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Case Number 03309

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Sailor Moon: Uncut Season 1

ADV Films // 1992 // 1060 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // September 12th, 2003

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All Rise...

The Charge

Gotta get in tune with Sailor Moon
Cause that cartoon has got the boom anime babes
That make me think the wrong thing
—Barenaked Ladies

Opening Statement

The release of this boxed set quiets years of clamoring from anime fans. Uncut episodes of Sailor Moon have been a holy grail of sorts, forcing dedicated fans to purchase questionable pirate VCDs or expensive Japanese import videocassettes. It seems that the company responsible for Sailor Moon's American release (DIC) cut some pseudo-nudity, minor cursing, and somewhat mature themes. DIC excised entire episodes dealing with lesbianism and death. Given the series' popularity, it is reasonable for fans to want to see it all. ADV Films has answered the call, providing the first season of this popular and influential series in its uncensored glory. The clamoring and subsequent collective howl of relief begs the question: is Sailor Moon worth all this fuss?

It is very easy to underestimate Sailor Moon's value. On the surface, it is a repetitive, flighty series dealing with the cares of middle school girls. The main character, Usagi, is a clumsy crybaby. How do we know? Because she trips all the time and cries crocodile tears. Such unsophisticated slapstick elements combined with the girly gossip and pink magical jewelry make dubious reactions understandable. But once Sailor Moon picks up steam, mature elements of love, loss, desire, politics, social commentary, homosexuality, anorexia, commercialism, and other similar themes emerge. When all is said and done, Sailor Moon's reputation and influence are rightfully earned.

Facts of the Case

Usagi, a klutzy but likeable girl, is late for school. She stops to rescue a cat being teased by a couple of ruffians. The cat is Luna, an agent for the mystical forces for good. Luna realizes that Usagi is one of the prophesied Sailor Warriors. Now all Luna has to do is reveal Usagi's inherent powers, convince Usagi to fight evil, and locate a missing princess before the armies of the netherworld can conquer Earth and enslave mankind.

• Episode One: "Crybaby Usagi's Magnificent Transformation"
Queen Beryl summons Jadeite and tells him their great ruler needs energy. Jadeite tells one of his minions to collect the energy of humans by exploiting their vanity. Usagi is late for school. She arrives in class and cavorts with her classmates. Meanwhile, Luna notices that something is not right with the new jewelry store that just opened up. She tries to convince Usagi to investigate, but Usagi is distracted dealing with her new identity. Luna finally drags Usagi to the new jewelry store, where she transforms into Sailor Moon. When the monster threatens Usagi, she breaks down in hysterics. Tuxedo Rose shows up and gives Usagi courage. Sailor Moon will punish you! She uses her Moon Tiara Action to disintegrate the monster. All of the affected humans return to normal. Jadeite is displeased.

• Episode Two: "Punish Them! The House of Fortune is the Monster Mansion"
Queen Beryl summons Jadeite and tells him their great ruler needs energy. Jadeite tells one of his minions to collect the energy of humans by exploiting their desire to know the future . Usagi is late for school. She arrives in class and cavorts with her classmates. Meanwhile, Luna notices that something is not right with the new fortunetelling booth that just opened up. She tries to convince Usagi to investigate, but Usagi is distracted by Umino's weird behavior toward her. Luna finally drags Usagi to the new fortunetelling booth, where she transforms into Sailor Moon. When the monster threatens Usagi, she breaks down in hysterics. Tuxedo Rose shows up and gives Usagi courage. Sailor Moon will punish you! She uses her Moon Tiara Action to disintegrate the monster. All of the affected humans return to normal. Jadeite is displeased.

• Episode Three: "Mysterious Sleeping Illness, Protect the Girls' Hearts in Love"
Queen Beryl summons Jadeite and tells him their great ruler needs energy. Jadeite tells one of his minions to collect the energy of humans by exploiting their romantic nature. Usagi is late for school. She arrives in class and cavorts with her classmates. Meanwhile, Luna notices that something is not right with the new radio station that just opened up. She tries to convince Usagi to investigate, but Usagi is distracted by trying to write a love letter. Luna finally drags Usagi to the new radio station, where she transforms into Sailor Moon. When the monster threatens Usagi, she breaks down in hysterics. Tuxedo Rose shows up and gives Usagi courage. Sailor Moon will punish you! She uses her Moon Tiara Action to disintegrate the monster. All of the affected humans return to normal. Jadeite is displeased.

• Episode Four: "Usagi Will Teach You How to Lose Weight!"
Queen Beryl summons Jadeite…exploiting their obsession with fitness…something is not right with the new health club…Usagi is distracted by trying to lose weight…Sailor Moon will punish you!…Jadeite is displeased.

• Episode Five: "A Monster's Scent! Chanela Steals Love"
Queen Beryl summons Jadeite…exploiting their need for companionship…something is not right with the new pet store…Usagi is distracted by her brother's weird behavior…Sailor Moon will punish you!…Jadeite is displeased.

• Episode Six: "Protect the Melody of Love! Usagi is a Cupid"
Queen Beryl summons Jadeite…exploiting their susceptibility to music…something is not right with the new music hall…Usagi is distracted by a lovelorn musician…Sailor Moon will punish you!…Jadeite is displeased.

At this point, you may look at Sailor Moon and wonder if it has a future. His Honor is happy to report that around episode seven, things begin to pick up. Another Sailor Warrior appears, then another. Jadeite winds up in the dog house. The young ladies face tougher foes and start doing combo attacks and other strategic moves. The animation perks up a bit while the series generally finds its footing. It all ends in a dramatic, tragic finish.

The Evidence

Judge Rob's Chamber Notes
Case: Sailor Moon

• Episode 1
Okay, Sailor Moon. Boy, I've heard a lot about this series! Finally I get to watch it. Wow, that image is washed out. Was this series made in the '70s? It has that yellowish-faded '70s look.

Here comes the first episode. Whoa, are they playing that theme song through a tin can? It sounds wretched! So, the quality isn't good. Catchy tune, though. Hmmm…not much to the animation. Plot isn't much either. Okay, she's transforming into Sailor Moon…whoa, were those breasts? Fight, damn it! What are you waiting for?

• Episode 2
This theme song sounds familiar. Is it a classical music piece?

Okay, now Usagi knows she can kick butt, so this one should be more interesting. Hey, this plot is exactly like the first episode. This transformation into Sailor Moon is the same as the last one! Does Tuxedo Rose ever do anything? Sailor Moon still won't fight! What is wrong with this girl?

• Episode 3
That theme song is great! What is this? Another "steal energy from poor humans until Usagi disintegrates the monster" plot! Sheesh, get some ideas, people.

• Episode 4
I can't wait to watch the intro. I've been singing this song all day. Okay, what is that cute thing she says…In the name of the moon, I will punish you? Cute.

• Episode 13
I cannot sleep. I hear this song in my dreams. And that perky voice: "In the name of the moon, I will punish you?!!" Is anyone really that peppy?

• Episode 20-something
These lyrics, this mournful tune…what does it all mean? Bad guys, evil stuff, betrayal of love…Sailor Moon will punish you?

• Episode 32
{Judge Rob drones along with the opening theme}
"Gome ne sunato ja nakute
Yume no naka nara ieru
Shikou kaiwaa SHORT sunzen
Ima sugu aitai yo…"

• Episode 33
I have to get a translation of this song. It drives me mad, this melancholy. Okay, here is the episode. There's Queen Beryl again. She seems so sad! It must be draining to be an evil sorceress and have minions fail you on a daily basis. It's okay, Queen Beryl. Soon, your troubles will end, because Sailor Moon will punish you?!

• Episode 34
These words, they have meaning!

"I'm sorry about not being straightforward
I can tell you in my dreams
My brain is about to short-circuit
I want to see you real soon now
I feel like weeping in the moonlight
I can't call you in the midnight
My naïvetè…I don't know what to do
My heart is like a kaleidoscope…"

Stuff is happening…yadda yadda yadda…"In the name of the moon, I will punish you?"

• Episode 42
I only have to listen to this theme song four more times. Why are there no chapter stops? I am too numb to fast forward. "I'm sorry about not being straightforward I can tell you in my dreams…" yeah, just get on with it will you? I am so sick of this wretched song!!!!

Sailor V, your poor tragic past. I want to weep. How can the world be so cruel? Won't Sailor Moon punish them for you?

• Episode 43
I am afraid. I only get to listen to the theme song three more times. What will I do without it? Will regular music ever seem the same again? This tinny cacophony is such poor quality, yet it is all I have.

I am afraid for Sailor Moon also. Something bad is going to happen, I know it. Stop picking on her, Sailor Mars! I will punish you?

• Episode 44
{The pen sits unused as Judge Rob stares at the screen. He is in his underwear and stained shirt, slumped in the couch. Cola bottles and empty Pringles cans litter the floor. The light of the screen reflects off of his glazed, rapturous eyes. A single tear wells in his cheek and falls to the floor.}

Sailor Moon is a genre-defining Magical Girl series. This genre features regular middle-school girls who are granted extraordinary powers, typically via an artifact or spirit guide of some sort. Sometimes there are many of these girls, and they form units to fight evil. Each girl brings a unique power, and when the powers combine they are even more powerful. (If you've ever seen Voltron or Mighty Morphin Power Rangers you are familiar with this concept.) The episodes in these series are characterized by repetitive, even fetishistic phrases or actions, such as a new-agey transformation sequence. Sailor Moon has all of the above. It should: Sailor Moon was responsible for many of the conventions we take for granted in other anime series.

What distinguishes Sailor Moon (beyond its originality) is a hearty respect for emotion. Themes of love and desire are handled with remarkable delicacy. You could dismiss the show as glorified teenage romantic angst. Yet the romantic angle is central to the entire show. Sailor Moon is the warrior of love and justice. She pines for love, finds it, and defends it to the death. Dismissing the show as magnified teen longings would do a disservice to a sophisticated examination of emotional power.

The cartoon is extremely repetitive, like Scooby Doo. But unlike Scooby Doo, Sailor Moon episodes usually contain an undercurrent of sophisticated socio-political commentary. If you read between the lines, you'll gain all sorts of insight into Japanese philosophy. For example, many of the sources of evil are flashy new commercial buildings: jewelry stores, fashion malls, fortunetelling casinos, what have you. If Sailor Moon is any reflection on reality, you should run screaming in fear if a new strip mall opens nearby. This subtle bias against the new and flashy in favor of the old and timeworn speaks to Japanese values. This mature take cements Sailor Moon among the ranks of serious anime (granted, with a firm focus on a 12-year-old girl audience).

Once I got into the swing, Sailor Moon became seriously entertaining. I laughed aloud when Luna walked into the video arcade and typed in her secret password to access the magical kitty database. I stared in fascinated horror as the Dark Queen Frostine transformed into an acid-spitting automaton. I cheered when the Sailor Warriors discovered freaky combo attacks. The symbolism of the series is rigid but rich. I got a ritualistic thrill when Sailor Moon cocked her tiara and whirled it at the enemy. The entertainment value builds as the series progresses.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The boxed set does one thing right, and it is the most important of all: each episode is presented in the original language, uncut.

That's about it. The video quality is very poor. Colors are faded, with lots of dust and scratches. There is jitter and problems with focus. The video quality is poor but stable except for the first episode in the second box (episode 24). This episode is marred by stutters and lots of interlacing artifacts.

The audio is far worse. Atonal mono sound trickles anemically from the speakers. Voices are muffled, the music brassy. Sibilants grate on the ear and the whole affair is as flat as can be. There might be a poorer soundtrack in existence, but I haven't heard it. There are no extras save ADV previews.

I've mentioned the sophistication of this series, but it's in the context. The primary elements of plot and character are simplistic, immature, and often annoying. For example, Usagi cries. That is her thing. She cries at the drop of a hat; in the middle of battles, in school, in bed, in the sun, in the rain, wherever and whenever. Would it have killed the writers to have her mature somewhat as the season progressed? Likewise, Sailor Mars is argumentative. That is her thing. She argues at the drop of a hat; in the middle of battles, in school, in bed…you get the idea.

Sailor Moon introduced many elements that future magical girl series would borrow, and I could kick them. The worst offender is the transformation sequence and the moon tiara action. They are in almost every episode, and they never change. If you took the 1060 minutes in this boxed set and trimmed out the theme song, intro, transformation, and moon tiara action, you'd have about 608 unique minutes left over.

No chapter stops? Really? How difficult would it have been to place us at the beginning of the episode? I appreciate the theme song, introduction, and coming up features as much as anyone, but choice is a DVD viewer's best friend. In this case, you can choose to hit the fast forward button (remember the VCR days?) or you can choose to sit through five minutes of fluff.

Closing Statement

Sailor Moon is not among my top favorite anime series. That should be expected; I'm a thirty year old guy who loves football and dark movies. But I can say that the series has a narcotic subliminal pull and archetypal dramatic tension. Fans of Sailor Moon are completely justified in loving this series. The image quality and sound have not held up well, but there is plenty to like. The plot is quite involved within the constraints of its formal repetitiveness.

If you enjoy the Magical Girl genre, you owe it to yourself to check out Sailor Moon. With five lengthy seasons so far, the franchise will entertain you for hours on end. This boxed set is the best way to see it because the dub ruins the effect. Be ready with the fast forward button or that song will invade your dreams!

The Verdict

In the name of the moon, Sailor Moon will punish you!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 55
Audio: 35
Extras: 0
Acting: 70
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Special Commendations

• Bottom 100 Discs: #68

Perp Profile

Studio: ADV Films
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 1060 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genre:
• Anime

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Fan Site








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