Anime Meta-Review


Sailor Moon, First Season


By Date




Title Info

  • alias: Bishoujo senshi sailormoon
  • seen: 1-12 of 46
  • type: TV
  • grade: watchable
  • genre: magic_girl
  • made: 1992
  • Review created: Original date unknown.
  • mod: Fri Sep 22 15:31:27 EST 2000

I sidled up to the counter of the local video library, my tapes as concealed as I could make them. I borrowed them, ignoring the stares, whispers and laughter as I fled into the night. It does your `elite' reputation no benefit to be a newbie sailor moon viewer, you should either be a dedicated zealot or someone who considers the series like some sort of disease. However considering the fame (infamy?) of this anime I had to see some of it. Before I start I should mention that the episode count actually goes up to 200, but some suggest the first season was the strongest and came to a full conclusion, thus the count given.

I saw the american TV dub, which has obviously been edited quite heavily. The story, in the episodes I have seen, concerns a 14 year old girl called Serena who is informed by a talking cat that she is the inheritor of magical powers and has been booked a place on the front line in the emerging war with the negaverse. Serena herself is the sort of enthusiastic, but not terribly strong-minded, disciplined or smart figure that is familiar in anime but must have come as somewhat of a shock to western audiences. She's also clever enough to realise that being the primary opponent to an entire dimension full of monsters (a new one each week!) is unlikely to be classed as `fun'. Especially considering that the last war was more of a rout than a battle. Fortunately the Negaverse seems to have budget problems of its own, running pathetically small scale schemes to gather `human energy' which are always in Serena's back yard or involve her associates. With the cat, as bossy trainer, nipping at her heels she gets dragged into a succession of fights in which she uses her limited magical powers, ability not to get hit and occassional saves from a mysterious bishounen (and future romantic figure) to save her friends and thwart the negaverse scheme.

It has to be said that Sailor Moon exemplifies both the strengths and weaknesses of the Magical Girl Genre to an almost extreme extent. The device of cute young girl balancing the desire for a normal life against magical responsibility, the dialog between a disparate group of individuals dragged together by fate, the monster of the week to annoy them and the endless repeated transformations and magical attacks is by now so familiar as to be almost painful. The writing is competent but unimpressive, the dialog is a bit flat and the animation is dated and simplistic. On current evidence this looks just like what you would expect, archetypal magical girl towards the lower end of the quality curve. On the other hand it still has its moments, the formula is still as addictive as ever, the monsters are occasionally somewhat scary and the action interesting (best when she gets physical, worse when the attack sequence is used). The available information seems to suggest it grows in character and intensity up until the end. The main thing is that this must have been leagues ahead of the western `childrens' animation it would have run against. Magical Girl addicts, Anime historians and completeness buffs will find this required viewing, but modern anime fans may simply find it average and overly familiar.

The animation itself is dated, and was probably considered fairly basic even when it was released. The character designs get even simpler, although not quite super deformed, when humor or extremes of personality are being shown. In addition there's quite a lot of `shoujo sparkles' in the background, which are pretty artificial and only serve to date the material. The good thing however is that the shoujo heritage of this material means that the focus is on character rather than animation. This is helped because the animation style, while basic, is consistent, watchable and supports the mood pretty well. In some ways because it never relied on impressing with the animation alone it has aged quite well. Of course magical girl anime is an acquired taste, especially for such an archetypal piece such as this, so if you don't like the genre don't expect this piece to change your mind.

Some time after the original review I got to see some fan-subbed sailor moon, which was interesting. Because of the time difference I can't do a detailed comparison, and who really cares, but I must admit that the Japanese version is much better. The major difference is that the `atmosphere' seems to come across more clearly, the humor and the `shoujo' energy in their pure form. Likewise while the editing for the american version was pretty clean the source material seems clearer and stronger, and without those moments where you can feel the source and the translation fighting one another. It also seemed that the story was allowed to develop at its own pace, rather than introducing a `mythology' right at the start which requires an amount of patience but greatly enhances the experience. The final benefit is that the voices, while Usagi is pretty loud and shrill, better fit the energetic but undisciplined model Usagi is clearly meant to represent. Of course this is probably more of an advantage to those who regularly watch sub-titled anime and find that some things just don't sound `right' in english. The Japanese music is simple, and suprisingly energetic, but boy is it catchy. If you've watched much anime, and have the choice, I would recommend the sub-titled version.

Don't take my review too seriously, if you have the slightest interest go and cruise the millions of pages devoted to this series. Of course for the newbie these are fairly intimidating. For such a famous title those brave (stupid?) enough to review it are rare. THEM has a self proclaimed moony to help and the result is an interesting review which gives an interesting history of the various components, and suggests that the series should have ended after Sailormoon and Sailormoon R (the first two seasons). It also slams the American adaption, no suprise there. The honorable Lord Carnage lets slip the fact that he's seen a lot of sailor moon, with a page containing entries for each season. Sadly the reviews are minimal, being mostly a story summary and comments that don't mean that much unless you've already seen it.


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:24 WST 2009