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Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 2
Sailor Moon is one of the most successful anime series of all time. It is based on the popular manga from creator Naoko Takeuchi (who both wrote and illustrated the series). The anime series was adapted in 1992 and spanned 5 seasons and 200 episodes. The production is now licensed by distributor VIZ Media for North America and is being released in its entirety. It marks the first time the entire production of the anime will be available stateside. A newly created English dub accompanies these home media releases.
Season 1, Part 2 contains the second half of the first season of Sailor Moon. This batch of episodes introduces two more Sailor Scout characters into the main group of characters: it expands upon the premise and universe by integrating Sailor Venus and Sailor Jupiter into working with the Sailor Scouts. The core team is finally together after events on this set of episodes.
Sailor Moon, Sailor Venus, Sailor Jupter, Sailor Mars, and Sailor Mercury must all unite while on their mission of finding the Moon Princess and while searching out the "Legendary Silver Crystal" as well. Tuxedo Mask continues to be an aid to them whenever he is needed and the group continues to face the ever-daunting task of defeating the evil Queen Beryl (who works with her diabolical henchmen to try and bring total darkness to Earth for her Dark Kingdom).
One of the more exciting elements of the conclusion to season one of Sailor Moon is how it finally delves into some of the back-story of Sailor Moon and her history outside of Earth... viewers will actually learn more about the Moon Kingdom, the name of Sailor Moon, and ultimately why the Sailor Scouts ended up on earth with their mission.
These major storyline elements essential to the plot are finally unfolded and explored at the conclusion of this arc. The season also reaches a culmination of events with the season one baddies and the overarching storyline established during the first season is concluded with definite finality. The season successfully wraps most things up while leaving room for this brilliant saga to be expanded in future seasons.
The animation remains one of the most impressive components of the Sailor Moon anime. The beautiful hand-drawn artwork of the 1990's was a huge part of the series success. Created by acclaimed animation studio Toei Animation (One Piece, Dragon Ball/Z, Digimon), the art certainly shines with a unique quality and style. This series managed to have impressively rendered background art as well as impressive character designs. The fluidity of the art is impressive throughout the series. The action scenes are quick and effective and dramatic moments still contain a flair for theatricality and emphasize the emotions of a sequence.
The direction by Junichi Sato (Kaleido Star) is one of the high points of the entire production. He had a knack for exploring both emotional elements in the series storytelling (such as the friendships blooming between these characters and journeys taken by the Sailor Scouts) and the exciting action sequences. This was part of the reason the show became a huge success: it carefully balanced the drama, action, and adventure into a cohesive whole. Sato brought the scripts inherent strengths to life with a clear understanding of what would make Sailor Moon an overwhelming success.
Sailor Moon is an essential anime series creation. This is a series which any fan of anime (regardless of their favorite genre within the medium) should consider checking out. It's a remarkable production: one of the best television series ever made. Anime would not be as popular in North America as it is today without this groundbreaking series. If for some odd reason you haven't seen Sailor Moon before and consider yourself an anime fan: go watch this series. (Right now.)
If you are already a fan of Sailor Moon you'll appreciate being able to revisit the series again as it remains a total delight. Even viewers who don't consider themselves to be anime fans should still check out this gem of a series. It might just surprise them and turn them into massive fans of the medium (or at least this particular series). There's a good reason Sailor Moon is highly coveted as a classic of the medium: it's amazingly good. A must-see anime gem.
Sailor Moon - Season 1, Part 2 arrives on DVD with a 4:3 (full frame) presentation preserving the original television broadcast aspect ratio. The DVD's are presented in 480p SD (Standard Definition). Though VIZ has done a good thing by preserving the intended aspect ratio, the release isn't perfect by any means. The PQ suffers somewhat from a troubled use of DNR. Unfortunately, there is no real trace of natural filmic grain whatsoever on the image and ultimately this means less fine detail in the animation as well. Making matters worse is a underwhelming compression effort with blocky frames and decidedly average video. The presentation is moderately serviceable if one isn't picky about the presentation quality, but anyone expecting something more refined and true to the original film elements will feel the presentation is disappointing.
VIZ presents the series with both a new English language dub and with the original Japanese audio. Both options are presented in stereo. The Japanese audio sounds reasonably clear and pleasant given the age of the source. Dialogue is easy to understand. Dynamics aren't all that impressive but this is a smoother and more noteworthy Japanese audio presentation than the previously released Sailor Moon DVD's from ADV and Geneon. The English dub track isn't really that immersive or dynamic, either... which comes as a bit of a surprise given that this is something newly recorded.
As to the quality of the English dubbing: I personally find the new dub to feel a little off-putting and dislike some of the voices for the characters. However, I also think it is moderately good at translating the show (for the first time, VIZ is seeing an English dub of Sailor Moon all the way through) and it's decent enough that fans who insist on watching it dub will probably consider it satisfactory. If you're open to watching anime with Japanese dubs (and English subs), I strongly suggest watching it that way as the original dub cast was fantastic.
There are hardly any extras on this release. It's a pretty underwhelming supplemental package.
Sailor Moon Day Highlights (5 min.) is a brief behind the scenes piece which shows clips from interviews with anime convention attendees discussing their love of the Sailor Moon universe. The footage also shows some glimpses from a Sailor Moon panel at an anime convention. It's fairly standard material and it doesn't delve into the dedication of the Sailor Moon fandom as well as it could have.
There is also a trailer for Season 1 of Sailor Moon on Blu-ray. Alas, that's it.
However, the PQ presentation isn't that good. Period. VIZ should have listened to fan complaints about set one of Sailor Moon when it was pointed out that the image was terribly DNR'ed and had no fine detail and poor compression. Recent news has made it clear that the distributor of Sailor Moon in Australia (who also has rights to the full series) plans to handle a restoration effort themselves specifically to address complaints about other "foreign" editions (the VIZ releases). If you can wait a while, chances are nice remastered season sets will come out in Australia that can be easily imported and played on any region free DVD player. If you are particular about picture-quality this might be a good option. If you don't care... well, these lackluster VIZ DVD's are still a way to enjoy this great series.
There's also been recent news suggesting that Toei of Japan plans to release their own Blu-ray sets of the series. There is little information on the project at this time... however, if they went back to the original film elements one can rest assured it will be legions better than what VIZ is putting out currently. Even if it turns out to be an upscaled effort, there's still a chance it will be superior. So VIZ's rushed effort on the presentation is even more disappointing when one takes that into consideration. Though I think the series is worth a purchase based on the quality of the series, I'd suggest fans consider their options before committing to a purchase from VIZ given that it will be around $400-500 to collect it all and better editions for English speakers might come out in Australia and other territories in the foreseeable future.
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.