I was 7 years old and watching Cartoon Network when a strange show I had never seen before came on. It featured five teenage girls with magical powers that allowed them to transform from ordinary school girls into sailor-uniformed superheroes that fight against the forces of evil. While I had grown up watching other superhero cartoons, I had never seen anything like this; the key characters were all female, and they were animated in an unusual style that featured small, pointed noses and enormous eyes. I watched in a silence that was rare for my childhood self, mesmerized by these cartoon girls that fought violent battles despite wearing high heels and miniskirts. After that initial viewing I caught many more episodes, often watching out of order and staying up later than I was supposed to. Watching it became a staple, and parts of it stayed with me long after I grew up, particularly its themes of friendship and courage. The show was Sailor Moon.
Many other kids who grew up in the late nineties were just as fascinated with Sailor Moon as I was, as well as other shows Cartoon Network aired on their older-kid-themed segment called Toonami. While they focused on vastly different topics, these shows all had a few things in common: they came from Japan, were dubbed for English speakers and were animated in a unique Japanese style called anime. Other series that became popular at the time included Gundam Wing, Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon. As an ardent fan by that point, I searched for all the Sailor Moon merchandise I could find. I collected toys mostly, and unfortunately there weren’t many of them. This left me with a peculiar longing for something more, but I didn’t know what. I found it a few years later at the Natrona County Library.
I spotted them in a small section of the young adult books. They were comics, and while they weren’t Sailor Moon, they were drawn in the same style. I eagerly flipped through a few and was confused when some of them seemed to be backward. The cover was on the left. I checked them out anyway, and it didn’t take me long to get used to reading from right to left. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my introduction to Japanese comic books, or as they are more commonly known, manga. The books only seemed backward because Japanese read in the opposite direction. The manga that read left to right had been scanned and then mirrored for English readers. The library became my impromptu portal to Japanese culture and entertainment. As time trickled by and the interest in manga increased, so did the library’s collection. I read and reread all the series, and met up with like-minded people. As it turned out, there were a lot of us, so Anime Club was formed and run by the young adult librarian. At Anime Club we met and discussed our favorite comics, watched new series and dressed up like our favorite characters. My friends and I blossomed from regular nerds into Anime nerds.
Anime Club is gone now, but the fans are still around. This is evident by the library’s enormous manga collection. Most of it is new, but some of the series I read in my youth have hung in there and are still checked out often. Seeing those books on the shelves gives me a strong sense of nostalgia, and it makes me smile whenever I see a young person get excited about seeing them, too. The Sailor Moon comics written and drawn by Naoko Takeuchi are a more recent library acquisition, but they have already been checked out multiple times, so much so that some of the pages are yellowing. Even though Sailor Moon the animated series stopped airing years ago, the story still pulls people in, no matter its format. Hopefully the series will inspire more young people to find the good in themselves as they strive to be like their heroes Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians. Moon Prism Power, Make Up!