By 8:30 Saturday morning, the line-up for the official Sailor Moon panel at Anime Expo curved across a Los Angeles Convention Center patio so many times that it was difficult to see where it began and ended. Bright, July sun beat down on the fans of the now-legendary anime series about a clumsy teenage girl who becomes a hero. Some were eating breakfast. Others were fixing up their costumes. Still more were calculating their shots of getting into the panel hall. There was still an hour-and-a-half before the session started, time for the line to grow longer. Not everyone would make it inside.
The fans here are primarily adults. If they caught the series as children and teens during its mid-to-late 1990s heyday, they're roughly between their mid 20s and mid 30s now. Their glee, though, is youthful. Earlier that morning, Sailor Moon Crystal, a reboot of the old series, debuted on Hulu. Some fans caught the streaming episode in the wee hours. At this moment, the excitement was about to hit its peak. Fans were giddy as they filed into the large panel room and took to their seats. They chattered excitedly as teaser clips played on the screen. One woman, got up and started dancing. A few others joined her.
Sailor Moon was a worldwide hit back in the 1990s. For kids and teens in the U.S. during that decade, the show holds a special significance as an introduction to the world of Japanese animation, known as anime. There were anime series and films released in the States before that— Robotech, Voltron, Speed Racer and many other beloved shows originated in Japan— but it was Sailor Moon and a few others, like Dragon Ball Z, that launched an anime boom here. Now, they were in for some surprises.
A few months ago, San Francisco-based Viz Media announced that they had acquired the rights to the original Sailor Moon series, plus related films and specials. That series had been unavailable in English for years. Some of it was never released in English. On top of that, the old version of the show that is familiar to plenty of fans at Anime Expo, was heavily altered. Viz's new dub would keep the names of the characters the same as in the Japanese version. They also planned to keep the relationships between characters the same as in the original. This was a major announcement for a good reason. In the original Sailor Moon, there are LGBT themes and characters. In fact, two of the Sailor Scouts— Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus— are girlfriends. That was essentially translated out of the story when it was broadcast in the U.S. "We're basically realizing the creator's vision of her story, how it was supposed to be presented," says Jane Lui, who handles publicity and events for Viz.
During the panel, fans were introduced to the voice cast of the dub for the reissued series. The cast includes a few well-known names in the anime voice acting world. Stephanie Sheh, who has voiced characters in hits like Bleach and Naruto, will be handling the role of Usagi/Sailor Moon. Several of the voice actors on the panel talked about how they grew up watching Sailor Moon as well. Viz's Charlene Ingram also announced the release of the Sailor Moon reissue box sets. There's a premium version, similar to what the company did with the re-release of Ranma 1/2 earlier this year, that will come with souped up packaging. The first Sailor Moon box set will be out in November. Currently, subtitled episodes are streaming on the Hulu Channel Neon Alley.
Following the announcements, we saw the first two episodes of the re-dubbed series (out of order due to technical difficulties), as well as the subtitled debut episode of Sailor Moon Crystal. It was a long panel, with a lot of content, but the excitement in the room made the time pass by quickly.
This was only part of the Sailor Moon festivities at Anime Expo. Throughout the weekend, there were a host of events. Fans got to meet former Sailor Moon voice actors. They had the chance for autographs with the newest group of Sailor Scouts. Viz organized a scavenger hunt where fans could travel to various booths in the exhibit hall to collect stamps. Once they acquired the stamps, they could bring them to the Viz booth to get a limited edition Sailor Moon coin.
Later on Saturday afternoon, Viz organized a cosplay group photo session that would be featured in the upcoming Blu-Ray. Fans gathered the convention's event hall in their best costumes. Sailor Moon was by far the most represented character in the group, although there were also plenty of fans dressed as her pals Sailor Mars and Sailor Jupiter. There were some great villains costumes too. While the bulk of fans were adults, there are a signs that Sailor Moon is still popular with kids. A few of the littlest fans walked in proudly wearing their costumes while holding grown-up hands.
As Lui and I spoke on Sunday inside Viz's exhibit hall booth, one group of women asked us to move so they could take photos in front of Sailor Moon art. There's been a stream of happy fans stopping by the booth throughout the weekend. "Sailor Moon just had that magical combination that resonated with viewers back then and also now," says Lui. At Anime Expo, it was clear that Sailor Moon fever was ready to strike again.
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