Rarely have I felt so unqualified to post on an anime as I do about Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Crystal. I have nothing against the franchise by any means – in fact I bear a certain fondness for it given that it was created by the woman that inspired Biscuit Krueger. But regarding the many manga and anime incarnations themselves I really have no strong feelings one way or the other, and neither am I especially knowledgeable about it. Over the course of many years I’ve watched good chunks of it but always here and there, never in a long, unbroken stretch. I don’t count mahou shoujou among my favorite genres, but even within that umbrella there are those that struck me as more engaging.
The upshot of all that is that I really can’t speak to whether or not this 2014 20th Anniversary updating of the property does justice to the original, because my memories of it are sketchy and don’t call up a strong reaction. All I can really say is that it was fairly entertaining and Toei seems to have done a fine job on the animation, as well as tweaking the character designs a bit so they more closely resemble Takeuchi Naoko’s originals. What the reaction to CGI transformation sequences (!) will be I can’t say – it seems a bit sacrilegious I suppose, but to be honest as CGI goes I thought they looked pretty darn good.
Interestingly, it seems as if Toei has changed everyone in the cast (we don’t meet the other Sailor Scouts yet) except for titular main heroine Tsukino Usagi, once again played by Mitsuishi Kotono. That could be a bit of a divisive move in a number of ways, not least because Mitsuishi-san sounds very much like a 46 year-old woman playing a 14 year-old girl. 20 years changes the voice, it’s a fact of life. The rest of the cast is certainly high-quality – when you have Ika Musume playing Sailor Mercury and Onoda Sakamichi playing Umino-kun, you can’t be too bad off…
Mitsuishi’s performance does play to a vibe I’ve always gotten when watching Sailor Moon, which is that there’s a strong element of parody to it. But is it truly possible to parody a genre you basically invented? Of course Takeuchi-sensei didn’t literally invent mahou shoujo (that’s generally agreed to have been in the 50’s or 60’s, depending on what you consider the first true example) but she certainly made it a cultural phenomenon and commercial powerhouse, and it was basically moribund at the time Sailor Moon revived it on its way to becoming one of the most successful and imitated series in manga and anime. I always assumed that was all in my bias, but once I found out she was the sort of woman who’d marry Togashi Yoshihiro I began to wonder. And I can’t help but feel as I watch the delivery here – both Mitsuichi‘s line delivery and the flowers and bubbles and pratfalls – that there’s a little more irony in Sailor Moon than most people think.
That’s about all I’ve got, really – I’ll leave it to the qualified to judge Sailor Moon Crystal in its historical context. I thought the first episode was perfectly entertaining – the pacing dragged a bit in the B-part and even in the first episode some of the gags started to feel stale, and I’ve never really felt anything for Usagi as a character. But most of the fun in Sailor Moon comes from the supporting cast, and apart from a select few (Tuxedo Kamen, Umino, Luna, Usagi’s family) we haven’t met most of them yet. I’ll certainly be interested in seeing how the fanbase – and it’s a truly gargantuan and rabid one – responds to the premiere.