Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Sailor Moon SuperS
Part 1 Limited Edition BD/DVD
No sooner have the Death Busters been defeated than a new villain appears – during a solar eclipse, a strange, floating circus tent descends on Tokyo, the headquarters of Madame Zirconia and the Dead Moon Circus. They've come to Earth hunting for Pegasus, who they believe to be hiding in the beautiful dreams of a pure human being. Zirconia sends the Amazon Trio – Tiger's Eye, Hawk's Eye, and Fish's Eye – to hunt him down. Naturally the Sailor Guardians aren't going to let them get away with that, especially because Chibi-Usa has been having dreams about a mysterious winged unicorn herself. Could the dreams he's been hiding in be right under everyone's nose?
Sailor Moon Super S has a somewhat troubled reputation. Coming directly after fan-favorite, somewhat darker Sailor Moon S and its popular Death Busters arc, SuperS sends the Outer Guardians back into the shadows and alters the story to focus more on Chibi-Usa, with the result that, despite new transformations and powers, the rest of the cast feels like it backslides a bit. For viewers who are not fans of Chibi-Usa (who, it must be noted, is far less annoying here than when she was Rini), this can be a difficult change to take, and even if you like the character it is an unfortunate decision to sideline the rest of the Inner Guardians to the degree that they are. Even when the other girls get their own dedicated episodes they rarely get to save the day, although they receive new powerups in this set of nineteen episodes, they do not get any new attacks to go with them. Yes, the longer ribbons are nice to look at, but they hardly help in battle.
Despite these issues, the plot of the series is as much in line with Naoko Takeuchi's original manga as other seasons. The Dead Moon Circus and Pegasus are interesting elements, and the monster-of-the-week format works decently well for both of them. In fact, the real saving grace of this season is the Amazon Trio, who are particularly entertaining no matter which language track you listen to. Much as I love Akira Ishida's Fish's Eye, Erik Scott Kimerer does a truly impressive job making his voice just on the edge of androgynous, switching from masculine to feminine without ever truly landing on either, which works incredibly well for the character. The true highlight, however, is John Eric Bentley as Tiger's Eye. While Tiger's Eye is the member of the Trio who arguably does the lion's (tiger's?) share of the work in attempting to seduce women in order to peer into their dreams, even if he had a smaller role, Bentley's version of the character would have stolen the show. He's a scenery-chewing sensation, delivering cheesy lines with aplomb as well as Tiger's Eye's more frustrated moments when those damn girls and their talking cats show up. If there's a reason to watch the new dub, this is it.
The Dead Moon Circus as a whole is visually interesting, and it's worth noting that we can see (and at times hear) the influence of DC Comics' Harley Quinn in the artwork; she was created in 1992, three years before this season aired, so it seems reasonable that there might have been some crossover with the circus themes. While the Amazon Trio's outfits might leave a little something to be desired, it is interesting that Hawk's Eye is never presented as anything but masculine despite his skirt, relatively progressive for the time. The artistic details and continuity are much more of a mixed bag than previously, although it is also possible that the improved quality of the blu-ray is simply making those issues more visible in this set; it's the first with no noise in the picture or wobbly images. So for every scene of Tiger's Eye reading a book called Cherry Boys with its cover of honey being poured on a flower, there's one of Chibi-Usa with misshapen hands or Mamoru having gained twenty pounds. Chibi-Usa's school friend Kyusuke undergoes a random growth spurt in one episode and post-transformation neither mother nor daughter have any light in their eyes, which gives them a very sinister appearance; this issue persists for the entirety of the set.
In terms of story, this half of the season really is a mixed bag. Chibi-Usa's growth as a character is very important, especially since that's the entire point of her being in the past in the first place. While Pegasus' motives are still uncertain, it is nice to see her having someone who is there just specifically for her, since most of her interactions are essentially with her mother's friends or the younger versions of her parents. Even though Diana the kitten comes in, she's largely used to help Mamoru and Artemis bond or simply doesn't talk as much as Luna and Artemis, so Pegasus really does have an important social role to play. That he might have somewhat warmer feelings for the young girl is apparent and a little bit creepy, given how old she looks. (It also may remind some viewers of Supergirl and her horse Comet, which is a different issue.) The unfortunate aspect of all of this is that Chibi-Usa and Pegasus take over the story to a large degree; even when she's not with her magical horsey friend, she's exploring on her own or randomly dispensing love advice based on what he's told her. That would be fine if it didn't mean shoving the other Guardians to the side – while everyone does get their own episode, only Minako gets a chance to shine in hers, and that's mostly in a comedic sense. (Episode 141 is still among the best this set has to offer; Minako and the Amazon Trio are wonderful in it.) Ami's episode about helping out the female owner of a garage is also a good one, but it doesn't quite come up to the level of focusing on her that Minako's does, which is also true of Makoto's and Rei's. (Rei's, in fact, is more about Yuichiro and his crush than Rei herself.) Perhaps the biggest issue, however, is how Usagi has backslid into a less mature character, fighting with Chibi-Usa and being jealous over Mamoru as if S had never happened. It's bad to the degree that other characters comment on it within the show, something that's rarely a good sign.
This collection also includes the SuperS TV special, an extra-long episode with three short stories. The first one is essentially a clip show, but the other two are fun, with one bringing back Haruka and Michiru (mostly Michiru, since Haruka's sick) and the other focusing on Chibi-Usa, her school friends, and a vampire. Other extras include galleries, promos, clean songs, and three interviews: one with the “royal family,” one with all the Sailor Guardians except Mercury (usually absent from these) and Pluto, and a very interesting third with Robbie Daymond and Tohru Furuya, the original voice of Tuxedo Mask. Watch this one to the end – you don't want to miss the rose tossing competition.
Sailor Moon Super S' first part is definitely a comedown after the previous season, but it still has its moments. The new dub of the Amazon Trio is a major draw, and there are good episodes scattered throughout that make it worth some of the less spectacular ones. With the Amazoness Quartet looming on the horizon, things are likely to show some changes in the season's second half, so while this isn't as good as previous Sailor Moon stories, it may just be a question of waiting a little longer.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : B-
+ Amazon Trio are fun bad guys, some nice visual details and designs, nice extras
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