Saturday, May 20, 2017

Character Analysis: Sailor Moon

When we are first introduced to Usagi Tsukino, she is made out to be the butt of all the jokes, that nobody thinks anything great will ever come off. Clumsy, Lazy, Gluttonous, Cowardly, Bad Academically, the list of her negative traits goes on and on. And yet even in the first chapter we see hints of what she will become such as the fact that when first transformed into a superhero and told to fight a monster, her first thought is for her dear friend threatened by the monster. That she overcomes her cowardice by remembering those dear to her is a common trope for her.

While her friends are the reincarnations of Soldiers, Usagi is not, she is the reincarnation of a princess, and as such she is far less used to warfare then the others. This is perhaps best shown in the end of the first season of the anime, with the doomed, desperate assault of the Sailor Senshi against Beryl’s palace to prevent the awakening of Metalia. As the Sailor Senshi die, Usagi is seen clearly freaking out, crying and trying to surrender and finally standing still in horror as the others give their lives for her, killing Beryl’s monstrosities in heroic sacrifices. This was even more shocking at the time, then it would be now. The standard conception of the Magical Girl show before was the Cute Witches of the 80s and earliers, cute girls with magical powers who solved everyday problems and got into hijinx with cutesy magic. Magical Warriors certainly existed by this point, they had existed since the 70s with Cutey Honey, but those were still light and fairly comical. Never before was it even implied that if the girl tried her best and still acted nobly….that things would not turn out right.
For most young girls seeing this, the sudden weight hit harder than can be easily explained. This is especially true, if you like me, identified with Usagi. With her ever-present incompetencies and insecurities, her lack of competence and confidence as a soldier, the kind of person who saw her friends and loved ones as amazing beautiful, strong, brave, warriors against the darkness that scared you, Usagi is a character I and people like me understand all too well. And this was so hard because you know you’d be exactly like Usagi, you knew what it was like to be the one who can’t do anything as your loved ones needed you. And yet, after the death of Mamoru her love, and his last words, when Beryl finally merges with Metalia and threatens the whole universe, Sailor Moon walked towards Beryl. And I…I knew I would too. Usagi knew she had to stand to protect her family, her friends, her home, all that she loved. And I felt that I would too in that same situation.

In the First Movie, we see Usagi from the Senshi’s perspective and it’s my favorite moment in fiction as the senshi first remember the terrible lives they lived before they met Usagi, where everyone judged them for their powers instead of who they were and then again their interactions with Usagi as she repeatedly cared about them not for what they could do, but for who they were. They cry and beg Fiore not to take Usagi from them saying that without her they would all be alone. And in the emotional climax of the movie Usagi as she is exerting all her energy into saving the world says again:

“I won’t leave anyone alone!”

This to me is the emotional crux of who Usagi is as a person, she is the one who will never leave anyone alone. Because Usagi does not see who others see us as, she does not see as we pretend we are, she sees past the false smiles and see when we hurt but don’t want anyone else to know. She sees who we are….and she still loves us.

There’s this great moment in the Fifth Season when she doesn’t know where Mamoru is, and she cries out that she needs him, that she’s not strong. This is despite saving the universe many times before, this is despite all the times she has stood alone against horrors and tragedies. I just wanted to tell her, to yell that she was so much greater then she thought she was, that everyone loved her because of all she did for them without even realizing it and as I thought that I paused the video and just sat back as I realized this is what other people tried to tell me…

Watching Sailor Moon was like seeing myself from someone’s else eyes, made me first feel like I might have some worth

And this leads to the ending of the SM Manga, where I see the final development of Usagi, in parallel with my own discovery through her. The Sailor Moon manga has Usagi finding the source of all evils, Chaos, the darkness from before existence. Her future self appears before her and tells her to destroy the origin of all stars where Chaos was in. This will destroy Chaos but will also lead to the universe eventually ending. She tells her to do this because in the future Chaos returns unstoppable and she is forced to fight Chaos forever, with everything she knows destroyed beyond repair, an endless torment of fighting for all eternity.
Sailor Moon refuses.

Usagi to me is the ultimate subversion of the traditional hero archetype, not because she is some gritty selfish antihero, but because she defines a purpose of existence opposite that of the traditional hero. The Traditional Hero sees an external cosmos at odds with their internal psyche and changes the cosmos to fit in. Look at every story ever and you will find some variation of that. The world doesn’t fit me so I will change the world. It’s what we always do, try to shape the world to ourselves.

And yet Usagi operates on the opposite paradigm, she changed her psyche to her cosmos. She does not force others to become something new, she accepts all things for who they are, her boundless acceptance and love for the cosmos is why she is bestowed with the Lambda Power, the power of all the Cosmos working together, because she accepts all that is, and so her psyche unites with it. Her acceptance of even Chaos, is what allows her to surpass even Chaos.

Usagi’s willingness to fight forever, not because there is a chance to change the future, but purely there will be existence and she loves existence, is a statement of courage and love unbounded and almost unfathomable, to willingly face an eternity of her worst fear…

Usagi is said to be the universe’s immortal and most beautiful star, reflecting the concept that the moon is the one light that can stand alone in the infinite night sky. I hope to be like her, and yet I know internally that I am…and that truly is why I love her as a character so much.

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