Sailor Moon Newbie Reviews: Episodes 1-4 (Meet ‘n’ Greet)

Moon Prism Power, Make Up!

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So I know episodes 5-6 came out yesterday, but this post is just for last week’s batch (1-4). It turns out that trying to launch a blog while moving to a new state isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds, so I’m behind. I’m hoping to have a post for episodes 5-6 later this week, and then I’ll be able to blog the new episodes as Viz (re)releases them on Mondays.

Also, this was a hefty chunk of episodes including the pilot (henceforth known as “meet ‘n’ greet” posts), so it’s on the lengthy side. Future posts should be much shorter.

And now, on with the show!

The Exposition Bear Next Door

Sailor Moon, for the uninitiated, is the story of 14-year-old Tsukino Usagi, a self-proclaimed crybaby with good friends, poor grades, and a surprisingly stable Anime Family. (Two parents living with their children?! One you have as got to be evil.)

One day Usagi rescues a cat from a group of rough and tumble grade-school street punks, only to discover the cat is a magical cat–and seriously, Usa, Japanese folktales and modern media are overrun with magical cats, why are you surprised by this? If I met an alien in New Mexico or one of the four horsemen in Sleepy Hollow, would I be surprised by this? Of course not. Pop culture has prepared us for these things.

Anyway, the cat introduces herself as Luna and proceeds to give Usagi the power to turn into the “pretty guardian who fights for love and justice,” Sailor Moon. Her weapons include a flying tiara, ultrasonic crying, and eventually a super-useful pen that can change the user’s appearance–but Luna only gives out Lovely Items when you deserve them, so Usagi won’t get this one until Episode 3.

Our magical cat appeared at the purrfect time, it turns out, as an eeeevil group of probably-aliens-but-possibly-demons (alimons?) led by Queen Beryl have arrived in Japan seeking something called the “Legendary Silver Crystal.” Unfortunately they’re having a hard time finding it (Beryl didn’t hire any Hufflepuffs, apparently), and, in the meantime, they need energy. For reasons. Beryl orders her eeevil henchmen Jadeite to harvest energy from the humans, so he gets to work imbuing every day items with life-sapping energy. And guess whose job it is to stop him?

Once the premise is established, the episodes pretty much write themselves: Jadeite schemes, the people around Usagi start acting strangely, Usagi (or more often, Luna) figures out what’s going on and vanquishes Jadeite and/or his lackeys, although Jadeite still manages to harvest enough energy to keep his boss from firing him (probably literally).

Oh, and there’s this guy named Tuxedo Mask who keeps showing up whenever Sailor Moon is fighting baddies. Here’s what we know about him:

  • He spent way more time on his costume than his superhero name.
  • Someone’s rose bushes are now very bare because of him.
  • His entire purpose is to show up when Sailor Moon is struggling, distract the bad guys with a flower, shout encouragement (“Now is not the time for tears!”) and disappear again. So, basically, he’s Sailor Moon’s cheerleader. I am so on board with this.
  • Usagi is crushing on him pretty hard already. They’re going to hold soooo many hands.
  • He’s totally not that dark-haired d-bag Usagi keeps running into on the street. They’re totally not the same person. You guys. They’re totally not.

Yes, But Did You Like It?

The first three episodes were pretty formulaic (and a bit silly), but I also thought they were a lot of fun. I found myself constantly shifting between smiles and eye rolls, but there’s a straightforward exuberance at the heart of this show that’s hard not to like.

Even Usagi mostly works for me, and she really shouldn’t. She’s clumsy, ditzy, boy-crazy, cries constantly (it’s seriously one of her superpowers), and generally embodies the kind of protagonist who drives me up the wall.

And yet… She bounces back after she falls. She does occasionally have her moments of insight, like when she deduced that the new fortune telling parlor was the cause of her classmates’ strange behavior. And she seems to genuinely want to help people, even if she sometimes wants to help herself more (her willingness to have the old fortune teller read her palm when everyone else was ignoring him really swayed me to her side, I think).

I can’t say I like Usa, exactly (I find myself cheering when Luna gets on her case), but I don’t dislike her either. And as long as I remind myself that she’s 14, I can even find her a bit endearing at times. She has enough good points to keep me from despising her but enough flaws to give her room to grow as the series progresses. She’s shown glimmers of doing just that throughout the first three episodes. Let’s hope that trend–for both Usagi and the show itself–continues.

…Of course, then Episode Four (“Usagi Battles the Evil Fitness Center”) happened, which is so bad that Tuxedo Mask doesn’t even show up for it. At first, watching ‘90s anime girls discuss body image issues was funny in an awful kind of way (“The ideal diet is falling in love!”), but it shifted from funny to uncomfortable when I considered what the heck kind of message it was sending its target audience.

I kept hoping the episode would save itself, and while its “moral” (some cross between “getting what you want requires hard work” and “seriously, being skinny isn’t that big of a deal”) could have been much, MUCH worse, it still basically adheres to the idea that a girl should change her weight to impress the person she likes, rather than for personal or health reasons. If you’re giving this show to your little sister, either sit her down and explain to her why everyone in the episode is wrong, or just skip it altogether.

Final First Impressions (Or, TL;DR)

As long as Episode 4 is a hiccup and not a trend, I really do think this whole 200-episode adventure could be a fun one. And if Episode 4 is a sign of things to come, er, well… at least I’ll enjoy lampooning the almighty hell out of it.

Either way, there are all kinds of things I can blog about, particularly when it comes to the shoujo (“girls”) genre and how Sailor Moon holds up (or doesn’t) for a contemporary audience. So I’m looking forward to that, for sure. Who knew talking cats and flying tiaras could be so interesting?

(Note: I’m going to start taking my own screenshots, but for this first post I pulled a bunch from the Interwebs, and mostly from the Sailor Moon Screencaps Tumblr. Go visit them, too!)

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