The Power of Love

The Power of Love

Growing up, we awakened at the fun-filled hour of five AM so that our mom could take us to day care in time to get to work. I don’t remember much from those haze-filled hours where I rolled out of bed and stumbled down the stairs after several attempts to roll over and go back to sleep. But I do remember the shows we watched. Five in the morning is the realm of crap shows that channels believe no one will pay any attention to. (Because who is up at that time of morning to watch TV?) In my youth, the kids channels chose to air their limited supply of translated Anime at that hour. And so I was introduced to Dragon Ball (without the Z) and Sailor Moon.

Fast forward several years to high school. The hazy mornings of shuffling off to daycare had long since faded into memory, but some of the stories from those early morning cartoons stuck in my head. I started to describe them to my friends until one identified and reintroduced me to Sailor Moon. Not only that, she introduced me to the original series, so that I was able to experience the real joy of the story.

I talk a lot about the lessons that I find in science fiction, but I learned as much from my second viewing of those early morning cartoons, especially when I watched the original Japanese version. Here are the top five that have stuck with me.

You don’t have to be the best at everything (or anything) to be strong, interesting or successful
Usagi (Serena in the English series) is one of the most unique characters I have ever encountered. Because she’s the reincarnation of a princess, you might think she’s a Mary Sue – graceful, pretty and good at everything. Instead, Usagi is a crybaby. She’s terrible in school. She’s clumsy, easily distracted and often loud. She spends most of her time with her head in the clouds. And while she daydreamed of being a hero like the famous Sailor V, she quickly realizes that being a normal girl is much better than shouldering that level of responsibility.

While everyone cautions young writers about tempering their characters to keep them from appearing over-skilled, there also seems to be a perception that people won’t identify with anyone who isn’t super skilled at something. Especially with young adult stories, it seems the main character almost always possesses some special quality or skill that makes them the focus of the story’s attention. While Usagi is Sailor Moon (and thus special in some way), she doesn’t become less clumsy, loud-mouthed or bad at school after she makes the transformation. In fact, the transformation doesn’t make Usagi any more graceful, even-tempered or brave than she is normally. There’s one particular episode where Usagi tries to learn ice skating, as apparently she was fantastic at it in her past life. She falls on her face several times. And when transforming into Sailor Moon fails to grant her greater skill, she loudly bemoans the fact.

Yet Usagi is more than worthy of being the leading lady. She has strengths that many others overlook. And when it comes down to it, she summons the courage to continue running into dangerous situations simply to keep her friends and others safe. She tries, even though she fails. She is grounded, and one of the most average people you’ll ever see as a main character. That alone makes watching the show worthwhile.

The Acceptance of a Single Person can Change a Life
One of Usagi’s greatest qualities is that she makes friends with everyone. She often approaches someone, smiles, compliments them and then drags them into a conversation. While that might seem unremarkable, it’s worth noting that many of the people she approaches are introverts. They’ve been labelled ‘strange’ or ‘weird’ by their peers and thus isolated. In fact, of the other ‘inner’ sailor soldiers, only Venus is outgoing. Sailor Mercury is isolated by her superior intellect. Sailor Jupiter because she’s a tom boy, and Sailor Mars because she has super natural powers.

None of which matters to Usagi. She breaks through all their barriers to become fast friends. And this becomes a central theme to the show. Because so many of these characters have never had a genuine friend before, they’re willing to take great risks to protect or assist Usagi/Sailor Moon. As the series goes on, each character gets more episodes devoted to their development, and many reveal how depressed these girls were before Usagi came into their lives.

So often in our society ‘different’ means ‘bad.’ We undertake campaign after campaign against bullies, yet closed-mindedness remains one of our most powerful poisons. How novel it is to meet someone who doesn’t judge, who will smile and laugh and welcome you no matter how different you may seem. The devotion of the inner sailor soldiers to Usagi is important because it shows us that her kindness is genuine. And it also shows us how a little genuine kindness can affect our lives.

The most powerful Love is not always Romantic
Love is a theme central to many stories. Even adventure stories tend to have romantic subplots. At its heart, Sailor Moon is a romance; it’s the story of a doomed prince and princess who died as a result of their forbidden love. Now reincarnated, they’re trying to prevent history from repeating itself. But the story doesn’t just revolve around this tragic romance. Love becomes an all encompassing theme. Cheesy as it sounds, many of the ultimate battles come down to a struggle between love and hate. (More on that later.)

I find it’s common for Japanese stories to examine many kinds of love. The famous comic artists CLAMP once spoke of their comic Card Captor Sakura saying that they wanted to depict every kind of love without judgment. While Sailor Moon, especially in the early seasons, revolves around the romance between the male and female lead, it also devotes a lot of time to the love shared between friends. It’s clear that the sailor soldiers have a close relationship, both on and off the battlefield. The show also devotes episode to the love shared between families.

It seems a given these days that when people are talking about ‘love’ in a story, they’re talking about romance. But some of the most powerful love we experience in our lives has nothing to do with romance. Everyone has one friend to whom they tell everything. One friend they encourage to call any time, even if it’s three AM. And often they feel their life would fall apart if they lost the support of said friend. Some people are that close with their parents, brothers or sisters. This is why people so often say they would rather have a few good friends than a hundred acquaintances. Powerful emotions drive and sustain us. Those emotions need not originate from romance.

Forgiveness is always more powerful than Anger
I’ll never forget the first time I watched the season one finale of the English version of Sailor Moon. The evil queen absorbs all the dark power she has generated and grows to epic proportions. As she leans over our demure hero, about to annihilate the Earth, Sailor Moon raises her tiny wand and murmurs the name of her attack. My jaw fell open as I realized she was not, in fact, fighting to prevent that evil blast; she was trying to heal her enemy.

This is a common theme in Sailor Moon. Time and again, as she faces some evil force hoping to rule the Earth, she attempts to eradicate the evil rather than punish the wielder. Sometimes she even succeeds.

As we’ve already established, one of Usagi’s key characteristics is the size of her heart. There seems to be endless room inside it. And no matter how much ill an enemy has visited upon her, Sailor Moon opens her arms to welcome them into the light of love.

This is a powerful message. I knew that when I was sixteen. And as the years have gone on, I’ve learned just how important love and acceptance is when life is so short. It’s easier to be angry, to yell and to judge. It’s easy to hold a grudge. But holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting it to hurt someone else. Life is too short to carry that poison. If only everyone could meet in the middle of an argument to compromise, our world would be a happier place. Sailor Moon never wasted time with hate and anger. She skipped right to forgiveness. That was the size of her heart.

Love is the strongest Power on Earth
Perhaps no other force on Earth has as many songs and stories devoted to it. People spend their whole lives searching for the perfect match. People write whole novels trying to define the concept of love and where it comes from. Love may be a psychological response to biological chemicals generated by our body, but perhaps nothing motivates people more. Whether we understand it or not, Love makes us laugh, cry, sing and scream. Love can motivate us and devastate us. And whether romantic or not, everyone has one form of love or another in their life.

If there’s one thing people will fight to protect, it’s the people (and sometimes even things) they love.

Which is perhaps why it’s so poignant that Sailor Moon’s ultimate power was to love those who didn’t realize they needed it. With the power of her heart, she saved the world several times. It may sound cheesy, but I think it sends a more lasting message than constantly pummelling the bad guys with your fists.

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