Sailor Moon S is seen by many moonies (Sailor Moon fans) as the best series of the bunch. There is no denying its greatness, and success in making you feel for the characters. The new characters who become an integral part of the story are very relatable and well handled and as the audience has come to expect from Sailor Moon; melodrama is kept in check for real, affecting drama instead. The humour and irony that make Sailor Moon so much fun is still present but the mood is much darker than any previous Sailor Moon series. This atmosphere will only be matched by Sailor Moon Stars later episodes.
The animation of this series is one of the most consistent of the Sailor Moon franchise. The drawing style is consistent most of the way through, though a couple of episode do verge on the ugly. However, even those episodes are animated nicely. The backgrounds are more varied than previous seasons and the drawing quality is more experimental than previous seasons (the evil characters are actually in laboratories and mansions, which calls for a more precise style of drawing than the surreal setting of the previous seasons.) The director (Ikuhara) should also be commended for keeping some of his tricks in his pocket for the first 15 odd episodes (you only see Uranus' and Neptune's tranformation later on in the series) as the audience is enthralled to see the sequences as opposed to dreading them like they would have Sailor Moon's.
All these subtle differences make a Sailor Moon fan very happy, but what makes one happier is how well the final battle looked: it was spectacular! With the cast enlarged by the arrival of the Outer Senshi, one would have expected some of the cast to serve no purpose at all but they were not made redundant, rather the Inner Senshi were used in a concise manner that also respects them.
Sailor Moon's music has always been a favourite of mine. Moonlight Densetsu is a song that manages to capture all the feelings of Sailor Moon and it just gets better with age. The background music was also excellent and well used all the way through, though some new compositions could have been made to interrupt some of the repetitive nature of the show.
The seiyuus display a great knowledge and understanding of their characters and their delivery is spectacular! You feel the characters' pain and anguish but the hint of hope that they bring to their delivery really sets this cast apart as one of the best in anime.
Sailor Moon S has a premise that is slightly different from all other Sailor Moon series. Her inclusion in the story is incidental as there were already warriors handling the situation pretty well as it was. Throughout the series, the focus is kept away from her as the audience is called to feel for her antagonistic colleagues, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. This works quite well as we are called to feel for both parties and really want to see what happens next. Without giving too many spoilers away, the way everything progresses really keeps you at the edge of your seat as the outcome is not entirely clear. The enemies are given a backbone and the background stories are actually interesting.
The humour of the show remains in some episodes, such as the hilarious one that calls for Sailor Venus to masquerade as Sailor Moon or when the Heart Snatchers go after Minako-chan. This series starts showing the funny side of Minako which is explored well in later arcs of the show.
The characters of Sailor Moon are as excellent as ever. Sailor Neptune and Uranus are as much protagonists as Sailor Moon is and they are given the limelight on a few occasions. As mentioned before, this makes you appreciate them as they become well-rounded characters. The characters that should have been given a stronger chance to shine are Sailor Pluto (though her mysterious vibe would be lost if they did) and the Inner Senshi, though Mars and Venus come out well on that front.
The enemy team is also great - Professor Tomoe is hilarious, Kaolinite is interesting and Eudial is just wonderfully crazy! Even a couple of Heart Snatchers are great as they have great puns and comedy routines in their short lifespan.
This series is a highly enjoyable one that really goes beyond what Sailor Moon is all about, expanding its audience and solidifying the series as a Mahou Shoujo classic. Highly recommended to all moonies for its rewatchability and to everyone else because it is just a great series and shows the best Sailor Moon has to offer (though a knowledge of the overall series will help in understanding the themes). Utena fans should also give this a try as Ikuhara brings some of the drak elements from this series to Utena!
Story: In comparison with the two previous series of Sailor Moon, I actually found this series to be a great deal better. Before this series I hadn't really seen exactly why such a great big fuss was kicked up about Sailor Moon-sure it ws pretty good, but nothing outstanding but then I started to watch this series and it blew its predecessors out of the water. The story in this series is essentially very similar to Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon R- fighting aliens for filler upon filler of episode, yet this series had some extras hidden up its sleeves what drew me to this series so much that even the fillers didn't bother me, and fillers usually aggravate me to the point of INSANITY. Bring in great new characters, funny humourous jokes what kept me laughing through the whole series and themes what made this show for once seem for an older target audience- it no longer seemed like it was a 10 year olds' show- with the arrival of new characters new themes arose and in general I enjoyed the show more as it had an air of maturity wrapped around it, I felt this show was more made for people of my age. The arrival of the glamorous and sophisticated Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh as well as the return of Chibiusa all made this an enjoyable watch and even Chibiusa wasn't irritating like in the previous series, she was actually the one what made so many of the funny jokes! I found my feeling about her changing from irritation quickly to admiration in a matter of episodes.
Animation: Typical of Sailor Moon, for the 90s it has super animation with great standards. The backgrounds looked realistic, the people looked impressive, the only minor fault was that sometimes the videos could be blurry.
Sound: Also trademark Sailor Moon, the same opening that almost every anime fan knows, and almost the same music in the actual show as in the previous series. That was the only flaw, repetitive music, but it blended in well and I never noticed it in a lot of the scenes since it fit so well.
Characters: These were what made this particular series stand out for me- an array of new interesting characters. The idea of having Sailor Scouts what were actually viewed for some time as bad was an interesting concept and towards the end of the series when the deaths of many characters happenned I found certain deaths very touching, in particular Neptune and Uranus' which relected perfectly their love for each other. I also found myself liking the old characters a lot more, in particular Mina and Usagi. When I watched the first 2 series I felt a bit like the individual personalities of the 5 main Sailor Scouts were never portrayed, I felt like the viewer didn't get to properly know them but in this series their personalities were drawn out, giving us viewers a better idea of each character and what their like.
Overall: Out of the first 3 Sailor Moon series, I'd say this definitely the most impressive from my point of view with a lot better storylines, characters and in general seeming better suited to its target audiences- a must watch for any Mahou-Shoujo fan.
Right, I'm going to pull out my dart rifle and shoot the elephant in the room right away. Anyone who came here hoping for some lesbian action will most likely be disappointed, the most intimate thing Haruka and Michiru do is hold hands, indoors (fully clothed). Anyone who decided that watching this anime would somehow do something for the gay movement will also be disappointed because in one episode the other Senshi (apart from Haruka and Michiru) suspect that Jupiter is a lesbian becuase of her hero worship of Haruka with 2 or 3 saying that that would be a bad thing. At no point did any character say anything else about homosexuality in this show, whether pro or anti so on balance the show actually looks(only looks, mind) anti-homosexuality especially given that in the first season of Sailor Moon 2 of the Shitenoh (Beryl's 4, mainly useless, generals) were gay and in the S movie they wonder if Mamoru is gay with again nobody saying anything about homosexuality one way or another (in both the movie and show Mercury was adamant that neither Jupiter nor Mamoru were gay and being the brainy one* she was right) and finally I read an interview Naoko Takeuchi (she wrote the manga, in case you forgot) did that Haruka and Michiru's relationship was one of friendship that became love and that these things happen (becuase young children wouldn't have understood how 2 girls could be in love with one another she made Haruka a butch lesbian, that is one who acts like a man, Usagi even seemed to be in love with her when she smelled her cologne, with Michiru being a lipstick, that is, girly girl lesbian though nowadays in the west the girly thing to do seems to be to try to be all strong but overdoing it, I presume by accident, and ending up being mean) and she didn't say whether she was OK with homosexuality or against it so I'm not saying the Sailor Moon franchise is anti-gay or pro-gay just that it's one of the few things on this Earth that contains homosexuality but isn't about homosexuality, it's a part of the work but not a part of its premise and isn't there to make a political point. I've typed this before and I can't stress it enough that I'm against people bringing up their views into anime discussions where they don't have a place. Sure you can bring up your views into anime with messages or political viewpoints but it's partisan and out of place to bring them up about anime with no messages or politics but this being the internet, this being a review in English (Ireland** was occupied for so long that the Irish language was nearly killed off and I don't live in a Gaeltacht, that is, an Irish-speaking region) and 2/3 of English speakers on the internet being American (300 million people from majority English-speaking countries use the internet and Americans are 200 million of them, yes I actually bothered to check) and America being the most politics obsessed country on the planet (or at least it very much appears that way) and given that shonen-ai and shojo-ai are 2 of my 3 least favourite genres I of course have to give my views on homosexuality lest people think I'm some reactionary fundamentalist homophobe (not likely, being from Europe and a young but rural person I think that extremely liberal, militant atheist relativists are as bad as the aforementioned reactionaries. In Europe we're not apolitical, we just have more moderate views because we've seen firsthand the wreck that both fascism and communism cause while in America the parties argue over what freedom to give, social or economic but the people want both so they label one party fascist, the other communist and the people take extreme positions to be as different from the party they don't vote for as possible while not being all that keen either on the party they do vote for, heck, the internet of all places only supported Obama on a lesser evils basis in his 2nd presidential campaign). Sex is nothing more than 2 (or for health and threfore religious reasons alike, rules are usually made to acheive results and not to oppress people out of nothing but sadism in spite of what anarachists think, God forbid more than 2) people putting 1 or 2 of where their urine or poo comes out in or on the other person and it's only fun so we'd bother and so humanity would continue to inhabit the Earth so there's no way I could possibly be OK with homosexuality though we all have our faults so do unto others... so I don't think it's fair to think of homosexuals as lesser or subhuman and certainly people who rape people for being gay or asexual are far more in the wrong than anyone who is homosexual. I also don't like censorship as it's covering up for the person who commited what the censors supposed was a wrong so for moral reasons I gave up on the dubs of Sailor Moon and on principle I now only watch the subs unless I can't find them. I know I've spent far longer on this section alone then I would on an entire review usually but as aforementioned most people who read this will probably be American and have seen what my least favourite genres are so I had to bear this in mind and discuss in depth my views on the homosexuality in Sailor Moon S and what I feel about homosexuality in general because it did affect my viewing experience, I felt tense because of it as opposed to disgusted watching the original Sailor Moon series because being a heterosexual it's only natural that I'll find 2 males in love to not be appealing to say the least though on balance the original series is slightly better though I'm not really sure why. I have marked Haruka and Michiru as hated and it's not just because they're lesbian; it's mainly because they're machiavellians (they don't care who dies even if they're not the enemy even though as Usagi knew nobody had to die unless they were an enemy) and machiavellianism isn't a trait to be appreciated in anyone (which is why I also hate that creep Paul von Oberstein from Legend Of The Galactic Heroes and Treize Khushrenada from Gunam Wing). Machiavellianism is named after Nicolo Macchiavelli, a Renaissance Italian politician who wrote that "politics bear no relation to morals" (he is more famously quoted as "the ends justify the means" but what he actually wrote in that sentence was more along the lines of the long term must be taken into account) and so machiavellianism is just doing what you want to get results no matter how small or short term, no matter how many people you screw over in the process, no matter how badly you screw them over and no matter how much wreck your actions will cause and no matter for how long. So Machiavelli was no worse than the politicians of today in other words.
* Her intelligence along with her gentle personality and cute appearance and knowledge of German are what make her my favourite Sailor Moon character by far. Chibiusa is just plain annoying, Sailor Moon is cowardly especially when things are at their worst (the time when you should least be cowardly even though it's the hardest time to not be), Sailor Mars is foul tempered and the rest apart from Haruka and Michiru are just OK though I can't put my finger on why.
** One of the things that Simpsons episode about Ireland got right was that Irish people are OK with homosexuality, the worst that happens here is someone would get playfully mocked for it but that's nothing compared to the blatant racism showered on the travelling community and red-haired people. Not blacks though. In spite of what Hollywood thinks (Hollywood got something wrong, no surprise there) the racism Irish people showed to blacks wasn't based on prejudice but rather competition gotten out of hand in America in the late 1800's and America in the late 1800's alone where being poorer than the majority who were descended from English whites the Irish and blacks competed for the low-paying jobs.
On at last to the quality. In this regard it's like every other entry in the Sailor Moon franchise that I've seen so far so there's no point in doing separate reviews for them. The animation is OK and nothing more plus there's quite a lack of detail in the backgrounds though that's a minor complaint really and in terms of entertainment Sailor Moon shows are easy to look at so you can keep watching and watching while the dark animation of Zeta Gundam means you may need to take a while before watching the next episode. (I brought up a Gundam show; you knew it was coming I bet and are rolling your eyes right now. Sorry but it was just the best example that came to mind.) The voice acting is mediocre from everyone, yes everyone. The opening and ending themes are fair. The story is your usual Sailor Moon episodic stuff with few episodes making any difference to any to come and not much happening beyond this person has a little problem, it's solved after the latest villain of the week is foiled and the episode ends and that I think is the main or perhaps sole contributor to what makes the Sailor Moon series yet another bunch of anime that are 3/5, 50%, slap bang in the middle kind of things. It's not slightly below or above average, it's just plain average.
27th November 2013 Update
In Sailor Stars Usagi gets a loveletter from a girl (the girl meant for her to give it to Seiya) and says that she isn't a lesbian but they can be friends if she likes and that it's better to be in love with a man. In the Sailor Moon Memorial Luna says that she guesses that some people are into that (homosexuality) and then Usagi says "Eww, disgusting!" then again Naoko Takeuchi said (in Kappa Magazine in Seoptember 1996) "The truth in their feelings is that they have a very serious and pure friendship." She was referring to Haruka and Michiru.