How could I ever really review the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal?
Several years back, I went to see the Shutter Island movie. I read the book itself my first year of college, and I’d really enjoyed it. I’d re-read it my senior year in advance of the movie release, and found myself a bit dismayed – it was the sort of book I could only truly read once, because once I knew the twist it was impossible to banish the knowledge from my mind, and that knowledge lurked underneath the entire reading process. I walked away from the movie baffled over its quality, because while I could say that I found the WWII memories granted to the lead intriguing in their implications, the knowledge of the twist still prevented me from being able to really engage with the story.
I know all the twists to Sailor Moon, although I couldn’t truly say whether they were ever twists at all – my first experience with Sailor Moon was the DiC dub, and the opening they used left no mystery whatsoever to the question of who the princess Luna sought was. I also know the entire story like the back of my hand, forward and backward, up and down. Sailor Moon as a story holds no surprise for me whatsoever. So was this first episode good? Would I want to watch more were I brand new to it?
What I can say is that watching this was wonderfully thrilling. I can also say that I sincerely hope that the subs smooth out a bit going forward, as I found the general avoidance of contractions extremely awkward to read. I can also say that in terms of visual aspect, the subs on Crunchyroll are the best bet – they’re not yellow like Viz’s, nor are they weirdly spaced like Nico Nico Douga’s. On the other hand, Nico Nico has the show in eleven written languages, to include both traditional and simplified Chinese. Crunchyroll also currently has the first episode available for ALL users, not just premium ones, something I haven’t seen them do with any other show before, so if you’re in a region where you can watch it there and are comfortable watching it with English subs, I strongly advise watching it there (its got much better video quality than Nico Nico or Hulu). I will, though, say that watching it with comments turned on on Nico Nico is thrilling in its own way, as you can watch a lot of other people bursting with sheer joy and happiness over it all.
I’m not terribly pleased with the character designs. I realize they’re closer to Naoko Takeuchi’s original designs, but I find the retention of the extremely narrow ankles and wrists fairly unsettling. More troubling, though, is that there is really no visible difference age-wise between Usagi and her mother, and Usagi and Haruna-sensei with these designs (and the VA for Ikkuko doesn’t really help). On the plus side, Mamoru here cuts a much more dashing figure than Mamoru of the original anime ever did. I’m bummed that Sailor Moon didn’t keep her mask from the manga; honestly, this is something I wish the manga had stuck with, too.
What is there to say, what is there to say? I’m struggling a bit because its difficult to… well, for a lot of us, we first saw Sailor Moon as young girls, and this was the first time we got to see a cartoon which was primarily focused on a female cast and was about girls getting to be superheroes. This was my first anime. Without it, I likely wouldn’t even be an anime fan, and I may not have even ever been a nerd. Sailor Moon swung open a massive door and told me that there was a place out there for a girl who loved cartoons.
I can tell you this in a thousand different ways, though, but I don’t think I can ever truly make you understand that if you didn’t have a similar experience. Sailor Moon has been and is huge because it was something most of us had never had before. It might not be so radical anymore after we’ve had a decade of Pretty Cure between us and the end of Sailor Moon TV, but Sailor Moon handed the magical girl a wand and told her she got to have a bunch of friends to fight alongside her as she saved the world… and, oh, by the way? You can save the world while also getting to embrace traditionally feminine things because those things aren’t stupid and a waste of time, they get to be the very items of that represent your strength.
It is worth noting, by the way, that the first villain that the story presents is Jadeite, whom we see for a couple of minutes here. Even in the toned down DiC dub its clear that Jadeite has a serious problem with women and girls. He sneers at them and dismisses their worth. It is no accident that he is the first boss-type enemy that our magical girls must overcome; quite simply, he must be struck down first because there is no room whatsoever in the world of Sailor Moon for misogyny.
(To wander into a tangent, this is actually one of the reasons I roll my eyes a bit when people are dismissive of Sailor Moon for not being “deep”, something that tends to pop up when someone is lauding Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I don’t deny that Sailor Moon is largely a straightforward comic book superhero story made radical by placing teenaged girls in the primary roles, but Sailor Moon definitely speaks to the misogyny, patriarchalism, and rape culture that girls and women engage with on a daily basis. In the Black Moon arc Usagi faces a villain in Prince Demand who is just a much driven by a desire to possess Neo-Queen Serenity as he is by a thirst for revenge against the society that exiled him, and he kidnaps her, clothes her as he sees fit, and forces a kiss on her. Its utterly skin-crawling, and in the manga its cathartic to watch Usagi repel him and manage to escape.)
Going back quite a bit, I hope with this reboot they leave out entirely the fact that Usagi and Makoto dream most of becoming brides, and that they leave out all the the stuff to do with dieting and concerns about weight. The manga, mercifully, didn’t harp so much on this stuff as the original anime did, but both aspects make the franchise feel really dated when one goes back to re-watch and re-read.
I’m so happy to be watching this. I guess that’s really the TL;DR version, huh? I’m so happy to be watching this.