Act.1 – USAGI – SAILOR MOON
First Aired: 5th July 2014
Tsukino Usagi is an ordinary 14 year old girl. She’s terrible at school, clumsy and a bit of a cry-baby, until the day she meets a talking cat who calls herself Luna. With the power of a mysterious broach, Usagi discovers that she can transform into Sailor Moon, a soldier of love and justice! When her friend Naru is attacked, Sailor Moon must spring into action, and between evil monsters and a strange man calling himself Tuxedo Kamen, she finds herself a little overwhelmed by a series of odd events.
The first part of this review is spoiler free.
Finally, 2 years after it was announced, the reboot of Sailor Moon has arrived! It’s available to stream right now over at NicoNico.
Sailor Moon Crystal has a tough fight ahead of it to make itself legitimate, but after the worldwide simulcast, you could hear distinct sighs of relief from everyone watching. It’s actually a rather brilliant achievement, and I’m glad to say that the first episode has not only managed to justify the existence of the reboot, but managed to generate a certain amount of excitement for where the series will head next.
The first episode has few plot surprises if you’ve watched the original anime, and even less if you’ve read the manga – Sailor Moon Crystal has had no qualms retreading the ground that we’ve seen before, but at the same time it successfully spins it so that it feels fresh again, for the most part.
Most of the familiarity comes from the steady hand of Usagi’s voice actress Kotono Mitsuishi, reprising her role after almost 20 years. She does a spectacular job – it’s unmistakably Usagi, but she performs the character differently to the original role. She sounds younger, less of a comedian, less confident. It works really well.
Most of the returning characters are delightfully similar-yet-not-so-similar. We see the return of Naru, Umino, Shingo, Haruda-Sensei and Luna, all looking like alternate-reality versions of themselves, and fitting perfectly with the new aesthetic.
I confessed myself worried about that aesthetic before the series started, based on the promotional material, but all my hesitancy evaporated as soon as the show starts. It looks great, swimming in pastel colours. The eyes are shiny, the lips glossy, it may not have the original flare that its predecessor had, but it’s a treat for the eyes.
I’m not overly fond of lips in my anime (which is a weird sentence when you stop and think about it), but it works for this style.
The regular sequences are somewhat of a let down. Momorio Clover Z’s music for the opening feels messy and generic, and the matching opening sequence is about the same. There are parts that I like, but on the whole it’s lacking in the imagination that is evident in during the actual programme, and the same can be said of the end credits.
The one sequence I really did not get one well with was Sailor Moon’s transformation sequence. Evidently the show makers wanted to create an iconic sequence that developed on from anything we saw in the original series, but the decision to go for a CGI model, with a cel-shaded Sailor Moon, is baffling. It looks like a clip from a computer game. It’s not ugly, but it’s so alien next to the art style of everything else that it sticks out like a sore thumb.
It’s a small gripe when everything is so excellent, however. Usagi is just as adorably unfortunate as ever, and her fighting technique of being completely incompetent has remained as watchable as ever. Tuxedo Kamen looks fantastic, with a gravely (dare I say smoldering) new voice, and it seems from the get-go they are following the manga closely with him – he has no powers, no arrogant “farewell“, but seems to genuinely want to support Sailor Moon rather than to be her constant savior.
All in all, this is exactly what I wanted out of a reboot of Sailor Moon. It accomplishes much, it grabs your attention, it still feels distinct from all the other anime out there, including the ones that ape the original Sailor Moon mercilessly. It doesn’t shy away from repeating scenes from the first anime, yet it makes them feel new and interesting. Best of all, it doesn’t just assume you’re a Sailor Moon fan – it’s trying to break free from that tremendous shadow cast over it. While other reboots have failed to do this, The Amazing Spider-Man films come immediately to mind, I’m glad to report that Sailor Moon Crystal is a unique entity that I very much look forward to seeing.
Shame we have to wait 2 weeks per episode! Roll on 19th July!
I’m about to discuss a couple of points from the episode, so look away if you don’t want to know!
I’ve covered most of what I wanted to say about the episode in the review above, but here are some interesting thoughts.
I love how the episode begins, in space, quiet and mood-building. It’s a good framing device, and makes the plot seem mystery-heavy. The first glimpse of Princess Serenity and that iconic dress was perfectly done.
I absolutely adore Luna. She’s really cute, and the voice actress did a great job filling tough role. She has one particular long stare at Usagi that I really enjoyed.
The show is trying to be less silly than the original – it’s taking itself more seriously. As such , a couple of the slapstick moments with Usagi felt a bit flat, like the moment she kicked the door after Shingo.
Some of the artwork really is fantastic – they’re using watercolour backgrounds in a couple of places that feel reminiscent of the style they used in the original anime. I’m glad to see there’s a strong art director.
I was worried about how thin the Sailor Senshi all looked int he promotional material, but this doesn’t seem to translate into the show. Usagi is, of course, ridiculously thin, but it’s not the alien-like levels suggested by the pre-show promotional material.
Umino. I love this guy. He sounds like an even bigger geek than he did before. Glad you’re back, bro.
Morga, the monster that takes the place of Naru’s mother, isn’t nearly as creepy as she was in the original series, but she was still disturbing nevertheless.
The Dark Kingdom looked great – much more like how it was in the manga, like a sunken temple. I love the greens and the falling snow. Jadeite looked ridiculously young, nor nearly as imposing as I hoped he would. The designs of the Great Four and Queen Beryl, which we glimpse in the opening sequence, are still fantastic though. Looking forward to seeing him in action.
The ending was a good tease too. I loved seeing Ami running in from the rain, the angle avoiding her face was perfectly chosen. Looks like they’re not relying on filler episodes this time! There are some really good writers on staff who know how to build tension and set up ideas. It’s altogether a more polished production than the original, but that’s to be expected after 22 years.
All in all, I’m psyched! Looking forward to my Sailor Moon Saturdays. Watching new episodes as they come out is an experience I’ve never had before with this show.