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SAILOR MOON & The Art of the Anime Remake - - OTAKU COMING HOME

What to expect when you’re expecting. In Part 3 of "Everything Old Is New Again," Nick examines why we seem to be surrounded by remakes. Do they reaffirm the quality of our favorite stories or do they signal the end of creativity? SOMEBODY TELL ME HOW TO FEEL!

I don’t like standing in line or shelling out money for something I think I’ve already seen (Hollywood has trained me to gag at the prospect, actually). Even so, more and more anime remakes are clogging up my instant queues, streaming content and Amazon wishlist lately. They’re everywhere, climbing over the fences, banging on your door and clamoring for your attention.

To try and sort through the lot of ‘em, and to understand why some work while others (though a seemingly rare occurrence in anime) fail, over the past few weeks we’ve categorized the unruly beasts as follows:

  • The “Reimagined” Remake
  • The “Manga” Remake
  • The “We Don’t Know Yet” Remake (as in, not enough information out there yet)

Our not-so-impartial study - - also known as one dude’s opinion - - has found that “Reimagined Remakes” are probably the most creatively successful (and my favorite) while “Manga Remakes” might be hit or miss depending on the approach (even if they’re the ones most likely to make fans blindly happy).

Itchy... Scratchy.... Panel... For panel... Remake... Itchy... Scratchy...
Itchy... Scratchy.... Panel... For panel... Remake... Itchy... Scratchy...

But how do we reconcile our last category, the “We Don’t Know Yet” Remake? These are shows that have been animated in some capacity at least once before, and have remakes currently in the works. Thing is, we don’t really know a whole lot about them... Yet.

Do we blindly cheer on our favorites, anxiously awaiting every crumb of news? Roll our eyes at yet another remake whilst shaking our fists at the networks/studios for greenlighting something we’ve seen before rather than supporting creativity with a new/exciting show? Should a remake be automatically written off, even if you haven’t seen the original?


To figure it out, let’s look at two remakes due to hit in the coming months, each from an end of the spectrum. One's a favorite series of mine being remade, and the other I’ve never experienced.

"Please, please... don&squot;t let my remake suck."
"Please, please... don't let my remake suck."


Release Type: Broadcast TV (presumably) followed by DVD/Blu-ray release (presumably)

Nick’s Franchise Experience Level: In the name of the moon, I will school you.

Should We Be Excited? Yes.

I’m not gonna bore you guys with my love of SAILOR MOON. I’ve already done that at length. The short version is that SAILOR MOON is secretly an awesome show for everybody, not just girls. It mixes shonen and shojo tropes effortlessly and mainstreamed a new genre. It’s awesome.

So what makes this particular remake one worth cheering for? We only know a handful of details so far, but what’s been revealed is enough to get my attention:

  • All new animation, not a DRAGON BALL KAI debacle
  • It’s a series, not an OVA or film
  • Toei is behind the new show and, for the most part, they did a superb job with the original
  • It’s due out starting next summer

Regardless of whether it’s a “Manga Remake” or a “Reimagined Remake,” this new iteration of SAILOR MOON promises to, at least, provide fans with something special in the new animation. It also has designs on being a lengthy series, which means there’s more to invest yourself in than a movie or OVA would offer.

"Just an OVA?" Pfft... what kind of pansies do you take us for?"
"Just an OVA?" Pfft... what kind of pansies do you take us for?"

More valuable than what it can do for existing fans, however, is what it can do for those who’ve never experienced the original. Where DRAGON BALL Z has never really left the collective unconscious thanks to video games and constant DVD re-releases, and EVANGELION is always being talked about, SAILOR MOON is more like RUROUNI KENSHIN and other mid-90’s favorites: fondly remembered but rarely seen since its conclusion. Their remakes, however, couldn’t be more different.

Where the RUROUNI KENSHIN: NEW KYOTO ARC OVA's seek to highlight a fan-favorite storyline in celebration of the show's anniversary, the new SAILOR MOON opts to invite newcomers and initiates alike into the fold. The KENSHIN approach is a great one and certainly isn’t a members-only affair, but we old timers have the most to gain from the material.

And, just to butter you up, Kodansha's been releasing a faithful translation of the manga. Come next summer, you'll be BEGGING for the new anime.
And, just to butter you up, Kodansha's been releasing a faithful translation of the manga. Come next summer, you'll be BEGGING for the new anime.

The new SAILOR MOON, however, is kicking the doors open wide. With the manga finally getting a faithful translation/release in the U.S., one that’s topping the graphic novel sales charts month after month, it seems like the story still has legs 20 years later. It’s catching the attention of both a new generation of fans and those who grew up with the show. There’s a timeless quality to the story, one that makes it as accessible to folks today as it was to me when I was growing up.

And that leads me directly into our next example:

Coming all the way from 1963 to a theater near... well, not you, but near some Japanese folks.
Coming all the way from 1963 to a theater near... well, not you, but near some Japanese folks.

Title: 009 RE:CYBORG

Release Type: Theatrical Release (Japan/Asia) followed by DVD/Blu-ray (international)

Nick’s Franchise Experience Level: I’m sure I’ve heard of this before. Wait... No, no, I’m wrong.

Should We Be Excited? Well, *I* am.

FACT: I know next to nothing about CYBORG 009

FACT: I’m still excited about this movie.

I’m sure I’ve heard of CYBORG 009 in passing before now, but it never registered on my radar the way GHOST IN THE SHELL or its ilk did (despite those shows/books/films owing CYBORG 009 a great debt). It wasn’t until I saw the latest trailer (on a comic news website, no less) that my curiosity was piqued.

Beautiful animation? Check. Cool-looking action? Uh-huh. Awesome character design? Oh yeah. An intriguing story? Yup (admittedly I had to dig into the internet to learn more, as the trailer was mainly eye candy).

What really got my attention though was the history of the franchise. Its basic themes - - Cold War fears coupled with a loss of freedom/control -- are just as timeless as the fairytale-esque SAILOR MOON. Though I’d never really heard of it, a 50-year-old series with multiple adaptations under its belt finally caught my attention thanks to a new remake.

Ha! Got him! Fifth time's the charm.
Ha! Got him! Fifth time's the charm.

When I set out to write this article, I planned on emailing your pal and mine, Sam Weller, to chat about CYBORG 009 since I’ve heard he’s quite a fan. I wanted to get some context for the title’s history, hear someone talk about how much they’ve loved it, all that stuff. But then it occurred to me that my not knowing about it was actually more important. My lack of knowledge, but being no less excited about the release, has given us the final piece of our “Remake” study. It’s the last bit of context we needed to understand not only where anime remakes succeed and fail but, more importantly, how we should regard them as fans.

Let’s put all of our conclusions from the past few weeks together then, shall we?

The successful anime remake takes a series or film, with timeless themes that transcend format, and reinterprets it for fans both new and old, showing respect for the source without falling prey to reverence.

So are anime remakes the death of creativity? Nah. In fact, Hollywood and its endless stream of vapid remakes could learn a thing or two from Japan. Though when done wrong they cause us intestinal discomfort, anime remakes done right are really something special: a celebration of the shows we love, inviting a new generation to check out the stories we count among our favorites, and worthy of our praise and excitement.

I’ll line up for that, cash in hand, even if I do think I’ve already seen it. Odds are there’s enough new in there to surprise me, and enough old to make me smile.

Nick Tapalansky is the author of comics and other things, some of them nominated for awards and stuff. Read some comics for free at and find him on Twitter as @NickTapalansky.

Kuro_Sanon Oct. 9, 2012 at 12:22 p.m.

Giant Robo 90's OVA series is a monster of a reimagined remake, so is Shin Mazinger. (Both directed by the same guy)

YotaruVegetaon Oct. 9, 2012 at 12:24 p.m.

Once you see the new 009 movie, you might want to see the TV series that was shown on Cartoon Network.

NickTapalansky staff on Oct. 9, 2012 at 5:56 p.m.


I'll check 'em out. What's the difference from the originals?


Was that the 2001 series? There's been a couple! In the case of CYBORG 009 I'd be really curious to work my way backwards in the adaptations to see what's evolved, what's been added back in from the source, etc.

Kuro_Sanon Oct. 9, 2012 at 6:56 p.m.

@NickTapalansky: Giant Robo is a curious case of a studio having the titular robot rights, but not the rights to the pilot and other characters, so the director decided to use characters from other mangas from the same author of Giant Robo and give it an awesome retro animation and the best music in the story of anime (not joking here, the OST CD are seven one for each OVA and heavily inspired by Wagner)

Shin Mazinger was a little bit different, it was the classical cast fused with characters of other Go-Nagai works. Pretty damn awesome openings as well, like Kanjite Knight and The Gardian

Halberdierv2on Oct. 9, 2012 at 6:59 p.m.

I wonder what a Ranma 1/2 remake would be like. they might go for the manga approach and add in the missing arcs. I personally would like to see something a lot different. My idea for a remake would involve (controversially) removing the genderbending and make female Ranma her own distinct character, and have the martial arts and romance more fleshed out to make the characters more entertaining. also having girl-Ranma as her own character would mean completely different interactions for the two Ranmas, and make things a lot more interesting.

Cyborg 009 was great to watch as a kid, so I'll be interested in seeing what the remake offers. I also want to to see the Sailor Moon Remake, but first, I gotta watch the original. (sorry, I still haven't gotten to it yet!)

YotaruVegetaon Oct. 9, 2012 at 8:25 p.m.

@NickTapalansky: I don't think they showed any of the older 009 shows on cartoon network. It was the most recent remake.

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