Earlier this month, Comic Natalie posted up an interview with Kotono Mitsuishi & Osabu about the 20th anniversary and new merchandise! Below is the full translation of the interview, the final page was omitted as it was just a catalog listing of the new merchandise.
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the smash-hit series “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” by Naoko Takeuchi, tons of merchandise has been released this past year. Cosmetics like the “Shining Moon Powder” have been so popular that online orders have crashed websites. From young girls who loved the sailor soldiers back in the 90s to the women to today, the franchise continues to loosen wallets everywhere.
Here to talk to us at Comic Natalie today is the editor-in-chief and manager of Naoko Takeuchi, Fumio Osano. Also in attendance as our special guest is the voice actress of Sailor Moon, Mitsuishi Kotono. We’ll also be talking about two future items currently in production, the “Figurarts ZERO Sailor Moon” and the “PROPLICA Moon Stick”. You should be able to enjoy both of those items while watching the new episodes of the anime broadcast!
Fact Checking / Transcription: Megumi Kishino – Summarizations: Shigeo Kosaka
Kotono Mitsuishi & Osabu Interview
Don’t Just “Slap A Picture of the Old Anime” On It!
Cosmetics, figures, apparel, stationery, and toys that imitate items from the show — Over the last half year, a huge variety of goods have been announced one after another. Today I’d like to ask you for the inside scoop on those creations. Mr. Osabu is the editor in charge of the original work, but are you taking part in the development of the goods?
Osabu Yes. I’ve been doing planning and quality checking with Mrs. Takeuchi. Having released various merchandise over the years, I’ve come to see that just aimlessly planning is no good. When you release something that gets a good response from the fans is awesome, but if you release something that just has an image from the old anime slapped on it, that won’t turn out so well. Another element is to release goods that people who are currently in their 20s or 30s would like to use in their everyday lives.
──So you’re not just releasing random anime merchandise, but things that can be used in every day life?
Osabu Exactly. Which is why starting with cosmetics was right on the money. Bandai’s production team particularly fussed over the “Shining Moon Powder”. Of course we had Mrs. Takeuchi look at it, and we had conversations at length about its thickness, etc. Thanks to that, the cosmetics are valued far more highly than we had anticipated.
Mitsuishi Kotono Yes, they were very cute! (While looking at a previous Comic Natalie article) This Shimamura is Shimamura the fashion center, right? An unexpected collaboration.
Osabu I’m definitely glad we decided to do so many collaborations. I think that around the time this article goes out, Peach John’s underwear will be released, and their design is really high-impact. Out of all the 20th year anniversary goods, the first one announced was S.H.Figuarts Sailor Moon, and I knew that if it was good, its good reputation would help promote the later releases. I thought that if that item failed, we wouldn’t be able to release the other planned goods.
Mitsuishi You were thinking about those kinds of things?
Osabu Oh yeah. Before we began releasing, I was uneasy, I didn’t know how it would all turn out.
Couldn’t Find a Thing in Nakano Broadway! What’s Going on With the World?!
Mitsuishi Of course they’re going to sell! Everyone’s hearts were bone dry with thirst for Sailor Moon. Y’know, ten years ago, I went to Nakano Broadway wandering the floors thinking, “Aren’t there any Sailor Moon figures?”. But I couldn’t find even one, so I thought “What’s going on in this world?!”.
Osabu Hahaha (laughs). Probably when you went we hadn’t come out with the new figurines yet.
Mitsuishi I’d been waiting for one for a long time, so I was very happy to receive the S.H.Figuarts figurine. But actually, when I first saw it, I thought “This is small!” (laughs).
Osabu Yeah, but it seems like the small size of the S.H. Figurarts is popular with women. Many women like to put them into poses, position them on their desks, and take photos with their smartphones. The figures were originally meant for men, so we didn’t know it would turn out this way, but it seems that actually, most of them were bought by women. Mrs. Mitsuishi, have you been able to move them and play with them?
Mitsuishi Yes! But it’s difficult to keep them standing… Also, I wanted to put mine in the “In the name of the moon, I will punish you!” pose, but it couldn’t really nail it.
Osabu Posing the moveable figures can be a little tricky until you get a technique down for doing it. Sometime it helps to slightly change the angle of the face to perfectly nail a pose.
Mitsuishi Maybe I need to have special training session.
Osabu The S.H.Figuarts series normally has four varieties of facial expressions, but as a first-run limited edition, Sailor Moon came with six varieties. I think there’s value in moving them around. Sailor Moon fans’ eyes are critical, so we put a lot of effort into making it from the very beginning (laughs).
Mitsuishi Tee hee hee. In the past, there weren’t figures like that where you can subtly move them and take them apart, so it’s interesting.
Volks, Who’s Familiar with Garage Kits, in Charge of Prototyping
Osabu In contrast to the moveable S.H.Figuarts, the Figuarts Zero unmoveable figure comes out in March of next year. We spent a lot of time and effort during its prototype production to make sure its beautifully detailed.
Mitsuishi Is this one geared for men?
Osabu I suppose if we geared it toward any one audience, it’s men, but I think it’s something that wouldn’t be out of place if found in a woman’s room.
Mitsuishi I feel like this is my first time seeing Sailor Moon as a figure like this. Was there anything like this back then? I remember the dolls they made for girls with the changeable clothing, and all the plushies too.
Osabu During 1995~6, the golden age of garage kits, Sailor Moon items were coming out like wildfire. In 1992, right when the broadcast started, was the time when JAF-CON (Japan Fantastic Convention) started. Until then, when you said “garage kit”, the main things you thought of were beasts, heroes, and things geared towards boys, but it would seem that Sailor Moon coming out became an opportunity for markets selling anime characters to spread. As for this Figuarts Zero, we went with a company called Volks to come up with the prototype – they’re known for their really high-quality work.
──When you say “high quality”, what exactly do you mean?
Osabu Aside from the detail, it needs to be beautiful. It has to be completely seamless, extremely well-painted, and needs to have all the subtle detail work, like small pearls and beads where they should be, etc.
Mitsuishi They’re certainly are beautiful and sparkly. Why did you choose this pose with the Cutie Moon Rod instead of the “Punish you!” pose?
Osabu That’s because the prototypist said “I want to make this pose for Sailor Moon”. I think that letting them do it the way they want to leads to the best thing being made. The designs have progressed a lot as we’ve continued with the line too. In particular, Mercury is insanely well-made. Definitely.
Mitsuishi …but isn’t that because she’s your favorite, Osabu? (laughs)
Osabu No, no! (laughs) But, as expected, Sailor Moon is the most popular by a long-shot.
Mitsuishi You’re kidding! You don’t have to say that just because I’m here! (laughs)
Osabu It’s true! (laughs) We released a set of five t-shirts, one for each soldier. The most popular was Sailor Moon. Apparently, the second most popular was Venus, and the remaining three were had about the same numbers in sales.
──Has that trend in popularity not changed since the original run?
Osabu It’s gradually changed over time. Back then, as we went into the latter half of the series, Jupiter’s popularity kept climbing, and by the time the last series began, her momentum was to the point where we wondered if she would be on top.
The Relationship Between the 5 Sailor Soldiers
──When I used to watch the anime, I always enjoyed watching the five girls talk and squabble.
Mitsuishi Us five actresses who played the main characters were friends in our private lives too, there were really no boundaries between us. The five of us formed a voice actress unit and were really active.
Osabu It was called like Moon Rips or something, wasn’t it.
Mitsuishi Nope, not quite. (laughs) …We were Peach Hips!
Osabu Oh my, I made a mistake! (laughs) Crap, I’m terribly sorry.
Mitsuishi Ahahaha (laughs) It’s fine, it’s fine. Back then, we didn’t have backups for voice actors like we do today, so we did everything including practice location scouting, costume design, choreography, etc. – and so our performances had a really hand-made feel to them. We were always being helped out by senior women we worked with on whom we could rely.
Osabu Back then all of us were in our 20s too.
Mitsuishi That’s right. Back then all of us actresses were in the thick of it together, and we had a sense of comraderie – like, “If you leave this, I’m leaving too!” – we had a great relationship with each other.
──In your opinion, which scene in the long-running “Sailor Moon” series is the most impressive?
Mitsuishi In my opinion, that’s the scene where Hotaru awakens as Sailor Saturn (episode 125 – “A Bright Shooting Star! Saturn and the Messiah!”) There’s a scene where Sailor Moon can’t transform, and she’s crying, “I’ve got to change! I’ve got to change!”. I really loved that.
Osabu Why is that one your favorite?
Mitsuishi Well, I don’t want to sound like I’m too strange here but…(laughs)
Osabu That’s okay (laughs)
Mitsuishi When we’re lipsyncing the lines, we have to say them without actually speaking. And when we’re recording, you have to say the lines to match the animation. But during that scene, I could scream it out exactly as it came naturally, and the animation was modeled around that. I think it came out beautifully.
Osabu What that your first time as a voice actress doing anything like that?
Mitsuishi Yeah, it was the first time I really felt like “Sailor Moon”.
Osabu So that’s why that scene was so amazing.
Mitsuishi Huh? Was it weird? (laughs) I always like doing work like that – I remember when we first did that take, they said they were going to leave it up to the director’s judgement whether or not they would keep it or make me re-do it, but he said, “That take was amazing, it had such a deep emotion to it!” The staff and I were both really relieved that he didn’t want to change it (laughs)
Playing Sailor Moon For the First Time in Many Years
──In the “PROPLICA Moon Stick” coming out next year, you got to record the audio segments for it, isn’t that right Ms. Mitsuishi? What was it like to play as Sailor Moon again after so many years?
Mitsuishi I did some narration work for the PV to promote the “S.H. Figurarts” line, but really, I felt almost like a rookie again. I was worried that if I didn’t do a good job, it would destroy my whole track record.
Osabu So it’s almost like you’re trying to recapture the past.
Mitsuishi Yeah. I actually went back and watched my old work on a DVD, just to regain the sense of what it’s like to do that acharacter again. So that when I went to record the Moon Stick audio tracks, I felt really confident about what I was doing.
Osabu Do you think you did well?
Mitsuishi Yes! When I did it, I thought to myself, “Yeah! That’s how it’s done!” right afterward.
Osabu It’s hard to tell it apart from her work from way back then. I think the fans think so too, because any time you think of the series, you immediately think of Mitsuishi’s voice. She’s set an incredibly high standard for voice acting work in general, and a lot of it has to do with her iconic role as Sailor Moon. She really is a true professional. The Moon Stick voice work is spot-on too, it’s real a luxury item. I don’t think we could have gotten anyone else to do such a fantastic job.
Mitsuishi Really though, it’s all thanks to the series itself. But you know, the Moon Stick itself is so sharp, I don’t know if it can really be called a kids toy anymore…
Mitsuishi Kotono’s Effect on Usagi in the Original Manga
──Is it true that while you were playing the role of Usagi, your work had an influence on Usagi in the original comic series?
Mitsuishi Definitely. We used to get a subscription to Nakayoshi at the studio ever month, and I used to cry out, “Yay!” as I read it!
Osabu The original series has been re-released as the perfect edition, so Mitsuishi please be sure to check it out and give it a read (volumes 1 and 2 on sale), I brought some copies for you.
Mitsuishi Ah, thanks so much! The covers are so pretty….you can get a real sense for Usagi’s character on this one, she looks better than ever.
Osabu Even though it’s been 20 years, she’s still looking pretty good right? Haha
Mitsuishi Tee hee hee (laughs) I bet pre-teen girls will still love it though.
Osabu Back when the manga was being serialized, Mrs. Takeuchi used to get a lot of inspiration from Ms. Mitsuishi when drawing Usagi. The two of us would be going over scene dialogue, and Takeuchi would say, “But when Mitsuishi is saying this line, it’ll sound better this way, it’ll sound much cuter like this” – she used to take Mitsuishi’s role into consideration a lot.
Mitsuishi What, really? That’s the first I’m hearing of this.
Osabu A lot of Mitsuishi’s acting method, the atmosphere and aura she brought to the show, definitely had a huge impact on the creation of the original manga. If you check out the perfect edition re-rerelease of the manga, you can really see Mitsuishi’s influence, especially in volumes 3, 4, and 5.
Mitsuishi Tee hee hee, of course! I don’t know if I’ll be able to read it all on my own though…(laughs), but these books are so beautiful, thank you for them.
──Now that fans can check out the new perfect edition of the manga, as well as other merchandise items in celebration of the Sailor Moon 20th anniversary, do you have any other messages to share with us before you go?
Mitsuishi Although many of the young girls who watched the original anime series and used to read the manga back in the day have all grown up into fine young ladies, please don’t forget the “maiden’s policy” you learned; it should stay in your heart forever. Even if you’ve strayed from that path, it’s not too late to turn back to it! It’s especially exciting to see the Sailor Moon 20th anniversary rebirth all over the world, no matter what you’re doing in live now. Let’s enjoy it together (laughs)!
Osabu The Sailor Moon 20th anniversary project celebration has really only just begun, and there’s still a lot more to come in the future. Please look forward to it!