Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal was not what I was expecting. There was no way I could even imagine what had happened.
Growing up there were two anime that I watched: Cardcaptor Sakura (or as I knew it Cardcaptors) and Sailor Moon. I can remember my brother and I watching Saturday marathons of Sailor Moon. We would tape everything on the VCR just so we didn’t miss an episode. While I can’t say that Sailor Moon is my favorite anime or even that I have diligently watched the whole series it does holds a special place in my heart as one of my first anime loves before I even knew what anime was.
When I found out that they were going to remake Sailor Moon I was ecstatic! It just goes to show how popular and iconic Sailor Moon is. I mean you can’t talk about magic girl anime without talking about Sailor Moon. I told some friends and I decided to hold a launch party because it’s fun to fanboy/girl but it’s even more fun to fanboy/girl with other like minded fanboys/girls.
The night came and unfortunately the party kinda fell apart with only my friend Angel (a sweet mix between a vintage pinup girl and the cutest chibi anime character ever) being able to make it. Whatever, it was full steam ahead! We played some Mortal Kombat vs. DC and then some Borderlands 2. After all the games we decided to prime our brains by watching the first episode of the 1992 original series. Unfortunately, the only one I could find was English dubbed but since that’s the only one I have ever seen it was fine. It really surprised me how full of exposition the first episode is. The pacing was so quick that there was hardly any nuance to the episode. But it’s a classic and it put us in the right mind frame for the main event: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal – Episode 1: Usagi – Sailor Moon.
The episode opens with a beautiful pan of space, the Sailor Scout’s colours represented by twinkling star clusters. After that: The opening credits.
As soon as it started with that awesome picture I knew that this was going to be epic. Angel and I both gasped and clapped our hands in glee. The representation of the Sailor Scout powers was more raw and natural. Instead of bubbles, Sailor Mercury controlled a raging torrent of water. Mars blazed in an inferno and Jupiter lit up the sky harnessing the power of a blackout storm like Thor in a mini skirt. I can only hope that they keep this representation of the Scout’s powers. It would defiantly make for more intriguing and dynamic battles. Later in the episode we see some of Sailor Moon’s abilities. Her Moon Tiara Boomerang (or Moon Tiara Magic for us unfortunate souls) is definitely an upgrade from the previous series forming into a (seemingly) razor-sharp chakram before glowing with power. Something I found a little weird were the jewels in her hair buns pulsating and transmitting her friend, Naru’s, cries for help. When she arrives and tries to help but as the battle turns against her, her scared crying activates her buns again causing ultrasonic waves to radiate out, disabling her enemies. Both of these abilities seem strange, and a little hokey to me, but if they are used again in later episodes I will gladly accept then as a deliberate addition to her powers rather than a random situational occurrence.
The animation style is fantastic. Angel is a huge fan and has read most of the manga. What she liked so much about the remake is that they were very respectful to the style of the manga. Characters are skinnier with longer limbs and very large eyes. I couldn’t say for certain as I haven’t read they manga but I did appreciate the time and care they put into making Sailor Moon Crystal something special. Watching the original series first really solidified this for me. Anime has such a quick turn around, opposed to the manga, that anime tends to be rushed out and the quality of the work seems to suffer for it. Now-a-days either people are spending more time animating the shows or we have the technology that allows for better visual quality and faster turn around. Either or, Crystal is a vast improvement over its 1992 predecessor. Sailor Moon Crystal has this timeless feel to it. With the choices they made, the series could be taking place in the 90s or today. Which allows it to stand the test of time a lot better.
I have to talk about the voice acting. Generally when I watch an anime I have to either watch it dubbed or subbed. I cannot mix the two. And there are instances where I believe one cast is better than its overseas counter part. Comparing it to the English cast of the original series, the Japanese cast for Sailor Moon Crystal is spot on. Luna sounds knowledgeable and caring, a friend as opposed to an exasperated mother figure. Usagi has her trademark complaining but it’s cute and funny rather than grating. One of my favorites though is Naru. There really can’t be a comparison between the two. In Crystal she sounds like a down to earth teenager. In the English original she sports a New York accent. Now after some research (i.e. looking it up on Wikipedia) Naru speaks in Kansei dialect which is characterized as a more melodic and harsher dialect. Which makes the New York accent make a touch more sense but I put it to you: Why would Molly (Naru) speak in a New York accent and her mother doesn’t? Do I hear you say “she doesn’t because that wasn’t her mother. That was Morga. Her mother was tied up in the basement.” Ah, but counter point. If Morga was impersonating Susan (Mayumi) wouldn’t she impersonate her dialect as well? And since Molly didn’t react to the way her mother was talking we can assume that Morga was speaking the way Susan would normally speak – sans New York accent. It just seems that when they over-Americanized the characters it took away from the show. That’s my opinion anyway. After that long and convoluted point I just want to get across that I think the Japanese voice acting was amazing. The only voice from the English original that I preferred was the Usagi’s mother. In the English she had a very stern but caring, tough love kind of attitude. A mother who knows when to kick you in the ass to motivate you but will bring you cookies and tea when you have a particularly bad day. The mother in Sailor Moon Crystal just seemed to submissive to me.
All in all a fantasic start to the series! Great pacing, wonderful intrigue and powerful visuals (Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask is super dreamy). It was more than I could have ever hoped for and blew my expectations right out of the water! It definitely hooked me and I can’t wait to watch the next episode with Angel (and hopefully some of my other friends). It was so good that I forgot about the Moon Prism Pie I made for the party. Angel and I had to eat it afterwards… as we watched it again.
MOON PRISM POWER MAKE UP!
Feature Image and Screen Caption by TOEI Animation