© 1993 Toei Animation Co.
Sailor Moon R: The Movie
If someone had told me three years ago that I would one day be writing a serious Sailor Moon review, I would've slapped 'em silly and called them a liar. You see, a few summers back I actually did sit down and watch the first two seasons of Sailor Moon. And, believe it or not, this was before I was an anime fan. At the time I watched SM mainly for camp value (I mean, how seriously can you take a show about a blundering magical girl and a talking cat?) But even at the time, despite that I spent more time laughing at the show than with it, I always felt that Sailor Moon had a certain intrinsic charm.
Flash-forward a few years and I'm presented with the three Sailor Moon movies, uncut and in Japanese. Needless to say, I was quite curious to see what the original Sailor Moon was like.
The Sailor Moon R movie is set during the second season of Sailor Moon. It doesn't actually have anything to do with the second season, though, so prior knowledge of Sailor Moon isn't really required. The story opens with a flashback of Mamoru (aka Tuxedo Mask) as a child giving another boy a rose. In return, the boy promises he will one day bring back lots of flowers for Mamoru before vanishing into thin air. Back in the present, Mamoru and Usagi (and the whole SM gang: Rei, Ami, Minako, and Mako) are visiting a botanical garden. All of a sudden, a shower of rose petals fills the air and a mysterious stranger materializes out of nowhere. He approaches Mamoru and claims he has returned to fulfill a promise. Mamoru has no idea what this person is talking about, but when Usagi tries to intervene, the stranger roughly shoves her out of the way before vanishing. The stranger (later revealed to be named "Fiore") has strong feelings of friendship for Mamoru, and believes that that Usagi is somehow interfering with that bond. Something more sinister may be at work, however, when at strange asteroid emitting plant energy is discovered to be hurtling towards the Earth, followed by the appearance of a female plant creature which sucks up the energy of humans. The five Sailor Senshi (Sailor Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus) promptly dispatch the plant monster, but then Fiore makes another appearance claiming that the Usagi has been deceiving Mamoru and sets about a plan which will fulfill his promise, but eradicate humanity in the process. Naturally, it's up to Sailor Moon and her friends to prevent this from happening.
I was really surprised at how much I actually enjoyed the Sailor Moon R movie. Watching it in Japanese certainly helped, I think, and the original voice actors do give the characters a certain charm not present in the dubs. The plot was also very character oriented, drawing on tidbits from the characters pasts to help covey the story. It did get a bit melodramatic at times (Usagi has her share of weepy scenes), but it's held together by the strong character development and solid pacing. And while this movie does feature the typical Sailor Moon disposable monster, the main antagonist is wholly three-dimensional with very character driven reasons for his actions. It was certainly a welcome break from the typical megalomaniac arch-villain stereotype.
Production qualities of this movie are certainly better than the early seasons of the TV series. The artwork is less vibrant than most other anime, but is still nicely detailed. The animation quality is probably on par with a decent TV series, but doesn't quite approach OAV or theatrical levels. The music was also generally good for the most part. Many SM fans decry the dubbed TV series for missing much of the original music and I can see why. There are a number of solid instrumental pieces for background music, and the opening and end themes with original Japanese vocals are quite good. The only themes which did grate on me were the transformation and attack sequence music. I mean, they're downright frightening to listen to.
Now it should be noted that the dubbed version is rated for ages three and up, whereas the uncut subtitled version is rated for thirteen and up. To be honest, there's not really much to edit in terms of content (maybe some of the violence, but it's pretty mild overall). Of course, the dubbed version will probably be a lot easier for younger children to digest anyway, since it won't require constant reading of subtitles.
Overall, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the Sailor Moon R movie. While it did seem a little overly melodramatic at times, it still struck a chord with me. And considering what a jaded fan I am, that's got to count for something.
The Verdict: * * * 1/2 (above average)
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