On Senshi/Shitennou (a.k.a. why I haven’t stopped being a Sailor Moon fan since 1993)
It’s been like, years, since I’ve looked at or been involved with the general Sailor Moon fandom, so I guess I’m kind of out of touch with how most of the fandom feels about, well, anything. Shitennou fans have sort of formed our own insular little subgroup that’s grown organically out of years of seeking out each other’s fic and ideas and feedback. And why is that?
Because one picture of four couples isn’t a lot to make a ship float, so Senshi/Shitennou is all about the fanfic.
On their own, the Shitennou are dreadfully interesting. Their story is one of betrayal, of failure, of war and redemption. They have this long history that we only get to catch the faintest glimpses of. And then you throw in a dash of extremely complicated romance that begins with death and betrayal and is this close to ending that way as well. But it’s still nothing but hints. We never truly found out how they went from Endymion’s guardians to servants of the Dark Kingdom. The Shitennou never escaped the rocks they were sealed away in.
But, many will say, the four guardians of the prince getting together with the four guardians of the princess? That is way too contrived.
But that’s just it. Because we get so little canon to go on. Because we’ve had to struggle with every single detail from every single manga panel and combine canons in convoluted ways that would make it all fit together. Because when you put it like that, it is so contrived. Every writer I have met in this fandom has pushed themselves so hard to make it work. Every writer has meticulously crafted the Shitennou as fully-rounded characters, and developed their relationships as something interesting and wonderful.
And sometimes I feel like I read better fiction on my friends’ LiveJournals than I do in published books. And there is something powerful about many people telling the same story while putting so much of themselves into it that each of them has created something completely unique.
But there are very few times in my life that I have felt so accomplished as when I began to feel like I could tell my own version of that story.
So I guess in a way the characters themselves are not as important as the fandom that has emerged around them. In some ways, I don’t know if Naoko Takeuchi would entirely recognize her characters anymore, but I would like to think that she’d be extremely pleased with where they have gone.
The Shitennou offshoot of the Sailor Moon fandom has put so much thought and depth into the interpretations of these four boys both with and without romance involved, how they relate to each other, to their prince, and to the Moon Kingdom. It becomes a complex tale of honor, betrayal, sacrifice, regret, redemption, responsibility, and forgiveness. The deeper you dig into the fanon surrounding them the harder it is not to fall a little in love with their story. It’s King Arthur and his knights gone horribly, tragically wrong, and doomed to repeat a thousand years later so you come to the fandom to learn about the knights and their reasons and feelings and answer the question of if they too can break the cycle of fate to finally live again?
It’s an addicting bit of story to play in, and while most of it is not the least bit canon the writers and artists still telling that story 20 years after the initial introduction knows how to spin a beautiful tale.
Too tired today to support this coherently, but then, look at the name of my tumblr.
And: Love to ship them with senshi, but more than that I love that they share a history, and that, in a way, the Shitennou are the other side of the same medal.
And: It’s not about how much sense the idea makes, but how it’s told. I’ve read amazing stuff on the Shitennou theme.