With the new Sailor Moon anime having something like a release date (July 2014), there's a lot of talk in the fandom about whether the new anime will be any good or not. Questions are getting asked like, "Is it a remake of the first anime?" and "Will it be true to the manga?" Some people want to see a sequel to the first anime, something like the adventures of Sailor Chibi Moon once she inherits the mantle of Sailor Moon. Still others would prefer a prequel: what happened in the Silver Millennium prior to Queen Beryl's attack?
What we've heard thus far is that it will not be a remake of the first anime with a shiny new animation style and J-Pop soundtrack, but it will be a new anime that follows the manga plot line more closely. Those factors alone couldn't stop the series from sucking…but I don't think the new Sailor Moon will suck. Here are five reasons why.
1. The story is already written
If you're going to reboot a 20-year old franchise, it certainly helps to not make a prequel, sequel, alternate universe or remake of an existing series. Why? Because doing so would introduce an element of surprise, and that could potentially spell lost revenue.
By trying to appeal to the fans of the original anime and manga series, who are now in their mid-to-late 20s and beyond, Toei knows it has an audience with expectations of the new show–and the only surefire way to meet or surpass those expectations is to not introduce any unwelcome surprises.
Series producer Atsutoshi Umezawa has stated that the series is not a remake of the first anime, but a new adaptation of the original manga, "starting from scratch." By ensuring their target audience knows what to expect–the story they know from the manga that started it all–Toei has "spoiler-proofed" the show. Fans might be pleasantly surprised by new music, animation style, and voice acting, but the storyline should be the one that they already know and cherish. While that might mean some folks won't bother to tune in, Toei is hoping the opposite is true; fans who already know the story will want to see just how the original manga is adapted for an older generation of fans, for new watchers, and whether or not Toei "gets it right."
2. The series will merchandise itself
Just the name "Sailor Moon" is instantly recognizable. That's something that very few other anime/manga franchises can claim, especially after 20 years. In celebration of the 20th anniversary, the folks at Toei, Bandai, Kodansha, and all the other affiliated licensors of Sailor Moon have been churning out merchandise at an impressive rate–everything from traditional items like stickers, keychains, and figurines to a wide array of purses, makeup, and even Sailor Moon-inspired lingerie! With all the interest in the new products, the re-release of the manga in English by Kodansha (versus Mixx, the original licensors, and using the "shinsouban" format that was released in the early 2000s simultaneously with the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon live-action drama), and the third, "kanzenban" release of the manga in Japanese, there's already a great deal of renewed interest in the series. Toei and the other licensors associated with the new anime won't have to do much legwork–the fans will take care of spreading the news and getting people excited all on their own.
Combine that with a recent interest in series that are closely based off existing, finished works, and Toei's got the perfect combination of factors to not only draw in their target audience of young women, but also new fans of anime, "magical girl" series, or just Toei's animation in general. Consider the hugely-popular stories of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Sword Art Online, Full Metal Panic!, and others, all based off of light novels. Or look at Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which came about after an original anime adaptation had already been made–following the events of the early manga, still in publication at the time, but then spawned off on its own storyline. The new anime more closely follows the original manga, which means less filler and fewer unpleasant surprises for fans.
3. Toei has even more experience under its hat
Toei knows magical girl series. Even before Sailor Moon, Toei helped fuel interest in the genre with titles like Mahotsukai Sally (a.k.a. Sally the Witch), which aired from 1966 to 1968. Since Sailor Moon finished its five-season run in 1997, Toei has continued creating magical girl series, including the Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne (based off Arina Tanemura's popular manga series), and the enormous franchise Pretty Cure, which has no less than 9 different spin-offs, airing in various incarnations since 2004.
This means that they have a great deal more experience not only in creating popular series, but in truly making the "magic" part of "magical girl" series come alive onscreen. That may mean we see longer or more elaborate transformation sequences, truly villainous enemies, and astounding settings.
Their experience also comes with access to new technology–not just more efficient ways of animating, or the use of computer-generated graphics, but stereo sound! Think about it: every single episode of the original Sailor Moon series was in mono audio. How much more intense will we feel when we hear Usagi cry from both our left and right aural channels? Or how amped up we'll get hearing a battle song? I know I can't wait.
4. It'll be an immediate international sensation thanks to the Internet
When I was a young Sailor Moon fan, I had to get my episodes by trading VHS tapes at my local anime club! But in this day and age, even DVDs and other optical discs are considered "old-school." Streaming is the way to go, and so popular Japanese online television site Nico Nico will be simultaneously streaming the new Sailor Moon anime worldwide online in July. There has yet to be any announcement regarding what television station(s) may get the license to broadcast Sailor Moon in Japan over traditional TV airwaves.
Notably, both the blogs of Nico Nico and the Official Sailor Moon 20th Anniversary website make no mention of subtitles for international audiences, but series creator Naoko Takeuchi's right-hand man, editor Fumio Osano, has said that they will keep international audiences in mind (cf. Crunchyroll).
And let's be honest: those of us who are diehard Moonies probably won't care if there are immediate subtitles available direct from Nico Nico Douga or not. We'll watch the series anyway. (And then we'll go to Miss Dream.)
5. The budget will be much better, and more consistent from episode to episode.
Is it mean to say that some episodes of the Sailor Moon series just looked low-budget? Well, it's true. While there are no accessible statistics regarding just which episodes had the biggest budgets, it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that episodes that followed the plot of the manga were especially important, while those that served merely as "filler" or "monster-of-the-day" episodes were not so crucial.
Consider also the variety of different animation directors that worked on Sailor Moon and its three feature films: twenty-eight different people who worked on a total of 200 episodes, three movies, and a grand total of Luna-knows-how-many minutes. Some art directors, like Ikuko Itou and Kazuko Tadano, are pretty beloved by fans, while others, namely Masahiro Ando, are pretty disliked. Before I did research into just who served as animation director for each of the episodes, I thought of Masahiro Ando's episodes as the "low-budget ones."
When I first watched the Sailor Moon series, I was too young to think about the inconsistency in animation style from episode to episode. As an older fan–and the likely target audience of the new series–I'm hoping Toei is going to respect our matured, discerning tastes in animation and serve up a consistent, gorgeous series worthy of the Sailor Moon title. And if they happen to bring back some of my favorite art directors, like Itou, Tadano, and a handful more of those 28? I certainly won't complain.