The Specter Sisters: How The ’90s Sailor Moon Anime Gave Them A Shot At Redemption

Ever since the classic ’90s Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon Crystal animes have been streaming on Hulu and Neon Alley, I’ve been watching both series back-to-back. As far as anime watching goes, this has been the only anime I’m able to make time for these days. The benefit of watching these series side-by-side is the noticeable differences in how certain character and story arcs go. One particular story arc I found myself favoring one anime over the other would be how the story of the Specter Sisters played out during the Sailor Moon R season.

Sailor Moon R is one of my favorite seasons from the classic ’90s anime, only to be tied with the first season. The introduction of the Black Moon clan made for some interesting new enemies and characters for the Sailor Scouts to take on next. When the four Specter Sisters Koan, Berthier, Calaveras, and Petz (Catzi, Bertie, Avery, and Prizma respectively in the North American dub version) became the first enemies of the Black Moon clan the Sailor Scouts had to fight against, I instantly became drawn into their contrasting personalities and their equally different taste in fashion.

Specter Sisters from the '90s Sailor Moon anime.
Specter Sisters from the ’90s Sailor Moon anime.

Despite these four sisters being the enemy and their main objective is to capture “rabbit,” Chibi-Usa for the Black Moon, they seemed to have an almost childlike curiosity about life on Earth in the 20th century. Everything is much different than what they are used to in the future during the time Usagi becomes Neo-Queen Serenity. The sisters, in between working on their mission, are eager to try everything that is new and unfamiliar to them from the latest face creams to adopting the fashion choices in this world. As much as these women try to act evil, underneath it all they really aren’t such bad people.

For instance, there’s an episode in the anime where Koan poses as a door-to-door makeup saleswoman to do intel work around Rei’s shrine on the whereabouts of Chibi-Usa. As Koan gets to talking to Rei and Usagi, she finds herself opening up about her own dreams and ambitions, one of them actually being married to the man she loves. It’s quite unusual for a villain, whose main purpose is to help bring on the darkness and destruction of Earth, to have these really simple and innocent dreams. Most villains wouldn’t be bothered with such frivolity. There really isn’t any time for it. Eventually, even the Sailor Scouts recognize the potential good these Specter Sisters have hidden inside of them. With a lot of convincing and encouragement, the Specter Sisters willingly undergo a transformation and rebirth of sorts using Sailor Moon’s moon wand to heal and cleanse away what remains of their darkness to start life over as a regular earth civilian in the 20th century. It’s a redemption story you unfortunately don’t see in the Sailor Moon Crystal anime because it follows the original manga instead.

Specter Sisters from the new Sailor Moon Crystal anime.
Specter Sisters from the new Sailor Moon Crystal anime.

In the original manga, the Specter Sisters are evil to the core. They are entirely focused on the task at hand and don’t waste any time dabbling in the superficial luxuries and inanity of the 20th century, unlike their ’90s anime counterparts do. Seeing it come to life in the Sailor Moon Crystal anime, there’s no redeeming qualities to be found with these sisters. They torture and take pleasure in seeing the scouts suffer with a burning insanity behind their eyes. Naturally, the only thing left to do is moon dust each and every one of these sisters. Having read the manga and now being able to watch the new version of the Sailor Moon anime, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that the change to the Specter Sisters storyline for Sailor Moon R is one of the changes I liked the most from the ’90s anime.

The ’90s anime is often goofier and lighthearted than Crystal. It makes me smile watching most episodes because it’s fun and it puts you in a bit of a feel good mood. Almost every episode leaves you with a sense of hope, possibility, and a feeling that everything will turn out all right in spite of the incredible odds against the scouts. This sometimes even extends to the villains who exhibit a hint of humanity. I like the ’90s anime’s driving theme of fighting to save those who are worth saving––people who deserve a second chance to live another way when they used to think there is no other way. The manga and Crystal have a different perspective on this, which is surprisingly dark when you think about it.

Naoko Takeuchi’s original work seems to sketch out villains who are purely evil and leaves no room for redeeming any of them. They’re just bad guys the scouts are working towards vanquishing. This makes a lot of her villains largely one-dimensional and less interesting to even pay attention to. By having the ’90s anime flesh out the villains a little better, by giving them qualities that make them less like a powerful supervillain but people who are easily accessible and relatable, you find yourselves sympathizing with them and even rooting for Sailor Moon and her scouts to save them and not moon dust them.

spectersisters1When I read the manga after seeing the ’90s anime first, I became largely disappointed by the original fate of the Specter Sisters. There is no saving them and all four sisters lacked personality. They all look exactly how I first saw them in the classic anime, but there’s really nothing to love about them in the manga. What happened to Koan’s simple dream of falling in love and getting married? Where’s the immature bickering between Petz and Calaveras? What makes these characters distinctive and memorable in my mind are absent in the manga and in the new Crystal anime. As old as the ’90s Sailor Moon anime is now, it still remains my favorite over Crystal. The classic anime has an abundance of heart, and if Sailor Moon is a representation of having hope and believing in the good of all people no matter how bad things appear on the surface, it’s a message I want to take with me each and every time I revisit the anime from my childhood.

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2 thoughts on “The Specter Sisters: How The ’90s Sailor Moon Anime Gave Them A Shot At Redemption

  1. Like you I started with the 90’s anime then then manga then Crystal, and I agree that fleshing out the sisters was a good idea. Showing that enemies are not just evil for the sake of evil, and giving reason and backstory is actually why I love anime in the first place. Having that in the Crystal version may have not worked, being that number of episodes is far smaller, and maybe changing the story too much when Crystal aims to stay closer to the manga.

    It’s hard to determine whether a director adding things to a story versus staying true to the source material is beneficial or not. I think this instance for original director Kunihiko Ikuhara to expand their story was best. He is a director that tries to put his unique touch in shows (Revolutionary Girl Utena, Mawaru Penguindrum), even when it is not the norm at the time.

    I do hope later on that the Amazoness Quartet are kept around this time, as senshi.

    1. I wasn’t aware of the director for Sailor Moon, but that’s fantastic that he took liberties with some of these animes based on manga to add or flesh out characters who weren’t really all that developed in the original source material. There’s certainly nothing wrong with having a purely evil villain, but sometimes I do like stories where the villain wasn’t always evil or there’s still hope to save them.

      I agree that having the sisters more fleshed out in Crystal may not have worked, especially when it was announced that the newer anime will be sticking closer to the manga. But after seeing the differences come to life on screen, it does make me long for how the sisters’ story line turned out in the ’90s version. At least we have both versions of the anime to enjoy whenever we like.

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