Japan Today

Why blonde-haired, blue-eyed Sailor Moon is neither white nor Japanese

By Kirsty Kawano

Earlier this year, a Twitter storm erupted over drawings of Japan’s eternal anime superheroine, Sailor Moon (セーラームーン). A redraw of the blonde-haired character that gave her Asian facial features drew rapt approval from Twitter users writing in English, before a swift backlash from Japanese and other Asian users who decried it as stereotyping. At the heart of the storm is a question of how manga readers (or anime viewers) identify characters’ race, or to put it another way—“Why do Japanese anime characters look white?”

Pretty Warrior Sailor Moon is the star of a manga created by Japanese artist Naoko Takeuchi, which was published from 1992 to 1997 along with a TV anime. The 14-year-old character, who is also known as Usagi Tsukino (or as Serena Tsukino in English-dubbed anime), has big round blue eyes, incredibly long blonde ponytails, an adorable maritime-inspired outfit and is the prototype for Japan’s female superheroines. If you met her on the street, you might think she is Caucasian—but then again, you never will meet this fictional character on the street.

Anyway, according to the storyline, she comes from an ancient civilization that lived on the moon.

In July 2019, a Korean artist started the #sailormoonredraw challenge by posting to Twitter a still shot of the anime character and an original drawing of her, and encouraging other artists to join in by posting versions drawn in their own styles. Pictures posted to the thread accumulated likes and retweets in the thousands, but in May this year that jumped to the 10,000s as Japanese illustrators, including some famous ones, got involved. 

It was all good artistic fun until self-confessed fan (non-Japanese) Silverjow posted a picture of Sailor Moon with Asian facial characteristics. It’s a striking and beautiful image, and it received rapt praise in tweets posted in English. Though it has since been erased, the same drawing with black hair was posted at the same time. 

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© Savvy Tokyo

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Millenials complaining again? Oh God..

Please find something to do instead complaining about Sailor Moon... She is an icon since 90's...

20 ( +24 / -4 )

And Bart Simpson is bright yellow.

Go figure.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

It is OK to have some light hearted discussion but backlash? Do they discuss what race have gigantic eyes and unportiontionly long arms and legs like those anime characters? It is anime. Do not mix it with reality.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Who cares if she is Black, Hispanic, White, Asian, Middle eastern, Indian, or whatever, she is a success and loved by it's fan, and that is what made her who she is.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

you might think she is Caucasian—but then again, you never will meet this fictional character on the street.

Just how many fictional characters will I meet on the street?

Seems to me I have seen plenty of her though...


10 ( +12 / -2 )

Not Caucasian, Not White or Black, Not Japanese, Not Other Asian, It's just Manga Girl or Anime Girl, a very different species.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

It is an anime character with the typical exaggerated features.

If people want to as "why Asians with caucasian features?" I would start with actual living people.

Ask why all the K-pop groups and idols have extensive surgery to change their Asian features to caucasian ones.

I find the changing of actual people a far more disturbing trend than a drawing.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Reminds me of when SJWs claimed Dragon Ball was racist because the protagonists’ race, the Saiyans, turned blonde and blue-eyed when they powered up.

When asked why he chose to make the Saiyans “White” when they powered-up, the creator said, “it was to save ink, time, and my wrists. Before the animated series, when it was only a comic, everything was drawn by hand. The Saiyans with their voluminous hairstyles were a pain to color black and used a lot of ink. Sometimes we were so close to a deadline that I had to deliver the next weeks episode myself in the middle of the night. I was always thinking of a way to save time, so making the Super-Saiyan hair and eye color something that didn’t have to be inked in black and white comics made sense.”

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The hair is blond, the eyes blue, skin caucasian like, no small eyes. Hmmm, you tell me.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Do any of the Sailor Moons with different features have a non-fetish length skirt? It barely covers her crotch!

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Do Anime Characters Look White to Japanese People? (Interview)

How inane and specious?

Maybe I have contacted woke-colitis……No cure, no hope

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I have to say, Aliens are pretty classist. They tend to only crash in highly populated well developed areas of the world. I would love to see a sailor moon type character crash in South Sudan or Chechnya.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Next one : Pikachu. What's her ethnicity ?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This just in:

Kermit the Frog is neither an amphibian nor a living being.

And the Aqua Teens Hunger Force are not real food items. Do not eat your screen.

Back to you Dan and Jane.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I can understand people's points about it just being a fictional character. However, we all know that fictional characters also stem from some version of reality. Also, many of them have unintended meanings that also have to do with subconscious priming. Sailor Moon has aspects of it as does cartoons such as Dragon Ball Z. Things such as primed beauty standards are among those reasons. Where as the lead characters and strong characters have "white features." Other common points in Anime is that darker characters tend to be evil and/or criminals. There was a huge shift in anime during the 1980's and it because heavily influenced by western cultures. This is also around the time that such changes began to happen.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

@JJ Jetplane

There was a huge shift in anime during the 1980's and it because heavily influenced by western cultures.

I am guessing you Missed Yamato, Captain Harlock, Galaxy 999, etc.

All before the 1980s

I could name more going back into the late 60s but these 3 are very good examples.

What many do not understand is the Japanese anime readers/watchers and the Japanese culture in general actually do not like their anime to look like actual people, thus the exaggerated eyes, strange colour hair, often exaggeratedly large heads, etc...

Comics like Superman,etc... Never took off here because the looked to like real people.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

None of my 105 female Japanese university students like the Sailor Moon with the Asian face.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Obviously she's white, but also Japanese. Possibly an alien.

Anyway, it was common at the time for characters to have more white features. Most Asian people want a taller, narrower nose, for example, and contact lens companies clean up selling blue, green, light brown (even purple) contact lens colors. Whitening cream is everywhere. It's people's own personal choice though, it's not like some international cabal decided to convince East Asians that they should want to look white.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Unfortunately she can't decide on her own.. yet. Her creator could decide for her. Her fans will try and decide for her.. obviously.

Sailor moon tells me she doesn't even care. Usually.

I think she looks great the way she is.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

coskuriToday  04:18 pm JST

Next one : Pikachu. What's her ethnicity ?

I had no idea it was a "she". Clueless I am. lol

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I love the professor in this article. Can you make up more stuff please?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why not also have a character, dark haired brown eyes?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Sailor Moon only knows the one true creed: gay communism.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

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