20/02/2024

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The ‘Sailor Moon’ Episode That Was Banned for 19 Years

8 min read
The ‘Sailor Moon’ Episode That Was Banned for 19 Years

The Big Picture

  • After decades of waiting and speculation, international fans finally got to see the long-awaited 67th episode of Sailor Moon, which had been banned for 19 years.
  • The episode, titled “The Beach, the Island and a Vacation: The Guardians’ Break,” is a filler episode that follows the Sailor Guardians on a beach vacation and involves no controversial or taboo content.
  • While some fans found the episode cute and enjoyable, others considered it a waste of time because it wasn’t essential to the overall storyline. Nevertheless, Sailor Moon continues to be celebrated globally for its themes of love, feminism, and friendship.


“In the name of the moon, I’ll punish you!” For decades, Sailor Moon has been honored as one of the most iconic manga and anime series of all time. Following the adventures of Usagi Tsukino, a middle school student who acquires the supernatural power of the “Pretty Guardian” to fight off evil villains, the series was a pioneer in its industry, going on to inspire generations of “Magical Girl” media including anime like Cardcaptor Sakura and even Disney’s Turning Red. Written by Naoko Takeuchi, the superhero fantasy was picked up in 1995 by DiC Entertainment and became an instant, worldwide phenomenon thanks to its timely release during the “Girl Power” movement in the ’90s. Though successful, word spread of the English dubbed version being heavily censored, re-edited, and having whole episodes cut from existence — particularly the “banned” episode 67!

International fans of Sailor Moon waited in great anticipation for the mystery episode, “The Beach, the Island and a Vacation: The Guardians’ Break,” which was initially released in Japan in 1993. Decades later, the series disappeared off the market entirely until Viz Media required all rights to officially dub, digitally stream, sub, and release all seasons of the smash-hit anime! What was more momentous than anything was that this meant North American fans would finally be able to witness the uncut, 67th episode of Sailor Moon R. There were multiple opportunities for the episode to be released, but why was it delayed for 21 years? Was the controversial episode even worth the long-awaited hype?

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Sailor Moon

A group of schoolgirls discover they are incarnations of super-powered alien princesses, and use their abilities to defend the earth.

Release Date
September 11, 1995

Cast
Kotono Mitsuishi, Aya Hisakawa, Michie Tomizawa, Emi Shinohara, Rica Fukami, Tôru Furuya, Keiko Han, Johnny Yong Bosch

Main Genre
Animation

Genres
Animation, Action, children, Fantasy

Seasons
4

How Did DiC Entertainment Lose Episode 67 of ‘Sailor Moon’​​​​​?

The fantasy anime consists of five seasons: Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon R, Sailor Moon S, Sailor Moon SuperS, and Sailor Moon Sailor Stars. The Super Sentai series was originally produced and animated by Toei Animation, first airing on March 7th, 1992. After its overwhelming popularity, DiC Entertainment (a past subsidiary of Disney) decided to capitalize off the success of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and won a bidding war against Toon Makers over the anime’s first 2 seasons, with plans for an English dub to be released in North America. According to TV Tropes, DiC Entertainment hired Optimum Productions for the initial dubbing edits, who later received the bulk of the blame for their infamous changes to the show.

By 1995, DiC sought to meet the minimum requirement for syndication in America, 65 episodes, so their team had to re-organize the structure of the original Sailor Moon to fit into their own mold for Season 1. The company eliminated episodes 2, 5, 6, 20, and 42 of the 1st season, merging 45 & 46, but settled on cutting only one episode from Sailor Moon R — episode 67. Their decisions for these cuts were said to be based on violent or sexually themed content they believed to be inappropriate for children. Of course, the removal of these individual shows impacted the overall flow of the story, leaving North American fans eager to find the missing episodes.

In 1998, DiC Entertainment passed on their last dub of the final 17 episodes of Season 2 to Cartoon Network, however, their involvement with Sailor Moon didn’t end there. A couple of years later, the dubbing torch was passed on to Cloverway who received positive praise from fans for their faithful approach to the original scripts. There were several inconsistencies caused by rushed production, though the favorable responses led Cloverway to collaborate a deal with Pioneer Entertainment to release uncut DVDs of Sailor Moon S and Sailor Moon Super S. Unfortunately, fans became disappointed they still weren’t going to experience the uncut first and second seasons due to a frustrating dilemma.

Around the early 2000s, ADV Films jumped into the game and contacted Sailor Moon‘s partner company, Toei Animation, in an attempt to release the uncut version of Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon R; ADV had already made a legal deal with DiC for the rights to release the edited versions of the anime, giving ADV the access to all master tapes of the original Japanese episodes. This meant that international fans would finally get to see the subtitled episodes, including the skipped ones, for the first time on DVD — but the nightmare didn’t end there.

DiC Entertainment lost the original tape to episode 67! Toei then denied their request to send a new copy since that episode would require a new license agreement. Rumors spread that Toei Animation wanted Sailor Moon to fail overseas and sought to push forward with their plans to revive the “Magical Girl” series into a live-action adaption in Japan — Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. They wanted international companies to buy the live-action and the original anime as a package, but their goal never came to fruition.

When ADV launched the subtitled DVD sets, fans felt unsatisfactory with the result. Not only were the DVDs poor in quality, but the controversial 67th episode was still cut from the collection. A loyal fan shares her experience on a Sailor Moon Forum: “In the US, we had a heavily butchered incomplete English with no sub for almost a decade. When we finally got a sub, it had poor video quality, didn’t have episode 67, had missing episode previews, and was riddled with video and audio errors. The Pioneer release was better but still had missing episode previews and incorrect opening credits”. ADV Films did the best they could with the materials they had available to them at the time. With consistent licensing challenges, the iconic anime went out of production in the U.S. in 2005 and vanished from the market for more than a decade.

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It was evident that the international distribution of Sailor Moon was no stranger to heavy censorship. Though most of the senseless edits can be credited to DiC Entertainment, the anime was filtered through multiple animation companies who continued to alter tiny aspects of the show, resulting in a watered-down version of the world’s favorite “Pretty Guardian.” To appeal to an American audience, Japanese culture was often edited out of the dubbed version of the superhero series. Mamoru Chiba, aka Tuxedo Man, gave Usagi the nickname “odango” — a Japanese dumpling — but the dubbed version changed the name to “meatball head.” According to an article from Looper, billboard signs written in Japanese were replaced by blank screens, and often main character names were Americanized for easier pronunciation; Usagi became Serena, Ami changed to Amy, and Mamoru was called Darien.

Furthermore, the American cuts of Sailor Moon almost always colored in the bath water in brief bathing scenes, deleted violent sequences involving children, and even went as far as removing gender fluidness and LGBTQIA+ characters altogether. Sara Roncero-Menendez from The Huffington Post, shares insightful details behind these ridiculous twists to the identity changes:

“In the version that aired on American screens, courtesy of DiC, Amara and Michelle, who transformed into Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune respectively, were introduced in 2000 as “cousins,” but they certainly didn’t act like any cousins I knew. They were always together, affectionate with each other and even were willing to die for each other. I love my cousins, but enough to doom the world for them? Something seemed amiss to me, even though I was only in the fourth grade and had yet to even hold a boy’s hand.”

Despite the ongoing censorship, fans around the world remained loyal to the anime and even resorted to making fan subs of Sailor Moon across the internet. Their lucky day would soon arrive on May 16, 2014. Viz Media, a North American anime and manga distributor, changed everything when the company obtained all licensing rights to Sailor Moon! Viz Media planned to restore the 89 missing episodes of Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon R, release the final season, Sailor Moon Sailor Stars, in America (including the three films and specials for an English-language dub), and make all seasons available for digital streaming! Fans would be able to experience every episode of Sailor Moon uncut, skipped episodes too. The best part of it all was…the long-awaited, controversial 67th episode was out for the world to see!

Was the 67th Episode of ‘Sailor Moon’ Worth the 19-Year Ban?

Thanks to Viz Media, international fans ultimately got to watch the uncut, unedited, subtitled version of episode 67. “The Beach, the Island and a Vacation: The Guardians’ Break” is actually the 21st episode of the 2nd season — Sailor Moon R. After Rei ditches the group for a well-needed summer trip, the episode follows the Sailor Guardians who decide to crash Rei’s holiday on a remote island. The girls enjoy the beach together, but during lunch, Chibiusa and Rei get into a small fight. Chibiusa wanders off alone where she drifts to an island on the verge of a volcanic eruption. There, she meets and befriends a baby dinosaur and its family. The Sailor Guardians finally find Chibiusa and try to help stop the lava explosion with their powers. Unsuccessful, the girls are only able to save Chibiusa and the dinosaurs from the island, and the episode ends with Chibiusa watching her friends swim away safely.

As audiences know now, nothing scandalous or taboo happens at all during episode 67. It is also one of the few episodes of Sailor Moon where no enemies appear. Today, episode 67 could easily be counted as a “filler” episode and can be skipped without missing major story advances. It’s ironic enough that it took decades for international fans to witness the “banned” episode, which had several rumors wrapped around its suspicious content — it contains zero sexual themes or gruesome violence. Fans expressed mixed emotions about the episode, from “it’s rather cute” to “an absolute waste of time.”

Sailor Moon is more than 30 years old now, and the legacy of the Sailor Guardians is still celebrated globally. From themes of love, feminism, and true friendship, not even licensing contracts can stop the wholesome anime from empowering young women for generations onward. Sailor Moon Cosmos, a sequel to Netflix’s two-part film, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal, is set to make an international debut in the near future!

Sailor Moon is available for streaming on Hulu in the U.S.

Watch on Hulu

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