The First Opening: Stylish Gothic-Russian Vibes
Today’s post is something a little different: a look at the first opening sequence of Sailor Moon, set to the show’s iconic theme Moonlight Densetsu.
Among all animated shows, even the immensely varied and artistic Japanese creations, Sailor Moon’s opening stands apart as being distinctly memorable. A strange nod to film noir, with darkly-portentous church bells and a tense, rising, keening strings primes the viewer for a dramatic reveal.
That dramatic reveal happens to be, unexpectedly, “Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon”, framed by roses and accompanied by the brilliantly weird song Moonlight Densetsu.
What exactly were the animators trying to convey with this opening? The overall theme is the divide between Usagi’s normal life as a school girl and her alter ego as Sailor Moon, but it’s interspersed with a definite St. Petersburg influence.
The landscapes that the shots linger on are clearly inspired by Russian architecture and art, with a patchwork colour scheme reminiscent of a horrible fun house. A few skulls are thrown in for good measure. It really has nothing to do with the content of the show, other than that it matches the Russian-inspired composition of the music. It says to me that the creators weren’t just trying to make a kids show, they were trying to make something genuinely a pleasure to watch.
I especially enjoy the intentionally freaky presence of Tuxedo Kamen. The wall of blank, smiling faces turning to the camera is horrible and wonderful at the same time, and the subsequent image of the overbearing cape, staring down, set against a background of a childishly-twisted Tokyo, is especially artistic. It makes the top-hatted feller look more like a Victorian slasher than a dashing hero.
The song itself, Moonlight Densetsu, is just as great as the accompanying animation. It is, as I said before, Russian in inspiration, and has the dual benefits of being memorable and creative. It reminds me a little of the 1979 song Moskau by the German pop group Dschinghis Khan, a little more obviously Soviet than Moonlight Densetsu.
The moments of the first Sailor Moon opening that leave the greatest impression on me are the images of Usagi looking rather pensive. With her trademark hair blowing in the wind and a uncharacteristically heroic, or contemplative, expression, it speaks of emotions that Usagi has yet to experience in this point of the series. The relationship that Usagi has with her alternate identity Sailor Moon becomes much more complex, as the opening suggests, but far further on.
This is one of my favourite openings of Sailor Moon. The later iterations are more shiny, more relevant to the show’s content, but the creepy weirdness, the nostalgia of it all, will always make this one special. Along with Cowboy Bebop, Sailor Moon has some of my favourite openings and closings of TV shows.
P.S. This song taught me the Japanese for “kaleidoscope” (Mangekyou), which I will undoubtedly never, ever use in normal conversation