My Top Ten Most Pervasive (and Annoying) Fan Senshi Clichés
These are ten things I see that bug me personally. I usually try to avoid these things, although I will admit to indulging in a few, and this is more an exercise in getting these pet peeves off my chest than a guide. Still, it's my belief (and mine alone, so take that as you will) that avoiding these clichés will help anyone's story in the long run as far as holding an audience's interest.
10. Clones of Sailor Moon That Aren't Supposed to Be Expressly Related to Her: Allow me to explain - let's say you see a team of fan senshi. Some of the members look and sound like really cool characters, but then you get to the group leader. And what does she look and sound like? Like Sailor Moon but with a music motif and neon green hair. It's part of the series continuity that only the line of Moon royalty will be the ones to wear their hair in bun-topped pigtails of any sort (that includes unique bun shapes and pigtails lengths & styles); having the leader of your team wear it simply because the leader of the Sailor Team does betrays a lack of knowledge or even much respect for the source material. It's also not that original. Your leader can still have a unique hairstyle without coming off as a clone.
9. Villains with No Motive and Missions with No Purpose: Really, these go hand-in-hand. A senshi's mission is often defined by her villains, since they usually provide a counter-part to whatever she might hope to achieve. If your villains don't have any real personalities or any other reason for attacking other than "they're evil and that's just what evil people do", then your senshi won't have much of a mission other than "help the Sailor Team beat the evil people". You'll need more drama than that to make your story interesting.
8. Lazy Recolors: First, a word of caution - I don't mind recolors; some of the best fan senshi I've seen started as recolors, but they added elements design-wise to set them apart and often put a ton of thought into their characters and stories. But when I see a character who's a recolor of Jupiter in shades of pink with the same attack sequence, same electric/plant motif, and even the same basic personality, you've taken a recolor a bit too far. It's supposed to serve as a basis for a visual design, not a license to clone and copy away.
7. Crank up the Agony: Is there some law that says fan senshi can't come from happy homes anymore? That they must have been horribly abused and exploited in their past and that it must also happen in story as well? There's other ways to produce drama or show the ruthlessness of a villain than to mimic Lifetime movies about rape and abuse. Even characters that have happy backgrounds can have problems, like lack of self-esteem, that can make for interesting development. While some stories can use the abuse card well, too many use it as a cheap substitute for further development and as a way to garner some quick sympathy. Besides, the series did a good job of mixing humor and drama; don't think that having a scene or two of levity will somehow weaken your story by acknowledging your senshi can have some fun once in a while.
6. Research Is Easier Now: I'm sorry if this sounds mean, but there's no excuse to skip researching a senshi's name source (if you're using mythology or stellar bodies) in the days of Wikipedia. You don't even have to leave the house or spend money now. It's not that hard to look up 'Iris' on there and see that maybe a goddess of the rainbow won't be a good namesake for a dark and cruel senshi powered by decay and suffering.
5. Pair 'em Up: Yes, romance is integral to the overall story of Sailor Moon. Yes, it's a good source of drama. However, not every girl in your team needs to be paired with a man and given a love life; the development of them is bound to suffer, with some being so under-developed that they'll seem more like a distraction than anything else. How about shoujo-ai or even no romance at all? Trust me, writing a good romance is hard (just check out the local bookstore shelves to find some really bad ones), and you shouldn't feel compelled to shoe-horn one in without reason.
4. OMG They're Such Bishies! Right?: This one dates back to the very beginning of fan senshi development online, and it still bugs me. Stop turning the Starlights permanently into men so they can hook up with your fan senshi without any 'icky' homosexual elements. They aren't men and don't think of themselves as such. If they were truly men, then they wouldn't be Sailor senshi. And while I'm at it, stop turning Yaten into a cuddle-bug just because she made the prettiest male. Yaten was a jerk most of the series. Prettiness doesn't magically negate jerkiness.
3. Aliens Should Have Different Fuku Designs: Again, I'll reference the Starlights - they're alien to this system, and they have very unique uniforms compared to the Sol system ones. Same with the Animamates - those designs are probably the same as the ones worn when they were good/by the true senshi of their worlds (pick your explanation, anime or manga). Unless you're gonna explain how or why the aliens have a connection to the Sol system and thus can get away with wearing similar outfits, use some imagination and come up with something different. You'd be surprised how many things you can design.
2. Get Your Own Origin: There's so many ways a Sailor senshi could discover her powers, even if they do have a guardian animal; they could be attacked, they could find their transformation item strategically placed in a curio shop, it could be an heirloom of unknown age, or darn near anything else. There's no need to have each senshi with a guardian animal be told about their great destiny, have the animal perform a little flip or dance, produce their transformation item, and let them take it from there. Again, it's a fun thing to devise, and there's no need to rehash something seen a thousand times.
1. Evil Senshi Army, Unite: When one or two stories did senshi who were swayed/disposed to the side of evil, it was original and neat. Now, however, the vast majority of newer fan senshi are evil; also, they always seem to be either tricked or brainwashed, so they aren't ultimately responsible for their actions. A villain senshi can be fun - so long as they're a legitimate threat, there's a good reason they're evil & thus going against the fundamental nature of Sailor senshi, and they don't/can't turn to the side of good. I've done it, and believe me, it's pretty darn fun. However, the moment they're healed/snapped out of their programming/freed and almost instantly forgiven and become best friends with everyone, then you've swayed into bad cliché territory. You think people as occasionally pig-headed as Uranus and Neptune are just gonna accept her reform at face value, or are they more likely to test her worthiness as an ally? You think they'll sever any and all ties to their former allies whom they befriended? There's drama here, if you can do it right.
Honorable mention goes to character bashing disguised as conflict. See that Uranus and Neptune example above? In the wrong hands, it could be excuse for a bad author to prove how much cooler her character is than them and to make the rest of the cast suddenly hate them for acting like big jerks (more so than ever seen before, usually). Same with friendships and rivalries, too - a lot of them veer into "I hate Rei, so I'm gonna make her act like a total creep and have my character make everyone else realize how nasty she is" territory way too easily. Also worth noting is having a team of senshi whose powers directly match up to those of the Sailor Team in some way with no real reason other than laziness or lack of originality.
These honestly aren't that hard to avoid. Just put a little bit of effort and thought into your fan senshi and her story before you sign up for the web space, and you're bound to not only get more praise & readers but also have a lot more fun in the creation process.
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