In Sailor Moon we have 5 (to start) heroins who aside from the additions of bobbles, boots, tiaras, and gloves… And reduction of skirt-length and sleeve-length, look exactly the same in their school uniforms as they do when they’re transformed. This raises two questions:
First, Why don’t people recognize these girls?
Yes, yes. Tokyo is huge and the chances of people recognizing them on the street is incredibly unlikely… But what about their classmates? To the average passerby, I’d agree that it would be incredibly unlikely they’d recognize the girls. But after the Scouts achieve a certain level of celebrity, how could their classmates, friends, or family not recognize them? Ami’s naturally blue hair is pretty dang distinct and speaking of distinct hair, just how many natural blondes are there in Japan? With Minako (Venus) and Usagi (Sailor Moon) as natural blondes… It seems pretty unlikely that people wouldn’t be able to piece everything together.
In general, traditional Japanese culture is very polite. Especially with regard to people you don’t know personally. You treat strangers and the unknown with deference and politeness. You don’t get involved… Taking this into consideration, perhaps everyone knows exactly who they are but is simply too polite to acknowledge it. Save for the Dark Kingdom (or Negaverse if you’re old school American dub) it seems- Wait. This powerful army of energy and magic can’t identify the heroins of this series? Certainly they don’t follow the cultural mandates of the Japanese culture. This means that they actually can’t make the connection and that there’s something else going on.
Just as with Harry Potter, I think that the reason they aren’t recognized is simply because they don’t want to be. They believe their identities are safe and as a result they are. Think of it like a powerful charm in Harry Potter, such as in the 4th book, when they have the Quidditch World Cup. In this example, any muggles that approach the site simply don’t notice what’s going on and/or suddenly remember they have somewhere else to be. What this means for Sailor Moon is that people recognize the Sailor Scouts as Sailor Scouts, but the association stops there. As a result of the magic, they can’t make the connection with anyone they might know in real life. Its like when you’re trying to remember something and its on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t make the connection.
Second, Why are their Battle Uniforms similar to their School Uniforms?
Since magic is a manifestation of a person’s will, it makes sense that a magic user’s outfit would be an extension of what they believe it would look like. Since Sailor V (Venus’ original guise) was the first, I’d argue that to some degree she helped establish the blueprint what the outfits look like within the other girl’s heads. Her celebrity had gone so far that they were even able to make a video game about her. Usagi was a big fan and was often seen playing her game, so why not when transforming into Sailor Moon for the first time use Sailor V as a reference? Each of the scouts that followed would have been exposed on some level to the subsequent characters…
But where did Sailor V’s inspiration come from? In the beginning (of then, her own series), her outfit is arguably the most distinct of the sailor outfits. With shoulder pads that would make ladies’ business suits of the 80’s jealous, I’m betting she pulled a bit from influences in her life. Namely her school uniform (inspired by sailor uniforms from the US navy, post WWII strangely enough) and Dame Edna. Haha, I kid about that last part (I mean, where else would you find those glasses?). Her shoulder pads are rather similar to those found on Prince Endymion (or Darien, or Mamoru Chiba…) which suggests an influence from a memory of her original life way back during the Silver Millennium. Later in the series she changes her outfit to conform with the rest of the team, which suggests a certain level of flexibility. And that’s a manifestation of will if I ever saw one.
Here’s where we lean on the opinion (versus logic) side of things a bit more heavily.
The biggest potential hole in this train of logic is that when the series shows sequences from the past, the Silver Millennium, the Sailor Scouts are wearing the exact same outfits that they are today. This is like an arrow through the heart of my argument since it suggests that their outfit’s correlation between battle and school uniforms is purely coincidental. Well, I don’t believe in coincidence. Additionally, if you follow the train of logic in which Sailor V had some subconscious knowledge of the past inspiring her outfit… Then shouldn’t that suggest that her outfit was different in the past? How else could she come up with an outfit that somewhat correlates to Prince Endymion’s? I understand that for simplicity’s sake when telling a story you can immediately associate characters better when they look the exact same, but I’d still prefer to believe that as warriors in a magical kingdom that was largely filled with knights and armor, the sailor scouts looked a bit more battle-ready.
To summarize, I assert that the Sailor Scouts uniforms are manifestation of their subconscious. Whether they know it or not, their understanding of how they should look is due previous influence (Sailor V was inspired by tribal memory combined with the one uniform she knows, Sailor Moon inspired by Sailor V, etc) by predecessors in the Scouts (Sailor Moon > Sailor V > subconscious memory mixed > manifestation of will).