Reviews: Sailor Moon
Shallow, pandering, and ultimately boring
(Full disclosure: I saw seasons 1-3 of the anime subtitled. Stopped because even fans don't like it after that.) This series has always been something of a sacred cow to quite a few people the world over. I'm left wondering why. The problems with the series start with its protagonist. Fourteen year old Usagi Tsukino is supposedly a loser, an overeater with a waistline most girls would kill for and an underachiever that never gets anything more than comedic retribution as a result. One day, Usagi stumbles across a sentient alien cat that awakens her as a superhero and sets her off on a quest to (indirectly) save the world. From there, Usagi clutzes around as Sailor Moon, relying on a mixture of deus ex machina, sycophancy, and moronic villains (they aren't so much genre blind as they are genre comatose) to save the day. But let's look at Usagi and her impact upon the target audience a little closer. To be blunt, Usagi is a failure at life. The show makes a big effort to communicate that. And yet, she gets phenomenal cosmic power (which she actively disdains for much of the early show), a cadre of adoring friends willing to die for her, a hot boyfriend destined to be forever loyal, and heir to the eventual throne of the world. All she did to earn this metaphorical lottery of good fortune was being literally born that way. That's right, little girls, Usagi is celebrated in spite of her incompetence because she was born into greatness. You're just out of luck. Next to none of the other characters receive nearly as much screen time or supposed character development as Usagi. Outside of Mamoru and Ami (the former still just becoming a token boyfriend after season one), everyone else is made of the finest cardboard and only serve to interact with Usagi. Then there's the rest of the show. Each season stretches an already low budget across an average of 40 episodes each. As a result, the production is low quality and feeds off itself endlessly. Lots of padding, lots of filler, lots of shortcuts, and just a cheap look and feel throughout. Fights are lethargic and anticlimactic, dialogue is ham-handed and unsubtle, and the story plods around to unsatisfying conclusions. All around, a show made of the worst excesses of childrens' escapist entertainment, with the implicit assumption they're not capable of intelligent thought.
Sailor Moon: Jumped the Shark too soon.
For those who don't know, Sailor Moon had five seasons, each one being loosely adapted from one of the manga's story arcs. The way I see it, the original first season of the show is the best. It had the best pacing, characters developing in a way that they never wore out their welcome or became annoying, excellent villains (Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, Kunzite, and Queen Beryl remain memorable), and one hell of a finale. It had it's flaws, sure, but they were few and far between, and it remains a classic in the Shojo Magical Girl genre. The second season, Sailor Moon R, began decently enough with a short, enjoyable filler arc, but things began to go downhill from there. Director Junichi Sato left and was replaced by Kunihiko Ikuhara of Utena fame. Right in the second episode of the main arc, Ikuhara made his opinion of Mamoru clear, and poor Mamoru never recovered since. The pacing also suffers, with the conflict between Rubeus and the 4 Sisters taking up half the story, with the other half shovelling in everything else. Sailor Moon S, while praised by fans for being Darker And Edgier, is riddled with problems. The characters officially undergo mass Flanderization and become annoying, with conflicts for them to deal with each episode often being ridiculously asspulled. The arc's pacing falls apart when the Witches 5 are introduced, and we spend seven episodes dealing with Eudial, seven with Mimete, and then just one each with Tellu, Viluy, and Cyprine/Pitriol respectively before rushing into the finale. Overall, a decent but highly overrated season. By Sailor Moon Super S, the original show writers had left and were replaced by new ones, and Ikuhara went all out in his fairy tale imagery, subtexts, and favoritism toward Chibiusa. The annoying flanderization of the characters continued, and not even this season's highly entertaining villains could prevent the Monster Of The Week formula from running stale. Ikuhara finally left and was replaced by Takuya Igarashi for the final season, Stars, but sadly, that didn't help matters at all; in fact, Stars was the worst yet. It's so bad, I'd need a seperate review for it! So basically, Sailor Moon is a once-great series that just kept falling further from grace with each new renaming.
For The Manga
To start off, I did see Sailor Moon as a little girl, which is why I read the manga recently - I wanted to see if it compared to what I remember. I have to say it failed on just about every level. That doesn't mean it's bad (though it's not great), but it is childish If you have been living under a rock and haven't heard, Sailor Moon is the work that defined the Magical Girl genre. Usagi/Serena is our protagonist, and is an Idiot Hero(ine). The entire world seems to revolve around her, which is a little odd because the most significant thing she does is look pretty, be friendly and long for Mamoru/Darien. Her friends lives pretty much revolve around keeping her safe, supporting her and giving her a reason to angst when something happens to them. The Outer Senshi were a bit more interesting when they had another mission, but pretty soon they fell in with the rest. Also Chibiusa had some squicky incest crush on Mamoru. Yuck! Perhaps I sound like I'm being too negative, but it felt like a very shallow series to me. The premise behind it was far more interesting than the work itself, and while I do understand why I liked it as a little girl and can appreciate the art still, I'm disappointed with how little the best parts were fleshed out. It pretty much destroyed my nostalgia for the series, though I am looking forward to reading fanfiction. Pros: -Girl Power! -Art (if you like the style) -Historical Relevance? Genre Relevence? -Lesbian Scouts (personally not my thing, as I am a Christian, but it's there for those who like it) -Mythological References -Fandom -Narm Charm Cons: -Usagi is boring -Lackluster villains -Character Development is lacking -Chibiusa's parental crush -The most interesting parts remain unexplored -Art is often sketchy -Though arcs did differ slightly, once a formula was established, it would be repeated for all the characters it applied to (Ex: the Sailor Scouts realizing their dreams during the third arc) In conclusion, this probably isn't worth your time if you haven't read it, and if your looking to indulge your nostalgia, this may kill it. Instead, I recommend fanfiction, the Abridged Series, or (i second the recommendation of) Princes Tutu which sounds girlier, but is well fleshed out and mind-blowing instead.
Comparing anime and manga
I know some people prefer manga over anime and vice versa, though as for me I prefer manga no matter what people say about it. To be honest the manga more bloody and violent at the start when the anime is goody-goody... on second though maybe not. The anime since the beginning take different turn in some part that as fan of manga even though I read it after watching anime really disappointing. The generals in first arc is actually Mamoru Chiba's retainer when he was Endymion and actually paired with inner senshi. And it's not fanon either because Naoko Takeuichi actually drew artwork that featuring the pairing. Sadly none of it make it to the manga except Venus X Kunzite in Sailor V manga that blink and you'll miss It moment and only one panel too. But the anime featured homo pairing among the generals for who knows why... and make them died forever unlike residing in stones protecting their prince in manga. Strangely in second arc, the anime went for saving the villain with Defeat Means Friendship so the black sisters saved then become normal human, In a way this arc is lighter than the manga and probably more well written rather than manga with more drama. The next arc... you will either love it or hate it...putting another canon homo pairing, with Uranus and Neptune when in manga they are best friend but definitely not lover. Anime did a good job with their back story but that's it... when they did go against sailor Moon and other sailors, and disagree with their naive way of thinking... Uranus and Neptune in manga never showed downright rebellious and violent behavior to other soldiers. From here I think the anime tried to take more mature storyline compared to manga... that's good and well but all of these are downright out of character in manga and Naoko Takeuchi in her fanbook expressed her disappointment.. The next arc can be considered okay and even better written battle scene but completely missed some good scene from manga. The last arc.... when it considered climax and probably have potential more than other arc, severely chopped with adding some scene that make the arc more tragic but killing enjoyment for me. You may hate and love it... either way.
The anime was better.
You would see many "true" fans bemoan how the Anime series butchered Sailor Moon with it's repetitive plots, characterization and animation compared to the "Master Piece" that was the original. BULLOCKS I say. Honestly, the manga was so cheesy it was absurd. Just for a moment take out the Eldritch Abomination type monsters, the deaths and brutality that marks it as "edgier" and "profound" and... you will get a series so silly it makes Dragon Ball look intellectual. From the scale of time, to space to the sheer ABSURDITY of power levels, Sailor Moon Manga reads like a bad Fanfic. When you can pulverize entire planets and revive at will, create Planetary level castles, bend time and space to create an Utopic Thousand year + long Japanese Empire (Sieg Heil) and put things like Universe/dimension level scale of battle who are not the big bad, you had go beyond ga-ga to the realm of Crack cocain. Okay, okay, it's not so bad and I shouldn't be bashing, but let's be honest; in a sense of plot focus, time and space size + effort, energy use, age relativility and scale of battles; Sailor Moon the Animated series is simply more grounded, detailed, focused and easy to swallow. Yes, its equally silly but it's like comparing Fooly Cooly silliness to Bobobo Bo Bobobo sillyness. In sense of style... I honestly dig more the Anime but this is just my preference. The manga just went a little overboard in the bishie sparkle. I like better the Rei pop/hard spiritual woman to the Does Not Like Men virgin vow and at least they don't slaughter the cats and be done with it, the bastards. So, I'm decreeing the Manga was inferior? Well yes. There is a reason why the Anime is the International force than the Manga and it's not lack of distribution or ignorance, since it was distributed and since 7 years ago, is easily accesible through internet, enough time to take it's rightfull place as the superior version to the old and new generation. Without the Anime, Sailor moon would have been a relatively popular but eventually forgotten manga of the 90's. Shouldn't you read it? Of course not. Read it and enjoy it, but don't believe the hearsay that just because it was the original it make it more pure or truer. That because it has death and monster and more ruthless protagonist it make's it better. Enjoy it as a rightful AU.
First Season; Early charm to later convolution
The first season (or, more accurately, series) of Sailor Moon, where it all begins. Watch as Usagi ascends into superheroics, gathers the team of destiny, and gets some vaguely shocking revelations about her true nature while fighting against the machinations of the Queen Beryl and her Dark Kingdom. The first seven episodes before Usagi recruits any of the other senshi have kind of a cheesy charm to them. Maybe it's because Usagi's civilian life is actually plausible, with her just acting like an ordinary Japanese girl without the baggage she ends up gaining in later episodes. It actually even seems like her superhero identity is tertiary, what with having to be reminded by Luna to save anything. It makes her fangirling of Sailor V seem rather bizarre by comparison. Right from the first episode, you will be introduced to the series' fondness for coincidence. Usagi is given hair clips that relay the distress of civilians, but they're quickly forgotten because Usagi apparently can't go to the mall without stumbling upon the Dark Kingdom's latest plot to drain civilians of energy. Indeed, there is almost no investigation required for the team because nearly everything comes to them. The other recurring coincidence lies in Tuxedo Kamen. You will learn to expect that tossed rose somehow stopping everything so he can offer cryptic statements and a window of opportunity for Usagi to save the day. The series is shameless about it. In fact, it seems Usagi is incapable of really doing anything on her own. She either needs encouragement or a distraction before she can use her battle ending special attack. Perhaps she just can't remember to do it on her own? Eventually, the highly foreshadowed backstory behind the events is explained in all of about one episode. Odds are pretty good you've had it spoiled already, but I still won't say anything. What I will say is that it uses a lot of pushbutton terms and arching themes involving destiny to hide the fact that it's ultimately pretty shallow. It also has the unfortunate effect of making the series less interesting. Proof that the mundane is often more interesting than the fantastic. By the end, the series introduces way too many characters along with establishing a disdain for the mundane and an over-reliance on magic for everything. Make of it what you will.
Even the crappy North American dub is known for having great music. But besides this in-series BGM, Toei has released a TON of C Ds, to go along with all the rest of their merchandising craze. What people don't realize is that even if you dislike the show, it's not all girly J-POP to go with it. Much of it is, the image songs, etc., but this out-of-print and less-known CD is a real gem. Performed by K. T. & the Moonlight Band, this CD has 9 inventive covers of some of the most well-loved Sailor Moon songs out there. First, naturally, is Moonlight Densetsu, the most famous song, and a brassy and snoozy take with some nice guitar for an opener. Then the listener is jolted awake by Starlight Ni Kissu Shite, Sailor Jupiter's R image song. This rearrangement has taken the original's bright property and gave it a Latin flair. Next is another quite unexpectedly great rearrangement, of Moon Revenge, a song from the R movie. The original song has the five seiyuu singing the loud song with a fast tempo. This arrangement slows it far down and adds a piercing trumpet and almost a swing to it, that makes it sound mysterious and even better than the older one. Otome No Policy does justice to the original's breezy style with an interesting choice of instruments, and Koisuru Otome wa Makenai! is a slower, swinging version of the original. It seems uninspired, but the following number, I am Sailormoon, which is originally a cheerful image song of Usagi, is slowed down considerably and the melody is played sweetly on a lone flute. It sounds much more melodic this way, but never too heavy. Fire Soul Love, Sailor Mars' image song, follows up with a much brassier sound, and blasts with the tempo much faster. This is probably the only one I don't think did justice to the original. Ai Wa Energy slows it down quite a lot, and takes a completely different but delightful spin on the old one. Tuxedo Mirage is the romantic last one, which is more melodic than the original. Since it's out of print, download it here. All in all it's a very interesting, and shows just the kind of creativity it takes to make good covers. I regret that K. T. & The Moonlight Band never put anything else out. I wish the band had put out more.
There's something about Sailor Moon...
When anime fans start talking about shows that began their interest in Japanese animation, many people point to the fact that their first experience with anime (whether they knew it or not at the time) is Sailor Moon. It's one of those anime shows that people fondly remember as the basis of "how to do anime right" for future shows of its kind. Even when comparing it with today's new trends, plots, characters and animation, it is easy to notice why Sailor Moon is fondly accepted into the hearts of anime fans around the world. In my eyes, you could not have picked a better anime to become immersed into the anime world than with Sailor Moon. And a big reason for that is the intricate and well-developed plot, arguably the strongest feature Sailor Moon presents. At the surface, you can say that it's your typical "children rising up to save the world" theme. However, this magic girl anime show presented unbelievable twists to the plot that included five different main story arcs with amazing depth to each of them and somehow, it always able to weave itself flawlessly back to the central theme that encompassed Sailor Moon. To top it all of, when you watched Sailor Moon, it was able to emotionally draw you into the show with ease, where you undoubtedly had your favorite Sailor Soldier and actually cared about each and every character and what happened to them. Because of its early 90's creation, the art obviously seems old-fashioned and not as crisp as what you watch nowadays. But if you really think about, each character was drawn well, each given different physical characteristics that separated each one from another and the backdrops used were well detailed to an extent. In all, it still holds up very well, even in today's times. All in all, Sailor Moon is one of the shows that started the anime trend outside of Japan and they could not have picked a better show to showcase than the Sailor Moon franchise. With a great cast of characters, a lengthy, emotional series involving epic clashes between good vs. evil, a highly well-developed plot, and a real heart to it. Sailor Moon is a show that if any younger anime fans out there haven't seen, or if the older ones thought was too "mushy" you should give it another try. Who knows, you might just like it.