March 2016 Sailor Moon Collection 2 DVD Review, feature image

Review: Sailor Moon: Season 1 Part 2 (DVD)

I’ve gushed about my odd love for the 1990s adaptation of Naoko Takeuchi’s touchstone series Sailor Moon many times since getting hooked on the show in 1996. I possibly got a bit unnecessarily nerd excited when reviewing this collection’s predecessor if we’re being objective. I was considering trying to be a bit more level-headed as we jumped into this follow-up release that contains the remaining half of Sailor Moon’s first season, but after a few episodes I had to throw in the towel. After all, how couldn’t you love an anime where the monster of the week sees an effeminate bishounen transform a tropey priest into a violent boxer with wings, delivering his viscous attacks by shouting in broken English “I’m a champion, Lovely Punch!”, before the series’ titular heroine waves a pink wand to save the day, evident by said boxing-priest shouting “Refresh!” before getting excited about Jesus again.

… and all without a sense of self-awareness or screaming “Me too!” from the top of its lungs to the internet in the hopes of going viral.

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The second half of season 1 of Sailor Moon takes the foundation it built during the first chunk of episodes and ramps things up considerably. The first collection saw the fledgling team spend their time floating back and forth through monster of the week scenarios without a lot of focus on broader storylines until the conclusion of the Nephrite. The contrast with this release is that the monster of the week premise begins to play a secondary role as the story takes over and the characters get the chance to shine.

The introduction of Sailor Jupiter and Sailor Venus help create the group dynamic that would go on to make future seasons engaging, with ample slice of life scenarios set amongst the action giving the characters the chance to interact and build. I noted in the previous collection’s review that on reflection, the newer Sailor Moon Crystal anime trumps the original in terms of pace, production values and follows the manga far closer, but in doing so it lost the idle character development that made this original adaptation so memorable. Where we saw the potential of this interaction in the first half of the season, we really get to appreciate it far more in this release.

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The storytelling also maintains a good pace despite the formulas applied to each episode. Between the history lessons of the Silver Millenium peppered throughout, the first arc of this collection brings the focus on discovering the identity of Princess Serenity, which invariably brings Usagi and Mamoru closer together alongside their alter egos. This then spearheads a change in direction when the Dark Kingdom manages to bring Mamoru under their influence in their attempt to wrest the coveted Silver Crystal from the Sailor Senshi before culminating in an epic finale that runs over several episodes. For those who had only seen the English dub, the two-part conclusion to this series is considerably darker and more fleshed out than the original localisation which butchered a fantastic end to the season.

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It’s uncanny that all these years later I still find this set of episodes so much fun despite how often I watched them before. Realistically, the repetition in many of the episodes are inherently flawed given the predictable shoujo slice of life/monster/conclusion formula. However, it’s the characters that save the show from falling over in its pursuit for inane stories. It also helps that while the quality of the animation varies according to whoever directed the key frames, there are some really outstanding examples of beautifully composed shots, unusual in many ways given the age, budget and time constraints that would have been placed on the series. The new opening animation looks fantastic though, and the henshin and attack sequences feel so much more honest and impressive than the CG treatment given to Sailor Moon Crystal.

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As far as the release is concerned, the previous (and nerdy) analysis holds true for this release – the encoding and restoration really does look and sound fantastic given Toei’s source materials, so kudos to Madman for their technical decisions around this release. The set runs across four discs, with the final disc containing a small handful of extras. If you bought the Limited Edition release of the first collection, this set slots in neatly alongside its predecessor in its lovely box.

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I’m generally split on my favourite arcs for Sailor Moon – at 200 episodes across 5 main seasons, there’s a lot happening. However, time and time again this run of episodes always strike a chord as one of my favourites and it has been absolutely fantastic being able to enjoy it on DVD with this level of technical finesse. Fans of Sailor Moon will likely agree, and if you’ve already invested your time into the first collection you really do need to complete the journey. This is essential viewing for any anime fan, especially one that appreciates how this has fed into the medium’s evolution in Japan and overseas over the last 20 years.

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A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.