Tag Archives: Sailor Moon

400th Anime Review: Sailor Moon SuperS

I’ve done a lot of reviews online over the years. Most have been anime but I’ve also looked at comics like Civil War, live action TV shows like the First Doctor from Doctor Who, Films like DEBS, cartoons like Spectacular Spider-man and even video games like Miitopia. I’ve reviewed some of the worst anime out there, some of the most generic and some of the best. All from a wide variety of genres. And now, I’m reviewing anime number 400. With every hundredth review, I’ve had a tradition of looking at the next instalment of the Sailor Moon franchise. We’ve looked at the first series, R, S and, now it’s time for a look at SuperS. Who knows, maybe I’ll be going long enough to get to the controversial Crystal series. But we’ll worry about that when we get to it.

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Story:

We open with our pretty sailor-suited soldiers observing an eclipse. Unbeknownst to them, but knownst to us, a group of villains called the Dead Moon Circus use the eclipse to enter their lovely Japanese town. Their mission is to find the person with a beautiful dream that Pegasus is hiding inside. From there, we get the usual Sailor Moon formula. Ordinary people are threatened by monsters, the soldiers power up and drive the menaces back all while getting steadily closer to the mastermind behind it all.

I don’t have any real issues with the Sailor Moon formula. Having a monster of the weak set up works when you’ve got media aimed for younger audiences, which this is. It’s not like they’re stupid enough to put monster of the weak episodes in something for older teenagers or adults. Only someone truly brain dead would do that. That being said, there is one element to the narrative I have a serious problem with. And that is the attempted romance betwixt Chibi-Usa and Pegasus. And it’s not just that he spends most of the series as an alicorn. That is part of it, but the bigger issue is that he’s thousands of years old and she’s a grade school kid. It would be like if the esteemed Princess Celestia was trying to put the moves on Pumpkin Cake. It’s beyond creepy and no one ever acknowledges it. Mamoru will speak out when he thinks she’s interested in a significantly older human, but is surprisingly taciturn when it comes to the paedophile Pegasus. I mean, yes he’s also older than Usagi to a degree where he should not be dating her but at least they have the whole reincarnated ongoing love story thing to somewhat excuse it. As opposed to Pegasus who is just a wannabe child molester.

That whole really terrible romance aside, the series does have a lot to like. There are some really strong episodes that let the other soldiers besides Usagi and Chibi-Usa have a taste of the spotlight. The series is also pretty good about giving the victim characters a sense of personality. There are exceptions, particularly towards the end where entire groups are getting checked. But it is mostly a strong point for the series. The handling of the dream motif is also quite interesting. They explore the dreams of our heroines and they use the villains to illustrate what happens with corrupted dreams, how lost people get without dreams and the danger of having a selfish, impossible dream. The series also has a pretty strong sense of humour, like the rest of the franchise.

Characters:

Our main heroines all get their chances to shine and exploring their dreams does help flesh out and further their characters. Then we have the antagonists. That’s another strength of the series, the way the antagonists are fleshed out. Some of them are quite sympathetic even the big bad Nehelenia who’s pretty pitiable when it comes right down to it. Honestly, I think these are the best antagonists we’ve seen in the franchise thus far. Finally, we have Helios or as I like to call him, the worst part of this entire franchise. No, seriously. There’s nothing in any of the other series we’ve looked at that’s worse than mister ancient but young looking paedophile. And, sorry to spoil it, but I know there’s nothing in Stars that’s worse than him. The interactions that don’t involve him are pretty strong. I like the way the series develops the familial bond betwixt Usagi and Chibi-Usa and I like the way the sailor soldiers interact with the Amazoness Quartet. Those are the two strongest interactions in the series.

Art:

Yeah, the artwork continues to be rather dated but fine looking. One thing I really like in this series are the monster designs and the whole atmosphere you get in the Dead Moon Circus. The performers have interesting and varied looks. But, like every part of the franchise, you can expect a lot of stock footage and long transformation sequences. You can also expect the occasionally bizarre facial expression.

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(I had to include this image from the second ending theme tune.)

Sound:

Our all star cast returns. We get strong performances from Mitsuishi Kotono, Fukami Rica, Tomizawa Michie, Shinohara Emi, Hisakawa Aya & Araki Kae. We also get some great acting from our secondary cast. One in particular I want to talk about is Ishida Akira. Almost three years ago I reviewed the OVA, Ice. In that series Ishida Akira voiced a woman and gave a terrible performance,sounding completely masculine. This series lets us confirm for absolute certain that that was the director’s fault. In SuperS, Ishida voices the trans-woman Fish Eye and he sounds really feminine doing it. They don’t even use the shitty old joke where his voice turns super masculine at times. It’s feminine throughout. Arisawa Takanori’s soundtrack is nicely done. Even if the franchise has been using the same opening theme tune for every series.

Ho-yay:

This one dials back the les-yay quite a bit. There’s an episode where a young girl starts admiring Rei in a way that comes across as more than friendly. We also get to see Ami dance with Makoto. That’s something.

Final Thoughts:

Honestly, I seriously considered going as low as a 6 for this one. Solely because of Pegasus. Like I said, worst thing in this entire franchise. However, I’m going to go a bit higher because the antagonists are really well done and there are plenty of other strong factors in the series. It’s still the weakest instalment of the franchise thus far but I would still say it’s enjoyable and pretty good. So, my final rating is going to be a 7/10. Next week, Uchuu Kaizoku Mito no Daibouken.

A big thank you to everyone who’s been a regular reader. I appreciate all of you whether you generally agree with my assessments or not.

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Ktulu’s Fourth Annual Awards & Shaming Ceremony

For those of you who haven’t been following my blog for as long, allow me to explain. This is the time of year where I take every single series I’ve reviewed from February 15th of 2016 to the very last review I did, in this case Natsume Yuujinchou, and I praise the best while demeaning the worst. With every positive reward having a negative counterpart. Like last year I’m not going to bother giving you nominees. It’s not like I’m going to break for adverts and reveal the winners after the breaks or like I’m going to rent a stadium and invite all the nominees to wear fancy dress and accept trophies. Even if I had the euros to waste, I guarantee all those people have better things to do. So, let’s keep things to the point. I also won’t be including the bonus reviews. Maybe next year when I have more than five I’ll give them their own awards. Like last year, I’ll list off the eligible series in alphabetical order first.

This year the anime reviewed were:

91 Days, Ajin, Binbougami Ga, Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S, Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan series 2, Brain Powerd, Byston Well Monogatari: Garzey no Tsubasa, Charlotte, Code Geass R2, Coppelion, Dance in the Vampire Bund, Danganronpa 3: Mirai Hen, Danganronpa 3: Zetsubou Hen, El Cazador de la Bruja, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Gangsta, Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig, Ginga Ojou-sama Densetsu Yuna Shin’en no Fairy, Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka series 2, Golgo 13, Gravitation, Gunsmith Cats, Haibane Renmei, Hanare Toride no Yonna, Ixion Saga DT, JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders, Kagewani, Kara no Kyoukai: Mirai Fukuin, Kashimashi, Komori-san wa Kotowarenai, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, Kuuchuu Buranko, Love Live: The School Idol Film, Magic Tree House, Mononoke Hime, Mouryou no Hako, Natsume Yuujinchou, Noir, Non Non Biyori, One Punch Man, Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, Rokka no Yuusha, Rurouni Kenshin: Meji Kenkaku Romantan- Tsuiokuhen, Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin, Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata, Sansha Sanyou, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, SKET Dance, Sword Art Online II, Terra Formars, Terra Formars Revenge, Toradora, Totsuzen Neko no Kuni Banipal, Triangle Heart Sweet Songs Forever, Upotte, & Yuri Kuma Arashi

So, with our contestants firmly established let’s begin announcing the winners.

The Moffat award for unbearably awful writing in a mostly serious anime or OVA. Our previous winners were Dansi Bunri no Crime Edge, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Madhouse’s take on one of my absolute favourite super hero teams, the X-men. This year we had some stiff competition. The big contenders were Garzey no Tsubasa, Kagewani & Brain Powerd. In the end the winner is Brain Powerd.

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Here’s the thing that sets this one apart from the other two. The other two are unintentionally kind of enjoyable. While Brain Powerd also has some moments that are funny in their incompetence, it’s also much longer and those moments are farther between.

The Simone award for stellar writing in a mostly serious series or OVA. Previous winners were Psycho Pass, Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex & Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. While I did watch several fantastic series this year, the winner probably won’t surprise anyone since I only gave one series a ten and the rest of the really strong ones got eights and nines. The winner is El Cazador de la Bruja.

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A fantastically written story about two ladies on a journey, meeting interesting characters and strengthening their bond. I absolutely adored this series.

The Abrams award for worst writing in a film. The prior winners were End of Evangelion, Metropolis & Hetalia: Paint it White. This year we had a very clear winner and that film was: Hanare Toride no Yonna.

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Yes, it was an ugly film with a nonsensical narrative and the best thing I could say about it was that it was over quickly.

The Miyazaki award for best writing in a film. Our previous winners were Nausicaa, Kara no Kyoukai 4 & Spirited Away. This year’s winner is probably kind of obvious. The award goes to Mononoke Hime.

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One of Ghibli’s finest and definitely a worthy winner.

The Macfarlane award for worst attempt at comedy. Our previous winners were OreImo, Kill la Kill & Sunabouzu. This year was a bit difficult since I watched two really horrendous comedies that were roughly on par but this year’s recipient is Kashimashi.

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While Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan series 2 was a real contender, Kashimashi featured “jokes” about the main lead’s father acting like an incestuous pervert.Which is worse than anything from Bokusatsu Tenshi.

The Pratchett award for best comedic elements. The prior winners were Bottle Fairy, Doki Doki Precure & Yuru Yuri San Hai. This year it goes to Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka series 2.

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It’s a cutesy, endearing series and the funniest I’ve watched this year.

The Meyer award for the worst romantic elements. Our previous winners were OreImo, Mawaru Penguindrum & Love Hina Again. This year’s anime that gave love a bad name is Dance in the Vampire Bund.

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It was pretty difficult to choose between this and Kashimashi, the supposedly yuri (but not really) series that goes to absurd extremes to try and justify two girls liking one another. In the end, though, the series where both the major and secondary romance have paedophilic aspects has to be worse.

The Kanemaki award for best romantic elements. Our previous winners were Btooom (for the Himiko/ Ryouta romance), Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha & Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS With both of those winning for the NanoFate. This year’s winner is probably obvious. The winner is El Cazador de la Bruja.

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Ellis and Nadie are such a superb couple. If Bee Train made an anime that was just the two of them doing mundane things like going to the cinema, grocery shopping, buying a chihuahua & getting married in their matching gowns, I’d watch it. As long as they were in character I’d absolutely love it too. Because when you’ve got a couple this superb, even the mundane things they do are compelling.

The Anno award for the worst cast of characters. Previous winners were End of Evangelion, Neon Genesis Evangelion & Love Hina Again. Joining them this year is Kashimashi.

Kashimashi

Yes, Kashimashi. It has some bland side characters and a whole lot of annoying ones. Notably the main cast.

The Moore award for best cast of characters. Our previous winners were Sailor Moon, Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin & Death Parade. This year it goes to Sailor Moon S.

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This was one of the hardest picks of the year. There were seven other anime that I really considered giving it to. In the end, however, I chose S just because it wins in terms of sheer numbers. In the end, it has more characters that I have a deep fondness for than any of the other series I considered. With most of them having three or four and S having close to ten.

The Bendis award for worst major conflict. The previous sultans of suckage were From Up on Poppy Hill, Sword Art Online & Ice. This year they’re going to be joined by Sword Art Online II.

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While there were some other series with lousy conflicts, Sword Art Online II surpassed them by having three. The plot hole riddled conflict where Blandon has more trouble cleaning up after the incompetence of the authorities than actually dealing with the threat. The whole thing where they’re just doing a lousy quest in an online game and there are no stakes and Blanda being a whiny, obnoxious pile of shite because her mum is slightly domineering.

The Claremont award for most compelling conflict. Previous winners were Psycho Pass, Shingeki no Kyojin & Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha As. This year it’s going to Haibane Renmei.

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With a heavily psychological conflict where the stakes boil down to the life of a character we’ve gotten to know and love. It really is masterful.

The Liefeld award for worst visuals. Previous winners were Aku no Hana, Amada anime series: Super Mario Brothers & last year I did something different by giving out two categories of this award. One for films and the other for series. The winners were Dragonball Z: Fusion Reborn & Corpse Party: Tortured Souls. This year I’ll be giving out two again, but this time we have a film that truly has awful art instead of passable art that suffers from weak action scenes. The awards go to Hanare Toride noYonna in the film category and Byston Well Monogatari: Garzey no Tsubasa in the series category.

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Both of these were outright ugly with bizarre proportions. Garzey no Tsubasa may, at least, have unintentionally hilarious art but that’s only because it’s so incompetent.

The Urbino award for excellent visuals. This is another one where I started giving out two last year, but I didn’t in the prior years. With that in mind the winners have been Nausicaa, Tokyo Godfathers, Spirited Away & Mushishi. This year the winner for the film category is Mononoke Hime. The winner for the series category is Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig.

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These ones were very difficult. For films it came down to Mononoke Hime and Advent Children, both of which have stunning visuals. For the series category, it was even harder. There were a good number of series I watched this year that just had superb artwork with really unique aesthetics. But, in the end, these two came out on top.

The Spencer award for acting incompetence. Our previous winners were the English dub of Sailor Moon (which will be the only dub I ever review), Neon Genesis Evangelion & Ice. This year it has to go to Kashimashi.

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Yes, Kashimashi. A series that took talented actors and made them sound like they don’t give a shit, except in a few notable cases where they sounded downright dreadful.

The Sir Stewart award for acting excellence. Our past winners were Black Rock Shooter (OVA), Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha & Glass no Kamen. This one is always harder to decide than the Spencer award, since even bad anime tend to have passable performances. So, the really wretched ones stand out. But this year the title of best goes to Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.

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This was a series with a lot of drama, but also a lot of heart. It’s a series where the performances were subtle, nuanced and brilliant. Out of all the fantastic vocal performances I’ve heard this year, it definitely stands out.

The Perry award for worst music in a series. Previous winners were the English dub of Sailor Moon, Street Fighter II & Mars of Destruction. This year it goes to Kagewani.

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While not terrible, the music in it is really weak.

The Kloss award for best music. Our previous winners were Slayers Perfect, K-on the movie & Love Live series 2. This year it’s going to go to Love Live: The School Idol Film.

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This film has phenomenal music. The singing was superb. The composition was excellent. All in all, it’s a film where they needed good music for the premise and they nailed it.

That’s it for this year’s awards. Who knows what awaits us this year in terms of what’s going to be reviewed. This upcoming weekend I’ll post February’s bonus review. It’s covering the graphic novel DC Versus Marvel Comics. So, there’s that to look forward to. Tomorrow I’ll post my review of Love Stage and a special thanks to all of you who have been reading my reviews throughout the year and also those of you who started reading at some point during the year. I always love reading your comments and hearing what you thought of the various series I’ve reviewed. You’re all fantastic. Feel free to leave a comment telling me which of the eligible series you thought should have been shamed or awarded.

300th Review: Of this one, there’s nothing Askew

Here we are, three hundred anime reviews, not counting those few manga ones I’ve done. Those of you who are more familiar with my reviews are probably expecting something Sailor Moon related just because the hundredth and two hundredth reviews were both Sailor Moon series and it would be strange if this wasn’t one. You are, of course, absolutely right. In keeping with that tradition, I’m going to talk about Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S, the third anime series to come to light. It ran from 94 to 95, but I digress. In the first series we saw the sailor soldiers defeat Queen Beryl & the dark kingdom, sacrificing themselves in the process. In the second series, their reborn bodies regained their memories and they bid farewell to their normal lives, which was especially difficult for Usagi given her finding ordinary life most endearing. They fought a pair of aliens and their Hell Tree and then proceeded to take on the challenge of the Black Moon clan with the help of ChibiUsa, the most annoying character in the series and Usagi’s future child who didn’t even have the decency to time travel in a police box or something else interesting. So, let’s dive in and see what new adventure awaits us. I’m sure there will be much to discuss.

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Story:

We open with a new threat. One that gives our heroines a cold sweat. They call themselves the Death Busters. Emerging from deep dimensional clusters. At the same time new soldiers appear. Representing a new era, we have Uranus and Neptune, both quite queer. I don’t mean that in any kind of demeaning sense. So please don’t take offence. It’s quite literally true. These girls quickly cause yuri to ensue. The Death Busters are seeking talismans for reasons unknown. The Sailor Soldiers seek to make them atone. First, however, they must discover the talisman’s locale. As well as Uranus and Neptune’s motivations and rationale. Can they stop these villain from stealing the crystals of people’s hearts? What’s the best way to bring down these upstarts?

There’s only one real narrative failing. At times the story seems to be flailing. Rather than pushing forward and progressing with the story. Fighting further monsters gives them glory. In all fairness, filler episodes are nothing new. The positive side to it is that they allow the characters to develop their dynamics without much ado.

On to more positive aspects. The narrative works in many respects. The battle against the Busters has some high tension. The whole conflict with Uranus and Neptune, revolving around differences in outlook, adds dimension. This is also the funniest the series has ever been. With plenty of humorous episodes and many a comedic scene. There’s also some strong romance. Not betwixt Mamoru and Usagi, they’ve already blown their chance. The romance between Uranus and Neptune is really strong. You can tell that together they belong. There’s also a budding romance when Hotaru and Chibi-Usa meet. It’s really very sweet. The climactic battle is very intense. Containing several factors for suspense. It makes for quite interesting viewing. Seeing the plans that have been built up and the attempts at their undoing.

Characters:

The cast in this works really well. Adding Haruka, Michiru & Hotaru really helps it excel. The three all get fleshed out back stories. Which help elevate them above simple categories. The villains are also quite interesting, I must profess. The way they’re written has finesse. Like the other villains we’ve seen, they’re quite sympathetic. They aren’t just evil for the evils and unapologetic. You actually feel for them and hope to see them mend their ways. Before they find themselves going out in a blaze. Our favourite soldiers all make a triumphant return. Complete with more facets still for us to learn. I also have to admit that Chibi-Usa is vastly improved. With her more annoying attributes from the last series virtually removed. The character dynamics are very strong. Especially given that the cast has become a veritable throng.

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Art:

The artwork in this looks quite dated. It’s not bad but it’s also not to be venerated. It has the usual over-used stock footage attacks. It also spends too much time with the transformations and those are facts. That being said, the backgrounds can look pretty nice. The series also has some more active action sequences that help add spice. All things considered, it all looks decent enough. Albeit it can be a bit rough.

Sound:

The series brings back its already stellar cast. With additions for the new characters amassed. Ogata Megumi, Minaguchi Yuko & Katsuki Masako all make their appearance. Fitting in with perfect adherence. All the acting is quite terrific. With many actresses prolific. The music was composed by Arisawa Takanori and it’s really good. Helping convey the mood and build the atmosphere as it should.

Ho-yay:

S has more yuri than the first two series of Sailor Moon. In that area,, the addition of Haruka & Michiru is quite the boon. These two have les-yay with all five main sailor soldiers, Haruka especially. There’s even a scene where Ami, Rei, Makoto & Minako compete over which of them will dance with her when she’s back from dancing with Usagi, freshly. That being said, it’s their dynamic together that’s truly a sight to behold. It just gets cuter as we watch it unfold. We also get Chibi-Usa and Hotaru’s relationship. It’s certainly no stranger to skin-ship. There’s also a nice little scene where Ami gets jealous seeing Rei with another girl. Only to have really obvious relief when she discovers that it was perfectly innocent and not a romantic whirl.

Final Thoughts:

That’s it for Sailor Moon S, how does it hold up? Well, it’s quite strong in terms of set-up. The characters get fleshed out and developed well. Their relationships are certainly swell. The artwork holds up the least. The rest of the attributes are surprisingly uncreased. Of the three I’ve looked at so far, I’d say this is the best. Being a definitive cut above the rest. In terms of rating, a 9/10 is how I’d rate it. Although I’m sure, like the first series, the English dub is shit. Starting this Sunday I’ll go into this year’s film festival week since it seems like good timing. Although those reviews will be sans the rhyming. I’ll start with Kara no Kyoukai Mirai Fukuin since starting with a KnK film has become a habit. So let’s see what’s in store for the world they inhabit. Thanks for sticking with me for three hundred reviews. I hope my words have helped amuse.

Reviews of yesteryear: Sailor Moon

Welcome to my 100th review. I’m sorry that I wasn’t more honest about this coming up, I could say it in my dreams, but my thoughts were about to short circuit as I thought about what anime I could review for the occasion. My heart was a kaleidoscope as I pondered this question. I looked to the twinkling of the stars to foretell the future of my reviews. Obviously, it had to be Sailor Moon. While I’m at it, I’m going to do one of those things that some people keep whining at me for not doing. That’s right, I’m going to look at the English dub and the original side by side.

Rather than start by talking about the story, I’m going to start by talking a bit about the translation. First off, how do you miss-translate “Moon Tiara Action”? The original line is in English. How can you fail to translate a line that’s been done for you? The soldiers are downgraded to scouts in the dub because… Soldier is too masculine a term? Maybe they just thought that soldier was miss-used. After all, soldiers battle enemies and all the sailor soldiers do is reconnaissance work. Scouts works much better… wait, what? Changing the setting to America makes no sense. Where in America are you going to find Shinto Buddhist shrines with traditional priestesses, schools that have all adopted uniforms, Japanese signs, and the Tokyo tower? Seriously, it’s just a stupid decision. It would be like setting Tokyo Mew Mew or Cardcaptor Sakura outside of Japan. Why even bother changing it? Was the company that licensed it afraid that English audiences wouldn’t be able to relate to Japanese characters? No matter what the reason, that change is really idiotic. Then there’s Zoisite, one of Queen Beryl’s generals. The English version gives him a sex change for some reason. It doesn’t even make sense because the art’s the same they just gave him a female voice and changed the pronouns. The reasoning probably being to hide the fact that the show has gay characters (Zoisite and Kunzite). Because you can’t have gay characters running around, especially when their relationship is used to make them sympathetic. The children might get the idea that it’s okay and then we wouldn’t have as many hate crimes or intolerance and that would be terrible… Wait, what? Yeah, it’s a really stupid change. Give me back my yaoi boys. Give them back or in the name of the moon, I will punish you and you do not want to see me in the uniform. Now, I could go into a lot more detail about weird and pointless changes but there are a lot of them so I’ll stop there. If there are changes that impact the story, characters, or so on, I’ll talk about those when I get to the relevant point. Needless to say, a lot of the random changes are just perplexing.

Let’s go right to the story. Sailor Moon has a very simple story. A girl named Tsukino Usagi is given a magic broach by a talking cat that turns her into a warrior of love and justice. She’s sorely needed because a group known as the Dark Kingdom is stealing energy from humans in a bid to awaken their great ruler and conquer the galaxy. It’s a pretty standard super hero plot. But there are some things that are done really well. To begin with, this series has a great sense of humour. It embraces all of the goofiness inherent to the concept and just has a lot of fun with it. There are also some strong themes dealing with love and reincarnation which add some complexity and intrigue to the whole thing. The final episodes are really spectacular. The main characters go into the proverbial underworld and, not to spoil anything, but there are some genuinely tragic moments as a result but it still manages to end on a suitably optimistic note.

There are some issues though. I’ll start with the general issues that are present in both versions and move on to the ones that are unique to the English dub. Before you ask, there are no issues unique to the Japanese version. The first issue is pretty minor and it deals with the disguises. Apparently Sailor Moon takes place in Metropolis since a change of clothes and nothing else is enough to hide someone’s identity. You’d think that anyone could figure out who they are just by looking at them. Then there’s the tendency to have Mamoru come in and rescue the soldiers with a hastily thrown rose. It happens too often and gets pretty annoying.The other problems both deal with romance. The first is that all of the major characters, except for Usagi, are given gratuitous male “love interests” who show up for a few episodes, have virtually no personality, do nothing to advance the plot and then fade into barely being mentioned again. Their entire purpose seems to be to setup the possibility for future romance, but I’ve seen the other four series and, trust me, it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s like Takeuchi Naoko, or to be more accurate like the anime writers since they aren’t in the original manga, created them for future use and then realised they were pointless . Even Luna gets a gratuitous potential love interest and she’s a freaking cat. The other issue is with the romances that do have a story purpose. IE: the romance between Usagi and Mamoru and the romance between Naru and Nephrite. The problem here is that the girls are middle school students and the guys are college age. I do understand why it was done like that. Sailor Moon’s target audience is middle-high school aged girls and a lot of girls at that age are interested in older guys so it’s giving its audience a little wish fulfillment. However, that doesn’t stop it from being sleazy and screwed up. Now, let’s look at the problems the English version brings to the table. The first is that it lacks the humour of the original. How? Through heavy censorship and pointless dialogue changes, of course. They also edit a lot of the more intense moments towards the end which not only really weakens the impact but makes the last few episodes almost incoherent. Oh, and the dub’s opening sequence gives away major ending spoilers. Why? Because they hate you.

For the characters I’m actually going to look at the original and English versions separately. Why? Because they really are significantly different. It’s actually kind of fascinating how much the characters change as a result of massive dialogue changes, and various edits. Let’s start with Usagi. She’s a bit clumsy and something of a crybaby, but she also bounces back quickly and has a very positive outlook. She gets horrible grades but she doesn’t seem stupid. She really comes off more as someone of below average intelligence who just wants to have fun and neglects her studies as a consequence. She also has a great capacity both for love and growth. She’s far from perfect, but she is an interesting and very sympathetic character. Then you have Serena, which is the name they gave her in the English version. She’s a lot whinier and, where Usagi doesn’t really seem stupid, Serena seems like she eats paint chips in a deliberate attempt to eliminate any extra brain cells she may have. You also get a lot less of her good qualities, particularly her ability to love and support her friends. Where Usagi proves herself capable by fighting alone in quite a few cases, growing gradually stronger and more confident in the process, most of those episodes are cut from the English version, making Serena seem far more helpless and less capable. Then we have Ami. She’s kind of shy in the sense that she doesn’t feel like she fits in. She’s highly intelligent and she studies too much, but she can also loosen up and just have fun. She’s a very sweet character who cares deeply for others. She does have faults though. She can loosen up, and does at times, but she still takes things too seriously and there are times when she tries too hard to please others. In contrast we have Amy. Amy goes from being kind of socially awkward to being painfully, annoyingly shy. She has lousy communication skills and very little personality. Then you have Rei. She’s outspoken, which sometimes leads to her saying things she regrets. She’s also very passionate, protective and cunning. Rei teases Usagi, but it’s made clear that it’s a friendly type of teasing. Then you have Raye. Raye lacks any kindness or loyalty and is just unpleasant. To give a great example, there’s an episode where Sailor Moon is trying to trick her way into the Dark Kingdom. In the original Japanese Usagi entrusts Rei with the silver crystal just in case something goes wrong which serves to help highlight the closeness of their friendship. In the English dub Raye steals the silver crystal because she’s horrible. Moving on to Makoto. One of the things I love about her is that she goes against type. She’s the physically most imposing but she also has the most feminine personality. She has some body issues because she thinks she’s too tall, which are handled pretty realistically. She always tries to be supportive of her friends, although she doesn’t always know how to go about it. Then you have Lita. In the English dub they decided to play to stereotypes so they downplayed her femininity and made her as much of a tomboy as they could. They do it really badly too. The final character I’m going to talk about is Minako. She’s a bit flighty but she’s also the most mature character in the group and is able to keep her cool very well. She’s charismatic and just a fun character. Mina, in contrast, is basically identical to Serena. They make her the quintessential dumb valley girl type of character. There are more characters I could talk about but they all follow the same basic pattern. The original has a good amount of character complexity and the dub reduces the characters to one-dimensional stereotypes. Because they hate you.

Let’s talk about the art. Honestly, it’s kind of out-dated. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it still looks pretty nice, for the most part, but the animation can be choppy at times and there are some animation errors. The art can also be lazy with a good amount of stock footage and action scenes dominated by motion blurs. Still, the monsters are very creative, the character designs are great and the action sequences can get pretty intense. Now, you probably expect me to complain about fan-service, since I’ve done it a lot in my reviews. But give me some credit, it’s always a legitimate complaint. That’s why I’m going to defend Sailor Moon. Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of dumb people claim that their uniforms are fan-servicey, but those complaints don’t hold up. Their uniforms are just glamorized summer style school uniforms. And no, they aren’t glamorized by being made skimpier, they’re glamorized through the addition of sparkly accessories and large bows. They don’t even do anything sexualised with them and the outfits themselves are no worse than what you get in Lucky Star, Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight, Cardcaptor Sakura, Azumanga Daioh or any other series about school girls, in fact, the sailor soldier uniforms might just be more covering since they include those extra frills. They’re school girls wearing school uniforms. This isn’t something that’s hard to follow. The only way the fan-service argument could possibly work is if you’re arguing that school uniforms are inherently fan-servicey and if you really think that you aren’t allowed to breathe anymore. I will say that they aren’t exactly functional for fighting, but I’m not going to complain about that much. The main reason being that I’ve read a lot of superhero comics and most of the outfits are designed around style and not functionality and that’s clearly the case here, or do you want to argue that a tuxedo is a great outfit to wear in a fight? There’s also a rumour that the girls are nude during their transformation sequences in the original, but it’s not true. The same sparkle effects are used in both versions. This may come as a surprise, but I’m not going to complain about the English version here. Honestly, they don’t change much in terms of the art, aside from obscuring the lettering to make it look like scribbles since some moron decided to change the setting to America. There are really only minor changes here and there. The original does look cleaner, but the edits aren’t really bad enough that I feel the need to discuss them at length. They’re just pointless.

Now for a look at the acting. The original is really well done with some incredibly talented people. It would take too long to bring them all up but to name a few there’s Mitsuishi Kotono, Hisakawa Aya and Shinohara Emi. They can over-act at times but they never really go overboard with it. The English version is hard to listen to and not just because the actors are all atrocious, although they really are awful. One of the big problems is that Katie Griffin shouts all of her lines while Karen Bernstein whispers all of hers. The result is that you can barely hear Amy unless the volume is so loud that Raye will cause you to go deaf. Then you have the opening songs. The Japanese version is really good. The English version is horrible. Not just musically, since whoever sang the dub version is painful to listen to, but lyrically. Let’s take a moment to look at a translation of the first few lines in the original: “I’m sorry, I’m not honest. I can say it in my dreams. My thoughts are about to short circuit. I want to be with you right now.” Now for the English version: “Fighting evil by moonlight. Winning love by daylight. Never running from a real fight. She is the one named Sailor Moon.” Did they let a six year old write the lyrics? To make it even worse the English version just gives up halfway through and lists the names of the characters. If they had nothing remotely good to change it to why did they bother changing it at all? The answer’s pretty obvious. They did it because the English version hates you and all that is good.

There’s a fair amount of les-yay in this. For example, there’s an episode where Rei gets really fired up about winning romantic cruise tickets and she does, possibly by using her psychic abilities to cheat. Who does she ask? Ami of course. No, she doesn’t try asking any guys first she goes straight to Ami. On the grounds that she wants to help Ami broaden her horizons… Subtlety really isn’t one of Rei’s strong points. There’s another episode where Ami and Rei appear together on a wedding decoration that declares “The Happy Couple.” I’m not going to lie, that is one of the best scenes I’ve ever seen in terms of imagery. There are even minor characters who are heavily implied to be lesbians and the soldiers occasionally make eyes at other girls. You know, the sparkly eyes you get in some anime when a character’s looking at their crush. So the yuri factor is going to be a 6/10 for heavily implied subtext, in the original. The English version cuts as much of it out as they can, earning it a 3/10.

Let’s move on to the final rating. How does Sailor Moon hold up? It’s a goofy series. A lot of the things that happen can be incredibly silly, but it’s all very enjoyable and light-hearted. Honestly, I even kind of find the stock footage endearing. I have to give it an 8/10. If you want a purely fun viewing experience you can’t go wrong with it. Now, you may be wondering why I like Sailor Moon so much when it’s not one of my higher rated series. Well, there are four more anime entries for it and, frankly, this is the weakest. The other four anime all have more of what makes it good and less of its problems. Maybe I’ll look at R, S, Super S and Stars at a later point. There is one thing, however, that I’m never doing again and that’s looking at the English dub. It’s horrendous. Just about everything good about the original is decimated in the dub until only a very small sliver remains. The English dub gets a 2/10. Even if I somehow reach a million reviews I will never watch an anime dub again, ever.

Sailor Moon R: In the name of Sirius, I will analyse you!

Hello everyone. We’ve got a bit of a special review today. That’s right, it’s number 200, although those of you reading this on WordPress haven’t gotten access to all of them yet, but it’s only a matter of time until the last review of yesteryear gets uploaded so please be patient. We’ve been through a lot in that time and not just in terms of anime covered. The format has changed quite a bit and I think all those changes have been for the better. When I hit my hundredth review I looked at the first series of Sailor Moon, both the English and Japanese versions. One of which was an abomination whereas the other was really good. Now, at that time I said I would never look at an English dub again and I’m not going to go back on that. That being said, it is appropriate for the 200th review to hearken back to that moment with a look at the second anime series, Sailor Moon R. Now, like Dragonball, I’m not going to worry about spoilers with this one. Keep that in mind. So grab your transforming pens, put on your planetary makeup and let’s take a look at where the series goes from there.

Story:

Sailor Moon R has two story arcs. The first picks up where the previous series ended, with the sailor soldiers having lost their memories and gone back to their normal lives. The peace is interrupted when something otherworldy crashes into the Juban area in the dead of night. Two aliens named Ail and Ann, I know it’s a cheesy pun but I love it, have come to Earth to take the energy from living things to feed their Doom tree. Usagi regains her powers when Naru is attacked by a monster that comes out of a card, it’s nice to see her back in her usual role, and all without a duel disk system or expensive holograms. Usagi sorrowfully bids farewell to her normal life and gets to work. With Usagi on the case, it naturally doesn’t take long before the rest of the soldiers have to have their powers and memories returned as well. So we have the five inner senshi fighting to stop Ail, Ann and their Cardians.

The second arc starts with a young pink-haired girl dropping from the sky and interrupting Usagi and Mamoru’s date. She demands that Usagi hand over the silver crystal and hypnotises her family, making them think she’s Usagi’s cousin who is also called Usagi. While the sailor soldiers are planning what to do about her, I suggest lots of duct tape, an actual threat materialises. They call themselves the Black Moon clan and they want to capture Chibi-Usa and manipulate areas they refer to as future crystal points. The sailor soldiers have to protect Chibi-Usa, learn her purpose and stop the Black Moon clan. To save both the present and the future.

There are really only two story issues. The first is the ongoing problem of a change of clothes being enough to conceal someone’s identity. Because Usagi, Ami, Rei, Makoto and Minako all look very different when they put on their sailor soldier uniforms versus when they’re dressed normally. Who knows, maybe there’s supposed to be some component of their transformation that hides their identities, but the art does nothing to illustrate that nor is anything of the sort ever mentioned. It’s not like the Precure franchise where their hair changes in an obvious way. The other issue is the relationship between Usagi and Mamoru. Yes, I know that the age difference between the two is meant to provide some wish fulfillment for the target audience since many girls that age are interested in men, or women, who are much older. It’s still really creepy when you have a college guy getting romantically involved with a middle school girl. This dude needs to be on a watch-list. Even putting that aside, the way they show relationship growth between them is just lazy. We’re expected to believe they have a great relationship, not because of any actual substantial interaction between them, but because they’re “destined lovers” reincarnated and because they’re shown as being together in the future.

Putting that aside, there are significant improvements from the first anime. The gratuitous love interests for Ami, Rei, Minako and Makoto barely show up or get mentioned, if they are at all. In the case of Rei they even eliminate him as a love interest, explicitly stating that he’s not her boyfriend nor does she love him. The story itself is also paced a bit better since the first series was padded out a bit with episodes that didn’t really advance anything. Although, in all fairness, those episodes did almost always have good character moments to make up for it. The stories themselves are fun, optimistic and uplifting. I like that most Sailor Moon villains aren’t actually evil but just being manipulated or lacking a good understanding of love and, therefore, not only can they find redemption but you want to see them redeemed. The series also has some good sources of tension, particularly if you look at it from the perspective of the target audience.

Characters:

Sailor Moon R takes strong characters and develops them into even better characters. Ami, Rei, Makoto, Minako and Usagi all have episodes that focus on their characters and develop them. They all get their own story arcs as well, which gives them all their own chances to shine and heroic moments. Their relationships with each other also develop and improve over the course of the series. Even several of the side characters get some really strong moments. The antagonists have developed and sympathetic motivations, excluding Death Phantom. Most of them aren’t even bad people just misguided. Which is an aspect I really liked. I also like that it portrays all manner of love, romantic, familial and friendly, as important and beautiful. It also makes the rare move of portraying one-sided love without demonising either of the parties involved. Which is sadly rare in media, especially media aimed at young girls.

If there’s one weakness to the characters in this it’s Chibi-Usa. I don’t absolutely detest her in the way that so many fans do, I don’t even know if I’d go so far as to say I dislike her, but she is a pretty annoying character. She whines a lot and makes really dumb mistakes due to selfishness or just a lack of basic thinking skills. Although I will give the anime credit, she is vastly improved in it when compared to the manga and there are two things that contribute to that. The first is her age. In the anime she’s a small child and, as annoying as she can be, she acts like one. It’s hard to hate a little kid for making the kinds of mistakes she makes. Even if the kid is a bit annoying. In the manga she’s supposed to be over 900 and yet she still acts like a small child which is just inexcusable at that age. In the manga she also has a creepy incestuous thing going with her father, even snogging him while he’s mind-controlled. In the anime she comes across as possessive of him certainly, but possessive in a pretty normal way for a little kid to act towards their parent and she most certainly doesn’t do anything like that. So, in the anime she is kind of annoying but I wouldn’t call her a bad character. She has some good emotional scenes and even the ways in which she’s kind of obnoxious are understandable given her age.

Art:

The art is pretty dated with some choppy animation and, like the first series, it over-uses stock footage for attacks. While it certainly doesn’t hold up to today’s standards, it was really good for its time and it still has a nostalgic charm to it. A lot of the monsters have really interesting designs. The character designs themselves are well done and it manages to have some nice, intense action sequences in spite of the stock attacks. I actually really like that the soldiers’ outfits are designed as school uniforms with personalised touches based on what girls actually like to wear when left to their own devices with the modifications being based on the characters’ personalities. It’s an interesting idea and well executed. I do have to give Takeuchi Naoko kudos for it.

Sound:

Fukami Rica, Tomizawa Michie, Shinohara Emi, Hisakawa Aya & Mitsuishi Kotono reprise their roles as the sailor soldiers and they all do a fantastic job. They put a lot of nuance into their performances, sometimes exaggerating for comedic effect and others being very subtle and down-played. The acting always suits the scene. Our not quite newcomer, Araki Kae, does a really good job as Chibi-Usa. The reason I call her a not quite newcomer is that she filled in for the voice of Usagi for a couple episodes in the first series, and did such a good job that you probably won’t notice the difference even if you’re listening for it. When Chibi-Usa is whining she doesn’t make it exaggerated or ridiculous. Rather, she gives a performance that shows degrees. You can tell when Chibi-Usa is about to cry and when she’s trying not to. So, as annoying as the character can be, I have to give the actress credit for voicing her really well.

The music is upbeat and a lot of fun to listen to. Both the music that they play during the episodes and the music from the opening and ending themes. It complements the tone of the series perfectly and is just a joy. I’m particularly fond of Otome no Policy, both the lyrics and Ishida Yoko’s performance.

Ho-yay:

The les-yay is a bit toned down from the first series. There’s still an under-current of homo-eroticism amongst the girls, but nowhere near the extent that it was in the first series. Maybe they figured that without the male love interests around they didn’t need as much to compensate or maybe they were saving up all the yuri moments for Sailor Moon S when Haruka and Michiru show up & when Chibi Usa meets Hotaru. Someone really should have told them that there isn’t a limited amount of yuri subtext, or even yuri text, that you can have in a franchise. In any case, the ho-yay factor for Sailor Moon R is going to be a 3/10.

Final Thoughts:

Sailor Moon R is a thoroughly enjoyable series with a lot of great moments and some really strong characters. It has some faults, but it’s easy to see why the franchise as a whole had such a massive impact on the magical girl genre and why this season in particular contributed to that influence. But as fun and entertaining as it is, it isn’t perfect. Several problems persist and they do affect the series adversely. Still, they are relatively minor issues when you consider how much it does right. As such my final rating is an 8.5/10. If you don’t like magical girl anime you won’t like it, but for quite literally anyone else I do recommend it.

Thanks to everyone who reads these every week and puts up with my various idiosyncrasies. It’s because of all of you that I can keep doing this as a hobby in spite of how closely it resembles my actual job. Thanks for the comments, requests and all of that. You guys and gals are the best. Next week I’ll go back to requests with Stand Alone Complex. I hope you’ll look forward to it.

Film Festival Week: Sailor Moon R: The Movie

Sailor Moon is one of those franchises that you’re almost certainly familiar with. It has five anime series with a sixth currently airing. I already looked at the first series, which was great if you watched the original and terrible if you watched the heavily censored Eglish dub. It also has a live action series, over a dozen video games, a musical version and a trio of anime films. Today, we’ll be looking at the first of them. Sailor Moon R: The Movie.

Story:

We open with the sailor soldiers going to a greenhouse/ garden to look at flowers. Everything seems to be going well and laughter is in abundance. That’s when a strange guy approaches Mamoru and takes his hand in a very suggestive fashion while telling him that he’s brought a flower like he promised. Usagi notices and tells him that Mamoru is her boyfriend. He responds by pushing her away, shifting appearance to look very similar to Ail and Ann & teleporting away with a flowery effect. But he vows to bring Mamoru lots of flowers. Mamoru mentions the name “Fiore” and goes off on his own. Leaving the soldiers to contemplate what it all means and Usagi to try to deal with her boyfriend’s probable bisexuality. Although she really has no room to judge given that she’s attracted to at least three other women over the course of the anime.

Now, I actually do like that they use their words and try to reason with the antagonist rather than just going into a long fight scene. I also do like that they make Fiore sympathetic, which is pretty common for Sailor Moon villains, instead of evil for the evils. The film also has some good comedic moments, some with Chibi-Usa, although I only begrudgingly admit that I liked some of her scenes. I also like that the film’s story is self-contained, giving you enough information that you can easily understand it even if you haven’t seen the series leading up to it. The film’s major narrative flaw is the ending. A lot of the stuff leading up to it is good, but it moves into an obvious fake out scene with a cheap resolution. Now, it really needed a little time after that scene to wrap things up properly. Instead, the movie just ends abruptly. It feels like they couldn’t think of a good way to wrap things up and just decided not to bother.

Characters:

The sailor soldiers remain fun, entertaining and interesting characters. Some of the best scenes in the film involve the five of them just having fun or explore their bonds with each other. Fiore is also a great character and I did, overall, like what they did with his story arc. The weak links are Chibi-Usa, who gets some funny scenes but is still a pretty annoying character, and Mamoru, who is just as bland and generically good as he’s always been. The difference is that in the series he stayed largely on the sidelines as a secondary character and in this film he’s one of the major focus characters. It does make his dullness more noticeable.

Art:

The art is good. The character designs look as nice as ever. The action sequences flow better than they do in most of the series with some of the stock attack animations being replaced by more active scenes, although there are certainly plenty of the stock animations present. The backgrounds are lively and nicely detailed, certainly moreso than was present in the first series at least.

Sound:

The vocal cast is superb, as it is in the main series. Mitsuishi Kotono, Hisakawa Aya, Tomizawa Michie, Shinohara Emi and Fukami Rica are joined by Touma Yumi as the Kisenian flower and Midorikawa Hikaru as Fiore. Sailor Moon fans may recognise them as the same duo who played Ail and Ann in R. Which is a little confusing given that the film’s story really has nothing to do with the main R storyline in spite of the title. Still, they all give great performances. The music is really good. Sure, some of it is recycled from the series but it was good music then and it’s still just as good.

Ho-yay:

Given that the plot revolves on another man with an obvious crush on Mamoru and that Mamoru does respond to his feelings pretty favorably in spite of Fiore’s feelings being arguably one-sided, I’m going to give it a ho-yay factor of a 5/10.

Final Thoughts:

Sailor Moon R: The Movie does have a lot to recommend it. The characters, aside from a certain two, are really good. The story itself is compelling and features a lot of good moments. The voice acting and music are great. It’s not a great film, however. It suffers from a weak ending. It feels incomplete. One of the focus characters is Generic Male Love Interest #403. If you’re a fan of the Sailor Moon franchise and you haven’t seen it, check it out. You’ll probably like it okay, at the very least. My final rating is going to be a 7/10. Tomorrow, a film from a different famous Toei animation franchise. Yes, this one is probably the first one you thought of.