to Usagi early in the story. Luna also hails from the Moon Kingdom and has come to Earth to now bestow upon Usagi the powers to transform into Sailor Moon. She also acts as a guide for the leader of the Sailor Guardians.
Ami Mizuno is a member of the Sailor Guardians. She is a quiet and intelligent student who gets mixed up in the mess of trying to save Earth from evildoers. She eventually becomes Sailor Mercury, one of the initial Sailor Guardians.
Then there is Makoto Kino, who is a transfer student who is known for her model-like height and strength that she has. She eventually becomes Sailor Jupiter in the first arc of the series.
There is also Rei Hino, a shrine maiden who has a traditional lifestyle that eventually leads her to join the Sailor Guardians as Sailor Mars. She is also, personally, my favorite member of the group.
Last but not least, in the initial group of Sailor Guardians, without spoiling too much about who comes later, there is Sailor V or Venus. She awakened to her powers earlier than the rest of the gang due to being accompanied by the fellow talking cat Artemis from the Moon Kingdom.
There is also Tuxedo Mask or Mamoru Chiba, who is a high school student and a charming young man whose journey intertwines with the Guardians. What he is up to is unknown, but there is a romance abloom between him and Sailor Moon. He is the reincarnation of Prince Endymion.
Finally, there is Chibiusa, who is the future daughter of Usagi, and Mamoru, who joins the group later on in the story. There are plenty of other characters beyond these, including more Sailor Guardians that arrive in the later story arcs. These include the popular Sailor Uranus, Sailor Pluto, and Sailor Saturn.
Where to Read the Sailor Moon Manga
Once you are ready to start reading the Sailor Moon manga that started it all, there are plenty of places to do so, given the sheer success of this series. If you want the digital version of the series, you will want to look at places like Amazon Kindle, Book Walker, Google Play Store, and others where digital books are sold.
Given that Kodansha is the publisher of this series, instead of Viz Media like for the shounen manga out there, this means that you will not be able to officially read it as part of a subscription service like other major manga. That said, there are also plenty of places where you can get physical books, too.
The physical books are sold in various places, including Amazon and Barnes & Nobles online. You can also visit the brick-and-mortar bookstores out there or even your local manga shop to find some of the latest copies of the manga there.
What you need to be careful of is the fact that there are so many different versions and editions of the manga; at this point there, you can find some really expensive copies. Try to get the newer editions that have been released, and that should not be too much of an issue.
Where to Watch the Sailor Moon Anime
As for the Sailor Moon anime, as mentioned, two main adaptations are available, not even including the movie spin-offs that have been released. For the original 1990s anime that many fans have nostalgia for, there are a couple of places where you can easily find it.
For one, there is the streaming service known as Hulu that has both the English dubbed version and the original Japanese version there. You just need an active Hulu sub, and you will be able to view all 200 episodes of the original series there for that true nostalgia trip. There are also some digital retailers where you can purchase the series.
For the movies that came out during the run of the original anime, you will need to look at places like Amazon, where they are being sold digitally. All three of the movies are being sold or rented through various online movie retailers, so take your pick.
And last but not least, there is the latest anime series with Sailor Moon Crystal. You can purchase the three seasons of the show on various places, but subscribers to both Crunchyroll and Hulu can also easily watch the series there. As for the new Eternal movies, you can watch them right now with a Netflix subscription.
Which Anime is Better?
One of the issues when starting with the anime version of Sailor Moon is figuring out which version to watch. If you are an existing fan from the 1990s and early 2000s, you might want to check out the original series and have that nostalgia trip there.
That said, for everyone else new to the franchise, we highly recommend checking out Sailor Moon Crystal. It has much better animation and a shorter runtime that is more akin to the original manga. The only problem is that you will not be able to see the whole story this way just yet.
What Manga Chapter Crystal Fans Should Start With
If you watch Sailor Moon Crystal, you will find that the three seasons only cover the first three story arcs in the series. The two movies cover the next one, known as the Dream arc, but they are not yet available in the West.
So, if you want to see the rest of the story, be sure to start with Chapter 39 of the manga. That will start with the Dream arc and let you see the final two parts of the series.
Question: Is Sailor Moon Based on a True Story?
Answer: Do you mean a real story in the real world or a real story in the fictional world of Sailor Moon? The Sailor Moon universe is based on the Moon Kingdom that happened many millennia before the events of the series.
However, if you mean our actual version of Earth, it is not based on a true story, but it does contain some distinct inspirations.
Much of the setting surrounding the series is inspired by Greek architecture, and this is seen in the kingdoms themselves that are found on the moon. That said, this is only a visual inspiration as the rest of the characters and lore about the series are inspired by Japanese culture.
For one, the Sailor Guardians are called sailors because they are wearing a version of the sailor uniforms that have been used in schools in Japan. Then there is the actual Moon Kingdom storyline itself that takes elements from the Tale of the Princess Kaguya and other Japanese legends.
Question: Is Sailor Moon Kid-friendly?
Answer: Absolutely! Sailor Moon is a series that most fans started with as children or teens, and it is something that still holds up as a kid-friendly series today. I, myself, first watched it when I was around 8 or 9 years old, and this seems like a great age for someone to watch it.
The storylines are comedic, romantic, and fun in ways that are welcoming to children without going over their heads. There are serious moments, sure, but they are not more serious or mature than what is seen in Disney animated films and the like.
What is noteworthy is that censorship was something that Sailor Moon notoriously had in the 90s when it first came out. Many different countries outside of Japan did not like some of the content that was featured in the series, such as the religious references and the nude (without showing anything) state the girls are in when transforming.
And then there is the matter of the hints at LGBTQAI+ elements in the group that was problematic at the time since the 90s were not quite to the state of society that we are now in. Much of these parts of the series were censored or removed entirely in certain countries at the time.
Question: What does the R in Sailor Moon R Stand for?
Answer: One of the major films in the Sailor Moon franchise is Sailor Moon R. What is odd is that the “R” in the title is not explained, so fans are left figuring out what it means on their own. In an official booklet that was released for the series, it revealed what the R stands for, and there are three versions, depending on the situation.
R can mean “romance,” “rose,” or “return.” All three of them are correct and represent core themes and moments that happen in the Sailor Moon R animated film.
As for the S in Sailor Moon S, that one is a bit simpler and just means “super,” as in Sailor Moon Super. This is even seen in the Japanese title for the anime arc, where that is the literal name.
Question: How Many Guardians are in Sailor Moon?
Answer: There are 10 Sailor Guardians in total. The characters are named after the various planets in the solar system (including Pluto, of course) besides Earth.
Earth does not have a Sailor Guardian (though you could say Tuxedo Mask is that in a way), but, in exchange, there is Sailor Moon herself that takes that spot. The 10th character is Sailor Chibi Moon, or Chibiusa, who comes from the future.
Sailer Moon History and Overview: Conclusion
Sailor Moon is a foundational manga and anime series that is to thank for much of the trends and shows still going strong more than 30 years later. While the original series is quite old, there is a reason that new movies and episodes are still being made in the modern-day era of anime.
That is why we recommend also checking out our full glossary of keywords for manga and anime newcomers, as it will help you learn more about what the magical girl genre as a whole means, some of the other Japanese-derived key terms, and get you ready for finding more series beyond just Sailor Moon.