Sailor Moon is one of those manga/anime franchises that has always held a special place in my heart. During my formative years, the original Sailor Moon anime series was one of my first forays into the medium. Despite my issues with the heavy editing present in its original English release, I will always be grateful to it for being my first real introduction to writer-artist Naoko Takeuchi’s masterpiece. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when a few years ago I learned that not only was the original Sailor Moon anime going to be re-licensed in the United States uncut and with a new English dub but that a new series was being created. That new series, of course, was Sailor Moon Crystal.
The premise of Sailor Moon is at first glance pretty straightforward. Usagi Tsukino is your seemingly ordinary middle school student living with her parents and younger brother. Routinely described as both clumsy and somewhat of a crybaby, she is a poor student and hardly seems like the type that would make for a great heroine. Appearances are often deceiving, however. After coming into contact with the talking cat called Luna, she is recognized as the Sailor Guardian known as Sailor Moon and granted a magical broach to bring forth this powerful transformation. She is tasked with finding and protecting the Legendary Silver Crystal along with the Princess of the Moon Kingdom from forces that seek both for nefarious purposes. Along the way, she will befriend other Sailor Guardians, encounter the mysterious Tuxedo Mask and discover truths about herself that she never thought existed.
(Interested in Sailor Moon Crystal? Follow this link to get Season One!)
While the core plot of Sailor Moon – especially its early arcs – might not seem all that complex it quickly becomes apparent that there is an incredible level of depth and maturity to the story being told. Ms. Takeuchi took the established formula of the magical girl genre and slowly but surely shook it to its very foundations. With this series, she took the magical girl out of the realm of childhood fantasy and into the realm of adult realism. In doing so, she brought in powerful thematic elements relating to love, death, sacrifice, rebirth, gender and sexuality. There is a reason why Sailor Moon continues to enjoy such incredible popularity even now. And that lies in how the franchise brought a revolutionary new perspective to the magical girl genre – effectively inspiring other series that came after it.
After careful consideration, I would have to say what drew me to Sailor Moon Crystal is how much it captured the look and soul of Naoko Takeuchi’s manga. Given that the series was designed to more closely follow the original material in both its visuals and narrative, this is not so surprising. Seasons one and two of Sailor Moon Crystal are strong adaptations of the first two arcs – popularly identified as The Dark Kingdom Arc and The Black Moon Clan Arc respectively.
The title of this anime series – Sailor Moon Crystal – is quite appropriate given how the Legendary Silver Crystal holds a role of special importance to the plot of both arcs. In fact, given how interconnected the two arcs are through the presence of that item, I would strongly recommend watching both back to back for the best possible experience.
(Hooked after watching Season One? Follow this link to get Season Two of Sailor Moon Crystal!)
As someone who has watched the first two seasons of the original Sailor Moon anime, I can honestly say watching seasons one and two of Sailor Moon Crystal did not feel like a retread – despite the fact that the same story arcs are being adapted. Sailor Moon Crystal is its own experience – and that is something to be applauded. By eschewing the decompressed storytelling of the original anime, the new anime moves at a faster pace. Moreover, character relationships and histories are fleshed out and reshaped in accordance to the original vision of the creator. Notably, this covers both the protagonists and the antagonists.
On some level, Sailor Moon draws inspiration from the cosmic horror genre. One need only look at the designs and methodology of the franchise’s ultimate villains for confirmation. In contrast to the original Sailor Moon anime, the prime movers of the plots that occur during seasons one and two of Sailor Moon Crystal are not only given greater prevalence but are also granted a more terrifying visage. They are proudly displayed as the Lovecraftian horrors they were intended to be.
With Sailor Moon Crystal, the viewer also gets greater insight into the psyches of the following Sailor Guardians: Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury, Rei Hino/Sailor Mars, Makoto Kino/Sailor Mercury and Minako Aino/Sailor Venus. Although they come from different backgrounds, one crucial factor that they shared in common was how they were lonely, isolated figures prior to meeting the titular heroine. Coincidentally, this reinforces the idea that Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon is “the heart” of their group. Her reaching out her hand to them is the impetus behind their becoming their ideal selves. The camaraderie between these five young women has almost been a crucial part of Sailor Moon’s appeal. And it delighted me that Sailor Moon Crystal took the time to address the bonds between them.
Speaking of bonds, I was similarly entranced by Sailor Moon Crystal’s depiction of the timeless romance between Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon and Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask. “Timeless” is actually a pretty apt description for this relationship. The first two seasons of the anime take full advantage of the lens of time to showcase their love affair in all its various forms: past, present and future. To put it another way, the past affects the present in The Dark Kingdom Arc whereas the present meets the future in The Black Moon Clan Arc. If the former is about Usagi and Mamoru moving beyond the tragedies of their former lives and reconnecting with one another, then the latter is about them reaffirming the ties between them and seeing where the strength of that love will take them. Reincarnation and time travel are weighty concepts indeed but the series handles them in a masterful fashion.
When all is said and done the first two seasons of Sailor Moon Crystal are a must watch for old and new fans of the Sailor Moon franchise. Alongside the earlier Sailor Moon anime, this saga demonstrates why Naoko Takeuchi’s characters and story captured the world’s imagination. And there is more to come. A third season of Sailor Moon Crystal recently aired in Japan with a fourth season supposedly in the works. Truly, it is a wonderful time to be a fan. I strongly urge people to give Sailor Moon Crystal a chance and allow it to take them to the Moon and beyond.
Justin Corriveault is one of The Geekiverse’s newest writers. He is a long-time fan and appreciator of Japanese manga/anime as well as American comic books and related media.
Other articles from Justin Corriveault
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