It seems as I go back through the Sailor Moon series for review purposes I’ve become a bit fixated on this series again. It is the place where my love of anime was born so I guess that’s really no surprise. However, as I thought through the events of Sailor Moon, even in the early seasons, I started to wonder why Serena never got stuck with that apparently most heinous of labels of being an overpowered MC (definitely spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 of the 1990’s anime below).
I’ve examined the issue of overpowered main characters in a feature fairly early on after starting my blog. Mostly because I find that the phrase OP MC tends to feature heavily when people are criticising a main character but don’t really have much to say against them other than apparently they don’t tend to lose fights. Apparently that makes for boring viewing but to be perfectly honest it is the foundation of most fiction that the good guys win except when there’s a pressing thematic need to have them knocked down a peg or two. And one could equally argue that a protagonist who loses all the time would be pretty dull to watch as well.
I’m not going to recap all the reasons why I think overpowered main characters aren’t a problem, but I think most anime fans have at least one truly overpowered character in their life that they just love. Even if it is just Saitama from One Punch Man.
Instead I want to look at season one and two Sailor Moon and the reasons why I feel that by any definition she’s OP and yet that’s fine. I will only be discussing the 1990’s anime.
Firstly, she fairly instinctively knows how to use her power. There’s no learning it and at first it is kind of weak and then with training she gets stronger. She get’s one prompt from Luna and then she’s throwing that tiara like she was born to do it (oh wait, she was). And it instantly kills her enemies. While the tiara isn’t strong enough to defeat higher level enemies, that’s okay. As Serena faces more powerful enemies, more powerful weapons literally get dropped into her lap and again, there is almost no learning curve.
Ordinary middle school girl one day; slayer of the minions of the Negaverse the next with almost no inbetween.
Secondly, given there is a monster of the week, every single week, if we look at her win to lose ratio you have to admit there’s a real imbalance here. Now, we could disqualify any villain taken out by another villain or the very small number that actually get defeated by one of the other scouts, but realistically Sailor Moon has the finishing move in almost every fight regardless of how much or little other characters have contributed. The only real losses she suffers are at the wharf when Malachite traps the scouts in a dome and in the Starlight Tower when Zoisite kidnaps Darien and whisks him away to the Negaverse.
Yet, in neither of instances did Sailor Moon actually fight. She was trapped in the dome without warning and so Malachite avoided going head to head with her (making him one of the smarter bad guys in the series) and once Serena was freed from the dome (by Venus) Malachite ran away (sorry, tactically withdrew). In the case of Zoisite, the fight was with Darien and he lost. Nobody actually fought Sailor Moon until after Darien was teleported out of the tower and then Malachite faced a resounding smack down from a girl who had only just received her magic wand.
Thirdly, Serena becomes the holder of the Silver Crystal which is said to be the ultimate power in the cosmos and can pretty much do anything, provided the user isn’t afraid to die in the process. This crystal is the magical get out of jail free card for this series that seems to get stronger when needed and literally does whatever is needed at the time (healing, destroying, restoring, etc). Serena as Sailor Moon and the Moon Princess has the ultimate weapon and is pretty much the only one who can use it. Let’s just be thankful she isn’t all that ambitious.
And that brings me to the second part of this post. Why wasn’t Serena labelled as OP?
Probably because it wasn’t trendy to drop labels like that on main characters back then. Fans weren’t jaded to the point where someone being successful was a sign of poor characterisation. However, there are probably some other good reasons why she escapes the label.
Despite her roaring success in battle and overcoming so many world destroying evils, Serena is totally uncoordinated and just looks so pathetic. It is very hard to take her seriously as a threat when she can barely walk four steps without tripping over her own pig-tails (slight exaggeration, only slight).
She’s also not one of the protagonists with a clear and driving goal forcing her forward. This is where Sailor Moon quite distinguishes itself from so many shounen anime. Sailor Moon is always reactive to threats that appear to upset her normal everyday life. But her normal everyday life is all she’s fighting to preserve. She doesn’t want power or to use her abilities for anything other than to live out her days eating great food and maybe being a celebrity provided she doesn’t have to work too hard.
That lack of drive contributes to the overall view that somehow she isn’t as strong as she is. She isn’t knocking people down to get what she wants left and right or seeking out stronger opponents to test her mettle. At the end of each conflict, she looks forward to putting her crystal on the shelf and resuming her normal life rather than the next challenge she will face.
But that doesn’t make her any less powerful.
In fact, I’m struggling to think of a single character who could actually beat Serena in a real fight if Serena was motivated to fight (as in that character had hurt her or one of her friends). Cosmic Moon Power is pretty unbeatable and given it hasn’t killed her yet (despite the fact that it probably should have) she’s more or less got no limits on what she can do.
What do you think about Serena or overpowered main characters?
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