How has it taken me this long to review Sailor Moon? Well I guess I did already review Crystal, but it is time to take on the original anime series and the one that won over my heart as a child (and more than likely planted the seed for me becoming the anime fan I am today – thanks Sailor Moon).
Welcome to the world of Serena (Usagi – though given I originally watched this dubbed on TV I’m just sticking with the English names). In her world getting up late is the norm, blaming others for being late, crying over scraped knees, and being ecstatic at the sight of food. She’s your typical middle-school girl (at least as anime proclaims typical) and while she is subjected to fairly awful 90’s fashion and colouring through the duration of the series, she’s an instantly recognisable character. A little extreme but we all know the person who is always eating, wants to sleep, and has big dreams and no drive.
If that were all there was to Serena, they probably still could have pulled out an alright series around it. I’ve certainly seen worse characters have a show built around them. But Sailor Moon is a magical girl series. For some of us, it is ‘the’ magical girl series. While it wasn’t the first, and it objectively isn’t the best, Sailor Moon was a gateway into anime back in the 90’s and there are more than a few anime fans I know who look back fondly on days of watching this series.
But that isn’t really reviewing the show so much as nostalgia tripping over it. I will admit, I have a lot of love for the klutzy heroine, even if part of me wishes they’d used her crying as a weapon in more than just the first episode. Wow, that sound is hard on the ears. I can fully understand the villains faltering in the face of that sound.
Despite that, I’m not blind to the shows many flaws. The overly bloated episode count of season 1, the extreme repetition of some of the early sequences, and the fact that the anime doesn’t get over the idea of repetition. First we have the villains collecting energy. Introduce villain, see 4 – 5 episodes of said villain failing miserably at the hands of the clearly nefarious Sailor Moon (why are these villains a threat if sleepy-head can beat them), Beryl loses her temper and villain is usually offed by his own Queen before the next one gets introduced. Rinse and repeat.
Though somewhere along the line they introduce the idea of needing to collect crystals and then we get seven nearly identical episodes of Serena or one of the other scouts bumping into someone who of course turns out to be a carrier but of course they don’t realise. Said person gets attacked, a fight breaks out, and then either the scouts, the villains, or occasionally Tuxedo Mask pick up the crystal.
Even in the latter half of the season where it feels like the show should have better things to do we have another round of repetition as Beryl’s minions set up plot after plot to ‘identify’ the mysterious Princess. And the throw-away line that they look different in real life is no excuse for not recognising Serena as Sailor Moon. Seriously, how dumb are these villains?
And yet, despite so many obvious narrative flaws and questionable execution, as well as the fact that visually this anime has definitely not aged well, there are a lot of reasons to love it.
First and foremost, Serena might be lazy, uncoordinated and downright silly at times, but she’s still an incredible female character from the 90’s. A girl who loves being a girl but also kicks butt when the occasion calls for it. Okay, she might whine a bit in the process but the sheer body count in Sailor Moon’s wake (or dust count) speaks for itself. You don’t mess with Sailor Moon. She kind of likes her sleepy and lazy life, her random crushes, her lunches with friends, and shopping. She really likes shopping. Curse the villain who gets in the way of her doing any one of these or stops any of her friends from experiencing their life.
Secondly, the rest of the scouts are amazing. Ami shows us girls with brains. Rei has grace and focus. Jupiter is the tough girl with the heart of gold (my personal favourite). And while I don’t have as much love for Venus, she certainly provides a lot of heart in the show. Their interactions are silly and trivial sometimes, deadly serious at others. At one point early on, Rei and Ami actually quit because they don’t like Serena’s leadership, but ultimately the message of the show is one of teamwork and so the Scout’s eventually come together.
Thirdly, they actually destroy their enemies. Not so impressive when compared to a lot of shounen, although if we look at Bleach, most of the people Ichigo has crossed blades with are still alive and kicking. Serena turns her enemies into Moon Dust and she does it with a fanfare of pop music and usually a floral decorated crescent moon in the background. That’s almost insulting and yet it is brilliant. She spends more time transforming and posing, her attacks take forever to power up, her weapons are absurd, and yet somehow the entire thing works beautifully.
Also, did I mention the scope of this story. I mean really. Starting from ordinary school girl we introduce magical talking cats, transforming students, magic crystals, reincarnation of an alien Princess on earth, global destruction, true love, and pretty much anything else you can think of. There’s a lot to this seemingly simple story and while at times it becomes fairly overblown, there’s something genuine about the drama here.
I guess I should probably mention Tuxedo Mask. He appears. He makes speeches. I’m going to be honest, while I quite like Darien as a character (okay, I admit he was my first anime crush), the only episode Tuxedo Mask is cool in is the one where he makes the Scouts think he just flew when instead he’s crouched just below them on a ledge.
And basically that is Sailor Moon. There are some incredibly flashy fight sequences, lots of stuff about love and friendship, some very cool lines and poses if you are into that kind of thing, and an entire cast of characters to choose from when it comes to Cosplay. Sailor Moon is a classic for a reason. And while I understand that visually it is underwhelming, and that the sound track is definitely infused with 90’s pop-rock, there’s still a real appeal here.
This is one that is well worth checking out if you missed this era. The English dubbed version (original) has a few episodes cut from it and some fairly significant edits in places, but works well enough.
Sailor Moon is where my journey into anime began and I really am thankful to it. I’m sure everyone else blogging about anime has that one show that really started them on their path to where they are now and I’d love to know what it is for you. But also, what do you think of Sailor Moon? Share your thoughts below.
Thanks for reading.
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