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...
StoryThrilling fantastical battles. Heart-rending romance. Heroic and self-sufficient women. I expected nothing less from a seminal mahou shoujo series. Emphasis on ‘expected’, because what Sailor Moon actually delivers is something altogether different. At once idiotically basic and zanily funny, Sailor Moon often gives the impression it wants to insult the intelligence of its viewers, albeit with a cheeky wink and a smile. Generally, coincidence and happenstance play too big a part in resolving the conflicts, ensuring that nothing genuinely surprising transpires. This applies particularly to the well-tailored crusader, Tuxedo Mask, who appears without fail in every damned battle, inevitably stealing the victory which the sailor warriors should have secured by themselves. In time, rather than wondering excitedly how Sailor Moon will evade her enemies’ latest trap, viewers will wearily wait for Tuxedo Mask to toss his trademark rose at the monsters’ feet and literally steal the show. Even Card Captor Sakura, a younger programme of similar formulaic quality and with twice as many episodes, still manages to inject enough peril and variation into its magical battles to keep viewers guessing. Sailor Moon, in comparison, lacks the necessary imagination. The series even goes through various antagonists, one for every arc of the overall plot, but with each performing pretty much the same function (stealing energy from humans) using similarly themed tricks (did the life-sucking jewellery prove a dud? Then try the life-sucking sports equipment!). And yet, with all of its flaws laid bare, dissected, and analysed, Sailor Moon remains a series worth celebrating. Indeed, I have yet to mention one fundamental trait which singlehandedly raises the show’s entertainment value. The comedy. Even if little of substance happens, the script injects so many precious moments of hilarity (wacky expressions, ironic twists, slapstick combat etc) that the weak plot and shallow fights become secondary concerns. Often, the main appeal of an episode will be Usagi’s uproarious struggles to grasp moral lessons or practical skills like sewing, cooking, and not being selfish. Furthermore, while the battles disappoint, the drama surrounding them fares much better. In particular, the arc involving Nephrite builds upon the show’s mystery as well as providing some deft character development and darkly emotive outcomes.AnimationFor some, Sailor Moon will represent a nostalgic jaunt through old-school graininess and quaint two-dimensionality reminiscent of an innocent, less cynical era. To others, it’ll just look old. Background detail is so sparse that it might as well not exist, and with such sketchy watercolour effects, the series feels like a moving picture book rather than a billion-yen project. Add to that the repetitive transformation sequences and finishing moves and you easily have two or three minutes of recycled frames taking up precious running time every episode. On the other hand, the cute style is cheerfully vibrant and easy on the eye. Moreover, Usagi’s explosive facial expressions alone compensate for any technical weaknesses.SoundApart from the catchy opening theme, I’ve largely forgotten Sailor Moon’s soundtrack, which, like the battles, is repetitive. One or two character themes might demand attention in the short-term, but none will leave any lasting impression.CharactersShallow, self-absorbed, and a shameless cry baby, Usagi Tsukino, the titular hero of the show, should rank amongst the most reprehensible of protagonists. In keeping with the plot, however, her humour becomes her saving grace. She may be irresponsible and make many mistakes, but her brazen cheerfulness and naivety will endear her to most viewers. Moreover, she generally ends up doing the right thing even if it takes her longer than most to understand why she should. In her own petulant words: ‘I do a good job when I have to!’ Additionally, the show plays Usagi off other characters very well. Mamoru’s (Tuxedo Mask) teasing relationship with her provides many moments of comedy whilst competently setting the two up as lovers for later events. The rest of the sailor warriors also evince memorable and lovable personalities, with the acerbic Sailor Mars and gentle, intelligent Sailor Mercury topping the list. The antagonists, on the other hand, uphold Sailor Moon’s darker themes as they lie, cheat, and murder their way through the plot. The four Shitennou or chief henchmen of the Dark Kingdom - Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, and Kunzite – take on the sailor warriors in sequence, each lasting several episodes before conceding their role to the next. While Jadeite is the first of the four to attempt to destroy the human race, and Kunzite the last, both are also the least memorable. In fact, the conflicts peak in quality through the Nephrite arc and generally stay interesting through the Zoisite arc as well. The reason for this is that Nephrite and Zoisite’s personalities exceed the bland archetypes of the other two, with Nephrite later showing some fantastic developments and Zoisite being unashamedly and devilishly gay.OverallMake no mistake, Sailor Moon is a significantly flawed work. On balance, though, the series redeems itself with a disarming wit that belies its shallow appearance. Once past the introductory episodes, it transforms into a light-hearted romp that even has one or two emotional surprises up its sleeve, and is just bizarrely charming. The simplistic presentation makes it perfect for children and young teens, but with its strong cast and self-deprecating humour, I also recommend this to adults looking for something undemanding but satisfying.
StoryLike 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. AnimationSailor 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. SoundWhile 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. CharactersThe 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. OverallI 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.
Sailor Moon is one of the most iconic anime of all time. It's one of the big ones that you'll feel compelled to watch because everyone seems to know what it is. Personally, I first heard of this show when I was eight years old and my friend Elyse told me about how epic it was when she was watching it. At the time, I had no idea what "anime" was, and when I tried to look it up I couldn't find it anywhere on my television. Years later, I got into anime and finally looked up the show, long after I had lost track of Elyse(seemingly forever, though I wonder if she'll ever see this review or if she even remembers me...). Did I like it? Was it good, bad? Chances are, if you already read the score I gave it, then you already have a good idea of what I thought about it. Story (6/10): The story has an interesting basis revolving around moon princesses and memory loss and magic. Sounds great right? Well, there are some ways they messed up in the actual delivery. The show is, the 'classic' magical girl anime. And... it sets up all the cliches that follow it. Am I the only person who gets annoyed after watching ten episodes of an anime and seeing the same transformation every single time? Well, I've seen it in every magical girl show I've watched, and though I know it's a staple of the genre, it's still annoying as heck. Another issue I had with it was that the nature of the show seemed to ruin the moments of sadness and depth it truly holds. This show actually has some pretty sad themes and story arcs in it, but sometimes the emotion of the moment gets cut into randomly. The show is trying to be sad, and sometimes it acomplishes it. It does have it's funny moments, but it also has it's times when the mood feels ruined by comedy. I also understand that there are times when it's probably meant to lighten up darker parts of the show, but there are times it just doesn't fit. It also suffers from a bit of repeditiveness, which isn't bad considering the length of the show, and predictability, but that's to be expected. The story as a whole is interesting enough, but there are plotholes here and there and through some old cliches and several awkward scenes, it falls around here. Also, it can be very formulaic. Part of what makes it seem a little strange now is all of the early 90s things feel so strange. Seeing young girls freak out over rhimestones is an odd sight for someone growing up about a decade after them. HOWEVER! I did enjoy the story, and while it suffers from flaws there are a lot of good things in it to, a lot of interesting cases, and the colorful characters placed around serve to save the show from any more awkwardness. Animation (7/10): Considering the time the anime was created, it's alright. There are moments where, even for a dated show, it's easy to tell it's not perfect. Action is relatively smooth, but there are some moments when it's not as clear. The animation style is clearly dated, especially around the character's appearences, but otherwise not too much to complain about. Sometimes the colors have too stark a contrast between one another, and backgrounds aren't that great. Character designs are relatively unique and good, with some real standouts in terms of great unique design, Tuxedo Mask; for example, is a fantastic character with an interesting design and style. Sound (8/10): The classic theme to start this show is one of the most well known anime songs of all time. Tons of people know it, and it's constantly referenced and parodied in youtube videoes and things of the like. Unfortunately, most of the other songs, particularly the ending themes, have fallen into obscurity. The music is good otherwise, but nothing that iconic. When I started watching this anime, I was still on a 'watch everything dubbed in English' kick thanks to Vic Mignogna. The dub is somewhat frustrating. The characters sound nasal, and they also have an odd very American New york-ish or Boston-ish or Baltimore-ish accent. I'm not a master of city accents, but it definitely sounds like the voice actors were clearly from the upper east coast, which is frustrating. It also changes some lines and story aspects which undermine story and character in some cases, harming both the show’s story and sound scores for me. Watching it in japanesse is much better, but the dub did tarnish my experience a bit. The sub is just fine, but the dub is messy. Characters (9/10): The characters are definitely the best reason to watch this show in my opinion. While Usagi herself can be frustrating at times, the other characters really shine with their personalities. The other sailors vary with personality and Rei is a fantastic foil character for her. Tuxedo Mask is relatively mysterious for a bit, and has an interesting 'is he on our side' thing going for him. Usagi's unwitting friend Naru(Molly in the English version) gets rescued, falls in love, and is an interesting showcase of what happens to normal people when they get caught up in the lives of magical girls. Though, by far, the villains are the most fun. They all have complex interesting quirks and flaws and are balanced out perfectly. Actually that could go for all of the characters, well balanced, quirky, and interesting. Overall (7.5/10): This is one of those shows that you really should see. Even if you aren't going to watch it for any reason other than to see the magical girl genre's roots, it's a good one. Not perfect, but definitely something I would recommend, especially to fans of the genre.
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