There's a new Sailor Moon anime due out in 2014. Unlike the first anime that was released around the world in the 1990s, this one is actually targeted towards young women–in other words, the fans of the original series, rather than today's young girls and tweens. To appeal to fans means that the folks at Toei are going to have to avoid a few things… Read on to find out just what we're terrified of seeing in the new show.
BE AWARE: THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR OTHER VERSIONS OF THE SAILOR MOON CANON IN THIS POST!
10. The series will get the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon treatment!
In the early 2000s, Sailor Moon burst back onto the scene after a hiatus of several years. The manga got re-released in a shiny new shinsoban format that ended up being re-released in English by Kodansha USA starting in 2011, condensing the 18 volumes into 12, with two separate volumes for short stories like "Chibiusa's Picture Diary." At the same time, Sailor Moon made its live-action debut as a televised drama series that lasted 49 "acts," or episodes, with a few bonus episodes appearing on the eventual DVD release.
But the live-action series changed some things about the series in a major way. While on the one hand, it's awesome to see a new take on the series, it actually did some pretty scary stuff with the story and made odd character decisions that many fans didn't like. To wit:
- Luna and Artemis are stuffed-toy cats that talk…
- …Until Luna turns into a child version of herself who can also transform into a Sailor Senshi.
- The girls have their own unique weapons, like daggers, spears, and tambourines. Yes, tambourines.
- Mamoru has a fiancee before he even meets Usagi!
- Rei is uninterested in being a Sailor Senshi AT ALL.
- Minako is already a famous idol.
- Motoki is kind of a bumbling idiot obsessed with his pet turtle.
- Ami turns evil and becomes "Dark Mercury," or "Darkury," as she is called by some fans. (She gets better.)
- Zoisite and Kunzite don't have anything going on, but Nephrite might have a thing for Ami….
- Sailor Moon turns into a scary "Princess Sailor Moon" with a different outfit and personality that basically wants to destroy the world if she can't be with Endymion.
- Minako has an idol rival, a creepy schoolmate of Usagi's named Mio.
- The series ended after just one "season," so we never met the Outers, Chibiusa, or faced any villains outside of the Dark Kingdom.
It's that last sticking point that is a big issue for some fans, like Sephirose, who posted a response to Kelli A.B.'s inquiry on the topic. The others are just things that I personally remembered about PGSM and why it startled me for its lack of resemblance to the original manga, although given the limitations of the live-action tokusatsu format, some of them make sense.
9. The new series' voice cast won't live up to the original cast.
If your only experience with the anime was through the English dub, especially from season 3 onward, then you have my sympathies. But if you've watched the original Japanese anime and heard the voices of Kotono Mitsuishi as Usagi/Sailor Moon, Tohru Furuya as Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask, Keiko Han for Luna/Queen Beryl, then it's hard to envision anyone else portraying those characters.
For me, when I read the manga, I'm reading the dialog for Usagi in Mitsuishi's bright, occasionally lilting voice, which matures beautifully and softens when she's being kind, thoughtful, or giving an inspirational speech. No one can give me the shivers when reading Tuxedo Mask's first lines to Sailor Moon like Tohru Furuya's voice can, and as for Luna? Well, it's so hard to top the original voice actress for her that the folks behind the live-action Sailor Moon didn't even bother; though Luna was portrayed by a stuffed animal, they still had Keiko Han do her voice.
When the new Sailor Moon anime was first announced at a special event hosted by Nico Nico, Mitsuishi and Furuya were present to share the good news. Though Fumio Osano, Naoko Takeuchi's editor and right-hand man, was also there and has recently said no voice cast decisions had been made, it would be pretty unusual to have two voice actors announcing the new anime without them at least being offered the chance to participate in the new series (which both of them seemed pretty enthusiastic about the possibility of). If it was just a matter of having any Sailor Moon personality present, Nico Nico could have asked some of the former Sailor Moon musical actresses, or even those from the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon show to help announce it. Or they could have stuck with theme-song idol group Momoiro Clover Z, even though they were all the way in Paris at the time of the event….
8. The new series' music won't live up to the original's soundtrack and score.
The other day my boyfriend and I were theorizing over which great anime composers might take a stab at the new Sailor Moon anime. While some franchises, like Final Fantasy, have notable composers (Nobuo Uematsu), and even some shonen anime (Yoko Kanno, Yuki Kajiura), magical girl series as a genre don't exactly have a go-to composer.
The first Sailor Moon anime series produced an astounding 10 soundtracks, plus another 10-disc "Memorial Music Box," as well as several discs of score and background music, international soundtracks, game soundtracks, and much more.
As is pretty standard in Japan, the voice actors and actresses for the characters were also expected to sing, and churned out an impressive set of image songs for their role. The songs created for the series were so inspirational that many of the actresses, like Aya Hisakawa (who voiced Ami Mizuno) also recorded their own versions of popular songs, like "Moonlight Densetsu," or Megumi Ogata, who released her own "Haruka-like" songs (that she wrote herself!), "Kaze ni Naru" and "Shiokaze ni Nosete."
Even listening to the actresses for the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon series, they don't hold a candle to the talent, range, and "spirit of the character" that the original anime voice cast does; given a choice between an older Rika Fukami and a younger actress like Ayaka Komatsu, I'd pick the original Sailor Venus in a heartbeat.
We already know that female idol group Momoiro Clover Z is going to do the theme song for the series (presumably the opening and the closing theme, although we don't know if there'll be more than one opening and closing, the way there was for the first anime, or different versions of a single theme song, i.e. "Moonlight Densetsu," which was sung by two different artists throughout the original anime's run). At the announcement of the new Sailor Moon series, they did sing a song which turned out to be their latest single, "Z Maiden's War," as well as a rendition of "Moonlight Densetsu."
The likelihood seems strong that Momoiro Clover Z will do a version of "Moonlight Densetsu," rather than a whole new song for the opening theme, if just because the song is so strongly associated with the Sailor Moon series. Since they're also contributing that same track to the Sailor Moon 20th Anniversary Tribute Album, I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up as the opening theme (hopefully just the first opening theme: not because I dislike MomoClo, but because the Sailor Moon franchise could use a few more iconic theme songs to its name, and because I want the series to go more than one season/one opening song in length).
But if the series' music turns into a J-Pop fest? I shudder to think.
7. The characters won't look their age.
Depending on the animator, in the first season of the original Sailor Moon anime, Usagi and her friends probably could have passed for 14 years old. It depends more on who you talk to, and how much leeway folks are willing to give to an anime where characters have bright blue hair, or blonde hair long enough to tie into perfectly-spherical buns and still have lengthy ponytails, too.
But even as time passes by in the series, the characters don't seem to age much…or do they? It's much more prevalent in the manga, where Naoko Takeuchi's artwork matures as she progresses through the story, and we go from seeing a clearly-immature Usagi develop into a graceful young woman. But the physical figure Usagi possesses by the latter arcs in the anime and manga looks more like a young lady in her mid-20s, not someone who's somewhere in that ambiguous period between 16 and 22.
For an even more pronounced example, look at Chibiusa. In her first appearance in the manga, she's as "chibi" as the word implies: stunted height-wise, with big hair and close-together eyes to further emphasize her childishness. The anime does a pretty good job with this too, especially with all the crying jags Chibiusa goes on, drawing the attention of the Black Moon Family.
But at the end of the Black Moon arc in the manga, the "curse" locking Chibiusa in a perpetual child-like body breaks, and she suddenly and rapidly matures into the body of a pre-teen or teenager, complete with a set of long legs and a curvy chest.
In the anime, this transformation isn't quite so pronounced, but Chibiusa definitely looks older in the third season, older still in the fourth, and getting quite close to the age Minako or Usagi were at when they first became Sailor Senshi by the time she departs in the first part of the fifth and final anime season. Just how old was she, anyway? We never got a definitive answer in the anime, but in the manga, she was 902.
Yeah, that explains a lot.
6. New Series Director Munehisa Sakai Will Pull a Kunihiko Ikuhara!
It's pratically legend that Kunihiko Ikuhara didn't like the pairing of Usagi and Mamoru. In fact, he much preferred Usagi and Rei together, which could be why we see so many episodes that Ikuhara directed focused on Usagi and Rei's relationship, while Mamoru, if shown, is made out to be a tool.
The reasons why seem to be pretty clear, if we take an interview Ikuhara had at face value:
I feel irritated to see my girl getting together with some other guy. I've tried to kill off Tuxedo Mask in Sailor Moon many times. But no matter how many times I tried to kill him, he gets resurrected so I only get angrier. So I decided it would be way better if the girl just didn't have a boyfriend to begin with. […] In reality, if I have a guy in the show, the love relationship gets to have a bigger role than the show.
Ikuhara went on to say that while male-female romance is an interesting element in a series, he didn't like it being the main focus of the show, just because a girl was the main character. What he failed to acknowledge in that interview, however was that even with two female leads, pairing them up becomes just as much a central motif to the series as would female friendship or other relationships considered important to women, which is what happened with Utena, widely regarded as a seminal shojo-ai (girl's love) story.
Unlike new series director Munehisa Sakai, Kunihiko Ikuhara wasn't the series director for Sailor Moon, but an episode director. While series director Junichi Sato likely had to rein in Ikuhara's more creative impulses, Ikuhara still didn't want to stick around, and so left Toei Animation after the fourth season of Sailor Moon to form his own animation group, Be-Papas, which went on to produce Revolutionary Girl Utena, which utilized some of Ikuhara's ideas for what would have been the Sailor Moon SuperS Movie. If you've seen any of Utena, you know just what Ikuhara wanted to show with Rei and Usagi, but ended up doing with Utena and Anthy instead.
Still, there's still a chance Munehisa won't have as much control over individual episode directors the way Junichi Sato did. Even worse, there's a chance some other, as-yet-unnamed episode director will try and take matters into his or her own hands and alter the characters, storyline, or "mood" of the series to the point where you wonder: "What's going on here?"
While it's not specifically known if any one person was responsible for Rei Hino's personality change from the original manga (where she was graceful, calm, and quiet) to the first anime (where she was passionate, loud, a dreamer and somewhat boy-crazy), it wouldn't be a big stretch to give Ikuhara at least some of the credit. It was also generally accepted that the Rei of the manga represented a more traditional ideal of Japanese girls, while the anime presented a modernized take on what 14-year-old Japanese girls of the day might be like.
If the new anime retains the best facets of Rei's personality in both the original manga (where she seemed much older than her age, and "out of time" as a Shinto priestess with little to no interest in romance of any sort) and the anime (where she had similar concerns to her friends, as well as difficult decisions wholly her own, like whether she even wanted to continue running the Hikawa Shrine as an adult), that's likely to be for the best.
Whoever the individual episode directors turn out to be, hopefully Munehisa won't flip-flop the characters into even more unrecognizable personalities than they already have been from prior incarnations of the Sailor Moon series.
5. Toei will PreCure-ize Sailor Moon
Toei's been doing pretty well for itself as an animation studio even after Sailor Moon ended in 1997. In fact, it's been a pioneering force in the shoujo genre, putting out scores of magical girl shows, most notably those from the Pretty Cure franchise, which started out with one series and ballooned into a total of ten shows and feature films that are still on air. You could look at that as a good thing, except…well, PreCure ISN'T Sailor Moon. And Toei definitely shouldn't treat Sailor Moon as "another PreCure."
For one, the animation style, while very glossy, colorful, and full of shiny special effects, isn't exactly in the Sailor Moon style. If the goal is to make the new anime more in line with the original manga, then that should apply to the art, not just the storyline.
Then there's the possibility of Toei opting to "modernize" the magical girl series, which again, could be both a good thing or a bad thing. It would be good if it makes the series seem less "1990s" and more timeless, which the original Sailor Moon manga is, for the most part. Sure, fashions and technologies change, but the bulk of Sailor Moon doesn't care about those details; the girls are typically in their school uniforms or Senshi outfits, if not princess gowns, Shinto shrine robes, etc. And aside from Sailor Mercury with her miniature super-computer, we don't seem to focus much on the way of technology in the series. Trying to would inevitably backfire: it would "date" the series so that someone trying to watch it in 2020 would know "Ugh, that show was from 2014!" It's sort of how we can tell the original Sailor Moon anime was set in the 1990s by virtue of the clothes people wore (I'm looking at you, Mamoru Chiba), or the slang people used (especially in the English dub).
The live-action drama Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon did this too, by having the girls use disguise flip phones instead of magical pens. Usagi still transformed with a brooch, but the other girls had these odd bracelet things that turned into cute charm bracelets in their civilian forms. And as for PreCure? Well, they sort of take transformation sequences to the next level. See what I mean below:
A joke among many Sailor Moon fans is that the transformation sequences really do take as long as they appear on television, and the effects are so spectacular that an enemy can't help but stand and gawp. It would certainly explain why no Senshi ever seemed to get interrupted mid-transformation. But if the Sailor Senshi's transformations get as epic as PreCure, lasting minutes? That might be a bit much, and would pave the way for an unnecessary amount of recycled footage in each episode, which in turn translates to filler (of the negative, non-character-developing kind).
Let's just hope the new anime series sticks to transformation wands and brooches/compacts, rather than transformation phones, jewelry boxes, perfume bottles, and all the other bizarre things seen the above video. Though PreCure has had multiple animation teams, the consistent style seems to be especially long fingers (very Utena-like, in my opinion), HUGE, watery-looking eyes (which end up causing some of the PreCure characters to resemble those from Ojamajo Doremi), and huge differences between the characters in their civilian forms versus their magical ones. Part of Sailor Moon's charm lay in the fact that people should have been able to recognize the Senshi, but didn't. It gave us fans a lot to do, speculating how that could be possible. Still my favorite theory: their transformation sequences generate an Idiot Field that makes it impossible for anyone who doesn't actually witness the transformation sequence, notice a particular gesture, or hear a fact only a girl's civilian form would know to break.
4. It'll get delayed again…and again…and then it'll get cancelled!
The original announcement for the new Sailor Moon anime was made back in July 2012, for planned release the following summer. In the spring of 2013, it was announced that the series was delayed until further notice. In August 2013, MomoClo (again, the group already confirmed to be doing the new series' theme song) held an event that they advertised via a Nakayoshi magazine flyer (the magazine where the Sailor Moon manga was first published in Japanese). The flyer announced that the series was already in production and was scheduled to begin sometime between November 2013 and January 2014, a fact which MomoClo themselves confirmed at the event. At the New York Comic-Con in October, Kodansha USA general manager Dallas Middaugh added that it would be subtitled in multiple languages. But then December 2013 came and went, and in early January 2014, the series debut was changed on the official Sailor Moon 20th Anniversary website to July of 2014!
3. Too Much/Too Little is Changed From the Original Story!
If Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon changed too much from the original manga, then a perfectly valid fear of many fans is that Toei will opt to change too little! If the new anime is just a complete retelling of the manga in anime form, then what's so new or special about it? Sure, there might be a shiny new animation style, new music with stereo sound, and it'll be broadcast around the world over the Internet in multiple languages, but pshaw! If the story isn't at least a LITTLE interesting, what's the point? If Toei hopes to make bank on the new Sailor Moon anime by appealing to the original series' fans, then it can't afford to rehash a story so exactly that people feel like they've already "bought and paid" for it in book form. What they offer has to extend beyond the animation process, voice actors, music, and special effects: it has to capture the spirit of the Sailor Moon story without turning the manga into a "read-along" for the new anime.
Fan TheGladka says that "adapting only that what was in manga and not adding anything to it" would be a pretty bad scenario.
"I will never understand why people want [a complete retelling of the manga] so much. Best to take ideas from the different version[s] and weave them into a unique version of the series," fan GalaxyCosmos adds. In a way, that's exactly what Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon did, but it changed some pretty crucial parts of the characters, which might be pushing it too far for some fans' tastes.
2. The series will end up following a "Monster-of-the-Day" format.
Quick, name a youma from the original Sailor Moon manga!
Oh, you can't think of any? That's because unlike the first anime, which introduced youma in season 1, cardians and droids in season 2, daimon in season 3, lemures in season 4, and phages in season 5, the original manga didn't feature too many "monsters-of-the-day," wherein the baddies that Sailor Moon and her pals faced were great in number and not very distinct in detail.
When Sailor Moon first got started, we were introduced to youma that took human form, but they weren't explicitly named in their youma forms. For example, the youma that disguised herself as Naru Osaka's mother was called Morga in the first anime, but had no name in the manga. You'd think that giving a youma a name would mean it's important somehow, but aside from Jadeite grousing that Sailor Moon had defeated Morga so easily, we never heard about her again.
"I feel while that [the monster-of-the-day format] has nostalgic value of older anime story telling for magical girl series, it’s a bit outdated," says fan ChibiCosmos.
Consider how many of the 200 episodes of Sailor Moon are actually necessary to understand the story and its characters. Pare the series down to its bare essentials, and you'd see that not that many episodes are actually contributing much of anything to the story. Sure, episodes like 65, "Dispute Over Love! Minako and Makoto Face Off" exist to emphasize the boy-craziness of Minako and Makoto, but that's about it. The episode didn't reveal anything new about the Black Moon Family, and didn't move the overall plot about why the Black Moon was after Chibiusa or the Silver Crystal.
If there's any drawback to the possibility of sticking too closely to the original manga's storyline, it's that some of the named villains, like the Ayakashi Sisters Koan (Catzi), Beruche (Birdie), Calaveras (Avery) and Petz (Prizma) would be one-shot enemies, rather than well-rounded characters given a shot at redemption. But if their early death and lack of development in the new anime means we get to see more developmment and an accurate rendition of other characters left hanging by the first anime, like the Amazon Quartet, then I think that's something of a fair trade.
So long as the new anime series doesn't try to overextend itself by making tons of filler episodes with pointless stories that contribute nothing to the overall plot (which is usually why "monsters-of-the-day" get created in the first place), then the sacrifice of those characters originally developed more in the first anime and less in the original manga will be okay.
Of course, the best-of-both-worlds scenario might be for Toei to fully flesh out all of the characters, enemies and allies alike. That would mean we could still see a redemption for the Ayakashi Sisters, but also get the Amazon Quartet as Sailor Senshi. Or perhaps we could see more of Naoko Takeuchi's vision for Minako's past as Sailor V, rather than a wholly-invented storyline involving her faking her death in some explosion in England….
If they do that, we could get a series that not only adds to the original manga story, but also does something different from the first anime, which was to pretty much heal everyone and everything, or just kill them completely. Having a "gray area" would allow for there to be antagonists who aren't villains (like the Four Generals, who were originally allies of Prince Endymion, but we didn't learn that until near the end of the first arc), sometime-allies (in the vein of Haruka and Michiru in the first anime, or Minako and Rei in many episodes of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon), or even allies-gone-bad (Ami and Mamoru in PGSM, Mamoru in the first anime and original manga, or Every Single Senshi in the Stars arc of the original manga). Consider the animosity introduced by the Sailor Starlights, "invaders" in the original manga, or the morally-questionable actions of Sailors Lethe and Mnemosyne, Senshi who just wanted to protect each other, since they had no place to call home anymore.
1. Masahiro Ando will animate it. ANY of it!
The number one "worst case scenario" I've seen from multiple fans across the web is the idea that Masahiro Ando will animated ANY of it. While his animation direction and style is quite distinct, compared to many of the other animators of the first Sailor Moon series, his tends to look too childish and comic for a magical girl series, especially if the new series is going to follow the darker story and themes of the manga.
Ando's characters tend to look unrefined, too young, and simplistic, compared to the more nuanced, "shiny," or detailed work of other series animators like Ikuko Itou, Shigetaka Kiyoyama, Takayuki Gorai, Kazauyki Hashimoto, or Tadao Kubota.