What They Say:
After the unexpected guest Chibi-Usa falls from the sky and tries to claim the Silver Crystal as her own, Usagi quickly learns this cheeky little pink-haired girl is the least of her problems. The Black Moon Clan, in their unending quest to destroy Neo Crystal Tokyo and change the future, have come back in time to corrupt present day Tokyo! Together the Guardians fight the Black Moon’s dark forces, but struggle to understand truth behind their sinister plan. Is there anyone the Sailor Guardians can turn to for answers? That pink-haired girl may hold the key to Sailor Moon’s victory after all!
Contains episodes 69-89.
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 and 1994, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-one episodes of this set are spread across three discs in an eight/eight/six 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 it’s essentially the same as the first sets, which is no surprise. Some of the problems will be highly noticeable to some while others won’t be able to tell. 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.
The packaging design for this release is solid as we get the sparkly and shiny slipcover that replicates the artwork but adds a little extra pizzazz to it, even as the artwork itself is a little darker. The design is a good one with the main cast all in their various action poses while Sailor Moon is in the center with the right kind of seriousness and smile to it. The slipcover shifts the logo to the top while the case itself shifts it to the bottom since the slipcover zooms in on things a bit. The back cover keeps to the light pinks and soft whites for the background as it gives us the rundown of what to expect here in a very general sense and a few shots from the show mixed in with what extras are included with the set. Chibi-Usa gets the main artwork piece there that makes her look even smaller than usual while the rest is the standard technical grid and production information that lists it all cleanly and clearly. There’s no booklet here – we got the big book in the first set for this season, but we do get some nice artwork on the reverse side of the main cast against the time-space corridor and door.
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.
This set comes with a good collection of new extras for fans to sink their teeth into as it continues to show fandom at large for the property. There’s a good twenty-minute piece with Sailor Moon at Otakon showing off the convention side of things and we get a taste of that with the Sailor Moon Anniversary piece as well that shows about four minutes worth of material from Anime Central at that time. Cherami Leigh takes us through the dub recording session in this installment, which is about eleven minutes long, and we get the familiar clean opening and closing material and a decent gallery selection of images across all the discs as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Sailor Moon R season was something that I always found a bit frustrating to get into for a couple of reasons when I first saw it. I initially and continue to dislike the way they kind of reset it after the end of the first series as it eliminated the bonds and growth that the cast went through. Some of that eases once everyone gets unlocked again, but it was just a time waster for me to get back to where we were. The other aspect is Chibi-Usa herself, a difficult character for many both in her pint-sized form and her Dark Lady form that we get here – far too briefly, which reduces the impact of the character in that form. Coming back into it more than a few years since the last time I saw it hasn’t really eased these concerns, but the season as a whole still works a bit better for me.
Not surprising is that a lot of this set continues to be the one-off events that have the various powered villains coming in and causing trouble. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t, but the problem is that it’s all too familiar. Not just in this season in particular, as the first half is heavily made up of this material, but a large chunk of the original season was the same way as well. There are episodes that fans enjoy simply because of various connections, things they saw the first time around with nostalgia value, and so forth. I don’t have a lot of that so a good bit of it just kind of washes over me. It’s all well done within the context of the series and throughout the various interactions each of the girls gets their own chance to shine, step up, and become more for a little bit. Naturally, I found myself interested in the Sailor Mercury stories a bit more as I like her character the best, so seeing her dealing with being bullied by other students and figuring out how to overcome it all was fun and well done.
The other side to a lot of this material is that Chibi-Usa gets involved in various ways, often making things worse or just being another prop depending on what’s involved at the time. She’s not a character that gets a lot of growth throughout much of this as she’s still complaining about Usagi for most of it even though Usagi and her family are taking care of her in a big way. There are cute moments as she bonds more with some of the other girls, and natural Mamo as well, but mostly she’s trying to figure out what she has to do to avoid being captured by the Dark Kingdom goons and the upper management bosses while also trying to figure out how to save her mother back in the future. You do feel for the kid considering what burdens she has on her, but they’re never fully realized within these episodes of padding. When Chibi-Usa does get to do a bit more, mostly when we see some of the flashbacks to the future where we get a better handle on what her life was like, thereby making things easier to connect with in the present, it has a bit more appeal. She’s still a tough character, though.
When the show finally does start getting serious about things, it works close to as good as it does in the original season. In that season, it was fresh and new and we had a longer and more consistent bit of involvement in all the reveals. This time, taking the fight to the future through the time-space corridor, getting a brief meeting with Sailor Pluto, and understanding the scale of events feels like it’s all a lot shorter than we had previously, undercutting some of the impact. With the man behind the curtain in Wiseman running things in order to eliminate all life in the universe for reasons that never truly feel fully fleshed out, we get a mysterious big bad that provides the opportunity for the underlings to revolt against. It doesn’t come without paying a price and it takes a bit for some of them to really understand their situation, but the “upper management” side gets humanized a bit along the way though again it’s all done just at the end so it doesn’t have any real depth to it. If it had been given the chance to run a dozen or so episodes earlier it would have connected a lot better.
Where the final battle material in the Crystal Palace material works is with the guardians themselves and coming to understand the nature of this future place. There’s the obvious shock for Mamo and Usagi when they discover that Chibi-Usa is their daughter and that leads to its own struggle with her being warped from the Small Lady to the Dark Lady, providing a powerful opponent for them to deal with. The difficulty comes in that she’s hard to take too seriously since she’s forced aged up without experience or understanding, and the visuals for it half work. The pink cones are cute when they’re tiny but look even more ridiculous on an adult. I liked the Dark Lady elements overall and the kind of resonance they were going for in squaring off against Usagi and the others who feel unable to really go at it with her, but again it felt like we didn’t get anywhere near enough time to really dig into it.
The visuals of the Crystal Palace are pretty nicely done, even if there’s a lot of blank black space to make it easier and more mysterious. The palace itself has some good design work to it and just the visual of the other guardians working to protect Usagi for whatever length of time it was definitely adds to the nature of the kind of friendship and bonds that exist between them. That’s always been the shows strength so giving the girls from the present a chance to see it in the future, even if it takes a while for them to really connect with it and understand it, hits the right kind of sweet spot. The big moments hit well against what they’re facing as it progresses and the final battle amid this locale and where it ends up certainly isn’t bad, but with Wiseman not being the really threatening or fully developed villain – even compared to Beryl – keeps it from achieving the kind of level it wants to and needs to in order to really feel engaging.
While I’ve seen some of what comes after this season, that material isn’t something I remember well, so the Sailor Moon R set is essentially the last bit of the nostalgia side for me from what I’d seen before. I continue to like the show and what it represents and wants to do and Viz Media put together a pretty great set here overall. But it’s also a show that is of the time and place it was made, padded out and without being able to really dig into things. Though we’ve got the remake out there, there’s that part of me that wants it to stick to the core ideas but be redone with a very different sensibility as we’ve seen with other magical girl shows that have grown up. This season would definitely benefit from that as Chibi-Usa is a difficult character to really connect with and most of the other Sailor Guardians get smaller and less involved roles. There’s some really good stuff in this set but it’s surrounded by a lot of average material as well.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Sailor Moon Anniversary, Welcome Chibi-Usa!, Sailor Moon at Otakon, Dub Recording Behind-the-Scenes, Cast Interviews, Art Galleries, Clean Opening and Ending
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: October 27th, 2015
Running Time: 483 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.