The definition of the magical girl genre, Sailor Moon is a beloved manga and television series that has grown in popularity. If anyone in North America is going to know anything about anime, they’ll know about this show, as it’s probably the most recognizable mainstream anime title of them all. However, questionable censorship has led to arguments between fans about whether the English dub hurt the show’s LGBT representation and other elements, since it heavily edited the show’s content. Though a lot of this content was added back in thanks to the re-dubbing being done by Viz Media and the Sailor Moon Crystal series.
The version of Sailor Moon released in America that was produced by DiC (for the first two seasons) and dubbing studio Optimum Productions had a lot of censorship, which included the removal of near-nudity and violence, plus the infamous addition of kissing cousins. Even when a new producer, Cloverway, teamed up with YTV to localize episodes in the US and dub the third and fourth seasons (along with Optimum Productions), the censorship continued. The show was originally dubbed in Canada, which is often forgotten.
Did this censorship promote negative messages or help make the program more kid-friendly? You decide as we explore censorship in Sailor Moon: 15 Ways It Was Censored In America.
15. Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus Went From Girlfriends To Cousins
This may be the most famous instance of failed censorship, not just in Sailor Moon, but in anime history. You read that right – Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus were originally lesbian lovers in the Japanese version of Sailor Moon but the company changed it so the two referred to each other as cousins. Let the awkwardness ensue! The two act awfully close for “cousins,” often holding hands and giving each other quite meaningful looks. So they went from a lesbian couple, a great example of positive LGBT representation in mainstream anime, to “platonic” cousins.
Interestingly, some dubs outside of the United States kept the relationship between the two alive but gave Sailor Uranus a male voice actor, trying to turn her into a male character. This may have made some viewers scratch their heads when the now male Uranus transformed into a Sailor Scout form, which came with a much more feminine physical appearance and skirt.
14. Sailor Moon’s Anti-Fat Episode
There are some instances of the censorship in Sailor Moon being used for the purposes of good. Looking at the name for this episode alone in both translations is pretty telling right away. The fourth episode of Sailor Moon roughly translates to “Usagi Will Teach You! How to Lose Weight” in Japanese but is called “Slim City” in the DiC dub. The episode focuses on how Usagi (our heroine Sailor Moon) gains some weight and goes overboard trying to lose it.
The DiC dub changed a lot of what was being said in the Japanese version that came off as basically saying “starve yourself and you’ll lose weight.” For instance, in the Japanese version, one girl in Usagi’s group, who is a bit fuller-figured than the other girls, talks about how she’s losing weight just so someone else will like her. But the English dub has her talking more body positive, mentioning how her parents won’t let her diet and that you shouldn’t starve yourself, just stop eating as much junk food.
13. Near-Nudity Removed
Despite the fact that this show features a 14-year-old (yes, Sailor Moon is 14) getting naked while transforming into a magical girl, DiC still thought they could make the near-nudity in the show a bit less obvious and more “wholesome” for the kiddies. All of the transformation scenes for Sailor Moon and the rest of the Sailor Scouts tone down their bodies, decreasing the size of their breasts.
There are also several bath scenes in the show, which were edited to hide more of the girls’ bodies. In a couple scenes showing Serena in the bath, the water level of the bath is higher to cover up more of her chest. Her chest is also shrunken down, just as it is in the transformation scenes. At least they’re consistent!
One other notable scene with nudity that was censored happens during the last episode, which was never dubbed into English. Sailor Moon is fighting off the big bad of the season and she is completely naked while doing it in the original Japanese version. However, it was censored and released in South Korea of all places, with an elegant white dress added to cover up our heroine. She was originally naked because Japan considers the naked body as a representation of purity and wanted to portray this as Sailor Moon’s greatest power.
12. “Day of Destiny” Two-Parter Censorship
Besides nudity, the American version of Sailor Moon really wanted to censor violence since they were marketing to a younger audience. However, in the two part finale of the first season, “Day of Destiny,” there was a lot of death. In fact, all of the Sailor Scouts die in the original version and then get resurrected. The American version wanted to avoid all that darkness, so all the mentions of death in the episode were removed and it turned out to be a pretty uneventful battle in comparison to its original Japanese version.
The episode was so heavily edited that the two-parter was cut down to one episode in America. When the Sailor Scouts die in the episode, the English dub changes it so that the villains say they have been captured instead and were being held in the Negaverse. Later, when Sailor Moon kills Queen Beryl, the English dub insists she was just sealed in the Negaverse. Sure, we buy that…
11. Sailor Moon Getting Drunk
Apparently even super heroes need to get turned up sometimes. In the original Japanese dub, our heroine Usagi gets drunk a couple of times throughout the series. In the episode “Usagi’s Dance, in Time to a Waltz,” she gets nervous when trying to understand foreigners and ends up drinking alcohol (which she mistook for something else) to calm her nerves. Then, during “Romance Under the Moon! Usagi’s First Kiss,” Usagi accidentally drinks alcohol, mistaking it for punch. She even gets kissed for the first time by Tuxedo Mask while she’s tipsy.
The English dub felt their hero couldn’t be walking around tipsy, so they made it appear as if she just drank too much non-alcoholic punch and was getting sick, not inebriated. So her drunken wobble is now interpreted to be part of her getting sick. Other symptoms include spouting nonsensical things about food, lacking inhibitions, and getting a hangover the next day. The kiss between her and Tuxedo Mask is also portrayed to be just a dream in the English version, whereas it really happened in the original Japanese episode.
10. Zoisite Changed From A Gay Man To A Straight Woman
Just like some dubs in other countries made Sailor Uranus male so she could continue her relationship with Neptune as a heterosexual couple, the English dub made Zoisite, one of Queen Beryl’s warriors, change from a gay man to a straight female. In the Japanese version, he is lovers with another warrior under Queen Beryl’s command, Kunzite. This relationship was actually a creation of the anime, since the original manga actually portrays the two to be as close as brothers and not lovers.
The English dub got rid of their romantic relationship altogether by using a female voice actress; keeping the romantic relationship between Zoisite and Kunzite but making it into a straight romance. This was done in fear of parents speaking out against gay relationships in children’s cartoons. Just like Uranus and Neptune, this censorship is another example of how the original English dub forsook the anime’s representation of LGBT relationships.
9. Fish Eye Changed From Biologically Male To Female
Another villain in a later season of Sailor Moon was changed from a man who would dress as a woman (it was unclear whether Fish Eye identified as a woman as well) to biologically female. Fish Eye was a member of the Dead Moon Circus who worked for Zirconia (another character who, for some reason, was changed from a male character in the original version to a female character in the English dub). Fish Eye was given a female voice actor in the English dub– and no indication of being male.
This censorship did present major problems when the Fish Eye-centric episode “Clothes Call.” In it, Fish Eye rips off his shirt to reveal his clearly male torso. However, in the American version, these scenes were cut or re-framed so Fish Eye’s chest was not visible. Though they did fail several times at that, since we can sometimes see her chest. Either way, it’s rather surprising parents weren’t more up in arms about a supposedly female character walking around topless in the episode. Isn’t it worse to have a topless woman running around than a topless man?
8. Name Changes Due To Americanization And Racism
Most anime, when going from Japan to America, will Americanize names. So Sailor Moon’s alter-ego went from Usagi to Serena, Mercury went from Ami to Amy, Mars went from Rei to Raye, Jupiter went from Makoto to Lita, Sailor Venus went from Minako to Mina, and Tuxedo Mask (called Tuxedo Kamen in Japan) went from Mamoru Chiba to Darien Shields. Usagi’s name may have been changed to Serena because of its similarity to the Greek moon goddess Selene. Lita’s name is also a pun on lightning, the weapon she wields as a Sailor Scout.
Villain names were changed as well– some more slight than others– including Zoisite becoming Zoicyte, Kunzite becoming Malachite, Prince Demande becoming Princess Diamond, and Koan becoming Catzy. Death Phantom changed to Doom Phantom and Deathbusters were changed to Heart Snatchers to avoid the use of the word “death” in a children’s show.
However, some names were changed just because of the negative connotations they carried with them. For instance, the evil forces the Sailor Scouts battled against were originally called the Black Moon Clan. This was changed to the Negamoon Family.
7. Entire Episodes Cut
The American version of Sailor Moon did more than just cut parts of episodes. Sometimes, entire episodes were initially not dubbed. The reasons these episodes were dropped remains unclear, but there are several fan theories as to why, such as poor quality/pacing issues or because they were mostly filler episodes.
“Punish Them! The House of Fortune is the Monster Mansion” was the first episode cut, and featured Melvin and several other students from Sailor Moon’s school. It also featured a scene where Melvin flips up his teacher’s skirt, reducing her to tears.
In the next episode cut, “A Monster’s Scent! Chanela Steals Love,” Sailor Moon introduces Luna to her family and tries to keep her as a pet, but she ends up becoming obsessed with a chanela, a small furry gerbil (who is pure evil!).
In “Protect the Melody of Love! Serena is a Cupid,” Sailor Moon has to disguise herself as an adult to protect a Jazz pianist who accidentally gets a cassette tape that is able to drain life energy. The next one to be cut is “The Summer! The Ocean! Our Youth! And a Ghost, Too,” a beach episode featuring a ghost and a girl with psychic powers.
The fifth episode that was cut is the most interesting: “Sailor Venus’ Past, Mina’s Tragic Love.” Thanks to DiC’s English dub, the first time we meet Sailor Venus is when she comes out of nowhere to save the Sailor Scouts. However, she first appeared in this episode, which explores her life in England (and why she left) as well as a sad, unrequited love story. We miss out on her rather tragic backstory, and so lose some of the depth of this character. The list of episodes cut goes on.
6. Americanization Of The Show
In addition to the Americaization of the names in the show, the America broadcasts also cut out most references to Japanese culture, both in the audio and on the screen. So if a character was standing next to, say, signs written in kanji, they would become blank signs instead. Also, when the bus crashes, the door opens on the other side, which would be considered correct in Japan and wrong for America. Also, whenever Japanese yen was used for prices in the anime, the English dub would refer to the money as dollars.
Another example of Americanization is in the episode “Time Bomb.” In Japan, people drive on the left side of the road, which you see in the original Japanese episode. However, the English dub flip scenes where Serena is on a bus to make it look like the bus is driving on the right side of the road, emulating American roads. However, this is extremely noticeable as viewers can see letters are backwards on signs the bus passes.
One other Americanization of the anime is Darien’s nickname for Serena. He originally called her “dumpling head.” In Japanese, dumpling translates to “Odango,” which is a reference to how some women wear their hair in spherical buns on the sides of their head, reminiscent of dumplings. Since this cultural reference would be lost on Americans, the English dub changed Darien’s nickname for Serena to the more American “meatball head.”
5. Sailor Moon Stars Not Released At All
Commonly referred to as Sailor Stars, Sailor Moon Stars was the fifth and final season of the original Sailor Moon show. Rather than just dropping a few episodes, as they had previously done when dubbing the show into English, it was decided not to dub any of this 34 episode season, which upset many fans.
Many people attribute the reason for this to be the three Sailor Starlights, Sailor Star Maker (Taiki Kou), Sailor Star Fighter (Seiya Kou), and Sailor Star Healer (Yaten Kou). Their civilian forms appear male but when they transform, the three are revealed to be women. Considering the previous covering up of Fish Eye being a man who dresses as a woman, it wouldn’t be surprising that the company would want to censor this. Plus, since Darien is away, Serena and Seiya develop romantic feelings for each other. Then there were the numerous deaths and nudity in the show.
However, the primary reason the season was never dubbed was because the company only bought the rights up to Sailor S, meaning they did not have the license to dub the rest. Many fans thought this season would never get dubbed into English. However, Viz Media is planning on releasing the entire Sailor Moon series in English and uncensored, so one day soon we will finally be getting all the romance and death we were missing out on before!
4. Less Bloody Scenes
In an attempt to decrease the level of violence in the show, not only did the English dub remove mentions to “death”– they also removed blood in numerous ways. They had to resort to censoring the blood when they could not avoid the violent scene altogether. This usually involved making the blood different colors, which many anime resort to when they want to censor blood (when they don’t cut it out or darken parts of the scene). The blood was changed to be green. When Neflite is stabbed and died, his stab wound is clearly green. It doesn’t make his death any less tragic, however.
One goof up in the show combined the censorship of violence and the discoloration of the blood. When Tuxedo Mask gets stabbed by Zoycite, the scene is censored to only show what Zoycite plans to do and not him going through with it. But the blood from his injury is seen in the next episode.
The most blood is shown in an English-dubbed episode is in”A Knight to Remember,” when Lita’s friend Ken gets his blood forcibly drawn by a monster. Lita even suggests he give him her blood since they have the same blood type. All of this was kept in the episode.
3. Sailor Mars and Sailor Moon’s Relationship
Several personalities of the characters on the show are slightly changed thanks to how the English dub presented them. Usagi became even more immature, Minako became just a bubbly joker who didn’t have a tragic past (thanks to her cut backstory episode), the list goes on. But one major character changed quite a bit: Sailor Mars. For one thing, her love-hate relationship with Sailor Moon was a bit different.
In the Japanese show, Mars would constantly slap Sailor Moon in frustration. However, to tone down the violence, the English dub cut out all the instances of Mars hitting Serena except for one that was kept in the beginning of an episode during the recap. She even kicks her butt (literally, and showing her panties to boot), which was shortened in the English version.
Despite their relationship being less physically abusive in the English dub, a lot of the trust Sailor Moon shows to Mars is also cut out. For instance, in the Japanese series, Serena gives Mars her moon scepter, clearly demonstrating her trust for her. However, in the English dub, Mars simply takes Serena’s scepter without asking after she forgets it under her bed. So their relationship is… interesting, to say the least, in either version, but for different reasons.
2. Sailor Says Clips Added
Different than all the other instances of censorship on this list, this entry is actually an addition to the show rather than a subtraction. To appease FCC broadcast regulations, which wanted educational segments to be present at the end of children’s shows, a “Sailor Says” clip was added to the end of every episode of Sailor Moon. These clips featured Sailor Moon talking about the latest life lesson we learned from the episode we just watched (because it’s not like we have working brains that could figure out the lesson on our own or anything like that). The Sailor Says segment was present in the first two seasons of the show and were then recycled for future episodes.
The Sailor Says clips were about 30 seconds long and were presented like public service announcements. They often showed clips from the same episode, and in some instances had clips that were originally cut from the episode (such as a baby peeing on his babysitter Ann). Some lessons included believing in yourself and internal beauty vs. external beauty, school being cool and never giving up.
1. Changing Sailor Senshi (Soldier) to Sailor Scout
There are a lot of instances of the English dub changing names and references to Japan in the show. However, one very big and purposeful mistranslation is of the title of the Sailor “Scouts” fighting for justice. The Japanese translation of Sailor Senshi– what the fighters in the Sailor Moon show are called– should be Sailor Soldiers. But instead of that, the show went with Sailor Scouts. Even when Viz Media started redubbing the English dub, the same kanji was translated to Guardian.
So what does everyone have against the word soldier? They are serving the Moon Kingdom and fighting against the Negamoon, so they are Sailor Soldiers in an army. It’s possible the words scout and guardian are simply seen as less serious and more child-friendly words. After all, the term soldier has a fighting connotation, while scout and guardian are often associated with protection. However, scout isn’t as appropriate a term as soldier, since the Sailor Scouts do (gasp!) fight their enemies. They don’t just gather info like a scout does. Guardian is a better fit, since they are protecting others.
Whether you say Sailor Soldiers, Sailor Scouts, or Sailor Guardians, they will go on to protect their world from evil forces for many years to come. Maybe we’ll finally get that live-action Sailor Moon movie we were promised… until then, enjoy Viz Media’s re-dubbing of the original series.