Can I admit something to you?
I really didn’t care for Sailor Moon as a kid.
And being a girl who grew up in the ’90s, that’s a hard thing for me to admit. Most of my pals who had a fair share of animation adoration (and even those who didn’t) had a special place in their heart for the series.
I tried to like Sailor Moon, believe me. And looking back now, I can see why I kept on watching, and why all my friends loved it. The show about a troupe of magical teen girls, led by our main character Usagi (or Serena in the U.S. version), who can transform into the beautiful Sailor Scouts, all represented by a planet in the solar system. These Sailor Scouts, use their powers to save the world from the dark grasp of the villainous Queen Beryl. You have it all there: magic, secret powers, and girls near our own age. It had the makings to be something great. And in Japan, it was.
The original series in Japan, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, received lots of acclaim and was even said to have revitalized the magical girl genre in both the manga and animation world. The manga won the Kodansha Manga Award in 1993 for shōjo and the show was said to be popular with girls because our heroines were using their power to save people, not just to have fun or play tricks, which was popular in other similar shows at the time.
But then DiC picked it up and tried to air it in America. And if people my age remember anything of what the TV landscape looked like in the early 1990s, we remember that what sold was often boxed in ‘80s packaging, with bright neon colors, some shoddy fight scenes, and a moral at the end of every story. Basically, if it wasn’t “Saved by the Bell,” “Power Rangers,” or the like, it wasn’t selling.
So, though I don’t doubt them, it’s easy to see that DiC did their best to try to sell the Sailor Scouts — they added in gimmicky lessons at the end, awful Power Ranger-esque dialogue during fight scenes, and animation scenes more reused than a hipster’s mason jar collection.
The show also ran into some cultural barriers as well. Scenes of near nudity, an implied lesbian relationship, and that infamous transformation scene all caused major controversial edits to be made to make the show “suitable for younger viewers.” But I also felt like something else was edited out: the fact that these girls were supposed to be heroes. I felt like Serena cried a lot, whined, and generally made life hard for all of the other Sailor Scouts until she was saved by the mysterious male lead, Tuxedo Mask.
Basically, it just felt like a bit of a letdown when a big battle would be about to take place, and Serena would run away and leave Tuxedo Mask to take care of most of the dirty work. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to like it so very badly, but at the end of the day I’d end up rotting my brains out to Cowboy Bebop instead.
And I finished the series, but after that, I left the Sailor Scouts behind. I saw that several other series followed it, Sailor Moon S and Sailor Moon SuperS (as well as some films), so it must’ve still been doing well. But when Hulu started streaming the unedited series back in June, I watched a few episodes, and it wasn’t awful. I still didn’t really care for Serena, but it was more tolerable.
But then, two weeks ago, Hulu also started streaming the brand new Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal. And I decided to give it a go. It was hands-down one of the best animation choices I made this year (next to buying a Wacom and watching “Attack on Titan”) and I could not be happier with it.
First of all, it looks gorgeous. From the opening scene of the first episode you can practically hear creator Naoko Takeuchi yelling, “I take this seriously and so should you!” The animation is nearly flawless and crafted with such a light, careful hand — I can’t help but just watch it to stare at the craftsmanship.
But I also noticed something in the opening credits, the new theme song includes the lines, “We are not helpless girls/Who need men’s protection.” Now those are some big claims. And as I continued to watch the first two episodes (the third will be up next week), I think they’re going to keep their promise. Now sure, the show does not come without its problems.
It follows the manga more closely, which is nice, though a little too narratively tight at times for my taste. And Serena (now back to her original name, Usagi) is definitely still a teenager who is pegged immediately as popular and ditzy — but she wants to fight, she just doesn’t know how to use her powers yet. And once the other guardians are located and join the team, I can only see character growth coming our way. And I keep thinking this might just be the show I longed for when I was a young girl watching anime shows where, most of the time, guys got the save the day.
So, if you are like me, if you gave up on Sailor Moon all those years ago — or maybe you didn’t, maybe you stuck it out and are a die-hard fan — you’ll love this new installment. Even if you aren’t particularly into animation, the artwork is definitely worth an episode or two of your time.
The episodes are available for streaming on both Hulu and Crunchyroll. So in the name of the Moon, get to watching!