Domestic debut: March 7, 1992
Sailor Moon isn't the original "magical girl" anime, but in the U.S., Sailor Moon is the definitive example of that whole transformational steez—deservedly so. Middle school student Usagi Tsukino, the titular Sailor Moon, is the heart of the magical clique, one of the best to ever collaboratively transform and vanquish evil in the name of love and whatnot. As an afterschool series that first aired in the U.S. in 1995 and then ran more successfully on Cartoon Network in 1998, the original, 46-episode run of Sailor Moon was a surprising triumph of excellent direction, strong character dynamics, compelling stakes, and a masterful management of tone. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cringe. It's odd that so much of our audience insists that Dragon Ball Z is the most influential anime of all time when, really, contemporary anime—with all its slice-of-life friendships, its elemental magic, and its miniskirt aeronautics—looks more like Sailor Moon than it resembles any other anime of the 1990s.
My only warning: do not start by watching Crystal, the latest Sailor Moon season that's currently simulcasting to the U.S. via Hulu. Sailor Moon Crystal is insufferable. —Justin Charity