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Sailor Moon Crystal Season 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read


Sailor Moon Crystal Collection 1 CoverThe past is ready to destroy the present and the future is in the hands of a bunch of teenage girls.

What They Say:
The Legendary Pretty Guardian of Love and Justice returns for a new generation! Based on Naoko Takeuchi’s megahit graphic novel series, Sailor Moon Crystal retells the origins of Sailor Moon, the kindhearted crybaby destined to protect the world from dark forces. When the evil Queen Metalia and her Dark Kingdom threatens Earth, Sailor Moon and her fellow Sailor Guardians must find the only power capable of vanquishing this ancient evil – The Legendary Silver Crystal! But a mysterious man calling himself Tuxedo Mask is also after this sacred treasure. What is his connection to the Sailor Moon? And will the Sailor Guardians be able to find the Silver Crystal in time before the world falls into eternal darkness?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us a standard kind of design as we get the original Japanese language track as well as the newly created English language dub, both of which are in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that works a pretty good range of material as there’s straightforward dialogue, some very hushed moments, and some big action pieces as well. And it’s all wrapped in some good music as well to make it fun. The various components to the mix work very well as there’s a lot going on and it all comes together pretty well. The dialogue is well placed where needed and there’s some good depth in several scenes as well with the action. That area works well as it goes big, particularly in the final couple of episodes, and runs with it in a very fun way. The two tracks are definitely well presented and fans of the show will certainly enjoy them a good deal with how clean and clear they are.

Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The fourteen episodes for this set are spread evenly across two discs while the bulk of the extras are on the second disc. Animated by Toei Animation, the transfer brings this very colorful and vibrant piece to life in a really great way. It’s clean, vivid, and full of pop with the colors while also maintaining the darker scenes very well with solid blacks and the blues coming across as rich and free of noise or breakup. The end result is a show that’s very appealing looking with what it does and make sit easy to get lost in the show itself with how it comes across. It’s definitely the kind of slick production one would hope for.

The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the discs for both formats on hinges inside. The front cover goes with the expected imagery from one of the Japanese releases with Sailor Moon taking the whole space with lots of great colors and a pretty good expression from Usagi herself. The back cover wraps around and we get a nice section that puts all the information from the release inside. With a solid premise covered and a few shots from the show, you know what you’re getting into easily enough. THe discs extras and setup in the technical side are listed clearly as well while the remainder fleshes things out with the production credits and the usual box of logos and other little details. There are no show related inserts but there’s a great two-panel spread on the reverse side where the moon takes up the majority of it and we get a small silhouette of Usagi along the lower left that’s really powerfully laid out.

The menus for this release play in a very similar fashion to the original series menus with the logo in the center along the bottom while there’s stardust and the like on either side where the navigation itself is kept. The four submenus are quick and easy to load and navigation is a breeze with clear listings in easy to read text that’s not obscured or poorly laid out. Everything works perfectly as we get the clips playing out in the background that utilizes some good sequences from the show itself without becoming overpowering and distracting.

The extras for this release are pretty nicely done overall as we get the familiar extras that you want with the clean opening and closing and the trailer for the series. Both discs have a small but nice character artwork gallery as well. The original extra for this set is a fourteen minute behind the scenes piece that has the main cast sitting together talking about the differences between the series and more as they have fun in the way that you’d imagine the characters would in such a setting.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the game changing series from the 90’s that influenced a generation of fans in a big way that’s still having a huge effect on the anime industry, domestically especially, Sailor Moon was ripe for a remake as we saw a resurgence of interest with Dragon Ball Z getting a continuation and the theatrical Evangelion movies among others. Nostalgia runs big and the chance to capture a new generation of fans, young girls in particular that could watch with their mothers that grew up on it themselves, was definitely appealing. This production was a bit troubled to say the least as it was originally talked about for a 2013 debut and then got bumped back to 2014 and even then felt like everything was coming down to the wire. I never saw the simulcast myself or its animation problems in that form, but I saw plenty of the comparisons between the broadcast and very cleaned up/reanimated home video releases, which is what we got here.

With this season I find that I must present some context to the review because I’m going to treat it a little different. And part of that is that I’m not encumbered with the problems that many had above and it doesn’t color my view of the show. I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on this franchise over the years by covering the old DiC DVDs that came out, the subtitled-only box sets, the early later season DVDs from Geneon, and then working through the original series on Blu-ray from Viz Media that are coming along with the new dub – whose cast reprise their roles here. Through all of this I’ve still never read the manga so I’m not exactly working off of the source material and I’ve never been hugely bonded to the material since my initial exposure was the really cut up dub version from the 90’s. I get the show, I get its importance, but it’s a property that I had a hard time connecting with – to the point where I’ll easily say that I enjoy Wedding Peach more than the original Sailor Moon anime.

With this season of the show that works the Dark Kingdom story, what we get is exactly what I always wanted from it. Whereas the original series was working from a pure merchandising and long term broadcast plan where there was a whole lot of padding to it, this one is a more condensed and from all appearances more accurate adaptation of the source material in a broader sense. While we had a lot of episodes at times that focused on the group as it grew, giving them time to have adventures together before all the Sailor Guardians came together, this one works much as the manga does and as most shows do by introducing our core character in the opening episode and then spending the next few episodes introducing the other Sailor Guardians and expanding on Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask along the way. Sometimes this compressed nature can and often is frustrating because we don’t get time to know them. With this franchise, well, we’ve done that before and I really just wanted the core story. I don’t need a couple dozen monster of the week episodes and the production simply cannot afford it anyway.

And that makes this show hugely appealing. It’s pretty much everything that I wanted in that it tackles the main problem and tells the story as it introduces the characters, dips into their personalities on a surface level, and forces them to confront their enemies. The various men like Jadeite and the others have minimal roles overall and don’t come across as utterly incompetent by not figuring things out for a couple of dozen episodes. Instead, they have a good run of stealing energy and more until Sailor Moon shows up and then begin to suffer defeats that puts them in a bad position. Similarly, the Guardians learn to use their abilities quickly but it was like that before, we just saw a lot more of them dealing with the monster of the week side. While all of this is superficial and we don’t get much of the girls and who they are, Usagi gets the most as you’d expect, it works because this is not a “get to know you” kind of series. This is a thrust into a problem series where they have to figure it out and become friends along the way through the heat of battle. It’s a different kind of bond that’s forged and it works, particularly as the larger truths are revealed in the final episodes and we get a very strong end of the arc.

The series is by no means perfect and I don’t want to give that impression, but a lot of what bothers people about it are things connected to issues I have no real issue with. The only area that truly bothered me here are the transformation sequences. Not surprisingly, Toei Animation works the CG angle here in a big way and while there are pieces of it that I like there’s far too much of it that just feels too plastic-y for me. Beyond that, well, I actually really like the character design adaptations. Bringing material from this time period to life is dicey as some seem far more able to transition into modern animation styles than others, but this one takes on some nice changes in how angular, lanky, and tall they all look. They’re not the rounded characters we had in the 90’s but they’re also not the kinds of designs we often see employed today. So something different ends up becoming very appealing to me, particularly with as much as I watch.

In Summary:
Sailor Moon Crystal is the Sailor Moon we’ve seen before but without all the bullshit. And oh does that make a huge difference for me in just how much more I’m able to enjoy it. The series focuses like a laser on the story it wants to tell and while it’s a bit by rote and predictable, well, that’s because it’s working a template that it largely helped to establish when it first came out, or at least firmed up significantly. The series is not one that was life changing for me but it’s one I can really appreciate in a big way for what it’s done and the countless lives it impacted. Revisiting the original series these last couple of years on Blu-ray and then taking in this incarnation has me really excited for what else the Crystal franchise may have in story. This is how I’ve longed to see the series and it delivers in spades.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Behind the Scenes, Art Galleries, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: August 16th, 2016
MSRP: $69.99
Running Time: 320 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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