If you’re anything like us, then you probably grew up watching the DiC Entertainment-produced, English dub of the classic '90s anime Sailor Moon. While the Americanized version still holds a nostalgic spot in many a nerd's heart, it was also pretty watered down. Among the violence and raunchy jokes, a whole lot of queer elements and themes were left on the cutting room floor in order to help the show appeal to younger, Western audiences.
If you don't remember much about it since those Saturday mornings from long ago, let's revisit the 9 ways Sailor Moon was one of the gayest shows ever.
If you watched the '90s dub of Sailor Moon as a kid, you probably figured this one out. After all, changing the two Outer Senshi to "cousins" didn’t stretch very far. But this was a time when vague incest was better than overt lesbians. By now it’s pretty common knowledge these two weren’t actually kissing cousins, and instead, were lovers.
The two are always seen together, showing up originally as enemies to the Inner Sailor Senshi. Their fates are clearly twined as deeply as any other couples on the show, and they spend most of their time in a family of three moms raising a baby.
Uranus is definitely masculine presenting, but there’s also plenty of evidence that she may be genderqueer. She often dresses in the male uniform and let’s people assume she’s male (often encouraging it), and uses the male speech patterns of Japanese. In the manga, Neptune says "Uranus is both a man and a woman. A soldier of both genders, with strengths and personalities of each."
While the character and creator both identify her as a woman, she clearly isn’t following anyone rules about that. She even goes by "Papa" when raising Hotaru.
In fact, there’s lots of evidence that suggests all of the Sailor Senshi aren’t entirely straight. It doesn’t take too much viewing to see that all of these girls are boy crazy (Uranus and Neptune excluded). However, when challenged on their boy craziness getting in the way of saving their princess, Sailor Mars and Venus lean into each other and declared that "they don’t need boys."
Hints of this sexual fluidity are dropped throughout, with the girls flirting with each other, raising babies together, and always bound by their deep love for their princess, an all encompassing love. While that love is not just romantic, sometimes it’s romantic, too.
In the Sailor Moon R movie, we meet Fiore, an alien who befriended Mamoru as a child. While themes of strong friendship abound throughout the entire Sailor Moon series, this goes way past that. Fiore wants to have Mamoru to himself, and especially keep him away from Sailor Moon—to the point he abducts Mamoru and almost kills them both.
The focus of their bond even at one point has the Sailor Senshi giggling about the type of feelings Fiore has, so while there is always a cultural barrier to consider, this one clearly came through how it was meant to.
If all you've watched is the American '90s dub of Sailor Moon you might be wondering what’s so queer about this romance between a man and a woman. Much like our kissing cousins in the first entry, this couple got butchered up by the American dub so the show would be seen as more kid-friendly. Because there was no way to hide the romantic nature of the two, the dub tried a different tactic and made the character Zoisite, who was originally one of the male guards of Prince Endymion, into a woman.
This switch was a bit smoother than the cousin story, as the plot still held together reasonably well. It’s also worth mentioning that Zoizite and Malachite are connected canonly to women, making the pair bisexual.
Part of the reason switching Zoisite to a woman in the American dub worked fairly seamlessly is because the character likely isn’t very cis to start out with.
Because there are both cultural issues between the way Americans and Japanese approach the complicated subjects of gender and sexual orientation, and the fact the show is over 20 years old, in this (and several other cases on this list) it’s hard to make definitive statements. That said, Zoisite finds multiple instances to dress and live as a female, including Sailor Moon, in a role usually filled by the monster of the week. Additionally, he has other traits (not necessarily the least stereotypical) that hint towards some gender fluidity.
Talk about fishy. A prominent villain in the fourth season of Sailor Moon, Fish Eye is (literally) a fish turned human by magic. And while the character is always identified as male, they also present as a woman more often than not in both appearance and pronouns, moving back and forth between the male and female forms in Japanese.
While their partners Tiger Eye and Hawk Eye go after only females while hunting for dream mirrors (look, this season is wild, and it’s about to get better), Fish Eye only targets males, whether presenting as male or female. This bisexual, genderqueer fish is one of the more tragic and interesting villains in Sailor Moon.
By the time season five rolls around, Sailor Moon is off the rails in the absolute best ways. Unfortunately, some of those reasons are why season five has never made it to the English language. (Yet! Viz Media is currently redubbing it, and if you haven’t checked it out it’s really, really good.)
The villains this season are the very scantily clad Sailor Animamates, rogue Sailor Senshi gone evil. While the characters in the manga were only around very briefly, the anime fleshed them out, and built up the relationship between Aluminum Siren and Lead Crow. The two bond deeply, helping each other, and Lead Crow is distraught when Siren is killed. When she herself dies, her last thought is of Siren. While that may seem too little to build on, these are characters who are supposed to be magically stripped of all love and positive emotion.
The other reason season five never made it stateside in the late '90s. The Starlights are three Sailor Senshi from another star system looking for their missing princess. This leads them to Earth, where they disguise themselves as a boy band to hide (always a great way to keep a low profile!). In the manga, they are just pretending to be male, but in the anime, they physically become male. (This is made abundantly clear in their transformation sequences.)
Additionally, their leader is clearly in love with Sailor Moon, a relationship that couldn’t really be altered without changing the plot drastically.
This left the censors in a weird place: make them always female, and you have a lesbian relationship. Make the relationship specific to the male side, and you need to explain the gender bending. Leave it as it is, and never have it shown on network TV. Some countries got really creative, but the US just gave up.