Super Recaps: Sailor Moon Episode 1 (The Crybaby: Usagi’s Beautiful Transformation)

Sailor Moon and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Toei Animation and licensed by Viz Media

Episode directed by Junichi Satou

When I first started watching Sailor Moon Crystal, I vowed to not watch any of the original series or read the original manga while I was writing recaps for it.  I felt that I was in a unique situation where I had always wanted to give Sailor Moon a shot, but never got around to actually watching it which means I would be in a perfect position to WANT to like Sailor Moon Crystal without having the original to compare it against.  I think it ended up serving me well, not that reviews of comparison are bad, but I figured plenty of people were going to do that already and I wanted to see if it was any good from a newbie’s perspective. After a year of watching Sailor Moon Crystal though, the season has finally come to a close and I’m now gonna start watching the original series and giving you my thoughts on it!   To start with, let’s discuss which version of the show I’m watching.  I’ll be watching the modern dub of the series.  Not the original dub which many Sailor Moon fans started off with, and not the original Japanese sub with all the original content unperturbed.  From what I understand, the Viz Media dub is supposed to be an uncut and unedited version of the original Japanese version so I guess it’s the best of both worlds!  Still, I am gonna miss the fact that I won’t get to see the nineties special effects, the Sailor Moon Morals at the end of each episode, and that Luna won’t sound like an old lady.  Unfortunately, if this version DOES miss certain aspects of the original Japanese version, I won’t be able to spot it but that’s what the comments section is for!  So now that we got that out of the way, will Sailor Moon live up to the hype, or is it just another nostalgic property that’s not as good as people remember it!?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with our main character Usagi waking up late for school and having to rush through her morning routine.  Wait, isn’t this how EVERY magical girl show begins!?

“Are you going to be late AGAIN!?”     “I’ll try NOT to be!!”     “Well say hi to A-ko, Yohko, Ranma, and Madoka if you pass by them.”

“Are you going to be late AGAIN!?”     “I’ll try NOT to be!!”     “Well say hi to A-ko, Yohko, Ranma, and Madoka if you pass by them.”

As you’d expect (considering this is the progenitor of a lot of magical girl tropes), Usagi is klutzy, always tired, and constantly eating food (while still being conventionally attractive) so obviously she will be the most important person in the world!  At least with this series compared to Sailor Moon Crystal, Usagi doesn’t look like a super model.  I say she’s conventionally attractive, but the art style here doesn’t lend itself to over sexualization (at least not yet) which is something you can’t say as much about Sailor Moon Crystal.  Seriously, is she supposed to be fourteen or twenty-two in that?  On her way to school, she rescues a cat from a couple of punk kids and gets some serious mean mugging from the creature as compensation.

“What?”     “…”     “WHAT!?!?”     “…”     “STOP LOOKING AT ME!!!”

“What?”     “…”     “WHAT!?!?”     “…”     “STOP LOOKING AT ME!!!”

She does eventually make it to school, but it’s just an endless series of disappointments and failures.  She has to stand outside because she was late, find out she got a thirty on her test, and probably a bunch of other stuff that was too downbeat to witness.  Things look grim for Usagi who’s swiftly spiraling into a grade induced depression.  To try and pull her back from the brink of self-loathing, Usagi’s best friend Naru tries to distract her by talking about Sailor V who’s a local vigilante stopping crime throughout the city.  I WONDER WHO THIS COULD BE!?  She recently stopped a group of jewel thieves which leads the discussion towards shiny rocks so the two of them go off to Naru’s mother’s jewelry store to check out their wares.  Oh, but what’s this?  Things don’t seem to be on the up and up considering we cut directly to Dark Kingdom where Queen Beryl is waving her hands in front of a crystal ball.  I gotta admit that I still love the hell out of this villain and I’m glad they aren’t hiding her for a bunch of episodes like they did in Sailor Moon Crystal.  Why was the remake so secretive of her identity!?  More Queen Beryl is never a bad thing!!  She’ll probably be my favorite thing in this story arc like she was in Crystal’s adaptation, even if she does seem to have the Crazy Eyes in this version.

JEEPERS CREEPERS!  WHERE’D YOU GET THOSE PEEPERS!?!?

JEEPERS CREEPERS!  WHERE’D YOU GET THOSE PEEPERS!?!?

Another thing to note about the Dark Kingdom scene here is that there’s actually more than say six or seven people hanging around.  There appears to be an army of demons just on the periphery of her throne which I guess lends a bit of credence to that whole “kingdom” thing.  That’s something I think this version of the show is already proving to do better than Crystal did.  Crystal can feel a bit hollow and stagey.  The world in Crystal seems more like set dressing than an actual place where people live.  With the demon hoard in the background of Dark Kingdom and the next scene which takes place in a crowded jewelry store, things feel a bit more lived in which is good if you want a story about saving the world.  Why would we care about saving the world when it’s only got about a dozen interesting people living in it?  We go from there to the jewelry store where it’s clear that Naru’s mom is either possessed or being impersonated and is working for Dark Kingdom in some capacity.  The sale seems to be a ruse to get unsuspecting women (I don’t see any dude’s fawning over those gem stones) to buy the merchandise which is PROBABLY cursed as hell.  Usagi, even with the drastic drop in prices, cannot afford anything and storms out of there even more depressed.  She takes her anger out on her test by balling it up and throwing it behind her where it lands on some dude’s head.  Just who is this person!?  Take a guess.

“This terrible score makes me frown, and that’s bad for my skin!”

“This terrible score makes me frown, and that’s bad for my skin!”

The hunk-a-licious Mamoru just so happens to be walking by and gives Usagi shit, not just for her littering, but also for her poor test scores.  She storms off in a huff after taking back the test and he just stares ominously at the building.  Maybe he’s trying to set it on fire with his mind.  Anyway, Usagi finally makes it home and has to face the music for her poor test scores.

“Don’t make me stay outside!  That’s where bears live!!”

“Don’t make me stay outside!  That’s where bears live!!”

While Usagi is trying to survive in the dog house, Evil Naru’s Mom (who turns out to be an imposter who has hidden away Naru’s real mom) puts her plan into action and all the people who purchased jewelry from the store begin to pass out due to their power energy or whatever (let’s go with Ki) being sapped out of them to… I guess give Dark Kingdom more power.  Clearly this cannot stand!  We need a hero to rise and stop this horrible plot to control people through their material possessions!  Luckily, there’s a cat out there that knows of such a hero!  The cat from earlier (Luna) finds her way to Usagi’s house and we see that she’s been let back in from the harsh wasteland of a Japanese suburb.  Luna introduces herself to Usagi and tells her of her great destiny as a hero, but swiftly gets the cold shoulder due to her being… you know; a talking cat.  Getting nowhere fast with the future savior of humanity (and the moon I guess), Luna decides to prove to Usagi of the power within her by jumping up in the air and magically summoning a brooch (I think).  OKAY!!  RIGHT HERE!!  This is why Sailor Moon Crystal has a reputation for being insanely rushed.  How long did it take for the animation of Luna summoning that brooch?  Five seconds max?  Sailor Moon Crystal decided to cut that entirely, thereby saving five seconds of animation and making the exact same scene in it’s version much more confusing!!  Within a single cut, the brooch just appears and we have to just guess where the hell it came from, when in THIS series they SHOWED US how it appeared!!  So now that Sailor Moon has a shiny new trinket, she’s willing to hear the cat out who tells her to shout “Moon Prism Power Makeup!” while wearing the thingy.  She does so and we get the one and only (until Crystal came out) Sailor Moon transformation sequence!  Like in Crystal, the process seems somewhat instinctual and without her being all that aware its happening.  By the time the transformation ends (with her striking a pose), she seems to return to her senses and realize what the hell just happened.

“There’s NO WAY this skirt passes the fingertip test!”

“There’s NO WAY this skirt passes the fingertip test!”

Before contemplating how a warrior for justice can fight with so little armor, her magic radio hair buns start to pick up on a distress signal (I’m guessing she got this technology from Batman) and she jumps into action to save her friend Naru!  Of course, once she actually GETS there, things start to devolve rather quickly when Evil Naru’s Mom uses the jewels to revive the collapsed women as her zombie army.

“On second thought, a bit of training beforehand might have been in order.”     “GEE LUNA!  YOU THINK!?!?”

“On second thought, a bit of training beforehand might have been in order.”     “GEE LUNA!  YOU THINK!?!?”

So was Luna just assuming she would be able to handle this?  I mean I GUESS she could have assumed that she would get her memories back once she became Sailor Moon again (oh spoiler alert, Usagi is the reincarnation of a moon warrior from a thousand years ago), but that’s quite an assumption to make right before sending her out to face zombies.  Facing her own mortality, Usagi begins to break down and becomes an easy target for Evil Naru’s Mom.  That’s when another hero with silly glasses, a sillier hat, and an even sillier cape arrives to throw flowers at the enemy!

“Take THAT!”     “NOT THE THORNS!!!”

“Take THAT!”     “NOT THE THORNS!!!”

Tuxedo Mask is here to give Sailor Moon some encouragement by telling her that crying in a corner isn’t going to solve her problems!  She then proceeds to cry in a corner and it ends up solving all her problems.  Apparently she has a crying attack which causes all the zombies to pass out, so good job there Tuxedo Mask!  You should be a guidance counselor with the kind of advice you give!  Now that Evil Naru’s Mom has lost her army of the unconscious, Luna tells Sailor Moon to throw her tiara at her to finish the fight.  Luna kind of failed to mention that the attack would COMPLETELY DISINTEGRATE SAILOR MOON’S ENEMY so we have the first casualty in what will most certainly be a long string of homicides for Serial Killer Sailor Moon.

“Did I just kill her?”     “Uh… no.  She was just a robot.”     “Phew!  Now I don’t have to feel bad about liking that so much!”     “Oh boy…”

“Did I just kill her?”     “Uh… no.  She was just a robot.”     “Phew!  Now I don’t have to feel bad about liking that so much!”     “Oh boy…”

Tuxedo Mask congratulates Sailor Moon on her victory and escapes from the window without admitting that his suggestion was stupid.  Sailor Moon doesn’t mind thought because she’s making moon eyes at him (heh heh) and clearly has found her one true love at the age of fourteen!  And so the episode ends with  Usagi going to school the next day, exhausted by the dangerous mission she barely managed to accomplish by the skin of her teeth!

“Why are you so sleepy again.”     “I save the world, now shut up.”     “Were you playing World of Warcraft until 4am again!?”

“Why are you so sleepy again.”     “I save the world, now shut up.”     “Were you playing World of Warcraft until 4am again!?”

I REALLY liked this episode and think that this version of Sailor Moon (HD transfer and new dub) might end up being the best version of the series.  I’ve always been more of a dub person myself, so I’m pretty much predisposed to like the audio here, but I think the show has a great voice cast overall.  The only one that seems a bit off is Luna who I would HOPE would sound just a bit older than the other characters.  The visuals look crisp and clean while still maintaining the look of something from the era.  Actually, the visuals remind me most of the Cutie Honey seventies television show, but that series has always felt ahead of its time in many ways (being more or less THE original magical girl series).  The fight scene in the Jewelry Store has very abstract backgrounds despite establishing the geography of the store in earlier scenes which is something you would see in seventies anime so it has a decidedly old school feel despite being made in the nineties with all the technological benefits that came in the intervening twenty years.  Huh.  Isn’t that what Crystal is?  An updated version of what we saw twenty years ago?  The music as well reminds me of stuff like the music from RE: Cutie Honey and Case Closed which is definitely a GOOD thing, but I think we’re getting closer to where the real differentiation between Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon Crystal lies.  As odd as this may sound, Sailor Moon Crystal is the grim and gritty reboot of Sailor Moon.  That MIGHT be a bit of an overstatement, but bear with me here.  When we compare this episode with the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal (both covering the same story), you can notice some definite creative changes.  In Crystal, the art style goes for a less cartoony look with more detailed character models than you see in Sailor Moon Crystal.  Not only that, but the music in the original (as alluded to earlier) has more of a jazz type feel while Crystal goes for a more operatic and serious type of score to underline the severity of a lot of its situations.

Here’s a good example of what I mean.  The original series was definitely going for a more comical and colorful approach to this scene while Crystal is putting more emphasis on the danger of the situation.

Here’s a good example of what I mean.  The original series was definitely going for a more comical and colorful approach to this scene while Crystal is putting more emphasis on the danger of the situation.

I don’t think this is a bad direction that Sailor Moon Crystal took.  I’ll have to watch more of the original to see if there really is such a big difference in tone between the two series, but so far it seems like Crystal will be superior in terms of drama if nothing else.  Crystal has A LOT of issues, but its darker moments certainly weren’t one of them and I’m curious how this show will handle stuff like the entire annihilation of the future from rouge terrorists or Chibi-Usa’s dark transformation.  We have a long way to go before we find that out, but until then I can say that Sailor Moon looks to be a lot of fun and will hopefully fill in the gaps that Crystal unfortunately left with its rushed storytelling.

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3 thoughts on “Super Recaps: Sailor Moon Episode 1 (The Crybaby: Usagi’s Beautiful Transformation)

  1. Bell Lectar

    Thank you for starting on reviewing my favorite series too, your reviews are a pleasure to read.
    I really like queen B as a villain too, she seems fun to fantasize about.
    I’d like to ask what is your impression on the differences between SMC Beryl and 90s Beryl, whether they appear same age to you, but that impression depends on voice acting, and I heard boice acting was weak in the dub, so I don’t know if they didn’t make her sound completely different from japanese original just to ease work.
    In original japanese there was a funny story behind Beryl’s voice acting, in that her actress is dual casting with another frequent character, and there is fun in the combo of these 2 characters being voiced by same actress.
    In Crystal they made her sound like a granny, while the 90s anime her role and appearance made it difficult to judge her age, but my impression had always been that she’s tragically young too, just doesn’t look it. Like 18-20.
    That sure helps her likeability in the “sold her soul for a dick” plot than if she was a granny.
    And in that crystal ball, she totally watches cat videos.
    “Seriously, is she supposed to be fourteen or twenty-two in that?”
    And this is one aspect that helps to make the characters believeable – they actually look their age, and have room to mature and flourish.
    SMC designs weren’t really based on manga they were adapting, but on the new manga COVER art the mangaka drew after a decade of no drawing, with rusty skills that barely remember how to hold a pencil, and those new arts were based on the way she last drew these characters, which was the fifth story arc finale where the characters were all grown-up and mature. What ends up a surreal combo of an ex-artist unsure and shaky artwork first, then anime series that happen to match those qualities, but with a mysterious reason, did they match it on purpose, or was it a coincidence, and any other designs would have looked just as “unsure and shaky” under same circustances?
    If there is a point to SMC designs, and they weren’t made randomly with no though process involved, then I guess it would be so they’d never have to reseing them later. Like 20+ yo queen Usagi is just the 14 yo Usagi but in another dress.

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    1. SuperDude Post author

      I’ll need to see more of this version, but I think I like Crystal’s version of Beryl better. The same reason that this art style endears itself more to Usagi’s characteristics, I think the Crystal design works better for Queen Beryl. I like the red eyes instead of yellow eyes, and I remember Queen Beryl having quite a lot of range in her facial expressions in Crystal, where a simple look from her can speak volumes. To me, they look to be about the same age in each version (mid thirties I guess?)

      I’m thinking the design change MIGHT have been a very conscious decision considering how much the romance between Usagi and Mamoru is front and center in that series. I mean, she’s still in middle school and he’s supposed to be in high school or college or something, right?

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  2. lololelelolo

    Awesome review.
    I’m really looking forward to read future issues and see how you experience this from page 0 (well, not exactly zero because you have watched Crystal, but you know what I mean).

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