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Sailor Moon had the most iconic LGBTQ romance in anime that censorship couldn’t hide

Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune were always girlfriends but, if you watched the series on different counties you were probably led to believe they were just “very close” friends.

If you were also a Sailor Moon fan in the 90′s, you probably remember Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, the older Sailor Scouts who exuded coolness in their every action, dress, and mannerism. Of all the guardians, the two of them were the ones who caused the most sensations because of their close relationship, which was one of the most sung romances on children’s television.

Didn’t you realize that Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune were more than friends? It’s not your fault, many TV stations around the world did their best to keep us from noticing.

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Their names were Haruka Tenoh (Sailor Uranus) and Michiru Kaioh (Sailor Neptune) and, if you’ve only seen the Sailor Moon anime, they appeared in the third season (Sailor Moon S) and are part of the Sailor Scouts of the Outer Solar System (along with Sailor Saturn and Sailor Pluto). Haruka was distinguished for being strong and athletic, with very short blonde hair, while Michiru was very refined and liked art. Impossible not to recognize her green hair.

As the story progressed, it became clear that Haruka liked Michiru, and that the green-haired girl flirted with her although she also did it with men. The story was set up so that everyone would realize that they were lesbians and that they were a couple. Imagine the stir this story caused in the still very conservative Japan of the 1990s. It surely shocked some, but not as much as it did in the United States.

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Decades before Dragon Ball reached the level of popularity it enjoys today in the U.S., Sailor Moon already had it. When the anime hit U.S. soil even Barbie trembled. The market was filled with dolls and merchandising related to them, and they even tried to make their own anime version (but it was so bad that it didn’t even make it past the pilot).

Everything changed when the third season arrived and DiC Entertainment, the owner of the license, tried to change the story to eliminate the lesbian concept within Sailor Moon. It seemed that things were going to change when the production company Cloverway got the rights to the last two seasons (Sailor Moon SuperS and Sailor Moon Sailor Stars), but things went worse, as they chose to “explain” in the dubbing that Haruka and Michiru were very close cousins.

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In other countries, they opted to give Haruka Tenoh the voice of a man and when she turned into Sailor Uranus suddenly changed her voice to a female one, just like they did in Mexico, where they made Haruka speak in a deeper, more masculine tone.

Dubbing was a tool with which, in the West, they nuanced the romance between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. They subtly modified the dialogue to make their relationship more like that of a couple of best friends than a couple of girlfriends. They turned a “I won’t let you go home tonight” into a “Let’s keep driving, we’re not going home today” and an “If you see it that way it’s like they’re really lovers” into a “They look like girlfriends.”

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Repeatedly, Sailor Moon author Naoko Takeuchi spoke out against Uranus’ sex change. “Haruka has always been a woman. She always will be,” she asserted. Although Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal already acknowledges Uranus and Neptune’s relationship, since 1991 Takeuchi had openly acknowledged the courtship. During her visit to the ‘97 Comic Con International and when asked specifically if Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune were lovers, Takeuchi replied:

“Yes, they are lovers. The reason is that they fit together. Neptune is very feminine, while Uranus is a bit boyish and has the heart of a boy. And at that age, girls have a lot of emotions (...) And compared to the other five, they have the freest time.”

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Sailor Moon is an iconic work of the latter part of the 20th century for many reasons. Its stories, which incited female empowerment, have transcended the decades and will surely continue to do so. We are happy that they also gave us one of the first female couples we saw on television.

Story originally published in Cultura Colectivan in Spanish

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