My God, it’s full of Sailor Stars!
And so we come at last to the end of things. As is tradition, I’ve got a Stars retrospective after the recap, with general commentary on the season as a whole. As for any overarching thoughts about the entire series and my two-year trip through the Mooniverse, I’ve decided to save those for another post tentatively scheduled to go up the first week of May.
For now, though, we’ve got a finale to tackle!
Episode 200 – To The Sailor Stars Through Difficulties
Fulfilling her season-long purpose, Chibi-Chibi (a.k.a. C.C.) (a.k.a. Galaxia’s star seed) (a.k.a. The Light of Hope) (a.k.a. Sailor ex Machina) turns into a muthafuggin sword so Sailor Moon can use her to seal away Galaxia. Basically Galaxia released her own star seed, complete with Sealing Sword, as a fail safe in case she was possessed by the Chaos. This fits with our knowledge up till now and (kind of) (I guess) justifies C.C.’s lack of personality since she’s more vessel than human, so I can roll with it.
Galaxia’s worried enough about this new development to break her own bracelets, going Super Senshi Level Three and switching her alignment from Lawful to Chaotic Evil. But Usagi’s a lover, not a fighter, so she uses the sword purely for defense, still insisting Galaxia can be saved. Along the way she accidentally stabs Galaxia, to which Galaxia responds by shattering the sword, Hope, and C.C. all in one go.
I can’t decide if this is a good thing or an annoying thing, because while it does at least put the resolution of the story back into the hands of actual characters instead of convenient plot devices, it also makes C.C. functionally pointless. There is nothing she does that couldn’t have been done by someone else, so why is she even here at all? I mean, I know “why”–because she’s in the manga–but they’ve cut manga characters before when it didn’t fit with the anime’s story, so that’s not really an excuse. Sailor Moon has usually done a good job of balancing its anime-original content with the source material’s content, but C.C. is a pretty glaring failure, I’d say.
At any rate, Usagi both refuses to give up and to fight Galaxia, rejecting Galaxia’s definition of what it means to have the “courage and pride of a guardian” in favor of her own Super Friendship Powers. She believes there’s still a “fragment of hope” left in Galaxia’s heart, some piece of her who still loves this world the way she once did. And so Usagi strips herself down to her barest self (metaphorically and literally!), pushes through the Chaos and grief, and reaches out to what remains of Galaxia herself.
And, of course, Galaxia reaches back.
The two purge the Chaos from Galaxia’s body, dispersing it out into the galaxy to live in everyone’s hearts side-by-side with Hope. Galaxia points out this means new conflicts will arise, but Usagi encourages her to believe that people will listen to their better halves and not give in to Chaos. Wishing to right her own wrongs, Galaxia shoots off into the Milky Way with the many star seeds at her side, planning to restore them (and their physical forms) to their proper worlds. Granted, all those worlds are dead and full of phages, but if it means Siren and Crow are reunited, I’ll still tag that as a happy ending.
This means the star seeds that belong to our world can be restored as well, and so Usagi’s friends, boyfriend, and plot device return to her in sparkly shoujo glory. Princess Kakyu’s back, too, so our battered Star Lights are having themselves a pretty good day as well. I think we all know what reaction gif I have to use now:
With the galaxy saved, C.C. disappears as arbitrarily as she arrived, Kakyu and the Lights return to their home planet, and Usagi and her friends go back to their dual lives as students and guardians. She and Mamoru make out beneath an alarmingly large moon as we bookend the series by having Usagi echo her early introductory monologue and the ORIGINAL OPENING THEME, YAAAAS, plays us through the end credits.
And that’s, um… it, I guess. The end!
The Sailor Stars and Gripes Forever: A Retrospective
Okay. So. I think if you’ve been following along with me then you’ll know I was pretty lukewarm about Stars, and while I mostly enjoyed this finale, my overall feeling is one of disappointment rather than satisfaction. As I’ve said before, I don’t like writing negative reviews–I don’t think they accomplish much beyond provoking conflict and raining on other people’s parades–but I’ve been recapping this show for two solid years now and I can’t just skip this retrospective or lie to you and pretend I thought it was all great.
That said, I have no real, like, “moral” problems with Stars. There are some things I wish it had done better in terms of Big Ideas or Social Commentary, but I don’t think it’s promoting anything actively harmful, either. I know it’s a pretty popular season among Sailor Moon fans and I don’t begrudge anyone their enjoyment of it. I’m glad you liked it! I wish I’d liked it as much as you did! And I have no interest in spoiling that for you.
So if you love Stars and don’t want to read about someone who didn’t love it, then this is your chance to close the tab and go read something else. We can part ways for now and geek out together like a pair of proper Mooninites when my series retrospective goes up. No hard feelings, I promise.
Still here? Then buckle in. If I have to explain why a story didn’t work for me, then I’m going to take the time (and word count) to explain it as clearly as I can.
Let’s start with what I did really like, which was a handful of standout episodes and character beats–Iron Mouse’s ridiculous farewell episode, Siren and Crew’s frenemyship, HaruMi’s death scene, Minako’s little story arc–as well as the Big Bad and the central idea/argument she helped represent. I think Stars’s heart was in the right place in terms of the story it wanted to tell, and I think that it, like SuperS, did a nice job of using the antagonist as a foil to show why Usagi, for all her flaws, is still worthy of being The Hero.
I finished Star Driver (an Igarashi original project that I kiiiind of adored) a day before finishing Stars, so I can’t help but draw comparisons and parallels, but I think Igarashi is personally very interested in challenging traditionally masculine ideals of strength, and that he uses Galaxia and Usagi to help explore that. Galaxia is the Traditional Masculine Hero, the lone ranger who’s so physically strong she saves everyone on her own…which then leads to isolation, despair, and eventually the dehumanization of others. There’s a fine line between “to protect” and “to own,” between helping someone and trying to control them, and it’s a lot easier to cross that line when you’ve never had to be protected by someone else.
Contrasted with Galaxia, Usagi freely admits that she’s “not that strong” and often needs or just plain wants help from others. Even when she saves the day, she does so in part because of the faith others have put into her, and uses that as her strength. I think Stars, like much of Sailor Moon, very neatly reverses the Classic Hero Ideal, showing how acknowledging one’s own weaknesses and relying on others is its own kind of strength, because it keeps you empathetic and respectful, seeing others as people instead of objects to be acted upon.
Sailor Moon has always been a pretty smart story in terms of how it takes traditional feminine ideals like communication and cooperation and “weaponizes” them, showing how they can be used to defeat “evil” just as well–and sometimes more effectively–than traditional masculine ideals. I love that about it, and I’m glad Stars continued that tradition in its own way.
Unfortunately, Stars fumbles a whole lot in the execution. You’ve already heard me grumble about Chibi-Chibi the Plot Device, how Seiya was the only Star Light who received a distinct personality despite a ton of “character building” episodes, all the wasted thematic potential, forced drama, and repeated story beats, so I won’t go into detail about that here. Instead, I want to talk about how Stars undercuts its own central message about the importance of others by kind of…ignoring all those others.
With the exception of Minako and maybe Haruka and Michiru, none of the guardians get much in the way of character-focused episodes or anything resembling their own story arcs this season. The Inners’ interactions center almost exclusively around the Star Lights and Usagi, and outside of a few cute touches here and there, they tend to act as a sort of Hive Mind, to the point where many of their lines seem interchangeable.
But hey, at least they had lines–Pluto and Hotaru were brought back so they could do almost nothing, and poor Mamoru and Chibiusa were written out altogether. Sailor Moon‘s greatest strength is its ensemble cast, and dropping that in favor of focusing exclusively on a few new characters caused the season to lose a lot of its variety and energy.
That’s not even taking into account the larger Mooniverse, which the series had built up over the course of four seasons only to ditch here completely. Naru, Umino, Motoki, Unazuki, Chibiusa’s friends, Rei’s grandpa, MY SWEET DOPEY TEDDY…heck, did anyone in Usagi’s family other than her mother even make an appearance? I get that the Moonies’ dual lives would naturally cause them to become somewhat insular, but to have it happen so totally and swiftly feels more like poor writing than a gradual, organic development.
This lack of a supporting cast coupled with the season’s halfhearted star target stories also gives Juuban (and the world at large) a generic quality, robbing the alien threat of a lot of its tension and stakes. I know others have criticized S and SuperS for spending so much time on one-off characters, but I think this is one of Sailor Moon‘s greatest strengths: That unlike so many other superhero shows, it treats those being attacked like real, layered humans instead of just random, faceless victims.
In a show that so strongly promotes empathy and redemption, it’s vital that it focus on the people the Moonies save as much as it focuses on the Moonies themselves. In past seasons, we knew who Usagi was fighting for, and had real, specific reasons why we wanted the city and its people to be saved. This season, though? Seeing Juuban covered in darkness with generic citizens getting starvested? There’s no human connection there, no sense of the subjects Usagi protects as opposed to the objects Galaxia controls, and that’s a disservice to the very message Sailor Moon and Stars itself were trying to convey.
The thing is, for all that, I really don’t think Stars is a bad standalone Sailor Moon season. It doesn’t have a lot of high points but it doesn’t have a lot of low points, either. It’s consistently decent, mostly fun, sometimes annoying, occasionally moving, and flirts with some worthwhile ideas even if it doesn’t always follow through with them. Overall I probably enjoyed it a little more than parts of SuperS and Season One, and maybe more than R as a whole. As a standalone season, I’d be feeling mostly positive about it and ready to see what Igarashi could do with the next arc, now that he’d had some time to get his feet under him.
But there’s the rub, because Stars isn’t a standalone season–it’s the final season, and Episode 200 is supposed to be the series finale. That, more than anything, is why Stars has left me feeling so discontent. It’s like the anime staff didn’t get the memo, because outside of the size of the threat (Stars definitely upped the ante with a galaxy-destroyer, I can’t deny that), nothing about this season feels like The Last One at all.
Instead of focusing on its central (and supporting) cast, providing them with satisfying story lines to grant them significant growth and wrap up their individual arcs, it ignores and homogenizes them in favor of a bunch of newcomers. Even our “miracle romance” gets shafted so we can cram in a way-too-late-in-the-game love triangle. There’s no tying these events into the founding of Neo Tokyo, no setting us up for the future we know will eventually arrive.
I get that the scouts are still in high school with long (long!) lives ahead of them, and so there’s only so much in the way of a “conclusion” that you can do here, but this season should have, at the very least, led to a significant paradigm shift. We just found out the galaxy is full of Sailors, and it has absolutely no effect on our characters or their lives. Everyone just goes home and the status quo is completely restored. So what changed, really? What makes this an appropriate moment to turn the final page on our story?
I have no idea. And that’s what’s got me so bummed by Stars. I wanted to leave the last episode of Sailor Moon thoughtful and satisfied and Full O’ Feels the way I did at the end of S and SuperS, and I didn’t get that, and that stinks. I don’t want this two-year adventure to end with a grouchy post. That, more than anything, is why I decided to wrap this project up in a week (or two) with a flourish instead of leaving us here with a thud. Hopefully this long-winded critique hasn’t driven you all away, and you’ll be back to enjoy a far more positive stroll down Newbie memory lane. Punny titles are, of course, guaranteed.
This, That, and the Other
- Our final episode title is the obscurest of Stars references yet: Ad Astra Per Aspera is my home state’s (totally awesome) motto, meaning “To the Stars Through Difficulties.” How could I resist?
- Watching the Star Driver and Sailor Stars finales right next to each other led to an unexpected realization: Igarashi sure does like him some naked ladies. He’s actually pretty good about not sexualizing them in either episode, but the back-to-back nudity-riddled finales struck me as kind of hilarious.
- Even HaruMi, Queens of Coolness, thought the Star Lights’s sunset transformation was A+ 100% Awesome.
- …Wait, did Usagi seriously never realize that Seiya had romantic feelings for her? HOW?! Just HOW?!
- Hark! A finale point! Lackluster finales aside, these recaps have been a blast, and reading all your reactions (new and nostalgic) has been a ton of fun, too. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts, and let’s chat about it again soon, okay?
27 thoughts on “Sailor Moon Newbie Reviews: Episode 200 (Stars Finale)”
I’d been behind swearing I’d get round to catching up on Stars and THEN read the recaps and then…didn’t, but I knew i had to pop in for the finale post at least. Oofta, it’s a shame to hear it fell down so hard. And WHY A LOVE TRIANGLE ANYWAY. It’s the worst device, the worst, and it’s not like UsaMo wouldn’t have, y’know, real world problems they could face as high school sweethearts entering adulthood and I just…..agh. But….at least poly Outer Senshi and their small doom child? That’s a thing this season made canonically exist?
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Heh, I’m realizing that calling it a love triangle is really misleading if you’re reading this without any context. It’s probably closer to a ship ‘tease. I guess? I don’t know how to explain it without detailed spoilers, and despite all those critiques I really do hope you watch Stars at some point, because I’d be curious to see what you think about it both as a long-time Sailor Moon fan and a Cool Person Whose Opinion I Value. Maybe you’d spot something in the story I missed, or really like the new characters, or etc. Or we could complain together, which is way more fun than complaining alone!
As for the poly Outer Senshi and their doom child… I mean, yes, it does canonically exist, so yay! Just… don’t expect it to exist on-screen in very large doses. ^^;
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I mean I’m aware from fandom osmosis of Seiya’s general existence…thing…still not a fan. Sigh. Has to be better than Crystal, right?
CRYSTAL SEASON 3 IS ACTUALLY FUN THO?? So I don’t know what’s true anymore.
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Crystal Season 3 is awesome
I’m not fond of when Love Triangles are hate don in concept. What I want is more openness to resolving them with a Non-Monogamous resolution.
While I adore this season to bits, I do admit that it had the tendency to underservice characters. I mostly get why Setsuna and Hotaru were largely excluded though – Both characters were pretty OP in their own ways and have limited use in terms of fighting. That, and both characters story arcs were so directly tied to Chibiusa, who is largely absent this season. I get why Chibiusa was written out too, since her starring role in SuperS wasn’t received very well and the character is also largely absent from this arc in the manga. (That appearance in Usagi’s dream in 198 probably wouldn’t have been such a gut punch if she wasn’t as absent as she was). That, and while SuperS had its very glaring flaws it was a strong character arc for Chibiusa and a good note for the character to go out on. That being said, I do wish Rei, Ami, and Makoto had gotten more of a character arc. I’m thrilled to bits how strong Minako’s arc this season was though, because I feel like out of all of them she had shafted the most in terms of character building.
I think a lot of the reason for the clean slate in terms of characters was because of the fact that, especially in the beginning of the season, it payed off the promise made toward the end of SuperS where the characters grow up and their world starts to change with entering High School. Hell, it can be inferred by many of the supporting characters’ almost non-presence in S and SuperS that Usagi and the others were growing apart from their junior high attachments and becoming less dependent on their guardians. (Hell, Usagi’s mother only shows up in two episodes due to the introduction of another child character).
Overall, this season goes out of its way to elicit callbacks to the first two seasons. The most obvious are Seiya whose behavior often mirrors Season 1 Mamoru and ChibiChibi whose presence draws parellels to Chibiusa’s mysterious entrance (both obviously have radically different outcomes). Others I can think of off the top of my head include a reversal of Minako’s original motivation (season 1 – leaving behind hobbies and passions for duty, stars – finding time for her hobbies and passions while maintaining her sense of duty), Two villains whose devotion to each other defines them more than their mission (Zoisite/Kunzite and Siren/Crow), A villain desperately trying to stop what they’ve helped build only to die tragically (Saphir and Tin Nyanko), Two hero factions who have essentially the same motivations inexplicably don’t team up due to their lack of understanding in one another (The Guardians/Tuxedo Mask and The Guardians/The Starlights) [This is different from the Inner/Outer Conflict in S since they did not have the same motivations], Yet another arc keeping Usagi and Mamoru apart, A villain who voluntarily let darkness consume her and use her as its instrument (Beryl in order to have Endymion, Galaxia in order to save the Galaxy), AND the search for a mythical princess (Luna’s search for Serenity, The Starlight’s search for Kakyuu), etc etc etc. Some of them are recurring themes but a lot of the parallels seems intentional to invoke nostalgia.
I feel like I mentioned this before, but the inner senshi have several episodes where they reach out to connect with a Starlight. While famous, each are fundamentally alone and focused on their duty (Seiya seems like the only one in the beginning to hold any value for their comradery that extends beyond duty). This parellels Usagi reaching out to the Inner Senshi back in season one who were also all either famous or infamous depending on what interpretation you take (Ami with her high test scores, Rei as the shrine maiden to a shrine with a poor rep, Makoto basically having a yankee rep, and Minako fighting crime alone as Sailor V). Each pass on the same kindness they were given to the Starlights even if they’re hostile (I remember Rei being pretty hostile in Season 1).
I think I’ve blathered on enough now, but I think I’ll sum it up as one of the better arcs of the series. If given more notice maybe they could have constructed a more heightened ending for the series (maybe cut out some of the Starlight angst in the last few episodes and add in some more end capping of character arcs like Minako’s awesome idol audition episode). I definitely think it holds up a lot better than R in terms of writing and SuperS in terms of actually having a story arc for the whole season.
Maybe it’ll be too much to hope that you’ll give another crack at Sailor Moon Crystal now that it’s improved leaps and bounds (though I still think Part 2 did a better job in a lot of places with adapting the Black Moon arc than R did – particularly where Chibiusa and Pluto are concerned). IMO the different interpretations of this story across mediums (manga/90s anime/Crystal/Live Action/Stage Musicals) is one of the most interesting parts of Sailor Moon as a property.
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I AM SO SORRY I DIDN’T MEAN TO WRITE A POST THIS LONG IT JUST HAPPENED orz
A LONG post? On MY blog, which is KNOWN for its BREVITY? HOW DARE YOU, SIRRAH. :p
Seriously though, I’m glad people are passionate enough about Sailor Moon to talk about it in-depth like this. I may not always have the time to respond in kind, but I really enjoying reading them!
Congradulations on finishing an achievement this big! <3
Your thoughts on season are a precious read from an old fan perspective because of this thing when you first see a series as a kid without putting much thought to it and then find yourself unable to judge it because you already know it all by heart but only on surface level. Like "so that was a perspective too! Never thought of that!" And first time watchers that review are rare in a franchise this old.
My thought on Stars is that it ended up suffering from a kind of an evil irony in what it was different from other seasons in that all of them were written to be the last one without plans for 1 more later – and thus tried to be as climactic as they can.
But Stars is the only one that seems like it was written with the idea "surely it can't be the last" so they tried to make it as inconsequential as it gets – a bunch of filler that only focuses on the newcomer chars and does nothing for the old cast with an ending of as little consequence as all it did was only restore the status quo from the start of the season. The only quality change was that it brought back Pluto and Saturn, other than that these 33 episodes may have never happened.
So a series that focused to love and dreams ended with nobody else finding love, nobody having their dreams fulfilled…
Which seems like the ground work to make the next season possible, which the writers seems to have assumed to come but when it never did they still didn't rewrite the last episode to include any new content to make it into a real ending. Which I guess makes it a product of laziness and general inadequacy and disinterest. No way the season 1 would get a continuation had it been made with this little passion.
But the best thing about Sailor Moon is that it has many mediums, each having things its done better than others, so as you discover more things Sailor Moon those elements you liked best in different mediums combine into an ideal that only exists in your head, of what this series may have been like had it been done perfectly, a combination of those traits that different mediums exceled at. A thing most good fanfics do,
So even an lacking season had a lot of worth in it. The character designs, the music, the voices, even the mannerisms hinting at a lacking characterization of the new characters, all those are precious things that make this franchise richer.
And lacking seriality was something all seasons suffered from, as these series focused on episodic fun and drama. The anime focused on characterization while the manga focused on a serial plot. Both were made at the same time with the intention of complimenting each other while doing different things.
And that was the perfect Sailor Moon in my heart until lately I started watching the old musicals and discovered they had their qualities too, mostly fixing those times when the anime's characteriation failed. Like can you imagine Pluto speaking in a voice that displays a personality other than a generic servant?
So there will always be some more Sailor Moon wherever you feel like you're addicted and need another dose, as its a franchise that keep on giving. <3
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“Wait, did Usagi seriously never realize that Seiya had romantic feelings for her? HOW?! Just HOW?!”
Myself, I read that scene as Usagi displaying her increased maturity in a way of being developed into a bit of a bitch. Like, how does she treat a unrequired love coming her way? She mocks it publicly.
She did know to dodge that one time Seiya attempted to kiss her on the lips. So unless she developed an early sclerosis from getting blasted too many times, she knew exactly what she was saying. Yay for development, I guess.
Dee, thank you so much for the recaps.
It’s my first time commenting ( this is a now or never situation ), but I have been reading your recaps for a while now. I first came across them on TMS, it must have been halfway through R… every week I looked forward to your gifs, puns, and opinions. And then one day I realised the posts didn’t originate from TMS and all of a sudden I had twenty recaps of yours waiting to be read! What a good day that was.
My favourite arc of the Sailor Moon anime has always been Super S, even though in France they stopped broadcasting the series a couple of episodes before the Amazon trio’s redemption. Can you imagine making it through 98% of their interminable search for Pegasus only to be denied the end of their arc! Not to speak of being denied the Amazing Amazon Quartet. So should you ever meet a French person in their thirties, whatever they do, however they act, never forget that they have been traumatised as children, that their dreams have been shattered by not having seen half of Super S ( and definitely not Stars ).
There was something about Super S that really appealed to me as a child. I didn’t mind ChibiUsa as the hero, but to me it was all about the bursting colours of that season, the circus theme, the music ( THE MUSIC ), the silly – but awesome – monsters. Aesthetically I think Super S is a masterpiece. And, it has to be said, the obvious rape metaphors went right over my head, so clearly I wasn’t an insightful teenager.
I wanted to leave a comment to firstly thank you for your work recapping Sailor Moon – done – and secondly because I wanted to share my views on Stars, a series I only saw as an adult. I had read the complete manga back in the day but could barely remember what happened in the Stars arc, and I had heard a lot of bad things about that part of the anime before seeing it.
Having finally watched Stars a couple of years ago and rewatched it alongside your recaps, I can’t help but dislike Stars despite the fact that it’s not THAT bad. The opening episodes with Nehelenia were fine with me ( I always considered them more as an epilogue to Super S than an opening to Stars ), but I found the twenty or so episodes devoted to Galaxia’s minions search for a StarSeed completely unengaging.
I mean, if I understand correctly, the “true” StarSeeds are only found within Sailor Soldiers and the “animamates” know that, being Sailors who lost their Seed, so it makes absolutely zero sense for the antagonists to attack random people and then LEAVE every time the sailor guardians show up! Am I missing something here? Of course, it wasn’t the first time in Sailor Moon history that the search for an item turned out to be a mine for plotholes ( how does the Trio not realise that ChibiMoon being the one to call on Pegasus in every episode they should at least check out her mirror – erm, sorry, that’s gross ), but I suppose the stories being told around the search were almost always interesting in previous seasons, plus there is always a way to make up reasons in your head for why this all makes sense somehow. But suspension of disbelief can only be carried so far, so watching Stars I found myself no caring about a good chunk of it.
It didn’t help that, like you mentioned, most of the cast basically disappeared, but if the villains had made sense I would have had a much better time with Stars. If only all the episodes had been in a similar vein as the last Sailor Iron Mouse episode ( the only episode I watched multiple times ), we would have had a great season. ChibiChibi didn’t bother me because CUTE, and no matter what they say, CUTE goes a long way. Still, it’s a shame not to have had the CC from the manga…
Having re-read the manga very recently, I can’t wait to see the Sailor Moon Crystal adaptation of the Stars arc if they go that far and keep the current team, as it really does bring the narrative to a satisfying close and manages to make sense the whole way through. Dee, I was wondering, did you read the Stars arc of the manga? I don’t remember that you mentioned whether or not you did.
Sorry, that was freaking long! That’s what happens when you wait years to comment!
Thank you again for your recaps, they have been a true joy to read.
Looking forward to the last post, and to what you will write in the future.
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On CC: The problem for me is that CC never interacted with the other characters in any significant way (that I can recall), so of course there was no possibility for character development like Chibiusa had in S. They could have just made CC into an cat or other animal familiar; then she would have had a form more appropriate to her function.
On symbolic nudity: I can take it in small doses, but the finale was ridiculous. During the post-victory scene where Mamoru was embracing Usagi all I could think of was, “girl, put some damn clothes on!”
On your verdict on Stars: Speaking as someone who’s not a hardcore Sailor Moon fan (though I did watch 200 episodes of the thing—hmmm…), I think that while Sailor Moon succeeds as a work for fans, it ultimately fails as a work of art (in the way that, for example, Utena is a work of art) for a non-fannish audience. I think you did a good job of pointing out why that’s true for Stars. I feel as if the creators (both Takeuchi and the anime directors) took multiple shots at the same basic setup and plot template and never quite succeeded in getting a perfect take. (S comes the closest I think.) I’m interested in seeing your final verdict on the series as a whole.
On the “Sailor Moon for Newbies Reviews”: I can honestly say that I would never have conceived of watching Sailor Moon were it not for your posts. I can’t thank you enough for writing them. In the middle of many stressful weeks I looked forward to watching the latest episodes on Hulu and then reading your take on them, goofy GIFs, bad puns, and all.
Incidentally, I will not be among those calling for you to continue the “Newbies” series with Sailor Moon Crystal. I skipped seasons 1 and 2 entirely, and have no plans to watch them. I’ve started watching season 3 based on net recommendations, and it’s reasonably well done, but I’m not sure there’s much more to say about it. I think your talents would be better applied elsewhere.
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” I think that while Sailor Moon succeeds as a work for fans, it ultimately fails as a work of art (in the way that, for example, Utena is a work of art) for a non-fannish audience.”
I don’t mean to be rude but I can’t help but find comments such as this to be dismissive and rather condensing in attitude. What constitutes as a work of art is always subjective and never universally agreed upon. Sailor Moon may not have reach the thematic heights the latter series had (but then few other anime have either) but IT was always entertaining, often thoughtful and emotional touching and spoke to many young anime watchers. It launched the careers of some of the most talented people in the industry and left a long legacy that would be followed, homaged and refined by nearly every magical girl series that came afterword. I would hardly call that an artistic failure on any level.
(Forgive me for sounding standoffish, Josei but I just couldn’t let such a comment go unchallenged.)
I did not mean to be dismissive or condescending in my remarks. The key phrase in my opinion is “… for a non-fannish audience.” I am not evaluating, and I cannot evaluate, Sailor Moon from the point of view of someone who grew up with it and for whom watching it was a transformative experience. I am watching it as an adult who occasionally recommends anime to other adults who are not already anime fans (another key point). I actually do find Sailor Moon to be “entertaining, often thoughtful and emotional touching”; otherwise I wouldn’t have made the investment of my time to watch 200 episodes. However I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is not already an anime fan or otherwise inclined to like it, because I don’t think it’s consistently good enough to reward the non-fan for their time watching it.
An analogous non-anime case is Star Trek, specifically the original series. I did watch that as a child, and thought it was wonderful. I can’t quite say it was a transformative experience for me, but it certainly was for many others, and I can see why. (In particular I can’t recall anything else like Star Trek on US television in the 60s in terms of its optimistic and progressive vision.) However looking back at it as an adult I find lots of ST:TOS mediocre at best and occasionally just plain bad. Ardent fans of the series may think I’m being dismissive of something that means a lot to them, but that’s just my honest opinion.
So when and if I get around to blogging about anime to my small audience of non-anime-fans, Sailor Moon will be on my list of “anime to note”, but not on my list of “anime to watch”–and neither will a bunch of works that anime fans themselves consider to be all-time classics, because I can’t in good conscience recommend them wholeheartedly to non-fans.
I guess the biggest downfall for me rewatching Stars is all of the backsliding the characters take, particularly Yaten and Taiki. Some episodes do a pretty great job of establishing them as cold, mean, aloof, etc., and by the episode they learn a little more about compassion or teamwork, and you as the viewer think “Okay, that’s kinda cool, I see where they’re going with this.” But the next episode starts and they’re right back at square one. If we’re going to spend so much time with these new characters, couldn’t we at least see them grow gradually? Hell, even Ail and An in their 13-episode stint showed real growth so much that when An threw herself in front of Ail to protect him from the Doom Tree, it didn’t seem out of character or like an unearned resolution.
I wonder if all the great Minako episodes since Sailor Moon S were a direct response to the fact that she was criminally underdeveloped in the first two seasons, showing right before the end-game in season 1, and having an ill-defined, Usagi 2.0 personality in season 2. Whatever the case, rewatching this series again, I have to say she became my favorite Inner Guardian (the honor which used to fall to Mars) because she’s so complex. A former lone, dutiful vigilante who finally makes friends and learns about teamwork, then begins to question and doubt her duties because of how much she had to sacrifice and laments not being able to live a normal life? That’s a damn good story right there.
I will admit, I am a sucker for lists (e.g. ranked seasons, sailor guardians, villains, top 10 best and worst episodes, etc.) I know it’s a pretty reductive and shallow way to judge a piece of work’s merits, but damn it, that human need for organization is just so strong. So, if you were to include lists in your retrospective, I wouldn’t complain. :)
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I think for me, my disappointment stems from a few of sources; I have never seen this season, and for the 10+ years I’ve known about Stars it was built up in my head as “THIS IS THE VERY MOST FINAL THING IN SAILORMOONDOM!!!” So of course my expectations were not in quite in check for most of Stars.
The second thing is that… well, I’ve seen this finale before. Many, many times. I am an avid watcher of Super Sentai and I have enjoyed more than a few seasons of PreCure. Since Sailor Moon was always sort of a Proto-Sentai “For Girls” that PreCure eventually became, yeah there’s a lot of common and repeated themes that I’m so used to by now that the final battle with Galaxia just fell flat.
You’re absolutely right in that this season isn’t bad, there were a lot of episodes I really liked. My favorites were 183 and 184, those were super fun episodes. If this wasn’t the final season I think I would have given it a pass.
My question is why WAS this the final season? The mini-arc with Nehelenia proved that Sailor Moon The Anime can be just as strong (and in some cases stronger) on it’s own legs than on the legs of the Manga. Wouldn’t an entire Anime original season have been cool? I really wonder what the team at Toei would have done given the opportunity.
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It really does feel like the anime staff thought they were going to get more episodes or at least some kind of big wrap-up film, with how borderline anticlimactic the final moments of this season were. As for why Toei didn’t keep it going for a big anime-original finish–it’s possible Takeuchi said no, or the studio wanted that creative staff on a different project, or the show hadn’t been doing as well commercially and so they decided to call it quits. I can only speculate. But I would have loved to have seen that, too (more so if Ikuhara were still working on it, TBH, but Igarashi’s original stuff can be really fun, too), to give the Inners a proper finale-like sendoff if nothing else.
To be honest, I think the real reason is because… Naoko Takeuchi was getting exhausted. You can tell that she was putting her heart and soul into the series, and with the sudden and unexpected popularity and attention that it has gained, the stakes were high for her to churn out hit episodes after episodes every month for the monthly magazine. And in a way, she has succeeded, but after 5 years of doing it non-stop it must have been incredibly mentally and physically taxing on her part (in the end of the manga, she says how much she was exhausted after finishing the final chapter). The manga kinda ended abruptly after the Galaxia, so it seemed somewhat rushed. And since the anime is ultimately based on the manga, when the manga ended then so had the anime.
Thank you so much for all these recaps! It’s a looong time since I saw any of the show but been a blast reading along! I enjoyed hearing both your praise and your criticisms of the series, even though I might not have commented much (mostly just because I don’t remember first-hand a lot of what went on in these episodes). I do remember feeling lukewarm about this final season as well though, back when I last watched it – I think S will always be my personal favourite of the lot. And I’m thoroughly enjoying the currently airing season of Crystal as well, even if the first new season (which I never finished) broke my soul a bit. This third season is doing a lot to make up for it though, I’m feeling very optimistic about that right now.
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I came back to Crystal for this season, too! It’s…shockingly fun, now. I guess somebody at Toei was actually listening to viewers’ critiques and made some changes for the better. Hopefully that can continue! It’d be great to be able to jump into a different version of Sailor Moon right after finishing the ’90s series.
It’s actually a good thing that this happened now on the Infinity arc, since from here on out, the manga version of the story is vastly different from the anime version of the story, whereas seasons 1 and 2 more or less followed the manga pretty closely (with tons of filler in between, of course).
I will be excited to see the Dream and Stars arcs if it continues on!
If you want to get through the last season of Sailor Moon Crystal just so you know what happened, I find the English dub makes it a little more engaging for me, and it’ll finish that season next week. (The original series has been pretty good in both the original audio and the new English dub, but the old English dub weirds me out too much.)
Firstly, congrats on completing your viewing! I haven’t watched Sailor Moon in ten years or better, so I’ve very much enjoyed reading your reviews here, and I’m much looking forward to your series retrospective.
That said, please excuse me as I TLDR for a bit about the Stars manga and the ways it is superior to the Stars anime in the specific context of a final arc for the show. I apologize in advance if everyone reading this has, in fact, already read the manga and knows all this stuff already. It’s no secret that there have always been some divergences between the anime and the manga for Sailor Moon, but nowhere is it as stark as it is with Stars, where the manga is telling an almost completely different story.
For starters, the manga really engages Galaxia’s whole galactic-conqueror thing far more than the anime, and moreover, characters in the manga paint Team Moony’s Sol System as unusually well-balanced and developed, contrasting it with planets elsewhere in the galaxy that are far poorer or more isolated. This means that, far more than in any other Sailor Moon arc, you get a hugely expanded sense of scope, and of what it means for Kakyuu to say that the whole galaxy knows of the radiant light of Sailor Moon and her sailor crystal. The last few chapters involve a chase to the center of the Milky Way, and an explanation of the very life cycle of sailor crystals. Way, WAY more series mythology to be had. It even circles all the way back to reference Queen Serenity (the first one) as having made the same journey once, before the Silver Millennium was even in place.
Also, more characters. Piles more characters. The nature of the story means there’s even more steamrolling of mini-bosses than usual–the anime axes almost half of the Animamates (RIP Sailor Heavy Metal Papillon), and one to six Sailor characters depending on how you’re counting. But at the same time, characters new and old have more to do. Chibi Moon is in the plot, as are the Amazoness Quartet. The Outers, though defensive of their system, are willing and wanting to ask the Starlights questions about this new enemy. There’s a more different villain lady couple (and a rather more explicitly romantic one at that, though Siren and Crow are probably my favorite part of the Stars anime). The big reveal on Kakyuu happens all of five chapters in, and she remains an active participant in the story for far longer–the manga also manages to explain her and the Starlights without uncomfortably implying that they left their planet to die. While Mamoru still dies early on, it’s in a context that completely changes Usagi’s reactions to his lack of contact, and she finds out the truth about halfway through the arc.
It can be shockingly melancholy in places, actually, which I kind of adore about it. There are a number of distinctly downbeat threads, things like the unending cycle of peace and conflict, the loneliness and bitterness of Sailor senshi who don’t have the comrades Sailor Moon has, and pretty much the entirety of Chibi Chibi’s backstory (100% different from the anime’s, and giving her both more reasons to be present at the climax and more things to do in said climax). There’s a very chilly idea espoused by several of the villains (and occasionally Yaten), that since everything that makes the senshi what they are is contained in their immortal sailor crystals, their bodies–even their individual lives–ultimately don’t matter much. Usagi pushes back against this constantly, championing the value of personal connection and mutual support built and maintained with one’s hands and body–one of the many ways the manga lets Usagi be a little more physical and craving of physical intimacy than the anime.
Also, it ends with Usagi and Mamoru getting married. So, you know, if you want a paradigm shift…
Anyway, I think one of the great joys of Sailor Moon, and something pretty unique to it as a franchise, is the opportunity to compare and contrast it in all its different mediums. The Stars arc isn’t perfect–see again the mini-boss steamrolling, some particularly terrible disconnect between character locations scene to scene, and some frankly mind-boggling confusion introduced to the series timeline–but thematically, I think it’s much stronger than its anime adaptation, and very worth the time of even people who prefer the anime. Though, if the Crystal anime continues to justify itself financially, I hold out hope that we may finally, finally get an animated Sailor Cosmos. *crosses fingers*
Thanks again for the reviews!
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I was coming here to post something like this but you manged to beat me too it and say it far better then I would have. So all I have left to say is THIS a 100 times.
I think you kind of have to remember that what ended up happening here was that Takeuchi was running on fumes and thus not able to keep up with the demanding pace of the anime’s schedule for developing the plot for this season. Rather than delay the start of the Sailor Stars anime Toei made the controversial decision to push forward on their own without knowing exactly what the manga was planning on doing for the whole plot and thus ended up creating their own central plot and just trying to incorporate elements of Naoko Takeuchi’s work when possible…
The other thing to keep in mind here as that both Naoko Takeuchi and the people in charge of creating the anime for Toei were both under heavy pressure for characters that could be sold as toys. That’s why Naoko Takeuchi created sooo many characters for Stars including the Starlights, and why the anime decided to focus so much attention on these very minor (to the manga) characters as it was determined by some corporate big wig based purely on appearance that they were the most marketable characters designed for the season?
Naoko Takeuchi was not at all thrilled with the anime pushing ahead on their own and this put a serious strain on her relationship with Toei. (Along with some of their decisions such as the gender-changing aspect of the Starlights as opposed to simply cross-dressing. She was unhappy with that since only females are supposed to be Senshi, and the anime left it ambiguous as to their true gender. Also Toei along with Bandai essentially pushed the rat-tail hairstyle on her for the Starlights which she was opposed to.).
Anyways this independence resulted in big trouble going back to even the very beginning of the season. The opening Nehellenia arc was essentially supposed to just be a harmless time waster to give her a little more time which aside from teasing a cosmic villain had the main purpose of basically just getting things in line with the manga’s proper status quo by the time of the first Galaxia minion attack. In other words giving Usagi the ability to turn into Eternal Sailor Moon, bringing back the Outers including Pluto and an aged-up Saturn, and saying good-bye to Chibiusa. Simple enough. Unfortunately said harmless plot they came up with involved the idea that if something happened to Mamoru, then Chibiusa would simply cease to exist. This ultimately even included a scene where she indeed completely fades out of existence in front of Usagi. Can you say Uh-Oh? Toei was supposedly under the impression that with the manga sending her home before the arc began that Chibiusa was thus no longer going to be a cast member for this arc. This suited their plans just fine given the declining ratings of the previous season that had a strong focus on her. Unfortunately Naoko Takeuchi at some point after this mini-arc had been written decided to have her return along with her allies the Amazon Quartet and play an important role in the story as almost Usagi’s last remaining allies by the time she reached Galaxia. You see the problem here right? if Mamoru just falling under Nehellenia’s spell could prevent Chibiusa’ birth, then how could you possibly rationalize his actual death not doing the same thing? On top of that it would have been repetitive and lost all emotional impact to have Chibiusa fade out of existence in front of her mother a second time in the same season. Doh!
Other stuff was changed just because it was indeed just deemed too complex/convoluted. The anime basically being targeted at kids never really wanted to go into any crazy deep themes from the manga in previous season and it did not want to now either… so stuff like the whole role of Chaos, the Cauldron at the center of the universe, existential debate, and the ill-defined (even the author herself stated that even she had not determined who/what exactly she was meant to be) Sailor Cosmos aka the true identity of Chibi Chibi were changed/omitted which again meant major plot changes had to be made…
I feel like what they should have done is… have a “5 years later” story with Usagi being all grown up, but still with Mamoru, and we find that they’re getting married and they’re going to have a big wedding day and everyone from the Sailor Moon Universe is invited and they’re all grown up too and everyone is all happy and the show is going to be wrapped up nicely by that.
I feel like in both the anime and the manga, they focused too much on making the ending all epic and philosophical and it’s all cool and interesting, but at the expense of the entire show and wrapping it up nicely with a feel-good closure. I mean it was a happy ending, but it didn’t feel like a full ending of the show.