Books | Children's Literature in Japan

Naoko Takeuchi: 'Sailor Moon's' strong-willed guardian of girls manga

by Kris Kosaka

Contributing Writer

Naoko Takeuchi, author of “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” (known in English as “Sailor Moon”), is just as talented and strong-willed as her famous heroines.

Since its debut in 1992, “Sailor Moon” has sold over 35 million copies worldwide and launched a multibillion dollar franchise including animated movies and a TV series, merchandise, art books, video games, cafes and stage musicals.

One of the most popular manga for girls of all time, the impact of “Sailor Moon” ignited a resurgence of manga targeted to teenage girls, and “beautiful guardian warriors” remains a global trend across a wide spectrum of adolescent literature today.

Takeuchi herself is quite the fighter. Although protective of her privacy with few official interviews, she nevertheless makes headlines for her battles with publishers or controversies with fans; she is admired or reviled for her frank, autobiographical comics, which detail her life and marriage to the equally famous manga-ka artist, Yoshihiro Togashi (of “Hunter x Hunter” fame).

Takeuchi grew up in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, the privileged daughter of the owners of the local jewelry store. The seeds of her future success were sown as a teenager, wearing the popular sailor-style uniform during her high school years and joining both the astronomy and manga clubs. She worked as a miko (shrine maiden) near her university, all experiences she later wove into “Sailor Moon.”

Encouraged by her parents, Takeuchi studied to be a pharmacist as a backup to being a professional artist, and graduated from Kyoritsu University of Pharmacy (now Keio University Faculty of Pharmacy and Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences) in 1989 with a degree in chemistry.

She published her first comic while still a university student, and was awarded the Nakayoshi Shinjin Manga Award for best newcomer in 1986. Following university, she worked for six months at Keio University Hospital, all the while continuing to submit one-shot manga works for publication.

Early success spurred her onward, and it was in 1991, at age 24, that she created “Codename: Sailor V,” a highly successful manga in its own right that doubled as a prototype for “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon.”

These two popular girl’s manga ran simultaneously for six years from 1992 and “Sailor Moon” earned Takeuchi the Kodansha Manga Award for best girl’s comic in 1993. Although “Sailor Moon” is her most successful series, Takeuchi has also worked as a colorist and children’s book writer in addition to penning other manga series, not yet translated into English.

She became interested in animation, and worked closely with Toei Animation on the popular “Sailor Moon” TV series that debuted in 2003, writing the lyrics to many of the songs. In 2019, a special 25th anniversary movie, “Sailor Moon Eternal,” was announced, attesting to the series’ enduring popularity.

For her potent impact on adolescent manga in Japan, empowering and reshaping the narrative of women and girls, Takeuchi is a true warrior.

This is the sixth installment of the series “Children’s Literature in Japan,” which explores notable authors and illustrators of children’s and young adolescent literature. Read more at jtimes.jp/childrenslit.

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