It’s been quite a year for anime in 2014, especially when it involves magical girls and fighting evil by moonlight. Yes, people, I am talking about Sailor Moon and what a year has it been for the franchise. From hearing that Viz Media picked up both the original series and the reboot Sailor Moon Crystal and that there is going to be a new uncut and uncensored English dub, including releasing the final season that never got aired in the States and the movies as well.
I’m just going to get straight to the point of what the show is and what it’s about.
It follows the adventures of Usagi Tsukino and her friends. After discovering her true identity as the titular character from the magical cat Luna, Usagi fights to protect the Earth from the Dark Kingdom, who previously destroyed the ancient Moon Kingdom. This is just dipping your toe into the world of Sailor Moon and introducing the characters (well, in the first half of the first season) and knowing what the show gets into. Either its from your average monster of the week to knowing who is the Dark Kingdom are and what they plan to do with these crystals and/or energy.
Animation-wise, yes the show hasn’t aged very well but then again that was animated in 1992 so I expected it that way as it was a product of its time. Musically, the iconic opening theme, “Moonlight Densetsu” by DALI does grow on to you and it can be satisfactorily catchy while the first ending “Heart Moving” by Misae Takamatsu is merely OK, just not as something that strikes me as “I need to listen to this song over and over again!” The score overall does have its moments whether from dramatic cheese to corny ’90s sounding cheese to lovey-dovey cheese.
Usagi may come off as delusional, lazy, and childlike but those aspects are more portrayed realistically than annoying cartoonish so it never comes off as cringe worthy. She is very loyal to a tee, headstrong, considerate about other people and their feelings, and enthusiastic to make friends with people, especially additional Sailor Guardians Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury) and Rei Hino (Sailor Mars). Ami is, of course, the kind-hearted girl who is more of the level-headed one of the team and Rei is parallel to Usagi in most ways but sassier and straightforward than her, also likes to pick on her occasionally. Tuxedo Mask does come across as that last minute hero to save the girls from peril and of course, Usagi is madly in love with him. Luna is basically the one that keeps them in line (well, Ami and Rei sometimes…….OK, Ami sometimes.) and of course, the villains Queen Beryl and her minions Jadeite, Nephrite & Zolcite are those typical villains with plans to conquer either the city, world or universe. Some of the other supporting characters do have their moments with some episodes dedicated to them, whether filler or not, and some of them got enthralling along the way.
Now let’s get into that brand spanking new English dub from Viz Media and Studiopolis and to no one’s surprise, the dub is actually fantastic. I know of the DiC/Cloverway dub and honestly, that was just forgetful to me since I haven’t heard it in 16 years or so and from what I remember, it didn’t really follow the original Japanese and did a few unnecessary changes. Anyway, the new cast (so far)!
Filling in the big shoes for Usagi Tsukino is Stephanie Sheh and this is one of her biggest and iconic anime roles for her to date and Sheh does deliver that natural nuance in her voice that makes the character sound like an actual 14-year-old schoolgirl than an adult feigning a high school girl’s voice. Kate Higgins as Ami was more unexpected in my opinion as I never heard Higgins play a main character like Ami before since all I know from her is either Naruto as Sakura, Bleach as Karin, and the first Fate/Stay Night as Saber (well, the first out of three English VAs) but hearing her did gave a sigh of relief as she was fantastic in the role. Cristina Vee as Mars was undeniably fierce and powerful as you can honestly sense that Vee was putting her heart into that role. Michelle Ruff as Luna does remind me what would happened if Rukia turned into a cat (and if you think that’s uncanny, wait until the other half of the season). You do hear a little taste of Sailor V (or Venus) from Cherami Leigh but she and Amanda C. Miller as Sailor Jupiter won’t come into full play until the second half (and I eagerly want to want them both in those roles) and Leigh nailed it. If there was some performances that come off as hammy but very funny, those honors goes to Ben Diskin as Umino and Todd Haberkorn as Jadeite. Other decent performances from the show includes Robbie Daymond’s Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask, Lucien Dodge’s Motoki, Danielle Judovits’ Naru & Liam O’Brien’s Nephrite while Cindy Robinson’s Queen Beryl was deliciously evil and impressively performed by her and same could be said for Dodge’s Zolcite.
Usually, I would do a final verdict here but since I still have a long way to go with the series and the dub in total, the show is a fun watch even though I wasn’t interested in the show at first (mostly indifferent about it) but now, I’m honestly invested in this show and want to see how will it go. For some, I get the nostalgia reasons for watching it as some elements of the show still holds up today while the rest is dated to a point. Would I recommend the new dub to people? Well, yes. The series I know has mass appeal to fans, even outside of anime but I still say it’s a show worth revisiting.
Sailor Moon is currently streaming on Hulu/Neon Alley. DVD and Blu-ray at this time will be released on November 2014 from Viz Media.
And until then, this is MAK2.0 aka The Blue Hybrid, fighting evil by moonlight in one format.
SAILOR MOON – animation by TOEI / distributed by VIZ MEDIA