Monday, May 19, 2014

Wait for wax, wait for wane

Sailor Moon is an important show. It began as an effort to blend the magical girl genre of anime (mostly whimsical, cutesy stories about girls who could transform and perform magic, aimed squarely at girls) with the sentai genre (Power Rangers-style action focused shows about teams of heroes battling evil, aimed at boys). It was considered a bit of a weird idea, to say the least. Nowadays, Sailor Moon defines the magical girl genre.

It was important in the west, too. Many fans were first exposed to anime thanks to the American dub of Sailor Moon. Action-focused kids' shows with female protagonists were equally rare in the rest of the world, and for all of the original dub's flaws, Sailor Moon was clearly special.

It didn't stop there: as the show went on, Sailor Moon accumulated a significant number of LGBT characters, at a time when this was all but unheard of for a kids' show. It being the nineties, the North American localization team balked, and did their best to conceal the characters' true nature by either gender-flipping or rewriting them. It didn't matter: the audience found out the truth anyway, and Sailor Moon boasts a significant LGBT fandom to this day.

And the show is important to me. It's been over ten years since I was first intrigued by That Long-Running Anime Where The Girls Are Named After Planets. I've watched the anime countless times, and my affection for it has never waned. It's not perfect by any means. In terms of consistent quality it loses out to any number of other series I could think of, and yet it remains my favorite. The characters, the world that exists around them... it's somehow special.

And it's an exciting time to be a fan. Sailor Moon's licensing in North America has always been a nightmare, to the extent that many fans wondered if a comprehensive re-release was ever possible. Even with the new anime, Sailor Moon Crystal, set to start this summer, I half expected the old series would never again see the light of day.

A few days ago, Viz Media announced they'd pulled off the anime licensing coup of the decade, acquiring the rights to all of the Sailor Moon anime, new and old. In the near future we have a new dub and Blu-Ray releases to look forward to, but the first products of that deal are appearing today. Viz's subs of Sailor Moon are gradually being released on Hulu. I've seen the episodes before (though never, it has to be said, in such high quality) and I've already formed opinions. But this is an effort to rewatch the whole show as it's re-released, and present my thoughts on the episodes.

I love the show. But like any fan, I love some parts more than others. I have opinions. There are episodes that are brilliant, episodes that are forgettable, and episodes that are simply bad. I'll be making an effort to be as honest as possible in my reviews, which means I'll likely be unloading on someone's favorite episode at some point. It's all just my opinion, and I'm just some person on the internet. And the internet is full of people with wrong opinions.

I've settled on a five-star system for rating the episodes, and here's a quick guide to what those categories roughly mean.

Five stars: The best the show has to offer. These are the flawless or near-flawless episodes that just succeed on every level. Five star ratings will be a little rarer than average, as they're reserved for the best of the best. 

Four stars: Very good. These episodes stand out and are great fun, but aren't quite five star quality.

Three stars: Average. This isn't a bad thing, since in general I love the show: these are just the episodes of the usual quality, or perhaps episodes that would have ranked higher were it not for some jarring flaw.

Two stars: Below average. Mostly I suspect this category will be home to episodes in that dreaded category of "boring". Disappointing, but not as bad as...

One star: The worst. Simply being dull isn't enough to earn this category; the episode has to commit a multitude of sins to earn this score. Like five stars, these will likely be rarer, as I'll only be granting this score to those episodes that are really, really bad.

So, with all that said, I have four newly-posted episodes to rewatch. Reviews will follow shortly!

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