Sailor Moon S Wrap-Up, Part 1
This is the first in a multi-part retrospective blog about the entirety of Sailor Moon S, how it fits into the show run thus far, what it adds to the Sailor Moon cannon, major themes & issues, development of characters, music, art, philosophy, romance and a poorly chosen birthday present. Sailor Moon S is enormously fun and interesting, and it’s worth picking over.
Stay tuned for completely arbitrary and pointless best and worst-of lists too, because I’m a slave to clickbait trends, apparently.
Oh, and animated gifs. Like, so many that this page won’t even load.
Part 1: Hit the Ground Running
Today’s post will focus on the overall story of Sailor Moon S, how it developed over the series, and in particular the implications upon the lore of Sailor Moon in general.
There are four distinct “phases” in Sailor Moon S, each roughly corresponding to a different modus operendi for the Death Busters, and each ending with the death of an antagonist.
Phase 1, Episodes 1 – 13: of Pure Hearts, Daimohn Eggs and Outer Senshi
Phase 1 of any series of Sailor Moon is going to be the most crucial. It sets the tone of the series, highlights themes that will develop in future episodes, and has to balance the introduction of the new with a feeling of familiarity. While the first series had a brilliant run of episodes, the writers were still treading water, feeling out the world of Usagi and establishing her as an identifiable character. While I love these early episodes, the series most definitely builds in confidence as it goes on.
The second series opened rather strangely, with a 13-episode mini-arc wholly created for the anime to allow Naoko Takeuchi to churn out the Black Moon arc of the manga. As such, the series had two starts, and the pacing is definitely unique to that season, with the main story feeling a little crammed.
The third season, however, opens brilliantly. Within 3 or 4 episodes they’ve introduced so many new major themes of the series that it makes the show novel and exciting once more. Haruka and Michiru are given great screen time, and while it’s shoved a little too emphatically in our faces how awesome they are, they also give a hell of a lot of room for these characters to grow. It’s this interesting dynamic aspect to them, all set up early in these first 13 episodes, that come to dominate much of the series.
Formula is crucial to Sailor Moon. Sure, it could be seen as repetitive and unimaginative, but having a standard formula that allow viewers to follow a recognisable structure is important in a kids’ show, especially one so episodic as Sailor Moon. More than that, it allows for genuine comedy, horror, pleasure and pain when they subvert expectations and break the formula. It never ceases to make an impact.
The Death Busters’ formula, established immediately as a mysterious, powerful, threatening and strangely disconnected organisation, was particularly strong this season. The slow stalking gestating Daimohn Egg, possessing an everyday object and forming a monster heavily and bizarrely themed was brilliant, as was keeping Kaorinite as dull as possible – this allowed for maximum threat from the monsters themselves and gave room for the main characters to grow and get well-deserved screen time.
The first phase also brought in definite new aesthetics, with the Daimohns, the Death Busters’ lab and Professor Tomoe taking on this beautiful semi-steampunk, semi-cyberpunk look that kept on giving over the season, culminating in the marriage of science and dark magic that was Pharaoh 90.
A new musical aesthetic was also introduced early on. Other than some creepy & subtle sci-fi themes brought in for the Death Busters, Uranus and Neptune brought with them a beautiful, powerful and emotive violin lick that has now become synonymous with the Outer Senshi as a whole. It’s not only catchy and memorable, it’s charged in a way that no Sailor Moon orchestral music has been thus far.
These new features of the series, all established early on, are for me what make the whole of Sailor Moon S so brilliant.
What also made the first 13 episodes one of the best runs of Sailor Moon yet is the sheer brilliance of the writing, and the time they took to develop the main characters that we’ve fallen in love with over the last two seasons.
By far the best episodes of this phase, and arguably the entire series, are;
Episode 1, which focussed on Rei’s fears about her premonition in a quiet an sinister manner.
Episode 7, in which Makoto appears to question her sexuality over her idol Haruka.
Episode 8, where Ami has a crisis of confidence and discovers joy in competition.
Episode 11, in which Minako realises she’s sacrificed her personal happiness to be a Sailor Senshi and considers retiring.
…on the other hand, there are a couple of truly, truly awful episodes that are a couple of the worst in the entire show. These were down to the crappy animation teams, which also came with crappy writers. As much as I love Sailor Moon, I wish they had more funding and time to allow for the decent studios to step in.
Episode 4 wasn’t great, but I can get through it. It just falls apart by the fight with the awful Violin Daimohn.
Episode 9 on the other hand… I think it’s the worst episode of Sailor Moon there is. I’ll have to test this at some point. Episode 9 of the first series (what is WITH that number?) had me bash my head in with my keyboard in frustration, but seeing Sailor Moon and Sailor Uranus chased by two wheels with stupid faces is somehow made worse by the fact that they have few excuses for this bullshit.
These are the kind of episodes that make me embarrassed to share this show with others sometimes, and I honestly think that I’ll never subject myself to them ever again. Skippy skip.
This phase ended in a rare two-part episode that, despite not being animated by the particularly good animators, were actually rather enjoyable. The first part, Episode 12, was particularly enjoyable, seeing Usagi placed in a level of personal danger rarely seen in Sailor Moon. Having her targeted by Kaorinite, who then discovers her identity and defeats Tuxedo Kamen, brought a thrill to the extent of the abilities of the Death Eaters.
I’m not sure either episode brought the level of nuanced character development that the previous episodes did, but it certainly was an entertaining way to see out the first phase, with Tower getting busted up.
Phase 1 of Sailor Moon S continues to be one of my favourite runs of episodes of the show. It makes me excited to see where the show will go, wonderfully fond of characters who prove they’re still dynamic, and fascinated by the new characters of Haruka and Michiru, who bring not only style, but interesting social commentary with them too.
Overall, you’re seeing writers who are advancing the series not only in plot, but in complexity, in character development, in themes and in social commentary. The introduction of two new Sailor Senshi open up the lore of Sailor Moon entirely, hinting at a deeper metaphysical set of properties on what it means to be a Sailor Senshi in the first place, and act as a silent yet prominent clue as to the final Sailor Senshi, the one we have yet to meet.
NEXT TIME: Scientists, Talismans, yet another new Sailor Senshi and one of the most remarkable climaxes in the show, as we explore Phase 2 of Sailor Moon S.