I’m going to start this review by stating that I watched this season in all versions: blu-ray, DVD, English dub, and Japanese with subtitles. As you can imagine, this varied my experience greatly. I liked watching this in both Japanese and English, but I found the English dub more emotionally connecting for reasons I’ll explain later. I didn’t notice a big difference between the Blu-ray and DVD versions as I switched back and forth during my viewing. Finally, most importantly, I still found flaws in the animation, but it wasn’t as extreme as in the streamed version. Most of the criticism for this series comes from the animation – it hasn’t won any brownie points with fans of the classic series. Let’s get started.
This is the version of Sailor Moon some diehard fans have been waiting for. Fans know Sailor Moon Crystal is a more accurate retelling of the manga series published by Kodansha. Without the additional Doom Tree arc, Crystal chugs along right into Chibiusa falling from the sky into Usagi and Mamoru’s arms. What follows is a religiously close retelling of the manga version of the Spectre Sisters demise. You can see this right away with Berthier, who shares similarities with the Berthier of the original series. There is; however, a noticeable change in clothing and the swiftness with which she begins executing her plan to capture Mercury. The first few episodes in season 2 definitely feel accelerated compared to classic Sailor Moon. In predictable fashion, the Spectre Sisters slim down the amount of companions Sailor Moon has on her side. Likewise, Sailor Moon kills each of the Spectre Sisters as they capture her friends.
Eventually we encounter Esmeraude, Prince Diamond and his brother Saphir. Prince Diamond has a sickening obsession with Neo Queen Serenity that crosses into rapey thoughts territory. Esmeraude, concerned that Diamond is getting distracted from their plans because of Sailor Moon tries to step in and end the infatuation through any means necessary. She isn’t successful and Diamond eventually captures Sailor Moon, whom he dresses as a tacky version of Neo Queen Serenity. Either for physical pleasure for himself, or for the purposes of breaking Sailor Moon’s spirit (or both!) he forces kisses upon Sailor Moon. In between sessions of attention with Diamond, she wanders the castle she is being held hostage in, hoping to find the other scouts.
Things in this story arc get much sicker when Chibiusa gets corrupted by Wiseman and transformed into a sexier, older self known as Black Lady. In this form, Black Lady’s evil emotions and intentions feed off of Chibiusa’s low self-esteem. Additionally, her obsession with Tuxedo Mask is sickeningly incestuous. Everything about this version of Chibiusa is repulsive – yet it doesn’t matter because Wiseman intends to use her to destroy the Earth and Sailor Moon, which would erase her existence as well.
For those who have read the manga or seen the classic series, you already know how this season ends. Before we get Small Lady back, Sailor Pluto breaks the ultimate rule to her own existence. The tragedy that results awakens Chibausa and she returns to her original form. We get several more passionate episodes before Neo Queen Serenity heals and awakens from her crystal tomb. She revives King Endymion and informs the scouts that Tuxedo Mask, Sailor Chibi Moon, and Sailor Moon defeated the dark planet, Nemesis. In the last episode is a touching scene where all of the inner senshi and Mamoru see themselves, which is also another taboo. Sailor Moon Crystal then turns on the tears when Chibiusa tells Usagi that she needs to return home. Chibiusa returns to the future, leaving Usagi yearning for when she’ll meet her again. Just moments later, Chibiusa falls from the sky with a note that she’s staying. Fans of the series will know that this leads directly into the next arc.
Sailor Moon Crystal receives a lot of hatred for the animation. This is not unjustified. What fans of modern anime need to realize is that, unfortunately, anime studios are in crunch time all the way until air date. The artists simply don’t have the time to perfect every instance. Sailor Moon Crystal has a huge pair of shoes to fill, so it doesn’t get a pass like other shows might.
The dvd/blu-ray release is cleaned up and has fewer instances of droopy eyelids or lopsided faces. Of course, there are still a few eyeballs that are a bit distracting to the viewer. Overall, the home release is a more pleasant viewing experience.
My only real pet peeve with this release relates to the very beginning of each episode. Each episode has a moment where the screen is locked on a character. This portrait is long enough that on several occasions between watching other shows, I would forget that this is unique to Sailor Moon Crystal. As a result. I have to remind myself that the episode didn’t freeze.
I also still loathe the CGI transformation scenes because they’re unpleasant to see. They do not have the same visual appeal as the animated transformation scenes from the original series.
Sailor Moon Crystal has a lot going on, if you’re willing to overlook some flaws. A reboot of Sailor Moon was my fantasy dream for years when I was younger. I’m not going to let some problems ruin my chance to enjoy Sailor Moon in a new experience.
If you’re a fan of the manga and annoyed that the classic series neglected to provide background information on the Four Kings of Heaven, you’ll be happy to watch season 2. Although they are not physically present, they can communicate with Tuxedo Mask and provide words of encouragement.
I anticipated hating Chibiusa a great deal in the new English dub because she was one of my least liked characters. I really, really didn’t like her. Words cannot describe how much I hated the pink haired girl in the original English dub. I will mention that I did appreciate her existence in the original Japanese – so clearly this was related to the original voice acting.
As I mentioned, I watched this in both English and Japanese. This provided me with two different experiences. Firstly, I was excited to see the scenes I remember from the manga, without deviation. There’s no filler and the characters behave more like their manga counterparts. Second, I really began to feel a connection to Chibiusa as a character and I understand her importance now a lot more than I did with the original series. She’s actually really charming and considerate of others. She doesn’t want to intentionally harm anyone despite her own self-esteem issues and inability to grow into an adult body.
The new English dub made me feel butterflies that I didn’t get from the end of the Dark Moon arc in the classic series. When Chibiusa finally realizes she is loved, the scene between mother and daughter is emotional and priceless. Through the voices of Sandy Fox and Stephanie Sheh I, too, realized I love Chibimoon.
For that alone, this series is worth being watched.
*This item was provided for review by Viz Media.