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First Impressions: Sailor Moon Crystal

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We are not helpless girls who need men's protection

I never thought I'd be on the verge of tears after watching Usagi Tsukino's very first transformation into the pretty soldier of love and justice for the umpteenth time, but here I sit wiping tears away and swallowing back that funny feeling in my throat. You know, the one that means the waterworks are about to flow freely? The one that telegraphs the violent sobs that usually come next? That's where I'm at right now, having viewed the first new piece of Sailor Moon animation in years, the very first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal

It's been a long time coming, but on this sleepy summer day I traveled back to a simpler time when I was just a little girl on my parents' couch having my first taste of anime with DiC's Sailor Moon dub on WBNA, mimicking her transformations and attacks the best I could. There was so much I didn't know back then, and though I tirelessly viewed every episode as it aired, pronounced Chibi-Usa's English name "Greenie," and tried to match Usagi's iconic odango atama hairstyle in my middle school days, I couldn't have possibly forecasted what would blossom into a lifelong love of anime and shoujo.

Sailor Moon Crystal instantly teleported me back to those carefree days, before I sat jaded and tireless while viewing the inevitable new foray into moe by Studio X, before I ceased finding anything magical about the world around me, and before I began to question if anime was really, truly for me anymore. And for the first time in forever, after viewing only one episode I know I'm in it for the long haul.

The debut episode does a fantastic job of catering to veterans of both the anime and manga series, with nods to both spliced into one excellently-animated whole. At first, the animation style is especially jarring, with the noticeably subdued pastels and flowing hair, uniforms, and unmistakably shoujo aesthetic. It's like viewing the original series with a "shoujo" lens applied to it all the way through.

This muted palette fits the tone quite well, and overall lends a less harsh tone to the tale. From Usagi's beginning dream of her life back on the Moon Kingdom all the way up to meeting Naru and Umino at school, it feels much more like the pages of the manga come to life, much less action-oriented than even the debut episode of the original anime, and most importantly, less rushed. I got the impression that since this episode took the time to hint at Mamoru and Usagi's origins outside of introducing Mamoru as just some random jerk in sunglasses that there would be less filler even from the very beginning. Even Usagi's family gets a bit more screen time, which was much appreciated.

We follow Usagi throughout her typical school day as she's late yet again, running out the house and meeting Luna on the way there, stopping to pull a band-aid off of Luna's forehead, but not saving the cat from the rambunctious group of brats like we might be used to. Instead, we're left wondering why the band-aid was there in the first place, but I preferred that to screen time wasted on children anyway. We learn about Usagi's poor performance in school, meet her other school pals besides Naru and Umino, and even a bit about Naru's family in general, simply within the context of a few lines of dialogue. The entire exposition feels much more natural than the stunted first episode of the original Sailor Moon, and much more deliberate and in-line with a shoujo series like Madoka Magica.

In fact, everything is just about perfect -- that is, until Luna gifts Usagi with her very first brooch, looking like it did straight out of the manga series. The show takes its one and only misstep with Usagi's transformation sequence, and boy does it fall on its face hard. I'm a proponent for computer-generated animation when it's used properly, but nothing about this transformation is proper or attractive. In fact, I might go so far as to say it may well be one of the very worst CG segments I've seen in my entire life.

The Berserk films were crafted almost entirely out of the same type of animation, and yet they still ended up looking better than this did. The entire transformation aesthetic has changed, and while I love the ribbons encasing Usagi's body, her bizarre proportions, the ugly-as-sin ribbon on her chest, and strange movements really ruin the entire thing. Unfortunately, this is a bit that will undoubtedly be used quite often and recycled for future episodes, so it's something I will have to inevitably deal with with each Sailor Soldier. I can't quite understand why such a horrible frame rate and inexcusably bad animation would be par for the course in such a popular show that undoubtedly has the money and time to create something better, and while this may be a minor gripe for some, it's a large part of the show's allure for me, and I can imagine, a good portion of other Moonies around the world. 

Fortunately, that's the only real glaring issue I had with the entire first episode, aside from the fact that I do find myself missing the chintzy incidental music and transformation and attack music that are missing the ubiquitous "Sailor Moon" chants in the background. They had a nice disco feel to them that I dug in the later episodes, but this new soundtrack has a much more modern tone. Unfortunately, that also makes it a little less memorable to me, and I already am struggling to dig the opening and ending tracks as much as the classic Sailor Moon opening. But change is good, and I surmise I'll be singing along eventually, especially given the sugary sweet ending theme featuring Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion.

Everything felt so perfectly-executed except for the two glaring faults I found immediately that I find myself reeling from the experience and wanting to go back to view it again despite knowing everything that's going to happen by heart. That's not something that happens to me very often, you know -- and I'm eager to see what direction Usagi and Mamoru's eventual romance goes in. We've already seen Mamoru in a much different light than we're used to, especially as Tuxedo Mask (why was he wearing a tuxedo when he first met Usagi, again?) and he seems overall a much kinder, gentler version of the anime self we're used to. Swoon, am I right?


I also enjoyed the obvious attack alterations with "Moon Tiara Boomerang," so I'm curious how the series will broach any maneuvers done with the Crescent Moon Wand and whatnot. What will the other soldiers' attacks resemble? I can only assume they'll fall closely in-step with the manga series as well, which will be a breath of fresh air.

Overall, this was an excellent and lovingly crafted bit of animation that, despite my nitpicks, should please old and new fans alike. Even if you've never seen Sailor Moon and are coming into it fresh with no rose-tinted glasses to cloud your judgment, it's still very much worth watching and following on its own merits. I'm hoping that this is just the tip of the iceberg and eventually we'll see each season of Sailor Moon condensed into a season without filler that acts as the definitive way to view the classic shoujo series. I'm just curious what the eventual dub will sound like. Sailor Moon was such a valley girl. 

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Brittany Vincent
Brittany VincentContributor   gamer profile

3 I'm Brittany, and I'm the resident creeper, er, community manager over here at I'm here to make your experience more + disclosures


 


 


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    Filed under... #Annotated Anime #bishoujo #First Impressions #magical girls #Sailor Moon #Toei

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