In Defense of Tuxedo Mask

I recently picked on Tuxedo Mask’s fashion sense, and in the process came across this article from io9, “10 Reasons Why Everyone but Sailor Moon Knows Tuxedo Mask Sucks” by Lauren Davis and Rob Bricken.

I disagree with pretty much all of these reasons, so let’s go through them.

  • 1). Bricken and Davis write:

He dates girls who are way too young for him.

By which we mean he’s a borderline statutory rapist. It’s less creepy later on when Mamoru is 19 and Usagi is 16 — although that’s still a bit uncomfortably close to age of being unable to consent — but at the start of the series, Mamoru is a 17-year-old college student (according to the manga) and Usagi is a 14-year-old middle school student. That’s just wrong.

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My response: What the hell is a “borderline rapist”?

I’m rather glad to see someone addressing this, because this is a recurring problem in anime, a problem that, in my experience, most fans prefer to ignore or laugh off—or wallow in. Sailor Moon is a lot tamer than some franchises, but … well, let’s just say it doesn’t help.

The writers at i09 appear to have their facts mixed up. In the manga, Mamoru is a seventeen-year-old high school student. His relationship with Usagi is about like a high school senior dating a freshman.

The anime usually tones down the content of the manga, but in this case makes it worse: for some reason, it ages Mamoru up into a college student. For a time, he’s dating Rei (alter ego of Sailor Mars), and Usagi even mentions that her student handbook says this is an inappropriate relationship. On top of that, the anime series adds several other romantic subplots to the story, in which the sailor scouts are found to be hitting on significantly older men … every. Damn. Time.

So, okay, I don’t actually disagree with this one.

  • 2). Bricken and Davis write:

You know, for all that Usagi is Mamoru’s eternal true love, he was an enormous asshole to the young Sailor Scout. Before Mamoru regained his memories and realized that he was actually Tuxedo Mask, he and Usagi fought like cats and Queen Beryl’s minion Shitennou. He’s constantly knocking her down emotionally, telling her that she’s not pretty and that she has no inner beauty, either. That’s insanely harsh, and that’s not to mention his nickname for her is “Bun Head” (that’s “Meatball Head” to us English speakers) and makes fun of her lousy test scores.

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My response: Whatever, dude. Fictional lovers fight with each other because it’s entertaining to the audience. Go read Gone with the Wind. Or Much Ado about Nothing.

The verbal sparring between Usagi and Mamoru in the first arc is some of the most clever writing in the series. The whole point, of course, is that Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon are in love with each other, but their alter egos fight all the time. It’s like Lois Lane loving Superman but snubbing Clark Kent.

  • 3). Bricken and Davis write,

He’s lousy in a fight.

Tuxedo Mask exists for one reason: Help the Sailor Scouts. Sometimes that means rescuing them, sometimes it means giving them advice, sometimes it means fighting alongside them. Mamoru is terrible at all three of these things, and spends most of his appearances get his ass kicked …

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My response: He’s perfectly competent in a fight and frequently holds his own against the monster of the week. He only gets in trouble when going up against the bosses, who give the same trouble to the sailor scouts.

What Tuxedo Mask lacks is a magical girl finishing move, so his role is usually to soften up the monster before Sailor Moon delivers the coup de grâce.

Bricken and Davis complain that he fights with a cane instead of a sword. I somewhat agree, as I always thought he should have a sword cane, but let’s not forget that it’s a magic cane, which is extendable, and which he’s pretty good at beating monsters with. Also, you know who else fights with a cane:

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This guy.
  • 4). Bricken and Davis write:

He’s even terrible at providing moral support.

For example, the first time that Mamoru and Usagi meet as Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon, she is crying because she’s having trouble defeating Morga. Tuxedo Mask tells her, “You must remember, crying isn’t going to solve any of your problems … But here’s the kicker — Sailor Moon discovers her crying is SUPERPOWERED … So not only did Tuxedo Mask screw up on a basic emotional support level, he actually gave her the exact wrong advice.

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My response: Now they’re really reaching. Yes, Sailor Moon’s crying is superpowered, but that’s a joke. And her crying only halts the monster, not stops it. In fact, Tuxedo Mask is entirely correct: she needs to stop crying and start fighting. In the manga, getting over her crying habit is part of Sailor Moon’s character development in the early chapters. In the anime, they turn her crying into a longstanding running gag, which obscures the point.

  • 5). Bricken and Davis write:

… there was his Moonlight Knight getup … Is this racist? It seems like it’s racist.

xo5eisi7mwms4ak0ocb5My response: Screw you, i09. Screw you and the horse you rode in on. You didn’t cry racist when the Japanese guy dressed like a European gentleman, so you don’t get to cry racist when he dresses like a sheik. Your double standard is showing.

Besides, when exactly did wearing exotic costumes become racist? Wasn’t it just, like, two years ago? How do you expect some Japanese animators in 1993 to know that a couple of American nitwits in 2014 would consider an Arab costume racist?

  • 6). Bricken and Davis write:

He’s basically an enormous liability to the entire Sailor Scout operation.

If Tuxedo Mask can’t fight, and he’s terrible at giving the Sailor Scouts advice, what can he do? Two things: Get kidnapped and/or brainwashed.

Okay, this is probably the point of the entire series, a reversal of the usual heroic roles, where Sailor Moon is the hero and Tuxedo Mask is the damsel in distress.

It’s possible that this was the intent of Takeuchi-sensei or other creators who worked on the series, but if so, they did it wrong.

A typical monster-of-the-week episode of Sailor Moon goes like this:

  1. A monster attacks.
  2. Sailor Moon transforms.
  3. Sailor Moon talks smack.
  4. Sailor Moon gets her butt kicked.
  5. Tuxedo Mask shows up and throws a rose at the monster.
  6. Tuxedo Mask delivers a stirring speech.
  7. The monster is distracted.
  8. Tuxedo Mask shouts, “Now, Sailor Moon!”
  9. Sailor Moon performs her finishing move.
  10. The end.

Tuxedo Mask rescues the sailor scouts so often, even get frustrated by it, and I’m not a feminist, nor am I offended when a guy rescues a girl. It’s just that if a girl is going to put on a superheroine outfit and launch into a hammy monologue, I expect her to walk the walk after she’s talked the talk.

The sailor scouts usually talk big and then spend most of a fight running around and screaming until a man shows up to tell them what to do. That is not any kind of “reversal of the usual heroic roles.”

And while we’re on the subject of “usual heroic roles,” if you go read the stories collected in the Brothers Grimm, or if you read old pulp magazines, or if you read up on the Matter of France, you will find that girls often rescue boys. In the Grimms, princes frequently rescue princesses from enchantments, and princesses also rescue princes from the same. The old pulps present axe-wielding Martian amazons as often as they present bronze-bikini babes cowering from bug-eyed monsters. And Bradamante and Ruggiero rescue each other back and forth like gangbusters.

But Bricken and Davis don’t know who Bradamante and Ruggiero are, because far-Leftists, such as write for i09, don’t read old books. They just call old books racist.

Let’s skip down to …

  • 8). Bricken and Davis write:

He sabotages his relationship with Usagi from the future just to be a jerk.

At one point in Sailor Moon R, Mamoru has a recurring dream where Usagi dies because of their relationship, and he resolves to break up with her. It’s forced drama, but Mamoru frequently has prophetic dreams, so it’s a little reasonable.

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My response: This is true, but Sailor Moon, the entire series, has an idiot plot. This bit of forced drama is no worse than the others.

What’s going on here, actually, is the creators of the anime making a desperate bid to keep the romance fresh between Usagi and Mamoru. Their relationship is interesting in the first arc when he’s a mysterious figure and she’s a new superheroine, and he helps her but is simultaneously her rival trying to beat her to the MacGuffin.

After they’re officially an item, all the tension is gone and he becomes relatively bland. In the manga, he gets forced into the background because he has little to do. The anime tries to fix this by finding excuses to break Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask apart, and then bring them back together. The stupid decision to break up because of bad dreams, rather than tell her about the dreams, is one such excuse.

  • 9). Bricken and Davis write:

His super disturbing relationship with his daughter.

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My response: The disturbing relationship is only in the manga. The anime erases it and replaces it with much more believable and reasonable motives for the characters. It also expands and improves upon the depiction of Black Lady, Chibi-Usa’s evil form.

In the anime, Chibi-Usa clings to Mamoru simply because he’s a grownup (or nearly a grownup) who takes care of her. She is wracked with guilt and also convinced that her parents don’t want her, which makes her vulnerable to the machinations of Wiseman, who turns her into a villainess with an adult body but a child’s mind, so she doesn’t understand what’s going on around her, and she uses children’s toys as weapons.

In the manga, on the other hand, she turns into Black Lady because she wants to steal Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, apparently unable to understand that he’s her father. It is disgusting, and it doesn’t work very well. The writers of the animated series improved the story a great deal by throwing this out and replacing it with something that is both more palatable and more plausible.

But even in the manga, where Chibi-Usa has a hardcore Electra complex, all the weirdness is entirely on her side. Mamoru just treats her like a lost kid who needs help, which is exactly what she is. Of course, these are fictional characters; the real fault lies with Takeuchi-sensei, who apparently thought she was being funny. She wasn’t.

  • 10). Bricken and Davis write:

Mamoru wears a white tie dinner suit, not a tuxedo. We guess “White Tie Mask” doesn’t have the same ring to it, but COME ON.

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My response:  I just wrote on this myself. However, Takeuchi, creating this series from Japan, should probably not be expected to know the difference between a tuxedo and full dress. She almost certainly copied the details of the costume from Dracula.

Even most of her readers in the West probably don’t know the difference between white tie and a tuxedo. In fact, Bricken and Davis clearly don’t, since white tie is not a dinner suit. “Dinner suit” is a synonym for black tie.

That is, a dinner suit is a tuxedo.

  • Seiya Meteorite

    I dunno what Breckin and Davis are talking about….

    To be honest, at least Mamoru isn’t perfect in the 90’s anime, he seems too perfect in the manga/Crystal. To me anyways.

    • I agree. In the manga, he eventually comes across as the perfect, dreamboat boyfriend. He runs out of important things to do and even gets deleted from the final story arc.

      The problem, I think, is that Takeuchi made him and Sailor Moon an official item too early. She should have done something like what the anime does, and stretched out the unresolved conflict between them as long as reasonably possible. She also might have partly avoided the problem by playing up Tuxedo Mask’s role as a gentleman thief. She states that he’s a criminal, but never explores that fact or its implications.

      My own opinion is that he ought, as the gentleman thief, be depicted as the dangerous but desirable James Bond ladykiller type, and I envision him having a complicated rivalry with Sailor V before he and Sailor Moon take an interest in each other. I don’t think any version has thoroughly explored that angle, though from what I understand, the live-action TV series touches on it.

      I think it worth noting that magical girls back in the Eighties almost all had boyfriends. By the early 2000s, they were all single or implied lesbians (to the point of unintentional self-parody). I’m unsure of all the factors that have played into this but at least one is probably the difficulty of depicting a relationship in which the female lead is superpowered and the male lead isn’t. That creates a lack of balance, resulting in “useless boyfriend” syndrome, which Sailor Moon, in the opinion of many fans, suffers from.

      I started Jake and the Dynamo in part to set myself the challenge of writing a story depicting a normal male and a superpowered female in which the normal male does not suffer from a lack of agency.

      • Seiya Meteorite

        True, I think it would have helped his character out more, but I never saw him as a criminal.

        Yeah, that whole thing with them being single kinda does result in that…

        • In the manga, during the part where he goes public in the hopes of thereby finding the Legendary Silver Crystal, he specifically “confesses his crimes,” apparently jewel thievery. This is also implied when he’s casing the jewelry store owned by Usagi’s best friend’s mom. He shows up there at night when Sailor Moon is fighting a monster because he apparently meant to rob the place.

          The fan-made film I discuss here makes this explicit in its first scene.

          I’ve not seen it, but I understand the live-action TV show fleshes out his criminal activities. The anime, of course, takes the opposite tack and makes him a superhero instead.

          • Seiya Meteorite

            Ah, I see (loved that fan film too). That scene with him and Sailor V in the fan film was a replica of the first scene in the live action series. At least Mamoru does make up for it fortunately, and he doesn’t go around like a criminal, then again, certain other heroes like Batman (whom I’ve seen people compare him to Tuxedo Mask) started out like criminals, only difference was Batman was killing people.

          • That scene with him and Sailor V in the fan film was a replica of the first scene in the live action series.

            I wasn’t aware of that. Rumor has it that Viz secured the rights to the live-action series as well as the anime, so I’m hoping for a legal North American release, but I don’t know if the rumor’s true. In any case, it’s been long enough that they should have released the DVD of Sailor Moon S, so I have no idea what they’re doing over there.

            I kind of thought Sailor Moon should open with Tuxedo Mask and Sailor V duking it out. This isn’t the first time I’ve got the impression that I and the creator of the live-action series are on the same wavelength.

          • Seiya Meteorite

            Viz might have the rights to the PGSM series (that’s another way to name the live action series)? Nice!

            I heard S is coming out in November.