Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wasteland Wednesday! Sailor Moon: A Scout is Born (Novel)

Sailor Moon: A Scout is Born was published in April 1999 by TokyoPop's Mixx Entertainment/Smile Books imprint. This was the first of eight Sailor Moon novels, and the backstory behind the book series is more interesting than one might at first guess.

Mixx Entertainment's Sailor Moon novels closely follow the DiC anime dub, utilizing not only the same 'Westernized' character names (like Serena, Molly, Melvin, etc) but also heavily amps the American pop culture references for the young female demographic.

Each book features the novelizations of three episodes, making A Scout is Born one of the more intriguing novels in the bunch, since it contains the plot of an episode never released in the US. Episode 2, of the anime wasn't dubbed by DiC for reasons still unknown. The episode's plot centered around a fortune teller and Umino/Melvin getting mind-controlled. It's unclear why DiC passed on this one, as there was nothing that would be overtly controversial or difficult to Americanize. For those of you who have seen the episode, a scene where Umino/Melvin flips up his teacher's skirt would likely have been removed, along with him and his friends smashing some school windows.

Each novelized episode gets about forty or so pages, with the first episode, A Moon Star is Born, and the third, Talk Radio, closely following the DiC dub, except when more American references are brought in. The middle of the book, made up of the unreleased episode definitely has that same DiC tone, making me wonder the novelization for it wasn't based on an unused dub script.

Speaking of all the American references, there's an overwhelming bunch between the covers of A Scout is Born. Early on Serena visits a 7-Eleven, mentions Bloomingdales, compares someone to Dennis the Menace, name drops CNN and, strangest of all, goes on a tangent about Montblanc pens.

On page 113,  the references get even more outlandish:

"That doesn't mean he's not a babe!" Serena protested. "Tom Cruise was a bad guy in 'Interview With a Vampire,' but he was still a babe."

In the following novel, Mercury Rising, there's dialogue about popular music acts of the day like N'Sync and then-mega-popular Britney Spears. Even shows like Dawson's Creek, which had been waned in popularity by the publishing of these novels, finds itself getting a mention. The Internet was absent from the show, since when the show was airing in Japan in predated any mainstream use, but the World Wide Web is referenced on numerous occasions.

One of the most intriguing aspects of A Scout is Born, is that it was written by TokyoPop founder Stuart J. Levy. While die-hard Sailor Moon fans surely wouldn't appreciate the overt Americanization of the plot, it's clear that Levy knew exactly who he was writing the novel for: young girls that either didn't care or didn't even know that Sailor Moon was a Japanese show, but simply loved the concept and characters. I know this may be heretical to say on an anime blog, but marketing-wise Levy likely made the right business move to appeal to that age set and distance the Japanese aspects found in the show, and that includes invoking so many pop-culture references that are so comical and dated today.

I recall in early 2000 or 2001 being in a Dress Barn with my sister and there was a young girl around the age of eleven or twelve shopping with her mom--the girl was carrying around one of these Sailor Moon novels (I think it was Scouts on Film) and when she spotted Dress Barn's small, but surprisingly well-displayed selection of Sailor Moon jewelry, she went off the rails. Regardless of how far DiC and Levy stepped away from some elements of the Japanese version, it's hard to believe that the girl at Dress Barn or the thousands of other "Moonies" like her, were upset that Serena has a thing for Montblanc pens...  

After A Scout is Born, the following seven novels, The Power of Love, Mercury Rising, Mars Attacks, Eternal Sleep, Scouts on Film, Cel Mates, and Diamond's Not Forever, were written by then-seventeen-year-old fanfiction writer Lianne Sentar. The age demographic for those books were reportedly around eight-to-ten year-olds. Another run of Sailor Moon novels (technically called 'junior chapter novels') were published in 2001 by Scholastic and written by Tracey West. These were geared to kids closer to the age of four and eight. If I ever get my hands on one of the Scholastic books I'll certainly post about it here.


  1. I'd never heard about these before. I wonder how well they did. My inner fanboy is not a fan of the changes but I get why they felt they needed to do so.

    I'm always fascinated by these types of cultural transmutations. From tokusatsu in Brazil and Sailor Moon in the US I'm pretty keen on seeing how they evolve in new environments. See The Phantom in Papua New Guinea to see how far an character can change from one place to another.

    1. Thanks for the comment! The use of the Phantom on New Guinea war shields is extremely fascinating. The various cultural interpretations of these characters is always interesting to see. I recall the story of a friend who traveled to South America in the late '90s and was surprised by the amount of merchandise, comics, and even fan-created comics, that were being sold featuring the DC character Anarky...a Batman villain/anti-hero that wasn't very well received in the U.S.

  2. What I find odd is how the first book used the word "pissed" as in pissed off. I'm sure parents would have been like that

    I've heard the novels didn't do too well among fans, were criticized for the huge amount of product/brand placements, pop culture/TV show references (I dunno why they even did that, it makes Sailor Moon look dated when in my opinion it's not), confusing use of original and dub terms, and the characters being out of character, like Serena being ignorant towards studying whilst Usagi was lazy towards it.

    1. Funny enough, I just re-watched the Sailor Moon R movie last week, and was impressed at how well it aged. Even the anime series itself doesn't feel dated whatsoever. Sure, young viewers today might call into question the lack of characters with cellphones--but Sailor Moon always had a timeless quality to it, and the central themes are still just as relevant.

      TokyoPop's novels, on the other hand, tried so desperately to "relate" to younger fans who, presumably were saturated in '90s pop-culture, that they do a massive disservice to the source material. Every time the book mentions a then-current TV show, band, or product, it only serves to pull the reader out of the story.

    2. Agreed, the R movie has aged really well, and is one of the best movies I've ever seen, though I don't think non-Sailor Moon fans would like it. The only parts I would say that are dated in the 90's would be the use of floppy disks, as those are not common nor used nowadays, and sadly, that arch that the Sailors hung under in the R movie, believe it or not, is actually gone (though Crystal, despite having modern technology like some iPad thing Ami had in the last episode of Season 3 of it, still has it for some odd reason).

      TokyoPop's novels are kinda enjoyable, but more out of a bit of nostalgia and a "so bad it's good" thingy to me. I wonder if Naoko saw these books or not (I know she does like the anime and most of her "hate" towards it was actually anger because she was so stressed out with writing)...

      Yeah, those things pulled me out of the story too, and the whole fourth wall breaking was annoying, especially the whole Luna going "A Sailor Moon animated series? Don't be silly, Serena" in Cel Mates, novel #7.

      I think the reason it stopped at #8 was because Lianne went to college and decided that was more important (it says in the thing about her in that book she was in college).