A week ago, an ex-girlfriend of mine came knocking on my door to drag me to a casual masquerade party (awful, awful taste) of one of her friends. I’ve never been a fan of that friend’s personality so I was hoping to avoid the event, but one thing lead to another and I immediately found myself wearing a tie and friend’s Zorro mask in the house of a girl I’ve butted heads with for years. Did I look damn good? Naturally. Did she notice me? Of course she did. I was wearing a damn sheet of fabric on my face.
Similarly, the “disguises” worn by the characters of Sailor Moon play to a similar design and function of those found in a modern masquerade or costume party, cutting away any sense of anonymity for the sake of theatricality and sheer presence. Tuxedo Mask, the Sailor Senshi, and the Dark Kingdom continually sport outfits which appear as accessories but function as disguises, disguises which, to the audience, barely conceal anything. Though each character has engaged their everyday counterparts, the characters remain oblivious when it comes to recognizing the identities of others. But perhaps the genius of the series lies in the fact that it barely tries to hide anything at all.
To illustrate, in an especially memorable episode, commanding officer Nephrite, a distinct man who rocks a long wavy Kenny G haircut, plans to lure out the true identities Sailor Senshi by dressing up as the equal parts handsome and mysterious Tuxedo Mask, the Sailor’s dedicated ally. Naru Osaka, the only character who seems to be able to see through the disguises of the characters, immediately recognizes Nephrite, who in turn believes her to be Sailor Moon. Not only do these characters look absolutely nothing like who they’re mistaken for, but the others who show up later cite intuition (read: love) as the sole reason they can recognize each other. It’s a scene that’s as goofy as it is dramatic and for all cases and purposes it works.
Quite frankly I love this apathy towards practical disguise especially when the result is just so fabulous. In a series which plays out with the intensity of a thousand soap operas, it works wonders; the universe conspires around the outfits of the characters and completely ignores their functionality for the sake of fashion. Tuxedo Mask is obviously Mamoru Chiba and Sailor Moon is obviously Usagi Tsukino and it’s absolutely impossible not to have figured out who the former is by the end of the first episode. Logic takes an ax to the neck while answers lie in the hands of audience without ever being addressed directly.
Here, anonymity is no longer the goal and fashion becomes the subject of the superhero outfit. And expectedly so, there’s an unconventional, subdued eroticism to the outfits of the characters which is neither too intrusive nor overbearing. Although I’m hardly the expert in the field of fashion, there’s a certain suaveness dripping from Tuxedo Mask that’s impossible to replicate in civilian dress. The same goes for the Sailor Senshi, Jadeite, Nephrite and so forth; there’s an underlying sexiness to their outfits and their lack of functionality without being too blatant or excessive. The transformation sequences with their flashing color palettes and textures dancing over shaped body parts suggest something along similar lines: the colorfully veiled but immediately recognizable shape of the characters’ body give way to something stimulating, colorful and exciting. Much like the costumes they result in, the sequence juggles anonymity and identity in one clean sequence and the result is pleasingly exotic. I suppose that therein lies the key to the attractiveness of Sailor Moon’s disguises.
While not as flamboyant as say, Star Driver, the series similarly carries the outfits in a haughty manner by accentuating them with inwardly fabulous world: masked phantoms throw roses as weapons, tiaras eviscerate anything within a 50 meter radius and so on. Sailor Moon doesn’t just reveal the identities of the characters, it flaunts them; it wants you to know and it wants you to bask in it. Their identities are flashed about like a matador’s cape, the color exciting the audience with every pitch, wave and turn with complete disregard for everything sound and logical. Underneath the rather cute and inoffensive Sailor Moon is something coolly unapologetic and infectiously cocky. I love it.