Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Aug 10th 2003
DVD: Season 1 Uncut
Everyone knows the story behind Sailor Moon at this point. The show is an animated icon, a series no fan is ignorant of. Like it or lump it, Sailor Moon has been around for a long, long time, and although the titular hero's star has faded as of late, her slowly-fading but still ridiculously large legion of maniacal fans will jealously defend her popularity. Targeting these fans specifically, ADV has released this uncut complete DVD box set of the first season of Sailor Moon. Unless you were obsessed enough to buy the Japanese laser discs, the chances that you've seen this material in an uncut, subtitled form are slim to none, and if you're a hardcore moonie, now's your chance.
The show contained herein resembles the American broadcast version of Sailor Moon only in aesthetic. The dialogue, tone, plotline and characterizations are completely different, and, naturally, nowhere near as insipid. The show pokes fun at itself more often than not, and the characters seem more vibrant and alive than they did in the American version. Overall, Sailor Moon is a better show in Japanese than it is in English. Since this set contains no dub track, you won't even have the option of listening to it in any language other than Japanese.
In order to fully appreciate this set, you'll need to have seen the American dub beforehand. Nostalgia for the bad ol' days will certainly go a long way; you'll be able to discern easily what's been added, who's been changed, etcetera and so on. For those of you who haven't seen the dub (furthermore, for those with little Sailor Moon experience), this set may not be as much fun to watch. Watching this set without prior knowledge of the series or the debacle over the American dub is almost like watching it out of context. The importance of it being uncut and subtitled is lost, and you wind up having to appreciate the show simply for what it is, on its own merits, minus the ocean of hype. And without the history, there isn't much here.
Sailor Moon is, at its core, a well-written children's show. Many fans will tell you that there are “dark themes” and that the show is “for adults.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Sailor Moon is, through and through, a show meant to empower little girls and teach them life lessons about self-confidence and the like. They explore themes like abandonment and death, but these so-called “dark themes” are things children have to deal with every day, so it's natural that they'd show up in a Japanese children's program, especially given that culture's less-coddling nature towards their young.
The characters grow and change nicely over this first season, moreso than they do in later seasons. Things seem less stagnant. Sure, you'll have to sit through the transformation sequences a zillion times, but there's enough of a storyline to keep the viewer interested. It's interesting to watch the progression of the series from being a silly, simple-minded show that, over the course of its slowly expanding popularity, became a little more serious and melodramatic. Oh, and the same basic thing happens in every episode. If you didn't already know that, then you have no business buying this set.
Animation-wise, this thing is straight out of the early 90s. ADV did zero restoration work on this so you're basically getting a DVD copy of the original masters of the series. The colors are grainy and faded most of the time. The image isn't sharp, and the audio sounds like it was recorded inside a trash can. The set isn't unwatchable, but keep in mind that you're viewing an unrestored version of the series. There's nothing to write home about here, especially given the cheap animation and extremely repetitive musical score. Even the opening theme sounds warbly and nigh-unfinished. Things get better as the show progresses, but it's clear that the original owners of this show didn't do a whole lot to keep things in tip-top condition.
Overall, if you're a hardcore Moonie, then you don't need to be told to run out and buy this set. If you're wavering on it and are interested in using this set to get introduced to the expansive, seemingly endless world of Sailor Moon, it might be easier to get into Pioneer's flashier Sailor Moon S release. Given the presentation quality and relative age of this first season, newbies should probably take caution. Everyone else, this is what you've been waiting for--minus all the bells and whistles. Enjoy.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : C
+ Historically significant
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