When SAILOR MOON CRYSTAL was announced a few months back, I must admit I gasped audibly and my eyes glistened, shoujo-style, in anticipation. I vividly remember getting up early for school one day and discovering the original SAILOR MOON anime on at 5:30 AM on my local WB affiliate, and setting my alarm to 5:25 from then on to catch every single episode. It was definitely a gateway anime for me, maybe even more so than RONIN WARRIORS (which I could never catch all the episodes for).
And sure, I knew it was a show for girls. I was a little embarrassed to be caught watching it by my parents or younger siblings, but in general I found that I enjoyed “girl” cartoons more than “boy” cartoons. Cartoons aimed at boys featured a lot of problems that were solved by punching or shooting, which I didn't find terribly relatable as I was taught that punching is not a suitable way to solve problems and that shooting was simply out of the question.
Girl-targeted toons, however, tended to feature emotional conflicts. Stuff like disagreeing with your friends, dealing with that annoying classmate, or even the general “you hurt my feelings” sort of stuff was much closer to what I experienced in my life. And sure it was acted out by pastel-colored ponies or princesses or whatever, but I didn’t really care about that because I could empathize. Feelings aren’t things you can punch.
Which is why I was drawn to original SAILOR MOON anime, also called PRETTY GUARDIAN SAILOR MOON. “Serena” (who we now know as Usagi) had to deal with anthropomorphizations of people’s negative emotions and thoughts. The minions in the show would exploit an emotional weakness in someone and use it to turn them into a monster. When Sailor Moon fought someone, she wasn’t fighting that person but rather that person’s loneliness or self-hate or a selfish desire. Sure that seems old hat now in a post-MADOKA MAGICA world, but this was pretty different in the day.
In this sense, SAILOR MOON is a precursor to nerd favorite BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, which used the monster of the week as a metaphor for growing up and dealing with all the crap the world throws at you.
So perhaps I set my expectations too high for SAILOR MOON CRYSTAL. I tuned in to these first two episodes and realized that I was remembering the show through the ol’ nostalgia filter as this is most definitely a franchise for young girls. And while (as I’ve previously stated) that’s totally OK, it didn’t have the epic impact I was anticipating. It’s well paced and structured, with plot threads colliding at just the right times, but right now the stakes are low.
I like the fact that they’re taking the best bits of the original manga and the first series to make a sort of “remastered” version a la JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE and HUNTER X HUNTER, but you’d think that with the original material complete that there would be a more consistent delivery schedule. For whatever reason CRYSTAL only airs on the first and third Saturdays of the month, and if there’s a fifth Saturday I’m guessing we’re plum out of luck.
I would have preferred they use that additional time to use a more traditional style of animation for the all-important transformation sequence. What we get instead is this janky, lower framerate CG sequence that just takes you out of the experience (I know I’m echoing Tom and I’s recent Vice Pit entry here, but it’s still true). And did anyone else feel like Usagi’s arm is just a couple of miles too long in those first few shots?
Though perhaps I'm being too nitpicky here. The rest of the show is a shoujo delight, with bright colors, fluid animation, and eyes the size of grapefruits that try to suck out your soul. Even the rose covered borders that are a hallmark of the "girls comics" make appearances to great effect.
But it’s still the same Sailor Moon we know and remember all the same. Go into SAILOR MOON CRYSTAL with the right frame of reference and you’re going to be transported, but perhaps the impact of this revolutionary franchise has dulled a bit in the 25 years it’s been around.
About the Author
Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd who has contributed to many nerd websites. You can reach him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter @Murphix.