This is it, time for my 500th anime review. That’s right. We aren’t counting the manga, game, live action, comic, book or Western animated reviews. In keeping with the usual pattern, it’s time to look at the next instalment of the Sailor Moon franchise, Sailor Moon Stars. In the name of the moon, I will critique you.
We open with things on a pretty high note. Nehellenia’s been defeated. Mamoru’s been accepted into an American University back when that meant something and ChibiUsa is heading back home. Things go south when a strange voice rouses Nehellenia from her sealed status and she returns seeking revenge against Usagi. They defeat the revived Queen and both Mamoru and ChibiUsa go off their separate ways when a new enemy appears. There’s just one thing different, these enemies also appear to be sailor soldiers. Meanwhile, a trio of new soldiers, the Starlights, have made their appearance.
I can honestly say that this series of Sailor Moon is the best written. The way the two plots connect is really well handled. The foreshadowing is clever and, while clear, not shoved into your face or otherwise overdone. The tension between our regular soldiers and the Starlights actually makes a good amount of sense since, as the outer soldiers point out, the enemy is made up of sailor soldiers. Usagi’s stance also makes sense. The Starlights have been fighting alongside them and deserve the benefit of a doubt.
There’s also the climax. The last stretch of episodes in this series is phenomenal. The way it builds up a very bleak mood and really tears at your gut with some of the events that transpire and then follows it up with Usagi finally confronting Galaxia, not in a battle of brute force but one of ideals, is fantastic. It could not have possibly been handled better. This series also features the best comedic elements that the franchise has ever had. There are a lot of really funny sequences. A lot of which involve the inner soldiers interacting with the Starlights while they’re all in their civilian identities. Hell, the episode where they transform in front of each other for the first time is one of, if not the funniest with the way that whole sequence of events is handled. The episode where the inner soldiers are going overboard trying to guard Usagi also has some really hilarious moments.
Those people who view Mamoru or ChibiUsa as the best characters will probably be disappointed since they don’t get much in terms of screen time. It didn’t bother me because the character dynamics we get with the inner soldiers, outer soldiers and Starlights is so damn good.
I’m gonna be honest, I like Usagi’s dynamic with Seiya significantly more than her dynamic with Mamoru. And not because Seiya is a girl and I’m a crazed ho-yay fan. Here’s the thing. My problem with the romance with Usagi and Mamoru has always been that it’s very lazy. Why are they together? Because destiny. Will they stay together? Yes, because future daughter implies that it’s destiny. And, ironically, Seiya’s interactions with Usagi that are designed to establish her as a credible romantic rival for Mamoru actually create a more compelling and well developed dynamic between her and Usagi that we’ve ever seen with Usagi and Mamoru.
This series also has some of the best Haruka/ Michiru moments. Pretty much every time these two show up, we get some light flirting and general adorableness. The antagonists get a good amount of personality as well. It does help that their basic back stories are pretty clear once we learn what the Starlights’ story is. Even before that, it’s pretty heavily implied.
Chibi Chibi is interesting. Not because f the soldiers trying to figure out if she’s Usagi or ChibiUsa’s future child. It should be obvious she can’t be ChibiUsa’s since ChibiUsa’s future partner is clearly Hotaru. No, she’s interesting because she can barely speak. So her personality has to pretty much come out through non-verbal means. Which it does. And there are some compelling episodes that focus on showcasing her personality.
The weaknesses in the art remain the same. There are some overly long transformation sequences and stock footage attacks. There are frames where someone will have a bizarre expression. And it looks a bit dated by today’s standards. In spite of that, there’s a definite charm to the visuals in this series. The monsters have a good look. The character designs as a whole are great. And even if they do get repeated too often, the transformation sequences and stock attacks are pretty nice. The series also does do a good job of positioning its characters in various scenes. A good example would be the enemy soldiers entering their travelling phone booth that’s totally not a police box that can go through time and space. When Crow and Siren enter it together, you can see that they’re close. Conversely, when Crow and Nyanko enter one together, they take very hostile positions.
The acting remains an excellent element of the series. Fukami Rei, Tomizawa Michie, Hisakawa Aya, Katsuki Masako, Ogata Megumi, Shinohara Emi, Kawashima Chiyoko, Minaguchi Yuko & Mitsuishi Kotono have proven themselves many times in this franchise and they continue to be fabulous. In this series Niiyama Shiho, Tsunoda Narumi & Sakamoto Chika make excellent additions to our lineup of soldiers. What sets them apart is that they have to keep their voices fairly androgynous since the Starlights take on male forms during their stay on Earth.
Although this is the last series so you won’t hear them in the roles again unless you play the yuri dating game where the player controls Princess Kakyuu and can date the Starlights in their true forms. Before you go looking for that, it’s not actually real but sounds like something that could be.
For the antagonists, the performances that really stand out are Horie Mitsuko, Inoue Kikuko & Suzuka Chiharu. All of the actresses are strong but those three do stand out.
This series also features the best music. It’s the first time we’ve heard a different opening theme tune and, not only is it spectacular, but it actually has a very strong, and clever, connection to the big climactic battle. Moonlight Densetsu actually does get played once in the series and it’s very effectively used for impact. The Three Lights’ music is really well put together and sung.
There’s quite a bit. First off, there are the scenes with Haruka and Michiru. We also get some stuff betwixt Hotaru and ChibiUsa during the opening Nehellenia arc. And there are multiple girls among the inner soldiers who don’t seem to mind that much when they find out the Three Lights are really women. Plus, every single one of the Three Lights seems to be attracted to other women. There’s also Aluminum Siren and Lead Crow. These two are actually reminiscent of Zoisite and Kunzite from the first series. Their dynamic makes it abundantly clear that they’re more than friends. And the aforementioned dynamic is used to showcase their sympathetic sides. Although, in this series, the writing is more skilled at showing them as sympathetic even outside of their loving relationship.
Areas of Improvement:
- Princess Kakyuu could have been more of a character. I understand why she couldn’t have been a character in the series proper for very long, but they could have developed her a bit by showing some flashbacks of her with the Starlights or something. As is, she’s kind of an archetypical “good woman.”
- Less time with the stock footage. If only there was something substantial they could replace it with. Like the thing I mentioned above.
- Include the manga scene where Usagi gets a bit jealous seeing Hotaru and ChibiUsa holding hands and Hotaru tells her to just hold hands with Mamoru then. This is honestly one of the only good scenes from the manga that isn’t in the anime.
I can truthfully say that this series is the Sailor Moon franchise at its very best. Fantastic characterisation, a well-crafted story, excellent acting and music. It’s definitely the perfect way to end the series as a whole. So, in spite of the relatively minor gripes I had with it, I’m giving it a full 10/10.
A massive thank you to all my readers, especially you regulars. 500 anime reviews wouldn’t have been possible without all of you. And since it’s the first review of January, the theme for the month this year is going to be anime that feature some of my favourite couples. So, that’ll be fun.