She came to the world’s attention as a 14-year-old klutz who encounters a talking black cat with a magical brooch. The cat’s brooch transformed Usagi Tsukino, or Serena to U.S. audiences, into the manga heroine Sailor Moon, one of the most recognizable of all anime icons.
More than 20 years after Naoko Takeuchi created Sailor Moon and her fellow Sailor Senshi, she’s not only appeared on countless lunch boxes and notebooks, her red-bowed schoolgirl’s uniform with the thigh-high miniskirt remains one of the most recognizable costumes at gatherings like this year’s Anime Expo. The annual convention celebrating Japanese animation and pop culture kicks off Thursday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Saturday will be the expo’s “Sailor Moon Day.”
Planned events include the premiere of the new series “Sailor Moon Crystal” as well as a panel where the first two newly produced dubbed episodes of the original animated “Sailor Moon” series will premiere.
“Great stories are universal and ‘Sailor Moon’ was so revolutionary, not only because it features a strong team of girls, but because the characters are all so unique. Everyone can find a character in the series they identify with,” said Charlene Ingram, senior manager of animation marketing at VIZ Media, which is releasing a new, uncut version of the original series with a brand-new English-voiced cast.
“We know many people grew up with the edited versions of the story,” Ingram said. “We believe seeing ‘Sailor Moon’ as it was originally envisioned not only brings back those happy nostalgia memories, but shows the story in a deeper, more meaningful light.”
VIZ has worked closely with Japan to ensure authenticity in the new production.
“It had been our dream, and even duty, to offer the long-awaited uncut English version of the legendary ‘Sailor Moon’ series to fans in the U.S.,” said Masayuki Endo, general manager of Toei Animation Inc., the Japanese studio that produces “Sailor Moon.” “We have taken care to be close to the original manga of ‘Sailor Moon’ at this time, so it is also interesting to find how different the previous edited and new uncut versions are.”
While Saturday’s events will mark the premiere of the new animated Sailor Moon series “Sailor Moon Crystal” and celebrate VIZ Media’s recent acquisition of the anime franchise, Anime Expo will also be holding a panel featuring cast members of the original English production on Friday.
Linda Ballantyne was the voice of Sailor Moon during the third and fourth seasons of the series’ original run. In an interview, she spoke about her time as the titular heroine Sailor Moon.
Were you aware of the series beforehand?
Oh yeah. Are you kidding? It’s “Sailor Moon.” Of course I had. My nieces were really big fans of “Sailor Moon” so I would go over there and I would baby-sit for them and they’d be watching “Sailor Moon” … I’d be watching with them and I’d be going, “I can do that voice, you know. I can do that voice,” and they would be like “Shut up, Aunt Linda, and just watch the show.”
How was it to take over for Terri Hawkes, who established the character in English?
It was really hard. The immediate thing in my mind was the two Barneys in the “Flintstones.” I remember watching the “Flintstones” and the Barney voices changed and I was like … they can’t change the voice of Barney! He’s established!
I was suddenly in my own mind saying, “Oh my God. I’m the new Barney.”
So I went in there and they literally played me the recording of Terri doing Sailor Moon and said, “OK, imitate that.” And I did. I’m a bit of a mimic in real life. But I had my ideas of what I wanted Sailor Moon to be.
I really fought with it for a long time. I’d come home crying some nights and say [to my husband], “This is so frustrating because all they’re doing is making me yell.” And that’s not what this character should be.
Then one day it just clicked and I went, “I know exactly what I have to do! I have to make this my own.”
The teenage years are just such an amazing time. [Teens] want so desperately to be an adult and yet they’ve still got that childish nature that they want to hold onto because it’s fun. So that’s what I wanted her to be. I just wanted her to have a lot more fun and just be a goofy teenager. That’s when the character really started to change.
What do you think it is about “Sailor Moon” that specifically connects with the audience?
I don’t think it’s just Sailor Moon. I think it’s all five of the main characters because they’re all so different.
I’ve been doing a lot of conventions, meeting fans, and they have no problem saying, “Mercury was my favorite,” “Jupiter was my favorite,” “Sailor Moon was my favorite.” There was something for everybody. Everybody could relate.
Some people have come saying they were from a tiny town and they didn’t have any friends.
They would watch Sailor Moon and say, “This is what I want in a friendship,” and then they found that later on in life. To this day friends still come to these conventions and they’re like, “We bonded over Sailor Moon because she was Mars and I was Moon.”
Other than Sailor Moon, did you have a favorite character in the series?
Well, I could tell you but then I would have to shoot that character because it would go straight to her head. No, I’m kidding.
There are two I really like. I really like Jupiter, because I love how sporty and how tough she was. She was a tomboy and that’s definitely who I was growing up.
I also really liked Mars because she’s kind of bitchy. I guess I’m maybe a little bit bitchy myself.
Is there a moment in the series that you remember because it was a particularly fun scene to play?
One was when Serena got drunk. She was just the happiest drunk … and she was speaking French. She thought she was speaking French, anyways.
I also hated and loved at the same time when Rini — when Mini-Moon and Sailor Moon switched ages. So suddenly Sailor Moon was a lot younger and Rini was suddenly older, and I got to go in to record with Stephanie Beard, who was Mini-Moon. We got to record together, which I didn’t usually get to do, and she was suddenly this teenage version of the character she had been playing.
Can you talk about your fan base?
It is amazing. They just pour their hearts out to you. Everybody gives you hugs. Everybody.
We have people who say, “You are my childhood.” Then we’ll have a little tiny kid come over to the table and she’ll be looking at me with wide eyes and I’ll be like, “You’re a Sailor Moon fan? How old are you?”
And she’s like 6 six years old.
I’m like “I love it! How did you get into ‘Sailor Moon?’ ”
And then behind her will be her mother, who’s dressed up as Sailor Moon and says, “I think maybe I got her into it.” It’s so perfect. I love it.
How are the cosplayers at these conventions?
Oh my God. Unbelievable. They’re so amazing. All of them. Every single one puts so much love into their costumes and everything they do.
What exactly is going to be happening at your Anime Expo event on Friday?
What we usually do is we open up the floor to the audience and say, “We know you have questions so don’t be shy because fortune favors the bold and ask the questions that you’ve always wondered.”
That’s always really interesting because I get to hear the stories from the other guys who did stuff and all the funny stories they have.
But for this particular one, Terri Hawkes is going to be there. And I am like, “Ah! I want to hear what she has to say!” I want to hear all of her stories because I didn’t get to do that part. That was a whole other thing. We’re going to have completely different versions of things, I’m sure.
Is it weird to watch a “Sailor Moon” with a voice that’s not yours?
No, because that’s what I knew. It’s almost more weird for me to watch my own because I’m really hard on myself.
There are so many things I would change. I think it’s easier for me to listen to Terri and Tracey [Moore] than it is to listen to myself.
What do you think makes your Sailor Moon different from that of the other actresses?
Well, I think that mine was more goofy. She just didn’t take herself as seriously in real life. She’s just a goofball.
I think that maybe Terri’s was a little bit more serious. She was a little bit more sturdy with herself.
I think that mine wasn’t. I was just more flighty…. Until of course the world needed to be saved.
Are you going to participate in other “Sailor Moon Day” activities?
Are you kidding? Of course I’m gonna go to this stuff. I want to see all of this stuff. I want to see the buzz. I want to see how people react to it. I want to see it all. So yeah, I’m really excited about it.
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