The Sailor Moon Reboot: What We Know and What to Expect

Feature Michael Mammano 7/4/2014 at 8:00AM
Sailor Moon Crystal Trailer

The new Sailor Moon anime, Sailor Moon Crystal premieres this weekend. Here's everything you need to know!

*** UPDATE: You can read our review of the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal by clicking here and you can watch the first episode right here***

Nearly two years ago, at an event celebrating the 20th anniversary of Sailor Moon, creator Naoko Takeuchi announced the development of a new Sailor Moon anime, and moonies around the world promptly lost their shit. With precious little info released over the past year, fans have been speculating desperately about every aspect of this new project. What would it mean to the franchise and the fandom? Would it add to the original’s legacy or detract from it, and to what degree? Before we jump on those questions, however, here are all the hard facts currently on record.

- This new series, entitled Sailor Moon Crystal, is set to premiere on July 5, 2014  at 7:00 pm (6:00 am EST) and stream a new episode every other week for a year, running at a total of 26 episodes. We have more details and a trailer right here.

- The series will be available on Niconico Douga, a Japanese streaming video service, subtitled in ten languages including English. The North American distribution rights have been licensed by Viz Video. The North American distribution rights have been licensed by Viz, to be streamed on Hulu as well as Viz’s own streaming site, Neon Alley.

- The new anime will not be a remake of the 1992 original, but rather a more direct adaptation of the manga.

- Kotono Mitsuishi will be reprising her role of Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon from the original anime. While Tohru Furuya expressed interest in reprising his role as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask, Kenji Nojima has been cast in the role. Ryou Hirohashi has been cast as Sailor Moon’s feline mentor and guide, Luna. As for the Guardian Senshi, Hisako Kanemoto, Rina Sato, Ami Koshimizu, and Shizuka Ito have been cast in the respective roles of Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury, Rei Hino/Sailor Mars, Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter, and Minako Aino/Sailor Venus.

- Several actors from the English dub have shown interest in working on a dub of Sailor Moon Crystal, but with a re-dub of the original anime already in the works at Viz, it’s possible this new cast will be retained for Crystal.

- Idol group Momoiro Clover Z will perform the theme song. Whether this will be a cover of “Moonlight Densetsu,” the opening theme for the original anime’s first four seasons, or a new song altogether has not yet been specified, but speculation seems to be leaning toward something new.

Official promotional art has been released, confirming character designs closer to Takeuchi’s art style.

Pretty Sailor Moon: Crystal

Given this information, a few thoughts immediately spring to mind. While plenty of fans wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to an all-new cast, a great many would have a very difficult time accepting new voices, especially in the two lead roles. Luckily, we have Mitsuishi on board, but if Furuya isn’t, it might be weird to hear our heroine acting opposite a new Tuxedo Mask.

While “Sailor Star Song,” the opening of Sailor Moon Sailor Stars, was a catchy tune in its own right and eventually embraced by fans, there was considerable resistance to a new song coming in at the eleventh hour to replace “Moonlight Densetsu” the opener for the previous four seasons. However, the 2003 live action adaptation Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon went its own way in that department, so again, if this new anime wants to establish its own identity, I say go for it. We have some details on the new tunes here.

Of course, all this is really trivial stuff. What fans really care about is content. What will the storyline be? “Closer on the manga” is pretty vague and can mean a lot of things. Does this mean they’ll pick the original Dark Kingdom arc (a sensible but ultimately safe choice) or will they seek to adapt all five arcs of the manga? This might be easier now in terms of both financial and narrative economy now that the manga is concluded. Last time around, while it was the blueprint for the anime, the two media were released more or less simultaneously, which led to some improvisation on the part of the production team in two forms: deviation from the source material and a lot of filler. Like...a lot.

Considering that we’re looking at a total of 26 episodes, it’s likely that the Dark Kingdom arc is all that’s currently planned, but it seems likely that the producers are merely waiting to see how Crystal fares before committing to adapting the rest of the manga. Considering it’s such a hot franchise with such a fervent fanbase, it would be foolish for them not to at least consider the option. If they do, there are still some adaptation-related issues to consider.

Sailor Moon’s premise and characters weren’t lacking for charm, and when the show was good, it was epic, powerful, and addictive enough to keep the audience on board throughout tons—and I mean tons—of wheel-spinning. The anime’s cardinal sin was that it was positively lousy with filler, so a tighter storyline closer to the source material is a very attractive prospect on several counts.

First off, Tuxedo Mask has a much more prominent role in the manga. Rather than falling into the Useless Boy Abyss after the conclusion of the Black Moon Arc, he remains integral to the plot, his character continuing to grow and develop. Anime Tuxedo Mask got pretty damn boring after a while, and that was when he was around at all, so an opportunity to breathe some new life into that character would definitely be a step in the right direction, considering he’s, oh, the freakin’ male lead.

Another improvement would be the addition of the manga’s proper conclusion, including Sailor Moon’s ascension to her ultimate form, Sailor Cosmos, the omission of which from the anime disappointed not only fans, but Takeuchi herself. This character-stripping didn’t apply to Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask alone. Even among its most ardent fans, the anime was notorious for pulling off half the character development in twice the narrative space. Where were Sailor Mars’ daddy issues, Sailor Pluto’s unrequited love for her king, or the Amazoness Quartet’s evolution into the Asteroid Senshi? It’s not like we didn’t have the time to explore those stories, and I can’t imagine there’s a viewer out there that wouldn’t prefer them to another filler episode featuring some ridiculous monster of the week and some one-shot guest character we don’t care about.

The anime also omitted a lot of the manga’s mythology, which gave several character and plot details the appearance of being completely random and disconnected, and left several questions needlessly unanswered. With the manga complete this time around, why not follow it a little more closely to create a fuller, more cohesive world in which this story can unfold?

[related article: Sailor Moon Season One Essential Viewing Guide]

That said, the manga is hardly without its flaws, and there were some areas in which the anime improved upon it. The manga was certainly tight, but at times a little too tight. Sailor Moon’s introduction is followed by the introduction of Sailor Mercury in the very next chapter and Sailor Mars in the one after that. It was difficult to get one’s bearings with new heroes popping up every other week and villains getting killed off before you got a chance to give a crap whether they lived or died.

The anime spaced all that out a bit, affording the viewer a chance to get to know each character and develop a sense of status quo so that shaking it up actually had some effect. The extra room also allowed for further development of the secondary characters, particularly the villains. Nephrite’s relationship with Sailor Moon’s best friend, Naru, which gradually transforms him from manipulative villain to besotted anti-hero, culminates in his self-sacrificial death. This sharp left turn in the plot was the first of many truly emotional and heartbreaking moments and is such a fan favorite that many who are first introduced to the anime are horrified to learn that the storyline doesn’t exist in the manga at all.

The same can be said for the romance between villains Zoisite and Kunzite, which gave them depth far beyond your standard mustache-twirlers and helped cement Sailor Moon’s reputation as an LGBT icon. And while Takeuchi was shocked and less than pleased with the gender-bending nature of the anime’s Sailor Starlights (who, in the manga, were merely women in drag), fans loved it, considering transsexual superheroes to be the next logical addition to Sailor Moon’s envelope-pushing ensemble, rather than just a rehash of butch lesbian Sailor Uranus and drag queen villain Fisheye.

All in all, the best this new anime could do would be to adhere to the overall structure and character development of the manga without jettisoning all the innovation of the 90’s anime. While another bloated, 200-episode anime is hardly necessary, the manga could certainly use a little more cushion for its pushin’, and if this new series can find a way to successfully split the difference between the two, it could very well become not only accepted by the fandom, but considered the definitive incarnation of the Sailor Moon mythos.

Keep up with all our Sailor Moon coverage right here. Check back for reviews of EVERY episode of Sailor Moon Crystal as they happen!

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