Like, if someone with only a superficial understanding of anime is going to do a parody of anime, it’s going to be one of “cute monsters fighting”, “fight scenes where people power up and make their hair big”, or “magical transforming princess” — or some haphazard mix of all three.
I doubt I’m wrong in thinking Sailor Moon is one of the most iconic animes of all time. Especially among my age bracket.
Which, as far as you’re concerned is 25-year-olds and always will be…
Sure, it may have never become the quite frankly alarmingly popular phenomenon that Pokémon is (but nothing has; Pokémon is the most valuable media franchise of all time).
Also, I will freely admit that Sailor Moon is the first girl I ever had a crush on.
I feel like Sailor Moon requires very little introduction, but here’s one anyway: she’s a high school by day and the magical, monster-fighting princess of the Moon by night. You may very well recall the whole “fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight” from the theme song of the 90s dub.
She has a team of four other magical, transforming space princesses. Mercury is the smart, analytical one. Mars is the serious, dependable one. Jupiter is
indisputably the best the tough-with-a-soft-centre one. And Venus is basically a more competent version of Moon. Also, Tuxedo Mask usually helps by chucking roses at the bad guys.
The 90s anime is probably the most famous version of Sailor Moon, so I’ll start there.
Now, the original 90s dub (done in Canada, and apparently sufficient for the series to be counted as CanCon) is widely ridiculed and reviled by a lot of fans.
And, yeah, it played pretty fast and loose with the source material, though that’s a conversation I’ll be saving for towards the end of this post.
I will however point to Sailor Moon’s best friend’s Brooklyn accent as a highlight, and insist that “Sailor Scouts” is a better name than “Sailor Guardians”. Also “Negaverse” is pretty goofy, but it’s less blandly generic than “Dark Kingdom”.
But if you’re looking for a dub that takes less liberties with the source material, good news. A few years ago, Viz released a more faithful, and overall better dub of the 90s anime, as well as a dub of the newer anime (more on that later). It’s pretty much indisputably better and more accurate.
Though, I will freely admit my legitimate disappointment in the lack of Brooklyn accents.
Part of me would actually recommend starting with the second season of the anime (Sailor Moon R). The first season moves pretty slowly — it takes about 33 episodes out of 46 to get the full team of Sailors.
Though the episodes where each of the Sailors first get their powers probably are worth watching, what with being the most plot-relevant episodes. Also, the story arc where Sailor Moon’s friend (the one who had the Brooklyn accent) falls in love with one of the bad guys is a high point of the first season’s storytelling.
Worth noting is that the finale of the first season is infamous for the fact that it culminates with all of the Sailors (who, as you’ll recall, are teenagers) being brutally killed, though this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the universe is basically reset at the end of the episode.
Apparently, the experience was actually upsetting enough to the kids in Japan watching the original airing that a lot of them got physically sick. I mean, hey, I’m an adult man, and I don’t particularly want to watch it. So watch out for that, I guess. Or just skip it all together.
On a lighter note, here’s a pretty sunset:
Like I was saying, the first season is kind of slow. While the second season starts with a standalone filler arc, it only takes about an episode and a half for the Sailors to all get their powers back and reform the full team after the cosmic reset at the end of the first season.
The filler arc that starts the second season may not contribute much to the overall plot, but it’s a perfectly adequate standalone story about some aliens and their evil space tree. It’s, uh, it’s not quite as dumb as it sounds…
The real story arc of the second season starts with Sailor Moon’s kid from the future and/or another dimension literally falling out of the sky.
There’s also the original manga, which I’m not as familiar with as the anime, though from my experience, it’s both more violent (I seem to recall Sailor Mars melting a dude) and thematically mature and overall less interesting than the anime.
There’s also also Sailor Moon Crystal, which is basically an anime version of the manga. I’ve only watched a few episodes, but I had no strong objections to what I watched, aside from thinking the art style’s kinda weird, though the technology and techniques behind the animation do have the benefit of being almost 30 years more modern.
For what it’s worth, the general consensus on the Internet is that the first two seasons are pretty mediocre, while the third is an improvement.
I’ve only watched, like, half the first season, so I can’t comment beyond that. But, again, so far so good.
There’s also also also Codename: Sailor V, a manga starring the eventual Sailor Venus as a sort of super-cop/secret agent, that actually predates Sailor Moon and was the inspiration for the later series, and which is why Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus have so much in common as characters.
Well, that was an exceedingly long discourse on a franchise I initially said needed no introduction.
You can stop reading here if you want.
From this point, I’m going to be getting into a few further thoughts that were originally posted as a separate blog post.
So, like I mentioned, the original dub of Sailor Moon has attracted its fair share of controversy since its original run, especially as it became progressively easier to get access to the original Japanese version so people could see what they’ve been missing.
My own brief research into the matter show the fanbase broken into two major factions: the ones who care enough about the integrity of the original Japanese version to adamantly defend its honour at all costs, and the people who essentially grew up with 90s dub and are nostalgic for what is basically the only version of Sailor Moon they’ve ever known.
For what it’s worth, I’d probably be one of the few that fall somewhere in the middle. I have a lot of fondness for the Sailor Moon of my childhood, but recognise that the original dub took a lot of liberties and made some weird choices, while having a few marked improvements (like, for example, calling them the “Sailor Scouts”).
Similarly, I think that the most recent dub is a definite improvement in terms of production values and professionalism, but the original dub is so ingrained into my psyche that adjusting to a different version is difficult. This is probably best exemplified by the characters’ names.
The original dub changed pretty much every last character’s names. Some fairly substantially: “Usagi” became “Serena”, “Naru” became “Molly” (and received the aforementioned Brooklyn accent). Others just got slightly altered to become more Anglicised: “Ami” became “Amy”, “Rei” became “Raye”.
Notably, the new names were incredibly inconsistent whether characters ended up with English or Japanese surnames. Sailor Moon got a new, English first name, but her last name stayed Tsukino, Naru ended up with the completely English “Molly Baker”, Sailor Mercury ended up as “Amy Anderson”, the only Sailor not to keep her original last name.
This is especially bemusing, given that the show is still clearly set in Tokyo. Granted, according to Wikipedia, there are more than 17,000 Americans living in Tokyo, though that number would have been lower back in the 90s…
This makes watching the new dub a rather jarring. I’ll be sitting there going “Who’s Usagi? Her name is — Oh … right.”
I (repeatedly) mentioned Naru/Molly’s Brooklyn accent. And, honestly, rewatching episodes of the original dub, I can feel myself grinning like an idiot every time she opens her mouth. It’s just such a weird choice.
I’ve read that it was apparently supposed to be the English equivalent of the Kansai accent she has in the Japanese version. I don’t know if that’s true, but whatever the reason, I was actually disappointed it didn’t survive into the new dub, where it feels like she gets a better-delivered performance, but ends up with less individuality by sounding just like everyone else.
Speaking of weird accents, Luna‘s voice has been likened by TvTropes to either Mary Poppins, or Angela Lansbury. And Sailor Mercury sounds like a vaguely Scottish middle-aged woman. The other Sailors are all good performances, but I feel like Venus should have Mars’s voice and Jupiter should have Venus’s.
Sailor Moon herself had three voice actresses in the original dub. The first is probably the best. The second is a really good performance, but comes across as too mature and composed for a character who’s a self-admitted airhead and crybaby. And the third paradoxically manages to be my favourite performance of the three when in a vacuum, but also the worst fit for the Sailor Moon character.
And, for what it’s worth, Sailor Moon’s mom is a
total babe surprisingly solid performance for character largely relegated to the background.
Going straight from watching an episode of the original dub to the same episode of the newer dub, it’s immediately apparent that the Viz dub has a bigger budget, better actors, and more attentiveness for the original Japanese script. I will admit I certain level of “I don’t like this” to the new dub, but that’s not because it’s bad.
Like I said, the original dub is so fixed in my memory that it’s shocking to hear the characters I grew up with sounding so different.
There’s nothing as immediately noticeable in terms of criticisms in the new dub, though I feel like Mars doesn’t always emote enough, though I think that may just be an attempt to convey her a stoic and serious, rather than a flaw in the performance.
As it happens, I recognise most of the cast from the various recent Fire Emblems.
And, as a final note, rewatching episodes of the original anime, I’ve come to the conclusion that the sunglasses Tuxedo Mask wears in his everyday life cover more of his face than his Tuxedo Mask mask.
Copyright 2022 J.B. Norman.
Adapted from posts originally written 2020.
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