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.