"In the name of the moon, I will punish you!"—Sailor Moon
Sailor Moon is an anime series with five complete seasons and many movies under its umbrella. It charmed the hearts of many young girls, and some boys as well. It gave the Barenaked Ladies undefined—yet still wrong—urges. Sailor Moon seems so innocuous, squarely aimed at young girls; but it finds its way into wider controversy on a regular basis.
Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon S (typically called Sailor Moon S) is the third season of the popular anime. This season introduces two older Sailor Soldiers, Neptune and Uranus, who hold the others at arm's length. They only intervene when a Daihmon lands to harvest the pure heart of a maiden. The Daihmon seeks a trio of talismans hidden inside a pure heart. These talismans grant control of the galaxy. While Usagi and her compatriots stave off these vicious attacks, the new Sailor Soldiers stand by and capture the stolen hearts.
Sailor Moon S is widely considered the best of the five seasons, and with good reason. This group of episodes begins with a downright startling vision of the apocalypse. If you've become accustomed to the breezy tone of other Sailor Moon seasons, this dark tone is a bit of a shock. I perked right up. What could be better: Sailor Moon's cute antics with real consequences on the line? Maturity and violence? Sign me up.
Never fear—the silly tone is intact, but it has a sharper edge. Sailor Moon's attacks don't always save the day. The gang gets beaten around quite a bit, and not everyone gets along. But the madcap humorous devices are still there: Usagi's grumbling tummy, Luna's furry shenanigans, crocodile tears, and the rest. Here too are the repetitive transformation sequences, with dutiful intonations of mystical power: Moon-Heart-Rod-Ultra-Spiral-Flower-Wave! or some such. The pseudo-nudity is intact; if you thought "the wrong thing" before, prepare for more bad thoughts. I can't help but point out that the five seasons really consist of about three seasons' worth of actual material. The rest is comprised of the same sequences repeated ad nauseum.
Sailor Moon has a narcotic quality that lulls you in its embrace. Entire episodes go by and we find ourselves in the same place. Of the seven episodes on this DVD, six and three-fourths deal with Kaorinite sending a Daihmon to Earth to capture a pure heart. Somehow we tolerate this formulaic approach. This is why I was unprepared for the second great shock of the season: you have to pay attention to what people are saying. That's right. In Season One, you got the gist of things by the music and facial expressions. Feel dread when everything turns dark and the somber music plays. Laugh when Usagi turns white and tinny laughter emanates from the mono soundtrack. But in Sailor Moon S, people have actual conversations that impact later events.
The third shock of Sailor Moon S is, of course, the lesbian hullabaloo. Some of the Sailor Warriors are into women. There is even a love triangle of sorts. This theme has raised many an eyebrow, a precursor to the Tinky Winky folderol. (I wonder what the Barenaked Ladies are thinking about now?) I would take some sort of stance on this issue, if it were an issue. Let's just say that the controversy perks up this season quite a bit, and gives open-minded parents good fodder for conversation with their offspring.
As a DVD package, this release has some issues. Sailor Moon: Season One had some of the worst audiovisual quality I've ever seen, and without supplemental content. Sailor Moon S: Heart Collection I is a scant improvement. There are extras: a bio telling us about Usagi's favorite colors and such, along with textless karaoke credits. (I had a bit of fun with that last one.) These extras aren't exactly overwhelming in scope or quality.
The video quality is poor as well, with grain, splotchy or faint color, nicks, scratches, focus problems, and other issues. It's a barebones affair with no effort invested in improving the transfer. The program is uncut, however, which is the important thing. We also get seven episodes, which goes to show how much anime can actually fit onto a DVD.
The mono soundtrack is a slight improvement. The tinny, stapes-numbing echoes of warbling squeals heard in Season One are replaced by flat-sounding-but-not-actually-painful sounds. There is nothing to recommend the audio quality, but at least you can hear everything. A slightly different version of the theme song is included, and sounds more polished. The English dub is wretched in every way. The actors are miscast, the words are sanitized and don't make sense, and the pitch is unnatural. Paradoxically, the Japanese pitch is even more unnatural but it sounds better. The voices seem correct in the original version and simply bad in the dub. Again the news here is that we get the original track with unsanitized subtitles.
Sailor Moon S is the best that Sailor Moon as to offer. The plots are deeper, the characters more complex, the themes darker…yet the series maintains its sunny optimism. These first seven episodes are repetitive, but you can tell that they are building towards something. There isn't much in the features department, but through the Signature Series, fans of this show can inexpensively collect the uncut seasons. That makes this release a good value for Sailor Moon aficionados.
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