Some things are just too sensational for words. Well, not for this word:
In the Name of the Moon, She is the Slayer
by Michael Mammano
Ever notice the similarities between the happenings of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the one called Sailor Moon? You will now!
A sweet, somewhat ditzy blonde teenager reluctantly accepts her birthright, becoming a champion of good destined to defend mankind from unspeakable supernatural forces, and despite her desire to be an ordinary girl, she rises above her immature foibles in crisis after crisis, becoming a true hero for whom her own epic series is named.
To what popular, trailblazing heroine of the 90’s does this description apply? Most Americans’ first answer would be Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Buffy was an instrumental figure in the Girl Power movement of the late 90’s, inspiring countless writers to not only introduce stronger, more complex female characters, but place them at the center of their narratives. Indeed, every word of that description fits Buffy to a T, but what many don’t realize is that the exact same description, word for word, applies to none other than anime legend and underground girl power icon Sailor Moon.
Sailor Moon aired in Japan from March 7, 1992 (nearly five months before the release of the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer film) to February 8th, 1997 (over a month prior to the premiere of the Buffy TV series). The point of mentioning this is not to get into some kind of fanboy cockfight over which work is derivative of the other. It’s to note the synchronicity of their production timelines in order to illustrate the timeliness of both franchises. Both Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Sailor Moon came along at a time when their respective cultures were calling out for a new kind of female hero, creators Joss Whedon and Naoko Takeuchi merely tapping into the zeitgeist to create their own culture’s version of what would become the template for an entire generation of action girls. As such, while far from carbon copies of one another, the parallels between the two series are legion, due not to either’s plagiarism of the other, but by virtue of the logic of storytelling, dramaturgy, and the construction of an ensemble narrative. So, with that little disclaimer out of the way, we begin with our heroines.
Buffy Summers was conceived by Joss Whedon as a subversion of the horror trope of the doomed blonde victim. Rather than be the girl who is cornered in an alley and killed, she not only survives but kicks the monster’s ass. As the Slayer, Buffy is empowered not only to defend herself but to protect others by holding the forces of darkness at bay. The line of Slayers goes all the way back to the dawn of humanity, passed to each subsequent girl upon her predecessor’s death. Traditionally, the Slayer lives a life of solitude and duty under the guidance of her Watcher, a man or woman educated in demonology and combat tactics.