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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25 thoughts on “Friday’s Feature: How Does Sailor Moon Avoid The Label of Overpowered MC?”
I always thought she learned to fight quickly due to muscle memory. She may not have regained her memories very quickly, but throughout the show things just snap back into place for her. Perhaps that is a bit too forgiving, though.
I guess I would say that Sailor Moon is the DPS of the team and everyone else is debuff/support roles. Tuxedo Mask is the healer of the party, lol.
I’m pretty sure there was some stuff about her remembering because it was part of her past life, but still, it is a fair cheat to go from knowing nothing to knowing the exact way to use a weapon and for it to have maximum impact first go.
True, but at least in the first episode there’s only so many ways to throw a tiara, lol.
I think part of what helps is that in most of the final battles, she needs to summon power from her friends in order to get enough energy to defeat the evil. Plus, in most of the regular battles, she delivers the killing blow, but she often can’t, for some reason or another, do much into then. She’s more OP in the manga, as I think it pushes the “Sailor Moon is so special” aspect harder and makes it really her power that saves everyone rather than a group effort.
I’ve never understood why she can’t do anything straight up in a fight, but she really does wait for the others to do their attacks (which do practically nothing) before she essentially one-shot kills the enemy.
I don’t think that sailor moon has been labelled as OP because she just cries so much! She may be OP, but her constant lack of confidence in herself almost blinds you to this fact (I’m not saying this in a bad way. I LOVE sailor moon!). She may OP, but, she’s still very human. 🍻
That was very well said. Yes, the human element is what makes her work as a character.
I agree with ya.
Sailor Moon was my main pick for choosing one character to save the world with some episodes ago in the podcast. It’s nice that she doesn’t just start that way, though. Yeah, there isn;t a whole lot of learning required, but she still kind of grows into it over the course of the series, and if I’m remembering correctly here (and it was many moons ago), she doesn’t reeaallly become the super OP universal/cosmic entity until the later third of the show. Her biggest weaknesses are probably just that, like you said, she’s clumsy and often needs pep talks haha.
Even when she is more or less unstoppable, she remains a fun character. I think that’s the part people forget when they throw the OP label around. Just because a character is super strong and more or less not going to lose a fight, doesn’t mean they can’t be entertaining or fun to watch.
Yeah, it’s all about the story. Saitama gets away with it in OPM because his is a story moreso about trying to fit in as a hero in spite of his inhuman strength. I think the OP can work really well for villains too, again pending how the narrative unfolds.
Like every trope, it is all in how they execute it.
I never realized it, but it made so much sense with Sailor Moon being an OP character. She’s always the one who makes the final attack and I can’t think of any fight she lost in. OP characters are a bane to me since the heroes who are OP don’t have any obstacles, they BECOME the obstacle which is something the villain should be. Not to be self-promoting, but I wrote a microfiction story a long time ago which parodies OP characters: https://cmbbwrites.wordpress.com/2017/03/06/as-the-pinnacle-descends/
Even when Sailor Moon loses, she doesn’t lose. She’ll come back after a pep talk or whatever and eventually defeat the villain. Yet, I think she is probably a good example of why just being ‘OP’ isn’t a character killing fault.
I see. In her defense, she doesn’t fight by herself most of the time since teamwork is one motif of the main 5 Sailor Senshi. There are some concerns like having some McGuffins that give her more power, so there is obvious OP fodder. I don’t mind when a character loses at first and has a rematch later, but I have noticed a clear formula which can get repetitive with most of the fights.
I dunno. I labelled it as OP when I tried to watch it and moved on. Interesting read, but I’m definitely not the intended audience of the post or the show.
I mean that as a criticism too. I think the best media appeals even to people who might not like the genre. Sailor Moon is just an all-girl Power Rangers, and I think the only reason people like it is for being either of those things- or both. Because it’s a kids show, it’s immune to a certain level of criticism. (My impression after three episodes)
I don’t think kid’s show is the best way to describe Sailor Moon. Admittedly, kids mostly enjoy it. But there’s a lot of darker themes going on in the series that probably aren’t particularly kid appropriate.
Sex jokes in kids shows exist…
Kids shows can be dramatic, and to be called a kids show isn’t a flaw, it’s just a design I typically don’t care for.
But I haven’t seen even a tenth of the show so my impression could be way off. My impression was it only had black and white morality. I’ve never heard much else about it. Good cries and loves. Evil laughs and hates. Good acts for others, while evil is completely selfish.
That holds true for almost every kids show, and I’d assume it holds true for Sailor Moon.
Yep. My knowledge of Sailor Moon is definitely superficial. Too many episodes, not enough interest.
While not being labeled OP then makes sense as it wasn’t trendy to do so… Why isn’t she so labeled now? Part of that may be that the folks who’ve actually seen *Sailor Moon* are probably in the minority nowadays (as the size and scope of anime fandom has mushroomed). Part of it may be the iconic status of her as a character and of the show as a whole. Many anime from the Jurassic era of Western fandom escape serious negative attention. (Though the smaller number of people who’ve actually seen them end-to-end may also play a role in that…)
I do find it hilarious that criticisms has fads and trends, though it most definitely does. And powerful characters weren’t criticised by default until the last ten years or so until now apparently being competent and successful is now a glaring character fault.