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Essay by LeVar Bouyer

Last summer, it occurred to me to compare what I considered to be the holy trio (or triumvirate, or my personal favorite, the troika) of magical girls. In the end, after a bit of discussion with a friend who comes closest to my own obsession on such matters, I determined that Nanoha Takamachi was probably the gutsiest and, to a degree, most powerful. Certainly the most clever. Sakura Kinomoto rates fairly low on power, but is certainly more versatile. Usagi Tsukino fell into rather other categories; with the ginzuishou she can do quite a bit, but she is, by her own admission, a crybaby.

My favorite? Nanoha, actually. But Usagi still ranks #2, and that she can do so over ten years after the anime finished up is run is by no means unimpressive. After all, there was the PGSM revival, which I will get around to watching... someday. I remain a loyalist to the anime, not the manga or the live action series or the musicals or the novelizations (remember those? Yeah, I bought those, sue me). And, perhaps oddly, I remain loyal to SM fanfiction; for all that I was prolific in it, back in those heady days of the late 1990s and early 2000s, I've not been inspired by any of the series I watch these days to really work on any fics.

Of a certainty, there are a lot of series out there these days, and I try to watch most of them. Discussing them all would be an essay in and of itself. But Sailor Moon was the first, and as they say, you don't forget your first. It can be a little painful to rewatch, now, with the slick computer graphics and fresher animation styles which have become the standard. Sailor Moon, even the final Stars season, looks rough around the edges, dated in a way that Gunbuster and Macross looked when SM was fresh and new. The plots are, of course, terribly predictable. Character designs... oddly, are I think quite rounded. Of course, not rounded enough; that's what gives us fanfic writers so much room to play with. But they really did develop, over the years of the series.

People develop, too. I started out with Sailor Moon in the junior year of high school. High school is only a fond memory now; I get to be a grownup now. Sort of. And yet, I honestly cannot say what sort of grownup I would be without SM in my life. Would I have kept up with writing? Somehow, I doubt it; Mizuno the Senshi, that first, fledgling fic written in my spare hours in high school, so full of plot holes and inconsistencies, was my first real, long bit of creative writing... ever. Everything prior was just window dressing for school assignments; cs01a, as I still think of it, was the first time I gave myself a plot, and a story, and ran with it from beginning to end. The more I think on it, the more impressed I am by the seventeen year old me who penned it (literally; back then I would write out my stories longhand, and then transcribe to computer, a habit I kept up off and on, even as recently as last summer). I envy that teenage me a bit, actually, so brash and willing to spill his guts in text, doing what no-one else had done. Innocence in A Minor? I could never write something like that now; I'd be so tripped up and full of myself that it would never get done.

I'm still obsessed by Mahler. But I spend more money on anime.

The beauty of fanfiction, of course, is that it's free. Well, mostly; the servers on which it resides are not free at all, and that did do in a few sites. But still, free to share and enjoy, for the most part, and I did do that, a lot. I noted, fairly early on (in the 1996 timeframe) that we lacked a fanfic review site. So I made one. And then, because I was that brash, idealistic teenager with far too much time on his hands, I decided to review and read all of them. Every fanfic. It really did seem quite feasible; this was when Artemis and Luna's Central Command, the precursor to A Sailor Moon Romance, still posted every update in a single, simple zip file. Typically I could get through the whole thing in a week. Now, of course, the number of fics is quite uncountable, and many of them frankly don't measure up to the standards I set for myself over a decade ago. Some of my own works don't measure up to those standards, and isn't that embarrassing?

I am, of course, not alone in this. Attending this year's Otakon, there was both a panel devoted to all of Naoko Takeuchi's works, and another one specifically for Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, which probably had a good 150 people or so. I was singularly impressed, and not just by the number of people. These were people who were in their teens too--and mind you, at twenty-nine, it's been awhile since I could even remotely consider myself a teenager.

I've been asked before why I haven't grown out of my SM fandom. I suspect that fanfiction is one of the main answers to that. So long as the few--very few, these days, but still very worth it--epic series continue on, with their original plotlines which still use the same, familiar, loved or hated characters, then I think the fandom continues on. And in that respect, I won't grow up, even as I pass the magical 30. Maybe even 40, but of course who knows how things will look eleven years from now.