How the American Release of Sailor Moon Closeted Its LGBT Characters
Why we’re covering this: We love anime — it’s eye-popping, multi-culti and bravely tackles themes considered too mature for American cartoons. Plus, we’re against censorship because it cuts people off from important and challenging ideas.
Sailor Moon, for those you don’t know, is a massively popular anime series about adolescent girls who transform into powerful “Sailor Scouts” while defending Earth from inter-dimensional villains. When Sailor Moon came to American TV in the early ’90s, Clover — the company that handled its North American release — redubbed the Japanese dialogue into English and effectively censored the show’s LGBT content.
The video above goes into the censorship of the show’s LGBT characters (starting at 5:00)
Most notably, the dub erased the lesbian relationship between Sailors Uranus and Neptune (shown at left in the featured image above), two female characters who were passed off as “cousins” even though they were obviously very physically and emotionally affectionate with one another — something that consistently raised eyebrows among the show’s American fans.
The dub also erased the love affair between Kunzite and Zoisite (shown at right in the featured image above) — two male villains who have a very close and loving bond. By having Zoicite voiced by a female actor, Clover effectively put the somewhat androgynous character into a heterosexual relationship.
Most surprising though was the exclusion of transgender characters called the Sailor Star Lights, three beings who come to Earth in search of their missing Princess. In the show, the Star Lights become male pop stars in the hopes of attracting women (and possibly their lost princess) to their concerts, but when they transform into their superheroic Sailor forms, the Star Lights actually become female, making them one of the first transgender animated characters ever to appear on TV!
According to one fan, American companies felt so uncomfortable with the idea of transgender characters that Clover decided not to release the final season where the Star Lights appear, denying the existence of trans people altogether.
The show’s LGBT characters mean so much to Sailor Moon’s queer fandom that Vice magazine recently shot a documentary short about it (above).
Luckily, in 2014, the VIZ Media — the “Japanese-American manga, anime, and entertainment company headquartered in San Francisco” — won the rights to re-dub and re-release Sailor Moon in North America raising the hopes that the show’s LGBT characters will be taken out of the closet and put back into the moonlight where they belong.