Archive for the English Anime Category

Sailor Moon Anime, Season 2 Part 1 Disk 1 (English)

November 3rd, 2015

SMR21When Sailor Moon was originally renewed after a successful first season, the change in art quality was immediately apparent. Toei, for once, was actually spending a little money on the animation. And so, the newly remastered version of Sailor Moon, Season 2, aka Sailor Moon R, looks fully drawn in a way that the first season never did.

Viz, in their infinite wisdom, sent me Part 1 on Blu-ray and Part 2 of this set on DVD. I’m gonna have to say that as much as the art has improved from Season 1, I don’t think Blu-ray is the right way to watch this series. The art doesn’t hold up to being seen in high resolution is on a large screen. It looks much better on my laptop, with it’s smaller 15″ screen.

The sound, however, works the other way around, coming out of my reasonably new laptop speakers as a tinny almost monotone track, and coming out of my TV much more balanced. So I have to decide if I want it to sound good or look good, but both is not an option, which is not Viz’s fault per se, but is a little strange.

As Sailor Moon R begins, we recall that Princess Serenity removed everyone’s memories of being Senshi and we all returned to our normal lives. But a new threat arrives as aliens Ail and An (ailu-an=alien, get it?) chose “transfer student” as their cliche of choice. What follows, plot-wise, is relatively uninteresting, with the monsters of the day, this time called Cardians, being neither people introduced for the purpose of possessing them nor everyday objects that turned into monsters in order to be defeated. The aliens might be sympathetic if they just asked for help, so the entire plot of this arc revolves on them not having a conversation. It’s not good writing, nor need it be, as it’s not about them. The entire arc is a holding pattern while the Senshi get their memories back, then a longer holding pattern until we deal with Mamoru, who seems to have become a split personality, in which all possible versions of Chiba Mamoru are cheesy. ^_^

The high point of this arc is the episode when Usagi, heading to see what a mysterious thing is, sees Ami, Rei, Makoto and Minako in the crowd and understands that, while they don’t remember who they are, they seem to have somehow gravitated there anyway.


Art – 8
Story – 5
Characters – 8
Yuri – 0
Service – 2

Overall – 7

One of the best things about Sailor Moon Crystal was the compression of the R series. Without the massive amounts of filler, the story was relatively tight and, IMHO, more interesting. Back here with the original anime, we’ve got a *lot* of filler to wade through before we get to the meat of the season, and then more filler before anything is done with it. Of all five seasons, R may well be the hardest to rewatch in the original.

Sailor Moon Crystal to Get 3rd Season, Fans to Get Outer Senshi

September 28th, 2015

SMC3The news has come down from above….Sailor Moon Crystal is going to a third season!

ANN reports that the Death Busters arc was announced today, and will include the Outer Senshi. There is no announcement yet on the Sailor Moon Official page that voice actors or release dates have been chosen, but I’ll let you know as soon as we have word.

I know what you’re thinking…zOMG, Haruka and Michiru! And I want you to be very happy, of course. But let’s think a little about what this will mean to us. We know that Crystal is a literal animation of the manga, and the manga is a known quantity. So let’s think about it for a bit.

stylishAs I mentioned in my review of Strawberry Shake, what was once ground-breaking can wear a little unevenly over time. Haruka and Michiru are presented as a Takarazuka-esque couple. Haruka is passing as a man, but only as it suits her, she herself is not constrained by gender role. This is a little different from the original anime, in which she was consistently an otokoyaku, to the point where many consider her a cross-dresser. As I personally wear mostly men’s clothes, and do not think of myself that way, I of course do not think of her that way. ^_^ But it’s a valid perspective, as almost all perspectives are…except one. For years some American fans insisted that she was either a hermaphrodite or was originally a man, but reborn as a woman, because of the lines about her having the “heart of a man and a woman.” We here at Okazu know that this line was meant to recall Safire of Ribon no Kishi/Princess Knight. The manga Haruka dresses in a feminine manner as often as she does masculine. That will come as a surprise to some older fans, but I hope not many. In fact, some her outfits as an adult woman are quite stylish in a 1990s Japanese women’s magazine kind of way. ^_^

Haruka is going to kiss Usagi. This is a given. But she will not kiss Michiru. Vexing, maybe, but I believe they can remedy this with a single simple act.

In Volume 5 of the new edition, Haruka and Michiru speak urgently of the Talismans. In the anime, this conversation becomes the “I love your hands” moment, which is beloved by fans. In the manga, we get this instead:


To make every Haruka x Michiru fan in the world happy, they need to do one thing. Before this scene cuts out, have them edge closer together, as if they are moving in for a kiss. They don’t have to actually kiss, just appear to moving towards one.

The upshot is, we’re going to get them more couple-y, more famous and cooler than in the anime, but we’re going to get less time in their heads, and less time building their relationship. Good and bad, as with all of Crystal.

In any case, let’s celebrate the 3rd season and I’m sure we’ll spend plenty of time raging and dying and crying and laughing over the news in days to come.

Sailor Moon, Season 1, Part 2, Disk 3 (English)

September 25th, 2015

SMS1P2We’re approaching the climactic ending of the first season with Sailor Moon, Season 1, Part 2, Disk 3. So, of course, you’d expect the story to get right into saving Mamoru/Endymion from Beryl’s clutches. I know I expected that, at least.

Instead, we take a quick side trip to give both Ami a boyfriend (a good choice, at the very least and one that will be completely forgotten after this season concludes) and Minako a sort-of boyfriend, but really an onee-sama, story. This is followed by an mostly pretty good onsen episode and a very silly tabloid episode that indicates to the viewers that Mamoru is not quite as brainwashed as the Dark Kingdom might want.

Which brings us to the final three episodes. Join me as I rewatch them for the first time in almost ten years.

The animation is better in many ways. The watercolor-wash backgrounds have more depth, and the figure art is more heavily outlined and finished than we’ve seen yet in the series.

Plot wise, we finally have all the holes filled in. The Senshi now remember their past lives. Kunzite does his level best to be a genuinely bad guy, but the more I think about it, the less it makes sense to me.

And as the Senshi hand their power over to Sailor Moon and you’re ready from her to be amazing, she’s still given dialogue that made the viewers in this room cringe.

Kunzite gets a decent death, with Zoisite’s name on his lips, rather than mooning (no pun intended) over Endymion. At least in the manga, Mamoru gets a vision of the boys after death. There is no connection in the anime between the generals and the Earth Prince. Lost opportunity, particularly when you think how many crappy filler episodes there were, we could have had one about the boys.

The pentultimate episode is subtitled “Death of the Senshi”, so no suspense here. You know what you’re in for. Lots of screaming and crying and death at the end of it. But no stress, no one stays dead.

In the meantime, we’re assured that the Senshi are all deeply committed to their path. Which is good, because we have another monster of the day before we deal with any of the actual bad guys!  And, one at a time, we lose the Senshi. We know why, of course. It’s because Usagi can’t be strong until she’s lost everything, but dammit, I really hate these bits. It’s annoying to watch Usagi whining and complaining when people are dying for her. Argh.

Of note, Sailor Moon can tell that Ami is dead. I’ve always felt that they ought to be able to feel each other’s transformations. Also interesting that they don’t die in the order they appeared, which seems to be standard for series like this. Rei cheerfully heading off to her death is horrible. Far worse than the manga. But it takes her death to give Usagi any strength. For the first time, but not the last.

Oh yes, now I remember why I loathe Mamoru. He’s a tool. Beryl, dump him and renaimate Jadeite. Seriously, he is twice the man Mamoru is. This whole series is a war of obsession with a complete tool. Ugh.

Usagi’s switch from “Mamo-chan” to “Mamoru-san” is jarring and distressing. It’s one of those rare flashes her parents (ironically, to us) comment on, where she seems suddenly much more mature and competent. And, again, it’s loss that strikes a spark in Usagi, and allows her to release her true power.

I’m a sucker for the use of the OP in a final battle scene.

I like Beryl, despite the fact that she’s a terrible evil queen. I found myself wondering this morning what she did while her generals were spawning their awful ideas for gathering energy.  Evil CEOs in the real world go on TV and do cringe-making interviews with TV “journalists,” but Beryl wasn’t even collecting energy for herself. My wife suggests that she spent her time plotting.

A miracle occurs, as Usagi loves everyone right back into life. And the season comes to a somewhat banal end.

The thing that occurs to me is that those brief flashes of maturity and strength are what I watch for. I know they’ll come and they have inordinate power to soothe me. But then, I think of people I know and it works pretty much the same way – it’s those moments, when everything aligns and all the energy is focused that makes it all worthwhile. In the end, maybe we’re all Senshi, trying to carve out lives while surrounded by forces beyond our control. Or maybe not, but I might just have occasion tonight to pick up one of my henshin stick pens and mention casually to the universe, “Planet Power, make up.” Maybe.


Art – 8 -Noticeably better this disk
Story – 8 Death of the Senshi
Characters – 8 Death of the Senshi
Yuri – 2 Because Minako
Service – 3 Some actual service, mild by today’s standards but enough to make this a massive popular series with the college crowd in pre-Internet days, when you had to sneak Dad’s Playboy.

Overall – 8

The preview for ‘R’ starts right off with much better art, which is interesting to me. It clearly had a bigger investment.  I’m not looking forward to Chibi-Usa, but I am looking forward to the dinosaur episode and Emeraude for reasons that make sense in my own mind.

And that, in the end is how we love Sailor Moon, for reasons that make sense in our own mind. We’ve built this structure of things we love and decorated it with Senshi goods, and call it Sailor Moon. A fascinating idea for study – loving the characters in a series that is massively influential, but not actually a masterpiece. I guess that’s most of anime, huh? ^_^

Many thanks to Viz Media for the review copy and thanks to everyone who made a decent release of the series possible!

Sailor Moon, Season 1, Part 2, Disk 2 (English)

September 4th, 2015

SMS1P2 There are some really good things about Sailor Moon, Season 1, Part 2, Disk 2. Plot just happens to not be among them. ^_^

First of all and most importantly, Sailor Venus has arrived! She’s so cool, having been a Senshi for a whole year or more without any help. So as to not have to respect her too much, she is a bubblehead. I’ll take the Venus of the manga (and Crystal) over this Minako any day. (I’m in a minority I know, but I hated “Nurse Minako”. Blecch.)

Secondly, Zoisite steps up to be the new baddie after having dispatched Nephrite, then blows it almost immediately. The best part of Zoi is his death, in which we get confirmation that he and Kunzite were an item, and it wasn’t our imagination. In 1992, this was huge, let me tell you.

The third thing that happens is that MamorugetskidnappedbyQueenBerylandishypnotizeintofightingSailorMoon, but since I do not care even a little, I like to call this part of the season, the “OH GOD, WHEN WILL THIS END?” arc. ^_^

So one the good side, all the Senshi are gathered. On the bad side, filler episodes, auuuuggggh. Remember the time Usagi goes to Princess School? No? There’s a reason why we wiped this out of our memeories. On the good, Zoisite is dead and he had a very beautiful, very gay death in Kunzite’s arms. On the bad side, Kunzite’s a bore, Mamoru’s a bore, Queen Beryl’s obsession is  a bore (sorry Beryl, but really…) and Metallia…6 episodes to go and I know it will feel like 60. Much of Usagi’s character development was wiped away after she discovers she is the Moon Princess so we’re back to whiny, crying Usagi all over again. On the good side…did I mention Zoisite’s beautiful death? Well, yes, that was the volume’s high point. I guess for other people it might have been the Moon Princess reveal. I am not other people.

I’m still entirely fascinated as I stack up the complaints about Crystal against the reality of Season 1. We didn’t actually get much time with any of the Inners and they have very little personality a mere handful of episodes from the end. So, no…Crystal did not erase tons of character development. The first season is just weak all the way around. We’re not being rational when we compare 200 episodes, 12 volumes of manga and megatons of fanfic we read and wrote to the actual story.


Art – 5  It’s not getting any better.
Story – 7, then filler episodes from hell – 3
Characters – 7 Minako fits right in, Usagi and Rei get a tad more development.
Yuri – 1 Usagi and Rei get a tad more development ^_^
Service – 1 on principle

Overall – 6

Best character of the Volume? Umino. I give that boy serious props.

Sound! Euphonium Anime (English) Guest Review by Christina Maria J

August 5th, 2015

Sound!EuphoniumWhoo-hoo!! Today is Guest Review Wednesday and we have a new Guest Reviewer! Welcome Christina Maria J. with a much-looked forward to review! The floor is yours, Christina Maria!

Before Sound! Euphonium aired, most people, me included, expected it to be something along the lines of a slightly more serious K-On! with different instruments. Instead it asserted its origins in the novel of the same name, to provide a mature and complex drama.

The show centers on high school freshman Kumiko, who almost besides herself finds ends up joining the band club, playing the euphonium despite her stated desire to get away from a past doing just that in middle school. She joins, only to find a club that’s both terrible and rife with old wounds being reopened by the presence of a new, ambitious advisor. Further complicating matters is the presence of old middle school bandmates, who Kumiko clearly has baggage in regards to, most notably the ambitious Reina.

A highly character-driven show, Sound! Euphonium not only juggles a large cast of characters, it actively explores a number of their lives, without ever straying from its central narrative and thematic points. This is made possible through highly efficient writing that rarely sticks to developing one plot point at a time; with almost every interaction developing multiple characters as well as the central plot. Unlike other shows, you won’t find archetypal characters doing their thing in isolation until their focus episode happens. Of the many relationships presented, the central one is that between the emotionally guarded, cynical Kumiko and the passionate, aloof loner Reina.

It is within this relationship the Yuri lies. Starting slow with Kumiko simply being heavily preoccupied with Reina, it develops to a point where the two share an intense physical and emotional intimacy that is not lost on other characters. A key aspect of their relationship is that it heavily deviates from the mold of being pure and innocent – much of their flirting is quite sexually laden – instead focusing on mutual attraction or how the other doesn’t simply conform to expectations of “proper” behavior. Both emphasize this aspect as part of their declaration of love for the other and, unusually, it is framed as a positive that helps them not only realize themselves, but learn to properly interact with society. This intense romantically and even sexually charged relationship is emphasized by how it stands in contrast to the close, platonic friendships between girls that make up most of the rest of the key relationships of the show.

On the whole, it builds up as a full romance, starting with the early stirrings of a crush and working all the way to being an established relationship. At least that’s how it comes off to me and the reading the show itself encourages. But I would be dishonest if I claimed that my interpretation wa universal. Many have found that it lacks the smoking gun of absolute proof that makes them feel like the creators truly sought to present LGBT representation.

There is much more I could talk about, I haven’t touched on the show’s themes at all, for example, nor have I touched on the band plot despite the way itform the backbone of the show. I could also have discussed the care with which music and the band experience are portrayed or the strength of the visual storytelling. Instead of going deeply into these topics, I’ll simply encourage anybody who finds anything in this review even the least bit interesting to explore it for themselves.


Art – 10: Pushes the boundaries of anime visuals, both technically and artistically
Story – 9: Complex and mature
Characters – 10: All complex, multidimensional and sympathetic with no anime stereotypes in sight
Yuri – Personally 9: but in light of the frustrations of others and my understanding of how my own background informs my perception, I’ll say 6 overall.
Service – 2: Generally unobtrusive, but there are some questionable character poses in a few shots

Overall – 10: A truly exceptional, nuanced drama that also provides what is, in my opinion, the best looking TV anime ever made

Available on Crunchyroll in all regions except Asia.

Erica here: Thank you Christina Maria, for a thoughtful review. I’ve been waffling over whether to give this some time, since fan art is rarely a good indication of anything other than fan delusion. ^_^ Now I’m inclined to give it a try!