Sailor Moon: Season 1 Wrap-Up
In the pursuit of completeness, let’s take a step back and look at Sailor Moon season 1 as a whole. As an anime which had profound influence that spread far beyond its target audience, season 1 is arguably the most important of all of the show.
Continued after the break.
This is the season that changed all “magical girl” anime henceforth, that utilised strong female characters without the need to over-sexualise nor to sacrifice their femininity, something that children’s (or adults’) media today cannot manage.
This is the series about girls getting shit done.
This series has four arcs, roughly represented by the waxing and waning of the four Dark Kingdom generals Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite and Kunzite. Separating these enemies out as the tone and modus operendi shifted was a good move – it allowed for the show to feel refreshed after an arc got too formulaic – and Sailor Moon is nothing without its formula.
Although, clearly, hands down, no questions asked, the best of the four is Nephrite (for his emotional development and his complete lack of fucks given) I have to say that the arc I probably enjoy the most is Zoisite’s arc.
The Rainbow Crystals episodes were especially interesting, especially because it felt as though they were leading to something big – and they delivered in Episode 34 – The Sparkling Silver Crystal! The Moon Princess Appears.
I also think that the block of episodes commencing with Kunzite’s tenure is amazingly strong. By this point in the series the tone, writing and art teams had gotten into the swing of things.
Overall, this series took quite some time to come into its own, yet never strayed from its core themes of identity, cherishing everyday life, and the type of whimsical, fantastical romance that someone like Usagi dreams of.
The dark elements, the tragedies that were spread throughout the episode, were showcases of the strength of all these characters. We saw Usagi in the depths of despair, in listless misery, in silly joy, in anxiety, in fear, in daydreaming fancies, in ardent and overwhelming love, and it all felt completely natural to her character. This is the strength of Sailor Moon season one.
Let’s hope the reboot can do her justice.
Here’s some obligatory and reductionist lists for the series.
Top 5 Episodes, in no particular order
This is the best of the early episodes with the only Sailor Senshi being Usagi. A really beautiful episode with imagery taken from American ham-horror, an appreciation of piano music, a fantastic use of the Transformation Pen, Luna having several bad-ass moments, great humour, great writing, great everything. Love this one.
Despite the fact that Usagi appears rather superficial to begin with, wise & condescending words from Mamoru teach her to cherish inner beauty. Along the way there’s great use of a moth-eaten swimming suit, genuine creepy peril and a Sailor Moon that’s actually kicking ass for once.
Not to mention the freak in the picture above. BA-BAAANG!
Despite the fact that this episode opens a pit of despair at the loss of a redeemed character (Nephrite is, in fact, the Han Solo of Sailor Moon), it begins the dark motif that continues and develops until the end of the series (hoo boy). There’s some amazing action rarely seen in Sailor Moon as Nephrite rescues Naru by using his fists on some monsters, and the first use of the instrumental version of Heart Moving that I love so much.
This episode opens the 2nd half of the series, and it shows how confident the makers grew by this point. Makoto’s introduction is perfect – humour, romance and ass-kicking (that seems to be a theme in my favourite episodes) in the ideal ratio. This is the episode that made the series feel fresh and interesting again.
Hands down one of the most affecting and beautiful episodes of anything, ever. Well done you sadistic bastards.
If there’s the best, there also have to be the duds. With 46 episodes, you’re going to have to put up with quite a bit of crap, too. Here are some of the moments you’d be embarrassed to watch with someone else.
Bottom 5 Moments, in no particular order
Sailor Moon runs about a bit in an ugly an uninteresting dimension
In Episode 9 – Usagi’s Misfortune! Watch Out for the Rushing Clocks, the entire climax was painful to sit through, with some of the worst animation of series and dreadful writing. This entire episode felt rushed, but the social commentary on “people these days are rushing about too much” was especially eye-rolling.
Jadeite gets chased by planes
I didn’t particularly like Jadeite, but handing over his last episode, Episode 13 – Girl Power! The End of Jadeite, to the least-talented of the animation and writing teams was a big misstep. The sight of the poor fellow being run-down by planes while Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars crack wise isn’t one of the better moments of the series.
Nephrite is given the indignity of dressing-up like Tuxedo Kamen
In Episode 19 – Usagi is Thrilled! Tuxedo Kamen’s Love Letter, Nephrite hatched a scheme to lure Sailor Moon out into the open. Unfortunately, it meant him having to prance about cosplaying like a loon. The moment where he starts screaming at Naru while poking her is a head-slap moment for our favourite evil general.
Suggested sexual assault, and then actual sexual assault
Episode – A Romance Under the Moon! Usagi’s First Kiss was a worrying episode. The moment when Naru’s emotions pour out of her to Nephrite, only for him to… enter her, spiritually, freaked me out as a little rapey, but the episode goes on to the point where Mamoru takes advantage of a drunk, semi-conscious and alone Usagi out on the balcony. The worst crime was that it was drawn abysmally.
Nephrite falls on his own sword… or rather his own pink light boomerang
Considering how awesome Kunzite looked like he was going to be, he was a bit of a let-down. That being said, he deserved a better death than this in Episode 44 – Usagi’s Awakening! A Message From the Distant Past – he needed a big epic throw-down, not what looks like the final scene from Crocodile Dundee 4: Croc’s Last Adventure.
The Top Monster Award goes to…
Barber Monster or whatever her name was
Featured in Episode 36 – Usagi is Confused! Is Tuxedo Mask Evil? this monster optimises a lot of what I love about the monster-of-the-weeks of Sailor Moon. She’s silly, covering all sorts of weird “hair cutting” themes, has genuine threat, and is extremely dedicated to carrying out her orders, even when they’re a bit weird.
The Best Outfit of the Series Award Goes To…
The “Cool Jazz Musician”
The Transformation Pen was used in Episode 6 – Protect the Melody of Love! Usagi is a Cupid to get Usagi into a jazz bar, and we were all very thankful for it. She’s hip, she’s showing an awful lot of skin, she’s got just enough of the early-90s look to her outfit for it to be definitely back in vogue in 2014.
Best Major Enemy
Other than the episode where he showed enormous, believable emotional growth then promptly got skewered, Nephrite’s best episode was probably his first. Alter ego Masato Sanjoin rocked up to his target in a super car, jumped over a chain link fence and played some goddamn tennis, mother fuckers, and stole our hearts in the process.
Best Senshi of the Series is…
Sailor Mars. Oh quiet down, I still love Sailor Jupiter
Sailor Mars had the best moments in the series, asides from Sailor Moon (who was exempt from this contest, I should inform you). Their relationship was the second most important in the series, other than Usagi & Mamoru’s. The love-hate stuff never really got old, and it paid off tenfold when the unthinkable happened. Out of all the deaths screened, Mars’ hit the most, but she went out in true badass style.
The first season is going to be tough to beat. It has many flaws, but for a hand-drawn kids show with a 46 episode run, it surpassed all expectations. It’s also extremely rewatchable, and has held-up after 22 years.
Moreover, it’s just as good as the first time I saw it. It’s always a bit worrisome to revisit media you loved from a number of years ago, but I’m glad to report it’s aged well.
This rewatch blog has justified to me that it was a project worth doing. Go watch Sailor Moon season one. Even the shit episodes have a place in my heart.