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The story of the various series revolves around the reincarnated defenders of a kingdom that once spanned the solar system, and the evil forces that they battle. The major characters—called Sailor Senshi (literally "Sailor Soldiers"; frequently called "Sailor Scouts" in the North American version)—are teenage girls who can transform into heroines named for the moon and planets (Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, etc). The use of "Sailor" comes from a style of girls' school uniform popular in Japan, the sērā fuku (sailor outfit), after which the Senshi's uniforms are modeled. The elements of fantasy in the series are heavily symbolic and often based on mythology.
Creation of the Sailor Moon manga was preceded by another, Sailor V, which centered around just one Sailor Senshi. When Sailor V was proposed for adaptation into an anime, the concept was modified so that Sailor V herself became only one member of a team. The resulting manga series was a fusion of the popular magical girl and sentai genres of which Takeuchi (Sailor Moon's creator) was a fan, making Sailor Moon one of the first series ever to combine the two.
The manga resulted in spinoffs into other types of media, including a highly popular anime, as well as musical theatre productions, video games, and a live-action (tokusatsu) series. Although most concepts in the many versions overlap, there are often notable differences, and thus continuity between the different formats is limited.