Sailor Moon is one of the most well-known and well-loved series of all time. For many of us, myself included, it was among the first anime that helped to get us hooked on the medium… so it’s very exciting that it is being rebooted as Sailor Moon Crystal. This series was one of the progenitors of the Magical Girl genre, and is probably the most famous of them.
Sailor Moon Crystal takes us back to where it all started as Usagi meets Luna and the Sailor Guardians are born. Unlike the original anime adaptation, SMC is drawing more directly from the manga, so it should be different enough from its predecessor so as to not seem like just a copy.
The first half of the first season covers the Dark Kingdom arc, featuring Queen Beryl and her generals who are searching for the Legendary Silver Crystal.
Sailor Moon Crystal has one of the most unique art styles of the season. The characters are very stylized, drawn with very long, hard lines with some unusual features highly accentuated – the eyelashes for example. This does a few things… for one, it sadly makes the show look a bit dated. The visuals are not up to the caliber of recent shows and a few scenes feel like certain features are either not drawn in properly or, in a few cases, not at all. It doesn’t look bad, it’s not hard to watch and it won’t make you cringe… but it definitely does look a bit dated. Secondly, it really strongly resembles the manga’s art style as opposed to that you see in most anime – which was one of their big goals in this reboot.
The third, and most important thing, this accomplishes is to make the show look unique. Nothing else looks quite like it and that’s a good thing. You can immediately tell, even beyond the practically trademarked outfits, what you’re looking at and you’ll probably always recognize these visuals – for good or ill. I’ve heard a lot of criticism for it… but standing out among such a vast sea of amazing anime is difficult. If you can, for a logical reason, create something immediately recognizable about your show then that’s a win in my eyes.
The show’s action is very typical of a Magical Girl show. The characters all have their own special powers which they use to damage the enemies, but inevitably it’s the protagonist – our main heroine – whose power ends up resulting in victory. The part that was very good to see was the way they really shaped these characters. You could tell each of the characters had a purpose among the team… and most importantly, our heroine was not actually all-powerful. Her abilities were more restorative – almost supportive – in nature. Healing, purification, etc… those were where her powers came from. Considering her true nature this makes absolutely perfect sense and it was great to see them work with that so well.
One refreshing change was the show’s pacing. It certainly wasn’t perfect, and there were a few minor issues, but overall it was very well done. The show never felt like it had stalled or stagnated, except during the final 3 episodes of the first arc. Those episodes felt awkward and far too slow. The other minor issue, and this may sound odd, is that the show could’ve used one or two episodes of ‘filler’. Filler episodes aren’t just there to occupy space, they also offer time for the cast to build their relationships. And in a show with the pacing set this high, that could’ve been valuable. Obviously not a lot of filler, but one or two episodes at strategic locations could’ve proven a good way for them to develop the characters’ relationships in a logical way.
There is one negative I wanted to point out… and that is that this show had one of the worst soundtracks of the season. The show’s opening and closing themes were fast-forward worthy and the show’s background music never adequately built mood. It just was altogether a failure of a soundtrack. Fortunately the show itself was very solid, so it didn’t really detract too much, but it is certainly a noteworthy point.
Overall, Sailor Moon Crystal proved to be one of the better anime of the year and a fantastic way to breathe some life into a classic. It was clearly targeted at appealing to those who had read the manga, so the art style may be a hard sell for some. However, if you can either tolerate or enjoy the art style, it’s one of the better Magical Girl anime out there. Just… look elsewhere if you’re looking for a good soundtrack… you won’t find it here.