Review: Sailor Moon (1992)

Directed by: ,

Distributed in Australia by:

My brother, bless his cynical little heart, has a word which he likes to apply liberally in instances just like this. This word is ‘twee’.

And yes, it actually is a word. Apparently the 4th Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language lists the definition as:

adj. Chiefly British
Overly precious or nice.

This is pretty much Sailor Moon down to its cute little red-trimmed mini-skirts.

However, there is something to be said for resisting the urge to dismiss something merely because it is twee. Sailor Moon is, for a start, hugely popular with the age group it has been aimed at (4 to 12 years) and almost inexplicably popular with many people above that age – in some cases waaaaay above that age (if you don’t want to know, do not under any circumstances subject yourself to cosplay of any sort. You have been warned).

Secondly, not only is it delivering some uber-sweet, wholesome values to the masses, but it is in actual fact even occasionally subversive. Don’t believe me? Try explaining to a 12 year old within hearing distance of a real, responsible grown-up how, in Season 5, the Sailor Star Lights are only girls when they’re fighting crime. And no, as the popular rock band the Three Lights they aren’t wearing suits because they’re pretending to be boys. They actually are boys…

Maybe it’s not subversive for those of us reasonably well versed in the tendency for manga/anime characters to err somewhat on the side of androgyny (and as the old saying goes, if you have to ask, it doesn’t matter), but to those unfamiliar with gender-bending cartoon characters the concept might come as a bit of a surprise, to say the least. But that’s not where the fun stops, oh no. When Sailor Moon was initially released it was subversive enough in places to warrant censorship. Yep, you heard right. Name one other cartoon that any ten year old girl would be likely to watch that’s been subject to censorship. Bet you can’t. Ergo, the reason why bad girl Zoisite in the US version is so oddly lacking in the kinds of cup sizes – uh I mean curves – normally attributed to anime women; she was originally a he, but censorship dictated that his (her?) relationship with hunky bad-guy Kunzite was entirely not appropriate for viewing by children. Huh. Go figure.

Anyway, this first volume of the series doesn’t offer anything nearly so challenging and is, despite my words of defence, basically just twee. Of course, that’s not to say that it’s not funny. In fact, you may even find yourself laughing rather loudly in places (me, I found the whole silly, slapstick, Buster Keaton-ness of it extremely entertaining). The Sailor in question, one Moon, aka Serena, is an amusing, delightfully well rounded character. She’s clumsy, slack, cries a lot and would much rather be shopping or thinking about becoming a movie star than saving the world. She may be made for kids, but as an anime-watching adult you just can’t help but like her. And if you find yourself wondering about that hair, her Japanese name Tsukino Usagi means ‘rabbit of the moon’. If you stay alert you’ll catch a ton of jokes and puns constructed around that fact. It’s just one of the show’s little idiosyncrasies that lift it that bit above ‘kids only’.

Following are my recommendations for parts to fast forward after the first viewing:

  1. The opening sequence, although admittedly the song is a little catchy. Oh wait! Did I say that?!
  2. Sailor Moon’s transformation scene. The only one worth watching is the initial transformation, purely for her reaction to it afterward.
  3. The ‘I’m about to kick your arse’ tailor-made Hero Speech, unless of course you really dig Vogue-ing in which case you may want to watch those bits.
  4. Any fighting tactic with ‘Moon’ in the title, eg. Moon Tiara attack. Again, they’re the same scenes every time, it’s only the results that change.
  5. The Jerry Springer conclusion. Moral of the story, blah blah blah. I get it already! Sheesh!

The repetition of scenes might mark Sailor Moon as a bit thin on the old budget, or it may just be an age-group thing (seems like all these kids shows have an easily repeatable action scene of some kind – why is that?). This is light entertainment at its lightest, handicapped from being anything more thanks to the censorship (personally I’d use that word lightly) issues and the lack of provision for a Japanese-made, English-subtitled version on the DVD. A shame but at least it’s not offensive, and it’s entertaining enough if you’re in the mood for a little brain-candy (OK – a lot). It would be worth following for the story-line developments and the interest value of the bad guys, and you can rest assured at least that even if you do get addicted to all that sugar, there’s only 5 seasons with which to rot your teeth. Be warned though, Season 5 isn’t being screened at all in the States, for the reasons I mentioned earlier. If there’s any Sailor Scout Justice anywhere in the world, the series will at least conclude in DVD.

All in all, I might recommend this series if you’ve got absolutely nothing better to watch, or if (like me) you happen to be getting up at 6 to get ready for work. There’s a lot to be said for starting your day with a little bit of twee…

6 Sailor Star Transformation Scenes out of 10.
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