You may think, moms and dads of America, that the comings and goings of a 14-year-old Japanese eighth-grader named Usagi Tsukino have nothing at all to do with you. You may think that Usagi's loyal friends Ami and Rei, her darling kitten, Luna, and her golden-horned pet unicorn have no relationship to your life.

But if you think that, moms and dads, you're likely to be proven seriously wrong very soon.

As tens of millions of fervid young fans already know, Usagi Tsukino is the secret identity of the mighty female superhero Pretty Warrior Sailor Moon, a cartoon and comic-book star of immense popularity in Asia and much of Europe.

About six weeks from now Sailor Moon and her all-girl squad of teenage justice fighters will fire up their power crystals and invade the American TV market with their own Saturday-morning cartoon show. The predictable raft of Sailor Moon books, dolls, toys, T-shirts, toothbrushes and other tie-ins will follow, with the first shiploads of licensed goods appearing in U.S. stores well in time for the Christmas rush.

For any American parent who has had the duty of waiting in a long line at the local mall in hopes of snatching up a toy, any toy, bearing a likeness of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, this may all sound distressingly familiar.

That's hardly surprising, because the first wave of Sailor Moon toys will be brought to you by the same folks who turned the Power Rangers into a $400 million-per-year retail phenomenon: Bandai Corp., Japan's biggest toy maker.

And Bandai has no reluctance about stating its goal for the junior high heroine with the long golden braids. "We think," said Bandai president Makoto Yamashina, "that Sailor Moon can be as important in the lives of American girls as the Power Rangers are for boys."

America's major toy retailers, from national giant Toys R Us to the local mom and pop stores, seem to agree. "We are really encouraged by the initial orders," said Trish Stewart, of Bandai America Inc. "Our distribution for the Sailor Moon line is considerably better than it was for Power Rangers at this time in 1993, when Power Rangers was also brand new."

With their movie in national release and their McDonald's tie-in and their boffo weekly TV ratings, the Power Rangers may look unbeatable at the moment. But don't count out Sailor Moon.

In Japan, at least, the eighth-grade adventurer long ago passed her male rivals in the teeny-bopper superhero trade. Sailor Moon TV shows, books and movies here draw much bigger audiences than the "King Rangers," the current Japanese version of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers show. Sailor Moon toys bring in more than $250 million per year in Japan, Bandai says, five times the level of Power Ranger sales.

The promoters of Sailor Moon think they know why. It's all about gender.

The long-legged teenager is the first female to become a cartoon superhero in her own right -- in contrast, to, say, Supergirl or the female Morphin Rangers, who were copied from male stars. "In Japan and all over the world, women are assuming more and more positions of power in society," noted Bandai's Yamashina. "They don't want to be discriminated against as soft or gentle; they want to grow up to be tough and forceful. And Sailor Moon is a role model for that type of girl."

The creator of Pretty Warrior Sailor Moon is a young Japanese woman of that type. When she finished college in 1990, Naoko Takeuchi landed a decent but thoroughly non-sensational job on a hospital staff. Yet she dreamed of going out on her own.

In 1992, Nakayoshi magazine, a fat monthly collection of serial comics, accepted Takeuchi's proposal for a new series based on a somewhat klutzy school girl who turns into a superhero in each episode to save the world from evil.

The Sailor Moon comic eventually blossomed into an animated TV show, a pair of movies and hundreds of licensed products. The weekly cartoon show is now on the air in several Asian countries, France, Italy and Spain.

Takeuchi, 27, now a rich and famous serial-comic artist, has become a paradigm of Japan's growing corps of young, independent and successful kyareeah ooman, the Japanese pronunciation of "career woman."

In her home country, Sailor Moon's main appeal is to girls of elementary and junior high school age. Entering a fifth-grade classroom here, for example, feels like walking into a Sailor Moon museum: The long-legged, short-skirted heroine smiles out from just about every notebook, ruler, pencil sharpener, rain hat, handkerchief, lunch box, book cover, barette and band-aid in the room.

Much like mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, the human manifestation of Sailor Moon seems anything but heroic. Awkward, uncertain eighth-grader Usagi Tsukino can't seem to get to school on time and struggles with her studies -- particularly in English class. She lives in awe of her classmate Ami Mizuno, who has a 300 IQ and heads out to a competitive cram school for more study each day when junior high is over.

Like most Japanese junior high girls, Usagi wears her school uniform, with its standard blue-and-white sailor blouse, wherever she goes. Even when she rubs her Moon Crystal brooch and shouts the magic word "makeup" -- in the strange linguistic world of Japanese English, this means not "cosmetics" but "transformation" -- to become a superhero, she retains the sailor blouse. Hence the name "Sailor Moon."

Together with her kitten, Luna -- who has a crescent-moon mark on her forehead -- Usagi has put together a band of sailor-bloused schoolgirls. They include the brilliant Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury), the mystical Rei Hino (Sailor Mars) and the playful Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter), who hangs out at the local video-game arcade when not battling the forces of evil.

As is common in serial comics aimed at young women here, the characters in "Pretty Warrior Sailor Moon" all have Western features, with big round eyes and flowing hair of various colors. Still, Bandai has made some adaptations in the various dolls before Sailor Moon and her crew head to the Unites States.

The dolls have been made slightly bustier, to approach American ideals of feminine appeal. Hair colors, in contrast, have been toned down somewhat: Sailor Moon's knee-length pigtails have been changed from banana yellow to a bleachy blond. Sailor Mars's hair has gone from a blue mop-top to a neat black bob.

Some costume changes were necessary as well. "We discovered that some Americans thought the outfits were too sexy for little girls," Yamashina said. "The short skirt and the high heels -- that means a prostitute in the U.S., is that right? So we shifted to boots."

Sailor Moon's theme song, "Never Give Up!" presumably will be re-recorded for American audiences. Here in Japan, the local pronunciation of the English lyrics makes the song come out as "Ne-bah Geebu Ahppu!"

The cartoon show will air in approximately 80 percent of U.S. media markets this fall. It is essentially the same animation that already has appeared in Japan and has markedly less violence than the Power Rangers cartoons. The complaint lodged now and then against the Mighty Morphins -- that their TV show is too violent -- may not apply in the case of Sailor Moon.

When Usagi and her school friends become superheroes, the transformation itself is the big thing, with flying stars and cascading rainbows and other effects on the screen. The actual fight sequences tend to be brief and mild.

The rights for many Sailor Moon toys have been licensed to Bandai. Other apparently inevitable spinoffs, such as clothes, records, candy, cake mixes, shampoo and jewelry are being auctioned to different companies.

That may mean some delay before Sailor Moon gets the kind of market saturation in the United States that the Power Rangers have. Still, Bandai has several factories working full time on its Sailor Moon line. Thus, concerned U.S. parents can rest assured that Sailor Moon dolls, the Sailor Moon Cosmic Crescent Wand and the Sailor Moon Sailor Locket will be on sale by Christmas.

In a sense, though, Sailor Moon's biggest rival in America will be neither the Power Rangers nor the assorted mobsters, motorcycle gangs and space aliens she battles on her TV program.

The real target, says Bandai's ambitious president, Yamashina, is the world's No. 1-ranking toy for girls: Barbie, the Mattel doll that earns more than $1 billion annually.

"Sailor Moon so far doesn't take in even half as much as Barbie," Yamashina said. "But then, she has never been in the world's biggest toy market -- until now.

"And we think American girls might move over toward Sailor Moon. Barbie is an excellent doll, but she has no story. Sailor Moon is a warrior on the side of justice. I mean, this girl is a superhero." CAPTION: Sailor Moon and her pet kitten, Luna.