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Review: Sailor Moon S: Part 1 (DVD)

Sailor Moon S was once hailed as one of the great mysteries of anime fandom in an era of dial-up modems, Netscape and where Agro’s Cartoon Connection fought with Cheez TV for the number one spot to zone out before heading off the school. Considered by many fans as the strongest story arc in the 1990’s adaptation of Sailor Moon, the release of the first half of the third season is cause to celebrate – not just as a fan of Sailor Moon, but as human being.

Sailor Moon S is, of course, kind of like all the other series’ of Toei’s first adaptation of Sailor Moon. Usagi has a cry and waves a stick during any moments of conflict, the supporting cast add their personalities into the mix, a monster of the week rolls in about half way through each episode to break up the slice of life stuff, and so forth. The difference with Sailor Moon S is that it builds on the series’ greatest asset – its cast. Within this first set of episodes we’re greeted with the mysterious Outer Senshi (or Guardians/whatever – I’m old, so I’ll stick to using fanboy terms), Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, and soon enough, the under-appreciated Sailor Pluto who kicked arse during the tail end of Sailor Moon R. Both Uranus and Neptune are great cast members when exploring the slice of life side of things, but they also have the the honour of being the weekly saviour when Sailor Moon does a rubbish job at taking out the latest distraction. True, this is kind of Tuxedo Mask’s job, but Uranus and Neptune are far more awesome.

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There’s also the returning cast – Chibi-Usa makes a spectacular first appearance in episode 104, with fan-favourite director Junichi Sato doing a stellar job playing with convention as we discover that Chibi-Usa is about as useful as Sailor Moon when it comes to dealing with monsters of the week. Elsewhere, Naru and Umino manage to get a little screen time while the rest of the Sailor Senshi have their requisite episodes where they get a chance for some exposition and to gain new abilities using the power of passion.

The only problematic element is that the set finishes on a bit of a quirky point with an episode that sees Usagi getting unintentionally tipsy at a party hosted at an Englishman’s mansion conveniently located in Tokyo before getting it together and twirling in a swirl of colours to defeat the monster of the week (with the gentleman in question featuring anime’s most delightful of ‘staches). Actually, reflecting on it, it’s a pretty fitting way to conclude the set as it still manages to capture all the good stuff out of an episode of Sailor Moon by focusing primarily on the real-world interplay between the cast, a rather tongue-in-cheek approach to said monster of the week, and Uranus and Neptune were all sorts of awesome.

As a package it’s the usual for these releases – excellent work preserving the NTSC sources and the cleanest we’ll ever see Sailor Moon look without going back and producing a fresh telecine from the original 16mm film masters. Extras include clean openings and endings, the original Japanese audio has been cleaned up and there’s an English dub if that floats your boat. What would have been a nice touch is if the whole slew of alternate openings were covered in the extras – on the original broadcast, VHS and Laserdisc releases we’re treated to openings that change throughout the series to highlight the latest antagonists and cast members as well as reflecting any changes to the inner Senshi. In the meantime I’ll nerd out over my LDs, but if Toei have remastered and/or restored copies of the other openings it would be a real treat to see these on the next release!

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There’s so much to love about this series if you’re a fan of Sailor Moon – for me it signals probably the best arc over the whole of Toei’s 1990s adaptation of Takeuchi’s original manga, and I loved having the chance to go back and re-watch it on this awesome set. Essential viewing for all anime fans, especially those who enjoy anything magic girl related!

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