What They Say:
Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury, and Sailor Mars continue their quest for the Legendary Silver Crystal as two new powerful allies join the fight. Sailor Jupiter is the tall and tough Guardian of Thunder, and Sailor Venus is the Guardian of Love and the most experienced member.
Sailor Moon herself gets an impressive new power and learns more about the mysterious Tuxedo Mask. Could their distant past be intertwined, and does that have anything to do with the Moon Princess they seek? The final ordeal with Queen Beryl looms on the horizon, and it will take everything the Sailor Guardians have to be victorious!
Contains episodes 24-46.
The audio presentation for this series is pretty good considering the age and elements as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo along with a newly created English language dub, also in stereo. The original elements come across cleaner than I thought they would as there’s no real problems to be had with it such as hiss or background noise creeping into it. The show has a fairly simple forward soundstage mix that’s representative of its time and it definitely captures things well with the lossless DTS-HD MA codec that’s used. There’s not a lot in the way of strong directionality, but it hits the right notes that matches the material. The new English language mix comes across louder as one would expect in general due to it being newer and mixed in cleaner and sharper ways and there’s a touch more directionality to it overall, but not a significant amount. Both tracks are pretty good and the end result is one that will generally please and leave fans happy.
Originally airing in 1993, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-three episodes of this set are spread across three discs in an eight/eight/seven format that gives it enough room to work with. Produced by Toei Animation, the series transfer here is one that’s certainly going to be divisive among fans, as some of the problems will be highly noticeable to some while others won’t be able to tell. With a lot of comparison shots floating around out there, there are a lot of different “masters” being used across multiple territories for DVD releases, which are all largely coming off of the same master that Toei has for their own releases. Similar to the first set in the series, not everything is exactly the same for a variety of reasons and discrepancies creep in.
Having only watched the dubbed DVDs from ADV Films before, this release certainly stands out better in a lot of ways with its high definition presentation. It’s a much cleaner release and the higher bit rate helps to eliminate all the noise and blockiness that plagued a lot of DVDs, especially in the darker blues and the washed out backgrounds from those releases. For most viewers, when they watch this, there will be little to find wrong with it. For others, there’s a fair bit of ghosting in a number of scenes that creeps in and some gradient issues in a few places as well, though those were less pronounced and largely due fade-out sequences. There is a definite saturation issue going on, which is really noticeable in a lot of scenes throughout as you get characters whose skin tone really looks pink and almost red more than anything else. Well, more pink than usual, to the point where it feels like they’re blushing constantly. This isn’t what it’s supposed to look like, but it is what the masters Viz was given look like. It may be an issue where once you know, you can’t not see it, but others may not really register it at all. It’s a mixed bag for what should have been a fantastic release, and how much these issues impact you will certainly affect your overall enjoyment of it.
While the first set came in a heavy chipboard box, this one is done up in the oversized Blu-ray case that holds both formats discs and will slide easily into that box set. The front cover works nicely with its foil for the O-card slipcover that lets the girls stand out in a brighter and colorful way than the keepcase artwork itself, and there’s just a general tone of brightness and vividness to it that makes it stand out beautifully all around. The back cover gives Usagi another pose along the right in her Princess Serenity mode while the left gives you the basic premises, a look at the extras and the technical information in a decent easy to read form. Add in a few logos and other technical pieces along the way and it covers these decently enough. The case does come with artwork on the reverse side which has a beautiful two panel piece with the main girls along the left, Tuxedo Mask in the middle and a larger Sailor Moon the right with the Moon Kingdom as the backdrop..
Obviously all of this feels a bit weaker than the first set, but that set was designed to hold all of the first season together with extras within it that are tied to these episodes. As a whole, the two sets come together beautifully for fans..
The menu design for this release is really nice and shows a lot of love and attention given to it rather than just duplicating things easily and moving on. The overall structure of each disc in the set is the same where we get an array of clips from the show playing out as pieces move across the screen and we get the same tiara-type navigation strip along the bottom that has a lot of clear space throughout it that makes it look great during playback as a pop-up menu. The logo resides brightly at the top center which gives it a lot of shine. The fun is in that each disc is essentially given over to each of the first three girls. Each disc works its own color hue pattern aligned with the Scouts themselves and it also has its own music piece associated with it, which is delightful and will certainly inspire some to haul out their music again and reconnect with it. Navigation itself is a breeze and while I dislike that the language tracks are locked from changing on the fly, you can change it through the pop-up menu during playback and easily check differences in the tracks.
As we said before, the fact that the show is as old as it is means there’s likely not a lot of extras. That provides opportunities for new extras to be created though, such as the first part of Moonlight Memories here that has people talking about the show, which includes spoilers to be sure. With a lot of fans out there, and cosplayers, there’s a good group to work with in bringing the passion of the fans out. That runs about ten minutes but we also get a twenty-five minute Anime Expo Sailor Moon panel that provides for some fun for fans that never get the chance to make it there to see what it’s like.
Cosplay is a huge part of the enduring popularity of the show and that means we get a pretty fun ten minute piece where we see how Viz put together their Sailor Moon cosplay team to help them work the convention circuit back in 2014. A shorter piece that’s also fun is that we get the Sailor Moon Day highlights from one of the conventions that really shows the passion of the fans well. In addition to that, the welcome extras are here in the form of the art gallery, the clean opening and ending sequences as well as the ending song pieces so far.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Revisiting Sailor Moon in the previous set was definitely something of a treat. Considering the way I had seen it over the years in smaller chunks through past releases that were spread out, it wasn’t exactly a series that won me over in a big way, though I could certainly appreciate the work as a whole with its influences and impact. What I did like in revisiting it was seeing the way it worked to decompress its storytelling compared to the manga and other shows as it focused heavily in the first twenty-three episodes on the core trio as introduced. That gave Usagi time with everyone individually to build up the all important friendships that made it feel all the more real and true within the context of the show itself.
With this set, we bring the Dark Kingdom storyline through its motions and to its completion, which also means that there is a sense that you can find yourself feeling the work complete by the end of it since it does work a kind of reset along the way. What frustrated me a bit with this set is that the important work it did in the first half is largely lost in the second half when it comes to the characters. We do get the introduction of two more Sailor Scouts here with Makoto first and then Minako later as Sailor’s Jupiter and Venus respectively. Makoto makes out a little bit better in getting to know everyone, but she ends up getting the short end of the stick compared to Rei and Ami. Minako fares even worse as she pretty much drops in as an active player rather than discovering all of this along the way and there’s just quick acceptance by everyone else and they’re all instant friends. Maybe everyone was just used to playing the Sailor V game and assumed she was just like that.
This half of the opening season is one that plays to a few themes and certainly still goes for the monster/opponent of the week angle. Thankfully, some of this is reduced in terms of the wacky kinds of opponents, but we still get episodes involving things like the hair stylist which makes you remember just how bad some of these creatures can be designed. The initial focus in the first half here is actually fairly decent as it works the idea of the Seven Great Monsters and has Kunzite taking over as it progress from Zoisite, who is finding her mission to retrieve the various Rainbow Crystals that these seven posses to be far more difficult than she anticipated. Luck, of course, has our Sailor Scouts coming across each of them in the nick of time and helping to free them, but a lot of it generally has to do with Zoisite coming up with ridiculous plans, failing, and hoping to get another shot. So I was rather pleased when Beryl ushers her off the stage, especially since she had been doing it all for Kunzite and he’s powerless to stop this from happening.
There’s a fair bit of character material overall across this, and as the first main arc comes to a close, the show does the very welcome turn of having Mamoru and Usagi realize who the other is in full, which gives the two of them a chance to really start understanding each other. Of course, it doesn’t last long since Mamoru finds himself being taken out and twisted by Queen Beryl to be one of hers, awakening a portion of who he was in the past on the moon as Prince Endymion. A lot of what makes it fun while watching, even as a repeat viewer, is that you keep looking for signs that Mamoru is playing a long and deep game here and that he’s really on Usagi’s side the whole time and knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t, of course, but there are so many subconscious elements helping him that you can imagine him fighting secretly and quietly on the inside. It’s the kind of arc that really needed its own series, done serious, to explore what he was going through.
The back half of this season is where things really work their best though as the realization of what’s happening comes into focus and Usagi has her whole team. There’s a lot of small moments of them trying to undercut her as their leader in the first half of this set as Minako and Makoto come on, but as more of their pasts are revealed about the Moon Kingdom and that Usagi is actually Princess Serenity, that slips away. Not that any of the group is particularly adept at leading as they all have their strengths and weaknesses and I don’t think I’d even let Luna lead considering her often single minded focus. The strength of the team here is just that, that they’re a team. So seeing that come together under the threat that they realize is coming works well, though less so than it should because of the aforementioned lack of really getting to know Makoto and Minako.
With Queen Beryl doing all she can to get things prepare for Metalia as that mysterious darkness is gaining force and beginning to blot out the sun, everything points towards the final confrontation that dominate the last couple of episodes. The final two are where things really happen though, owing to the younger set that the show was originally aimed at so that it wasn’t a long haul storyline coming to completion, and it’s probably some of the best material of the series so far. And not just because they kill off most of the Scouts along the way, something that you know won’t last no matter how much you might want to see the series truly reinvent itself going forward. it’s powerful because it does have everyone making sacrifices on top of ones they already have, often involving love, throughout the series. And the use of love, tying back to the past with the Moon Kingdom and what it represents, makes all things possible here. Which is a great message to send and instill, and it makes for some great moments as it all rests on Usagi’s shoulders, with a little help from her friends in spirit.
While Sailor Moon will never been in my top ranked series of all time simply because of its sprawling nature and monster of the week routine that populates much of it, when it gets serious, it does so in a great way in classic shoujo form. And that’s really appealing. This set brings us to the end of the Dark Kingdom saga and it really works it well as it gets into the back half of it, though there’s some solid setup for it along the way. There are frustrations I have with it as both Makoto and Minako feel less invested in things than Ami or Rei, and some of that is just structural in that they didn’t spend the same kind of time for viewers to connect with them. but overall, it puts everything into a good place to get us to the end of the storyline before everything goes big, crazy and fun. Which is what you really want with all of this in the end anyway.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Sailor Moon Day Convention Event Highlights, Moonlight Memories Part 1, Full Anime Expo Sailor Moon Panel and Cast Announcement, Official Cosplay Teams Interviews, Clean Opening and Ending, Art Galleries
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: February 10th, 2015
Running Time: 510 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.