Tsukino Usagi is a 14-year-old girl in junior high. She's ditzy, whiny, and a crybaby. She often flunks her tests, and she is always scolded by her family. However after a bad day, Usagi is surprised to encounter a black cat that can talk! The cat, Luna, grants Usagi the power to transform into Sailor Moon, a fighter who is to save the world against the Dark Kingdom and its evil ruler, Queen Beryl.
Of course, Usagi can't do it alone, and there are others who will help her on the way...
It is often true that things experienced in your childhood never seem to live up to the wonderful memories you had of them when experiencing them again as an adult. It was with this state of mind that I entered my viewing of Sailor Moon, mostly from a desire to relive some nostalgia from my youth. I can truly say that it exceeded my expectations and left all those fond memories intact. As with most anime fans my age, Sailor Moon was one of the first series that I watched. It is one of those titles that many people know outside
the anime fan base. Though it’s probably not the first "magical girl" anime it does in my opinion define the entire genre.
The first thing that is going to come to many people’s attention is going to be the artwork and sound quality. When compared to today’s standards it looks primitive and plain. The music is particularly uninspired and I doubt it was all that interesting when this show was new. The background music and sound effects feel like they are drawn out of a 80s B action movie. This show could really use a complete remastering of the audio. The voice acting though is strong and I felt the actors did a good job in portraying their characters though some of the performances, particularly from the villains are pretty campy.
Animation wise, the colors and styles are typical of what you expect from this era. The colors feel plain and washed out a little and we don’t have a lot of the detail that many modern shows have. This is not to say it’s bad, because it’s really not fair to compare it to newer shows because the technology has changed so much, but I still think it is relevant. I gained an appreciation for it as the series unfolded and I think most people will as well.
The overall story is something Sailor Moon does exceptionally well. From the start we get a sampling of a bigger danger to come and it moves along fairly slowly in the beginning. We get introduced to Usagi right away who quickly becomes Sailor Moon and starts fighting the enemy. Over the course of the first half of the series the other Sailor Warriors start to appear as we learn more about them and their pasts and building the friendships amongst each other. The plot does a great job of telling the origins of the Sailor Warriors and the reasons for the villain’s attacks. The last half in particular was very interesting and exciting. As a romance there is a lot to like about Sailor Moon. It treats the viewer to a serious and realistic feeling relationship that really puts its modern counterparts to shame. I found it to be the most compelling and rewarding part of the show.
The action is something that just isn’t that interesting however. It feels to simplistic and formulaic. The enemies change but after a while they all seem like they are the same. They get defeated in the same ways and the action itself never gets to be that exciting. Most of the shows battles are very short as well and the Sailor Warriors various special abilities take up most of them. They got a little long and boring as well after the 20th time seeing them. Anyone who is expecting or desiring intense magical action and special effects will be disappointed.
It wouldn't be a magical girl show without the famous transformation cut scene. Sailor Moon has plenty of these, and they get to be a bit unwieldy at times as the cast grows. Sailor Moons is the longest but the other Sailor Warriors are pretty short, which is good. Plus while we have to watch Usagi transform every time we often don’t have to watch all of the others or we get a shortened version. This is good because it takes away from the story.
The real shining light of Sailor Moon is the characters. Usagi as the lead is one of my favorite characters in anime. She starts off as a bit annoying with her crying and silliness but she really shines as a comedic character. She manages to grow during the course of the series and become stronger and more courageous. She has several love interests, or crushes would be more accurate. Eventually this grows into a serious relationship which I found very satisfying. Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask is the main love interest and both are completely oblivious of each other’s alter egos. I always found it amusing that he couldn’t tell Usagi was Sailor Moon when they look and act exactly alike.
Of the Sailor Warriors, Ami and Rei get the most screen time since they are brought in pretty early in the series. The conflict between Usagi-Rei was pretty amusing most of the time though it did seem to wear on me over time. My personal favorite of the girls was Makoto/Sailor Jupiter. I liked her the most from my childhood and that continued to today. She is one of the funnier characters, especially when she finds someone new who reminds her of her sempai who broke her heart. Minako is the last of the girls to be brought in and was probably the least interesting. Since she was bought in near the end there wasn’t enough time to really bring out her personality or give us much information on her past. The cast has a number of supporting characters which are pretty fun. Usagi's school friends are constantly getting into danger and a nice little side romance develops there. Luna serves as the advisor to the group and serves as the resident cute animal that must accompany magic girls on their adventures.
Overall I can’t recommend this series enough. Every fan of anime should see this show at least once. I would love to give it a 10 rating but the lackluster action and sound bring it down from being perfect.
Note: This review encompasses the entire series, rather than just the first season. Keep that in mind while reading. Thanks!!
When anime fans start talking about shows that began their interest in japanese animation, many people point to the fact that their first experience with anime (whether they knew it or not at the time) is Sailor Moon. It's one of those anime shows that people fondly remember as the basis of "how to do anime right" for future shows of its kind. Even when comparing it with today's new trends, plots, characters and animation, it is easy to notice why Sailor
Moon is fondly accepted into the hearts of anime fans around the world.
In my eyes, you could not have picked a better anime to become immersed into the anime world than with Sailor Moon. And a big reason for that is the intricate and well-developed plot, arguably the strongest feature Sailor Moon presents. At the surface, you can say that it's your typical "children rising up to save the world" theme. However, this magic girl anime show presented unbelievable twists to the plot that included five different main story arcs with amazing depth to each of them and somehow, it always able to weave itself flawlessly back to the central theme that encompassed Sailor Moon. To top it all of, when you watched Sailor Moon, it was able to emotionally draw you into the show with ease, where you undoubtedly had your favorite sailor scouts and actually cared about each and every character and what happened to them. Very few anime shows back in the day (early 90's) were able to do that, and though we see it more often nowadays, its still a special skill that is needed.
Again, because of its 1992 creation, the art obviiously seems old-fashioned and not as crisp as what you watch nowadays. But if you really think about, each character was drawn well, each given different physical characteristics that separated each one from another and the backdrops used were well detailed to an extent. Sure, there were a ton of repeated frames (namely during transformation), but what anime nowadays doesn't have them? In all, it still holds up very well, even in today's times.
Depending on what version (English or Japanese) you are most familiar with and most vividly remember, the sound preference of the show could go either way. While I personally did not have a problem with the English cast, the Japanese cast also voiced each character pretty well. The voices of each character gave of enough feeling and emotion, which helped draw the viewer into the show even further. The music was so good that there have been hundreds of performances, many musicals and an ample amount of released soundtracks that have been much appreciated by the public.
Again, one can also argue that the strongest point in Sailor Moon was the plethora of characters they introduced, each one of them having a significant part in the grand scheme of things. As I stated before, everyone picks their favorite sailor scout, and to me, each scout's character personality seemed to fit their represented planet quite well. They took their time with introductions of characters and the development was amazing, with new powers, techniques and relationships acquired throughout the entire series. The one downside people may bring up is that they may have been *too* many characters and with that, the focus is turned away from the main ones. On rare occasions did that occur in Sailor Moon.
Weaving all of this together, Sailor Moon is easily one of the more enjoyable "old-school" anime shows out there. Almost every episode had some kind of meaning towards the overall plot and a lot of the battles can't be called anything short of epic. However, a big question mark on whether or not people enjoyed Sailor Moon was their views towards romance. Love was one of the bigger themes of this show, seen strongly epitomized between the characters of Usagi (Serena) and Mamoru (Damien). If that was something you loved, chances are you favored this series more so than people who didn't find that factor appealing.
All in all, Sailor Moon is one of the shows that started the anime trend outside of Japan and they could not have picked a better show to showcase than the Sailor Moon franchise. With a great cast of characters, a lengthy, emotional series involving epic clashes between good vs. evil and a highly well-developed plot, Sailor Moon is a show that if any younger anime fans out there haven't seen, or if the older ones thought was too "mushy," you should give it another try. Who knows, it just may be right up your alley.
Season One of Sailor Moon encompasses the best and worst of the entire Sailor Moon franchise.
Sailor Moon introduces us to Usagi at her most comedic: she is not only the heroine but the comic relief of her own show. Over the course of the season we are introduced to Luna, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter and finally Sailor Venus and Artemis.
As others have mentioned, it is the characters, their relationships with one another which really holds the show together. Other shoujo such as Card Captor Sakura, handled the monster of the week nature in a more fun and varied way, but few anime
have handled girls in all their complexities and silliness as well as Sailor Moon has, before or since.
Sailor Moon is about girl power and while the anime emphasis may not be as strong as the manga, it's definitely still there. The girls have complex characters; it's not about defining them by one characteristic, the dumb blond or the tough tomboy (as American cartoons often do) but by letting the girls be multi-faceted, even paradoxical; the tomboy who is boy crazy and romantic, the dumb blond who is athletic and dedicated to her mission. Sailor Moon saves Tuxedo Kamen's butt for every time he saves her, more so as the season goes on. And all of the girls change and grow through the challenges they face.
With such a large amount of characters and cool-looking villains, Sailor Moon is also one of the most lastingly popular series for fanart and fanfiction. Someone or some relationship is bound to catch your interest and play you right along. Which is all part of the fun. Planets, stones, mythology, past lives, romances. This series has so much to play with and it all adds to the appeal.
The monster of the week aspect forms the larger part of the series, which is hit and miss. Some episodes delve into character development, exploring the girls' past and seeing why they are who they are. Others are primarily comedic in nature, such as the episode with the cat who falls in love with Luna, mocking Tuxedo Mask's and Sailor Moon's relationship (everyone has made fun of Tuxedo Mask, but Sailor Moon did it first). Others are boring, silly and a bother to sit through.
The best episodes are the first handful and the second half of the anime, I think. Once the Nephrite arc ends, the series picks up. Kunzite and Zoicite are threatening, the monster of the week format is shaken up and things get serious. At this point, even the filler episodes can be grim. And, of course, as with any season of Sailor Moon, the finale delivers in big ways.
There's no doubt the budget for this anime was less than to be desired; being a shoujo, that was its inevitable fate. Thus the animation and sound effects are sub-par. However, the voice acting it strong and a lot of heart went into this show. And following seasons pick up, the animation improves and the soundtrack simply gets better and better.
I think the main question is whether Sailor Moon is riding entirely on nostalgia, or if it still holds up today. Not having watched Sailor Moon as a child and watching the first season for the first time in my life at 23, my opinion is that, while flawed, it is still a worthy watch. There's history in the making in this show. Skip the filler if you want and watch the core plot episodes. They're worth it.
Back in the 1990s, Sailor Moon was the queen bee of popular shoujo titles by helping to popularize the magical girl genre to international fans and being the first series within the genre to feature a magical girl fighting against the forces of evil instead of using her magic to do fun and mundane things that older titles like Creamy Mami did. I was a sucker for the series when I was a kid during that period as I watched the butchered American syndicated version of the series released by Dic during the mid-90s. Our heroine of focus here is klutzy and book-dumb middle schooler
Usagi Tsukino, who is tasked by a talking cat named Luna to become the magical girl known as Sailor Moon to thwart the evil activity of the witch Queen Beryl and her forces among the Dark Kingdom. Along the way, Usagi gains several additional allies to assist her with four other middle school girls who can become Sailor Senshi and a mysterious tuxedo-clad man named Tuxedo Mask who often pops up as a walking plot device to save Usagi whenever she gets in trouble against the "monster of the day".
Taking off the nostalgia goggles of watching this baby nearly 20 years later, I'd hate to say that Sailor Moon hasn't really aged all that well. All the character types and plot tropes that were milked by Sailor Moon during its heyday are a common part of many modern magical girl titles, many of whom offering more fleshing out of their plot and character elements than Sailor Moon does. Here, many of the characters are rather lacking in depth and have one-dimensional personalities with the good guys fighting for "love and justice" to save the world and the bad guys being evil for the sake of being evil. As a lead character, Usagi was rather obnoxious at many points in the series with her being ridiculously clueless, clumsy and crying incessantly if she ran into some sort of problem, which makes it kind of questionable why this would make her a character relateable to younger female audiences. Even with the romance Sailor Moon dabbles into at points, the relationship developments are either not convincing or are too underdeveloped to get seriously invested in thanks to the rather shallow character depth.
The plot mostly follows a "monster of the day" format that takes up much of the show's run with Usagi stumbling upon the monster's plot, transforming to combat them, often getting herself in trouble, having Tuxedo Mask save her in the nick of time and then uses her powers to finish off the monster. Later episodes do slightly pick up in quality when revelations concerning the origins of Usagi and her friends come to light and the stakes are raised with Beryl trying to further her plans. But the series still resorts to monster of the day plots for many of its episodes and milks enough deus ex machina in thwarting perilous situations that Usagi and the other Sailor Senshi get themselves into. Pretty much, the series is very predictable with its plot developments if you've seen your fair share of anime.
Visually, Toei was obviously running Sailor Moon on a limited budget with the reused animated frames, underwhelming action scenes, minimal detail on scenery and plain-looking character designs. The soundtrack isn't much better as much of it consists of bland and low-key tracks that don't do too well at effectively capturing the mood and tension within Sailor Moon's key scenes. I might get quite a bit of flak for this from purists, but I much preferred DIC's soundtrack to Sailor Moon since it at least attempted to capture some sort of mood during key scenes in spite of how cheesy it is nowadays.
Overall, I suppose I don't get what makes Sailor Moon all that popular with fans. Sure it popularized magical girl titles. But the character archetypes and storytelling tropes within it haven't aged well and are a common occurrence in many modern magical girl titles, a number of whom offering better fleshing out of their premise and characters than Sailor Moon, like Cardcaptor Sakura and Princess Tutu. I would sooner recommend those titles and a number of other modern magical girl titles than Sailor Moon and I don't feel pressed to dig into the later seasons of the franchise anytime soon.