Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal Season 1
Not so Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon
Warning: this review does contain a few vague spoilers.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal (2014) rebooted the Sailor Moon universe for anime fans and promised to be more faithful to its roots. Well, it was certainly closer to the manga, but not necessarily for the better.
Didn't I already review this anime? Well, yes and no. After I finished my review for the first arc of Sailor Moon Crystal, I began to wonder I my nostalgia fuelled my feelings for the series. I do have very fond memories of the original Sailor Moon which I grew up with. So, I decided to take a break from the series and watch it again later with a clear mind. With the conclusion of the entire season, I figured it was time to revisit the series and review the whole thing. I just didn't think my feelings would change this much.
To be honest, before watching the first arc of Sailor Moon Crystal the first time, I didn't watch anime for years and it took a while to get back into it again. It especially took me a while to reform the ability to watch the anime while reading the subtitles. Plus, it was the announcement of Sailor Moon Crystal that got me watching anime again, and with years of only fond memories, I didn't know what to expect. Now that I've watched several other series and movies, as well as the original series again, the flaws in this anime were much more noticeable. And, wow, were there flaws in this series.
Compared to the original Sailor Moon series, Sailor Moon Crystal is very dark, depressing, and overly focused on fated love. The love isn't even what I would consider romantic love, but more like a schoolgirl's hyped up fascination with a boy, or "young love" as adults call it. And thanks to its darker story, it loses the charm that most magical girl series have. It is as if the creators wanted to make it feel mature, yet they forgot that at times and made it feel childish – almost like there were multiple writers trying to take the series in two different directions.
Surely the solid characters made the series worth it, though, right? Nope. Instead of building the characters up, and letting us see them grow into a team of destiny, we are only given short introductions for each character, then on to the big bad. Obviously these heroins fought many more battles than we were shown, and went through a longer incubation period, but other than a few short blips of conversation, we know nothing about it. Because of this, we weren't given the opportunity to get attached to them before they were thrust into deadly conflicts. It's hard to feel anything for a character you know nearly nothing about. Talk about a let down!
The pain continues when some characters die so suddenly that it feels like insult. The villains, and in turn the writers of this series, remind me of spoilt children destroying a painting or story that someone has spent years creating in a matter of seconds for no reason what-so-ever. Only the destroyed characters feel incomplete leaving almost no impact due to their loss. This, too, could have been avoided if more time was spent developing the characters.
Sailor Moon Crystal is the perfect example of why an anime or movie needs to be more flexible with the original material. Having very little history, and almost no character building, feels natural in a manga or comic, but when it comes to other mediums, more development is required to tell a fantastic story. In this series, none of that was added, which made this anime no more than an animated manga.
Worse yet, the episode titles are so revealing that it spoils far too much of the story, especially when the series is first revealing each of the heroes. Whose idea was it to do that? I mean, fans of the manga know what's coming, but how about leave some mystery for the ones who've never read the manga or seen the original series?
Also, why have a title song that mentions that they are strong heroins who don't need to be saved by men, only to have a man save the main character over and over again? Are we supposed to think that even the most powerful women should be saved by men who are less powerful than they are? Sexist much?
Then there is the terrible animation. Sigh. It almost appears that they had several artists with different styles and experience working together to create this series so they could release it quickly. Because of that, Sailor Moon Crystal's animation is very uneven, often changing several times per scene, and often with laughable results. In fact, some scenes are so terribly poor that they look like something drawn by someone just learning how to draw. They even forget to draw critical items in at times! Some of these problems have been fixed on the recent blu-ray release, but Sailor Moon Crystal definitely doesn't look as good as it should. Toei doesn't have a reputation for great animation, but they could have tried a little harder, no?
This anime had so much to hope for, but instead we are left with a series that feels rushed in every way possible. Is it enjoyable? Kinda. Sailor Moon Crystal has some great scenes, but thanks to the uneven animation, the lack of character building, and a story that progresses too quickly, even those great scenes are held back from being anything more than a quick funny moment or a mildly exhilarating battle. Having not read the manga, I'm sure that this version would be better for fans who have, but an anime should be more than just fan service. A manga-based anime should be a gateway to introduce new viewers to the universe it takes place in, but instead we got something that will scare people away from it. If you're interested in watching Sailor Moon for the first time, do yourself a favour and watch the original Japanese version (not the butchered American port), which is a far more entertaining experience, despite its flaws and age. Maybe, just maybe, future seasons (if they happen) will be handled better, but I'm not holding my breath in anticipation.