The Fourth Opening: Perfect Timing
It’s about time that I got around to picking apart the fourth Sailor Moon opening. This is the second one for Sailor Moon R, and it might just be my favourite opening for the entirety of Sailor Moon as a whole.
There’s no one particular reason for this appreciation. It’s all the little things. Why don’t you take a look first before I begin gushing?
Whereas the first opening of Sailor Moon R was generic, in the sense that it had no relationship to the plot of the series, but that’s not to say it wasn’t superb as a sequence, which it was.
This opening, however, was made with the full knowledge of the plot, characters, themes, motifs and colour palettes of the latter half of the series. Thus, it not only manages to be a creative and interesting visual sequence set to a kick ass piece of music, it also enhances the enjoyment of the actual show content in that it reinforces key emotions.
In that way it’s very much similar to the first season’s second opening (if that sentence makes sense).
We get the typical ominous bell chimes on top of a dramatic scene like we have seen in all the other openings. This time, it’s a shot of Crystal Tokyo, surrounded by a whirlpool of dark clouds, which zooms out to reveal the Senshi, back turned, staring up at the Crystal Palace.
I adore this sequence. It’s not only beautifully animated, the style, the look, the ambiance, all are perfect for the oppressive atmosphere of the desolated Crystal Tokyo. It sums up the future-arc of the series in a single shot, and more importantly, it sets the tone for episodes such as the Space-Time Corridor and the Senshi’s arrival in the future.
It also serves to make the Sailor Senshi seem very small next to the dangers that await them. Very smartly put together.
I’ve always liked the odd adherence to the theme of “Time” in this opening. We move to Salvador Dali-inspired melting clocks, moving in a flow like a stream. It might be hilariously literal, but I think it works really well, especially since the sombre colour scheme has continued.
It’s interesting to note that, while the first Sailor Moon R opening almost entirely focussed on Usagi, as opposed to her alter ego, she doesn’t actually appear in her every-day form her – this is Sailor Moon’s intro.
And Sailor Moon’s appearance is just spot on. She appears amidst the flowing twisted clocks. It’s a really nice effect, makes her very mystical in a way. Even more then that, I love her surprised look to camera, as if to say, “Oh, you caught me floating around some time Clocks, wasn’t expecting you.”
The rest of the Sailor Senshi are given an obligatory scene giving knowing looks to the camera and running along against some funky pendulums. That’s pretty much it for them in terms of screen time: they really don’t focus on the Senshi at all.
It’s a shame, but I understand the impulse: there’s so many references to the story here that screen time comes at a premium.
I really love the shot of a road seemingly made of ribbon leading us to the Space-Time Door. It comes rushing towards you with a dramatic sense of inevitability, once again it’s rather foreboding. Let me once more reiterate how much I love the design of this door, and therefore how happy I am that they included it in this opening.
The agents of the Black Moon are given even less time then the Senshi here. I think it was a good decision: bad guys are never given a large amount of time in Sailor Moon intros – keeps them mysterious. That the three Black Moon agents of Saphir, Esmeraude and Dimande are all shown to be mere reflections in the dominant and eerie presence of Wiseman might be a bit of a spoiler, but it looks great, and there are, in fact, bigger spoilers to come.
A brief shot of Sailor Pluto is perfectly abrupt – it makes her presence in the series known while keeping her mysterious and aloof, as she is. We don’t need to see too much of her to appreciate it.
Even better timed is Chibi-Usa, who also doesn’t have too much to do in the opening, but probably contributes my favourite 2 seconds. As she holds the Space-Time Key up, and it sparkles, it’s accompanied by a mystical sound-effect, the only sound-effect ever added in over the music of Moonlight Densetsu.
I love this sound effect. It sounds wonderful schlocky, like a MIDI sample from a Super Nintendo game, which goes perfectly with the mid-1990’s sci-fi feel of this series. It’s also added at just the right moment, coming in just before the middle-eight section. It sounds so wonderfully out of place, and yet at the same time so perfect to the beat of the music, that when I now listen to Moonlight Densetsu, my ears always ache to hear that silly little sound effect.
Brrrrrrrrrrrrlinnnng! The impact a single moment can have on a silly mind like mine, eh?
We have a scene of Sailor Moon posing, before transforming, not into Princess Serenity, but Neo Queen Serenity, just to make sure nobody is surprised by that reveal. Honestly though, how you couldn’t put that together before hand…
The animation is slightly less smooth here, but that’s just fine because the sight of a calm, confidently and strangely disconnected Neo Queen Serenity seemingly having dominion over Crystal Tokyo and, it seems, the world, is a great shot, and really reminded me of the very first opening of Sailor Moon.
There was an iconic shot of Queen Beryl, raising up her arms in triumph in front of the Dark Kingdom. It was a show of dominance over an evil and twisted scene. Here that same scene is mirrored – we have an all powerful queen raising her arms, but her body language is benevolent, and it’s a magnificent future which is her kingdom.
A very smart comparison by the designers. Really interesting, especially when you compare the two dictators.
We get a shift in tone and atmosphere once more to match the quiet before the final crescendo of the song. This time, we have an adorable running Chibi-Usa (it’s beautifully drawn and animated, with a rich bluish-purplish background and a little circle of field beneath her), who is joined by the calm and content visage of King Endymion.
Here we see his design much clearer than the translucent ghostly hologram that he his for most of his appearance in the show. I really like his look. He still looks a little young to me, but I like the change in costume, I like his colour palate, I like his hair. I even like his weird, disconnected look of contentment on his face, a look he certainly didn’t wear as a hologram.
This is the first instance of the opening going beyond the content of the show. It’s trying to give us more of a character we barely see. More then that, it’s trying to foreshadow the glorious hope at the end of this series.
If Endymion’s expression weren’t enough….
…they stick in the very last scene of the series to round things off. Is this a spoiler? Massively so, but they put this to use in a genius way. We see Neo Queen Serenity in utter joy at the sight of… something. It’s a beautiful expression, so unlike anything we’ve seen of Usagi. It shows us our first real connection with an utterly unknowable character.
More then that, it’s just animated gorgeously.
The final shot mirrors the opening of this… opening. It’s actual framing symmetry – the beginning of the entire sequence focussed on the destruction of Crystal Tokyo and the desolate atmosphere surrounding it. Here we have the same camera technique used, but now it’s focussed on characters.
They’re just as small as in the first shot, and aren’t easy to identify, but the way they’re posed, the colours, the music rising to the final dramatic horn blast, the zooming out to see a spectacular sight of fields and flowers against a destroyed city that looks more like a graveyard… They’ve inverted the emotions of the start. We’ve ended in hope and joy.
NICE PLAY. Really great job on this opening.
That final breathtaking shot is so inspirational, so pregnant with possibility, that it really gets you excited for the coming episode. It primes you, so that when the scene finally plays out in the show, and we see all these pieces in context – the hillside, the look on Serenity’s face, the embrace that’s hard to make out as we zoom away – this opening serves to reinforce the huge emotions in that scene.
How often do you see an opening to an anime which is actual art?This is a nigh-on perfect opening. I love it to pieces. I hope you like it too.