Geneon // 1995 // 900 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // December 2nd, 2004
Wouldn't it be easier to fight evil by daylight, when you can see properly?
Ladies and gentlemen, kick-start your bank accounts. Sailor Moon: Super S -- The Complete Uncut TV Series contains all 39 uncut episodes of the fourth season of Sailor Moon, packed sweetly in a beast of a seven-disc box set. It will set you back a pretty penny (and about nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven ugly ones) but should present an irresistible temptation for die-hard fanboys and fangirls alike.
After the high-action adventures of the Sailor Scouts in the last three seasons, things have calmed down (relatively speaking) for Serena and her friends. Evil seems to have taken some time off, which gives the girls ample time to study up for their upcoming exams, and gives Serena some time to focus on her oft-neglected relationship with Darien. But young Rini has been having peculiar dreams at night about a winged Pegasus, a beautiful white horse that visits her in her deepest slumber. Every night, she tries to talk to the Pegasus, but it always remains tantalizingly out of reach. She finds herself unusually drawn to it, but feels compelled to keep it a secret from her friends.
Then, unexpectedly, a floating circus tent appears sinisterly over the skies of Tokyo. Because this is Sailor Moon, absolutely no one in the city even notices. The tent inhabitants are the sinister Dead Moon Circus, and have come in search of Helios, the winged Pegasus. Methodically, they begin seeking out citizens of the city who are capable of having pure dreams, and doing very bad things to them. It seems that Helios can hide inside good dreams, so the plan is to destroy everyone who has the capacity to house the Pegasus within them, so as to systematically eliminate every hiding space possible for the winged creature.
It would have been a great plan, were it not been for the Sailor Scouts, who spring into action to battle the evil invaders. Eventually, the Dead Moon Circus will be coming for young Rini, and the Scouts will do anything in their power to defend her! The Dead Moon Circus seems to be unstoppable...until Helios grants the Scouts new powers, transforming them into Super Scouts!
Ah, Sailor Moon. If any show had as much cultural impact on the animation mindset of North America, I don't want to hear about it. Sure, you could still catch freak episodes of Astroboy and Speed Racer on cable television now and again, and practically every cartoon in the 1980s was spit out of a Japanese sweat shop...but by the 1990s, Japanese animation had taken a back seat in the minds of North Americans. Nobody really thought about it.
Then suddenly comes Sailor Moon, a show with astonishingly wide-reaching appeal and mass-marketability. Girls liked it because the Scouts were strong women role models, and darn cute to boot. Guys liked it because of the short, short skirts (you know you did, don't lie). Even better, parents liked it because it seemed good-natured and inoffensive. The show was a phenomenal success in Canada and Australia overnight, and though it took a bit longer for Americans to catch on, it soon permeated the fabric of popular culture like bloodstains on a white carpet. Sailor Moon not only opened the door for the plethoric wave of Japanese animation dominating the American preteen cartoon mindset today, it exploded the door off its hinges with blasting caps. Cartoons have never been the same since.
Unlike in previous seasons, Serena and the girls get backseat billing this time around in Super S. This time, the focus is primarily on young Rini, and the result is a much lighter and whimsical season of Sailor Moon, especially when compared to the nail-biting and intense season of Sailor Moon S that preceded it. This change in pace threw a lot of fans for a loop, and as such, many regard Super S as the worst season of the show. I am inclined to agree with this assessment, though calling Super S "bad" would be on the harsh and judgmental side. The fourth series is sweet, touching, and full of heart; unfortunately, every annoying aspect and element of the show has been compressed into a single season, personified by Rini, whom nobody likes. And I mean nobody. If you have ever entertained the notion that yes, in fact, you do like Rini; I assure you that you were drunk. No need for shame, now. It's okay. It happens to us all. We've all been there.
The thing with Super S is, the overemphasis on Rini and cuteness and the lack of any sort of dramatic tension robbed the show of one of its most effective hooks. Sailor Moon was at its best when it ditched all pretenses of being cute and coy and juvenile and transcended to a darker level of intensity and seriousness, which it did surprisingly well (though too infrequently if you ask me). For the same reason that comedians often make fantastic dramatic actors, when the brown stuff hit the fan on Sailor Moon, it elevated the show to a surprising level of excellence, powerful resonance, and disturbing emotional intensity, like stripping away the curtain at a ballerina show to find scary monsters working the rigging and lighting. The show was able to conjure up serious and meaningful drama, and could absolutely rock the house...when it chose to.
Of course, if you grew up watching the show on network television, then you probably have no idea of what I speak. Sadly, during the transition of making Sailor Moon acceptable to the North American masses, every possible suggestive or troubling element was diluted and filtered out and reassembled into something decisively less threatening and suggestive. The uncut Japanese show had brief nudity, adult situations, suggestive language, occasional nudity, and even a surreptitious lesbian relationship or two. Fun stuff! But the two versions are literally night and day. For example, if you haven't seen the uncut double-episode ending to the first season of Sailor Moon, then for all intents and purposes, you haven't even watched the show yet. Seriously.
Thankfully, the first four seasons of Sailor Moon have seen the shores of North America in their original, uncut form in one incarnation or another. (The fifth and final season, Sailor Stars, as I understand it, has yet to be licensed for release in North America at all.) Irritatingly, since the ownership of the show has changed hands numerous times over the years, keeping track of which company owns what can be downright befuddling. If you are interested, here is a quick synopsis. The first two seasons (Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon R) are owned by A.D. Vision and have been released in their original uncut Japanese form onto DVD, but sadly appear to be out of print. Geneon (formerly Pioneer) has acquired the rights to the third (Sailor Moon S) and fourth (Sailor Moon: Super S) seasons, and the original uncut episodes have been slowly making their way to the shelves in individual volumes. All four are definite improvements over the original televised cut-and-paste jobs, and in that sense, Geneon has done a great job of reintroducing Sailor Moon to the masses in uncut fashion, combining the best elements of nostalgia and authenticity.
Got all that? Good.
As was stated earlier, other than the few seconds during the show intro where all the Scouts appear to be naked, there isn't much of a threatening or suggestive nature in Super S -- so right off the bat, this season pales in comparison to its predecessors. Super S puts heavy emphasis on sweetness and interpersonal relationships between Rini and Serena (who are both sisters and mother/daughter simultaneously, so in a sense, their relationship could use the work) and far less emphasis on being dramatic or compelling in any way, shape, or form. Cute, absolutely, but it lacks the emotional resonance that made Sailor Moon transcend cultural barriers, borders and helped redefine an entire genre of animation in Japan. Even worse, the final battle with the villain in the Super S season doesn't even properly wrap itself up until the next season, Super Scouts, which is unavailable in North America. Irritating.
Enough about the problems with Super S -- time to focus on the positive elements! Production values increase slightly in the new season, with animation taking on a new level of complexity and detail...err, relatively speaking. I mean, the show is almost ten years old, and it never really looked that great to begin with, animation-wise, and it's not like they stopped reusing animations over and over...but still, a slight improvement on garbage is...err, better garbage? Music and sound effects as well have received a boost, with the score sounding richer and more varied throughout. The Rini-centered story arc is long-winded and sappy, but definitely sweet and touching at times (and often hilarious, since she is essentially in love with a flying horse), and the villains have great variety with some downright nasty attacks and abilities to boot. And of course, the Scouts all get new costumes and powers and abilities, which is always the best part of a new season of Sailor Moon anyway.
Die-hard fans have come to forgive a lot when it comes to technical presentations of Sailor Moon, having had frightening audio and visual presentations, creative subtitles and a complete and utter lack of supplementary material forced upon them again and again. Sailor Moon: Super S -- The Complete Uncut TV Series is a noticeable improvement over previous releases, but the show has always looked and sounded like absolute trash. I mean, the first season of Sailor Moon was so god-awful looking to begin with that transferring it to DVD only made matters worse -- with improved resolution came improved resolution on all the ugliness. Super S is certainly an improvement over previous seasons, no doubt, but in comparison to full-length animation films of a similar age, or even compared to other televised anime, Sailor Moon is the ugly sister of the anime family. The transfer is jagged, grainy, and jerky, with randomly moving artifacts and pieces of frame, strange wobbling, washed-out colors and reused cell animation. It looks half-decent on DVD this time around because Super S had a bit more care thrown into it in terms of production values, but don't get your hopes up too high here.
Two stereo tracks, an English 2.0 and a Japanese 2.0 track are included for your sonic perusal, and though it pains me to say it, the English track is leaps and bounds above the Japanese track. As seems to be the trend these days, the Japanese track is totally raw -- not like Eddie Murphy was, but like a roadkill animal festering on the side of the highway. The Japanese track is teeth-gnashingly painful, with screeching treble, muffled dialogue, compressed audio, all wrapped up with tinnitus-inducing tin-can sound that makes you want to stick actual tin cans in your ear. It sucks. In comparison, the English track has been remastered to not suck nearly as bad, with dialogue clear and detailed, a more conservative music mix and weak bass response. The English track is pretty weak, but it beats the alternative.
In terms of dubbing, the quality of the English dub is debatable and comes down to a matter of preference. While I generally hate dubs, I hate the bleeding that comes out of my ears when I listen to the original Japanese track even worse, so the English track is the way to go. The voice actors for the Scouts have more or less carried over from series to series, so at this point the voices are nice and familiar, but never in the history of animation has there ever been a voice dub more annoying and irritating than good ol' Sailor Moon. Serena's voice is abhorrent, puerile, irritating, grating, aggravating, and homicide-inducing. If Super Dave Osborne decided to become a castrato and wear a tiny skirt and pigtails, it would sound eerily similar to, but be a noticeable improvement on, Serena's voice track. But that's Serena for you. She's annoying as all get-out. In a disturbing, Satanic-ritual-invoking sort of way, it works for her, and changing it would...just seem wrong. It's a conundrum, I know. Go figure.
Once again, fans get a square kick to the junk on the extra material front, which is bone-dry yet again. No extras whatsoever are included in this box set, which is just plain insulting at this point. In terms of subtitles, they have absolutely no parlance with the English dub, and trying to watch both at the same time will give you epilepsy. The subtitles seem a far more literal translation from the Japanese, while the English dub has been made "hip" and Anglicized good and proper.
Shall we summarize the problems with this DVD once more, for kicks?
* An ear-creaking Japanese audio track that sounds dreadful
* Significant financial investment (almost a hundred smackers)
* Absolutely no extra material whatsoever
* Transferring a bad-looking show onto DVD makes things look worse
* Lamest season of Sailor Moon ever
Still with us? Yes? If so, then you basically have already bought this DVD. You just don't know it yet.
For the casual and curious alike, Sailor Moon: Super S is probably not the series to wean new fans onto the show, since it sucks pretty hard in comparison to other seasons. But for long-term fans of the show, Sailor Moon: Super S -- The Complete Uncut TV Series is probably already in your collection, or at the very least on your wish list.
The show is always hilarious, action-packed, and touching, and even though it dishes these elements out to you in episode after identical episode until you lie whimpering in a corner with the theme song burned directly onto your soul, it is still a classic. No matter how you slice it, a big ol' box set of Sailor Moon is a good thing.
Though Geneon has made available single disc versions of Super S available, only a sucker would opt for the single disc versions when you can get the box set for a fraction of the price. Here's hoping you sat on your hands and waited for the big kahuna.
Awesome for fans and expensive for the curious, the fact is, even the worst Sailor Moon can still kick your ass.
Not guilty, if only for the sheer nostalgia factor.
Review content copyright © 2004 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 900 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Fan Site: The Sailor Senshi Page