But of course, there is nothing wrong with making media easy to consume and watching it in your chosen language. We can’t always watch everything in its native language and there is a lot to be gained from translating, dubbing, and even localizing different media. We are not here to start a dub vs sub war, nor are we hating on the very hard work that goes into translating, dubbing, and localizing anime to make it more accessible.
But, it is a fact of life that information can get lost in translation and even changed in the localization process. In anime and manga, changes made for the translation or localization process can sometimes feel to anime fans like the story is being unfaithful to the source material or even trying to “lie” to the viewers. Many may also feel like they are losing out on an opportunity to learn more about another country, language, or culture when things are cut out.
These drastic changes tend to happen more often when the media’s target market is children who want to be entertained first and educated… sometimes never.
Either way, these changes can lead to some humorous outcomes at the best of times, and offensive ones at the worst. Here are just some of the things that you miss out on when you watch Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon in English.
Let’s start off with an obvious and pretty big change that occurred while localizing the English dub of Sailor Moon by DIC Entertainment. All of the names of the Sailor Guardians and other characters were changed to more English sounding names. Main character Usagi Tsukino became Serena Tsukino, Mamoru Chiba became Darien Chiba, also known as Tuxedo Mask, and so on and so forth.
I would however like to acknowledge that thought was put into Sailor Moon’s English name, since Serena is derivative of her real name which is Serenity. And I am not just defending the name change because I, the author of this blog, is a Sailor Moon fan named Serena.
Changing a character’s name is already a big change but there is also more to lose in their names, the name meanings. Sailor Moon and the rest of the Inner Guardians have a special meaning in their name that is only noticeable if you have some Japanese language understanding.
Starting with Usagi Tsukino, when reading Sailor Moon in Japanese, her name would be Tsukino Usagi, with the family name before the given name. If we also look at the kanji (Chinese character) chosen for her name we can see that tsuki uses the kanji for and is the word for moon in Japanese. The usagi in her name means rabbit in English, and when you put that all together with the no in the middle it translates to something along the lines of “rabbit of the moon.”
This might give some context to why there were a lot of rabbit motifs in her pajamas, bed sheets, and other small details. As cute of a pun that is, it means nothing if you are not familiar with the story of the jade rabbit on the moon which is commonly told in many cultures in Asia.
It is not just Usagi though, the rest of the Inner Guardians have a no in their family name, so what else is hiding in their name meanings? Mizuno Ami (Sailor Mercury) uses the kanji for mizu (water) in her name, Hino Rei (Sailor Mars) uses the kanji for hi (fire), Kino Makoto uses the kanji for ki (tree), and lastly Aino Minako uses the kanji for ai (love) in her name. We have more information about the Inner Guardians and their localized and Japanese names.
Another name that was changed for the English dub were the areas where they lived and went to school. This is interesting to fans since the location where Sailor Moon takes place, Azabu-juban, Tokyo is a real place. Juban Middle School was changed to Crossroads Middle School. There are other real life places in Sailor Moon for anyone who is interested in an anime pilgrimage through Tokyo.
Some other changes that can be seen especially with the DIC Sailor Moon is the localization of culturally Japanese food. This is not just Sailor Moon though, like we said, many anime that are aimed at children localize heavily to connect with children from different countries and cultures. This goes for series like Pokemon, Yu-gi-oh, and many others.
A common change that was often made when going from Japanese to Western media is the onigiri (rice ball) or nikuman (steamed bun with meat) to jelly donut. This is extra humorous when the original bun or rice ball still appears in the shot. As for my personal experience of being a child watching Sailor Moon and Pokemon on T.V., all this ever made me think was, “These people eat some weird looking donuts.”
Talking about buns, another food that was changed depending on how you watched Sailor Moon were the buns on her head. Mamoru…or Darien would make fun of her hair style calling her in English, meatball head. This one is easier to understand since, yeah they are meatball shaped. But if we look at the original Japanese, he is actually calling her odango head, a reference to a dango, a sweet Japanese dumpling made of rice flour.
While we can argue that these changes to the story do not affect the story or the plot, that can not be said about all of the changes that were made. Those that try to censor the LGBT+ aspects of the show can alter the plot a bit. A common change again with media that is directed towards children is changing the gender of characters that don’t fit strict gender norms of different countries and the erasure of LGBT+ relationships. Sailor Moon has both of these.
Although they appear as villains at first, Zoisite and Kunzite are the first LGBT+ couple we meet in the series, and thus the first one changed. For this change it’s unclear if the main motivation was for Zoisite to be female instead of male due to his appearance and feminine voice or because of his relationship with the also male Kunzite. Either way, many studios around the world who dubbed Sailor Moon made the decision to make Zoisite female.
The second most famous couple in Sailor Moon, behind Sailor Moon’s own relationship, is between Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus. This romantic relationship between what some people interpret as a lesbian couple or a female and non-binary couple is reduced to that of counsins to explain away their closeness. Removing their relationship is largely seen as taking away the nuance of the story, removing representation, and overall an unnecessary thing to do.
Fans of Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura are in the same boat as Cardcaptor Sakura also had its LGBT+ couple removed and all undertones of Tomoyo’s feelings for Sakura were downplayed.
Of course we know that taking something from a foreign language and trying to put it into your own is difficult. Without Japanese reading skills and a deep knowledge of the source material, it can be hard to know what to keep and what to change when bringing media to different countries and cultures. We know this is no fault of the voice actors, the translators, or the production staff, so think carefully before placing blame on those who are just trying to make anime more accessible.
This is definitely not all of the changes that were made in the English version of Sailor Moon! Let us know in the comments if there are any that we missed that you remember?
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