Anime Vice News

SAILOR MOON CRYSTAL #1 & 2 -- Special Review

Now that the second episode's out, how does this franchise fair after 25 years?

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.

Unless you're punching/shooting them with a tiara, of course.
Unless you're punching/shooting them with a tiara, of course.

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.

CG Prism Make Up!
CG Prism Make Up!

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.

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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.

metalsnakezeroon July 22, 2014 at 8:35 a.m.

Well at least the CG shows up in the transformation which is kinda fitting since it is a other worldly place.

Halberdierv2on July 22, 2014 at 8:46 a.m.

i decided to watch this since while i did peripherally watch the original, i didn't have access to be able to watch it that much, so I only knew about the story. watching this back now, this definitely still has the "Villian of the Week (or fortnight, in this case)" archetype, which is a bit disappointing, but then again, I am watching a Shoujo. its kind of okay, i'd continue watching it, but being released once every 2 weeks is going to damper the impact quite a bit on me.

sickVisionz moderator on July 22, 2014 at 9:37 a.m.
It was definitely a gateway anime for me, maybe even more so than RONIN WARRIORS (which I couldnever catch all the episodes for).

Man, that show always ended like at most, 7 minutes after I got off the school bus. I think I would have loved it had I actually been able to watch it. By the time summer hit it was off the air.

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.

Haha, we were completely polar opposite little boys. I never got into fights in real life but I damn sure loved watching them in cartoons. Spider-Man, Voltron, X-Men, GI Joe, Saber Rider... I soaked that stuff up like a sponge. The only cartoon I could ever relate to was Life with Louie.

Murphix staff on July 22, 2014 at 10:22 a.m.

@sickVisionz said:

It was definitely a gateway anime for me, maybe even more so than RONIN WARRIORS (which I couldnever catch all the episodes for).

Man, that show always ended like at most, 7 minutes after I got off the school bus. I think I would have loved it had I actually been able to watch it. By the time summer hit it was off the air.

This is exactly what happened with me, only with summer camp. By the time I figured out how to program the VCR the show was off the air!

@sickVisionz said:

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.

Haha, we were completely polar opposite little boys. I never got into fights in real life but I damn sure loved watching them in cartoons. Spider-Man, Voltron, X-Men, GI Joe, Saber Rider... I soaked that stuff up like a sponge. The only cartoon I could ever relate to was Life with Louie.

Oh I still watched a ton of boys shows too (90s Spider-Man in particular), but the girl shows gave me more to think about.

AURON570on July 22, 2014 at 3:42 p.m.

Feel free to drop by the Sailor Moon discussion thread if you have any further thoughts/comments on the show!

I'm also a little irked by the slender character designs and very large eyes. But otherwise it is very interesting for me to watch Sailor Moon from a new interpretive perspective.

Also I think it is a bad idea for people who are completely new to Sailor Moon to both watch the original and Crystal. Just pick one and go with it. Stop worrying/nitpicking about differences, or getting the 'authentic experience starting from the original'. There's no 'right way' to get into a series, everyone's experience with this or that show is going to be unique so just go with it and enjoy the show for the first time.

takashichea moderator is online on July 22, 2014 at 4:07 p.m.

@AURON570:

I'm actually watching both. You're right to relax and enjoy both series. Sometimes, you get used to the original, the new one feels a bit funny. You can't resist nitpicking.

For me, it's just the characters don't have a lot of expressions.

YotaruVegetaon July 22, 2014 at 6:21 p.m.

I love that the transformations take longer than the actual battle, and the villain is dispatched so trivially.

I didn't really watch the old Sailor Moon, but now I'm fully on board. With all the damn fan service in the form of harems and body parts focused on for way too long, this is so welcome.

TheFangKingon July 30, 2014 at 9:59 a.m.

When I heard Crystal was being put out, I practically hyperventilated. I had watched the original series as a child, and had VHS tapes, DVDs... I even went as far as to purchase the collectible dolls and figurines. I was such a fan..

Watching Crystal really brought back a lot of feels. Nostalgia, mainly. I had a hankering to go back and re-watched the entire original series too.

As far as aesthetics and animation, both were equally impressive considering their times, so I'm not overwhelmed, but seeing the brand new version transformation was definitely a high light for my summer.

Dig Deeper into Sailor Moon Crystal

Sailor Moon must find the Illusionary Silver Crystal alongside the other guardians in order to keep a princess safe. However, Queen Beryl sends in minions hoping to rectify that and snatch the crystal from the guardian's clutches.

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