Is it appropriate for Sailor Moon to be partnering with weight loss shake Slim Up Slim?

Sailor Moon x Slim Up Slim

We’ve seen some odd things associated with the Sailor Moon brand over the past few years including condoms and tampons but this latest partnership with Slim Up Slim weight loss shakes seems inappropriate to me. The image above shows Usagi and Mamoru promoting the shakes with an image accentuating her unrealistically long and slender legs. This just makes me wonder if it’s really appropriate for a 14 year old character from a children’s manga and anime to be used to sell weight loss shakes.

What exactly is Slim Up Slim? It’s a weight loss shake. It’s marketed not just as a diet or weight loss shake but also as a “beauty diet” shake. The purpose of this product does not seem to be weight loss for the sake of health but rather weight loss for the sake of beauty. Many of these products contain collagen, which is not there to help with healthy weight loss but with skin beauty, though there is no evidence that ingesting collagen actually does anything. While calorie reduction will surely result in weight loss, these shakes containing collagen and lactic acid bacteria share many qualities with the type of scam weight loss products such as those promoted by snake oil salesmen like Doctor Oz.

This collaboration strikes me as something which could encourage unrealistic standards for women and girls and potentially lead to eating disorders, something which may be more of a concern to western audiences. Certainly I am aware that I am putting a North American lens on these things. As a Canadian I understand that we have certain body image ideas displayed in the media but also that most people are sensitive to these and ultimately encourage the idea that girls should not be told that they need to be thin to be beautiful as such pressures can be damaging. The other consideration of course is that there is an obesity epidemic in North America, which includes child obesity, and that this is a health concern. Encouraging healthy eating and exercise habits at all stages of life is genially positive, as long as it doesn’t get to the extent of shaming. Obesity is a factor in a large number of health risks, the most obvious ones being heart disease and diabetes, but also many others. That said programs asking children to eat healthy and exercise generally don’t tell them they should do so to be pretty, even if media, advertisement and other pressures may at the same time present a different image.

So much to say, I don’t think the same can be said about Japan or Asia in general. There seem to be strong pressures to be thin in many countries and this campaign as well as what we’ve seen in the series seems to reflect this. Sailor Moon gives many positive messages to girls but the characters in the series are slender, pretty and all fitting to a very similar, albeit not terribly realistic, body type. We expect some liberties in things that are drawn, after all people don’t actually have eyes that big and noses that small, but still this is what we see.

Sailor Moon episode 4 - Usagi worries about getting big

There have been many times in the Sailor Moon anime and manga in which weight gain was stigmatized. In the original Sailor Moon anime the main episode in which this comes up in is episode 4 “Learn How to be Skinny From Usagi” in which Usagi is worried she’s gaining weight and instead of telling her that as a thin 14 year old who shouldn’t worry about this, her family and Luna all agree that this is bad and encourage her to go on a diet. The Dark Kingdom opens up a gym, Shapely, which includes these pods which cause weight loss by draining energy. I found some of this troubling even when I watched this back in 1995, but the episode does have some redeeming ideas. Excessive exercise, starving and binging are generally presented as being bad, and so a reasonable diet seems to be what is argued in the end, but still Usagi’s is repeatedly teased about her weight by pretty much all characters and the takeaway message really is that it’s good to be thin. Perhaps it would have been a better idea to skip dubbing this one and giving us episode 5 or 6 instead!

Sailor Moon episode 4 - Chubby Usagi drawing

That episode originally aired in March of 1992. It’s funny that in the episode Usagi comments, while walking by a Sailor V poster, that Sailor V probably never has to diet. She’d actually been through almost the exact same situation in the manga! Canonically the Sailor V manga takes place before the Sailor Moon manga, though many of the stories were actually written later. Two years after episode 4 aired, in March of 1994, Naoko Takeuchi would write Codename Sailor V Volume 9 – Sailor V vs. deVleene!, which has such striking similarities to this episode that there must have been some inspiration.


Codename Sailor V Volume 9 - Minako gains weight Codename Sailor V Volume 9 - Minako gains weight

In the Sailor V story the Dark Agency plots to gather energy in a slightly more elaborate way. They sell cheap and delicious Rainbow Chocolate around the time of Valentine’s Day which causes rates of obesity amongst young girls to rise. Minako is included as those affected by this weight gain and Artemis criticizes her for this. All of the girls who are gaining weight are concerned and look for a solution. The two pronged strategy of the Dark Agency also includes the spa deVleene which includes the same sort of energy draining pods that we saw in episode 4 of the Sailor Moon anime. Compare the images below to see just how similar these were. The story takes an even worse turn when the Dark Agency’s deVleene is defeated leaving the girls of town obese. Kaitou Ace comes in to save them from their weight gain by raining diet candy from the skies as well as giving them flyers promoting weight loss tea (a scam product which doesn’t work in the real world) as well as tips on exercising and dieting. While the anime left us with a somewhat ambiguous takeaway the Sailor V manga certainly does not. The salvation for the girls affected is to lose the weight.


Sailor Moon episode 4 - Energy draining pods at Shapely Codename Sailor V Volume 9 - Energy draining pods

There are other one off mentions of weight in the series and they’re usually the same. For example in Sailor Moon SuperS episode 145 “Become a Prima: Usagi’s Ballet” there are a number of comments about Usagi’s weight gain, as a small bulge is shown protruding from her tutu. This is similar to what we see in Sailor V. Throughout the episode of course Usagi and Sailor Moon keep their normal character designs of a very thin 15 year old. Another minor mention is in the first episode of the live action series where Usagi and Naru show envious attention to a model commenting on how she has a thin waist.

Sailor Moon SuperS episode 145 - Chibiusa calls Usagi fat

I guess my views on this must be fairly obvious at this point. I’m not terribly pleased with this promotion. Ultimately I think it’s just indicative of a culture which is different from the one I am used to. I don’t say this to defend it but simply to explain it. The other examples from Sailor Moon which similarly push this idea are not directly tied to this campaign. TOEI or Naoko Takeuchi likely aren’t outliers in Japanese culture to push the idea that it’s good to be thin, but both are likely simply reflective of what has been going on in the country for at least the past 27 years. No doubt these kinds of products and pressures exist around the globe, but I’m not seeing them promoted with children’s cartoons here in North America. Obesity is a big problem here but I don’t think the solution is a culture of fat shaming and telling children that being thin is beautiful. For better or for worse pressures to be thin and beautiful do still exist here and they have not managed to reverse the obesity epidemic. I think the trend is mostly related to access to cheap, habit forming high reward value foods. Last year I read a book about this topic, The Hungry Brain by Stephane Guyenet, and found it very enlightening. It discusses the various things which make us wired to gain weight in an environment full of the kinds of food we have around us. You’re probably better off checking out the book than buying some pseudoscience inspired “beauty diet” shakes.

What do you think?

Codename Sailor V Volume 9 - Sailor V loses a button

Watch Sailor Moon episodes 1 to 4 for free on Hulu

Sailor Moon on Hulu

Following Friday’s announcement of Viz’s acquisition of the rights to the series, the first four episodes of Sailor Moon are now available to view with subtitles for free on Hulu and Neon Alley, including episode 2 which has never been dubbed. Viz will be releasing two new episodes every Monday from now on. Though the episodes can be viewed for free they will include commercials which can’t be skipped. Hate commercials? That’s too bad. Hulu’s pay service Hulu Plus is truly terrible as it will not remove commercials.

The episodes are completely uncensored with English subtitles. The current episode previews are kept though they have been moved from before the credits until after the credits. Next episode previews are included in their normal spot at the end of the episode. Commercial bumpers are the only thing missing from these episodes.

Sailor Moon episode 01 Screenshot - Japanese DVD

Japanese DVD

Sailor Moon episode 01 Screenshot - Hulu

Hulu

The quality of the release is quite good. Since it is streaming it is not perfect but the quality is comparable to the Japanese DVD releases, the current best quality release there is, as can be seen with these example screen grabs.

Sailor Moon episode 2 screenshot - Japanese DVD

Japanese DVD

Sailor Moon episode 2 screenshot - Hulu

Hulu

The Hulu service is not available in all countries. As a Canadian I needed to use a proxy service to view the episodes. I use Unblock-US, a pay service, though others exist. I was not able to access the Neon Alley site directly even from a proxy. Though no legal Canadian option is available at this time Viz is trying to find a way to bring the show to Canadian. This includes talking to YTV about the possibility of airing it on TV. Once the DVD and Blu-Ray releases are out later this year, Canadians will be able to enjoy those.

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