Like Metal Gear Solid and Hello Kitty, Sailor Moon is a seemingly random sequence of English words, ostensibly put together by some Japanese person with no regards to their meaning or grammatical function. And yet, like the other two examples, they form a combination recognisable even to the lay man. The reason why such a bizarre collocation trips off the tongue has something to do with the anime's long-lasting appeal. An appeal which I am only beginning to understand.
Following Sailor Moon's story requires quite considerable suspension of disbelief, even more so than other shows where school-age girls magically change outfits to fight monsters with their super powers. You see, once you've taken all that for granted, Sailor Moon still provides so many plot holes and flaws that it's a wonder the whole thing doesn't fall apart. To begin with, the characters with "secret identities" look no different from their everyday selves, making everyone who doesn't immediately realise that Sailor Moon is Usagi Tsukino seem profoundly stupid. The show even goes as far as to rub salt into this wound when supposedly intelligent characters mistake innocent bystanders for a girl with the most ridiculous hairstyle this side of Dragonball Z. For some, this may form part of the show's camp charm, but it was something I found hard to reconcile.
Although Sailor Moon is capable of drama, and even serves it up on a couple of occasions, the fight scenes lack anything of the sort. The combat is loathsomely formulaic, with very little in the way of innovation. Tuxedo Mask's appearances quickly become predictable, and at no point does defeat for the Sailor Warriors ever seem possible, let alone probable. Battles occur almost as a formality or a ritual, with the monster's howl of defeat rarely delayed by anything other than a conversation between the Sailor Warriors, depriving the show of any suspense.
Another driving force behind Sailor Moon is the romance. Unfortunately, this is just barely more successful than the fights. There are two or three scenes which are pleasant and well developed enough to give a warm, tingling feeling but a lot of the romantic subplots are ruined by the immature attitude of Usagi and a couple of others towards love. Usagi may well be a fresh new take on the female lead, but I felt no burning desire for the show's central couple to get together, an issue which greatly reduced the eventual payoff and impact of the show's conclusion.
Luckily, the show finds salvation in its comedy. While Usagi is hardly an ideal romantic heroine, her wacky antics never once failed to put a smile on my face and really helped to propel me through the endless monster-of-the-week onslaught and make the whole package entirely more palatable. If it wasn't for her cowardice, laziness and overwrought fantasies, the series would have given me far too little to love.
Sailor Moon's animation is very much of its time. It certainly does its job, but anyone used to the finer animation of recent times may well bemoan the lack of detail in the backgrounds, or the occasionally jerky motions. In my opinion, however, these problems - and I hesitate to call them "problems", as the animation is as good as one can expect for its age - really have no negative impact on the show itself.
With that said, there are a few avoidable issues which affect the quality of the show. There are some minor inconsistencies, such as during battle when characters suddenly appear in a different location with little evidence for how they got there. There is also one major error of this kind, where a character uses a piece of clothing as a bandage, only for the clothes to be inexplicably repaired a few episodes later. Without meaning to go into spoilers, the lack of attention to detail is unforgivable, given the importance of the bandage scene in the storyline. In addition to this, the series makes liberal use of stills, particularly during the battle scenes, which sap the excitement out of many of the fights.
More attention, inevitably, is paid to the transformation scenes, which is just as well, given that no episode passes without at least one Sailor Warrior changing outfits. Although the animation is of a relatively high quality, there are some 46 episodes in Sailor Moon, and surely even a toddler would tire of such exhaustive repetition. Attempts are made to mix things up, with Sailors occasionally transforming simultaneously, the fact that the exact same footage is used each time makes this nothing more than a stopgap measure.
While watching this series, I heard the exact same OP twice a day for over three weeks. The fact that I still love it is no doubt a testament to its quality. Along with the first ED, it was also adapted and arranged for use in the episodes themselves with great success. The remainder of the soundtrack was decent enough but far from memorable.
The voicing on the whole was marvelous, with the central characters' voices injecting both themselves and the show as a whole with personality. Even the main antagonists, who were given little motivation or development, managed to come across as unique individuals rather than generic enemy henchmen. The voices of the huge cast of monster characters, however, were far more camp than they were threatening, which contributed to a lack of intensity during many of the fights. The battles also suffered from the merciless repetition of the protagonists' attacks. While shouting out the name of your special move is clearly the absolute zenith of awesome, shouting it out the same way every single time is simply tiresome.
The anime succeeded in presenting a good range of characters, although I felt that a couple could have used a little more fleshing out and were introduced far too late into the series. Nonetheless, Sailors Moon Mercury and Mars alone gave a good enough balance of personalities to keep things interesting. More impressively, however the main villains all had sufficient individual traits and characteristics to place them above and beyond the level of the generic grunt soldiers they could easily have been.
The peripheral cast, such as Usagi's friends and family, were interesting enough and were used very wisely. Whether their role was comic or tragic, the series' side characters had no problems fitting into, and even becoming integral parts of the story.
I have a difficult time giving a brief outline of my feelings on the series as it seems to balance itself out when taken as a whole. What it lacks in finesse or depth it makes up for with comedy and wit. While the story is predictable enough, it takes a couple of unexpected detours which may end up being more memorable than the main plot itself. It does what it says on the tin, and then delivers just a little more bang for your buck.
I see no compelling reason to recommend it above other, better magical girl anime, such as CardCaptor Sakura or Shugo Chara! but this series is an enjoyable watch, with a quirky and genuine sense of humour. When it comes down to it, Sailor Moon's trump card seems to be its lighthearted simplicity and if that's something which appeals to you, then you should probably go ahead and add it to your Want to Watch list right now.
Life can be tough when you're a teenager. Enter Tsukino Usagi, an average, if somewhat clumsy, junior high student whose voracious appetite for sweets and capacity for tears are offset by her enthusiasm for life. Her normal existence is suddenly turned upside down when a talking cat named Luna comes into her life. Suddenly, Usagi finds herself with the ability to transform into the superhero known as Sailor Moon. Fighting the occasional monster may be the least of her worries, though...
When it comes to anime, I tend to be a fan of comedy, shoujo, romance or anything else that will put a smile on my face. However, I'll review pretty much anything. Whether you like or dislike my reviews, I'm always glad to receive feedback, and I'm always happy to get into intelligent discussions.