If you grew up in Australia at a certain time, you will almost definitely have memories of tuning into Cheez TV in the morning to catch a few episodes of Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, and turning up at school still singing ‘Fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight’. (C’mon, it was definitely the catchier of the theme songs…)
After years of Sailor Moon not being available in Australia, at the end of 2015 Madman Entertainment released Season One, Part One; and in February this year they released Part Two. That’s 46 uncut episodes of girl power, talking cats, and colourful transformation sequences to a killer soundtrack.
At the time of watching Sailor Moon - in my early, bad haircut years - I was quite a few years younger than the 14-year-old protagonists. Re-watching now, I’m more than a decade older than Usagi and her friends. So does Sailor Moon stand the test of time (and the test of re-watching when you’re older and not much wiser)? Here’s a few observations from a writer who has been taught to be painfully critical by a bog standard BA.
Spoiler alert: I still love it.
The Big Bad(s) are the best part of the show
Usagi Tsukino is a clumsy, scatterbrained 14-year-old student whose alternate identity ‘Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon’ is awakened when she meets Luna – a talking cat who gives her a super-cute magical brooch. Her job is to fight and protect earth from the Dark Kingdom – some very evil types who destroyed the Moon Kingdom many, er, moons ago.
Over the course of the first season she is also charged with finding the other Sailor Guardians, discovering the pieces of the powerful Silver Crystal, and locating the missing Moon Princess. Soon, the whole gang – Ami, Sailor Mercury; Rei, Sailor Mars; Makoto, Sailor Jupiter; and Minako, Sailor Venus – are all together. Sailor Moon follows a ‘villain of the week’ structure, with a new monster or possessed human for the girls to battle every episode.
My vague, seven-year-old memories of Sailor Moon – before re-watching – were that there was a strong arc to the story. And that’s where the Big Bads come in. The Dark Kingdom is being commanded by Queen Beryl – who has some serious Melisandre vibes going on – and her knights, Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite and Kunzite. It’s these four antagonists who give Sailor Moon some structure, as they come back week after week with new, obviously flawed plans to defeat a bunch of teenage girls – but also struggle with their own insecurities and moral compasses. Honestly, the ‘-ites’ are the most interesting characters on the show.
The age gaps are way more uncomfortable in retrospect
It’s nothing new in anime or manga, but what is Mamoru (you may also know him as Tuxedo Mask, or Darien from the original English dub) doing dating Rei and Usagi? He’s probably around 18, while the girls are 14. And that’s nothing compared to Nephrite – who is an ageless, evil servant of darkness – falling for Usagi’s best friend Naru. Someone needs to take Nephrite aside and be like, ‘Dude, this is not a redemptive love. This actually makes you more of a creep.’
That said, I don’t remember being concerned by – or even noticing – the age gaps when I was a kid. So while re-watching I just went with it and let myself ‘ship Mamoru and Usagi hard (poor Rei).
The 10-minute transformation sequences in a 20-minute show
So much screen time, in every episode is devoted to the Sailor Guardians’ transformations, and while this may sound like I’m about to make a criticism… I am so on board with that many minutes of sparkly wands and rings of fire and star-studded ribbons and symbolic atoms of electricity and if you don’t know what I’m talking about you just need to go back and re-watch, okay?
I’m sympathetic to how binge-watching Season One – and watching 7.6 hours of transformation sequences – might make you want to gouge out your eyeballs with a fork. Or just skip over those scenes, as a less extreme reaction. But the outfit change is what the show’s all about, even if it doesn’t make sense that no-one can tell ‘Meatball Head’ Usagi, Sailor Moon, and the Moon Princess are all the same person.
Sailor Mercury has the best transformation, obviously.
Some parts of the show have not aged well (such as an early episode with some very overt fat-shaming of fourteen year olds), but re-watching Sailor Moon is like a sparkly, hilarious hug from your childhood.
Time for you to re-watch?