When I was eight years old, I would rush home from elementary school to watch Sailor Moon on Cartoon Network every afternoon. It was a tradition that lasted for years, and my interest in the show bordered at times on religious fanaticism. My first attempt at drawing (outside of the toddler doodle-and-scribble stage) was a picture of Sailor Moon herself. I never would have discovered the manga section of my local bookstore if I wasn’t trying to hunt down the “comic that inspired the show!” I taught myself how to navigate the internet and search engines looking for Sailor Moon websites, and the first website I ever built was a Sailor Moon fansite.
Today, at twenty-five years old, I rushed home from work to watch the first episode of the series’ reboot, Sailor Moon Crystal.
Nostalgic doesn’t even begin to cover it. This first episode covered familiar ground for longtime fans: clumsy low-achiever Usagi runs into a cat on the street on her way to school. After noticing the two bandaids stuck tot he cat’s forehead, she peels them off to discover a crescent moon “bald spot” beneath; but as she’s running late, she doesn’t spare the mark or the strangely focused cat a second thought before rushing off to failing test scores and jewelry-obsessed friends.
It’s not until later that she finds out the cat can talk and has come to find her- the chosen one destined to fight evil and save the fabled princess- Sailor Moon. Usagi is given a brooch by Luna the cat and, without really understanding what is happening, transforms into a crime-fighting defender of justice. Before the episode ends we get to see Sailor Moon destroy her first enemy and save her best friend from the clutches of an energy-harvesting creature that had taken over a jewelry store.
That’s the bare bones of it. For those unfamiliar to the series, it might seem like a humble beginning for such an iconic show and character; and you’re right, it is. What is great about this opening is how it foreshadows what’s to come without giving too much away: Usagi meets a handsome man on the street and a tuxedo-clad crusader, but we aren’t told anything more about either of them (these two totally separate guys, who aren’t even the same, I mean, why would you even think that). The antagonists of the series are shown briefly and are made to seem appropriately menacing, but we don’t get to see them much or learn about their goals.
Now, from an old fan’s perspective, this first episode follows a well-worn path. It stays true to the original source material right down to Sailor Moon’s new transformation brooch (no mask though, but that didn’t last long in the manga anyway). The new art style has been both praised for being closer to the manga’s and derided for appearing both gangly and stilted. My impression of it so far is… well, it’s really not that bad. I don’t mind the style so much as the characters’ lack of expressions. Usagi’s face isn’t terribly dynamic all the time (but when it is, it works! More please!) Other than that, I think I’ll completely warm up to the look of it soon.
One of the biggest changes from the original anime, surprisingly, is the way they decided to tackle the transformation sequence. I was not expecting a CG transformation, and I really wasn’t a fan at first. Remember- I grew up with anime in the 90’s. It can be hard for me to get used to seeing added CG even after being in the anime scene for almost 20 years. There’s no denying that it’s much more common now though, and it’s not overly abused in this reboot at all. It’s a sign of the times, really. Younger fans coming into this show probably won’t bat an eye at it.
So, overall? This was a solid, faithful return to the Sailor Moon that so many of us grew up with. I’m not ashamed to admit that I got misty-eyed, though it wasn’t because of the plot or anything that specific. No, it was because of the nostalgia. Because the show, through a combination of beautiful scenery, music, and a faithfulness to the original story, creates an almost mythological sense of wonder within this first episode that reminds you that it’s a classic. At its heart, Sailor Moon is an action-packed fairy tale. Coming back to that was like rediscovering the sense of amazement I felt regarding this show as a kid, and I have little doubt that other longtime fans will feel the same.