Episode 93 of the original Sailor Moon anime, “Usagi’s Idol: The Graceful Genius Michiru,” changed my life. It was the catalyst that led me to picking up a violin and not letting go. In Sailor Moon Usagi and her friends talk about cherishing and protecting the purity of love in all of its myriad forms. One type of love they particularly sought was that magical feeling of a first love.
Thanks to Sailor Moon, I discovered music was my first love.
At the time I watched episode 93, Netflix was just a newfangled DVD subscription service. I still preferred to watch my favorite comfort anime on VHS tapes.
I had finally been given the chance to stay home by myself. After years of being forced to entertain babysitters because my parents both worked full-time, my introverted teenaged self relished the opportunity to finally be alone.
Well, I wasn’t completely alone. I had my own guardian. Juni was my loyal fluffy rescue dog, with one blue eye and one brown eye. I never knew exactly how old she was and she didn’t have a crescent moon on her forehead like Luna. Still, younger me did enjoy imagining the thought of Juni being sent from a mysterious moon kingdom.
Having her by my side certainly made me feel a lot safer. Juni was also considerate enough not to talk when I was watching Sailor Moon, as long as I fed her a bite or two of my lunch.
Sandwich? Check. Newest Sailor Moon VHS tape? Check. Adorable fluffy canine guardian? Check!
Sailor Moon S is the third season of the iconic anime series, featuring the clumsy crybaby Usagi Tsukino as the pretty sailor soldier of love and justice, Sailor Moon. What I loved about Usagi was how beautifully imperfect she was (I mean, she defeated her first Sailor Moon villain by the sheer power of her tears!). One of Usagi’s biggest insecurities throughout the anime was her fear that she wasn’t good enough for her boyfriend/resurrected star-crossed lover Mamoru Chiba.
In episode 93, she asks her friends to help her be more ladylike and graceful for Mamoru, but they all refuse based on Usagi’s past history of failing to learn what they’ve tried to teach her.
Crying, Usagi walks off alone, and stumbles into the (lesbian lovers, not cousins, no matter what the DiC dub infamously tried to convince us) Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh.
Michiru and Haruka’s elegance in Sailor Moon S was ridiculously hyperbolic in the best way. All of their entrances were heralded by a beautiful flurry of cherry blossoms and an angelic chorus. It was highly effective, in-universe and in real life. Usagi was entranced, and so was I.
As if that wasn’t enough, Michiru, of course, could play the violin flawlessly. Usagi and I both watched in awe as Michiru continued to play a lovely melody even after Haruka tossed a lemon at Michiru’s violin. Michiru didn’t miss a beat while bouncing the lemon on her violin.
(Do not do that at home kids, instruments are expensive!)
Just like Usagi, I thought, “I want to learn how to play the violin like that, and be elegant too!”
I wanted to be able to convey that sheer joy to others that Usagi felt as she watched Michiru‘s lemon bouncing sonata. I had been used to hearing the DIC English dub music until Sailor Moon S, which wisely returned to Sailor Moon‘s original gorgeous symphonic score (composed by the late Takanori Arisawa).
Hearing the lush classical music and watching one of the characters play the violin positively enchanted me. I had to learn how to play, myself. The magic of music was calling my name!
I continued to stay home alone, while also attending free after school string classes they offered at my school. I felt like Usagi initially, eager to wield the bow in order to play beautiful music, but only succeeding in crafting scratchy, screechy sounds.
I wasn’t actually supposed to be using the violin bow when I attempted it at first. My first violin teacher had our class plucking the violin strings for six months. At the time it felt like torture, but now I can understand the importance of her trying to teach us the basics.
At times I wished I could just shout to the skies, “Elegant Violinist Make-Up!” and transform quickly into a professional musician. While I quickly grasped the fundamentals of key signatures and musical notes, I struggled with musical rhythms (like Usagi, anything remotely math-related is not my strong suit.) I relied on my innate skill and others in class to nail rhythms, so naturally the time came where I actually had to demonstrate that I understood rhythms in a skills test in order to progress to a more advanced orchestra class.
I found myself relating to Usagi in more ways than one. My orchestra teacher would hand out practice tests to prep us for the final exam. The exam that would allow me to progress! I wasn’t that frustrated novice anymore who only knew how to pluck notes. I was ready to advance! I was ready to level up to a more powerful musical form!
The practice test results I got back disagreed with me. I was ready to get glowing Ami Mizuno level grades like I did in other classes (except for math, my other eternal academic nemesis). My reality was practice tests with big red marks indicating I had failed, again and again. It was always the rhythms that defeated me.
One day, my orchestra teacher pulled me aside, genuinely frustrated with me but determined to help me master those pesky rhythms. She wasn’t offering me a new powerful moon wand but her words were the magic I needed.
“You’re too good for me to fail you.”
It was the first time someone with actual musical mastery had vocalized their belief in me. How could I let her down? I felt like my teacher was like Luna, who never stopped believing in Usagi even when Usagi wanted to give up being Sailor Moon.
I eventually passed the test with her mentorship, and kept progressing. Sailor Moon remained a constant companion. I couldn’t rewind my VHS tapes fast enough, but I eventually transitioned to those Netflix DVD’s and Sailor Moon airings on Toonami. As I became more skilled with the violin bow, Usagi leveled up to Super Sailor Moon.
Notes began to flow from my hand more quickly than before. I could sight-read pieces, and perform confidently in quartets. I imagined myself finally defeating those pesky musical rhythms with Sailor Moon’s crescent moon wand.
But most importantly, I developed friendships that I still have to this day. My orchestra friends (orch-dorks, we called ourselves) were also my friendly rivals. They motivated me to be a better musician and a better friend.
The older I get, the more I appreciate how Sailor Moon wasn’t really about superpowered schoolgirls fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight. (For all the hate the English dub gets, the English soundtrack sure was fun in a cheesy 90’s way.)
It was always about the love and admiration Usagi had for her friends and Mamoru. Her joy and genuine appreciation for Michiru’s performance inspired me. When I first watched the episode, my first thought was how I wanted to be an elegant violinist like Michiru.
Now I realize I’m a bit more like Usagi, and I’m okay with that. Music has always been one of my greatest loves. I realized after years of practice that what I truly loved about becoming a musician was the joy my violin playing brought to others. It wasn’t about nailing notes perfectly, or bouncing a lemon off my violin.
It was about the young girl at a performance I was a part of a few years ago. I was attempting to escape the throng of audience members at an exhilarating symphony performance I participated in when I heard a stranger say, “Excuse me, miss?”
It was a father with his young daughter. I could tell immediately that she was shy, just like I was at her age.
“She just wanted to say thank you! That was a wonderful performance!”
And with that, I realized I had successfully transformed into a musician, no magical brooch necessary.