(26 episodes, fortnightly)
What’s it about ?
20 years (and change) later, a remake of Sailor Moon as an anime, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood style.
For those who have been living under a rock, the 1992 series (and its continuations) was a gateway anime for many, and had a strong influence on the magical girl genre as a whole (kickstarting the transition from the “cute witch” subgenre to the now more prevalent “magical warrior” version). It took many liberties from the original manga, including a lot of padding to allow its source material to be produced. This is supposed to be much closer to the original, with some benefit of hindsight (as it left a lot of room for improvement).
Usagi, our book-dumb crybaby of a protagonist. But hey, she’s only in middle school ; she’s got time to grow out of it. Also, she’s got weird dreams of a moon princess or something.
Luna, a talking cat she stumbles on (litterally) on her way to school. Later on, she reveals Usagi has a destiny to battle evil and protect the princess ! Take this magical trinket, utter the bizarre Engrish catchphrase, and bam! you’re “Sailor Moon”. (Which is totally not copyright infringment on the “Sailor V” superheroine who’s been making the news lately.)
“Monster-bait” Naru is the one member of Usagi’s circle of friends who matters to the plot in this episode : her mother gets replaced by a creepy monster who takes over their jewelry store and uses the lure of insanely huge discounts to gather mindless drones. Our heroine, to the rescue !
Tuxedo Mask is a mysterious dude wearing a mask and a tuxedo who shows up during the battle and lends a hand when she’s in trouble. He’s apparently looking for the “Legendary Silver Crystal”, a macguffin the baddies also seem to be after. Oh, and he’s totally this tall, dark-haired dude Usagi bumped into as he was casing the joint. (Wearing a tuxedo !)
Four other Sailor soldiers are shown in the OP sequence, but only one of them barely makes a cameo at the very end of the episode.
The artstyle takes a while to get used to ; it’s a weird mix of Naoko Takeuchi’s idiosyncratic style, more classic shoujo elements, and modern shading techniques. As a result, character designs appear very busy, but they still can move around not too stiffly. And more importantly, Usagi can still handle the broad physical comedy and weird faces the script throws at her, without looking out of place.
The backgrounds are beautiful, with similar watercolours to the original anime. The roses patterns showing up whenever Usagi pauses to introduce a new character are a bit clunky, though.
The OP song doesn’t quite work yet ; maybe it’ll grow on me. The ED song fits in much better.
First, a disclaimer : I’m a hardcore fan of the franchise. I’m going to watch this to the end, regardless of actual quality.
What’s really striking about this first episode is that it’s not striking at all. Nothing here feels like a mission statement of its own identity. It follows the manga’s first chapter very closely, down to including nearly every original line of dialogue. Even when that’s obviously a terrible idea. (Why the heck is Mamoru wearing a tuxedo in broad daylight ?) And while no previous adaptation (either the first anime or the live-action series) messed with this first chapter much, that’s clearly not gonna fly in the long-term. If only because this is set to be 26 episodes long, and the manga barely has 14 chapters (and that’s including “Petite Etrangère”, most of which is devoted to setting up the second arc this series is explicity not covering). This series is going to have to stray a bit from the manga’s framework at some point, and the sooner the better. (After all, the manga’s breakneck pace obeyed more to real-life publishing constraints than to narrative necessity.)
There are a few early hints on how this is going to happen. The most obvious is the heavy emphasis on Usagi’s dreams of the princess, which are happening quite earlier this time around. But it’s going to take more episodes until we have a full picture.