I Believe in It, Miracle Romance!

With all that business about the Best Sailor Venus Cosplay Ever, Triple J mentioning the Sailor Starlights in the most recent episode of Brain Food, and my own posting on the issue of whitewashing and dubs, how can I ever hope to stop having Sailor Moon on my mind.

Just kidding. I always have Sailor Moon on my mind.

I love the anime for a variety of reasons, and one of them is –you guessed it– the romances. Using only my memory, I can identify four significant romantic relationships throughout the five seasons of the anime. While all of them are flawed, it is pretty notable that the queer relationships make up the majority of all the romances.

While I will be focusing on the anime, I would also be making a few references to the manga to perhaps give things more of a perspective.

Firstly, let’s start with the headlining romance. Spoilers are sure to follow.

Usagi and Mamoru

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In a world where the male romance protagonist is always an ALPHA MALE “I MAKE YOUR DECISIONS I AM MAN AND THEREFORE YOU ARE MINE TO DO AS I WISH WITH” ASSHOLES, Chiba Mamoru is the one man who frees you from all that shit.

I admit, I did not like Chiba Mamoru at first for the way he treated Usagi. I am generally not a fan of the trope of two people constantly at odds with each other ending up together, because it is overdone and also because it tends to have a man enacting misogynistic behaviours and it is somehow okay once they’re in love. Do you know what kind of relationship something like that would result in? Yes, an abusive one.

Even as Tuxedo respects Sailor Moon despite her initial shortcomings as a superhero, Chiba Mamoru seems to take pleasure in bullying Tsukino Usagi. Yes, sometimes Usagi is the one at fault and I don’t really mind some arguing. What I have issue with is when Mamoru sometimes comments on her not meeting the femaleideal (e.g. eating too much, speaking too loud).

But after the two of them learn of each other’s true identities, Mamoru’s jerk side disappears. Where that went, I don’t know and I’m glad it is gone, though it returned for a while in the filler arc for the second season. Following that, Mamoru sees doom in the future if he stays with Usagi and tries pushing her away. I never understood why he could not just discuss the premonitions. It’s not like he had to keep it a secret or else.

It is only then do we finally have Mamoru permanently stop being an ass to Usagi. Still, for the overall time when they are in a relationship, Mamoru has always been a supportive presence to Usagi. Like how he would buy her reprieve during battle, he would make up for her shortcomings through encouragement and aid. Instead of laughing at her test scores, he tutors her in school work. When she tries baking for the first time, he recognises that it was for his sake and finishes it anyway to show his appreciation. Ham-fisted, yes, but at least he did not start making fun of her for not being like “a proper woman who can cook”.

As the series goes on, both Usagi and Mamoru start developing nurturing characteristics towards their future daughter, Chibiusa. Yes, they had none of that bullshit about children being solely the mother’s duty. Towards the end of season 4, they even had a bit of a role reversal when Sailor Moon and friends go on to fight evil and secure peace for the world while Mamoru stays behind to protect and support his daughter.

Despite a problematic start, the two of them grow into a healthy relationship where the love and the commitment is mutual. In a typical het romance, the man would have been jealous of the woman being more powerful (in fighting evil monsters, that is. Their personal dynamic is a balanced one).

Zoisite and Kunzite

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When I first discovered that the two of them are lovers, my initial response is to be happy. I really did not expect to find a gay couple in the show and the surprise was a pleasant one. Of course, I wised up to the problems very soon. Gay villains? Check. A “man and woman” dynamic? Check. Dying? Check.

It is interesting to note that the two of them were not a couple in the manga, a lesser consumed media. I struggle to understand why it is introduced. Japan’s heterosexism has never reached the kind of feverent dedication as it did in the West, but it still exists no thanks to Western imperialism. Despite the sterotypicality, the love these two had was not presented as something disgusting. Not something to be laughed at. When Kunzite, the last of the Dark Kingdom’s Four Heavenly Kings died, I’m pretty sure we are supposed to sympathise with him as he calls out Zoisite’s name one last time.

Those of you who grew up with the US dub would surely remember Zoisite being a woman. Yeah, fucked up isn’t it?

Haruka and Michiru

hmromantical

You all knew anime’s golden couple will show up here the moment you came to this page, and so here they are.

Obviously, they are a step up from the above in that they are heroes. Well, anti-heroes to be exact. Lesbians who get to be hard arsed badasses, well how about that.

But yes, we all notice that they have a “man and woman” image going on too. Now, a bit of a background. The image of Haruka and Michiru are inspired from the Takarazuka Revue, a Japanese all-women musical theatre troupe, with crossdressing actors being common. Unlike Zoisite and Kunzite, their relationship was in the manga and the creator, Takeuchi Naoko, claimed to have wanted to make Haruka and Michiru lovers just because.

I have mixed feelings about Zoisite and Kunzite, and I also have mixed feelings about Haruka and Michiru though it is in a different way. As annoying as it is for the “man and woman” dynamic to show up, I do really like the fact that Haruka is someone whose interests and choice of appearance are those coded masculine without being derided even once for it. I certainly like how in one episode, Usagi got drunk and revealed herself to still have a small crush on Haruka despite knowing that Haruka is really a woman. There were probably a few other moments too. Also in the same episode, after Haruka’s awesome lead had Usagi look like she was great at dancing, everyone in the room wanted to dance with Haruka. Even the men. Make of that what you will.

Haruka’s gender representation is not as rigid in the manga. Though she does still wear “masculine” clothing and gets mistaken for a man, she does still wear “feminine” clothing which isn’t her Sailor Soldier uniform. Though this has the effect of somewhat making her relationship with Michiru less evocative of the typical image of a het couple, it is still evoked at times even if unintentionally. But we all know intention don’t count for shit.

Also, in both the anime and the manga, Haruka is shown only flirting with girls while Michiru usually flirts with men.

Even with the gendered coding, like Usagi and Mamoru, Haruka and Michiru’s romance is absent of an unequal power dynamic.

For people who are familiar with only the US dub:

Actually, just watch it if you want to laugh at the US dub’s pathetic attempt to write out their romance.

Seiya and Usagi

seiyausagiTrue, this pairing was never consummated but season five was pushing for a possible romance between them (even if it is obvious that it won’t happen since season two established Usagi and Mamoru’s future marriage). Nevertheless, this pairing is strong enough that some fans wish Usagi and Seiya could have been together.

The same fans would insist that Seiya is a man. I hate that because when they think man, they really think cis man who just transforms into a woman.

Personally, I am not entirely sure what to read of Seiya. A woman who simply assumes a be-penised body for her mission? A man who is able to walk among Earthlings in his desired form even if his soldier duties require to take another? Perhaps he is comfortable in both his forms? Someone who identifies as both or neither? Even if Seiya identifies as one of the two binary genders, they certainly never expressed any discomfort with either forms.

Whatever Seiya is, this pairing is not cishet and I will always hate it when fandom insist that it is.

So that’s that, and it’s awesome that Usagi does somewhat reciprocate. What prevents me from fully supporting this ship though is that Seiya is such a jerk at the beginning. Sure, Mamoru was also a jerk at first but Seiya is the one who constantly tries to make Usagi go on a date with them despite knowing that she already has someone. Woah Star Fighter, just because you’re posing as an Earthling male doesn’t mean you have to perpetuate rape culture.

Seiya also pulls the condescending “I’ll protect you” quite often though to be fair, they are an alien superbeing and they think that Usagi is just a normal human.

So in conclusion? Sailor Moon’s romances are not perfect but it is a shame that so many things can’t even meet it on the same level. I’m hoping that the 2013 version, despite staying closer to the manga, would not take away Zoisite/Kunzite and Usagi/Seiya but improve on them. Oh, and Haruka and Michiru better continue stealing the show whenever they’re on.

4 thoughts on “I Believe in It, Miracle Romance!

  1. I am sincerely hopeful that the 2013 anime will not only do the original anime proud, but also surpass it with its writing on this level.

    Oftentimes I am annoyed and irritated at romance, and more often than not it’s because of my own single status and how it’s shoved into our faces all the time. It’s one of my annoyances with the Marvel movies, where there HAS to be a romance in nearly all of them, except for the Avengers, thankfully.

    Looking back on Sailor Moon, I guess the reason why the romance didn’t bother me thinking of it now is because they were a wonderful ingredient instead of the main dish. At the end of the day, it was about Usagi and her friends defeating the bad guys and being good friends.

    And part of why I like Haruka and Michiru is because they are SO damned cool! They both have a level of class I’ve yet to see in most other couples, no matter where they fall on the sexuality spectrum. Haruka wears masculine and Michiru wears feminine in their clothing options, but it never feels forced.

    And when you compare them to Western representations of lesbians, from what I’ve seen, the Western representation is never very favourable, with this kind of enforced, stereotyped look of acting and dressing like men, like because they like women they HAVE to dress like men.

    And the genderswapping of Zoicite was rather yuck, but his and Malachite’s relationship is rather typical of most anime and other shows from Japan, where they’ll show the bad guys having deep, loving relationships, and even makes them more sympathetic instead of being straight up bad guys.

    • Yeah, I generally don’t like romances for the same reason and I do still get annoyed with the filler episodes when the rest (Rei, Minako, and Makoto) are trying to get dates but… I don’t know. It’s like at the end of the day, they still have fulfilling lives without men.

      Oh and yes, Haruka and Michiru are definitely on a whole other level from Western depictions despite the man/woman image they have. No, I’ll go one further and say they’re beyond any other couple ever!

      It’s really sad that even though Sailor Moon isn’t perfect about everything, the bar it sets is apparently too high for other things.

  2. Actually in Vermont I think it is you CAN marry your first cousin, so yeah that might be something you’d say the them XD.
    Honestly in the manga I think zoicite and Kunzite are shown in one panel together ONCE (my memory might be sketchy) and I think Zoi was sitting down and Kunz was standing over him. Another thing to note that didn’t happen in the anime is that the four heavenly kings are all Mamoru’s generals from Earth. They all seem to have that kind of love for him too.

    I’m hoping the 2013 anime will be more like the manga. The anime gave what it gave, but the manga IMO is a LOT better in areas. Mostly where Mamoru and Usagi are concerned as well as adding more information to everything to have it make more sense.

    As for the Sailor Starlights, I think it’s plainly stated in the anime that they are women first and chose to take the form of men just to attract the attention of their princess.

    All in all i wish more relationship were written like Usagi and Mamoru. We have a TRUE alpha male in him (look it up, a true alpha male wolf is a loving family man. The one’s we think about are from captive wolves.) However since that term is sullied we can look to Mamoru to be the ideal boyfriend/lover. In the manga he never once tells her to stop doing what she is doing because she might hurt herself, he only asks that he can help. (Turns out her true power can ONLY come about with him around, but that’s another gripe). Even looking at other mahou shoujo, we either see a lack of male influence altogether (Pretty Cure) or we see the main characters ONLY pine after a man (Mermaid Melody). Curse Sailor Moon for being too perfect!

    • Well, there is that one time Princess Kakyuu asked Seiya about the Starlight’s civilian forms and Seiya answered that it was more convenient for their mission. But thinking about it, most of the time the issue of their gender is vague enough that you can read it in several ways.

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