SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
HARUKA’S GENDER & THE PRINCE URANUS “SCANDAL”
Update: I have done my best to do some rewrites to this article to make it more inclusive. It’s tricky since it requires juggling a mid-90s understanding of sex and gender, simplifying concepts for people who are not familiar with gender theory (not everyone can immerse themselves in Tumblr culture, after all), and carefully weighing the differences between interpretation and canon. I am hopeful that these revisions will be informative without being exclusionary. This article is rather popular, so I will continue to make revisions to it every now and then. Note that the majority of this article was written long before Sailor Moon Crystal Season III began, so it only concerns the 90s anime and the manga.
PART I: HARUKA’S GENDER
Because Haruka is an androgynous character (her name is even unisex), other people inside and outside of the show have had trouble determining just exactly what her deal is. One problem is that people tend to think of gender as a binary, which is silly, because it makes the assumption that women have to be feminine and men have to be masculine. What do feminine and masculine really mean, exactly? We have our own preconceived notions of those terms, but they don’t have an exact definition, do they? What we know of femininity and masculinity is a social construct, and we are often raised to align ourselves to a certain “side”, usually depending on the sexes we are assigned at birth. And, we often discriminate against those who prefer not to go by the “rules,” e.g. the stereotype of the “sissy” male, the “butch” lesbian (of which Haruka would technically fall under), and just about everything associated with transphobia.
Anime Haruka’s gender presentation is a lot more simplified. She is a cisgender female (meaning that she identifies as a woman and was assigned female at birth), but only presents herself with a masculine appearance. She also uses the (usually) males-only “boku” rather than the (usually) females-only “atashi” to refer to herself. She only ever wears suits and pants (or sports uniforms), never dresses or skirts (beyond the Sailor Uniform). We can sum this up as “A woman who prefers to present herself as a man,” or, if you prefer, a “butch lesbian.” (I think calling her a “tomboy” is a little inaccurate.)
Manga Haruka…is a little more complicated, to put it mildly. Manga Haruka has no need for your silly gender binaries. Manga Haruka presents as whatever she feels like.
One of the most misinterpreted lines from the manga is when Neptune tells Sailor Moon, “Uranus is both a man and a woman. A soldier of both genders, with strengths and personalities of each.” (See the Miss Dream translation here) Michiru is NOT saying that Haruka is a hermaphrodite, nor that she is intersex. (Incidentally, “hermaphrodite” is an outdated and offensive word that shouldn’t be used to refer to anyone – I only use it here for audiences unfamiliar with the preferred term “intersex.”) Rather, people are ascribing their definitions of gender with those of sex. There are women who were assigned male at birth, and men who were assigned female at birth. What Michiru means by this statement is that Haruka does not choose to be either totally masculine or totally feminine, but a combination of both.
Those who study gender theory might call Haruka genderfluid, genderqueer, or possibly bigender. Mind you, this is all conjecture! It is clear that while Haruka is an androgynous person who was clearly created to subvert gender roles, and definitely does seem to phase back and forth between “butch” and “femme,” NONE of these words were ever used in the series. Using modern Western gender theory terms like “genderfluid” to describe Haruka (a Japanese creation of the mid-1990s) is interpretation, NOT canon. The “both a man and a woman” phrasing is so ambiguous (and we’re working with historical, cultural, language, and sociological barriers – plus some “Death of the Author” problems too!) it could mean 10 different things to 10 different people. Using terms like “butch lesbian,” “genderfluid,” “genderqueer,” or “bigender” to describe Haruka are perfectly fine (especially if she represents something important to you); what isn’t okay is to assume that your definition is the only “correct” or “true” one, and that if other people interpret Haruka differently, they’re exhibiting some kind of bigotry. There is room for multiple interpretations here, and, as we can see in examples from the manga, Haruka herself doesn’t like being conclusively assigned to any particular labels.
As for how Haruka presents herself in appearance, it’s a little combination of “To hell with what you think” and a little bit of artistic licence. When Haruka/Uranus is first introduced alongside Michiru/Neptune, she is drawn overwhelmingly masculinely. No eyelashes, harder jaw, less full lips, no bust line. What we have to remember is that, when Usagi is seeing these characters for the first time, she thinks she’s seeing a man, and her mind is filling in masculine details for her. When she meets Haruka later, and Haruka is wearing feminine clothing, then, suddenly, feminine traits start appearing. I don’t think Haruka has the magic ability to retract her eyelashes when she’s dressing masculinely – rather, Naoko Takeuchi is drawing her this way to add to the mystery. She wanted you to think, initially, that she was another Tuxedo Mask-type, not a Sailor Senshi.
A lot of people tend to get confused when they see Haruka wearing a skirt or a dress. She wears them quite regularly in the manga. And, later in the series when she starts attending Juuban High with the others, she wears the girls’ uniform rather than the boys’. Whenever people express confusion about this, I always sum it up as, “Haruka does what Haruka wants.”
When Usagi asks Haruka what her gender is, Haruka asks Usagi in response, “A man or a woman…is it that important?” (The Miss Dream translation uses slightly different dialogue than the Kodansha one does, but the point is the same) And she’s right – it shouldn’t be. And there shouldn’t be any debate over whether Haruka is male or female. Naoko Takeuchi has repeatedly said that while men such as Mamoru can utilize the power of a Sailor Crystal, only women can be Sailor Senshi. The only gender-related word Takeuchi-sensei has ever used to describe Haruka with is “woman.” Naoko Takeuchi is a very forward thinking person, but she is neither an all-loving progressive goddess nor a LGBTQ-hating monster (she’s HUMAN!), so please keep in mind that everything about Sailor Moon is tied to the historical, sociological and cultural context in which it was originally made – Japan in the 1990s. (Despite the prominence of LGBTQ characters in anime and manga, Japan is not as progressive about LGBTQ issues as many western people think!) Taking these contexts into account, Takeuchi-sensei meant that all Senshi would have been assigned female at birth, and thus Haruka is AFAB as well. In the most simplified terms, Haruka is female – always has been, always will be.
A word about Takarazuka Revue:
Haruka and Michiru’s (and later Taiki’s) characterizations and appearances were inspired by an all-female theatrical troupe known as Takarazuka Revue, of which Naoko Takeuchi is an enthusiastic fan. The Revue has existed for 100 years, and is an important part of Japanese culture. There are actresses who specialize in feminine roles, and actresses who specialize in masculine roles. This is an interesting reversal of the early days of theatre, and by its very nature, TR challenges our conceptions of gender performance, sexuality and androgyny. Currently, the new Sera-Myu musicals such as La Reconquista, Petite Etrangere and Un Nouveau Voyage have all parts played by women. (This is nothing new for Sera-Myu, as women played male parts in previous musicals as well)
To compare this to a Western example of theatre challenging gender, in Shakespeare’s day, only males were allowed to perform in the theatre. Young female parts were played by teenage boys whose voices hadn’t broken yet. Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night has a plot in which a young woman is shipwrecked, and disguises herself as a boy to serve a nobleman, and although she falls in love with him, she cannot reveal her true identity. Effectively, Shakespeare has written a part in which a boy plays a girl playing a boy.
The Wiki article on Takarazuka Revue also has some interesting observations:
Ryosei and chusei are two Japanese terms used to refer to androgyny, chusei meaning “neutral” or “in between,” neither man nor woman, and ryosei referring to the combination of the sexes or genders. The otokoyaku represents the woman’s idealized man without the roughness or need to dominate, the “perfect” man who can not be found in the real world. It is these male roles that offer an escape from the strict, gender-bound real roles lauded in Japanese society. In a sense, the otokoyaku provides the female audience with a “dream” of what they desire in reality.
PART II: PRINCE URANUS
I get to cheat a little here and copy over part of an article that I wrote for WikiMoon waaaay back in 2006, just before I started university.
Some of you who were not yet on the internet back in the mid-late 90s will not be familiar with this site, but S.O.S., or “Save Our Sailors,” was a popular organization that was devoted to trying to get the rest of the series dubbed and televised, as back then there were only the first 65 episodes dubbed by DiC. It was also VERY difficult to get subtitled VHSes of unreleased episodes – you guys have no idea how good you have it, what with torrents and YouTubes. The site was popular not because it was good, but because people thought if they all banded together around one organization, Moonies would appear to be a large, cohesive fanbase and send a message to DiC, Irwin and their sponsors that it’d be worth their money to dub the rest of the series. It was years before we even got anything – the rest of R (17 episodes) wasn’t dubbed until 1997, and S and SuperS weren’t dubbed until 2000. By that point, a lot of fans (myself included) had already long since moved on to the Japanese version.
S.O.S.’ downfall was that they tended to post articles that had absolutely no citation whatsoever, and tried to assert themselves as an authority on Sailor Moon when they just knew about as much as someone who still thinks that Tuxedo Mask has to save the Senshi in every episode. The “Prince Uranus” article is still infamous as one of the biggest blunders a major Sailor Moon website has ever made, and a sign of the then rampant homophobia that some “fans” had. The story was that this was from an unnamed Japanese magazine article’s interview of Naoko Takeuchi. The fact that they couldn’t even name the magazine should have been a sign right there that it was bull, but someone at S.O.S. still fell for it.
There is very little internet evidence of the article (they tried to do a cover-up, basically), so I’m glad I compiled what we had left back in 2006.
Without further ado, the biggest pile of crap you’ll read today (this is the whole article, not just the “interview”):
“Haruka and Michiru (Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune) share an interesting relationship that is rather unique by the standards of Western television. Throughout the series, the two are always together, and occasionally they show signs of affection for one another; they never kiss, but subtle indications emerge to suggest a deeper relationship.
Many Western viewers see this and assume that the two are lesbians. However, Japanese viewers don’t see it that way; apparently similar relationships of trust and interdependence often develop among Japanese girls, and their parents are happy to see this because it means that their daughter will always have someone she can depend on.”
In an interview from a Japanese fan magazine (source unconfirmed), Naoko Takeuchi (the creator of the series) supposedly explained Haruka and Michiru’s relationship in terms of their past history:
“During the Moon Kingdom, the Prince of Uranus was in love with Sailor Neptune. His sister, Sailor Uranus, was mortally wounded in the battle with Queen Beryl’s forces, but before she died she conferred her powers onto him. Then Queen Serenity sent everyone to Earth, and since all Senshi are female, and the Prince now had Senshi powers, he was reborn as a girl; but even so, his love for Sailor Neptune endured. Thus, according to this interpretation, they are not lesbians but former lovers ironically reunited as the same gender. This interpretation has inspired much debate, but we hope to confirm it with Takeuchi-sensei herself at ComicCon this August.
Whether due to past lives, romance, or good friendship, the relationship of Haruka and Michiru is yet another sweet and entertaining aspect of the show, and fans of the original series devoutly hope that it will remain faithfully represented in any future dubbed episodes.”
They’re lesbians, okay? Live with it.
This article is getting pretty long, but if you’d like to read more information about the incident, here’s the Wikimoon link: