Jab’s Reviews: Sailor Moon (The Entire Anime Series) Part 2

My Sailor Moon Story:
-Bold statement: Nobody has ever loved anything as teenaged Jab loved Sailor Moon.

I LOVED this show when I was in High School. In a time when it was massively uncool for a boy to watch a “show for girls”, I was like openly talking about this to several of my male friends at the time. I remember seeing snippets of it at first, glossing it over as a silly, powdery girl show, and making fun of it with my buddies at school. Then one day I was SUPER-bored after school (it aired at 4:30 on YTV in Canada I believe) and caught an episode… it ended up being the EPIC story where the Scouts met up with the spirit of Queen Serenity, who showed them their entire history with the Moon Kingdom, and then they subsequently killed the villainous Malachite. THEN, the next episode was the major “Them (vs) Beryl and the Doom & Gloom Girls” story. Bam. Hooked. Just like that. What a series of episodes to run through to start my fandom with this show (not in any way diminished by learning just HOW edited and hacked-up that finale was- they took two ultraviolent episodes- even for JAPAN- and merged them into one where you couldn’t see the girls die, and everything was shortened in general). Plus, all the ladies in it (especially one Raye Hino… *sigh*…) were extremely hot, and I was like fifteen.

I became a HUGE fan of the series, and told my best friend at the time about it- he was hesitant to like it at first, but pretty soon we were a couple of secret Sailor Moon marks, hiding it from our ultra-macho High School buddies. This was my first major introduction to anime fandom (I loved Astro Boy and Saber Rider & the Star Sheriffs as a kid, but never realized they were Japanese, being like seven or something), and I became one of those classic mid-90s teenage anime fans, who had no outlet for the love aside from what was shown on TV at the time- VHS tapes cost a FORTUNE at that time, meaning I could only look wistfully at them at the local HMV store. Season Boxed Sets? HAH- not even a thing. So this meant watching Sailor Moon and Hello Kitty for my anime fix, pretty much, as the Animesplosion that Dragon Ball Z started (and Naruto & Bleach later ultimized) was YEARS away.

I watched Sailor Moon R (the Japanese name for the second season), then the ACTUAL start of Sailor Moon R (infamously, North American TV stations aired the seasons out of order for no apparent reason), then the actual original season… then became enraged because the magic 65 episode number (the amount needed for syndication) was ALL THEY EVER DUBBED. Yeah, they cancelled the series due to low ratings (it was big in Canada, but not in the States), and I had to go onto the internet (something not every household had way back in 1996-97) to find out the fate of the show- THEN I was introduced to the fandom proper.

I discovered there were Sailors OTHER than the Main Five, that there were five seasons overall, and that we’d almost never get the new episodes without a “Save Our Sailors” campaign, back in the day when every single website ever was part of a Webring and full of Shrines to individual favourite characters… I almost kinda miss that form of the internet (before perversion and 4channishness had created its own unique “culture”), but it was pretty chaotic and hard to find good stuff back in the day. You were lucky to cycle through the Anime Web Turnpike and find one or two good “Rei Hino Shrines” which mostly copied information from each other, and were written in the third person.

So yeah- I was a monster Sailor Moon fan right here. By the time they FINALLY got the last episodes of Sailor Moon R dubbed, I was sadly out of the fandom by that point (it was about TWO YEARS; an eternity in teenage years) and mostly glossed it over, though I caught most of it. I saw Sailor Moon S for the most part, but found it utterly boring and full of lame villains (despite the added Sailors and the lesbian subtext). Super S got dubbed as well I believe, but I was so out of the fandom that I didn’t even care.

Nonetheless, now that I’m older (and wiser?), I can look back with a fresh mind at all these old episodes and characters, and I really appreciate it. I find myself more tired of the goofy antics, “Crying Girl” faces, occasional bad dubbing and the eventual sameness and stupidity of the villain designs, but the villains in the first two seasons are AWESOME (among the best General-type characters ever in anime or animation in general- I seek to copy this mentality every chance I get), the action is occasionally pretty sweet (the Tidus fight, the occasional times the Scouts took REAL Battle Damage, the Season One Finale, and of course Nephlite’s infamous last stand), and there are some GREAT characters and unusual archetypes here, from back before every anime seemed to be a crappy shonen anime about “getting stronger”.

The New Dub:
-Some professional anime-voiceover people are responsible for the New Dub, and it’s pretty decent. Hearing Frankie Stein as Sailor Mercury, and Madeline Hatter as Queen Beryl & Berthier is a hoot. Though sadly their attempts at matching the dialogue as closely as possible (tragically, we lose lines like “Silence, you self-righteous prick!” from Prince Demande) means that we lose a lot of emotion from some of the dialogue. Though it’s easy to make fun of the Original Dub, it seemed like the actors had more talent and impact. Sailor Mars sounds much older these days (though oddly, the actress- the cutest of the bunch, naturally- looks of a pretty normal age), Jupiter isn’t as good as when she was Susan Roman, etc. Ami is definitely better, though- the previous one had a REALLY squeaky voice. Stephanie Sheh does pretty good as Usagi (who is supposed to be annoying- she’s about 1/5th as annoying as the actual Japanese V.A.), but part of me will always enjoy the Canadian girl who played her before (if only because she used the same voice for the ultra-vulgar John Callahan’s Quads).

The Show’s Flaws:
-There’s assorted other Flaws that you’ll find in the series, however:

Lack of Character Development After a Point: The non-Moon Sailors get NO character development or focus after a point! This is the worst flaw of the entire show, and one that most later series wouldn’t make- you actually learn almost NOTHING about the daily lives of the girls in the anime (the manga shows a bit more). We never find out why Rei lives with her Grandfather, or what Makoto & Minako’s parents are like- we literally never see them, nor hear about them. In TWO-HUNDRED EPISODES, four of the main six characters never have their family appear at all, and we never meet the parents of Uranus & Neptune either. Hell, none of them even hook up with guys, or actually deal with personal things except for a one-episode-focus per season! And even THOSE eventually lead nowhere! The show creates these fantastic, interesting supporting characters (like Ami’s love interest Urawa, or Mako’s “Platonic Male Friend”), and then lets them wither on the vine with no mention once they’ve outlived their usefulness to the immediate. This is indefensible- the manga sidesteps this by having all the girls declare vows of chastity to Sailor Moon, but this creates the same problem (a bland, non-moving supporting cast).

And honestly, it’s so fix-able. And would NEVER happen nowadays- writers are usually much better about showcasing the other characters and making sure that everyone at least gets backstory.

Part of what irks me is that it would be amazing to do, like… a Mars/Jupiter episode. Explore the contrasts between them (the two toughest Inner Sailors, but both with a lot of human frailty and fragility to them), deal with a conflict between them, etc. Or pair Mars & Mercury up like the old days. Or Mercury/Venus- can she corral the extra-insane “Usagi but more” Venus? The first Sailor Stars arc actually features a ton of fun bits in the Nehalennia story by pairing up oddball combinations like Pluto/Venus and Mars/Neptune, and the novelty is AMAZING. These characters are so fully-formed that you can get a lot out of things like that (in many ways, Neptune is what most of the girls WANT to be, but moreso, is what Mars PRETENDS to be- there’s a lot to unpack, there!).

Repetitive Filler: The whole “Villain creates a new craze and tries to drain energy” thing gets cliched FAST, especially with three different sets of villains doing it.

Dumb Villains Running Away: What with the Generals usually being more powerful than the Sailors, you’d think they’d actually stick around and KILL THEM before they became too big a threat. But no- every General creates a monster and then runs away. This is especially bad for guys like Jadeite & Nephrite, who could probably curbstomp the tiny early groups of Sailors.

Weak Early Animation: The animation is classic Early Nineties Anime- kind of crappy. They’ll have moments here or there, but usually it’s very jerky, and the show is REALLY big on “sudden frame jump” stuff where they go from neutral to a big crazy pose without any frames in between. One of the directors is particularly horrible- you can spot him a mile away because he draws “Triangle Eyes”, giving everyone some odd looks. Even five years later, animation in the business would drastically improve- if there was ever an anime that needed an upgrade into a shiny new version, it was this one. By the last few seasons of the show, the animation is far improved- the “watercolor painted backgrounds” fade away and we get real focus on that aspect.

It Can Be… Pretty Silly: Too much goofiness for my tastes, especially as I got older. It’s a little funny for the girls to stick their tongues out at each other or be bratty, but nowadays it looks like something for little kids (technically speaking, it kind of was originally, but was meant to have a more branching fanbase as well)- especially with the fountains of tears, the excessive “pratfall” reactions, etc. They use the anime slapstick cliches in OVERDRIVE here.

Interesting Story… Ruined By Fighting!: Interesting characters and ideas are often left by the wayside so that we can get a standard-issue fight scene, which, to be honest, were never the show’s strong suit.

Jupiter & Venus Get Shafted: Several, SEVERAL times, all-important “Sailor Focus” episodes are compressed so that Jupiter & Venus have to share. Even in seasons full of ridiculous one-off stories (that damn kid and his POMMEL HORSE!).

The Basic Story:
Sailor Moon:
 The Dark Kingdom/Negaverse shows up, being led by Queen Metalia and her minion Queen Beryl (no idea why they needed TWO Queens, though). Beryl uses four Generals (all named after a type of green precious metal ending in “-ite”). They need Energy for Metalia to take over the planet. Young teenager Usagi is contacted by a talking cat named Luna, and turned into Sailor Moon. After going solo for a few episodes (with the mysterious Tuxedo Mask helping), she quickly forms a trio with Sailors Mercury & Mars. They are soon joined by Sailors Jupiter & Venus. The Dark Kingdom tries to get the Seven Rainbow Crystals while everyone’s searching for “The Moon Princess”, which turns out to be Sailor Moon. The Crystals form the Silver Crystal (given some long-ass name in Japan), and all the Generals end up getting killed. In a final, epic battle, all the Sailors die saving Sailor Moon, who goes on to unlock the full power of the Crystal, vaporizing both Evil Queens, and dying. Her final act is to resurrect everybody, with no memories of their past.

Sailor Moon R- Part 1: The memory loss lasts exactly one episode, as Ail & An, two weird aliens, come to Earth to steal energy for their Doom Tree. The Sailors reform, and the whole gang realizes that the Aliens and their Tree are good.
Sailor Moon R- Part 2: The Black Moon Family arrives, trying to darken various points of Tokyo, in order to weaken it. They’re from the future, when Neo-Queen Serenity rules the world, and they want their piece of it. We also meet a certain Pink Spore named Chibi-Usa, who turns out to be Usagi & Tuxedo Mask’s child from the future. Sailor Pluto also debuts as a background character.

Sailor Moon S: Sailors Neptune & Uranus debut, working on their own to stop The Witches 5, Professor Tomoe, and Master Pharaoh 90, some weird alien intelligence looking for the Holy Grail (three items of power) and The Dark Messiah, who will end the world. There’s a ton of pseudo-religious stuff going on, and it’s all very confusing. Sailor Saturn debuts at the end to do the “I die using my powers, but then am resurrected” bit. Sailor Moon is, of course, The Messiah who saves everyone. Tragically, Chibi-Usa becomes Sailor Chibi/Mini-Moon.

Sailor Moon SuperS: The Dead Circus or whatever attacks with their goofy-looking henchmen. Queen Nehellenia wants to gaze into people’s Dream Mirrors to find out who’s holding Pegasus. Sailor Chibi-Moon is of course integral to the plot, in one of the silliest, and most-hated, seasons.

Sailor Stars: Sailor Galaxia, an evil Sailor, and her band of Sailors from across the stars, come to Earth to mess everyone up. The Sailor Starlights, a band of three women who transform into male singers, make their debut. Sailor Moon becomes godly-powerful, and resurrects everyone once they die.

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