Video games have always been a part of the Sailor Moon universe. The sailor guardians’ headquarters is located beneath the local arcade and the guardians regularly play video games to improve their fighting skills. However, the Sailor Moon universe also takes on the darker side of video games–the one where girls aren’t welcomed. This dark side is featured in the prequel manga to Sailor Moon, Codename: Sailor V.
Appearing in the magazine RunRun in July of 1993, chapter two of Codename: Sailor V titled “Minako in Game Center Crown” directly tackles this subject. Minako encounters a young man named Taku who feels threatened by Minako’s femininity at the arcade. In fact, the whole chapter reads as a cautionary tale about the dangers of policing gender expression and gatekeeping.
The chapter begins with Artemis, Minako’s talking cat, who isn’t impressed by Minako’s interest in gaming. He remarks that she’s more like a guy since she likes to game, gets into fights and eats “like a horse.” Minako reminds him that he shouldn’t be talking since he has a girl’s name.
At the game center, Minako decides she’s going to finally beat the number one ranked player, Taku. Meanwhile, Taku is not happy that Minako has made the arcade her second home. He proclaims the arcade is only for guys who have failed at love–not girls and couples. He even blames girls and couples for “lame” games. But he’s not the only one who’s unhappy–the lonely dudes of the Crown Arcade have formed a club aptly named the “True Game Lovers Association.” The hostility of Taku and the “True Gamers” radiates from the corner of the arcade.
One of the questions I had while reading this chapter was as to why Taku was so against Minako being in the arcade. Why didn’t he welcome her into the “True Game Lovers Association”? Surely Minako is a “true game lover” since she spends so much time in the arcade? On closer inspection of this chapter, I believe the answer lies in the background of these panels. Taku also directs his ire towards a couple on a date. You can see their date in the background–the guy affectionately notes that the girl “sucks” at games. The girl asks the guy to win her a plush before Minako swoops in and wins one herself. I suspect the reason why Taku doesn’t want Minako to join the association is because Minako cannot be submissive nor deferential to Taku. Since Minako has amazing skills and a competitive nature, she will never conform what girls should act like–and what they should act like in relationships with men. She will never be submissive towards Taku.
The idea that submissiveness is an essential characteristic of femininity (and conversely, domination to masculinity) seems to be the linchpin to many current problems in the gaming–from the harassment of journalists to female players in online games. In 2015, researchers Michael Kasumovic and Jeffrey Kuznekoff, found that lower ranked male players reacted to female players more negatively than to male players. These lower ranked male players tried to gain status by being hostile to female players. In other words, they try to compensate for their apparent “submissiveness” by putting-down female players.
Moreover, this chapter doesn’t just tackle the idea of gender policing, but character design as well. The chapter begins with Minako lamenting that her costume is not stylish and it’s too “drafty”–perhaps a reference to her short skirt. She complains that she would rather have a cool suit of armor like one in “Lovely Fight.”
Later, Minako tries to escape Taku by using her moon compact to transform into this armored videogame heroine. Enamoured that his favorite videogame heroine has come to life, Taku to tackles her. Minako finds that he can’t throw him off because the armor is too heavy. Minako immediately transforms into Sailor V, remarking that her costume is light and easy to move in. There’s been a lot of discussions on the internet lately surrounding the attire of female characters in games and media in general. There’s a movement to see more practical outfits on female characters instead of ones the solely focus on their desirability. Sailor V’s costume and the costume featured in Lovely Fight are both pretty sexy, but as this chapter successfully argues, Sailor V’s sailor fuku works best for her. Moreover, Sailor V underscores the fact that even though she wears a short skirt, that’s not an invitation for anyone to check out what’s underneath it.
Overrall, I was very impressed and surprised by this chapter of Codename: Sailor V. The policing of gender and the gatekeeping in gaming has existed before the popular use of the internet and the existence of online games. Gamers who have declared themselves as “true gamers” have existed even the era of arcades. I highly recommend this chapter of Sailor V for anyone is who is tired of those who believe girls shouldn’t be gamers.