First Impressions: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Crystal

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Yup, that was Sailor Moon all right.

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.

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19 comments

  1. R

    I think the premiere is perfectly fine. Same as you, I don't really have fond memories of the old series (in fact, I used to be indifferent against shoujo series). But, yeah, this is actually pretty entertaining. I love the old-school cheesiness (obviously), and somehow, Usagi's character feel fresh if you compare it to most female MC in recent anime (which is quite ironic by the way). Also the CG is actually pretty good, almost on par with the recent PreCure series (HappinessCharge) which is also made by Toei http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYjABqTa5IA&feature=kp.

  2. I

    Wow, I felt the exact opposite. I couldn't stand Usagi's character. She's one of the worst female MCs I have ever seen, and that's saying something when you look at the tons of bad female anime characters. Her crying, whining, obsession over food, and stupidity, just made her another excellent example of the" idiot blond" stereotype.

  3. That's among the many reasons I wonder whether it's possible for Takeuchi to be satirizing tropes she more or less invented. SM always felt very tongue-in-cheek to me – I almost think it's a case of the limitless imitators not getting the joke.

  4. e

    this new anime usagi is much better then the original show so i glad she a less anoying then the old one

  5. K

    That was only in the old anime. They made Usagi a "klutz" all the time except at the end of each arc, and then reset her as a annoying-crybaby at the beginning of the next one. Usagi in the manga grows up of the all the crybaby and indecision pretty fast.

    The new anime, so far, seems ok for me. I was grinning like an idiot, so I guess I did like it. The new VA's were pretty good (I was pleasently surprised by Kenji Nojima) in my opinion. Kotono, in the other hand, sounded as annoying as I remember her to be. I've always thought it was her job to be annoying as hell.

    I've loved Sailor Moon, both the anime and manga for entirely different reasons, and so far I don't find anything in this new anime to change my love for it.

  6. n

    That was nostalgic. Can't wait to see where this goes! ^-^

  7. c

    "Onoda Sakamichi playing Umino-kun"

    Wow, really? No wonder I instantly gravitated to his character!

    Toei's adapting the manga version and doing so nicely. As much as I can be grateful for the original anime for shaping my early teenager years, I can't deny it both dragged and contradicted itself. None of my favorite characters will be included in this adaptation, but it's still a hell of a nostalgia trip. Enjoyed it plenty, especially the opening.

    The CG transformation sequence was quite good! But it would have been perfect if it wasn't CG. Brought me out of the moment.

  8. s

    Usagi has always been kind of annoying in my eyes; very superficial and ignorant but that's the point more or less. SailorMoon is a coming of age story about her learning how to take responsibility and learning that there isnt an easy way out to everything (i mean did you hear the vapid things she was saying this ep??) please mercury and mars come soon. Overall, a fairly entertaining first ep and it was every bit the nostalgia trip i thought it would be. From what i remember though, this newer rendition had a bit more polish and a lil less cheese in comparison to the 1992 version. Im curious to see the direction toei is going to take this series because it really looks like they have something grand in mind. Guess ill just have to wait every two weeks to find out……………

  9. w

    I think the fact that Takeuchi basically invented the tropes used here is exactly why they feel like a parody. In its early stages Sailor Moon is as much a comedy as it is any other genre (like most shonen actually). Because she had pretty much created her own framework, she had plenty of creative freedom with it, and because it was a comedy she made it all quite tongue in cheek and irreverent. Everyone else copies the template, so it's always treated less ironically from then on. Or at least that's how I'd imagine it goes.

    Mercury was always my favourite Sailor Scout when I was young, so I'll be sticking around until she shows up at least. I'll be curious to see if I'll still have that opinion now.

  10. u

    Just an FYI, most manga readers have said that the characters, including Rei, are pretty different in the manga version. So, if you don't end up liking her character here, that doesn't mean you wouldn't like her again if you re-watched the orginal series. That's what I hear, anyway.

  11. Heh, I liked Mercury best too. It'll be interesting to see what Kanemoto does with the character.

  12. G

    I've never watched a single second of any Sailor Moon series and know little about it other then it was a huge juggernaut series and it (along with Cardcaptor Sakura and Nanoha) made magical girl anime's.a big phenomena. I enjoyed the 1st episode and didn't think I was going to.

  13. H

    Something was off about this. Stiff movements, botox faces, embarrassing digital zoom-ins and that CGI transformation. Was this really the best Toei could offer for such a prominent project? Content wise it is fine for what it is though.

  14. Z

    That digi zoom OMG! This isn't 2003! :(

  15. m

    I didn't like the transformation sequence but now their powers are like more… powerful? (and I like that). I like the fact that Tuxedo Mask is also looking for the Crystal and he's not just a random guy who appears where there are problems. I also like to see Usagi having flashbacks from her previous life.

    I see everybody complaining about the difference between the original anime, the manga and this new version. The original anime was more kids -oriented, and now they're targeting to those girls that now have grown up. The anime keeps those "cute" things from the original, but the character designs are more consistent with a little more "mature"approach of the story…well that's what I hope so…

  16. I keep hearing that this version is more faithful to the manga than the first one, but I'm not really qualified to say…

  17. e

    what you hear is true and it seems it will be more mature then the original

  18. e

    I think the third episode (Mars' introduction most likely) will be key. That's when manga and the first anime started to diverge from what I recall.
    That said I'm keeping an eye on this version to see if some male characters and related backstory/mythology will be more developed – as Takeuchi allegedly stated she had wished to. And as happened in the live action. And in those dozens Sera Myu musicals, including the most recent one. Also… see under a certain artbook picture that spawned a million SenShi fanfics :p. The fandom awaits, yo – . The dream sequences+ED and their implications are rather promising in this aspect, while going by one the eyecatches (scepter design straight form the second manga arc) + planned episodes number it could stay as tragically barebone as the manga source about some characters.

    Also… the manga featured a few instances of body horror and gore (positive? YMMV) and yeah with the exception of the third anime season the overall tone and story in the manga got pretty srs bsnss dark quite soon and there was no characterization reset for Usagi (poor girl had to devolve at the start of every TV season :,D ). <— This time around if they stick to the manga she's going to mature pretty soon, with much less screaming as welcome collateral btw.
    Plus manga!Mamoru has actual powers. And if they are ever going to make an animated reboot of the 4th season there are a few things about his character… (including chest pains. The timing for that arc – roughly when she and Togashi were dating – and the fact that Takeuchi liked to inject a few elements of her life and loved ones in the franchise – and viceversa – are quite…interesting in hindsight 😉 ).
    Btw Enzo some of the best episodes of the old anime for cherrypicking are 123-124-125 in season #3 – for the tension and the feels – [and 110 for the the UranusxNeptune goodness. They have a nice moment together at the beginning of the episode, some of the best drawings in the whole metaseries too. Oh, and the second half confrontation happens in a carbon copy of Gaudi''s Sagrada Familia. And there's Bach's Fugue in D minor with a camp twist X,DDD]. Dat Ikuhara touch! –

    Back to the 1st episode of Crystal itself… I really liked the space shots in the beginning the eyecatches and the dream+ED sequences. I've never really cared for those henshin sequences even as a kid and if they stick to the manga in this we'll see little to nothing of them so I'm not bothered by the CG or lack thereof . Content-wise it was just like the manga but for what I never considered a strong start in either medium (old anime included) it was ok. A less on-budget animation would help for sure :D.

    Next episode should be Ami's turn. My fav among the Inners. Oh yey I have to watch that.
    .

  19. Z

    The CG transformation sequence is just Toei being penny pinching Toei. The exact same formula is used throughout their PreCure franchise.

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