3. Kaioh Michiru (Sailor Neptune) and Tenno Haruka (Sailor Uranus)
(Fan art by sizh)
Most writings on the two characters tend to reduce them to their lesbian identity. Instead, I want to highlight how they bridge the disjuncture between the Sailor Moon anime and manga on the trope of “dreams.”
The anime has a prominent, cheery message about girls’ following their dreams. In contrast, the manga consistently reminds us that the Sailor Senshi do not pursue dreams or alternatively, that their dream is equivalent to their duty. Case in point, compare the opening (Act 39)to the Dream Arc with the concluding battle for Sailor Mars (Act 43):
(scans from Miss Dream).
This devotion “to the cause” used to sit weird with me for many years. But Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus represent an ideal balance out of the fundamental mismatch between cherishing personal dreams/happiness and fulfilling responsibility – they give 110% on a few things and otherwise do NOT GIVE A FUCK. Life goals.
I must first point out that these two characters were designed from the get-go to be aspirational figures for the other Senshi and fans alike. Slightly older than the rest of the Sailor Senshi, the mysterious two are outrageously beautiful, talented, wealthy, minor celebrities in their distinct professional fields (Michiru in painting and music, Haruka in racing). They are so charming that they cannot walk out of a room without flower petals dropping from the sky and the entire world fading to pastel hues.
Their perfection is coded in gendered ideals as well with Haruka deemed the ideal “man” in episode 92 and Michiru as the “ideal princess figure” in episode 93. Evidence: Michiru, in all her elegant sophistication…
The singular thing that makes them aspirational figures though is not their perfect hair and random ownership of a private pool, sports car, helicopter, penthouse whatever. It is their cool, insightful acceptance of their “mission” that is somehow balanced by or even is the source of ultimate personal satisfaction. This is most apparent in two episodes of Season S and one episode of the SuperS special:
Episode 100: “Want to Quit Being a Sailor Senshi?! Minako’s Dilemma” (S戦士を辞めたい!?美奈子の悩み)
and Episode 106, “The Bond of Destiny: Uranus’ distant past” (運命のきずな!ウラヌスの遠い日)
and, SuperS Special “Haruka and Michiru Return! The Ghostly Puppet Show” はるかみちる再び! 亡霊人形劇)
In Episode 100, Minako fears she is losing critical parts of her identity (volleyball stardom, romance) to the responsibilities of being a Sailor Senshi.
She asks Haruka, “Do you ever wish that you were a more…average schoolgirl? Do you ever get lonely because ordinary happiness is so far way?”
I’m not exactly sure what “ordinary happiness” would be but I don’t think my current self is “abnormal.” What I am doing now is what is closest to my true self…Tenno Haruka, who fell in love with motor sports, can only live in this matter no matter what. I have something more valuable than ordinary happiness.”
When we get to Episode 106, we get the background of Haruka’s awakening and this valuable, non-ordinary happiness.
Haruka is approached by Michiru, already awakened to her duty and feeling ambivalent about putting aside her professional dreams of being a violinist. She echoes Haruka fears – fear of her destiny, fear of change, fear of being anchored down.
Yet Michiru also explicitly confesses her love too, her hopes, her admiration of Haruka’s independence and emotional honesty. She is frustrated multiple times in the episode that her “duty” clashes with her personal goals or values but it is also telling that she still fully pursues (successfully) her career, performing and painting. It is this full humanness of Michiru that seems to convince Haruka to take on her duty, a duty that does not diminish or close out the person behind.
It isn’t that Michiru can “have it all” in that cheesy feminist slogan of the 80s. She is conflicted and at times annoyed at this deeper calling. But what helps her manage is a laser sharp distinction on what is important, what her values are, and how she chooses to engage. As the SuperS Special concludes, Michiru could care less about the threat of unleashing monsters into the world. Her priority then was Haruka.
This post is getting too long. Here is my point.
I used to think that responsibilities/ duty/ etc were baggage that prevented you from seeking out your true, self-interested dreams. I disliked that the Sailor Senshi subordinated all of their personal dreams (to be a doctor, to run the shrine, to own a bakery etc) to their “job.” I thought it was a cop-out that their dreams just happened to be the same as their job. I thought that adults just learned to suck it up and find “balance.”
Michiru and Haruka offer instead an aspirational model of unusual excellence. They do not try to go beyond who they are in order to fulfill the terms of so-called “ordinary happiness” (in my case, a white collar job and a white picket fence house and 2 kids and American suburban normalcy). They do not try to crush their individual talents, emotions, dreams, and skills behind their responsibilities either. Instead, they seem to adhere to a razor sharp, even “minimalist” prioritization of what to give a fuck about.
I am probably projecting too much into them. Like I said, they are vague and aspirational characters that are designed to seem like they have their shit totally together. But I’d like to remember that I too have something more valuable than “ordinary happiness.”