Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1, Disk 1 (English)

May 7th, 2015

SM1P1LEWhen Sailor Moon first hit Cartoon Network, I found it entertaining in a way I hadn’t ever before experienced. Things…changed. The characters grew over time, they remembered what had happened last week and learned new things as the series went on. They got more powerful, and braver and more competent as the series progressed. The story wasn’t about just defeating the bad guys. We learned about the characters themselves, too – what they liked and didn’t like. They had complex relationships – sometimes the closest of friends, sometimes they’d be distant. It was something so amazing, so different from the animation I had grown up with, that I was hooked.

It was 1998. Seriously? I have been obsessing about this series for 17 years? Good heavens.

Pioneer originally released the series on VHS. We don’t have all of the VHS tapes because they were impossible to find in order, or as a set. You’d get one volume of episodes at Suncoast and thne search forever to find the next one, maybe discovering it at an anime con, or the bargain rack at The Wall. Or not, and you’d have that hole in your collection forever. When Pioneer put the set out on DVD, I scarfed them up. Cartoon Network had hacked and slashed the third season up in the weirdest possible way, making cross-dressing Haruka and her flirtatious possibly-girlfriend Michiru into a creepy pair of incestuous cousins, and we were thrilled beyond belief to have Sailor Moon S in its subtitled, uncut weirdness.

In 2014 we got the new Sailor Moon Crystal anime. Predictably, fandom spent more time being unhappy about it than glad. My favorite complaints are that the animation is bad and the faces are all the same. The complaint that we spend too little time with the characters is entirely valid. The season went from 40 episodes down to 13, mirroring the manga, which means the anime has both the strengths and the weaknesses of the the manga. We lost some character building time for the Senshi, that is true. We also lost many other things.Viz has put out a brand new master of the original Sailor Moon anime. I am rewatching every single episode, even the bad ones, and let me tell you, there are some stinkers in this thing.

Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1, Disk 1 begins with the moment that clumsy, crybaby Tsukino Usagi meets a talking cat, Luna and learns that she is a Guardian of Love and Justice, Sailor Moon. She is also stalked by this creepy dude in a mask and tux, cleverly called Tuxedo Mask.

No one is going to beat me in my love for this series, but I have to be honest with you, episode 4 really bites. In fact, the first 7 episodes are probably my least favorite among all 200 and I am including all of “R” and “Super S” in that. Chibi-Usa kissing a unicorn sucks less that the episode where Usagi is worried about losing weight. If I could destroy that episode so no one ever had to see it again, I would, gladly. And truly, the animation is abominable. Remember, that no one at Toei knew whether this would fail and they pulled out no stops at all. The animation is bad even for its time. So when you complain that the animation is bad in Crystal, remember that Sailor Moon has a 20-year tradition of bad art. ^_^

And let’s talk about the writing for a second. In Crystal, because we don’t have monsters of the day, only enemies of the day, we don’t get lines like “Frilled-neck lizards, albino Mexican salamanders, and the human face fish are all mad!” I don’t know whether to call that a loss or a victory, ^_^

This all having been said, the one thing that made the series work for me starts up in Episode 8, with the addition of Mizuno Ami to the team. The rapport between the characters was always what made Sailor Moon work for me (although I admit to loving the monsters of the day for their inherent absurdity). When Ami first shows up, she looks lonely. That look will leave her face as time goes on, because one of the key points of anime is that you are stronger with friends. Seeing Ami smile was worth it. It’s always worth it.

Last, but not at all least, I have to commend Viz. The remastering is as good as anyone could have ever hoped and the translation not only is accurate, but includes cues to character voice, so that Usagi’s lines sound like a child, while Ami’s are a bit more mature. Top marks from me on that. (As an aside, when I began watch Crystal, I though that Mitsuishi Kotono-san was voicing Usagi a bit babyish, but the more I listen to the original, the more I think it fits. About episode 7 or 8, she starts sounding a bit more babyish, so clearly that was what they were going for.)

In general, the Viz edition is clean, simple and appealing. For folks who want fancier layouts, there are multiple versions, with physical and content extras. The more basic Limited Edition is available on Amazon and RightStuf through the Yuricon Shop.

It was both wonderful and excruciating revisiting this disk and I have no doubt that my feeelings will remain the same for the next two disks. Onward – more Senshi await.

Ratings:

Art – 6 tops
Story – 7 Still more plausible than Weiss Kreuz
Characters – 7, soon to climb
Yuri – 0
Service – 1 unless you count Tuxedo Mask and I don’t, but there is inevitable bathing.

Overall – 7, but watch it crescendo as we move forward.

Sincere and immense thanks to Viz Media for a review copy. It’s like visiting old friends (and remembering why you didn’t visit them any more. ^_^)

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11 Responses

  1. Cryssoberyl says:

    So you had no problems with the video quality? I haven’t seen the release, but there was a massive backlash about the bad job Viz had apparently done compared to the remasters other markets received, even leading to a very awkward interview on ANNCast with the project directors making tepid excuses.

    I’m not someone who’s obsessed with pristine video, but there was enough outcry to put me off purchasing the set, which normally would’ve been a MUST BUY, because by all accounts it was a mess of a release and Viz flat out said they were not going to attempt any improvement for subsequent sets.

    • Disclaimer: I wouldn’t know bad video quality if it bit me. This was way better than I could have imagined, given the Pioneer quality and realistically the original sucked, so I thought it looked just fine, but I’m not watching a BD of 15 year old series expecting it to be amazing, either.

  2. This goes way beyond ‘video was disappointing’. As Cryssoberyl pointed out, Charlene Ingram was interviewed on ANNCast regarding the BluRays and came off not only as tepid, but also as someone who doesn’t fully understand the kind of market she works in.

    http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/anncast/2014-11-13/.81009

    For example, the DVDs that came with the first release are ‘pillarboxed’. Since the show was originally made in a 4×3 format, the remastering crew added black bars to both sides of the image so that it would fit a 16×9 screen. Makes sense, right? Here’s the problem. DVD/BluRay players all come with a function that generates those black bars automatically if the image is registered as 4×3 (Which Sailor Moon should be). By adding black bars into the actual image, the crew registered the video as a 16×9 image. So if you happen to watch the series on a 4×3 TV, the image will be squished! Another reason why pillarboxing is a bad idea is when you make those black bars part of the image, they take up image data. Since those black bars take up 1/4 of the presentable image, that’s 1/4 data wasted on nothing.

    ANNCast also asked Charlene if VIZ was going to fix this issue since it’s a pretty clear problem. Her answer was a resounding no, even though she assured everyone that they would not pillarbox the next volume. She even stated that this would somehow make the volume one set a ‘Collector’s Item’.

    *double facepalm*

    This is what I meant when I said that she doesn’t understand the market she works in. If the first volume was fixed and replacement discs were issued, than those who would still own the original discs would have a collector’s item. Like when the first original “Back to the Future” DVDs contained improper framing on the last two films, Universal issues a replacement program which required the owner to send the flawed discs back to the studio in order to get the proper discs. I elected to keep the originals and instead wait to get a newly pressed set with the correct framing so now the original two discs are legitimate collector’s items. Continuing to produce these discs and do nothing to fix their issues does not make them a collector’s item. It makes them a flawed product.

    • No, because they really can’t without redrawing the originals. It’s not like you can take animation that was done at low-res and magically remaster it to be retroactively something better than it was.

      When you look at a picture you drew as an 8 year old, you can redraw it to be better, but you can’t make that picture be a better one.

  3. Day says:

    What on earth are you saying?! Weiß Kreuz was incredibly realistic!

    Some of the complaints emanating out of SMCrystal seem to be coming from folks forgetting that the original manga was very, very much a superhero comic in the old sense (as in, not the “gritty” reboot-type material). I do think, though, that it is disappointing that the art/animation does look weird given that this is one of Toei’s biggest properties, and that there are two weeks between episodes.

    As for Viz’s release… well, damn, it has to at LEAST be better than the sets put out by ADV about twelve years ago! It’s certainly a hell of a lot cheaper (full MSRP of $90 for whole season of the non-premium, DVD-only release vs. $150).

    • The time between episodes is when they are actually being worked on. Crazy in this day and age, but they are *still* working on tight budgets and schedule.

      At least they will do some correction for BD releases.

    • Also, I think people were hoping to have a new, modernized version of SM with more modern sensibilities, rather than a retread. BUT that was never what Crystal was intended to be. It’s the anime Takeuchi-sensei wanted 20 years ago.

      • Cryssoberyl says:

        Yet ironically, and I don’t believe I’m wrong in thinking this, the fact she didn’t get that is the whole reason Sailor Moon became what it was. I’ve always considered the key to Sailor Moon’s global success is that the anime fused classical shoujo with a sentai-style action format.

        I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine a 1990s version of Crystal, with its horrendous pacing and cringetastic non-event “battle” scenes, leaving even a shadow of the same mark on history. And in fact, Takeuchi has herself criticized the manga as just the sort of thing a 14-year old would come up with and something she can barely stand to look back at now. Is that just false modesty?

        Because if she really believes that, she should understand the critical role the original anime played in turning Sailor Moon into a legendary franchise. People LOVED and continue to love that show, and I don’t understand why we should be asked to buy into the fantasy that a more “faithful” adaptation is inherently better, and what “should’ve” happened 20 years ago.

  4. Alison says:

    While I was disappointed with the video issues, even more so when Viz said it’s the best video out there, I must admit that dub sounds fantastic. I genuinely enjoyed listening to the dub which is usually hard for me to do when I’ve listened to the Japanese for so long.

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