Update: I recently had an opportunity to see the film again, subtitled this time, and just completed my review for the subtitled version here. If you’re curious about the differences between the two versions, or just want to see the subtitled review, you can check it out here. Otherwise, continue reading below here for my original review of the dubbed version.
I just got back from seeing Sailor Moon R the Movie at Cedar Lee Theater in Cleveland Ohio. We saw the uncut English Dub with the new Viz voice cast (that they have been using for a few years now for their re-dubbing of the DVDs and Blu-ray TV series). The movie is prefaced by an interview with the new cast. The interview is then followed by an animated short called “Moon Power Makeup” which is mostly just a string of flashbacks of season 1 which help to introduce the scouts to perhaps those who have not watched the first season. Also they give you a fancy looking black envelope and inside you will find art of one of the 5 original sailor scouts. We got Sailor Jupiter and Mars. You’ll also find some promotional inserts trying to encourage you to buy the TV series Blu-rays and Manga.
It drew a huge crowd last night, nearly selling out a large, several hundred seat theater. Before making the 3 hour drive to go see the film, I checked to ensure there would be tickets available. It said over 200 seats were remaining. By time the film started, much of that total had sold – plus who knows how many sold before I even checked the website. The theater was near max capacity. We had a large crowd to both the immediate left and right of us. The entire balcony area behind us was completely full, and all throughout the floor level, there was scarcely more than 1 or 2 empty seats beside each other, here or there.
Watching it on the big screen was quite an awesome experience. The colors seemed so much brighter and richer compared to when I watched the original VHS – but that may very well be due to some “HD Remastering” or retouching. Either way, seeing Sailormoon on the big screen was pretty awesome, and seeing the huge turn out of Sailor Moon loving geeks and fans in their Sailormoon shirts, hats, etc all gathered in one place, was really awesome too. Of course I wore a Sailormoon Geeky Tshirt too. :).
My thoughts on the actual movie itself are below. Enjoy my review, and if you get the chance, make sure you get out there to support our Sailor Scouts!
Title: Sailor Moon R the Movie (uncut English dub version)
Release Date: January 2017
Publisher: Toei Animation, Eleven Arts, and Viz Media
Geeky: 5/5 High points for Nostalgia, and excellent animation for the date/time of the film.
Sweetie: 3/5 Although I love Sailor Moon, the movie is a bit weak in the character development and romance areas when compared to the TV series.
Overall: 45/55 82% B- Very Good Anime for Girls
Concept: 10/10 Seeing Sailor Moon on the big screen is awesome no matter how good or bad the movie itself is. It’s something I’ve literally dreamed of doing ever since I was a child. And, as the English cast points out, rarely do you see anime in a US theater, especially anime that is now, nearly 30 years old. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience… and judging by how many tickets the theater sold, perhaps Viz and Eleven Arts will treat us to re-releasing the other Sailor Moon movies in theater format in the future as well.
Story: 8/10 There is a lot of action and almost no character development in this film. Also, unless you’re a fan of the series (but then again, who isn’t a fan of Sailor Moon?), you may feel a little lost or confused even with the inclusion of the Mini-cartoon that re-introduces the scouts and explains their strengths and weaknesses and about the silver moon kingdom and their rebirth on earth. — And although Chibiusa is included in the Mini-cartoon and actual movie, her past and history and relationship to Usagi is actually not explained at all.
The story is also unbelievably cheesey. I don’t know if it’s quite so bad in the subtitled version. I would love to go again to the second and final showing this week which is subtitled to compare how much was just a cheesey plot by the Japanese staff, and how much was cheesey from poor translation choices and poor voice acting from the US staff. There were several scenes that were meant to be serious which caused 300+ people to burst out laughing instead.
Those two small complaints aside, the story is actually very cute and gives you a unique look at Mamoru’s childhood. Also, in this uncut version, they more clearly explain Mamoru’s relationship with the new villain. I remember when the movie was announced a few months ago, I got into an “argument” with someone on facebook who made a comment when I shared the news post. They argued that the relationship was more than platonic, and I counter argued, that they were just close childhood friends… but after seeing the uncut version, I have to concede, and agree, the relationship is definitely 100% romantic.
The Sailor Scouts even joke about the questionable nature of the relationship, quipping things such as “I guess Mamo is popular with the guys too” “Well I guess it’s fine if you’re born that way” “There’s even a few couples like that at my school” and Usagi is stressed/worried and says to herself “It sure seemed like more than friends”. Which comes as no surprise, because by the next few seasons, almost everyone in the Sailor Moon universe is openly exploring their sexuality, with Uranus x Neptune, Uranus x Moon, and Chibiusa X Saturn… and that’s not even mentioning Sailor Stars, which are essentially gender-neutral, or transgendered Women who were born in Men’s bodies when they re-incarnated and transforming back to female when they take their Sailor forms. So Sailor Moon is no stranger to dealing with these topics. It was actually quite revolutionary for its day and time, back in the 90s, when even live-action TV shows were still shying away from tackling such relationships.
If your favorite part of Sailor Moon is the action and fighting scenes you will probably really enjoy Sailor Moon R the Movie. It is way more action heavy compared to the TV Series. It opens right away with a lengthy and fairly violent fight sequence.
The story is also full of comedy… Shortly after that fight sequence, there’s a scene with Usagi and Chibiusa that builds and builds the same joke for what seems like forever, but it was effective. I don’t laugh out loud easily… and even that elicited a chuckle from me (and uproarious laughter from the huge audience).
Despite, at the core, the story being about Mamo and Usagi and the new Villain, it’s actually not very Romance laden. They are on a date at the opening of the film, but once again comedy comes in to foil any chance of romance for the two of them.
Characters 8/10: As mentioned, character development is really pretty much non-existent. You could easily skip watching this film and not miss anything earth-shattering in developing the scouts or Mamo as characters. You’d miss out a lil on Mamo’s backstory but it’s mostly stuff that’s been glossed over briefly by the series anyways.
The scouts are featured heavily in the film and so if you’re the type who complains that one of the weaknesses of Crystal is how it’s all about Mamo x Usagi, (this seems a common complaint), then you’ll like how prominent each of the scouts are in this film, and a decision that Usagi makes near the end of the movie, showing how much she loves and cares for the other scouts. Though this too is not surprising if you’ve seen the 90s TV series you know the focus was more on Usagi and the Scouts and less on the Reincarnation / Romance bits.
If however, one of your primary draws to Sailor Moon is the character development or romance, this movie may very well disappoint you.
But you should still go see it, because it’s Sailor Moon :). How long have we waited to see this cast of characters on the big screen? And if we want to see the other movies, a re-run of the dub, or airing of the new Viz dub, or a new season of Crystal, or perhaps a continuation of the series even beyond Stars, or more Sailor Moon merchandise and collectibles, then, you know as they say “Money Talks”.
Also, as you know, the characters in Sailor Moon as very diverse, with almost someone for EVERY girl out there to look up to. How many TV shows or Movies can claim such a wholesome cast full of role models for young women?
Sailor Moon teaches us about friendship, love, respect, and kindness. Moon is the quintessential loud/ditzy/friendly outgoing girl, Mercury is the smart/brainy/shy girl, Mars is the mysterious/quiet/serious/beautiful girl, Jupiter is the “tomboy” type girl (who also secretly has a soft side and loves to cook, and falls in love easily), Venus is the “best friend” or “girl next door” type of girl.
With so many different personalities, there’s bound to be a superhero that your kids can look up to, which I think is one of the reasons for the series continued success and popularity.
Artwork: 4/5 This is the old 90s style animation, and it shows… There’s some really bad CG effects later on in the film… and the characters have that unique 90s style to them… However, I was surprised by how bright and vivid the colors were and how crisp, clean, and clear all of the animations looked. There are also some lovely backgrounds too.
Music: 4/5 I was surprised to see they kept the Japanese music with the English dub. This worked fine 90% of the time… Except for two occasions… One in the Mini-cartoon before the featured film, in a flash back Rei is singing… in Japanese… after seconds ago speaking in English… this felt disjointed, jarring, and just out of place…. The other occasion is perhaps debatable, but you can form your own opinion… My opinion is I would have loved to hear the old English version of the Sailor Moon opening theme — Or to have at least seen subtitles of the Japanese lyrics when the song played at the start of the movie.
Other than those two points of contention, which I admit are perhaps not a commonly shared opinion, the music in the film was quite enjoyable, adding to the suspense, action, and drama of the film. The soundtracks to Sailor Moon have always been among my favorites. I owned many of the imported Japanese CDs, as well as some of the English cassette tapes and equally loved both the Original Japanese music, as well as the old 90s stuff too.
Voice Acting 3/5 – I do not normally like to watch dubs. I went to the dubbed movie, simply because it was playing on a weekend, while the subtitled version is playing on a weeknight. I do not follow the North American Voice Actors, so I have really no clue who these people are (other than I do know they are not the original cast, and are the new cast put together by Viz).
I will say it is super nice to see an Asian American playing the lead role, when so many other anime movies (such as the live action Ghost in the Shell) are being White Washed by movie producers. Of course, one Asian with a cast of almost entirely white folks, still isn’t that great, but it’s a start.
Now as to the quality of their performance… it does take some getting used to, if you’re a fan of the original 90s cast, you will notice distinguishable differences which might seem jarring at first. Overall though, I feel the cast did a wonderful job.
There are a few… either… ill acted… or poorly written lines…. The most notable of which was at the end of the movie when the new villain says “It’s all over now… Mamo has thrown a flower at me” — He is so overly dramatic… and the words chosen make it seem … so…. cheesey… The entire theater erupted in laughter for pretty much 10 minutes straight… followed by a scene shortly thereafter where he reverts to his childhood form and tumbles off silently into space.
But perhaps… that cheeseyness is part of Sailor Moon’s charms. The cheesey lines are when the theater laughed the most and had the most fun. 90s anime IS very cheesey… so I don’t know if this is necessarily a bad thing really! But it was… probably…. not intentional — because it was supposed to be a serious, dramatic, and even slightly sad scene.
I also noticed several instances where Sailor Jupiter used a cuss word. I am fairly certain that this was a liberty taken only in the dub, because in Japan the anime was intended for preschool children, also Japanese as a language I don’t think has direct swear words such as that.
It was so jarring that I began counting the number of swears… There were 3 or 4 of them that I noticed… all from Sailor Jupiter as she was fighting. It’s a minor swear word — but still… It just did not seem to fit the spirit of Sailor Moon as a franchise.
I do appreciate that the script was “uncut” — and if that swearing was in the original Japanese script, then I’m glad they left it in. To edit it would be sad because it would mean they were back to trying to make a child friendly show or care about ratings more than care about doing an accurate translation.
So I’m on the fence as to if the swearing was “good” or “bad” – if part of the original script, it’s “good” that the script wasn’t altered to be more “kid friendly”; however, if it was as I suspect, a creative liberty taken by Viz staff then “bad”. A simple clicking of the tongue, or a Tch sound could have replaced the one syllable swear word, and seemed more “at home” in such a child-friendly show.
But overall, the voice acting was good for the most part. The scouts really showed their personalities and had voices somewhat similar/close to the 90s cast (Jupiter has a deep husky voice in both the 90s version as well as the new Viz cast; Sailor Moon has a ditzy and bubbly voice, Mercury a very calming/soothing voice, etc.) Therefore, largely I feel the series is well cast and the deliverance of their lines, mostly, pretty solid (though there were some notably cringe-worthy moments as well (such as the one with the new villain which I referenced above). Thankfully though, the cringe-worthiness was the exception and not the norm throughout the film.
Overall: 45/55 82% B- Very Good Anime for Girls
Overall, the experience of seeing Sailor Moon on the big screen, the hundreds of moonies who turned out for the event, and the movie itself, made for an enjoyable and nostalgic night of entertainment.