Sailor Moon Got Me Into This Business and I'm Exhaustedby Lynzee Loveridge,
My name is Lynzee Loveridge and I'm a self-professed "moonie." The moniker has stuck with me since I discovered my first anime airing during a children's block on the USA Network, approximately 20 years ago. I didn't know Sailor Moon was "anime" at the time; all I knew was it was a cartoon starring girl superheroes and it rubbed elbows with Gargoyles and Sonic the Hedgehog. I was immediately obsessed. It would be this pivotal moment in my life – yes, an obsession with a kids' show – that would prove formative to who I am as a person. I owe a lot to Sailor Moon. I wouldn't be sitting here as the executive editor of this website without it and to say it was foundational to my ethics and conduct would be an understatement.
More importantly, Sailor Moon's place in my life is hardly unique. It's a touchstone for millennial fandom not unlike Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon, and Yu-Gi-Oh!. And that's why I'm tired of it being treated like the bastard child of this industry. To be a Sailor Moon fan is to subsist on subpar offerings from start to finish, from visual to written formats, and I'm exhausted. I'm tired of simply supporting the franchise for the sake of it, because there's no other option. I'm tired of making do with flawed iterations and baggage that Sailor Moon's peers don't have to deal with (Dragon Ball Z aspect ratio releases aside).
You might be thinking this is going to be an extremely late rant about the horrors of the DiC dub. Honestly, there are many older fans that have come around to the Saturday Morning cartoon version of Sailor Moon, myself included. I consider it its own incarnation at this point and one that certainly served its purpose. For years that was the only way to see Sailor Moon and there were numerous campaigns (including urgings to buy PopTarts) organized by fans in hopes of getting something beyond DiC's original release. Early fans had to make do with an edited and Americanized first season and some of Sailor Moon R for years before it was revived thanks to a popular afterschool slot on Cartoon Network's Toonami. The "Lost Episodes" for Sailor Moon R let us finally see the conclusion without having to order purple tape fansubs or suss out the details from fansites and various clips around the internet.
Readers have to keep in mind that for much of Sailor Moon's pre-Toonami run, this was early fandom internet. YouTube wasn't really a thing. Fandom thrived on AOL chatrooms and "mailing lists," including one I ran for much of my late elementary to early high school years. I had dial-up internet until high school and the 3Mb clips I used to make AMVs took 30 minutes to download. Basically, any information about Sailor Moon outside of its DiC version and Mixx Entertainment "Chix Comix" (now Tokyopop's) tie-in manga release was shared through fan networks. We basically created a fandom with very little substance to back it up. I knew everything that happened in the anime's final season, but wouldn't get to watch it until five or so years later thanks to a friend's fansub tapes. This was just "how it was" and despite the high demand for the show, we all took what we could get.
Eventually the third and fourth seasons made it to Toonami via Pioneer (later Geneon, now defuct in the anime licensing game) and a dub by Cloverway. Any criticisms for the original DiC dub can be applied to Cloverway's release as well. By the time it aired, I already knew the plotline and much of the "iffy" content. We all expected MICHIRU and Haruka's relationship to be written out of the show, not to mention Haruka's suicide near the climax. I still set up a VHS to record the episodes so I could watch them when I got home. Even with the multitude of changes, this was still the only time I'd been able to see full episodes of the series in their entirety, so I had no problem overlooking whatever was neutered for American TV. Besides, we finally got a home video release that included uncut, subtitled episodes and the movies. We were moving in the right direction for the anime, I hoped.
Just as well, I had every Mixx Sailor Moon floppy because I still wanted to see Naoko Takeuchi's (flipped) art regardless of the translation quality. The manga's release was strange, though. The early manga was released in floppies while later arcs were only available in combined volumes. I never owned those. They don't look anything like current manga volumes released in the market today; they were much smaller, with bindings that would fall apart after a few flip throughs. Such was the fate of my first combined volume and sadly, this wouldn't be the last time the official manga release had issues, but that's moving out of "old generation" grievances into newer territory. Sailor Moon attempted to escape its classification as a cartoon for little girls to something with a large, dedicated fanbase. There was money there, after all.
The first two seasons of Sailor Moon would finally get a subtitled release on DVD by ADV Films in 2003. I was 16 and working a part-time receptionist job because my parents thought I needed to work and I wanted money to buy anime DVDs. It took me a few paychecks to save up to buy the ADV releases and I still own them today. It's absolutely no secret that the quality is horrible, but the limited edition, uncut releases were literally in print for only a year. I wasn't about to sleep on the release regardless of the horrible audio quality and the fact that two episodes – episodes that had never aired on American television – were still omitted. I could at least, finally, watch the original show I fell in love with. I wasn't lucky enough to save up the money to get the Pioneer DVD releases, and unfortunately the franchise would remain more or less dormant until its 20th anniversary approached in 2012.
The anime that would become Sailor Moon Crystal was first announced in 2012 and I cannot explain to you the complicated emotions that rose up during that announcement. Fans had often toyed with the idea of wanting an adaptation that stuck closer to Naoko Takeuchi's story, as each season diverted in one way or another beginning with the first season. I hoped that modern anime aesthetics would also lend itself to this new version, so we might see something a bit luscious. Sorry, but in retrospect this makes the first season of Crystal almost hilarious in the saddest way. Not to beat a dead horse, but Crystal was delayed over a full year only to be relegated into a bi-weekly net anime that Toei heavily outsourced. Honestly, the result was insulting.
Yes, this is from the big finale fight
Crystal featured character designs that were, frankly, impossible to animate. Yes, they were heavily influenced by Takeuchi's art, but making that art move consistently was too high of a cliff to scale for the animation team. The series also did a great job of illustrating how the original manga is best treated as a skeleton to build off of; adhering too closely to the original served to reveal how barebones the story was and viewers are left with characters that lacked any sense of personality or emotional depth. The result is something that I own out of obligation to the series but never plan to watch. Are you starting to see a trend here?
Meanwhile, Viz was preparing Blu-ray releases of the entire series but that, too, wasn't immune to controversy. It became apparent with the first season's release that the company involved in upscaling the series for Blu-ray forewent much of the delicate details in favor of higher saturation and "cleaning." Viz insisted that it had the best masters available despite comparisons to Italian home video releases proving otherwise. You can listen to Zac Bertschy's interview about the topic here and honestly, props to him for sticking to it because things get a bit hairy. There were some behind-the-curtain change-ups following this interview but, perhaps more importantly, we never got very good answers about what happened here.
Speaking of other things I own multiple copies of, let's walk back to the Sailor Moon manga again. In the midst of the 20th anniversary fervor, Kodansha Comics began re-releasing the manga for the first time since its Americanization back in the aughts. This new release included the Sailor V manga for the first time and new, beautiful covers by Takeuchi. However, it also came with one of the weirdest translations I've seen in a modern release. There are sites dedicated to cataloging all of the problems, but to me the most notable and egregious is the series' final pages where Mamoru compares Usagi to a "heavenly body" instead of...I don't know, a star? I promise he wasn't being horny in the original context.
Lest it seems like I'm yelling into the void, I can't help but think that Kodansha Comics knew this translation had some weird issues. They paid for a brand-new translation for the Eternal Edition, yet another (larger cut) release of the manga that followed a few years later. Yes, I own three different versions of this manga now and I suppose the anger stems from the fact that I shouldn't have to. I'm willing to concede the fact that some of the examples I've laid out so far can be attributed to "a different time." I don't agree that 2011 is long enough ago to paint it with the same brush as Tokyopop comparing Ami Mizuno to Demi Moore.
Back in the anime world, the third season of Crystal showed some improvement, I'll give it that. The series moved back into an actual television slot, the character designs were completely redone, and Chiaki Kon came onboard as director. Kon initially inspired some hope for the show; at the time, she was associated with fan-favorite series Nodame Cantabile and Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai. I honestly don't know what's going on with her career now; the third season of Crystal was serviceable at best, suffering from all the same writing issues as the previous two seasons. Now Kon is stuck working on anime that are little more than slideshows on Netflix.
Speaking of Netflix, I'll round out this history of snubbing Sailor Moon to its most recent release, the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal films. Finally! A release available globally, within a reasonable timeframe of the original, and I can happily report that it looks great. I'll elaborate more about the films themselves within a proper review, but suffice to say I was very excited for this release. The Sailor Moon Super S and Sailor Moon Stars seasons arguably differ the most from their manga counterparts, so a new adaptation could very easily be entirely different stories. Wouldn't it be nice to have a competent telling of Sailor Moon without dodgy releases, heavy rewrites, and being mired in disappointment?
What, you made it to the end of this and thought you earned reprieve? Remember the start of this, where I likened Sailor Moon to a personal moralistic figure that greatly informed my identity? I guess we have to talk about that a little to put this into perspective. Long-time readers (and haters) probably know me best for writing a piece about Vic Mignogna, which was later entered into court evidence during his failed lawsuit a few years back. While that report was an arduous task, it isn't the only one I've written. I actually spent a large amount of time immediately after it looking into an alleged rape by voice actor Todd Haberkorn.
To describe it shortly, an alleged victim made public allegations of a sexual assault at Anime Central that happened nearly a decade ago. They did not name their alleged assailant. However, Todd Haberkorn outed himself as the alleged perpetrator on Facebook, denied the allegations claiming both parties were drunk, and posited that the alleged victim was lying because they contacted him afterwards looking for a romantic relationship. By the end of my process of preparing the article, I'd spoken to everyone who was at the table with Haberkorn and the alleged victim that night, knew the name of the bartender that likely overserved the green room attendees, and tracked down copies of programming guides to know who was in charge of the party at ACEN that year. In the meantime, Haberkorn had removed his posts, lawyered up with the same guy that represented Mignogna, and sent out the usual cease and desist letters. The alleged victim backed out and the story died. It happens, but not before I received one of the most insulting e-mails in my entire professional career.
After ghosting me on an agreed interview for the story, I was alerted that my male colleagues were e-mailed instead. In summary, they were asked if they could guarantee my professionalism for this interview due to my status as a "self-proclaimed feminist" and "sexual assault survivor." These are details that were likely gleaned from Twitter and I have no intention of detailing my story of surviving sexual assault or my interest in gender equality here. Nor am I interested in taking apart all the baggage of that statement and what it suggests about anyone, of any gender, who has experienced sexual assault. Regardless, the story of the allegation didn't move forward, but Haberkorn's admission of his involvement, consensual or otherwise, lingered for a while. I hadn't seen his name in the anime dubbing scene much, but it looks like he's found work at Netflix.
He directed the dub for Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal after all, something I find darkly humorous now as this series continues to be plagued, in one way or another, in every attempt to localize it. Bang Zoom is also bringing him back into the fold in their new Pretty Boy Detective Club dub. Now, before you get your keyboards ready with "maybe Netflix didn't know about all of that," rest easy. Individuals directly involved in helping this title, specifically, knew. The fact that a property so important to empowering young girls and creating heroes for them is continually maligned through the industry meant to usher it to viewers is one of my greatest disappointments.
Sailor Moon got me into this business, the business has failed us, and I'm exhausted.
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