22 years after its inception, “trailblazing, trend-setting” feminist anime Sailor Moon is back.
Sailor Moon is probably one of the most recognisable anime characters ever created. She was even mentioned in a Barenaked Ladies song, such was her infiltration into Western culture, but the show is much, much more than the silly, girly, slightly-perverted kids show that many have labelled it. The early-90s feminist ideals that it brought to the world cannot be underplayed - the show set a standard for realistic, strong, vulnerable, occasionally incompetent but consistently lovable girls who were complex and developing protagonists. Also, they kicked a lot of ass. And all of this, four years before the Spice Girls.
Sailor Moon Crystal is being broadcast worldwide simultaneously, merging the fandom into a single viewership
Anticipation for the imminent reboot, Sailor Moon Crystal, has reached critical levels over the weekend, with the announcement of its release date of 5th July 2014 on anime streaming service NicoNico, as well as the reveal of the new art direction. The word ‘reboot’ sends parallaxes of fear down the spine of any die-hard fan, but for those who dote on the original Sailor Moon series, which began airing way back in 1992, this reinterpretation is, in all likelihood, nothing to fear.
First of all, there’ll be no waiting around for subtitles: Sailor Moon Crystal is being broadcast worldwide simultaneously, subtitled in ten languages. It took the US three years to notice the phenomenon that was Sailor Moon before they commissioned a watered-down, butchered dubbed version of their own. While those who saw this adaptation have fond memories, the dubbed version cannot be true to the spirit of the work. The move by Toei Animation, the studio heading up the remake, is inspired. By taking control of the subtitling and international release from day one, they are merging the fandom into a single massive viewership, as well as ensuring that the show is never misinterpreted.
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All the released artwork for Sailor Moon Crystal thus far looks fantastic. The weekend’s announcements revealed the new design of the five principle characters of the show, and they look rather great (we’ll have to hope that the Sailor Senshi look as good in motion). The original Sailor Moon series was inconsistent in quality - with a monumental 46 episodes in its first series, the production was split between several studios. This not only included the art, but even writing and design. As such, there were many episodes of Sailor Moon that just didn’t cut the mustard when compared to the utterly beguiling work of the better studios. That’s not to knock the show in any way – it’s the blemishes that make the beauty, after all, but it’s definitely in the reboot’s favour that they don’t have to hand-draw every small detail.
The original voice of Sailor Moon, Kotono Mitsuishi - the Dame Helen Mirren of anime – is returning to voice her iconic role
The best news from the recent Sailor Moon Crystal announcements, however, is that the original voice of Sailor Moon, Kotono Mitsuishi, is returning to voice her iconic role. Mitsuishi is like the Dame Helen Mirren of anime – she’s been kicking about for donkey’s years, yet her fame and abilities have never waned. Asides from voicing arguably the most well-known feminist icon in Japanese anime, she has one of the most impressive catalogues of performances in the voice acting business. Any performance from Kotono Mitsuishi is always astounding (her role in Neon Genesis Evangelion was particularly brilliant), but the confirmation that she would once again play Tsukino Usagi, the lovable, ditzy, wildly incompetent and wholly remarkable superheroine, will make returning to the world that much easier for old fans.
Despite this clear link to the original show, Sailor Moon Crystal definitely seems to be setting itself apart from the original adaptation. The biggest hurdle to jump for a reboot is answering the question “why bother?”, but it’s become increasingly clear that they do not wish to retread old ground. Press releases have described Sailor Moon Crystal as “staying close to the manga” – there’s so much content pregnant for exploration in the manga that has never found its way onto the screen that the new production team will not be at a loss for storylines that remain true to the spirit of the property.
While it’s certainly advisable for Sailor Moon Crystal to strike out on its own and justify its own existence as a reboot, its predecessor has become a standard for moving storytelling. But a good outcome of Sailor Moon Crystal adhering closer to the manga is that the original anime adaptation remains a separate entity - its genesis was 22 years ago, and it remains one of the most trailblazing, trend-setting Japan-in-the-90s anime series ever made. Whether or not we come to love Sailor Moon Crystal as much as we did the original series, or whether it’s a hackneyed piece of garbage, time will tell. If anything, Sailor Moon Crystal can only further enhance the appreciation for the original series. As such, bring it on. Let’s see what they can do.
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All images: Toei Animation