YA fiction has spurred a wide range of discussions among teens and adults, but there’s one particular issue that always guarantees an unpredictable ride: relationships. Whether you’re a canon shipper–one that supports the couples written by the author–or a fanon shipper–one that prefers unconventional relationships, you can’t deny that “shipping” is quite close to the core of teen fiction today.
I’m not here to talk about my own YA ships, though. Today, I’d like to introduce you to the first fictional couple I ever shipped (though I had no idea I was doing it):
You may know them as Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask from the U.S.-dubbed version of Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon. In Japan, they were Chiba Mamoru and Tsukino Usagi, two young adults who were reincarnated from the Moon Kingdom 1,000 years ago.
There’s no point denying that you shipped them just as much I did in my pink Little Mermaid pajamas at age 7. The show may have been about five superheroines/princesses trying to live normal lives in modern-day Japan, but thousands of little girls were hooked on the love story between Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask. It hit all the right buttons: royalty, star-crossed lovers and magic.
I may not have been consciously shipping them when I was younger, but when I rediscovered the show and the original manga at 16, I was pretty much a goner. It’s strange comparing what you thought you knew as a child to what is really there, and I liked being able to see the added dimensions of the relationship between Usagi and Mamoru. The experiences that the five Senshi/Sailor Scouts have took on new meaning because I was a young teen then too.
The manga was essential to this rediscovery. As a kid, you think “The prince and princess love each other and they’ll live happily ever after!” Sure, it’s that easy when you’ve never encountered the complications of a relationship. As I read the manga–consciously comparing it to what I remembered of the show–it was clear that this was no kid’s show. The manga was aimed at young adults, the older end of the teen spectrum, and the characters’ decisions reflected that. Did you know that Sailormoon R implied that Usagi and Mamoru were having sex? She was 14 and he was almost 17, which doesn’t exactly make it illegal, but it is a jarring concept when all you’ve seen is the show.
Over the years, I’ve found that I’ve picked up three things from shipping Usagi and Mamoru:
1. I tend to stick to canon ships. If the author wrote it, I support it, even if I don’t particularly think they’re perfect for each other. This tends to make my life simpler because I don’t have to spend time arguing with people. So if you’re wondering about what YA novel ships I’m into, you won’t have to think too much about it.
2. I’ve gained a lot of practice and friends. Whether you read it or not, if you’re involved in a fandom, you’ll run into fanfic. This is actually the reason I picked up the manga–I met some awesome girls over at Usako_Mamoru on LiveeJournal and almost six years later, they’re still some of my closest friends. In fact one of them is Marissa Meyer, the fantastic author of CINDER, which is being published by Feiwel & Friends on January 3, 2012! She wrote fanfics for years under the pseudonym Alicia Blade and her drabbles were my first introduction to fanfiction. Marissa, Jojo, Nuance, Aimee, Meghan, Sammy and Samantha are all Usagi/Mamoru shippers, awesome writers and great friends.
3. I know what I want in a romance, both literally and figuratively. Usagi and Mamoru come from different backgrounds, and they face different challenges. The important thing is that they see and treat each other as equals and work together to achieve their goals. Whether you want a prince or a regular guy, it’s so important to remember that no relationship will work when one person holds all the power, like in certain vampire novels which will not be named. The relationship between Usagi and Mamoru is a partnership and a friendship, which can only grow with time.
So yes, when asked, I won’t be embarrassed to admit that I love this show and the manga. Why be ashamed of something that has taught me to go after what I want and appreciate the relationships I have?
(All images credited to Naoko Takeuchi.)