Back in the days before Pokemon ruled the school yard, I remember turning into Agro’s Cartoon Connection every morning before school to watch an episode of Sailor Moon. Although several months behind the North American release and many years of unavailability, Madman Entertainment have finally been able to bring Sailor Moon to Australian and New Zealand audiences just in time for Christmas. Does this classic anime series, which is likely to be nostalgic to many, still shine in 2015 or has its time past? Read on to find out!
Storyline / Character Development
Madman Entertainment’s Season 1 Part 1 collection of Sailor Moon contains the first 24 episodes of this 200 episode television series, and unlike the original localised release, is available completely uncut with no missing episodes or content edits/cuts. As many would already know, this series follows the story of middle-school student Usagi Tsukino, who is recruited by a talking black cat named Luna as the Sailor Guardian Sailor Moon. Despite her mostly scatterbrained and cry-babyish personality, she is given the task of finding the other four Sailor Guardians, the Moon Princess and the legendary Silver Crystal. However this mission isn’t made easy, with very few leads for Usagi and Luna to work off, and the evil forces of Queen Beryl standing in their way.
Each episode generally comes down to Usagi, Luna and the awakened Sailor Guardians going against a particular “villain of the episode”, with only the core Dark Kingdom antagonist of the arc carrying across to each episode. Because of the rapid turn-around of new villains, each episode could be considered self-contained with their own individual conflicts and resolutions. Most of the time, episodes involve the Dark Kingdom coming up with new ways to sap energy from the townsfolk, exploiting some human personality trait or desire to do so. They do come up with quite a few different ways to accomplish this, however each episode usually involves the plan coming to the attention of the Sailor Guardians and them resolving it with a few flashy transformation/attack scenes, with occasional assistance from the mysterious Tuxedo Mask.
My main issue with the storyline is how the Dark Kingdom go about accomplishing their tasks. It is clear that they need to siphon energy from humans to accomplish their nefarious goals, however whether they are stealing it from the masses or from a single person, they aren’t exactly covert about doing so. Ultimately there is almost always some means for Usagi to stumble across their activities. That being said, while each individual episode varies in quality, they are for the most part enjoyable. It is also nice to see a show which doesn’t throw all its main cast at the viewer too early, providing a little bit more time for them to get acquainted with Sailor Moon, Mercury and Mars before the arrival of Jupiter and Venus in the next collection.
Design / Music / Voice Acting
The Australian and New Zealand release of Sailor Moon is only available on DVD, compared to North America where it is possible to pick up the series on both DVD and Blu-ray. Despite this limitation, Madman’s release makes use of high quality European masters which are in my opinion aesthetically pleasing. Especially when you take into consideration that this anime adaptation of Sailor Moon was originally aired in the 90’s, the animation and visual quality is of a high quality overall.
The first 24 episodes of Sailor Moon make use of a single well-animated opening sequence, complemented by the song “Moonlight Densetsu” by DALI. Those familiar with the original English version of Sailor Moon will recognise the tune but not the lyrics of this song. A single ending sequence is also used, complemented by the song “Heart Moving” by Misae Takamatsu.
Given the original English dub for Sailor Moon was edited, to provide a dual-audio release, VIZ Media would have had to provide two video tracks or drop one language. While as a kid from the 90s I do feel some nostalgia towards what I grew up watching, I think VIZ Media did the right decision by opting to commission a new English dub. Overall the new voice cast handled their characters well, with Stephanie Sheh and Michelle Ruff in particular working with the roles of Sailor Moon and Luna well. Complementing the duo is Karen Bernstein, Cristina Vee and Robbie Daymond, who take on the roles of Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars and Tuxedo Mask.
In terms of on-disc content, the main highlight is a thirteen minute featurette which provides a behind the scenes look at the English dub’s creation. Although I would have liked something a little bit longer and involving a few more voice cast members (as only Stephanie Sheh and Robbie Daymond were featured), it was a very interesting watch. Also available on-disc are textless opening/ending sequences and trailers for a handful of Madman Entertainment licensed series (Haikyu!!, Log Horizon, One Piece Film: Z and Stella Women’s Academy: High School Division Class C3).
Final Words on Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1
Sailor Moon has managed to stand the test of time for more than two decades now, and after being unavailable for so long, it is great to see the series being re-released once again. The show is getting another chance to shine with both a new generation of anime fans and those, who like myself, are nostalgic about the series they would have seen on early morning television back in the 90’s. Although some episodes are arguably better than others, the amount of work that was put into the storyline, character development and animation is evident in the show’s quality.
I look forward to continuing to watch Sailor Moon in 2016.
A review copy of Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1 was provided by Madman Entertainment.