For Nerds by Nerds is our weekly column where we dive deep into one of our pop culture loves. Sometimes that means opening a can of Duff and peeping some Moe Szyslak tattoos, other times we fight to put down our controllers and celebrate Majora's Mask. This week we're looking at Usagi Tsukino, the adorable Luna, and the rest of the Sailor Scouts.
In 1995, I was a seven-year-old boy who woke up early every morning to watch Sailor Moon. I’d always loved to draw, and the show made me want to become an illustrator. On the school bus, I befriended two girls who were also Sailor Moon megafans. Most mornings they compared their drawings of Usagi and her besties. One day, I worked up the confidence to show them a sketch of my favorite character — Sailor Mars — and they laughed at it. “You made her into a muscle-man,” one of them said. My dream was instantly crushed. Thankfully, other aspiring artists who were devotees of the show as kids didn’t give up on their dreams, like I did, and grew up to become tattooists who create nerdy body art based on the manga and anime.
On March 7, 1992, the animated adaptation of Naoko Takeuchi’s magical girl manga Sailor Moon premiered on Japan’s TV Asahi. While the series didn’t air in the US until 1995, Sailor Moon was already well on its way to becoming a global phenomenon. Takeuchi didn't invent the mahou shoujo genre, but her beloved melodrama turned into a world-wide sensation following the anime's release. Since then, it has spread into other art forms; there’s even a musical based on it. With their trademark riffs on the seifuku — Japanese school uniforms for girls — the Sailor Scouts and their shiny accessories were destined to make their mark in body art as well.
Not too many tattooists specialize in this sort of geeky, girly iconography, but you can see the fandom behind the work of those who do. Artists like Hori Benny, Laura Anunnaki, and Kelly McGrath have channeled the iridescence of Sailor Moon into their tattoos. Using vibrant color palettes, fine lines, and a hint of white accenting, they create body art that mimics the sparkly aesthetic of imagery like the Moon Stick and Crisis Moon Compact. Their familiarity with the show enables them to authentically capture the personalities of the Sailors, Tuxedo Mask, the Negamoon Sisters, and more.
Usagi’s role as slacker and outsider resonates with many of us, and her ability to find power within herself to not only define who she is but who she wants to be echoes how we go about choosing our body art. The idea that we all have it in us to shape who we are (even if I couldn’t magically turn myself into an illustrator) is universal, and if it takes a talking cat named Luna to get us there, then by the moon, so be it.
To nerd out to more manga and anime inspired body art, scout out the Instagrams of the artists. If you, too, want a shimmering tattoo of your favorite Sailor, Usagi’s wand, or maybe even a portrait of Luna herself, make sure to commission one of them to create it. They might as well have made the cartoon.