Okay, I think this is better to get out of the way early: I, Frank Anthony Inglese, have never seen the hit Magical Girl Anime series Sailor Moon…until now. Yes, I know, it’s incredibly irregular that an Anime fan such as myself has not seen the series that breathed new life into the sub-genre that it is now known for almost single-handedly defining. What makes this piece of information all the more peculiar is that I co-run a website dedicated to the love of all things Japanese pop culture, of which Sailor Moon is undoubtedly at the forefront even after all these years.
As the team sat down to discuss which of Madman Entertainment’s products we would be interested in reviewing, this thought came to me, and I felt as though it is my duty to experience this much-loved series once and for all. It doesn’t help that my partner happens to be a die-hard fan of the series who, on an almost daily basis up until that point, had been pressuring me into experiencing it for myself. All things considered, my decision to take on the duty of reviewing Part One of Season One was kind of a no brainer, so here we are!
Usagi Tsukino is a cheerful 14-year-old schoolgirl who often finds herself in unwanted trouble. One day, she saves a talking cat named Luna from some mean kids, and her life is changed forever. Luna gives Usagi a magic brooch that transforms her into Sailor Moon, defender of love and justice! Now Usagi must work with Luna to find the other Sailor Guardians and the Moon Princess, whose Legendary Silver Crystal is Earth’s only hope against the dark forces of the evil Queen Beryl! – Madman Entertainment
Before going into Sailor Moon my thoughts on this series were fairly cynical: “Oh boy, a series about a bunch of boy-crazed young girls who fight the forces of evil while also studying for mid-terms and dealing with drama from their personal lives. I bet this will be fun“. After watching twenty-four episodes of the series it seems as though my uneducated thoughts on Sailor Moon are similar, if not almost exactly the same, as what I think of it after watching through Part One. The first few episodes are…boring, to say the very least. Not only that, the character of Usagi Tsukino proved to be much more shallow than I had first perceived. She comes across as a ditz and, without pulling punches, a little bit of an imbecile, but her character is backed up by likable others who seem to enjoy being the voices of the audience; explaining to our pretty hero that what she is saying or doing is…not so smart.
In all honesty; the series made me genuinely laugh because of this reason alone. Yes, we do have a protagonist who is Madonna’s exact definition of a Material Girl, but she’s called out for it at least once per episode. Usagi likes pretty jewellery, she likes pretty dresses, she likes pretty trinkets, and most of all she likes pretty boys…apart from one who, despite his good looks, only proves to infuriate her. Little does she know that this man is, in fact, the masked knight in shining armour that she falls for with nothing more than a glance. The series eventually introduces us to two more Sailor Scouts, Mercury and Mars, who, in my humble opinion, are infinitely more likable than Sailor Moon. Mercury is as smart as she is kind, and Mars is a kick-arse Shrine Maiden that brings her own supernatural powers to the role of Sailor Scout. Thankfully, Mercury pretty much stays the same throughout the episodes featured in the release. Not in the way that she shows no signs of character development, but more in the way that she stays her likable self…unlike Sailor Mars who turns from a powerful, confident young fighter to someone eerily similar to that of Sailor Moon.
Most episodes made me cringe uncontrollably. Queen Beryl, the antagonist of the series, sends her henchmen to gather energy from human beings for the sake of their evil intentions. Most episodes revolve around said henchmen taking advantage of the naivety and idiocy of dim-witted human beings by orchestrating convoluted schemes similar to that of the “bad guys” from any old Hanna Barbera cartoon. Usually, Usagi and her fellow Sailor Scouts will fall for these silly tactics only to be informed by talking cat, and all-around great character, Luna that they are, in fact, in the midst of an evil plan. The Sailor Scouts will then use each of their signature moves, which at this point in time is simply one, ultimately leading to Sailor Moon landing the final blow. It is a series that is hugely predictable, and considering it is a “monster of the week” style production, you can easily estimate just what is going to happen within any given episode, BUT this series is a product of it’s time, and if you’ve watched any old Anime, much like Sailor Moon, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Sailor Moon is an Anime production from the 90s, so when it comes to visuals…there’s really not much to work off of. It is dated. That much is obvious. Unfortunately, unlike series’ like Cowboy Bebop, Sailor Moon does not hold up too well. This is why we have the remake Sailor Moon Crystal. Honestly, I felt as though the old-school visuals had a certain charm to them: All the background images were painted with what looks to be water colour. Now whether or not that’s the case, it looks that way, and it’s quite a lovely aesthetic. As far as actual animation; I can’t say I’d recommend this to anyone solely based on what it looks like, but, once again, that’s a given. This series is incredibly old. The good thing about my mindset before watching Sailor Moon is that I never expect the series’ visuals to blow me away. Why would they? I have seen Anime like One-Punch Man, something made in the 90s simply cannot compare, but that’s okay, because time doesn’t often make things better, Sailor Moon isn’t an expensive bottle of wine. Fact is; old or otherwise, the series has a charming visual nature that will keep you watching despite recycled animation or odd visual glitches.
Music, on the other hand, is one of those very few things in this world that does indeed age wonderfully. I still listen to The Doors, and I will for years to come, because some sounds are simply ageless, and in the re-release of Sailor Moon, anything that doesn’t sound wonderful is simply replaced, hence the re-dub. All new voice actors and actresses take the place of the old, and do absolutely brilliant jobs. Usagi wasn’t nearly as infuriating as she could have been thanks to Stephanie Sheh who brings a wealth of voice acting knowledge to the role. The same can be said about each and every single character: While most lines of dialogue are actually quite infuriating, they’re delivered with confidence and professionalism. Now I’ve only been shown clips of the original dub, and I have to say the new one totally leaves it in the dust. Heading back to the topic of music for just a moment: The soundtrack of Sailor Moon was incredibly impressive. You got the overwhelming feel for the late 80s/early 90s, which obviously suited the series but also gave off a real sense of nostalgia which I wouldn’t have gotten in any other case because I, as you know, never watched the original. When a series ca do that, you know that it’s doing something well!
So I’ve now watched Sailor Moon…well, I’ve now STARTED watching Sailor Moon. I still have a great deal ahead of me. Those of you reading this review who have read some of my other pieces will know that I often talk a series down but yet I still have the capacity to enjoy it. This is exactly the case with Sailor Moon: No, this isn’t my kind of Anime; it’s about a bunch of shallow girls fighting evil, and it also happens to be absurdly old…but I had a good time watching it. Yeah, some episodes really bored me, almost to tears, and some plot lines were ridiculous and unnecessary, but I can appreciate even the most unlikable things, and something I appreciate more than anything else in this world is my time, I often try not to waste it. Watching through Sailor Moon…will not be an example of how my time was wasted, because despite all I’ve said; it was very much enjoyable.
Without Sailor Moon we would not have some of the great series’ of contemporary times. Dragon Ball went on for much longer than it should have BUT it blazed a trail for other series’ so that they could eventually come to be recognised as wonderful pieces of Japanese media. The exact same thing can be said about Sailor Moon. While it featured basic characters, and a mostly basic story, it tore a hole through a creative wall that allowed the extensive imagination of countless now-successful writers to run free on a platform that is witnessed by countless people around the world. If you have any interest in the genre and want to see exactly what it has become, the best place to start is with Sailor Moon: A series that, nostalgia-fueled or otherwise, makes for time well-spent, and time well-enjoyed.
Experience it for yourself thanks to Madman Entertainment. To grab a copy of Sailor Moon (Season One) Part One Click Here.