CONTENT WARNING: Discussions of homophobia and transphobia. SPOILERS for Sailor Moon Season One and romances in Please Save My Earth.
Sailor Moon turned twenty-five last year and, despite a few rough edges, it’s aged remarkably well. The series has garnered deserved accolades for its strong female friendships, memorable visuals, and forward-looking representation.
But while the romance between Sailors Uranus and Neptune has rightfully earned praise and fierce nostalgia, the show’s other explicitly queer relationship gets surprisingly little notice. And that’s a shame, because while on the surface Zoisite and Kunzite are just another in a long line of villainous gay characters, they were remarkably progressive compared to both their contemporaries and what had come before.
The history of queer representation in anime and manga wasn’t doing so well when Sailor Moon premiered. While BL and yuri were beginning to develop as subgenres and showcase sympathetic leads, manga like Kaze to Ki no Uta (1976-1984), Heart of Thomas (1974), and Claudine (1978) were still predominantly tragedies set in the far-off, near-fantasyland of Europe.
Manga like Banana Fish (1985-1994) rode the line by cloaking the gentle love story between its leads in subtext, while the named gay characters were pedophiles and monsters of the worst sort; meanwhile, caper comedy long-runner From Eroica With Love (1976-2012) kept its openly gay lead and his deeply repressed object of affections in a never-to-be-resolved state of “will they, won’t they.”