Before I get this review started, a disclaimer. I had never seen an episode of Sailor Moon in my life. But I knew of the 90's series from old friends who could only remember 'girls in short skirts' and something of a weird plot. My daughter Mo got me interested in anime, and when she learned I was heavy into Pretty Cure, she asked if I was into that other notable feature of the magic girl genre, Sailor Moon. I told her I had heard of the series but was not interested. She seemed fine with that ... even relieved. With the viewing of one Sailor Moon movie, I think I am beginning to understand.
This review counts for both segments of the movie which was divided into two 1 hr. 10 min. portions, the first ending into a cliff-hanger incident which would invite viewing part two. My thought would be that it would be difficult to view a 2 hr. 20 min. feature that developed slowly, limping along with a series of similar self-introspections of every Pretty Guardian available. Again, this is a review by the newest of Sailor Moon newbies whose heart tells him it is still the wise path of being a Sailor Moon no-bie.
Why the movie Sailor Moon Eternal? Curious that this Toei Animation staple (series 93-96, several OVA, recent creations as the 2016 PG Sailor Moon Crystal) was now being done by Studio DEEN in conjunction with Toei (or by permission, using their character designs) for a Netflix project. Netflix? Shades of Glitter Force? One reason for at least some suspicions for a production company that co-opted Smile and Dokidoki Pretty Cure. The sudden showing of this movie in Netflix was intriguing. So, after a while, I relented and gave it a shot.
In time, I wondered whether I should take in the 90's series to get a little background to the special bond and mystic powers of a group of girls which combine magic, basic astronomy, and convoluted backstories, all enhanced with a touch of moé. It was difficult, but I plowed on. Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon) is a beautiful girl with issues of self-confidence whose identity is obscure. A luscious blend of divine and dud. She lives with a junior league version of herself, Chibiusa, Sailor Chibi Moon. A girl of unique powers trapped in a soul of uncertainty so typical of a pre-adolescent. This pair of unlikely heroines are joined in the first half by Sailors Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus. All are seeking to be able to retransform into their magic girl personae, but each seek to follow their own dream, with thoughts of protecting the Earth far removed. Pity! A total solar eclipse just happens to usher in an era of absolute darkness. The whole tenor of the movie is the battle of light vs. darkness. Each member of the Inner Guardians must overcome their own self-focus to join battle against the forces of evil Queen Nehellenia.
Part Two brings on the Outer Guardians (Neptune, Pluto, Uranus, and Saturn ... in order of re-introduction). These girls too must overcome the obstacles which have prevented them to become the super-powered magic girls that have come to Sailor Moon's defense. The girls join to battle the Dead Moon Circus, its less-than-villainous Amazona Quartet of lightly-clad circus performers, and Nehellenia's henchwoman Zirconia. The future of the world is on the line, and its survival depends on the revival of mystic kingdoms that Nehellenia had recently overpowered, kingdoms with links to Usagi and her beaux Mamoru Chiba. The plot thickens quickly, and confusion could run amok as the bad girls are really good girls who were possessed by Dead Moon's illusions. And yes, the skirts were short, and the plot was weird, but the writers tried their best to have the plot unravel nicely until you got to see all the seams reattach as the resolution came on in the classic rush of light taking down the darkness and humanity gets saved ... unbeknownst to them. Classic 'save the world' with no one the wiser that the world was lost. Just a solar eclipse that finally came to an end.
The animation, while clearly not the classic Toei (CGI does much to improve the 90’s version), still supported the original characters in a realistic manner. The transformation sequences followed much of the salacious track (ala Prétear, ca. 2001). The element of darkness was overplayed, even the point of being annoying. One might even call it comical … but it wasn’t. We all knew that the light color hues would make the comeback. The music, while standard, was not ear-catching.
Can Sailor Moon Eternal compel me to take up the whole Sailor Moon series of the 1990's and the more recent developments? That is another thing altogether, as I was interested in how another animation group could handle a franchise of Toei Animation. Puss in Boots might not be impressed, but if it gives the Pretty Guardians any sense of relevance, so be it. But can this creation give Sailor Moon the necessary traction?