Sailor Moon may not have been the first anime to have done this, but it definitely popularized the magical, wardrobe transformation scene. As one of the most well-known anime-cartoon tropes, this scene became noteworthy as a recurring event that would appear in most every episode of shows like Sailor Moon. Different from the super hero reveal of his heroic alter-ego (ie Clark Kent to Superman), the multicolored magic girl transformation hints at softness, trendiness and vulnerability that cannot be interrupted until the character strikes a pose of final form.
This is not to be confused with Disney’s transformation sequences (which appeared a couple years before Sailor Moon aired) nor with the typical boy-superhero transformation. Although all three styles use close-ups of body parts to emphasize what is changing, Walt Disney Animation Studio uses a golden light aesthetic to give the character an almost angelic-like quality. Shows like Ben Ten and Danny Phantom, however, use a darker color palette with a very cold color glow to give the impression that the character’s transformation involves science or an aggressive element (like fire, for American Dragon).
Needless to say, it’s popularity has majorly influenced Western media, and whether as an homage or as a satirical comment on the magical girl genre, American cartoon creators are fascinated enough to use it in their own shows. So let’s see what shows recognize their premise and use Sailor Moon as their muse.
Star Vs. The Forces of Evil
Obviously the creators drew influence from Sailor Moon while also creating as much distance from the anime as they could. The parallels between the show is that there’s a magic girl/princess with blond hair and blue eyes and she has a magical wand. In the scene shown above, creators chose to subvert the expectations of magical transformation, parodying it as if to say that they know how viewers expect this to fit neatly into the hyper-femininity of the magical girl genre.
The creators of Steven Universe pay tribute to the magical girl genre in the sense that the characters are reduced to their silhouettes and there’s a romantic aura/sparkles around them when they transform/regenerate with Pearl and with fusion. However, the magical girl transformation trope is most obvious in the scene with Steven. It emphasizes Steven as a character that does not conform to gender roles and is sensitive enough to be like Sailor Moon.
My Little Pony
My Little Pony uses it too, which makes sense, because it’s a magical girl’s show but with ponies. Unlike the other Western cartoons (non-anime shows) on this list that pokes fun at Sailor Moon, this one seems to take the transformation scene to enhance the magical, pretty element of the character.
Teen Titans Go!
Teen Titans Go parodies the magical girl transformation in one of their episodes. As seen with Beast Boy, Cyborg, and Robin, the reference to Sailor Moon shows how even years later, Sailor Moon has left its impact in the cartoon world.