As I start this review, I know I will have some trouble not comparing this new Sailor Moon to the originals. I will try it to bias anything.
Story: Girl becomes Sailor Senshi, girls finds friends, girl finds love. It's a pretty simple coming of age story. Except for the second half, which is a different girl's coming of age story. The reason I didn't rate this higher is because the pacing felt off. Villains were introduced and then immediately defeated. There was no give and take banter, no sense of danger until the big-bad appeared, no fun? It felt like plot points were explained, resolved, and immediately forgotten.
Animation: Toei Animation, I called you out on this CGI bull-hockey in my review of Digimon, and here, in an anime nearly two decades newer, you did it again. The 2D animation is crisp (even if Usagi's face felt really out of proportion). It's when the transformations take place that Toei tries to get fancy and ends up looking unpolished. Like it was done by two different studios. Did... Did they outsource the transformations to the guys who make RWBY?
Sound: The OP is good, even if you will never be able to get "shiny make up" out of your head. I felt the ED was lacking. And there were times when the mood music just... Didn't suit the mood or felt repetive.
Characters: Usagi might be the only person with personal growth in this entire series. The other girls deal with their personal insecurities, but it like "I fight it, I'm stronger now, I don't need to feel that way anymore". Because that's totally how that works. (Sailor Moon, therapists hate her!) The only reason this scored recently was because even without a lot of development, the characters are enjoyable.
Overall: It was a decent series, and definitely sheds some light on questions I had from the original. I just felt it could have been done better.
Sailor Moon Crystal ended recently, and the general impressions the community had about it were negative. I defended it back when it began airing, calling it an average series that is still better than flashy trainwrecks like Zankyou no Terror and Death Parade, which get ridiculous amounts of undeserved hype. But besides all that, why did people treat it in such a negative way? Well, it’s a mix of different things.
As a remake it had very big shoes to fill. Because of nostalgia the older version is always considered to be the better version, and by having the newer one being constantly compared to the old, any differences it has makes it seem like it’s worse for deviating from the one true version. Which is silly, since it was supposed to be a more faithful adaptation of the manga, and thus should be considered better for being closer to the original version.
But even those who hadn’t watched the older version, still didn’t like the newer one, mostly because of the visual aesthetics. The 90s version was mostly hand drawn and although it had lots of quality drops, they were compensated by making the characters move in an elastic way. You know, like Looney Tunes, they were deforming, and stretching, and doing lots of exaggerated motions that were fooling the mind to accept them.
Crystal on the other hand is using a lot of cheap CGI, which makes the characters move in unnatural ways. It also doesn’t help how the artstyle of the manga looks very weird today. The Barbie doll faces and the skinny bodies look ok in manga format since the visual effects used in the backgrounds give them a fairy tale feel. But when you adapt the same thing with CGI, it looks creepy because it makes the characters look ugly and their motions bizarre.
But what about the pacing? One of the biggest problems most had with the older version, was how it was 80% filler. Crystal stays close to the manga storyline, and as such covers in only 26 episodes, material which the older version stretched out to 80. So, does that mean that at least the story is much better in Crystal for being much more tight, and filler-free? No, it doesn’t. Things are moving so fast that it becomes very hard to believe the characters became close friends or fell in love with each other in a single episode.
The chemistry amongst the Sailor Scouts feels like it came out of nowhere, Tuxedo Mask feels like a creepy stalker following Bunny anywhere she goes, and Sailor Moon instantly has the hots for a guy whose face she doesn’t even see. Yeah, ok, they say it’s because they all knew each other in their previous life. It still feels forced and unnatural because we don’t see them together long enough to accept that. It’s the exact same thing as in SAO where we are supposed to believe Kirito is in love with Asuna just because we are told they were together for two years, even though we never see anything regarding that.
The exact same things had happened in the older version of Sailor Moon, but because of the inserted filler episodes, there was a huge gap between major events, which was making you feel like the characters were slowly becoming friends, or slowly falling in love. It wasn’t simply there to stall time, it was used to make the relationships amongst the characters to feel more natural. Especially when it comes to the bad guys, they were a hundred times more fleshed out than in the manga, where they were simply introduced and killed off in the same chapter like typical monsters of the week.
Crystal tried to flesh out the villains far more than the manga did, by not killing them off right away. But because the story was moving from one major event immediately to the next one, there was not much time spent on any of them. Without much downtime between events, there was no build up, so when the villains are talking and scheming feels like dead time instead of fleshing out of their personalities.
Speaking of talking and scheming, not even the major events felt interesting to the most part, because of too much infodumping going on. It feels like all they do is having someone talk for 10 minutes as the rest of them listen while gasping in a silly way, and then exchange a few energy attacks before the whole thing is over after a few minutes. This was also happening in the manga, but you didn’t know how much time it was taking to say all that stuff, because it was in written form.
And I might as well add how all the cool ideas Sailor Moon had, have been reused way too many times since it first came out, to the point they mean very little today. Yeah, it was the magical girl show that took the genre into the teenage demographic, but after Princess Tutu, and the Precure franchise, and that piece of milking shit Madoka Magica Rebellion, we got used to magical girl stuff full of action and dark themes. Crystal came out at a time when all its innovation was no longer innovating. With its formula being dated and the presentation coming off as dry and ugly, you can excuse most of the negative opinions the community had about it.
What you can’t excuse though, is how the same community was hyping the hell out of Fate Stay Night, even though it is a decade old eroge about a typical shonen story mixed with harem and bad sex scenes. They got distracted by the pretty colors and their critical thought went out the window. So it all comes down to Sailor Moon Crystal being disliked for not being mostly flashy, poser, shallow style, than a subversion of the magical girl formula, something the older version was.
Q: What do you get when you remove all the comedy, action, and character devolopment & interactions from Sailor Moon?
A: Sailor Moon Crystal.
A dull, slow-paced girly romance that features Sailor Moon and a bunch of inconsequential background characters.
I'm going to say this because it needs to be said: if TOEI had released SM:Crystal in the 1990s instead of the Sailor Moon that we all know and love, the franchise never would have become the world-conquering phenomenon that it has become.
Since this is following the manga, which the first anime didn't stray too far from, all of the ratings I'll give this are based on the new things: animation and sound.
In fact, the only reason I gave it more than one star is because it's still the story of Sailor Moon, even if this version isn't visually appealing.
One thing I do want to mention is that, though it's following the manga, I (and my friends) all agree that Mamoru/Darien wearing a tuxedo just looks stupid. Someone said it makes him look like either a vampire or a vampire hunter (due to the medallions, as well).
The season is basically a redux, and just the same thing we already know, only it follows the manga version (so, we shouldn't expect any filler episodes considering that the entire manga series is complete, and Crystal so far is just licensed for the first season).
That was fine (sans Mamoru wearing a tux), but here's where it went downhill:
The worst part of the anime, and what just killed it; I felt like I was punched in the childhood with the animation from just the released clips before the first episode was aired. Back then, I thought "oh, it's just promotional footage, it probably isn't that bad in the entire thing". I was wrong.
First off, the characters look too old, and that's due to the amount of makeup drawn on them and the full-bodiedness of their lips. No 14 year old puts that amount of makeup on, especially one which doesn't have much time in the morning.
The eyelashes are also curled in a way which gives the characters a more mature look, and their body structures appear taller than in the original. Now, this is closer to the art style in the manga (which I disliked when I first picked the manga up when...was it Mixx Manga?...was still actually publishing them in English)...
...but it doesn't do them any justice character-wise to make me believe that these are 14 year old girls and a 17 year old boy. They all look like they're 17-19 instead of 14.
The animation also contrasts oddly with the background art, and just isn't a smooth experience to look at overall. It feels like someone tried to make backgrounds the way they did in the 90's and stick 21st century animation on top of it.
Long story short, it clashed horribly.
The transformation is just ugly and horrid, and just...NO. It starts out fine, with the animation of the ribbons...and then turns to the most awful CG render I've seen since some anime have begun to include CG objects randomly in their anime (Detective Conan movie 16, I'm looking at you and your CG soccer balls).
It also takes longer for the transformation to occur (someone made a comparison video, and the new transformation takes about 5 seconds longer), but my real "ungh" moment was that horrid CGing.
They did it not only with Sailor Moon, but with Mercury, as well. I fully expect all of the Sailor Senshi to have CG transformations...and that was one of the main reasons I said "I'm done with this" at episode two.
CG is fine for robot and sci-fi anime (if done right; I've seen plenty done wrong even with giant robots)...not for magical girl romance anime.
A smaller nitpick is how thin and sometimes disproportionate their legs and arms are (when Ami looked at herself when she first transformed and said her line, her arms scared the bajeezes out of me because they were too long and thin; like something from a horror movie). Their legs, I described as "like toothpicks". The only worse I've seen in terms of legs is when Hiroyuki Takei (mangaka of "Shaman King") continued working on manga after the series and the characters all had stick-like legs for whatever reason.
Between the heavy makeup look and the CG, not to mention the clashing background with the animation, I just can't watch it anymore.
A more positive aspect, but not enough to make up for the aesthetic disaster of the animation.
The opening and ending songs are excellent, and does the series justice for sure (in fact, I believe the opening sequence is better than the entire animation quality of the anime).
The voice actors are so far similar sounding to the first anime even though they're different people (with the exception of Luna, who actually sounds better in this version). The job with the voice acting is excellent as usual, so I have no complaints about the voice acting or music.
I will not be watching the rest of Sailor Moon Crystal. Mostly, because it feels like it's destroying my childhood...but otherwise because I can't take it on an aesthetic level visually.
I did pick up the manga (didn't have the money to buy it back then) and read it in the stores, but it was hard to follow and felt all over the place. Thankfully, the anime is much easier to follow and understand, but because of its glaring animation issue, I can't recommend this to anyone.
My friends and I, who were all looking forward to this "redone Sailor Moon", feel let down; I'm not the only one who won't be watching the next episode.
There's also a little tidbit that, despite the fact that the manga has been completed for years, the new episodes of Crystal will only come out twice a month (first and third weekend). That sort of feels inexcusable when the manga is not only out there as a guide, but has been completed for a long time as well.
So, overall, it gets four or five stars only because it's still mostly the same story-wise (there are some differences in the major battles), and mostly the same character-wise. Those two things are the only factors which keeps this anime afloat with more than one star.
Not sure why crunchyroll isn't listed to watch it on, as you can find it on there: http://www.crunchyroll.com/sailor-moon-crystal.
Straight tens for this reboot/retelling of the Sailor Moon first arc. It's everything I hoped it would be with crisp, clear animation and pretty transformations. High hopes for the rest of the series!