Most of the boys I grew up with were obsessed with Dragon Ball Z and WWE. As for me, I was happy to dedicate a large part of my childhood to the one named Sailor Moon.

I must have been about four or five when I first started watching the magical girl anime classic. I was ecstatic to know, as a little boy who sought role models in fictional female characters—and wasn’t allowed to watch Dragon Ball Z for some time—that there was an entire team of them. To this day, my favorite Sailor Guardians are the intelligent and collected Sailor Mercury and  the tough and confident Sailor Jupiter. As an aside, their feline companions Luna and Artemis were and still are adorable.

My penchant for pretty transformation sequences and anime soundtracks first emerged through the Sailor Soldiers. My first Japanese song was “Ai no Senshi” (Soldier of Love), which was included in a US Sailor Moon CD. As the series progressed and more characters were introduced, my love for this team of female superheroes fighting evil by moonlight only grew. Though they were abrasive and dismissive towards my original faves, the coming of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune shocked and awed me with  their badass destructive force. There were too many things that I enjoyed about Sailor Moon, but only now do I see how much it’s influenced me.

As fun as it was to watch the Sailor Soldiers be superheroes, watching them live as regular girls and women was very important in my formative years. Seeing Usagi (Serena) klutz her way through life and guffaw at comics, and Makoto (Lita) overcome the social stigmas of her tomboy tendencies and accept all sides of herself introduced me to the simple concept of female characters being as complex and interesting as their male counterparts at a young age. I started being wary of other things that I watched, looking out for red flags like plot points that relied on definitive gender roles or stories where the girls only served as hollow eye candy or bland love interests. The connection between Uranus and Neptune was also incredibly educational for me. The two of them were in a lesbian relationship that ran rather deep. I might not have fully understood it as a child, but having not bought the English dub’s shoehorned “cousins” claptrap for a second, I knew something was different about them. Finally finding out what their intimate relationship was like, I was shocked that people even tried to hide that. I’d argue that those two were the first step in my early acceptance of same-sex relationships.

These days, I’ve still kept up with a lot of magical girl shows that—for all intents and purposes—I enjoy more than Sailor Moon. I’ve only watched a bit of the new series out of nostalgic obligation, and it’s very okay (for being based on the original manga which I also didn’t much enjoy). My inclination towards female characters as role models has also persisted with countless other media, albeit with some much-needed expansion for other genders. But I’ll never forget what Sailor Moon has done for me as a child and how much of my current self I owe to the Sailor Scouts.

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