As a kid, there was no shortage of cartoons playing in my house. Cartoon Network was on very frequently (when we weren’t watching Rugrats religiously), especially on weekday afternoons. This is because I was introduced to this weird block which captivated the 5-year-old me, my cousin, and eventually my younger sister: Toonami. And yes, to me, DBZ was, at the time, the GREATEST THING EVER and it made me want to start punching things to be like it (DBZ is a prime example of a series which, to me, does NOT hold up at all). And we all watched Tenchi because it was during the block (that shows either how much editing went into the Cartoon Network cut of that or how NO ONE in my house knew what we were watching. FYI, it holds up WORSE than DBZ to me). But, a bigger deal for my cousin and, again later, sister was Sailor Moon, which I also don’t remember hating (although that could be from 5-year-old adrenaline regarding GOKU PUNCHING THINGS!!!!!). And we watch A LOT of it. I blame both my sister and cousin liking Charmed on this (they are kind of similar). As for me, it left no immediate impact, but it could be because the impact it could’ve had on me was instead given to me by ………………………………. The Powerpuff Girls (yeah, not DBZ. Also, PPG holds up phenomenally and you should watch it).
Now, this post seems timely, since Viz announced it’s relicensing of ALL OF Sailor Moon, including picking up the new series that starts in July, redubbing the series and posting the first four episodes, subtitled, on Hulu. It’s timely because the second that announcement came in, the internet lost it’s shit over their nostalgia. I was hesitant to fall into that. Other than not having strong memories about the show, my sister found old episodes of the old dub online and watched it a few years ago. I call what she was watching, and what we all had to listen to, the MOST OBNOXIOUS SOUND IN THE WORLD! That dub, not even from a writing standpoint (I’ll refrain from shooting fish in a barrel there), was horrendous, like DiC went out of their way to find the most annoying sounding voice actors, told them to sound more grating, and give awkward deliveries that make me wonder if the actresses/actors even know English. To the Tumblr asking for the old dub, you are evil bastards who need to be institutionalized for wanting to inflict tat level of harm to everyone’s ears.
So, I was NOT approaching this with any strong nostalgia (since that died from me a few years ago). My thought process for this is as follows: Sailor Moon is THE MAGICAL GIRL ANIME. Everything we see as common elements of it (transformations, costuming, power of love, theming if it’s team-based) were solidified here. It lasted 200 episodes, 3 movies, and spent most of its run as the most popular anime at the time and one of the most praised (until Eva came along, it and Yu Yu Hakasho held the top two spots in the Animage Grand Prix. That Yu Yu Hakasho’s manga was written by the man who would later marry the mangaka who created Sailor Moon makes that very amusing to me.). Until Madoka Magica deconstructed it and Panty And Stocking and Kill La Kill injected it with sleaze and sex, Sailor moon was the template everyone followed. It actually seems like it could be like Sienfeld: a highly popular and praised and influential series that is no longer seen as funny because so many people tried to replicate it. With the influence, the shadow, the looming sense of dead nostalgia in my head, and the curiousity of a dumb college anime fan, does this series hold up?
YES. Surprisingly so. I went into this expecting to see an embarrassing anime product of just a couple of years before I was born (or, I expected to hate it as much as I hated Ranma 1/2). What I found was a surprisingly fun action series for young girls that I could enjoy as an anime fan (and even without being one. It plays loose with shojo conventions, so it’s easy to enjoy as a guy as well). It gave me the sense that, though episodic and repetitive, a lot of care went into this series and it surprised me in exceeding my expectations be a mile.
The first surprise was that……. Usagi was actually likable. After remembering the dub (Selena got the MOST ANNOYING VOICE of the cast) and the bullet points of the character, I expected to just want to count down until other sailor scouts appeared (which is in 4 episodes, or in two Mondays from the time of writing). While I still did count down, it was not out of hatred of the protagonist. If anything, her biggest flaw is that so many characters since this have tried to be Usagi that she seems boring. Still, it was entertaining to see her in action (HER CRYING ACTUALLY CAN ACT AS A WEAPON!!!!!). She seemed to act more like a normal kid than other, more competant magical girls from other series (I don’t buy Sakura as seeming like an actual kid, CLAMP). That’s also why, though I love the designs, this series does not have the “boom anime babes that make me think the wrong thing” (I’m sorry, but I couldn’t not quote “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies).
Actually, Luna is what makes the premise work (insofar as Usagi becoming a magical girl who fights evil). Yes, she often comes across as a befuddled mentor who can’t control her protege, but her intentions manage to come across (though Luna nudges, it is Usagi who figures out the plot behind the fortuneteller). While the encouragement works just fine, the fourth episode shows why Luna works as a mentor, mostly by showing why Usagi needs her (Luna actually threatens her when she continually refuses to act). That actually works in the series’ favor. I like genre savviness as much as the next guy, but there’s something to be said about an anime where the hero needs a push and help in order to act.
I’d say that brings us to Tuxedo Mask, but man, did he seem more important than he actually was. He actually shows up to distract everyone for a second and act like a motivational cat poster (someone, please photoshop a “Hang In There, Baby” cat poster with him instead of a cat).
So, is Sailor Moon worth everyone losing their shit? Just by the quality of the show, the answer is yes. So many aspects of modern Magical Girl anime are a direct answer to Usagi that actually watching her in action is a breath of fresh air. So long as she actually matures throughout the series, I don’t mind her as a protagonist, since if every protagonist acted like we would, we would have Madoka Magica in this case (EVERYONE DIES HORRIFICALLY!!!!). Go ahead and check it out with my seal of approval: that the series is still enjoyable 22 years after it’s premiere.