This Week in Anime
Moon Family Values

by Steve Jones & Monique Thomas,

The two Sailor Moon Eternal films are now streaming on Netflix and promises a new, closer-to-the-manga story. Steve and Nicky check out the latest installment and mull over the love triangle of future daughter-future dad-and-his faithful steed.

Both movies are streaming on Netflix

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.

Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet


Steve
Nicky, I hope you saved your appetite, because we've got two heaping helpings of meatball head on our plate this week.
Nicky
Look out, Steve! In the name of the moon, they'll punish you! (for that bad joke)
That's right, today we'll be covering Netflix's release of Both Sailor Moon Eternal movies!

What can we say about this new moon? Since the 90s, Sailor Moon has remained an essential part of anime's current cultural DNA. While the original anime is an all time trendsetter even for most of us who didn't even know what anime WAS, including myself, many people still yearned for an anime closer to its manga counterpart, especially some of the later arcs, that drifted significantly storywise.
For better or worse, that's how we got Crystal. Arguably for worse, too, because Crystal ended up being pretty bad. But I should note that I'm coming at this from the perspective of someone with a ton of fondness and nostalgia for the '90s series. It used to air at like 6am, and I remember waking up extra early before school to watch it lol. I also marathoned the whole sailor shebang several years back, so manga faithfulness aside, I think it holds up!
I have a lingering attachment to the old Sailor Moon but I was only able to watch a few episodes from Blockbuster at the time, and later it's general spotty availability kept me from getting super deep into it over the years. By the time it released onto streaming I had watched some of it but I didn't have a lot of time to keep going (and I still don't). But by having that distance, I hope to project a view that is fair of something so subtly influential of me too.

However, in light of being fair, I'll also say that I tried to rekindle my love when Crystal's first season launched and felt utterly disappointed with the overall quality. It felt like a total rush job by Toei. And Many fans felt the same.
And I should also note that I mostly bring up Crystal so I can say that this pair of Eternal films is an appreciable step up.
Even Crystal, the TV series, did slowly improve after a total revamp of the character designs and direction. I don't think this movie would be as gorgeous as it is if not for the efforts of anime director, Chiaki Kon, and the various character designers going from that to this. While the manga art for Sailor Moon is beautiful, hewing too closely compared to the original series actually made them difficult to animate. Season 3 chose the path of a good middle ground, but they look even nicer with the movies and the help of Studio DEEN.
Yeah they've finally landed on a working compromise. I am, of course, partial to the loose cartooniness of the first anime, but they still let themselves have some fun here.
The first movie has plenty of quick-timed gags that made me feel at home with the characters even if I hadn't seen them in a while. Although this pretty much directly picks up after the last season of Crystal, I didn't have too many problems following the plot, and the way the first movie is structured around the aspirations of the Inner Guardians, it actually gave a really good idea of their characters after so long.
And most of these characters, heroes and villains alike, will be familiar to old fogeys like myself as well. The movies adapt the "Dream" arc of the manga, which roughly aligns with SuperS, the fourth season of the original series. In short, the story is about why circuses are a very bad idea.
Ah, yes, the eternal enemy of anime (and this column) is still CLOWNS!
Clowns and carnies sent by none other than the greatest villain of all: Jeff Bezos.

Naoko Takeuchi was oddly prescient!
So, Mamoru, Usagi, and their weirdo pink time-traveling daughter from the 30th century, are all walking around the day before Chibiusa has to get sent back to her own planet, when everyone stops to watch the eclipse, which of course can only mean bad things. During the spectacle of heavenly bodies, the Guardians, who are also watching together, decide to make a wish. But, soon after they all spot a weirdo CGI ship. The circus has come to town!
And we know the spiel when it comes to Sailor Moon baddies by now. There's some kind of big evil witch at the top, but before she shows her face there are several tiers of magic henchpeople for the girls to fight. Dead Moon Circus, however, deserve some credit for opening with a curve ball, and that curve ball is a live tiger.
While these are technically "movies" I really feel like it's more like a very short and well animated arc of episodes, complete with monster-of-the-week focus on the Guardians with a particular baddie, rather than trying to force them into traditional film plots.

It's more of a direct adaption of the manga so this makes sense, but I think it would make the first film in particular lack a little weight if you were just gonna watch it on its own, as a movie.

It might not be how you'd traditionally script a film, but I think the monster-of-the-week format fits Sailor Moon like a sailor glove. In fact I think the big weakness of sticking so closely to the manga is that Sailor Moon loses a lot of the character depth that the so-called "filler" episodes would often bring. But even the condensed version we get in the first movie proves to be a good opportunity to round out the Inner Guardians a bit. And show off their transformation sequences, of course.

me, slapping the top of these movies like a used car dealer We can fit so many transformation sequences in here.
I mean it's Sailor Moon. You gotta. It's like going to church and singing the hymns. It might feel like the millionth time you've heard them, but it would feel weirder not to.

And the girls' mini-arcs are also the closest these films get to communicating actual character development, which is nice, even if they're facilitated by bonkers stuff like tiny talking Guardians doubles.

Not only are the transformation sequences the films bread and butter, they effects animation and the animation for each of the attacks are also stunning. It might be some of the prettiest work for the pretty guardians, yet. I'm particularly fond sheer fire power, myself.

If we were to gif all of these, we'd be here all night trying to recreate what's actually quite a meaty chunk of the two films.
Yeah they're all flashy to the nines. Not quite what I'd consider virtuosic animation or anything, but they definitely inject the Sailor Moon into Sailor Moon Eternal.
The other part I rather like about seeing the Inner Guardians struggle is the focus of the arc, dreams. Each Guardian is lured into a nightmare trap by one of the bad guys, which mostly consist of some circus animals turned into hot guys (?) (and one hot gender non-conforming person?) by the Amazons. This forces each Guardian to confront their own aspirations. Whether it's to be a doctor, save the family shrine, or running your own business. I like how they all face different issues with it even if they all come out the same way of finding their own determination to protect others.

Also why do half of the Guardians have like, dead or somewhat neglectful parents? Also, also, these movies have a lot of hot animal gijinkas...EVEN THE CROWS HAVE HUMAN FORMS

WITH HEELS
Don't even get me started on the cats...
Look, I did watch that one movie where Luna had the hots for a scientist dude for Christmas, so I somewhat expected this.
I expected it but I refuse to acknowledge it. The Amazon Trio, though. Those are animal people I can respect. They are also one of this arc's most iconic features. Like, Sailor Moon villains are usually pretty darn glam, but they are extra, extra glam.

Unfortunately, they have about 15 minutes of runtime divided between the three of them, which is a darn shame. ESPECIALLY considering Shouta Aoi was literally born to voice Fish Eye.
I'm rather fond of Hawk's Eyes fit in Jupiter's arc, personally. I also like how even each of them have dreams, it makes them sympathetic a little even for their short run.

The dream to be a queer secret animal running an "herbal" shop. Bless.
Not to keep harping on the original series, but the Amazon Trio all had some legit pathos when we got to spend some actual time with them. That's a big reason why they became such memorable characters. Hawk's Eye gets the most/best treatment here, but even then, it's too abbreviated to make any kind of impact.

Meanwhile, here's Shouta Aoi in full costume, a spitting image of Fish Eye.

Yet he gets like 10 lines of dialogue. It's criminal.
I may have said this before but it bears, repeating. Like some other famous figures in anime, I'm convinced Shouta Aoi isn't a human, but a fairy with a twitter account. Able to grant all your 2.5D wishes.
That disappointment aside, I do like that Venus' arc begins with her spotting an obvious trap and walking into it anyway. That's the Minako I know and love.

It goes about as well as you'd expect.

I don't know what kind of Fancy Feast Artemis has been chowing down on, but that is one diesel kitty cat.
So after the eclipse, none of the Guardians were able to transform, and this came extremely distressing to our Sailor V in particular.

Also this arc let me discover that her cat thinks it's hot to watch her in the shower, which was pretty weird.

I mean if we wanna start talking about weird stuff in Sailor Moon, we'd be here all week.
GOD, so speaking of HANG-UPS, Not all the stuff in Sailor Moon has aged well over the years. And I think Chibiusa is kinda a big pink elephant in the room. After all, she's kinda the real center of this arc?

We can't really talk about the overall plot without addressing the insane jealously and competition Chibiusa feels towards the younger version of her mom, Usagi, though.

If you ask me the even weirder thing is that Usagi also feels jealous of her.
This is on top of the fact that it's already weird that Mamoru is entering med school while still dating a fourteen year old. I still like their little family but any part of it just feels very weird and awkward whenever you start to think about it.
At least this arc has a little tongue-in-cheek fun with this brain-melting love triangle when Usagi and Chibiusa swap ages.

It doesn't really go anywhere, but it is funny.
They just go back the next time they transform but I think it's more meant to reveal their mental states. Outside of the weird Freudian competition for Mamoru, Chibiusa wants to grow up and be taken seriously, and Usagi wishes to be pampered more.
There are gestures towards a central character arc, yes, but the overarching plot of these films is, more often than not, complete nonsense. Like, we haven't even brought up the talking Pegasus Helios, who is both trapped in a cage deep in the earth, and also able to help the girls whenever they're in a pinch.
Though only briefly. He's a very pretty pony though.

And then they teach him out to give kisses, and OF COURSE HE HAS A HOT HUMAN FORM TOO!
I mean I guess it's nice he redirects Chibiusa's puppy love away from her future dad and towards him. That's better? Maybe?
Away from your dad and towards your Dad's pet horse/priest?? I prefer Unico, honestly.
Okay I'm tired of thinking about how messy this royal lunar family is. Let's turn our attention towards a nice, normal family for a change.
Normal family of three lesbian moms and their daughter who was their friend reborn baby and grew up into a child very quickly, like a few months quickly.
By Sailor Moon standards, they may as well be most nuclear of families. The second film begins by reminding us how married Haruka and Michiru are.


The answer is "the most married."
They're the best couple, hands down.

Though, it's also a bit sad because after the last arc the Outer Guardians basically went their separate ways, and everyone misses them. For a second, I thought they were dead, but actually they're just being a happy family.

As sweet as it is to get a glimpse of their halcyon domestic bliss, I think the story soon realized that separating the cast like that wasn't a wise decision long term, so they all get their planetary powers back real quick-like.


Even if, again, this involves Hotaru aging like 10 years in a week or whatever. Sailor Moon is not a place for logic.
Hotaru ends up being a bit of another playmate for Chibiusa, honestly I feel like there's more focus on the younger characters than the other returning cast, but it also doesn't matter cuz soon we have to return to The Plot, which involves Mamoru getting Anime Dad Deceased, for a change.
Or as we'd call it in 2021, The Rona.

He even passes it to Usagi, which is not very cool of him.
Depicted by pretty flowers!

Mamoru, for reasons of having to be damseled, again, gets sick for reasons related to blah blah darkness magic, and pushes Usagi away, cuz he's afraid that being sick and all would only bring her down, and it does!
This is only, like, the fifth time Mamoru has done this exact thing and learned absolutely nothing from it. Alongside the extremely ill-advised incestuousness, it's another one of Sailor Moon's Greatest Hits.
Though, out of context of that I did like Usagi's resolve to support her man, and I think even with all their problems, I liked their supportive relationship in general, making it one of the more emotional highlights of the two films for me.
Yeah it's nice (and cute) that Usagi realizes through her dream that she doesn't actually want a totally acquiescent Mamoru. At the end of the day, she likes that they have something more reciprocal.

That said, it's a very good thing the rest of the Guardians are also there, because nothing would ever get done otherwise.
Especially cuz Mamoru and Usagi get taken out of commission, like twice. A lot happens in a very short span of time that the pacing of the second film is a bit much. Also on top of a lot of lore being dumped on the audience about Elysian, Mamoru's former home, a lot of talk about crystals, and so on and so forth.
I can't say I absorbed all of the Silver Millennium lore they threw at us, nor can I say that doing so would have improved the quality of the film in any way. But I can say I think it rules that apparently the entire moon kingdom was nuts about those hair meatballs.
Even the main villainess has hair buns, lol.
Their spherical appeal knows no bounds.

Oh yeah and I guess Nehelenia's whole thing is being the dark equivalent to Serenity's light side of the moon or something like that. I actually forget what her whole deal in SuperS was, but I wanna say it was at least a little more compelling than pretty much nothing.

In general, though, I think the cronies in Sailor Moon tend to be a lot more fun than the main villains, and that holds fast here as well.

I liked her rather Maleficent-esque entrance at the dawn of Princess Serenity's birth. I too, look forward to being the goth relative that comes bearing gifts to family parties.
Cursing babies with their prophesied death is a move that's always in vogue.
However, evil is always defeated by one thing, the power of love and friendship! Which means: EVERYONE GETS A NEW DRESS!

Honestly, it's easy to dunk on Sailor Moon's writing and how nonsensical it can get in pursuit of a dramatic climax, but Sailor Moon isn't about the quality of its writing. It's about everyone getting new matching outfits and talking to fairy versions of their future selves who unlock new crystal powers they can use to seal a bad witch back in her bad mirror. It's like jazz—familiar notes arranged and syncopated with a freeform improvisational flair. And it's good like that.
Also, gotta love the WINGS.
You bet I'm hollering every time Sailor Moon gets a slightly modified Sailor Moon uniform.
Also, I have a big soft spot for MomoClo's rockin' girl power songs. Really helps sell that glittery final sequence.
Oh yeah! And speaking of songs, the end credits for both films include covers of the two original ending songs from SuperS. A nice little treat for us older fans out there.
But yeah, if I wasn't already sold on Sailor Moon, I don't think this movie would've changed my mind. Some of the weird hang-ups still come up, it's really truncated, and overall it's still the same formula. However, it's really, really pretty and still fun to watch those big transformation sequences.
Like Crystal before it, there's still no way I enjoy any of this more than I enjoyed the '90s series, however "unfaithful" an adaptation it was. On the other hand, though, I did have a good time with these films, which is more than I can say for the bits of Crystal I saw. So I'm glad this reboot finally found its footing...even if there is only one more arc left to adapt now lol.
I think if you asked me, maybe it would've been better to have this serially as to give more time to the characters, but they're finally able to nail the way that Sailor Moon should "look" in a modern era, which wouldn't work with a tv budget or time constraint as it is right now.
Also Eternal better count its lucky (sailor) stars that it turned out okay, because it talks about nightmares so much, we would've had a field day dunking on it via screencap.

Instead, thankfully, we can end on a positive note, like looking at pictures of cats using a computer.
Don't you mean, paws-itive?
Til next time, folks!

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