I can respect what these animes have given to many people growing up, then and now, and what they have added to the magical girl genre. But, in the same breath, I feel there is a lot of room to critique and speak on; and to elaborate on why I’m only using these two series as an example.
Now, to make things very clear, I’m not against, nor do I hate the magical girl genre as a whole. Ones like Cardcaptor Sakura, Princess Tutu, and mayyyybe Madoka Magica, etc., I’m okay with. But I’m just over the ones like Sailor Moon and Tokyo Mew Mew. What I mean by that, is the character development, power-ups, and romance that the leaders get versus the other girls is crap to me.
In TMM, aside from fighting aliens and learning more about the history of Earth, everything is centered on the main girl Ichigo and her romance with her eventual boyfriend Aoyama. Out of all the girls, she is the only one who gets a fleshed-out romance of some sort — meaning that we see the trials and tribulations with her relationship from start to finish. Everyone else just has either failed relationships, love lost, or some kind of family issue. For example, Lettuce fell in love with this guy she met at the library, and in the end she helped him resolve his feelings with his long-term girlfriend by accident. She eventually moved on and it seemed near the middle/end of the series she switched her feelings to Ryo; who has an unrequited/one-sided love for Ichigo. Neither pans out.
In SM, the same thing happens…sort of. Minus the animal DNA and all that, the group dynamic is pretty much the same. Sailor Moon gets a fleshed out history, romance, and epic power-ups while everyone else supports or relies HEAVILY on her. Usagi or Serena and Ichigo are almost the same character. If you scope around on various anime sites, some even say that TMM is a rip-off or spoof of SM. But, to get to my main point, I get that they’re the leaders so they’re supposed to be dope, but why aren’t the others in said groups given at least half of what their leaders get?
Everyone in their respective series got character development and growth. Everyone became stronger and wiser to some degree, but in the end no one had a decent happily ever after of any sort. Usagi and Ichigo got their love story, they fought hard for their love and got something. Heck, Usagi got a baby too! But everyone else? They got consolation prizes. In SM, we learned all about the Moon Kingdom and how Usagi was going to be a queen and all this and that. She had a full backstory of her past life. In TMM, we got a whole backstory on how Ichigo and her parents fell in love — which is ridiculously similar to how she and Aoyama got together. We even saw all of their dates and watched their love unfold. She even broke a date to save all of Tokyo and arrived like 2 hours late. He was still there, IN THE RAIN, and confessed to her! The other scouts and mew mews? Nah. Nothing as epic or as cute that actually worked out for them.
Aside from knowing that the other scouts were princesses and warriors of their respective planets and kingdoms, we never knew if they could become queens or what the history of their planets were like. Did they have huge balls, a special powerful item no other kingdom had, something that made them especially unique, or even a viable love interest? Nope. The only other scouts who had a romantic partners who actually stuck were Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus. They were the ONLY other couple on the good side. Everyone else either swore off men (Venus and Mars), they’re “allergic” to love (Mercury), stuck in an unrequited love situation (Pluto to Mamoru in a past life), or are super dedicated to their sense of duty to protect and serve Usagi and justice.
In TMM, the other mew mews fell into the same category as the other scouts. Lettuce at least got to kiss her unrequited love. Even though it was just to save his life it still counts! Pudding has a WHOLE fiancé! He was brought up and left in 1 episode but she still has a whole soon-to-be-husband. Aside from Pudding and her hubby-to-be, no one else gets any kind of play like Ichigo. And that made me sad. Especially when Ichigo got this magical item power up that NO ONE ELSE COULD USE BUT HER. I get it: she’s the leader or what have you, but no other mew mew got a real power-up that was specifically for them. The mew aqua drops don’t count in my opinion since that wasn’t especially unique like the wand Ichigo got to use the mew aqua. We’re not even gonna go into how many weapons and wands Sailor Moon got versus the other scouts.
As a casual fan of both series, all I wanted was for characters I could personally relate to to get something epic. I could never relate to Ichigo or Usagi for a bunch of reasons and I looked at others for that connection. It just seemed odd to me to see other girls/women who were just as awesome, strong, good natured, etc., not get the same thing as their leader. It felt weird to see everyone else sacrifice their hopes and dreams for their one friend and not once think about themselves. That’s not how friendships work. That’s not how group dynamics should be. Yes, we support and love each other and we do make sacrifices for each other, but not at that cost of our personal wants and needs.
I’m not saying every scout or every mew mew needs a love story that fleshes out, or that they need a new weapon or power. It’s more so about evenness and diversity. How awesome would it be to see the other scouts get their story of their kingdoms told? To see what royal customs they had and how their lives panned out before they became solders for the Moon Kingdom or what have you. To see someone who is “allergic to love” meet someone who works with her and not pressures her to be someone she isn’t, but accepts and loves her at face value? Or to see how it’s possible to be mega independent and hot-headed, and not have to lose any of that in order to get someone to be your emotional partner. I certainly could’ve used more backstory on Zakuro and Lettuce if anything. Even though the girls in TMM are young, it still would’ve been amazing to see Lettuce’s one-sided romance with Ryo work out or to see if Tart came back to Earth after some time to see Pudding and they end up getting closer. SOMETHING! It just would’ve been great to see more dimensions to my favorite characters and more backstory, rather than just focusing on the one. Something nice to show girls that, yes: by working in a group we can accomplish great things BUT…you don’t have to be the main girl to get your happy ending or a success story.
You’re solid as is, even if you’re not decked out in pink or have long blonde hair. And you certainly don’t have to sacrifice things you want or adjust your wants and needs for someone else to be happy. If you want to, that’s fine; but it’s never a set-in-stone rule for friendship.