Sunday 6 July 2014

First Impressions: Sailor Moon Crystal

Sailor Moon Crystal

It's the start of a brand new anime season and this summer comes the series that a lot of fans have been waiting for. After much teasing and at least two apparent delays, the 20th anniversary celebration of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is finally airing. Entitled Sailor Moon Crystal, this brand new show will retell the original manga story. It's going to run for a total of 26 episodes, however it will also be airing fortnightly so will in fact be airing for a whole year. For long time Sailor Moon fans it's a good time to be a fan, and for newcomers like me this seems like the perfect place to start.

The first episode naturally introduces us to our hero, 14-year old Usagi Tsukino. After encountering a strange cat with a crescent moon shape on its forehead, Usagi continues to go about her daily life - failing an English test and hearing from her friends about the mysterious masked vigilante Sailor V. That night she is once again visited by the cat, who starts talking and introduces herself as Luna. Luna presents Usagi with a brooch which gives her the power to transform into a Sailor Guardian. Immediately sensing one of her friends in trouble, the new Sailor Moon faces off against a monster using jewellery to drain life energy from victims. During this fight, Sailor Moon also has her first encounter with the mysterious Tuxedo Mask.

It's a pretty standard magical girl origin story episode, but as the franchise which kickstarted most magical girl shows of this kind it seems fair to give it a little bit of leeway. Already the show is foreshadowing some bigger things between Usagi and Mamoru (Tuxedo Mask's true identity), and while I obviously don't know what this is I know it's big enough for the two to have been many's OTP in their childhood years. I also like the fact that Usagi is far from a perfect protagonist - she's whiny, annoying and honestly a bit of a brat. Rife for character development down the line.

Sailor Moon Crystal has brought in a whole new cast of voice actors, however Usagi is once again voiced by her original seiyuu, Kotono Mitsuishi. While in terms of Crystal being an anniversary production this seems like a great idea, in execution it doesn't really work out as well. At 46, Mitsuishi's voice sounds painfully unnatural to the point where it's hard to listen to Usagi sometimes. I really hope this is something that is ironed out a bit more as the show goes on, but this is not a good thing for your title character to suffer from.

The animation is absolutely gorgeous - sharp, vivid but also retaining that distinctly 90s character design. Toei Animation have also incorporated the CGI character design elements for the opening and transformation sequence that they've been using in the Pretty Cure franchise. While many (myself included) may scoff at the use of CGI in this way and believe the sequence would like far better in traditional animation, the CGI transformation isn't nearly as jarring as you might believe. A little blip in the animation perhaps, but nothing that brings down the great standard Toei seem to have achieved with Crystal.

As a newcomer to Sailor Moon I can't really comment on how this compared to the first episode of the original anime series, but on its own it was a very enjoyable first episode. Even with a little bit annoying protagonist, I'm interested to see how the story advances from here. And more importantly, whether I'm able to manage only seeing new episodes every two weeks.

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