Sailor Moon was the very first anime I watched. It’s not the very best nor even especially a favorite of mine, but I’m a fan nonetheless. Actually, when I was taking Japanese for school, I read the original manga for practice which was a mostly pleasant experience.1 Suffice it to say I’m pretty well-versed in the series. Anyway, Sailor Moon is currently going through a reboot and there’s a brand new anime series currently airing. Here’s the snazzy trailer:
My initial thoughts were surprisingly brief. It’s pretty, which is part and parcel with SM and the overarching “magical girl” genre. But I found myself really distracted by the art style. I just finished watching Persona 4 The Animation, so you’d think I wouldn’t find the long-and-lean look so alarming, but I do. Not that the original anime is exactly short and chubby or even the source art from the manga. I just find this particular design alarmingly lanky and disturbingly awkward like these Sailor Senshi have stepped out of A Nightmare Before Christmas.2
And, unfortunately, I am no less off-put after watching the first episode, which is entirely due to the jerky animation. Not to say that the animation itself is bad, as it has some really nice touches here and there. It’s just not as fluid and crisp as I tend to expect from Japanese animation. And I’ll throw my hat into the ring of Internet uproar about the “dead eyes” and lack of expression. I suspect that’s at least partially intended since this version has a distinctly less whimsical vibe, but Usagi seems very one-note and, frankly, not as likable. Then again, I’ll be the last person to complain about the absence of whining because I find that grating in any situation even if we’re talking about a self-described crybaby. The CGI is pretty underwhelming and I found the slow-motion style of the transformation sequence made it seem overly drawn out.3
The plot is straight from the first act of the manga and since this is the umpteenth version I’ve seen of this I can’t help but stifle a yawn. This particular version is such a faithful recreation that it borders on unoriginal. Honestly, its such a carbon copy in some respects that even though I wasn’t specifically trying to compare the two anime, I kept finding myself doing exactly that. This is really a disservice to the reboot because it left me pining for the more dynamic characterizations from the original. Mamoru, for instance, is just a blank slate in this version rather than the mildly irritating and somewhat mysterious figure he is in the original. Maybe this works for someone who is completely unfamiliar with SM, but even so it’s still pretty flat. And given that the odango covers warning system and the supersonic crying powers are only ever seen in Act 1, I really don’t understand why these things keep getting translated into every adaptation. It just seems sloppy to me.
I’m still on the fence about the music. I don’t exactly dislike it, but neither am I especially fond of any particular piece save for the ending theme “Moon Rainbow.” Not much of a surprise about that since it’s composed by Akiko Kosaka, who also composed two of my favorite songs from the original anime: “Tuxedo Mirage” and “Moon Revenge.” At the very least, none of it is nearly as memorable as past music, which seems especially true for me having just come off Persona 4‘s amazing soundtrack.
Surprisingly, the one thing I expected to have issue with didn’t really bother me at all and that’s the voice-acting. Kotono Mitsuishi is the only original seiyuu to return, which I feared might only emphasize the differences in the rest of the cast. But for the most part I hardly noticed the changes, though, sadly I suspect that’s because of the low-key nature this version seems to have. And to be honest I was somewhat placated by Kotono’s familiar portrayal of Usagi that even though she’s far less dramatic than her counterpart from the original anime, I wasn’t bothered so much as I was just aware there was a difference.
At present, I’m underwhelmed, but I’m not disappointed and for now I think that’s good enough. Certainly this reboot isn’t groundbreaking, but at least it’s not tarnishing anything that came before it. For that I am deeply relieved.
- My tastes in manga are pretty much inline with my tastes in comics in general and so I found Inuyasha far more interesting to read than Sailor Moon. ↩
- I can make references to this now since I finally watched it! ↩
- A fact, I might add, that also bothered me with the live-action show and, while not the main factor, it was one reason I only managed to stomach a few episodes before giving up entirely. ↩