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Dismantling White Supremacy in Sailor Moon

Black Lady or Wicked Lady stands with the words "You can Call Me Black Lady" written across

Via tara-senpai

The English dub of Sailor Moon produced by DiC Entertainment made numerous changes that fans were not happy with. Genders were switched, gay love was erased, and whole episodes cut or spliced together–the list can go on and on. But there were a few small changes that no one really talks about that I think should be given its due credit. The Sailor Moon English dub goes out of its way to eliminate the notion that the words “dark” and “black” should be equated with evil.

In the first season of the manga and anime, the sailor guardians battle the Dark Kingdom. Really, in the Sailor Moon universe, if an organization includes the word “dark” in its name, it really is evil. For example, Sailor V fights against the Dark Agency, and Zoicite plants energy sucking videos at Dark Video (Tokyopop translation) or “Rental Shop Dark” (Kodansha translation).

An image of Jadeite, Zoicite, Kunzite, Nephrite, Queen Metallia, Queen Beryl and Endou

The Members of the Dark Kingdom Credit: Wikipedia

However, in the English dub, the Dark Kingdom was renamed the Negaverse. Instead of relying on the dichotomy of light vs. dark to signify the bad guys, the dub bases the name off the word “negative.” This is a word that connotes the opposite of good, but does not have any association with color. This theme carried over to the Black Moon Clan, or the Negamoon Family in the second season.

Faces of each of the Negamoon Family

Credit: Wikipedia

In the second season, Sailor Moon’s future daughter, Chibiusa (or, Rini, in the English dub) becomes evil and assumes the name Black Lady. I wish color was just a color, but we do use these words to describe skin color–we refer to “dark skin” and “light skin” as well as describing people as “black” and “white.” We even refer to black women as black ladies. Other Sailor Moon fans have poked fun at this name and connected it to skin color. Here’s a series of photos that have circulated around tumblr, riffing off a line from the movie Mean Girls.

Black Lady or Wicked Lady stands with the words "You can Call Me Black Lady" written across

Sailor Moon and the guardians stand dismayed with the words "If you're the black lady then why are you white" written across it

A black cat, Luna, appears and written across the image says, "God, Usagi, you can't just ask people why they're white."

Via tara-senpai

Thankfully, in the English dub, Black Lady is called Wicked Lady. I love how the name Wicked Lady actually highlights what this villain does, instead of associating her with what she may or may not look like.

Now I know what you’re thinking–do these changes really matter? It’s just a cartoon; it’s just a name; people don’t actually make the association between these words and actual people! Well, I’m not so sure about that. I’ve written before about how some people around the world don’t look upon “dark” skin positively. These small changes prove that it doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion to associate “bad guys” with words like “dark” or “black.” You know, creativity!

This situation reminds of a landmark Supreme Court case in the United States called Brown v. Board of Education. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state laws which segregated black and white students into separate schools were unconstitutional. To prove that segregation was harmful to black children’s self-esteem (and consequently, their educational success), civil rights advocates conducted what is now known as the Clark Experiment. Created by Mamie and Kenneth Clark, Dr. Clark presented black children with four dolls; one black boy, one white boy, one black girl and one white girl. These children were asked to identify the “nice” doll and the “bad” doll. Many of the children identified the white dolls as “nice” and the black dolls as “bad.”

This experiment was dramatized in the 1991 movie starring , called Separate but Equal.

While renaming the Dark Kingdom the “Negaverse” or Black Lady, “Wicked Lady,” might not solve all the problems in the world, I do think it’s a great example of how we can stop associating negative connotations with skin color.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Anonymous June 28, 2015, 03:16

    The “Black” in Black Lady’s name refers to the BLACK Moon Clan, which she is apart of. Chibiusa’s real name is “Usagi SMALL LADY Serenity”. Chibiusa’s dream is to become a LADY, which partially fuels her desire to allow herself to become Black Lady. She goes from SMALL Lady to BLACK Lady. Again, the BLACK referring to the BLACK Moon Clan she becomes apart of. This is why she is called “Black Lady”. Wicked Lady destroys this and her name just becomes a generic “bad guy” name with no meaning.

    • Riley January 10, 2019, 10:21

      Did you even read the article?

  • Alexander Gary July 30, 2015, 05:05

    Well, that’s true and all, but the point she was making is that, overlooking that fact, people have a history of associating the words “dark” and “black”, with negativity and evil. Obviously, it’s supposed to work like this in the series (and Japan), but when you name a villainous character “Black Lady”, this may not go over well with people who may be forced to live with those perpetuated stereotypes in real life, especially in a non-homogenous place like the Americas, where the never-ending chastising of those “dark” and “black” people comes into play.

  • Rob Ren August 24, 2016, 07:19

    Pff. Is there ever a thing of which you Americans don’t make a race issue?

    She (Black Lady) was white for Christ’s sake, how the hell could anybody associate that with dark skin color???

    Darkness is negative because nobody likes everlasting darkness. The sun and its light is what gives us life and we can’t go without it.

    Dark skinned people need that sun even more. So a dark Kingdome sure as hell wouldn’t be a pleasure for them either.

    Sailor Moon has absolutely nothing to do with racial segregation. Don’t make it something that it’s not and let people just enjoy the show without ruining it with your racial bullshit.

    • Anne Lee September 2, 2016, 15:22

      “you Americans”


    • Caleb November 21, 2017, 21:06

      You are ignoring the many other examples in which dark and black are used as representations of evil whereas light and white are representations of goodness and purity, not only in this series but many others. You cannot disentangle this from the racial dynamic that has been in force for the last few centuries. Being as works of art like tv shows were created in the same world where antiblackness is the norm (and that doesn’t exclude Japan), such views and stereotypes will indeed creep into the popular works of the era.

      And another thing you write, “She (Black Lady) was white for Christ’s sake.” When did Asians suddenly become white? I heard someone the other day referring to the Chinese as white as well (in contrast to Black athletes). It seems that once a race or ethnicity previously classified as nonwhite are deemed acceptable, they suddenly become white, which is in itself very problematic.

  • Psyche December 9, 2016, 17:45

    What the fuck did I just read? Christ not everything has to be about race. People have every reason to fear the darkness. Would you even walk down a dark street? Once upon a time we didn’t even have electricity for light and people were discouraged from going out at night. Even a child could figure this out.

    • Anne Lee December 11, 2016, 20:00

      Then why do white people fear black people so much? That is, if this is about being afraid of the dark.

  • OrchidRose February 8, 2017, 01:17

    While I see your point about the tradition to make darkness evil, I see it as a separate concept not related to race. Furthermore, I definitely don’t think it was the creator Naoko Takeuchi’s intention to associate “Black Lady” with race, a negative view on dark skinned people, or saying that they are evil.

    Sailor Pluto/Setsuna Meiou has darker skin than the rest of the Sailor Soldiers, especially in the manga. She is described in the dialog to be very beautiful/an intellectual beauty. The Sailor Moon series uses a lot of English language which may seem a bit off to native speakers…Sailor Star Maker’s Star Gentle Uterus, anyone? I mean she used the word “uterus” since it is affiliated with creation but it doesn’t sound right to native English speakers. Please note that this analysis is coming from a black lady 🙂

    • Anne Lee February 8, 2017, 15:11

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

      Yeah, I agree that light vs dark is pretty universal, but I think a racist society can really twist that to its own ends. Like, for example, portraying a character with blonde hair becomes shorthand for “light.”

      You bring up a great point regarding Sailor Pluto–that definitely shows why we need heroes of the light that feature all skin tones. 🙂

  • me July 4, 2019, 06:03

    This is so nonsensical because, like… apart from the only really dark-skinned character in this show being Pluto, a hero… the darkness and light have nothing to do with race. This is a reach, and it’s one of those that really reads like a white person grasping at straws and walking all over actual black voices and opinions to make something out of nothing.

    I mean, I stopped taking it seriously at “white supremacy,” considering… Japanese people… aren’t fucking white. But good lord. She’s called black lady because she’s from Black Moon Clan. They have BLACK. MOONS. On their FOREHEADS. None of them are dark skinned. She’s not coded black. She does not magically become black when she’s evil, only to be whitewashed again when she comes back to the good side.

    Just because the dub censored it doesn’t mean it was racial. The dub didn’t want anyone thinking it was, which is understandable, because shit like “black lady” just DOESN’T translate well to English for obvious reasons.

    Literally the entire dichotomy in Sailor Moon is darkness and light. The overall theme is chaos vs order. The manga literally has Chaos being the ultimate expression of NOTHINGNESS and DARKNESS. As in, everything is destroyed and swallowed up by a lack of light, which is where Sailor Moon, the so-heavily-connotated-with-light-that-you’re-beaten-over-the-head-with-it-constantly symbol of light comes in.

    You cannot cite Psych 101 basic “here is a cognitive bias” tests about ACTUAL SKIN COLOR and then turn around and claim all the Japanese characters in this show with the same skin tone have that same bias because they’re called dark or light. This isn’t about skin color. That test was. They were holding black baby dolls and white baby dolls and asked which one was bad. That has nothing to do with what’s being addressed here.

    • Anne Lee July 7, 2019, 13:12

      “because shit like “black lady” just DOESN’T translate well to English for obvious reasons.”

      I think you are on to something there!

  • Ralph Christian Mba Essa April 26, 2020, 08:52

    you forget the elephant in the room, the fact that sailor moon is supposed to be japanese(please do not sort me the alien argument, cause even if an alien look caucasian, in order to blend in japanese society, it would shapeshift to look japanese, wich mean natural dark hair and eyes-ho the irony…)

  • Maria May 6, 2020, 18:19

    Both manga and anime are written in Japanese. If you can’t stand the name “Black” and going to twist it into race issues… Read/watch it in god damn JAPANESE LANGUAGE.
    If you don’t have the ability to do that, PLEASE STAY AWAY from the manga/anime. Leave us alone.

    Sailor Moon isn’t even a caucasian. Thinking that she is, you’re already white-washing this in your brain.

  • Maria July 4, 2020, 13:09

    You do realize the terms dark/black and light/white which connotate bad and good respectively, do not originate with race, right?

    They originate with the environment. It was decided in ancient times, before people were multicultural. At night the temperature dropped, it would get colder, and predators came out to hunt. During the day the sun would bring warmth, protection from darkness, let alone help your food grow. This is where the original connotation of light/white=good and dark/black= bad; it had absolutely nothing to do with race.

    So when you harp on words like dark/light as being racist, it only demonstrates that you are holding those terms to people without exception and you are the one who is truly being racist.

  • Ren August 27, 2020, 21:33

    Its funny how when something doesnt affect a group of people they want to act like it isn’t a thing. You feel that? That thing that’s got you all bent out of shape is called privilege.
    Just because these very real connections dont affect you and your experience in this life doesnt mean it doesnt affect others.

    Analysis is spot on. Thank you for sharing.

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