Sailor Moon was the first Magical Girl Deconstruction

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GalX3

Luna Nova
Nov 13, 2018
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#41
I think Season 1 explores the relationship between being free and the sacrifices needed to maintain that freedom. PGSM makes this a central focus of the entire series. Sailor Stars (excluding the 90s anime) explores deep concepts of control vs chaos and the necessity of both. Too much chaos leads to meaninglessness, too much control leads to a static singularity which can never meet everyone's desires and makes mute hope and dreams. Finding a balance means everyone gets their turn, whether for better or for worse is perspective. In order to deconstruct something you ned to have something to deconstruct. While there is a magical girl genre I'm not convinced that at the time of Sailor Moon being written it was entreched, formulaic or cliched enough to deconstruct. Certainly prior to Stars this was not a chief goal in my opinion and where it did happen it happened by necessity.

Also, I think deconstruction can be very harmful to a fantasy series. It leads to "dark" versions and at extremes satire and 4th wall breaking, all of which can strip away at the suspension of disbelief. In fact, I'd argue that the art of a fantasy series is too prolong as long as possible the deconstruction of its core elements by exploring every avenue possible. Why make a new season of Sailor Moon when we all know Sailor Cosmos(es?) will never win and will be fighting Chaos for the rest of eternity, time travel aside, and I could write an entire article about why time travel should not and does not need to be part of the Sailor Moon universe.
 
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Jun 17, 2019
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#42
This is probably the most idiotic thing I've heard. Do you seriously think every magical girl show prior to Sailor Moon was all sunshine and rainbows? There's conflict in most of them, just like any piece of fiction. Every single heroine from Sally to Ranze to Mami has suffered from consequences in being a magical girl. I feel like a lot of fans throw the term "deconstruction" around to give themselves some shallow validation. "Oh no! I don't like just any magical girl shows! I like *deconstructed* magical girl shows!" I feel like I'm back in middle school where all my friends would brag about how anime "wasn't for kids" and was "so much better than American cartoons".



I can't speak for Wedding Peach, Tokyo Mew Mew, or Precure, since I haven't seen enough of them. By your argument, the first deconstruction of "magical girl shows" would be Mahou no Mako-chan, which predates Sailor Moon by a good 20 years. Mako is a mermaid who's given a magical pendant, and goes to the human world only to find it sucks. Half of the time her powers don't even work. Mako finds herself in the middle of discrimination, racism, teenage rebellion, suicide, genocide, revenge, substance abuse, etc. Mako has failed to save people on a number of occasions, sometimes resulting in death. Sometimes conflicts aren't resolved, and Mako just has to keep hope.

A similar narrative is used years later with Majokko Megu-chan. Even then, many other magical girls have had similar themes. Chappy can't expose her magical powers for fear of being burned at stake, or punished by her king. Limit is a cyborg who struggles to accept her humanity, or the fact she'll never grow up like other children. Yes, she has cool powers, but all she wants is to be a normal kid. Trust me, Sailor Moon's "dark themes" are nothing special, and certainly aren't a deconstruction.
The problem is is that as an American we never got these early Mahou Shojo shows sadly. Sailor Moon was likely most Americans introduction to the genre as a whole.
I agree that Utena is probably not mahou shoujo in the most traditional sense, but I still think it's worth a mention... It deconstructed a lot of tropes common in shoujo, including mahou, and explored a lot of similar themes before Madoka ever did.

One thing I will say in defense of Madoka... It may not have been the first deconstruction by any means, but maybe it's most unique or noteworthy for its presentation. Out of the series I've seen that are similar, I'd say it's definitely the darkest and most unrelenting of its kind. Going by tone and atmosphere alone, it's a stark contrast to what one typically expects from mahou shoujo. The stereotypical mahou shoujo image is cheerful and lighthearted whereas Madoka is much darker and more psychological in nature, more in the vein of something like Evangelion. Sailor Moon has some deconstructive elements, especially towards the end of the manga, but the series overall is lighthearted in nature and with an optimistic outlook. Madoka Magica is a much darker take on a mahou shoujo series, becoming very grim and almost nihilistic at times. Madoka is also much more narrow in scope and in what it sets out to do; the whole series basically takes one trope after another and turns it on its head. Whereas Sailor Moon is much broader in scope and storyline, the deconstructive element is just one part, in other areas it's closer to a regular mahou shoujo.

So I'd say Madoka is probably seen as THE mahou shoujo deconstruction for that reason. If Sailor Moon introduced the concept, Madoka went and ran with it. It does borrow somewhat from the Stars arc of the manga but I guess at least it does something interesting with it... Every idea has been done before, it's how a series presents it that makes the difference. Sailor Moon is better but Madoka is still pretty good in its own right, better than a lot of series out there.
You're right and I do still like Madoka and think it's good, don't get me wrong. I just think newbies to the Magical Girl fandom who only started with Madoka should acknowledge and respect Sailor Moon more because I very much believe that if Naoko hadn't wrote the Stars arc in the manga, we would have never had Madoka. The influence is as clear as day.


My position is that if Stars had been adapted into anime back in the 90s exactly like it was in the manga, then Madoka and Sailor Moon Stars would feel very identical.

While watching Madoka for the first time, what came to my mind immediately was the Stars arc of Sailor Moon, manga, of course.

I think Stars is the best arc of the Sailor Moon manga. While reading it, I felt really surprised with Naoko's ideas and how she wasn't willing to compromise the story she wanted to tell. She went as far as killing even the poor cats. Kindly notice that she finalized the Stars arc after the anime ended, so my impression is that she was free to do what she wanted.
Exactly! This is why Stars is my favorite manga arc as well, it was just so balls to the walls gutsy and turned the entire series on it's head as we knew it. I know the Dream arc tends to be the fan favorite darling of the fandom with Stars getting a more mixed reception and I've heard many an argument that the manga should've ended at Dream but I disagree. I'm personally really thankful that Toei pressured Naoko as much as they had to create more seasons up until the end of Stars, I think if SM had ended just on Dream it would've merely been a good manga, the Stars arc though is what truly makes the manga a masterpiece.

Stars was also the arc where you could tell that Naoko finally had the most creative freedom. She frequently talked about how she always wanted to make SM a dark series and to end it on a grim note and I think she just finally said "[BLEEP] it" and wrote what she wanted for Stars. I've heard rumors she was extremely fatigued at that point and wanted to end the series in a way so that there'd be no option open for sequels, I personally think Stars was just a big "[BLEEP] you" to her editors and Toei for attempting to reign in her ideas. I'm personally really happy for both her and the anime world at large that she managed to get her deconstructive ending at the end, it helped pave the way for series like Madoka after all and I very firmly believe that if we never had the Stars arc we wouldn't have Madoka.
 
Jun 17, 2019
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#43
I think Season 1 explores the relationship between being free and the sacrifices needed to maintain that freedom. PGSM makes this a central focus of the entire series. Sailor Stars (excluding the 90s anime) explores deep concepts of control vs chaos and the necessity of both. Too much chaos leads to meaninglessness, too much control leads to a static singularity which can never meet everyone's desires and makes mute hope and dreams. Finding a balance means everyone gets their turn, whether for better or for worse is perspective. In order to deconstruct something you ned to have something to deconstruct. While there is a magical girl genre I'm not convinced that at the time of Sailor Moon being written it was entreched, formulaic or cliched enough to deconstruct. Certainly prior to Stars this was not a chief goal in my opinion and where it did happen it happened by necessity.

Also, I think deconstruction can be very harmful to a fantasy series. It leads to "dark" versions and at extremes satire and 4th wall breaking, all of which can strip away at the suspension of disbelief. In fact, I'd argue that the art of a fantasy series is too prolong as long as possible the deconstruction of its core elements by exploring every avenue possible. Why make a new season of Sailor Moon when we all know Sailor Cosmos(es?) will never win and will be fighting Chaos for the rest of eternity, time travel aside, and I could write an entire article about why time travel should not and does not need to be part of the Sailor Moon universe.
The thing about Sailor Moon is that it's both a deconstruction and a trope codifier at the exact same time. It's the first of it's kind of a Magical Girl Sentai team and combining Tokusatsu with Mahou Shojo but it's also not afraid to deconstruct those very elements (at least the concept of Magical Girls battling) at the same time it's codifying them, which I think is what makes it so special in the first place.

I also firmly believe it does it's deconstructive elements right, it never gets too outlandish or tries to break the 4th wall, it's shocking reveals are very much consistent with it's own world-building and universal rules and is believable. I don't even think it get's too dark either, even the ending of Stars in the manga, which is objectively the saddest ending of the entire series still ends on a hopeful and more bittersweet note than outright sad. Sailor Moon works as well as it does because it's not trying to just be all edge and grimdark for the sake of being edgy. It's still deconstructive in nature, at least the Stars arc, PGSM and even the first season of the 90's anime are, but like you said it's trying to use that deconstruction for a purpose to send a message regarding the circle of life and the balance between chaos and order. It's actually an incredibly clever and smart series for something that was aimed at an elementary school-girl audience.

I don't think people give Naoko Takeuchi nearly enough credit for the story-telling skills she has. (These days thanks to Crystal people tend to criticize Naoko's writing more often than not, while I admit she is sloppy in some areas, particularly concerning pacing and paneling I think her core ideas are overall genius)
 
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Rika-Chicchi

Staff member
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May 7, 2009
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#44
I don't think people give Naoko Takeuchi nearly enough credit for the story-telling skills she has. (These days thanks to Crystal people tend to criticize Naoko's writing more often than not, while I admit she is sloppy in some areas, particularly concerning pacing and paneling I think her core ideas are overall genius)
Maybe she should contribute ideas, settings, character designs, overall plot, etc. & let another manga writer to execute them. :)

As for deconstruction, I've always imagined a deconstruction of specifically the Sailor Moon story itself by swapping the protagonists & antagonists, i.e. Serenity & her allies become the villains & the villains become the good guys, & the whole narrative in the original story is actually the former's deceptive propaganda to angelize themselves & demonize the latter.
 
Jun 17, 2019
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#45
Maybe she should contribute ideas, settings, character designs, overall plot, etc. & let another manga writer to execute them. :)

As for deconstruction, I've always imagined a deconstruction of specifically the Sailor Moon story itself by swapping the protagonists & antagonists, i.e. Serenity & her allies become the villains & the villains become the good guys, & the whole narrative in the original story is actually the former's deceptive propaganda to angelize themselves & demonize the latter.
I still firmly believe that Naoko actually executed her ideas pretty well with what she had, people also have to remember that she was under a lot of pressure and was on a time crunch for SM as well. Perhaps the manga would've been smoother if she had more time? I feel PGSM is a better example of her story-telling capabilities and just how much she can accomplish if she didn't have a noose over her neck. Again really, the only thing criticism you could really give her for her story-telling in the manga was that she had to slow down and allow some moments to BREATHE! (Also work on panelling) Also the manga really should've been longer to allow for that downtime and more fleshed out characterization and development of the girls. I disagree with the fandom sentiment that she's bad at characterization and development though, I think PGSM more than proved that she's actually excellent at it and I always found Rei's characterization in the manga in the Casablanca Memories sidestory as well as Mako's characterization to be particularly nuanced. Hell, Chibi-Usa is easily a 100x better developed in the manga than she ever was in the 90's anime!

"As for deconstruction, I've always imagined a deconstruction of specifically the Sailor Moon story itself by swapping the protagonists & antagonists, i.e. Serenity & her allies become the villains & the villains become the good guys, & the whole narrative in the original story is actually the former's deceptive propaganda to angelize themselves & demonize the latter."


Do you mean like 90% of Crystal Tokyo dystopia fanfiction which portrays the BMC as in the right and Serenity as a tyrant dictator? :-P That's already a popular fanon opinion lmao!
 

Rika-Chicchi

Staff member
Site Admin
May 7, 2009
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#46
"As for deconstruction, I've always imagined a deconstruction of specifically the Sailor Moon story itself by swapping the protagonists & antagonists, i.e. Serenity & her allies become the villains & the villains become the good guys, & the whole narrative in the original story is actually the former's deceptive propaganda to angelize themselves & demonize the latter."

Do you mean like 90% of Crystal Tokyo dystopia fanfiction which portrays the BMC as in the right and Serenity as a tyrant dictator? :-P That's already a popular fanon opinion lmao!
I meant the entire Sailor Moon story, i.e. all the story arcs, including but not just the one you mentioned. :wink:

As for PGSM, it's entirely written by another person, but I can't rule out she'd contributed ideas to her - actually I think that's quite probable. :)
 
Jun 17, 2019
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#47
I meant the entire Sailor Moon story, i.e. all the story arcs, including but not just the one you mentioned. :wink:

As for PGSM, it's entirely written by another person, but I can't rule out she'd contributed ideas to her - actually I think that's quite probable. :)
Actually there is some debate to be on whether Beryl and the Earth were in the right, I mean Queen Serenity did kinda shut them out of the Silver Alliance and forbid contact with them, for no discernible reason also. Like what would you do if you had this incredibly powerful galactic wide empire that encompassed the Solar System with technology and magic that was beyond your comprehension and not only were they not interested in letting you into their little circle but the empire's capital state was literally right next door to you and could easily invade and overpower you at any moment if they so chose?

I'm just saying, Beryl wasn't entirely wrong in her logic.

Wait really? I had always heard that PGSM was the version where Naoko had the most say and complete control in? I know she wasn't the director but wasn't she like supervising the project or something? I thought she had written the whole thing?
 

Clow

Lumen Cinereum
Jul 29, 2012
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#48
Wait really? I had always heard that PGSM was the version where Naoko had the most say and complete control in? I know she wasn't the director but wasn't she like supervising the project or something? I thought she had written the whole thing?
She didn't write it. According to my understanding, she always wished to see Sailor Moon as a tokusatsu show. As for her involvement with PGSM, she only helped to choose the actresses to portray each senshi and designed the costumes of Sailor Luna and Princess Sailor Moon. I don't think she did anything else.
 
Sep 6, 2014
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#49
I swear to God ever since tv tropes people have used and abused the word deconstruction until it lost all meaning and is just applied to anything that isn't all sunshines and rainbows 24/7


Wait really? I had always heard that PGSM was the version where Naoko had the most say and complete control in? I know she wasn't the director but wasn't she like supervising the project or something? I thought she had written the whole thing?
No, I believe she was more closely involved but she didn't have complete control as far as I know and certainly didn't write the whole thing that was Yasuko Kobayashi.
 
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Rika-Chicchi

Staff member
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May 7, 2009
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#50
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MariaTenebre

Lumen Cinereum
Jul 22, 2009
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#51
Actually there is some debate to be on whether Beryl and the Earth were in the right, I mean Queen Serenity did kinda shut them out of the Silver Alliance and forbid contact with them, for no discernible reason also. Like what would you do if you had this incredibly powerful galactic wide empire that encompassed the Solar System with technology and magic that was beyond your comprehension and not only were they not interested in letting you into their little circle but the empire's capital state was literally right next door to you and could easily invade and overpower you at any moment if they so chose?

I'm just saying, Beryl wasn't entirely wrong in her logic.

Wait really? I had always heard that PGSM was the version where Naoko had the most say and complete control in? I know she wasn't the director but wasn't she like supervising the project or something? I thought she had written the whole thing?
Ugh no. Beryl and her followers were not in the right. Also the Silver Millennium did watch over and protect the Golden Kingdom from without however for some reason there was the taboo between the people of the Moon and Earth mixing. As to why this taboo existed it was not stated. It could have been because of Queen Nehellenia's curse that the love between Princess Serenity and a person of the Earth could lead to disaster. Also Earth did have access to as powerful tech as the Silver Millennium did it is just for some reason there was this taboo with them mixing. It could have easily been because of the Earthians innate jealousy of the Lunarians for their long life span and also that they didn't want to be subordinate to the Moon as the other planets decided to be maybe because the Golden Crystal was on a more equal footing to the Silver Crystal.