Anime Review 243 Sailor Moon (Season 1)

Broadcast TV. The component has defined my hook into various entertainment mediums, from video games, cartoons, western films, true crime and specially anime.

Even though broadcast TV has fallen out of favour thanks to the internet over the years, I still respect what it did for me.

I can even call back the day when those two franchises got me into the anime medium.
I was watching a bunch of kid’s cartoons that were popular around that time and once it got decently late, instead of going to bed that day I decided to stay and watch more cartoons and those two shows that aired would forever impact me. Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon.

It blew how stylish and different they were compared to the previous cartoons I’ve watched.

For a while, I labelled these shows as mysterious cartoons which was hilarious looking back, I was constantly being reminded these shows that I’ve watched are anime, not mysterious cartoons.

It was thanks to these two franchises that my anime journey had truly begun as I started coming to all the shows that were available on broadcast TV, then eventually illegal websites, legal websites like Funimation and Crunchyroll, and then home video.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for the chance encounter with then, I would be watching/buying and reviewing anime today.

With all said I didn’t actually complete them, especially in Sailor Moon’s case.
It’s not like I didn’t tune for them, but rather the show was done rather dirty, despite its popularity. From missing episodes, and episodes airing out of order for certain channels to the whole production issues for the censored dub offering for Sailor Moon.

In the UK we only had the first two seasons air before they suddenly dropped the franchise (minus the reruns). If it already wasn’t bad enough, the censored DVDs for Sailor Moon were an infamous poor seller to the point it nearly bankrupts the company MVM Entertainment and as for 2022, we never had an uncut UK release of the franchise.

As a result, I only watched the first two seasons back in the day as well later on during my earlier watch of the remaining seasons, Sailor Stars being one of the first anime that I’ve watched in subbed.

This was during the mid-2000s.

Now it’s 2022, I owned a lot of anime on home video, reviewed a lot of anime and am financially stable.

I’ve also been visiting and revisiting various shows that I’ve watched/missed out around my childhood years. For example, I decided to revisit the Dragon Ball franchise and Yu Yu Hakusho this year to discover Robotech and One Piece, the latter of which I deeply regard skipping in my childhood.

To keep the childhood hype train going I’ve decided to revisit the Sailor Moon franchise and being the anime collector, I’ve decided to buy all 5 seasons of Sailor Moon plus the movie collection and while I was waiting for each season to arrive, I started to have these worries that the franchise wouldn’t have aged well, or wasn’t as great as I managed.

When all the seasons of Sailor Moon arrived, I decided to put aside my fears and enjoy the series for what it’s worth.

After watching the first season of Sailor Moon, I can officially say that Sailor Moon has beautifully stood the test of time, and it’s a fantastic show that is worth your time. I know I should state so early as I’m still watching Sailor Moon R at the time of this review, but I have a strong feeling that the other seasons barring SuperS (Due to it being the weakest season) would be just great if not better than Season 1.

Sailor Moon is the ultimate feel-good chill anime. It is the type of show you can just watch at your own pace as well as be intrigued by the world and characters. It mostly follows the classic monster of the week formula with a unique twist, which sets Sailor Moon apart from other monster of the week anime before and ever since Sailor Moon. That is reliability. As you know the Sailor Guardians are young teenagers who are experiencing youth, so the writers have beautifully created various scenarios that teenagers around that age would do, only they throw in one or more monsters that are meant to disrupt the girl’s activities.

The best part about the monster of the week formula is we get to spend plenty of time with the girls and get to know them, Going shopping, going to the beach, hairdressing, carnivals, maiden shrine events and many more, effectively allowing our characters’ personalities to bounce off each other well.

It also helps that they are well written as they produced a lot of substance on top of being entertaining. Granted there were some better than others, but I couldn’t tell anyone’s episodes to be bad or subpar, the worst one of the season was just meh. That’s how good the monster of the week formula is in Sailor Moon and it’s the core reason why overarching story arcs of the franchise end up being so impactful in the long run.

The Dark Kingdom arc which is most of the season one of the best introductory arcs I’ve seen to a series, and while it may not be the best-written arc of the Sailor Moon story, it does a brilliant job at introducing the world and characters of Sailor Moon as well present various story elements that would define the franchise especially later on. Due to the excellent monster of the week/filler episodes, Sailor Moon was able to turn the otherwise simple arc into an emotionally gripping experience, especially in the final set of episodes where I started to cry a lot as it was that powerful.

It tackles themes of friendship, trust, growing up and adolescence, the latter two of which is very important to Usagi’s character development of this season. It even provides some strong life lessons and messages that oddly enough still hold up to this day, my personal favourite being true acceptance coming from Rei and Usagi character arcs of this season.

Were there any flaws in this season? unfortunately yes, but they were not major ones. As much as I praise the monster of the week format of Sailor Moon, I wouldn’t pretend that it ended up being too formulaic for its own good, especially in the beginning. To its credit, it did try to cover this up by the aforementioned various scenarios prior to the battles, but I believe the show, in the beginning, would have benefited if it changed up the formula.

While not actually a flaw with the show, the majority of Sailor Moon Season 1 isn’t binge worthy, It’s best to watch 2 to 4 episodes of Sailor Moon Season 1 per day instead of binge-watching as the formulaic episodic would become more notable. Watching 2-4 episodes per day is recommended (unless for the overarching story parts) as you get to digsite the Sailor Moon experience without feeling fatigued or burnout.

The characters are single-handedly the most defining part of Sailor Moon.
They were all fun, interesting and charming in their own ways.

The first Sailor Guardian is Sailor Moon aka Usagi Tsukino

Usagi is one of the most human main heroines I’ve seen. She’s isn’t the badass stock character or the edgy tough MC, but she’s a klutz, angsty, dumb and a crybaby, just like many girls of her age. It’s very easy to label Usagi as a laughable and unlikeable heroine, but that’s honestly the point of her character which makes so well written. Usagi character development is wonderful as she goes from being a weakling crybaby that only thinks about herself to a confident and respectful leader who’s willing to consistently stand on her own two feet, Sure she does have some angst moments, especially before the climax due to a certain plot twist with Mamoru, I feel it was handled very well.

Beyond her development in this season. she’s funny, charming and cool in her own way. I loved how she developed strong bonds with the other Sailor Guardians, especially with Sailor Mars Rei, who despite constantly poking fun and getting on each other’s nerves deeply cared for each other.

The second Sailor Guardian is Sailor Mercury aka Ami Mizuno, Now I like Ami as a character, her interactions with the other characters as well her development, however, she’s by far my least favourite out of the Sailor Guardians. For starters she has the weakest kit out of the group, she has no offensive abilities, sure she has splendid defence/supportive skills that make it up, but as the monster of the week enemies before more threatening, her skills became less useful.
Also compared to the other Sailor Guardians in this season her personality falls flat a bit as she’s mostly a stereotypical bookworm geek which isn’t as appealing compared to the rest of the characters.

With that said, she still offers a lot of value to the show. For one I loved the strategic motherly role that she develops, being the keep the other Sailor Guardians in check. Also, I liked her development in becoming a more sociable person thanks to Usagi and Rei and prior to meeting them, she was always in the book and barely taking the time to socialise with people around her age range.

The third Sailor Guardian is Sailor Mars aka Rei Hino. Honestly, when watching this season at first, I wasn’t partially a fan of her due to her tsundereish attitude as well as being mean-spirited to Usagi, however, she quickly grew on me to a point she ended up being my second favourite Sailor Guardian. Sure her mean-spirited antics to Usagi got a grading after a while, but I feel that has a strong developmental purpose for Usagi. She simply wants to see the best of Usagi by dragging her out of her childish and clumsy ways, so she can be the best Sailor Guardian leader.

Heck, I believe her character with Usagi is the main highlight of her character, outside of being the badass shrine maiden that possesses psychic exorcism powers. She’s just the perfect foil/best friend that Usagi needed and I believe if it wasn’t for her, then I don’t think Usagi wouldn’t have changed. She perfectly bounces off Usagi so well that everything that I stated before forms a very powerful friendship. A friendship that would strongly develop across the show. Her complementing Usagi isn’t all Rei’s character, she receives plenty of growth where she starts to open up to the other Sailor Guardians as well as develop kindness and understanding, in contrast to the strict, reserved bully that you saw in the beginning. Outside of Usagi, she’s the most developed character in the show.

In many ways, Rei is the Vegeta as well a small pinch of Saiyan Saga Piccolo of Sailor Moon to Usagi Goku and Saiyan Saga kid Gohan.

The fourth Sailor Guardian is Sailor Jupiter Makoto Kino. Out of all the Sailor Guardians, she’s my favourite of the bunch. I love the tomboyish personality that she ditches out in combat as well as being a feminine royal model by cooking, shopping, falling in love, etc. She’s also the only Sailor Guardian that is consistently willing to stand up for herself and her friends. My favourite thing about Makato is that she embodies the don’t judge by a book for its cover. When you first see her she is tall, cautious and looks like a female brute that loves getting into brawls on a daily basis, however, once you get to know you will find out that she isn’t as scary as you thought, she’s a nice caring person at heart, loves cooking, enjoys doing female activities that would do anything to protect her friends.

The final member of the Sailor Guardians is Sailor Venus aka Minako Aino and unfortunately, she got the short end of the stick this season. She’s by no means a bad character, in fact, she’s a decently fun character and I liked her premiere episodes, however, appeared so late to the season. I’m talking about 13 episodes before the season is over.. As a result, barring her premiere episode, we barely got to know her aside from being Usagi 2.0, but far more underdeveloped. Not only that, but aside from her usual duties of accompanying the other Sailor Guardians, she didn’t have much to do in season 1. I feel like her character didn’t take off into the second arc of Sailor Moon R.
Overall while she did have great moments, Minako had much more to be desired.

Before I talk about the villains, I like to go over two more characters, the two characters that other than Rei were the key aspect of Usagi’s character development in season 1.

Not gonna lie, I liked how Naru was handled in the story.
Some would label Naru as a plot device that only existed to trigger the various monster of the week enemies to wreak havoc, but she was a charming and fun one, she’s the character that more than less is a reflection of Usagi’s old life prior becoming a Sailor Guardian. It’s interesting and sort of sad in many ways especially after the first half with that tragic story event where she more than less gets slowly written out of the show in a bittersweet manner. Not only that Usagi pretty much stops hanging around with her after a certain point. Sure some say that Usagi became a horrible friend to Naru over time, but realistically it had to be done, in order to protect her as well as other normal people from further danger.
For one she was often a victim of the enemies’ plans for the monster of the week elements that had the potential to harm her. Usagi had over time developed strong friendships with the other Sailor Guardians, especially Rei over time beyond their Sailor Guardian activities. Finally, she ended up becoming a major victim of one of the central antagonists of the season which caused her PTSD in the end.

The second character I want to mention is Tuxedo Mask aka Mamoru Chiba, the mysterious hero that aids Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians in combat. I liked Tuxedo Mask especially in this season as outside of being a valuable ally in combat, he’s the character that provided the mysterious elements of Sailor Moon. I also liked his relationship with Sailor Moon as they complement each other even if it’s temporary. He may look like a simple character on the surface, but once you get to know his tragic backstory and struggles, you cannot help but feel sympathy for him.

We also have the two cats Luna and Artemis who did a good job at supporting the Sailor Guardians even if they fall into plot device territory at times.

The Dark Kingdom aka the villains were generally solid overall. They may not be the most complex Sailor Moon villains around, but I still overall liked their presence. They are threatening, interesting and even sympathetic in some cases.

One of the amazing things that I noticed about Sailor Moon is how outstanding the aesthetics were, Sure the animation specially in this season may not be the best, but the show aesthetic is what I label as a visual masterpiece. I would argue that Sailor Moon is one of if not the best-looking animes of the 90s era of anime. The level of attention to detail put in the show’s backgrounds and characters are phenomenal It feels like I’m entering the 90s era of Japan every time I watch the show.

The colour background usage is especially noteworthy as many locations will only use one of two colours, but ones that aren’t weren’t the same colour let’s just say blue they will have various shades of blue or another corresponding colour that matches the aforementioned colour for example purple. Outside of the Dark Kingdom villain scenes, Sailor Moon is a colourful show to a point at night time, instead of colouring the city landscape in black the cityscape is blue. Meanwhile, in day time the city landscape is bright basic soft colours, while the eventing the city landscape is pink.

They even went as far as to design many of the girl’s houses/bedrooms. For example, Usagi room is originally surprisingly neet pinkish, filled with the girly essentials while being on the more stuffy side while Rei’s room has more space that allows guests to move around freely as well as having her essentials better organised.

Speaking of Rei’s place the Shrine Maiden building is more often than not used as a hideout for the Sailor Guardians to plan their attack against a more powerful foe as well as gather intel thanks to Luna and later on Artemis.

The character designs are beautiful, lively and well-detailed. I loved how the character faces are shaped as the simple round faces that the five girls have to allow for amazing character expressions. Heck, I would argue that Sailor Moon was one of the first anime that gave birth to the whole profile pic icons and react with a character expression gif/still pic instead of typing a boring text which makes conversations about anime/manga more exciting. It’s frankly insane that there are still people today still reacting to their feelings with a Sailor Moon gif/still pics. It displays how aesthetically pleasing the show is.

Speaking of that, Sailor Moon is one of the many shows from the 90s that has an amazing fashion scene, meaning outside of school/sailor guardian battling, the five girls don’t wear the same casual clothes, they were all different clothes that go along with their personality types.

Honestly, I could go on talking about the different styles of character eyes as well as the impressive camera work, but I will properly be here all day, but let’s just say that Sailor Moon is one of the most detailed anime of its era.

While the art is outstanding, I cannot say the same for the animation and it’s mainly for one reason alone, the stock footage. Anyone who’s been following me on social media would know how critical I can be with stock footage, while Sailor Moon Season 1 isn’t the worst stock footage I’ve encountered. It’s still pretty notable. When the characters aren’t fighting and just hanging around the animation is decent, if not basic, however for the majority of the season when it comes to fight scenes, you will begin the notice that there were a lot of cut corners, the most infamously the transformations for each Sailor Scout as well the Usagi post which has been heavily reused since episode 1.

The soundtrack composed by the late Takanori Arisawa is wonderful and I would argue that it’s the best anime soundtrack of the 90s, Sure the Neon Genesis Evangelion soundtrack may have been iconic and Cowboy Bebop soundtrack had the diversity factor, but I feel like the soundtrack here was more atmosphere and immersive that perfectly the tone of the show. From the classical relaxing upbeat tracks to the fast-paced classical intense action tracks, the show felt so alive, even if certain tracks were too overused for their own good at times.

The opening theme Moonlight Densetsu by DALI is one of the most iconic opening themes in anime. It’s a catchy, mysterious and addicting opening theme that gets me excited for the show.

It also has two ending themes and sadly one of them heavily outclassed the other.
The first ending theme Heart Moving by Misae Takamatsu is a powerful catchy ending theme that perfectly closes an episode of the show.
The second ending Princess Moon by Ushio Hashimoto on the other hand is a forgettable average pop song.

The English Dub by Viz and Studiopolis is fantastic. Properly one of the better dubs I’ve heard in quite some time and it’s a strict improvement over the original censored dub.

It features a lot of top-tier dub talent that did a brilliant job at bringing these characters to life.
Stephanie Sheh was fantastic voicing the klutzy innocent main lead Usagi, Easily her best anime performance to date.

Amanda Celine Miller was excellent at voicing the pseudo tomboyish, caring Makato.
Kate Higgins did a nice job voicing the intelligent bookworm Ami.
Johnny Yong Bosch and Michelle Ruff were splendid as Artemis and Luna respectively.
My favourite performance in the dub by far is Cristina Valenzuela as Rei. She’s perfectly captured the competitively serious Rei to the tea.
It honestly feels like I’m watching a Marmalade Boy and Code Geass dub as many of the actors here also voiced many of the characters here which is a nice treat given how I loved the dubs for those two so much.

Even with its flaws Sailor Moon Season 1 is a wonderful anime that has stood the test of time. It has almost everything that I want from an anime classic. Brilliant characters, splendid production values, wonderful music, amazing thematic execution and a fun and well-thought-out storyline, despite the episodic nature.
If you are someone who’s looking to get into retro anime or magical girl shows, I would urgently recommend Sailor Moon as it’s one of a kind that perfectly captures the genre and its sequels will be even better.

With everything said, I’m truly glad that I re-watched Sailor Moon Season 1 as it’s truly a breath of fresh air compared to the usual stock, boring and empty seasonal modern anime offerings that you would see today.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in the future where I will cover Sailor Moon R and the first movie.

Must Watch Recommendation.

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