Friday, September 30, 2016
Book Review: Her Eternal Moonlight
I was approached recently by the authors of this book to do a review of it, as my podcast & blog are pretty relevant to part of the Sailor Moon experience. Like myself, many of my followers were fans of Sailor Moon since back before the internet was a constant presence in our everyday lives. The idea of a book focused not just on the history of Sailor Moon through the lens of its North American fans, but specifically how it touched the lives of its female fandom sounded quite intriguing. So of course, I jumped on the chance to read this book, and I wanted to share my thoughts with all of you!
Her Eternal Moonlight: Sailor Moon’s Female Fans In North America, An Unauthorized Examination By Steven Savage & Bonnie Walling
The book’s official synopsis:
“To many people, especially those who joined the fandom in the late ‘90s, Sailor Moon is synonymous with anime. The show burst onto North American televisions like a supernova of color and character, bringing all things Japanese front and center in Western consciousness – and creating a devoted fandom that persists to this day, changing the lives of young girls and women.
But just why did this magical girl phenomena have such deep, abiding impact on so many female fans in North America? Why did it succeed when the odds seemed stacked against it, and why does this love persist? Join authors Steve Savage and Bonnie Walling as they take you on a tour of just how powerfully Sailor Moon affected the girls and women who discovered it. Taken from interviews with more than thirty fans of the series, you’ll get a personal view into how the media phenomena changed lives and influences its female fans to this day.
Discover a show that was surprisingly different to its audience when it came to North America, with stories and characters that amazed and inspired its female audience. Dive into the early days of internet fandom, where Sailor Moon inspired a new kingdom of websites and fanfic. Explore how a single show led women and girls on a journey of friendship and discovery.
If you’re a loyal fan or have one in your life, if you want to understand how pop culture affects and inspires women, this is your chance to find out what happened when the Moon Princess met her new female followers in North America and changed lives.”
Now, if you remember the last book review I did, you might recall it too was a book about Sailor Moon. And while it was interesting, I did lament that it was a little disappointing—my biggest gripe being that the author had desperately needed a second writer or editor to help him, specifically one that was a Sailor Moon fan (or just an anime fan in general). I was happy to see that for this book, it was a collaborated effort not just between two authors, but with extensive interviews with actual female Sailor Moon fans. These ladies took the time to tell the authors about their experiences and opinions, and they in turn took each one with careful consideration to craft this book into what it is.
And really, at its heart, this is what the book is about. Her Eternal Moonlight starts off with a brief breakdown of the very basics of Sailor Moon’s plot, its characters, and its creators. So if you’ve somehow never seen a single episode or read a single volume, you could get an idea of what Sailor Moon was all about. They did an excellent job condensing the basics for the laymen out there, before diving right into their interviewee’s personal histories with the series. How they discovered it, which version they saw, their first impressions, and why it struck a chord with them.
As the book continues, the authors discovered that while each fan’s story was different, similarities kept popping up over and over again. That this series was giving women (then just girls) exactly what they had needed: a story made for them, targeted to specifically to girls, created by a woman, that they could see reflections of themselves in. Something that had been sorely lacking on TV and in media in general at the time.
The book also chronicles how even without our modern internet, Sailor Moon was something that brought fans together. Life-long friendships were discovered, hobbies of cosplay, fanart, and fanfiction gave way to some as careers later in life as comic artists, costumers, writers. Fans sought out other fans at newly formed anime conventions & in the budding dial-up internet age through fansites, webrings, and IRC chatrooms. Long before Tumblr or social media, Sailor Moon fans found ways to band together to celebrate not just Sailor Moon, but their own creations inspired by it.
This book does a great job laying out exactly what was so special about Sailor Moon, and how it was one of the things that really helped pave the way for not just anime & manga, but how fandoms connect and celebrate their love of something together. Using the fans’ own words, as well as the observations from the authors themselves, the book flows naturally with each chapter, building upon the fan’s own stories and histories. Each woman had so much to say, I feel like we could’ve easily had an entire book written from each one’s unique experiences; but the authors do a good job giving us just enough to highlight the theme of each chapter.
While reading this book, I realized this is something I could’ve used years ago whenever someone questioned just WHY did I still love Sailor Moon?! I could have easily handed them this book and just said, “Here. This. All of this!”. Much like how viewers saw small pieces of themselves in the characters of Sailor Moon, I saw pieces of myself in each fan’s story. How by watching or reading Sailor Moon, the characters inadvertently taught them that what we perceive as weaknesses can be strengths, how it celebrated femininity, how it championed love and compassion for others and friendship. Sure, there’s other things I love about Sailor Moon, but those themes where incredibly important to me way back when Sailor Moon was still considered “new”. And those themes are just a small piece of why the series is still important & has such staying power within our collective consciousness today.
Another thing I really liked about this book is that it doesn’t feature just fans of the edited dub or just fans of the original. They use both the original and Americanized names for characters, and reference all versions of Sailor Moon in varying degrees throughout the book. No one is shamed for liking one version over the other, making it accessible for any type of fan. And while this is a book told through the lens of femininity and why this series was so important for women, I think male fans of Sailor Moon could easily read this book and resonate with many of the stories within. I’ve known plenty of male Sailor Moon fans throughout my life, and they too were drawn to the series for the same reasons. Most Sailor Moon fans I know in real life are warm, accepting people, and this book feels just like that: a welcoming invitation to read about this beloved series from a fan’s point of view, and how it resonated with them in various ways, on different levels.
I whole-heartedly recommend this book. While there were times I felt it could get a little repetitive, repetition is part of the point—That many fans, no matter where they lived or what kind of background they came from, ended up discovering the series in similar ways, and loving it for similar reasons. It’s also a great mini history lesson in how us older fans got through fandom long before Tumblr, Twitter, and streaming video. To people who’ve never been into Sailor Moon, it gives a great insight into the fans’ perspective. For those who love the series, it’s a touching look into the experience we all shared together, whether you’re an old-school fan or a younger one just discovering it for the first time. To quote the book,
“Listen to the fans of Sailor Moon. They have Stories to tell. These are just a few.”
Her Eternal Moonlight is available in both eBook and Physical form on Amazon now, so check it out! You can also visit the official website at HerEternalMoonlight.com.