The Sailor Moon Cast on Equality, Gender Politics, and What’s Next

At Anime Expo, the cast of Sailor Moon told fans about a whole range of topics relating to the show and otherwise.

Sailor Moon 2014

At Anime Expo, the official Viz Sailor Moon panel made some juicy casting announcements, but there was much more to the panel than that, and you can count on us here at Den of Geek to give you the highlights of this embarrassment of riches.

First things first, the first batch of dubbed episodes of Sailor Moon S are on the horizon, which means some new additions to the cast.

Returning to voice Chibi-Usa, now Sailor Chibi Moon, is Sandy Fox. While that character gains a superhero identity, Sailor Pluto gains the civilian identity of Setsuna Meiou, voiced once again by Veronica Taylor. Another returning cast member will be taking on a new role. Keith Silverstein made his final appearance as Usagi’s dad, Kenji, in Episode 67, freeing him up to lend his voice to the character of Professor Souichi Tomoe, a the nominal leader of the Death Busters.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Silverstein said of taking on the role. “I really want to sink my teeth into this role. He’s kind of crazy… No one plays Laser Tag like Kenji, but I enjoy evil laughter, and there will be lots of that!”

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Tomoe’s daughter, Hotaru, within whom slumbers the chillingly bad-ass Sailor Saturn (as well as a far less welcome presence), will be portrayed by Christine Marie Cabanos.

And, of course, the actresses chosen to portray the Sapphic super-couple everyone’s been dying to see in action… Erica Mendez will be voicing the butch, sporty Haruka Tenou AKA Sailor Uranus, and Lauren Landa will portray her graceful, artistic other half, Michiru Kaiou AKA Sailor Neptune.

The new castmembers did appear briefly on the panel, though the mainstays were the core cast: Stephanie Sheh (Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon), Robbie Daymond (Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask), Cristina Vee (Rei Hino/Sailor Mars), Amanda Miller (Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter), Cheramie Leigh (Minako Aino/Sailor Venus), and Sandy Fox (Chibi-Usa/Sailor Chibi Moon). Of the core cast, only Kate Higgins (Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury) was absent from the proceedings.

When asked what they find most inspiring about Sailor Moon, the panel provided a varied range of responses, with more than a few references to the significance of LGBT inclusion, especially poignant, given the recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality.

SHEH: I’m super proud to be part of a property that twenty years ago was forward-thinking enough to be like… “We have two women who love each other, and we’re going to put them together, and still kids can watch the show.”  And I think about now and what’s going on, and I think, wow, it’s so progressive, and I’m so proud to be part of that.

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MILLER: It’s trending right now, but love really does win. A lot of the monsters… like I don’t get to destroy them with my thunder dragon. Really what brings them back is that Sailor Moon’s power is healing and love and friendship.

Of course, other themes were addressed, but most had to do with what has given Sailor Moon such mass appeal: the questioning and subversion of gender roles, and the value of qualities such as emotional intelligence, diversity, and inclusion.

SHEH: There’s something for everybody, and they’re not just stereotypes. I’m into nerdy stuff and sci-fi stuff and superhero stuff, and there’d be like a ton of boys and like one girl…  and it’s all girls now.

MILLER: I also just want to add real quick that we’ve been talking a lot about female empowerment, but the number of male fans that love the show, it’s such a universal thing … But also the number of people who have come to me and said, “Sailor Moon saved my life. Sailor Moon gave me hope… I’ve heard a lot of people say that it helped them through a period of self-harm… so this show’s not just anime. There’s something in it that speaks to so many people, and that’s inspiring.

Tuxedo Mask himself chimed in with his perspective on Sailor Moon’s role as a conversation starter on the matter of gender politics.

DAYMOND: To be the male hero who’s just as much the damsel in distress is awesome, and it’s also an inspirational and awesome message. Not only can women save men in more ways than one, but also that sometimes the man can be lesser without his female partner and vice versa, and it makes us look at gender roles and relationships. Whether it’s getting saved from the scary monster or losing your identity and having to be brought back by love, those are really good themes when it comes to relationships, so for me that’s one of the most important parts.

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In addition to all the buzz about the new dub episodes of Sailor Moon S, there was a preview of the cast’s upcoming work on Sailor Moon Crystal, in which they will be reprising all their roles.

The official trailer, followed by a few select scenes from the first episode, demonstrates very clearly just how well Stephanie Sheh has eased into the role of Usagi and literally found her voice. By comparing these two versions of Sailor Moon’s origin story, one recorded nearly a year and a hundred episodes after the other, it’s easy to see that Sheh has gotten a stronger sense of the character. Not that her performance was by any means bad before, but some of the cutesy squeakiness came off as a little forced, and this time around, her performance sounds much more natural, as it eventually did in her recordings for the first anime. How much of this is a deliberate choice to match the more subdued tone of Sailor Moon Crystal and how much of it was just breaking in Usagi’s character is anybody’s guess, but the end result is a very strong performance that fits he character while establishing itself from all predecessors.

When asked about the difference of working on Crystal, the cast immediately looked toward Miller as their unofficial spokesperson, and after a good laugh, she had this to say:

MILLER: For me, the biggest difference is that it’s the same characters – so I thought this was gonna be a breeze – but the tone is very different, and I think the target demographic is very different. The personalities… everyone’s a little more serious. I’ve had an interesting time with reactions.

Miller then demonstrated the difference between Jupiter’s reaction to something in the classic anime and what her reaction would be in Crystal.

For Vee, the experience has been very much about comparing and contrasting two very different interpretations of Sailor Mars.

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VEE: My character in Sailor Moon Crystal is completely different. She is not nearly as… I don’t think I’ve said mean word to Usagi. I get to use a slightly different voice for Sailor Mars, which is really great for me, cause it’s like playing two different characters. Whereas I was more spunky and fiery in Classic, in Crystal she’s definitely more serious and even princess-like.

Meanwhile, for Leigh, it’s been about how satisfying it is to see Venus’ role as leader of the Sailor Senshi become more than just an honorary title. In Sailor Moon Crystal, Venus really steps up into that leadership role.

LEIGH: I think working on both has made me feel more balanced in getting to see more sides of the character. I do enjoy working on Crystal, and I think there was a few sessions where I was like, “I want some fun. I want some crazy Classic,” so I think they definitely complement each other. But I also think that because it follows the manga more closely than Classic, there aren’t any episodes where you can go, “Oh, we can build up to this event. It’s not that bad yet.” So, that’s made the tone a little different. We’ll go, “No, we don’t get to ramp up to this. It’s that bad, and people are dying, and fix it. Now. We only have one episode, so do it.”

And what did our tall, dark, and handsome hero note as the biggest difference?

DAYMOND: No roses.

When prodded a little further about how the differences in Sailor Moon Crystal affected his performance, Daymond cited Mamoru’s age difference between versions (he’s in high school, rather than college), and how it prompted him to pitch the character’s voice up a little, but not much.

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Despite the perfect timing, there was no mention of a second season of Sailor Moon rystal (production-wise, the Dark Kingdom and Black Moon arcs constituted one season), so while hope is not lost for those jonesing to see the Infinity arc brought to life on the small screen, it’s not looking good. At the very least, it’s certainly a waste of an opportunity to not announce a new season at Anime Expo, just two weeks before the end of Crystal’s run.

Lastly, Viz offered some details on the upcoming Blu-Ray and DVD release of Sailor Moon R, Vol. 1. This first volume covers Episodes 47-68 of the series. The collector’s edition comes with a 96-page full-color guide booklet, a shimmery chipboard box, and both Blu-Ray and DVD copies, three discs for each. From the DVD trailer, it looks like we’ll be getting more behind-the-scenes action in the special features, a promising prospect to those fans who felt the first season’s home release was lacking on that count.

Sailor Moon R, Vol. 1 is set for release on July 14th.