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The Real Trans Rep in Sailor Moon

 

Reo Sanada as Kunzite on the right, and Avu-chan with a Luna-P ball on the right

In the past, I’ve written about some trans metaphors in Sailor Moon regarding the Sailor Starlights. But obviously, sometimes metaphors aren’t good enough. And while Sailor Moon gave us the best lesbian power couple ever, it’s 2018—how do trans issues fit into Sailor Moon? I’ve always thought that since trans women are women, trans women have always had a space in Sailor Moon. But since the manga and anime are over, how can that made crystal clear? Well, I’m happy to report that I have two wonderful examples to share with you!

Warning: Some mild spoilers for the Sailor Moon Super Live

As you may know, in the summer of 2018, the Sailor Moon 25th Anniversary Project came out with a new stage show called The Sailor Moon Super Live. Originally, previewing in Tokyo, the show was performed in Paris this fall with another performance scheduled for Washington DC in March 2019. I had heard good things about the show from the previews in Tokyo so I booked a flight to see the show in Paris!

The show was amazing—I highly recommend seeing it if you can make it to the show in Washington DC. It’s an abbreviated version of the first season of Sailor Moon but done with interpretative dance—which I know sounds really weird, but with all the lights, costumes, dancing and songs, it’s a really fun experience all around. One of my favorite parts of the show was Kunzite. Normally one of my favorite generals, this Kunzite strutted out with an amazing costume that kinda looks like Shedder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (purple cape with spiky shoulder pads.) Not only that, but he had a huge purple light-up sword! SOLD!

Reo Sanada dressed as Kunzite

After the show, I gushed about Kunzite to one of my friends who informed me that the actress who plays him, Reo Sanada, is a trans woman! Since she has somewhat of a masculine sounding voice, I was unsure what her gender identity was. To my knowledge, the Super Live was not billed as an all-female, Takarazuka-style performance, but I am thrilled to learn that they are continuing with this tradition! Reo is very active on instagram, often tagging her posts with #trans and #LGBT hashtags. You can find her at @sanada_reo. I really hope Reo’s performance opens up other opportunities for openly trans women to play more characters in Sailor Moon stage shows.

Image of Reo Sanada's Instagram

But that’s not all! Upon learning more about Reo Sanada, I started to gush to my friend about Avu-chan from the band Queen Bee (aka 女王蜂 aka Ziyoou-vachi) You might know her as the vocalist on songs for Devilman Crybaby  or Tokyo Ghoul but my friend had no idea who she was, so here’s my opportunity to tell you more about her! 

Avu-chan wearing a white shirt with a blue skirt with red heels with a Luna P ball

In January 2014, the Sailor Moon 20th Anniversary Tribute CD was released. One of the songs include was a new rendition of Ai no Senshi. Originally, the song was sung by woman, Yoko Ishida. So as I sat down to listen, I was pleased to discover that Ai no Senshi was now a duet.

I presumed that it was a duet between Usagi and Mamoru. However, my friend Tuxedo Unmasked pointed out to me that the lines sung by “Mamoru” were not exactly masculine. This made me investigate further and lo and behold, Ai no Senshi also appeared in a scene in the third season, when Usage hops into a car with Haruka and Michiru. Could this Ai no Senshi be a duet between Usagi and Haruka? Probably! 


But Avu-chan’s involvement with Sailor Moon didn’t end at the 20th Tribute CD. Avu-chan also performs on the 25th Anniversary Tribute CD where she provides both Haruka and Michiru’s vocals on her rendition of Eternal Eternity. The video below begins on this track.

Avu-chan had this to say about recording Eternal Eternity:

The relationship between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune is an amazing thing to me. I’ve always loved it.

I sang this Sailor Uranus and Neptune song that I love and performed both parts by myself. After recording, I suddenly came to think, “I want to exist as two people through music.”

The song and lyrics touch on loneliness and giving up. But above all else, it’s about their will to keep moving forward. The music arrangement and vocals nestle Haruka and Michiru close to one another. It’s full of feeling. I’d be happy if everyone listens to it lots.

Now, I must confess, I’m not sure if describing Avu-chan as trans is the most accurate. Online, you’ll find people using female pronouns and describing Avu-chan as trans. It might be more accurate to describe Avu-chan as non-binary or gender fluid. Sometimes she presents as man and sometimes as a woman. I’m beginning to think that Avu-chan is more like Haruka than I first thought!

Here’s Avu-chan describing her identity to a French reporter. Apologies if you don’t understand French! This video starts at 1:46.

So there you have it! I’m really looking forward to see how Sailor Moon will incorporate more diverse representation in the franchise.

Images via Sailor Moon News, Sailor Moon Wiki


{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Mana November 17, 2018, 6:21 pm

    That’s fantastic to hear~. BSSM is really trying to stick to its gender/sex inclusion, and I’m so glad. I think in these times (regardless of nation, region, etc), that’s really needed and important right now.

    I don’t think any of them identified as trans, but there’s a commercial for the BSSM and Monster Strike crossover, and it has quite a bit of inclusive messaging to it as well.

    • Anne Lee Anne Lee November 20, 2018, 11:54 pm

      Yeah! That Monster Strike ad was interesting!

  • Anonymoon November 25, 2018, 11:12 am

    This is all very interesting, but isn’t a transwoman with a “masculine sounding voice” playing a (cis) man kind of playing into stereotypes about trans people? Japan may be a little more open about queer characters in their entertainment than we are, at least until recently, but they still have a lot of backwards ideas when it comes to the actual people in real life.

    • Anne Lee Anne Lee November 25, 2018, 11:08 pm

      Fair question! I think I would need more openly trans actors/actresses to really comment. Yes, playing a villain and a dude, itself isn’t a good look. That said, all male characters are played by women so I feel, at least for now, it is affirming that trans women are women. In other words, the actress who played Queen Beryl in the Yuga musicals also has a deep voice and played male characters in Takarazuka, so I think lines are definitely blurred/there’s a diversity on what it means to be a woman.

      I didn’t mention Karen Yoda who is a trans woman and played Petz and Nephrite in the old musicals. I didn’t mention her because I believe she transitioned after her the appearance in the musicals, but perhaps I should have since it probably gives a lot more context to decisions to include Avu-chan and Reo in the Sailor Moon family.

      • Anonymoon November 29, 2018, 12:40 pm

        I see your point, this just kind of made me raise an eyebrow, given some of Japan’s history with crossdressers/trans people/gay people and how the kind of get all mixed up together. On the one hand, you have things like Takarazuka, but then you still have really rigid gender roles and low tolerance for deviation from that outside of “entertainment”. And probably some of the first real life crossdressing photos I ever saw were of dudes dressing up as Sailor Senshi, which completely baffled me at the time. (I get the various reasons why now, of course.) Come to think of it, maybe that would be a good idea for an article sometime?

        • Anne Lee Anne Lee December 4, 2018, 5:18 pm

          Hmmmmm. Crossdressing? Anything in particular about it interests you?

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