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Sexiness as Evil in Sailor Moon

Queen Badiane hold Sailor Chibi Moon in black energy force field

Queen Badiane from the SuperS movie holds Sailor Chibi Moon. Credit: www.screwattack.com

Last Christmas, when I was at my childhood home, I sifted through my old Sailor Moon fanart. Among the Sailor Earth sketches, (YES SAILOR EARTH. I AM NOT ASHAMED.) there was a sketch of a villain–a woman with long black hair, crimson lips and long red nails. And it occurred to me–why does this woman have red lips? Why does she have long red nails? What was so evil about red lips or long red nails?

I took a look at my Sailor Earth–blue eyes, brown hair in pig tails (YEAH YEAH I KNOW) and I realized that she didn’t have red lips, long red nails nor long, black eyelashes even. And it dawned on me–why was the sexy woman evil? How did that happen?

Many people have noted that the Sailor Guardians are pretty sexy with their short skirts and high heels. Even Dateline thought Sailor Moon was a “bombshell.” But even though the Sailor Guardians yell “Make Up!” and the end of their transformation call, they actually don’t wear make up. (Well, unless you count nail polish. And, notably, their nails remain short. The outer guardians, who are two years older, do get some lipstick during their transformation. Live Action Sailor Moon also transforms with a tube of lipstick.)

Mars, Venus, Moon, Jupiter and Mercury stand, smiling, ready to attack

The sailor guardians not wearing any lipstick, eyeshadow or blush! Credit: www.wallsave.com

So here’s our image of “good sexy”–short skirts, high heels, but no make up or cleavage. And what I find interesting about this image in particular and others like it, is that the artist doesn’t go out of their way to “sex it up.” In other words, there are no boob or butt “gleams.” Sailor Moon is popping out her hip a tad, but overall, you could probably could stick a dude superhero in one of these poses and it wouldn’t be read as feminine.

Anywho, so here is the adversary in the first season, Queen Beryl. She’s has long red nails, wears make up and a form fitting dress. Her dress also sports a boob window.

Anime Queen Beryl stands near her throne with her staff.

Meanwhile, Sailor Moon’s mom, Queen Serenity, gets a big ol’ bow to distract you from her boobage. And she’s all dressed in white in case you forget she’s a good guy.

But enough quibbling over minimal boobage, let’s talk about the real deal! Let’s talk about the Doom & Gloom Girls!

The Sailor Guardians meet the Doom & Gloom Girls (or DD Girls) in their final battle against Queen Beryl in the anime. As you can see, they are wearing little more than underwear/bikinis. They are powerful enough to take out the Sailor Guardians, but they end up being destroyed in the progress. Their job is to die and look sexy while doing it. It’s as if their revealing clothing tell you that they are disposable, that violence should be acted upon them. Our society seems to think that scantily dress women and girls should expect violence. I wish this just happened in the cartoon world, but this happens to young women and girls in real life.

Naoko Takeuchi has said that the anime has a “slight male perspective” and nowhere is this more apparent than in the third season where all of the disposable, monster-of-the-days are female.

These monsters created from inanimate objects, and when they attack, they uncover a part of their female body to reveal a black star. Good grief. Talk about “bombshell”–they are *literally* attacking with sexualized lady parts. WTF.

Thankfully, in the fourth season, this theme does not continue, but we do get the Amazoness Quartet, who show lots of boob and midriff. In the manga, they are redeemed and become sailor guardians themselves–complete with new outfits that cover up their midriffs, cleavage and groins.

Fours girls stand in revealing outfits

The Amazoness Quartet as villains

Four girls stand in the sailor guardian uniform

The Amazoness Quartet as heroes, the Sailor Quartet Credit: Wikipedia

In the fifth and final season, we get the Sailor Animates. And if you thought the Sailor Guardians were sexy, wait til you get ahold of the Sailor Animates! I think Naoko Takeuchi must have been looking at one too many lingerie catalogs. 😀

A woman with red hair stands with black bird wings, a revealing bodice, panties and long red boots. And a whip.

Sailor Lead Crow

A woman with butterfly wings stands wearing a bra-like top and panties with long black boots

Sailor Heavy Metal Papillon Credit: Villains Wiki

A woman with long light blue hair stands in a long coat, wearing panties and garter belts.

Sailor Aluminum Siren Credit: Sailor Moon Wiki

To be fair, we also get the Sailor Starlights who I’d argue are the sexiest good guys in the Sailor Moon Universe. They’ve got short shorts, bare midriffs and deep neck lines–all in leather to boot! (Or at least, it looks to me like leather. Maybe it’s pleather? :D) I also wonder if the Starlights’ outfit isn’t so much to balance the Animates, but to reassert their femininity after spending their civilian time dressing as men.

The Sailor Starlights pose before an image of a galaxy

Credit: squidoo

Treatment-wise, the Sailor Animates get to stick around more than one episode in the anime and the Starlights are the only guardians who manage to be there with Eternal Sailor Moon until the very end.

All in all, it amazes me to what lengths creators can go to sexualize villains even more than than the already sexualized good guys. The idea that ‘sexiness is evil’ distorts what it means to be evil—which is to do morally corrupt actions, not to be scantily dressed.


{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Marine November 18, 2013, 22:23

    I think that Naoko Takeuchi made the anime to be something that all the male feel delighted at watching those kind of women, girls, and ladies.

    And i think Naoko Takeuchi worked to show to the ladies, girls, and/or females around the whole world, that it’s possibly to fight and still be cute, and never lose the characteristic femininity that surrounds the females of the world.

  • A. December 14, 2013, 05:39

    I believe that there is a slight degree of misunderstanding on your part.

    Remember that Japan is a culture that places an emphasis on cuteness. Japanese women and girls are taught that CUTE is what you want to be, and not necessarily sexy. The Senshi do have revealing outfits, but they generally aren’t put to the level of fanservice very much in the anime. At the end of the day, however, they tend to be cute (except with Sailor Pluto and Sailor Neptune, who are considered more sophisticated).

    Sexiness is not necessarily seen as evil in Japanese culture, but cuteness wins out. And that is what you see in Sailormoon.

    • Anne Lee December 14, 2013, 16:33

      Thank you for your comment!

      Ah, but you see, having “cuteness” win isn’t a good thing. Viewing the worth of women and girls through the prism of cute vs. sexy, madonna vs. whore, only enables crappy people to discredit women and girls by how they look.

      There is one villain in the Sailor Moon universe that is definitely evil and definitely cute and that’s the Sailor V villain Petit Pandora. Thankfully, her cuteness doesn’t win! 🙂 I didn’t include her in my analysis because she seems to be the exception rather than the norm.

  • Shannon June 21, 2014, 20:08

    I don’t how to write this where I don’t come off as rude, so I apologize for that in advance. I think you’re just looking too much into it. I really think that it’s just from the perspective of one person. I don’t really think that Naoko Takeuchi had much of any of what you wrote in mind when she created Sailor Moon. I think she just had an idea of what her characters looked like, and drew them as such. Sometimes picking things apart looking for symbolism that isn’t meant to be there is worse than anything.

    • Anne Lee June 22, 2014, 15:59

      Hi Shannon! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      It’s cool if you disagree–but I dislike it when people say “you are looking too much into it.” I dislike this because people don’t provide any evidence or support for their statement. If you think Naoko just had an idea of what her characters and drew them as such, please provide a quote and/or evidence for that assertion.

      You can also look at it that it ultimately doesn’t matter what Naoko’s intentions are–if evil characters dress in skimpier clothing than the good guys, that does send a message that sexiness is evil, whether you meant it or not.

      Of course, perhaps, you as a viewer might think that message is crappy, and think that the Sailor Moon villains are pretty cool regardless. ^_^

  • um September 11, 2014, 07:54

    do people forget that one of the reasons the senshi aren’t that sexualized is because they’re…14..?

    • Anne Lee September 27, 2014, 20:00

      It’s funny, I think a lot people think they are sexualized because they wear short skirts.

      And it’s odd too–at 14 I was definitely wearing make-up so I kind of find it odd that they aren’t shown wearing make up.

  • Setsuna March 14, 2015, 12:57

    Although an old post, i actually loved it.

    So I will get right down to it. I will start by making the declaration that where I live I find feminist groups have done wonders. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing actually leads to its problems. I woke up one day to find why males kept acting oversensitive, far more emotional (a good thing), and undecisive. It turns out in my state according to the DESE (Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education) staffing statistics for my state (2013 – 2014), 92% of preK – 12th grade teachers are white, and 80% of the teachers are female.

    I loved watching sailor moon and it was responsible for launching the magical girl genre and their ages were good. There was a story, and the characters were at least fourteen years old or older. This was before a lot more magical girl animes were pumped out where characters wore revealing outfits and were younger.

    The ugly truth is that while Japanese Culture is all about the cuteness, girls can explore their sexuality deeper than Americans. This is also true in European Culture were clothes for girls are affordable and there are many styles to choose from.

    Some feminist groups seek to help girls branch out, others seek to limit them in their ideas of what a girl should be like. The church already spent centuries attempting to define and control gender and culture among many civilizations.

    Cut to present day ideology of what a girl should be like and we have a poverty level when it comes to looks in the U.S. We see high fashion that is unfordable in New York Fashion week that girls dream to get into, but cant.

    This results in the majority of girls running around in Jeans and shirts everywhere. In fact our city was voted twice in having the most poorly dressed men and women and we have one of the highest power bases and influences across feminist groups in this state.

    Feminist groups are the leaders in promoting children’s rights too.

    However, what happens when boys start to act like boys, and girls a
    become more aggresive? Where does that lead? I throw it out there because in Education women expect Male teachers to be adults when a situation is faced, but act like a child, or a girl in the classroom. Its been a hot topic here.

    I love the costumes in sailor moon

    Takeuchi made sure that the sailor scouts look like girls, but unlike other anime there is complexity. The personalities of the normal girls, the princess version, the sailor scouts, and in some cases the evil form are all different.

    Magical girls do wear their skimpy outfits, and run around with their wands. I remember that in old role playing systems (D&D) male and female spellcasters would get a spellcasting penalty of they wore heavy armors…..or medium armors like leather..forcing everyone to wear cloth armors and look clad for both genders..

    This existed long before sailor moon existed and Japanesd drew a lot of inspiration from Americans and Europeans post WW2.

    What is sexy? is a question that will change through the ages. However I give sailor moon fans credit for their cosplaying and this taste in clothing existing for over twenty years!

    My advice for you is to get off your high horse about exposing and feminising an anime which was responsible for providing heroes and role models that girls could finally relate to during a time where most were non-existent.

    In the U.S a girl tries something sexual and everyone pacifies the girl. The same with clothing. Other nations girls have so many looks that are deemed basic that people can have a conversation about clothes and looks.

    A girl expects a guy to be dressed certain ways and raise some levels to near perfect standards. Of course more women exist today than males. Interesting enough, the difference between a girl and a guy is the following:

    When a male dresses in something questionable, the society, along with religions and feminist groups make statements all the time on how men should dress up. However a guy tells a girl to dress up, and every single group comes down on the guy…..

    So instead what males do is what Europeans and People from Japan and South East Asia do, sure…you can dress up any have fun being a feminist, but you wont land the guy that will marry you. You can follow the dating rules and hope every guy asks you out, but they wont….

    First impressions do go a long way,

    In fact with it being more females than males now, it means not every girl who wants to get married will be able to, and not every girl will get the guy they want either.

    Ugly truth is you can feminizs everything, but when males get feminized too and become mor sensitive, and start acting like girls…the very first group of people these males want to stay away from…are overbearing and overcontrolling feminist.

    Sailor Moon was an amazing anime and I love the art style for characters for each set of villains. Queen Beryl to me IS the villain of the anime and I felt that once she was gone, they spent time trying to make a villain that would be as strong and failed. They tried groups of characters, they tried sailor scouts turned bad three times at least….to me none of them came close to Queen Beryl herself.

    So it became more about the girls becoming prettier and more about themselves and roles as sailor scouts rather than there being a clear good vs evil, because evil was never as strong and powerful as when the negaverse existed and threatened the Earth. The whole sailor galaxy thing would have been original if it was not done two previous times….

    Well thank you for the post.

    I gave you a long post because I felt you put in a lot of thought in your post from a few years ago. It was deserving the good and the bad from this response.

    Remember that outside transformation into magical girls, all the sailor scouts are fully clothed and fully dressed up in their own way. That to me was always better compared to what I see today……

    take care and good luck.

    • Anne Lee March 18, 2015, 13:37

      “My advice for you is to get off your high horse about exposing and feminising an anime which was responsible for providing heroes and role models that girls could finally relate to during a time where most were non-existent.”

      No way! Have you ever been horseback riding?? It’s the best!

  • Greg August 1, 2016, 23:42

    I think the overt sexuality that the villains tend to sport is meant to be threatening, more than just an object of audience disdain. The villains tend to be a lot older than the protagonists in Sailor Moon, the heroes are all in their middle teens for most of the show (or look like they are) and the villains are clearly adult women.

    Most of the major female villains have this thing where they WERE young and beautiful once, but they’ve waned. Beryl was a beautiful maid in the palace who became evil because of jealousy over a man, Nehellenia is the dark reflection of Queen Serenity who was so afraid of growing old and ugly that she became evil (and old, and ugly) and eventually returns to being imprisoned so she can be young and pretty forever, Eudial is kind of a train wreck all around… the list goes on, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you.

    I think it’s a reflection of the beauty/purity myth that isn’t self aware enough to do it right. Being good and pretty and innocent is the domain of the young, and youth is encapsulated in a virginal image. You can pretty much sum that up with the fact that the daughter of Queen Serenity, the closest thing the series has to a goddess of pure goodness until the implications of Sailor Cosmos start appearing, does not have a father and no one questions this.

    The way the series is framed, I think it’s not sexuality that’s being painted as evil, but the deliberate seeking of sexual attention that’s being painted as evil. In Sailor Moon, wearing a little makeup isn’t just feminine, but specifically womanly (The Outers get their little touch of tinted lipgloss, for instance), and overindulging in it telegraphs a certain badness. They’re not just wearing makeup, they’re wearing too much makeup, covering what is invariably a naturally beautiful face, it’s like a futile contradiction: heavy makeup is for older ladies because they need it to cover up how old they are so they can show everyone they’re still young, but none of these people physically age.

    Same thing with boob windows and skimpy outfits: drawing attention to something immediately gives the impression that you want attention focused on that thing, but also that you think no one will notice if you don’t point it out. It’s the same contradiction: if you’re showing off the goods it’s because you think your goods are going bad and you need to prove you’re still young enough to pull it off, but everyone in the show has a perfect body.

    In a way it’s a good message: accept your natural self and your beauty will last forever. In another way, that message is deeply contradicted by the art style and the perception of youth and beauty being solely associated with each other because no one ever gets old, you can just tell if they are by their lipstick.

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