It’s time for another moondance. (Spoiler Warning)
Sailor Moon has always held an important place in my memory. Being born in the early 90’s, it’s one of the first properties that I can remember having a recollection of (aside from whatever edutainment show I was forced to watch previously) and also becoming a fan of. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of using this series to bond my sister. I can’t quite tell what made it so appealing to me at the time; part of the reason would be the novelty of anime itself, and how it looked like nothing I had seen before, but also, it was essentially a show about superheroines fighting monsters. I was probably too young to “get” whatever else was going on, but it was enough.
Also,probably the first time I knew about devilhorns.
Still, my knowledge of the franchise as a whole is very limited. Most of my exposure to it embarks the original series, which extends basically up until before Sailor Scouts other than the original 5 start showing up. It wasn’t due to a lack of interest, but rather the local TV station that would air the show took it out of air (for some reason). It would be until the Internet had become an everyday tool when I would have a glimpse of how the series had continued since then. Even later than that, I would discover that I could watch basically any series I wanted if I could find it. However, it wouldn’t be until about a year ago when it would occur to me to use this as an opportunity to catch up with the series I had left behind. So far, my priorities have not allowed that.
This is part of the reason why I have been avidly anticipating the arrival of Sailor Moon Crystal, a new adaptation of the iconic anime from the 90’s released as a part of its 20th anniversary. It wouldn’t be a few minutes into the first episode when I realized that this probably marks the first time in which a franchise that comes about during my lifetime is rebooted. Despite fishing for nostalgia being the order of the day in many corners of entertainment today, this concept has been largely alien to me because everything that has been getting a reboot comes from generations before mine. It’s only a matter of time before something else from my childhood rears its head into present day big time (see also: Saban is making another Power Rangers movie). I feel like I should prepare myself and develop the right mindset for this and learn the best way to approach something that I know will essentially be something I’ve seen before, but presented to me as it was new again. So, what better way to start than with this?
This first episode, titled Usagi: Sailor Moon, is largely an unchanged version of the original series’ debut episode. We’re introduced to Usagi Tsukino as a lazy, childish, underachieving middle-school student who encounters a talking cat named Luna, who gives her a magical brooch that transforms her into a Sailor Scout. Furthermore, Luna tells her that she must find the other guardians, as well as their princess. We see her first encounter with a monster from the Dark Kingdom (Negaverse), which are collecting life energy from people in Tokyo for reasons still unspecified here. During this encounter, she meets Tuxedo Mask, a mysterious man that arrives to help when she’s in a pinch. We also meet some minor characters like Usagi’s mother Ikuko, her younger brother Shingo, her best friend Naru, her nerdy classmate Umino, her homeroom teacher Sakurada, her not-quite-a-love-interest-yet Mamoru Chiba, and arcade clerk Motoki. There’s also a small glimpse of Jadeite, the first minor antagonist and servant of Queen Beryl.
Since there isn’t much to discuss in terms of the story itself, given how it’s largely the same as before, the biggest discussion point for many fans is the change in presentation.
The new animation style is supposed to be more in line with the manga’s original art direction. While some purists might be pleased by this, others have been at odds, mostly because this new style (at least so far) doesn’t allow for the same comedic energy that the original series was known for. Whether you like it or not will boil down to personal preference, and while I do commend the decision of not just doing it the same as before, it does feel like something has been lost. In the original, the art style allowed for exaggerated expressions to accentuate jokes and the characters’ mood; it was rough around the edges, but still allowed the characters to come alive. In the new style, while not bad to look at, doesn’t lend itself as well to physical comedy and slapstick, with a few moments feeling downright anachronistic in terms of style and tone, and considering how that’s part of what made the show what it is, especially in its early days, it’s easy to see why people would have a problem.
Also, I would be remiss to not mention that Usagi looks even less like a 14 year old now.
So far, Luna is the one character given the most freedom to have something reminiscent of the old style. She practically looks like she jumped straight out of the original series.
Still, the rest of the time, it’s just plain gorgeous. Watching Usagi go through all the classic Sailor Moon moments, from the transformation scene, to her “In the name of the moon” monologue, to using her Moon Tiara, all brought to life with new animation have a perfect balance between familiarity and reinvention. The transformation sequence alone is enough to justify the higher prudoction values (and induce a freakout on my part) with a stunning display of animation that feels much more energetic and pumping than ever before.
You owe it to yourself to see the whole thing.
All in all, my final verdict on the new style is still undefined, but so far, it’s not a deal breaker.
So far, the biggest bit of fan service on behalf of the series is the return of voice actress Kotono Mitsuishi to reprise her role as Sailor Moon. However, new actors have been cast for the other characters, so we’ll see how they turn out in the future. So far, given what we got here, it’s very solid and all the characters feel in place (I say “feel” because Japanese is not my first language). The show’s score also features brand new compositions, and while nothing can replace in my mind some of the show’s original tunes, what’s here really stands out, and helps add extra punch to a lot of scenes, particularly Usagi going Moon Prism Power for the first time, and the opening sequence featuring Usagi’s dream. The pop songs used for the opening and closing credits feel like fan favorite staples in the making.
That intro rocked! Hope it’s not overselling anything.
The show is already showing a few minor deviations from the original series, starting with Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask. Right off the bat, the show makes it clear that they are the same person (hardly the biggest secret back in the original), and already suggesting at the attraction between him and Usagi. He doesn’t seem to tease her as much this time, but we spend too little time with him to properly get what his M.O. will be here. Also, fans were quick to point out that Tuxedo Mask didn’t throw a rose as a weapon, which turns out to be entirely a creation of the anime, not the manga.
(loud whispering) HE’S DREAMY
Also, the episode has already started acknowledging the presence of the other Sailor Scouts. In the original series, Usagi had a few episodes all to herself as Sailor Moon, and eventually started finding her team. As for Crystal, the preview for the next episode has already confirmed the appearance of Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury.
YAAAAAAY! AMI-CHAAAAAN!….(ahem) Sorry about that.
This leads me to believe that this version will try to introduce us to the main characters much faster, which is good because fans are already familiar with them so there’s no point in delaying their innevitable appearance. Also, considering that this new series is only planned for 26 episodes, it would be a good idea to introduce them as soon as possible. I can’t really confirm any of this, so let’s see how that turns out.
All in all, I’m far from disappointed with Sailor Moon Crystal’s premiere. It’s way too early to fully judge the series and the changes it’s bringing, and while I’m still on the fence on a few of those things, I’m very pleased to have this fragment of my infancy back in my life. There were moments where I was really taken back to when I was discovering this, and that feeling of joy when it pulled me in. The series is probably going to end up as nothing more than a victory lap for Sailor Moon having conquered the world 20 years ago, but as far as tributes go, Toei animation and all involved seem to be aiming to impress. I will probably revisit this once again after it has concluded (there going to release two episodes every month), so for now, let’s see where this trip takes us.