Born March 15, 1967 (Kofu, Japan)
Japanese author, illustrator
"For [Sailor Moon] and its characters to have special meaning to many people, I think tenacity and twinkles in the eyes are essential for the creator as well."
Naoko Takeuchi has become a public celebrity, an unusual phenomenon in the world of Japanese manga. "Manga" is the Japanese word for comic books, and most manga-ka, or Japanese comic artists, are reserved, private people. However, Takeuchi is the creator of one of the most popular manga concepts in the world, and she has been unusually willing to allow her fans to get to know her. Her best-known work, the girl-power story called Sailor Moon, not only became a much-watched animated cartoon show, or anime, but its characters have been reproduced on a wide variety of merchandise from dolls to shoes. In 1999, Takeuchi married another well-known manga-ka, Yoshihiro Togashi (1966–), and the two have become a sort of "supercouple" of the manga world, working together and even creating comics about their married life.
Begins career as pharmacist
Takeuchi was born on March 15, 1967, in the city of Kofu in the Yamanashi Prefecture of Japan, well known in that country as the home of the venerated Mt. Fuji, the nation's largest mountain. Takeuchi began to draw and dream of becoming a manga artist when she was still a young child, and in high school she joined the drawing club. After graduating from high school, she went to Kyoritsu Chemical University. At the age of eighteen, while studying to be a pharmacist, she created her first published manga, a romance titled Love Call, which won the new artist award from Nakayoshi, a well-known magazine for young girls.
After graduating from college in 1986 with a degree in chemistry, Takeuchi went to work as a pharmacist at Keio Hospital in Tokyo. However, the encouragement of a supportive editor and her own devotion to her art inspired her to keep working on manga. Chocolate Christmas, introduced in 1987, and Maria, first published in 1989, were two of her first successful manga. Both comics were stories of the emotional worlds of adolescent girls, a theme that would remain important in Takeuchi's work. Chocolate Christmas contains an engaging twist in its name, telling the story of the lonely Ryon, who at Christmastime develops a crush on a suave radio disc jockey named Choco-San. Maria is a comic version of the 1912 Jean Webster novel, Daddy Long Legs, about an isolated young girl in boarding school who has a mysterious benefactor.
Graphic Novels (in English translation)
Sailor Moon 18 vols. (1998–2001).
Takeuchi has published many more manga in Japan, including Chocolate Christmas (1987–88), Maria (1989–90), The Cherry Project (3 vols., 1990–91), Codename: Sailor V (3 vols., 1991–97), and Princess Naoko Takeuchi's Return-to-Society Punch! (1998–2004).
Takeuchi's first widely popular series was The Cherry Project, a love story set in the world of figure skating. The Cherry Project was first printed in Nakayoshi in 1990. Though Takeuchi enjoyed exploring the romantic and vulnerable side of her teenaged girl characters, she developed their strengths as well. For her next comic, she chose another popular manga theme: the girl with superpowers. Codename: Sailor V tells the story of Minako, who transforms into the Sailor V, powerful fighter for justice against evil. Codename: Sailor V made its debut in Run-Run, another well-known manga magazine.
Sails to success
The success of Sailor V prompted Takeuchi to expand on its basic idea. She gave the traditional "magical girl" theme a twist by adding another familiar Japanese theme: the group of heroes. Many Japanese adventure stories feature a "team" of five heroes who fight together. In the early 1990s, Takeuchi began work on Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon, tales of the adventures of five schoolgirls who transform into a team of superheroes with the help of the magical cat, Luna. Usagi, Rei, Ami, Minako, and Makota are the supergirls, and their fighter alter egos are Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars, Sailor, Mercury, Sailor Venus (Sailor V from the previous manga), and Sailor Jupiter. In English translations, the girls' names become Serena, Raye, Amy, Mina, and Lita. The dashing and mysterious boy Tuxedo Mask provides romantic interest, though in later episodes two female characters named Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune also become romantically involved.
Takeuchi chose the sailor theme because the sailor suit, worn by many schoolgirls as a uniform, symbolizes girlhood innocence. When activated by Serena's magical locket and the cry "Silver moon crystal power!" the five normal girls not only become super-powerful, but also become beautiful and sexy. Their demure sailor suits transform into skimpy skirts, tight tunics, and high-heeled boots. This sexualized image has caused some critics to question Sailor Moon's message to its young audience.
However, that audience was devoted to Sailor Moon, and the team of superheroines became an international phenomenon. Millions watched the Sailor Moon anime series on television and bought Sailor Moon products, while Takeuchi continued to create new Sailor Moon manga. Underlying the action and adventure, she always concentrates on the emotional lives of her characters as they struggle with growing up as well as protecting the world.
In 1998, the success of Sailor Moon led the popular Young You magazine to offer Takeuchi a regular feature, which she has called a "private essay comic." The strip, titled Princess Naoko's Return to Society Punch! depicts the artist's life and career, detailing problems with publishers as well as personal hopes, dreams, and relationships.
On January 6, 1999, Takeuchi married respected manga-ka, Yoshihiro Togashi, author of Yu Yu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter. The two have one son and have worked together producing dojinshi, or independently published Japanese comics. Some of these, such as Prince Yoshihiro and Princess Naoko and Togashi Kingdom, give a whimsical picture of their family life, with Takeuchi portrayed as a rabbit and Togashi as a dog.
Sailor Moon Is Everywhere
In an interview with Charles McCarter on EX: The Online World of Anime and Manga, Naoko Takeuchi said, "In Japan, there is a lot of anime targeted specifically at girls. I would like to see this trend continue throughout the world." With the creation of her wildly popular Sailor Moon series, Takeuchi herself made a significant contribution to the spread of girls' manga.
Sailor Moon captivated Japanese girls from its first installment, published in Nakayoshi in 1992. Almost immediately an anime version was released, first on Japanese television, then around the world, and it was translated into Spanish, French, English, and other languages. The animated show ran for five seasons, with 200 episodes. The anime was followed by three Sailor Moon animated films, a live-action television show, and a long-running stage musical called Sera-My, in which actors performed a different episode in each performance.
Fans not only avidly read the manga and watched the anime, but they also bought hundreds of officially licensed Sailor Moon products. Several different manufacturing companies were licensed to make Sailor Moon shoes, key chains, purses, dolls, and craft kits. Some industry analysts predicted that the perky blonde Sailor Moon/Serena doll would surpass the famous Barbie doll's popularity in the world market.
For More Information
Dolan, Kerry A., and Gale Eisenstodt. "Watch Out, Barbie." Forbes (January 2, 1995): pp. 58–61.
Grigsby, Mary. "Sailormoon: Manga (Comics) and Anime (Cartoon) Superheroine Meets Barbie." Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 32 (Summer 1998): pp. 59–61.
Kingwell, Mark. "Babes in Toyland." Saturday Night (February 1997): pp. 83–85.
"Moon Power." Video Business (September 9, 2002): p. S24.
Raugust, Karen. "Smooth Sailing." Publishers Weekly (October 25, 1999): p. 28.
"Sailor Moon Targets Mass Market." Playthings (June 2000): p. 75.
Ashley, Angel. "Naoko Takeuchi." Moonlit Dreams. http://www.geocities.com/moonlitdreams50/naoko.html (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Hime No Oheya (Japanese Sailor Moon site). http://sailormoon.channel.or.jp/home.html (accessed on May 3, 2006).
"The Manga of Takeuchi Naoko." Kurozuki.com. http://www.kurozuki.com/takeuchi/ (accessed on May 3, 2006).
McCarter, Charles. "She Is the One Named Takeuchi Naoko." EX: The Online World of Anime and Manga. http://www.ex.org/3.6/13-feature_takeuchi.html (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Takeuchi Naoko. http://sensei.takeuchi-naoko.com/ (accessed on May 3, 2006).
"Takeuchi Naoko." Manga Style. http://mangastyle.net/takeuchinaoko.htm (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Vallen, Mark, "Naoko Takeuchi." The Black Moon: Art, Anime, and Japanese Culture. http://www.theblackmoon.com/Naoko/take.html (accessed on May 3, 2006).