A fan of the series since 1995, Koriander runs the popular Moon Sisters fan site and studies the Sailor Moon franchise closely.
Who's That Girl?
Michiru Kaiō/Kaiou/Kaioh, or as she was known in the Cloverway dub of Sailor Moon S, Michelle Kaiou, stands the test of time as an LBGTQ icon. She is elegant, smart, and mature. As Sailor Neptune, her water powers rival that of Sailor Mercury's.
But did you know you may have seen her before you were supposed to?
Sailor Neptune's official debut in the Sailor Moon manga came about in Act 27, which was released as a 64-page stand-alone book in Japan in March of 1994, coinciding with the start of the Sailor Moon S anime on March 19, 1994, with a proper, full introduction to Michiru's character that following April in both the manga and anime. Officially, American audiences wouldn't be introduced to Sailor Neptune until August 31, 1999 when Pioneer Entertainment first released the subtitled Sailor Moon S movie onto VHS, and then again on June 12, 2000 when Cartoon Network's Toonami block first aired the Cloverway dub of Sailor Moon S. However, if you were a Sailor Moon fan prior to any of these dates, you may have already seen her before you should have.
Sailor Moon Episode 44
If you lived in Japan on February 13, 1993, or if you were awake early enough to catch Sailor Moon on October 23, 1995, or if you rented the DiC/Buena Vista VHS tape Sailor Moon: Good Queen, Bad Queen, then you just might have seen a very dead, just about to be reincarnated Sailor Neptune floating between Princess Serenity/Serena and Prince Endymion/Darien, and then again between the Inner Sailor Guardians.
This isn't just a coincidence either. With teal hair and ballerina inspired shoes, this looks like Sailor Neptune with her hair floating up.
The Mixx/Tokyopop edition of Sailor Moon Graphic Novel #9 has a November 1993 sketch of Michiru tucked between the early pages, many months after this episode aired. Could this have inspired Neptune's existence?
Hisashi Kagawa, the director for the scene in episode 44, once said on Twitter that he didn't intend for this to be Sailor Neptune, but since he figured there would be more Sailor Guardians in the (then near) future, he would just "throw together" a basic silhouette of a would-be Sailor Guardian, and by happenstance, he ended up correctly predicting Sailor Neptune.
It should also be noted that the ill-fated 1994 Toonmakers version of Sailor Moon also mentioned Sailor Neptune, with the original idea being that she, along with Sailors Uranus, Pluto, and Saturn would have been kidnapped by Queen Beryl and had their jewels of power seized. This concept would later be recycled into the StarS arc of the manga, when Sailor Galaxia stole Neptune's Sailor Crystal, and the Sailor StarS anime in 1996, where Sailor Galaxia stole Sailor Neptune's star seed, killing her in both instances.
The Toonmakers version of Sailor Neptune would have debuted closer to her Japanese counterparts, but DiC ended up winning the Sailor Moon contract.
Sailor Moon R
Sailor Moon R gave us two more chances to get a good look at Michiru before we should have.
On February 5, 1994, in Japan, episode 84 aired. In the episode, we see flashbacks of Chibiusa's unhappy life as a lonely princess in the 30th century. If you watch the episode carefully, in the flashback where she accidentally knocked over a vase, there appears to be a grown version of Michiru, screaming at her, forgetting of course that this is the crown princess she is screaming at.
It's not expressly said who this woman is, but she looks identical to Michiru, and we know that only a member of Neo Queen Serenity's court could have been able to scold the princess like that.
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And if you read the short Parallel Sailor Moon manga in the back of Sailor Moon Eternal Edition #10, then you already know that when it comes to either of Usagi's daughters, Michiru can have an unusually short fuse for perceived bad behavior.
American audiences wouldn't see this screaming version of Michiru until November 14, 1997 on Toonami. However, Neptune's Cloverway and DiC voice actress Barbara Radecki had already voiced Ikuko up to this point and, in episode 1 only, Queen Serenity in an American-only flashback sequence.
Our next glimpse of Sailor Neptune came in episode 89, first airing in Japan on March 12, 1994, and quietly on Toonami on November 21, 1997, after the "17 Lost Episodes" had already aired.
In this often-forgotten clip show catching viewers up on the entire series up to this point, Sailor Neptune, Sailor Uranus, Kaolinite, and Professor Tomoe debuted in silhouettes with scenes from episode 90.
This would be the last DiC controlled episode of Sailor Moon to air in the US, and it would mean that American audiences wouldn't see episode 90 in full until Toonami aired a Cloverway edit of the episode on June 12, 2000, meaning that fans would have to wait a few years for her full introduction.
Treasures of Neptune
Not knowing when more episodes of Sailor Moon would be officially dubbed, censored, and licensed for a North American release, Irwin Toys wanted to be ready.
Starting in 1997, they launched a full spectrum of Sailor Moon S related dolls, plushies, and figures, predating the VHS release of the Sailor Moon S movie by two years and the Toonami run of the third season by three years.
Sailor Neptune had two plush dolls—one with a gem brooch and one with a smooth, plastic brooch. She had a 6-inch doll, an 11 1/2-inch doll with a Luna keychain, a 2-inch figurine, and an action figure with a booklet listing her would-be English name as "Nerissa" instead of what it became, Michelle.
A prototype of another 11 1/2-inch Sailor Neptune doll was featured in catalogs with her Mugen School uniform, but was not released to the public.
Also in 1997 came the PC game The 3D Adventures of Sailor Moon. If you beat the main story by recovering the Inners' transformation pens and Sailor Moon's Crescent Moon Wand/Moon Stick, you can enter a 3D world where Neptune's symbol appears on the circular floor.
If you go through the leftover files on the CD-Rom, it is also possible to find Neptune's symbol hidden on a concept for the dress-up mini game, along with tester artwork from Sailor Moon S, SuperS, and Sailor StarS, all used without the permission or licenses for those seasons.
Between 1997 and 1999, specialty shops also sold imported Sailor Moon merchandise, often with characters that had not been seen on television in North America yet, and if you collected such magazines as Animerica, you likely had an ad or a mini article somewhere with Uranus and Neptune smiling back at you.
By 1998, Mixx started speeding through the manga, running the Dark Kingdom arc at the same time as the Dream arc by 1999. This meant that early manga readers in North America were reading about Michiru raising Hotaru before her official debut as Sailor Neptune in many markets!
It just seems as though Sailor Neptune was too large of a character to keep a secret for too long.
© 2022 Koriander Bullard