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Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1

Viz Media // Unrated // November 25, 2014
List Price: $69.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted December 2, 2014 | E-mail the Author


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Sailor Moon - Season 1 Part 1 Blu-ray Review


Now available on home media after a long
out-of-print status
in the United States, Sailor Moon - Season 1, Part 1
presents the
first 23 episodes of the famously beloved anime series across a
six-disc Blu-ray/DVD
combo pack release. The series follows the adventures of Usagi Tsukino
(Sailor
Moon) as she discovers that she has special magical abilities that can
be used
to help defeat the baddies of the world, including the evil Queen
Beryl, who
wishes to control the hearts and minds of all. (... and all the while,
Usagi
must remember to continue to do well with school. Ahhh!)


Upon a unexpected visit from a talking cat by the
name of
Luna, Usagi begins to learn of her gifts and helps to save the day as Sailor
Moon
: a justice-seeking guardian of love. The series begins as an
episodic
show with a monster-of-the-week format, but it still delves into these
characters with adequate character-development and good storytelling.
The show
is a joy to behold for it's entertaining episodic nature as well as for
the
development seen on the show during it's incredible run.


As the original season of the series unfolds,
there are more
Sailor Scouts becoming recruited by Luna and Sailor Moon meets the
already
famous Sailor Venus. The team eventually becomes: Sailor Moon, Sailor
Mars,
Sailor Mercury, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Venus, all of whom work
together to
help save the world from evil and protect the dreams of the world. Each
donning
a unique look and unique abilities (such as Sailor Moon's famous 'Moon
Tiara
Action!' move), a number of unique attributes helps to set apart each
member of
the team while also serving as a reminder of each character's strengths
and
importance to the whole.


There is also the addition of a mysterious hero
named Tuxedo
Mask who helps save Sailor Moon during her early missions, while she
continues
to find her own footing as a legendary hero. Who is Tuxedo Mask and how
will he
fit into the series storyline? This question (and more!) unfolds during
these
early season one episodes.


Graced by wonderful animation (some of the best
cell-based
animation ever made), creative storytelling, and memorable characters, Sailor
Moon
is a definitive anime creation from the 1990's and one of the
most
iconic series in the history of the anime medium. Many anime fans
became anime
fans on the heels of seeing this wonderful series for the first time.
It holds
up just as well now as it did decades ago, and is essential viewing for
any
anime fan.


So
now the important question is... how does the newly
available Blu-ray release hold up?
style="font-weight: bold;">Find out below.


The Blu-ray:





Video:


The video quality of this release
is bad. There you have it (in a nutshell). For those
who wish to know
why: read on. VIZ Media have really dropped the ball with their Blu-ray
release
of the classic anime series Sailor Moon.
The presentation is rife with compression artifacts, poor telecine
reversal
(which resulted in ghosting, where shadow detail can sometimes be seen
following characters and motion on screen), and has been altered with
boosted
color and dramatically bad DNR (digital noise reduction), which
eliminates fine
detail in the art. It's disappointing, period. Making matters even
worse is the
fact this a SD-upconversion which actually isn't native HD at all. Nor
does it
even remotely look HD or have the usual benefits possible with a HD
upconversion.
The Blu-ray discs, in fact, suffer from poor compression, digital
tweaking, and
other anomalies which makes the presentation look worse than a typical
well-produced DVD set. On a more positive note: at least it's in the
O.A.R. of
1.33:1 full-frame (as opposed to the widescreen-cropped atrocity done
to Dragon Ball Z by Funimation for those season set
Blu-ray releases).


The word about this release from
the beginning was that it would be a
upconversion. So there is actually no surprise there. Toei, the
Japanese
company which owns the rights in Japan, are not producing any more
Blu-ray
releases which are remastered from the original film negatives.
Everything they
release in "HD" in Japan is now simply a upconvert, even if the
source was naively available on film. Knowing this information, one
could
reasonable presume that the announcement of Sailor
Moon
on Blu-ray from VIZ Media was actually good news even if it
meant the
show wouldn't look as good as it could have looked. However, as it
turns out,
these matters are more complicated than that.


Previous DVD releases (prior to the
newer remastered releases) had some
of the same issues with color reproduction apparent here. Similarly,
older
masters displayed the terrible degraded VHS quality present on the
former US
DVD releases from ADV. Those masters were absolutely awful and previous
home
media sets available for Sailor Moon
in the US represented an outdated presentation which was rife with a
number of
issues... issues that were even worse than what is found on this VIZ
Media
release. In that sense, some fans might immediately be pleased by the
"upgrade" offered by VIZ. Technically speaking, the Blu-ray release
of Sailor Moon: Season 1, Part 1 is
still the best available in North America to date.


However, a remastered version of style="">Sailor
Moon exists. This is a newer restoration which was met with
favorable
responses and which led to an even greater Italian DVD presentation
which used
the JP restoration as the source, but was further corrected by making
the image
progressive rather than interlaced (as is standard for most DVD sets).
These JP
and IT DVD editions represent the best that Sailor
Moon
has ever looked on home media - and due to Toei's stance on no
longer
producing HD sets from scanning the original film negatives (which are
also rumored
to no longer exist, though no confirmation seems available), it's
possible
these are DVD sets which represent the best image Sailor
Moon
will ever have worldwide.


The question then becomes: why
didn't VIZ get these masters? Why did
they not use the newly remastered presentations (which would have been
excellent candidates for upconversion)? The transfers on these foreign
editions
are practically untouched and have no DNR, color boosting, and
ghosting. The PQ
on those releases is clean and free from previous damage seen on
earlier DVD editions.
Why did VIZ get the shaft?


From the sound of things, VIZ
worked with the master that was given
to them by Toei. Which begs another set of questions: why would Toei
send VIZ
shoddy masters to work with when a newer remastered version exists and
why didn't VIZ complain about the shoddy
quality they were given when better editions are already available
elsewhere? Why is a old master floating around in the licensing world -
which
by appearances was then color-boosted, DNR'ed, and poorly compressed by
VIZ (who
did an outsourcing job to another company for the creation of these style="">Sailor Moon Blu-ray's, if that has
anything to do with some of the problems)?


To make matters even worse for this
release - the DVD discs included in
this set (and available separately) are incorrectly pillarboxed. If
viewing on
a 16:9 HDTV, one will see black bars on the sides (as is normal).
However, if
viewing on an older full-frame television set, viewers of Sailor Moon
will
discover that Set 1 has black bars on all sides of the screen for the
DVD. It
wasn't supposed to look that way at all. That is simply an authoring
error made
during the production run.


Fan-response was negative from a
small but vocal part of the Sailor Moon fandom. In a
recent
interview, VIZ responded to complaints by essentially saying that there
were no
issues with the Blu-ray presentation and that future sets will look the
same.
They also noted that the DVD discs were incorrectly authored and that
future
DVD sets will correct the problem. However, style="font-weight: bold;">no plans are in place for a disc
exchange or re-pressing
for purchasers of the first set who
might be hoping to
get corrected discs. So if you purchase the DVD edition of Season
1 - Part 1
and only own an older 4:3 television set, you're
essentially
stuck with defective discs.


I hoped the PQ on this Blu-ray set
would fare a lot better than it
ultimately does. Having seen some of the Hulu Plus streams, I thought
some of
the issues noticeable on the streaming version were probably inherent
to the
fact it was on a streaming service: occasional drops in quality and
poor compression
issues, for starters. Unfortunately, all of the same issues are present
on
the Blu-ray edition: which, frankly, looks barely any different or
"better" than the streaming release of the show. That's certainly a
disappointing
realization given the cost these sets carry.  I
have seen other upconversion efforts (such
as Funimation's Fairy Tail sets)
which impress and there is certainly room for a HD-upcovert to offer
nicer
improvements than what is available here.


Audio:


If there is a silver-lining to the
technical presentation of Sailor Moon, it comes in the
form of the
audio presentation. Sailor Moon has
had some awful sounding DVD releases in the past: audio sounded tiny,
thin,
wobbly, and hallow from some of the earlier DVD editions if one watched
it with the
original Japanese audio. The outdated audio presentation's of the past
incarnations sounded horrible. Thankfully, VIZ presents Sailor
Moon
with remastered audio that is miles better than
previous releases in North America.


The dialouge is very clean, clear,
and easily understood. Music sounds
rather pleasing and more effective than one would expect given a more
limited
dynamic range. The source of the audio is naturally older, but the
efforts done
to restore the audio worked wonderfully and the Japanese language
presentation
has never sounded better. The Blu-ray also contains a rather splendid
DTS-HD
Master Audio Mono presentation that has the benefits an
audio-enthusiast would
associate with splendid lossless audio.


Not only does the Japanese audio
itself sound better but VIZ has
created a new English subtitle translation for the entire show. These
subtitles
appear to be more accurately translated, timed, and presented. Many
fans have
already noted that the new translation is even more faithful to what
the show's
Japanese dialogue is. It's a joy to realize that VIZ made an effort
with these
subtitles.


Strangely, subtitles are locked on
the Blu-ray release (which is
probably do to the typical fears of reverse-importation Japan licensors
impose
on North American companies), though the subtitles are not required on
the DVD
edition (or on the steaming release). As a number of anime fans like to
watch
directly in Japanese, it's worth noting.


Another big draw for the audio
department (perhaps the biggest draw of
all for some fans of Sailor Moon)
will be the newly produced English dub. While many Sailor
Moon
fans probably have a element of sentimental attachment
to the older dubs (as it was what introduced many fans to the show,
myself
included) the show was never completely dubbed. DiC didn't bother
dubbing some
of the early episodes of the show and made some major changes to the
script.
And as those later seasons featured a few different VA's in prominent
roles,
there was a shift problem there as well. Then there's the fact that the
final
season of Sailor Moon never even received
a US release before: no English dub had ever been created for that
final season
outing. So automatically the VIZ dub wins if going on faithfulness to
the original
form.


My primarily viewing of the show
was in Japanese with English subtitles
(in my opinion, Sailor Moon sounds
best in Japanese), but for those who insist on watching the show
dubbed, this
new dub option (presented in DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo) might be
enough reason
for some fans to want to purchase the set. I'm sure for some viewers it
is a relief
to know that there is finally a dub option available that will cover
the full
span of the Sailor Moon franchise.


Extras:


 


First of all,
the
best extra is the fact that the set comes packaged in a beautiful
chipboard
art-box for the limited edition version. This shimmery, glossy package
has been
designed to hold both Part 1 and Part 2 of Season 1 of Sailor Moon.
Future sets and seasons are expected to follow a similar design and
release
pattern. Inside of the set, there is also a rather nice booklet
featuring an
episode guide for the full season and artwork from the series.


There are a few video-supplements on this release:


Sailor Moon: Announcement Panel (14 min.),


English Dub: Behind the Scenes (13 min.)


Official Announcement Trailer (3 min.)


Fan Reactions (4 min.)


AX Sailor Moon Reel (2 min.)


Clean Opening and Closing (OP/ED) themes


Galleries featuring artwork (some of which
is the
same as in the included booklet)


Trailers promoting other VIZ Media
releases.


Final Thoughts:


Sailor Moon is a classic: it remains one of
the greatest anime
creations of all time. It's a wonderful show for anime fans of all ages
and
it's filled to the brim with great action, adventure, and characters.
Anyone
who considers themselves an anime fan should see this amazing series.
While the
presentation of the Blu-ray suffers by having poor video quality the
set's new
English dub, a translation effort that is more accurate, and the
remastered
Japanese audio are all impressive attributes of the release.


Considering the series is finally going to be made
available
in the United States in a complete form (season five will become
available for the first time in North America), the release also feels
worth recommending
just based on those merits and because of the strength of the series
itself. Even
though this is a flawed release, the series is worth recommending and
for some
potential buyers the positive aspects of the set will outweigh the
negatives. Consider both elements and decide on
a
purchase accordingly.


Recommended.



Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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