Sailor Moon Crystal Returns with a Double Feature!

As a '90s kid, it was difficult not to get swept up in the hype surrounding Sailor Moon. Referred to at the time as a "gateway anime," Sailor Moon was the first Magical Girl show that attained viral popularity among a western audience. Though I, personally, was more passionate about Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders, I had a mild curiosity about the pop culture princess phenomenon from Japan that everyone was talking about. A story about an ordinary girl who discovers she's the princess of a magical kingdom should have been right up my alley, but I had a lot of trouble relating to Usagi/Serena/Sailor Moon due to her immaturity and complete lack of motivation or responsibility. I wouldn't consider myself a huge fan of the series as a whole, but I did enjoy the English soundtrack and the sparkly aesthetic. My favorite sailor was Mercury, since she seemed like the only level-headed member of the girl-powered team.

In 2014, Sailor Moon Crystal rolled around and allowed me to view the series from a new perspective. I was much older by then and had a deeper appreciation for artwork and storytelling. Though I'm not generally a fan of reboots, this one did something right. Instead of trying making it cynical and edgy to appeal to a modern audience, it remained even truer to the original manga source material than the anime from the '90s. Sailor Moon Crystal boasted a more accelerated pace than the repetitive monster-of-the-week format of the original anime along with a softer, more feminine art style and easier to relate to protagonist. As much as I preferred the toned down version of Usagi who resisted her destiny as the cursed moon princess, it made her feel even more like a "Mary Sue" archetype who has everything handed to her without having to do anything to earn it. The romance in both versions of  the show is also a bit forced since it is a result of Usagi and Mamoru's past lives as opposed to their actual feelings toward each other and can be a bit awkward because of the age difference.

I enjoyed Sailor Moon Crystal while it lasted, but then I forgot about it for almost five years when Netflix announced out of the blue that they were releasing a double feature called Sailor Moon Eternal that would cover the next arc of the story. Why they waited so long to continue the series is a mystery to me. I thought it had a nice enough ending in 2017 when the outer sailor senshi decided to taken in Hotaru as a baby, but here we are again. It was a nice change of pace to return to the magical world of empowered women for a day, and I was pleased that they kept the same authentic feel as the rest of Sailor Moon Crystal instead of trying to modernize it like Netflix did to Winx. That said, these movies also reminded me of the reasons that Sailor Moon never quite hit the mark for me. It was visually stunning and followed the same arc as the corresponding season of the original anime, yet it was missing a deeper meaning that so many similar movies about good vs. evil have, most likely due to its overwhelmingly large cast of characters.

My favorite thing about the Eternal saga is Helios, an ethereal man trapped in the body winged unicorn who becomes a love interest for Chibi Usa. Before I knew anything about Sailor Moon in the mid-90s, I was drawn in by the imagery of a pink-haired girl standing with a pure white winged unicorn. People who aren't familiar with the earlier seasons of the show might be a bit creeped out by Chibi Usa's romance because she looks like a little girl, but it was explained in a previous episode that she stopped aging at a certain point when she was lived in the moon kingdoms with her parents. These two movies focused heavily Chibi Usa's desire to have an older body and her jealousy of Usagi for having what she wanted. There was also a creepy comment about how she was attracted to her future father, Mamoru, but she knew she couldn't act on it. I think that Helios is a good match for her and hope that they can find a way to be together in the future.

Helios surprises Chibi Usa with a kiss in Sailor Moon Eternal

The thing that annoyed me the most in this two-part feature was the dialogue. Maybe it's because I decided to be lazy and watch the dub. There were so many moments where one character said something and another repeated the exact same thing that it detracted from my enjoyment of the rest of the films. During the first few minutes of the Eternal saga, Mamoru explains to Usagi that a solar eclipse is when the moon blocks out the sun, and she responds "When the moon blocks out the sun?" Then it continues with scene after scene of one of the sailors responding to something by repeating it in the form of a question. I spent a good portion of my time watching these films yelling "She just said that!" at the TV. Another part where things got awkward was near the end of the story when all the sailors started referring to Usagi and Mamoru only as "Prince" and "Princess" even though they obviously know their names. Since the dub translated Chibi Usa's name as "Small Lady," it referred to her future princess incarnation as "Princess Lady Serenity" to keep part of her original name even though sounded like a second contradictory title.

I would recommend Sailor Moon Eternal to fans of Sailor Moon or Sailor Moon Crystal who want a manga-accurate animation of this arc, but I would also tell those fans to keep their expectations low. As much as I enjoyed the beautiful animation and fairy tale-inspired storytelling, especially one scene that reminded me of the opening of "Sleeping Beauty," the majority of the dialogue was cringe-worthy. I still give it props for being one of the most faithful reboots I've seen in a long time, but that can be both a blessing and a curse. As a result of remaining true to the simple '90s-style storytelling of the manga, it feels more innocent than many other modern-day Netflix reboots but also has some rudimentary storytelling devices that could have been resolved with today's more sophisticated screenwriting techniques. Still, it was refreshing to return to a simpler time when love and friendship alone have the power to take down any foe.


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