As you all know, Sailor Moon has a special place rent-free in my mind. I had always known about the manga counterpart of the iconic 90s anime but had never taken to reading them. Until now!
As I read Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, I couldn’t help but notice the vast differences from the original 90s anime Sailor Moon. I am really enjoying the darker themes that are more overt in the manga. It feels like the Sailor Moon anime didn’t portray how much of a threat the villains indeed were. Our favorite guardians are under constant attack in the manga, each seemingly worse than the last.
Currently, I am through volume four of the manga series and just about to begin book five. I needed a mental break from the sadness of the story, so I thought it interesting to compare a few differences between the 90s anime and the manga.
1) Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is Dark
The manga is nothing like the lighthearted, humorous anime that we all grew up with. It is so dark and explores themes like genocide, suicide, and sacrifice. As a long time lover of the anime, the manga’s darkness surprised me.
In Sailor Moon’s past life, as Princess Serenity, her death differs significantly. Instead of falling due to Queen Beryl’s power, like in the anime, Princess Serenity falls by her own hand after Beryl murders Endymion. In her grief, Queen Serenity seals away Beryl and the Dark Kingdom’s Queen Metalia. However imperfectly, allowing them to be reborn on earth and once again terrorize the Sailor Guardians in their next lives. Pretty sad stuff. I would’ve never expected Princess Serenity to be her own undoing ultimately. What’s even more tragic is a few chapters later in the present time of the story, she is once again faced with Beryl. And this time, Endymion/Mamoru is her enemy alongside Beryl.
Unable to handle this realization, Sailor Moon uses “The Holy Sword,” a magical sword which the guardians found on the moon, to kill Mamoru and then turn the blade on herself. All the while, she questions whether their destiny is to be reborn only for their romance to end in tragedy every time. When I tell you guys, I cried, I ugly cried. It was an unfortunate part of the story, and their romance overall was heavy.
Further, the number of corpses present is so surprising. The anime really glossed over the deaths of villains and most definitely never explicitly killed off innocents. The Sailor Moon manga bluntly takes out nuns, children, and an entire race (the Silver Millenium Natives) without a second thought.
I am not mad at the story’s darkness in the manga, just surprised that it is such a far cry from the anime’s sweetness and gaiety.
2) Sailor Venus is the True Leader of the Sailor Guardians
A big difference from the anime lies in the real leadership of the Sailor Guardians. Although Sailor Moon is the most powerful of the quintuple, she is not the guardians’ leader. Sailor Venus is, and Mars is second in rank. Technically, Sailor Moon shouldn’t really exist because she is not a guardian but a princess. The guardians are trained to protect the princess. The only reason why Luna gave her the ability to transform was so she wouldn’t be discovered as the true moon princess and have her life put at risk.
Further, Sailor Venus is the body double for Sailor Moon, often pretending to be her in times of peril to protect her, which is represented in the anime. However, what we don’t see in the anime is Venus being the champion of “The Holy Sword,” pulling it from the moon’s surface. She is the only guardian able to wield it to its full potential–saying an ancient prayer as she does. Also, Venus was the first to fully awaken, and that means something! Surely, it represents her leadership of the other guardians before they even know who they really are.
3) Tuxedo Mask Actually Does Something
Unlike in the Sailor Moon anime, the manga portrays Tuxedo Mask as a useful character and significant player in the story. Often, Tuxedo Mask would just show up randomly in the anime, throw a rose, and then leave. Was the rose really supposed to save the day, girl?
In the manga, he is an entirely different character. Yes, he still throws his red roses now and again, but he actually does something useful. He actively participates in battle strategy with the guardians and fights vigorously to protect Usagi. In the part of the manga I’m at, he has the power of psychometry, the ability to touch an item or person and see events of the past, present, or future. Unfortunately, he keeps this mysterious ability in the anime, but he doesn’t really use it. It pretty much slowly disappears. Luckily, Tuxedo Mask has a few special attacks in the manga, like “Tuxedo La Smoking Bomber.” As we know, he’s pretty much a plain jane in the anime possessing no special attacks, just roses. He can also call upon his own guards, the “Four Heavenly Kings,” when he needs advice.
4) The Romance is Much Heavier
This one is interesting because Usagi and Mamoru don’t come across as a couple in the anime. At least not to me! I think that makes sense because he is much older than her, which is weird. It feels like she is a younger girl interested in an older guy who just goes along to humor her. In their civilian forms, they don’t give off couple vibes.
Although he is older than her in the manga, he is still only a high school student, and as far as I know, not older than 16 or 17. They have a lot of romantic scenes in the manga that are really sweet. I actually ship manga Usagi and Mamoru vs. anime Usagi and Mamoru.
5) Sailor Moon Matures Much Faster
Sailor Moon/Usagi matures much faster in the manga. Her quirkiness and zest remain, but she quickly becomes less of a crybaby and grows into a strategic thinker. At the point in the manga I’m at, she still cries, but not in an outlandish way. Her sadness becomes silent.
Bonus: Motoki Furuhata (Arcade Guy) Plays a Larger Role?
Okay, so what was super unexpected for me is that Motoki plays a larger role in the manga. In the anime, he is a simple arcade attendant unaware of the guardians’ true nature. He slowly phases out of the show. On the contrary, in the Sailor Moon manga, he discovers the Sailor Guardians’ true identities. Luckily, he aims to keep it a secret. As well, he soo has a thing with Makoto (Sailor Jupiter), like romantically. Their romance hasn’t developed past a simple kiss on the cheek, but he seems to really care for her. We’ll see what happens!
Did I miss any other differences between the Sailor Moon manga and 90s anime? Tell me in the comments!