Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Sailor Moon R
BD+DVD - Season 2 Part 2
Chibi-Usa's extended stay at Usagi's house seems to have coincided with the new threat from the Black Moon Clan, and Rubeus continues to send the Specter Sisters to fight the Sailor Guardians. But those four prove to be the least of the Guardians' problems when they find out Chibi-Usa's real identity and have to travel to the future city of Crystal Tokyo to help her save her mother from Prince Demande and his nefarious advisor Wiseman. Secrets are revealed – including the existence of another Sailor Guardian – as this time Sailor Moon and her friends fight to save not just the present, but the future as well.
Arguably, part two of Sailor Moon R, the second of five original seasons in what has come to be known as Sailor Moon Classic, is where the story starts to get good. Less subjectively, it's where the story returns to the manga storyline (more or less), and while it does take its time really delving into Chibi-Usa's true reason for coming to the 20th century, it also provides opportunities for Ami and Minako to develop as characters, along with its villains, who are granted the status of actual characters. The story drags in a few places, but overall this is a major step forward for the Guardians and the series' world in general.
Of course, the elephant in the room remains the quality of the discs. I am very pleased to report that the replacement discs (disc two of both BD and DVD) no longer have the sound-syncing issues for episode 80, and there is also an improvement in terms of noise and ghosting on the Blu Rays. It isn't perfect and likely this release never will be - after they fixed the audio, this set has the same basic image quality we've come to expect from this release. The subtitles are also more difficult to read on the BD; it appears that a thinner black stroke was used to outline the white words. (Even if you prefer the dub, this can be an issue with the song lyrics.) The only other issue that I found is on the third BD – the audio for the ending theme in episode 88 sounds muffled to my ears, but your mileage may vary.
Naturally the quality of the show on the disc isn't a perfect reflection of how the animation and art itself works in terms of the show, and Sailor Moon R definitely has some of the less desirable hallmarks of 1990s TV anime: off-model characters appear with relative frequency, Chibi-Usa's height seems to change from scene to scene (along with the width of the Guardians' heels), and there's plenty of reused animation outside the transformation scenes. Then when you least expect to see smooth animation it shows up in something like the Black Lady transformation, where her breasts and buttocks are the focus of some surprisingly nice (albeit awkward) enlargement. The are, however, a lot of good moments of humor thrown in, which can ease the sting of some of the less stellar art and animation; many funny faces are made, and little details like Esmeraude showing up to battle in her bathrobe help make the show fun.
The story, which is what drew so many people to this series in the first place, continues to be stronger than you might expect. While Chibi-Usa is significantly more irritating in R Classic than in either the manga or Sailor Moon Crystal, her journey remains touching, especially in later episodes when we (and the Guardians) know what's really going on. The story also takes time to develop the characters beyond the main duo of Usagi and Chibi-Usa, allowing us to glimpse Minako's goofier side and Ami's insecurities, along with Mamoru's conflicts about his relationship with Usagi and his devotion to helping the seemingly helpless Chibi-Usa, something he is never in question about, whereas Usagi allows herself to be annoyed by the little girl and to react badly to her. This can simply be seen as the difference in their ages – remember, Usagi is still only fourteen – but it also allows Mamoru a more caring side that can get lost in his myriad cheesy speeches as Tuxedo Mask. Villains are also given time to become real characters rather than one-off monsters, with the Specter Sisters being particularly good examples of this; instead of just killing them off, Sailor Moon takes the time to give them a chance, which is much more in line with her magical girl persona in a pre-Puella Magi Madoka Magica genre. It also gives us one of the season's most touching (and depressing) scenes between Petz and Saphir, which has an impact beyond what you would expect and forms a counterpoint to Usagi and Mamoru's relationship. In contrast to this, Sailor Pluto, who appears for the first time in this set, does not get as much time or development as she deserves, and her role in the story is neutered compared to the original manga.
The English dub continues to be strong, with new addition Sandy Fox as Chibi-Usa doing well at making the character both irritating and endearing and Veronica Taylor's Sailor Pluto sounding pitch perfect. Stephanie Sheh continues to be a strong Usagi, and she sounds like the world's cutest pirate during the eye-catches when she adds “R” to the other Guardians' “Sailor Moon.” Esmeraude, who in the Japanese had the good old “Oh ho ho ho” laugh, has a nice English equivalent, which is much better than trying to keep to the original; in fact, Rena S. Mandel (whom child viewers may recognize as Cerise Hood in the Ever After High cartoon) does an excellent job in general. The only real stumbling block comes in a word choice used in episode 72, when Rubeus presents Petz and Calaveras with a wand which the script continually calls a “stick.” The word stands out simply because it feels inappropriate for the ornate object; “scepter” or the aforementioned “wand” would have worked better.
The extras are once again relatively extensive. There are two “gallery” features which showcase cell and promotional art (there are some great ones of Mars), convention coverage of Sailor Moon at Otacon and the Sailor Moon Anniversary, and three interviews. The first, with Cherami Leigh (Sailor Venus) is fun, especially given how much she always seems to know and have thought about her characters. (I do wonder if she's read the Code Name: Sailor V manga, which she is not asked.) The second is with Veronica Taylor, and the third is more of a round table with Sheh, Leigh, Fox, Kristina Vee (Mars), and Amanda Miller (Jupiter), although ostensibly it's Sandy Fox discussing Chibi-Usa. It's entertaining, especially when you notice that Vee and Leigh are wearing their Guardians' colors.
The final episode of Sailor Moon R is a clip show, which definitely takes the tone down a notch, no matter how many times they show the same two or three clips from the upcoming Sailor Moon S. But the set itself is fun to watch and showcases what makes this original anime adaptation so good – more characters get developed, the tone is light until all of a sudden it isn't, and, ultimately for the intended little girl audience, it's about girls who can stand up for themselves and save the world. To see someone like Usagi, who rarely gets anything right in her daily life, triumph over adversity is empowering, and when you come right down to it, that's what makes Sailor Moon R a good show, warts and all.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Solid English dub, lots of character development. Parts of the story are genuinely touching while others are very funny. Interesting extras.
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