Otakon 2011: Comparing SM to Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Otakon Panelists Zoob Hernandez, Meghan Hartigan, and Alex Fogarty.

If your taste in magical girl anime runs beyond Sailor Moon, then you’re probably familiar with Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the fabulously dark and inventive 13-episode series that aired earlier this year. Even though we didn’t get a dedicated Sailor Moon panel this year (Boo!), we did get something called “The Fine Print on the Contract: The Themes, Philosophies and Birth of a Legacy in Puella Magi Madoka Magica,” so I figured I’d check that out.

Unsurprisingly, Sailor Moon came up as a point of reference; as Madoka is considered a deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre (depending on who you ask, at any rate), it stands to reason that one of the series that helped codify the genre would come up. However, this comparison was to the detriment of Sailor Moon, as the panelists explained that they felt that the heroines in Madoka were much more empowered than the Senshi, who spent entirely too much time going gaga over Tuxedo Mask and acting like stereotypical females.

Is that a legitimate criticism of Sailor Moon? Or just a comment by someone who isn’t really familiar with the show? Honestly, we weren’t sure, so we caught up with panelist Alex Fogarty after the panel and asked him to clarify how he felt about our favorite magical girl series.

“I wasn’t trying to bash Sailor Moon, because it is a good anime…but honestly there are those points where it’s just *imitating the Senshi* ‘Aaaah! Tuxedo Mask!’ Nobody in this anime [Madoka] really does that,” he said, going on to say that nevertheless, Sailor Moon was a classic anime staple that he appreciates.

“[Sailor Moon] helped Madoka Magica to become what it is. Without Sailor Moon, I don’t think Madoka would exist,” he continued.

Okay guys, he gave Sailor Moon proper credit, so I think we can let him off the hook. However, I have found myself wondering ever since the panel whether or not the SM/Madoka comparison is a fair one or not. It’s true that the Senshi can get “girly” in a way that some viewers might find annoying or even offensive, but the twenty-year gap between the two series plays a large role- even with the “OMG Tuxedo Mask is dreamy!” interludes, Sailor Moon was (and still is) considered progressive in certain respects. Furthermore, the two shows were targeted at different audiences- Sailor Moon was intended primarily for girls younger than the Senshi themselves, while Madoka seems to have been targeted at an adult audience- specifically an otaku audience.

In my opinion, Fogarty is right; the heroines of Madoka are more empowered than the heroines in Sailor Moon. However, I honestly have no idea what, if anything, that’s indicative of. Has the portrayal of females in anime progressed? Or is it just a case of comparing apples to oranges? Feel free to enlighten me if you figure it out.

If nothing else though, the current popularity of Madoka may prove invigorating to the magical girl genre the same way that Usagi and co. were in the ’90s, and that’s something I think we can all get behind. I’m certainly excited to see what magical girl shows we’re going to get in a post-Madoka world.

Of NYAF and Bootlegs

Unfortunately, coverage of New York Anime Fest didn’t pan out so well this year- namely because your friendly neighborhood Sailor Venus-obsessed blogger kind of got ill during the con and had to leave early in the weekend. Nevertheless, I did attend the con for a few hours, and have a few tidbits to share that may be of interest to the Moonie faithful.

First of all, if you’ve read any coverage of this con at all on other sites, then you’ve already read that NYAF basically got absorbed into the New York Comic Con. In retrospect, it should have been obvious that this was going to be the case, since NYCC is simply a much bigger con, however it’s still kind of frustrating when you’re looking for Sailor Moon cosplayers and everyone seems to be dressed as either Slave Leia or one of the Ghostbusters. While it’s generally assumed that combining the two cons was financially smarter, for selfish reasons I miss the old NYAF; the con where walking three steps was not actually a half-hour project requiring serious planning. There were just too many darned people there.

There was no Sailor Moon panel (which, on the plus side, at least means that I didn’t MISS the Sailor Moon panel), and I didn’t see nearly as much Sailor Moon stuff at the vendors as I did at Otakon, although it’s not really a fair comparison for several obvious reasons. Still, I did pick up a few cool SM-items from the few anime-themed vendors, and heard more than one person say “OMG I love Sailor Moon!” upon seeing a plush doll of the Odangoed One herself, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Other than the great Sailor Moon up top, these were the only two other SM cosplayers I saw during my brief time at the con. While I feel bad that I wasn’t around to capture more cosplayers, if the other galleries I’ve seen are any indication, there just wasn’t a whole lot of SM cosplay going on *sniff.*

Note to those planning on going to NYAF/NYCC in the future (assuming the idea of being packed in like sardines with tens of thousands of your favorite comic fans of dubious personal hygiene doesn’t scare you away), know this: NYAF is much looser on the bootleg situation than Otakon is.

I saw a bunch of Moon Cat plushies in about five different colors, including pink and lime green, but NONE of which were the right color to be Luna, Artemis, or Diana. Maybe there’s a lime green cat in the manga…wait, how would we know? Naturally, I also saw bootleg DVDs of American TV shows and things- not a lot of them, but it still surprised me. Maybe the con is now just too big to police?

I actually thought that this was a bootleg as well, but Sailordees corrected me: that’s right, “Sailor Cute” is legit!

I also got some SM trading cards that apparently came from vending machines in Japan which I believe are also legit:

Yaaay, tiny work-safe Sailor Moon art for my office! And as an added bonus, plenty of Minako!

So, all in all, a bit of an underwhelming con experience for me this time around, but hey, I now have my very own SAILOR CUTE. And I think that’s special.