What They Say:
Usagi Tsukino is a little clumsy and a crybaby, but she’s also one spirited eighth grader. One day she meets Luna, a black cat with a crescent moon mark on her forehead, and transforms into the pretty guardian of love and justice in a sailor suit, Sailor Moon! As a chosen guardian of justice, Usagi apparently has a mission to protect a princess, and to find her fellow Guardians and the phantom Silver Crystal. Meanwhile, Queen Beryl of the Dark Kingdom sends her subordinates to the town where Usagi lives. They cause strange events to occur there, all in an effort to acquire the tremendously powerful Silver Crystal… Can Sailor Moon and the other Guardians successfully find the phantom crystal, and protect the princess…!?
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 twelve 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 the group as a whole ringed around Chib-Usa in the lower middle with lots of great colors and a pretty good expression from all of them. 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.
With the limited edition version of it, we get a good heavy chipboard box that goes for a really nice ornate style that simply looks classy and proper in all sorts of ways, especially with the etching and colors of it all. Within the box we get the space for the Blu-ray case itself as well as a really thick booklet that has tons of great full-color pieces with summaries of episodes, background information, and all sorts of other details about the production. Add in a small packet of oversized postcards/art cards and there’s a whole lot to like here.
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 ten minute behind the scenes piece that deals with Momoiro Z from their Anime Expo 2016 appearance, which means some fun footage with the concert and interacting with fans before the bulk of it which is an interview with all of them.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The back half of the first Sailor Moon Crystal series is one that works a little lighter than the first as it’s just twelve episodes to tell the Black Moon storyline. Similar to the opening part of the series, I’m finding myself thoroughly enjoying this presentation overall as it’s pretty tight and condensed compared to what I had experienced with the original series all those years ago, both in the edited DiC run and the unaltered original. There was just so much (expected) fluff in that original run in order to pad things out for the audience and market dynamics of the time that it turned me off completely after a while, making it hard to enjoy the show. So when we get something that more (or less) accurately adapts the manga without spending as much time on the fluff, well, I’m all in.
And I’m saying that as someone that absolutely detests Chibi-Usa and this arc in general based on past experience. Her arrival at the end of the previous set brings the pint-sized wonder from the 30th century here to try and deal with events and get help for what’s to come. The introduction is awkward as hell with her holding a gun to Usagi’s head, even if it is a toy, and she’s just a pint-sized terror for Usagi for a decent chunk of this arc until things move us out of the present day. Which is expected considering what her origin is like and what she’s been facing in her past/our future. But there’s just something about the personality that irks me in a more general sense, especially since she rubs Usagi the wrong way and it just makes the whole dynamic annoying. Even worse is that over the first couple of episodes of this set while we get to know Chibi-Usa we have Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter all being whisked away, reducing the cast and the ability to smooth over the Chibi problems.
The main storyline of this season is actually fairly interesting, though you have to ignore a few planet-sized plot holes along the way. With Chibi-Usa having come from the 30th century, she’s hiding a special item that some bad dudes in the future want so they can take over the world. What we discover is that the Moon Kingdom rises and brings peace to the world (such benevolent rulers, I suppose) with Mamo and Usagi taking on that role and extending the lives of everyone going forward, enough so that both are still very much alive and young looking a thousand years from now. Yes, Usagi sacrificed certain things along the way with her powers, but we basically get painted the picture of a world that has known a thousand years of peace and tranquility thanks to what they bring to the table. But that peace in the 30th century is threatened by the planet Nemesis and a group of bad dudes that are now threatening there with plans to conquer the world in the distant past coming up along the way to make it a more thorough engagement.
The Nemesis side of it is the most interesting aspect as it gets underway as we discover how there were some that were disaffected by the state of the world that have aligned with the world that was sealed away. That seal revolved around an attack a few centuries earlier by a human who caused a lot of destruction and forced Queen Serenity to really deal with it through her abilities, which was the last time she did something like that. That the events there have lead to the present troubles are interesting and the way it evolved as we learn toward the end adds a nice layer to it. Naturally, because of how things have turned out in the 30th century, it requires the help of the original Sailor Scouts to deal with it, and Usagi in particular, hence their being drawn to the future and the kind of surreal moments as they deal with their older selves when it comes to Momo and Usagi.
These episodes do have some fun playful bits but it’s also frustrating in how little used Sailor Pluto is here, essentially relegated to a Heimdall role and just a bit of emotion here and there. I did like seeing how the two age versions of Momo work with each other as it progresses and the surreality of all, the biggest pieces for me is all the Chibi-Usa material. The earlier part is difficult at times but with it being a shorter season it doesn’t feel as overdone and problematic. And when we get the shift from her being the Small Lady to the Black Lady, that worked better than it did in the original since it was also condensed and has a better sense of power and confidence here and she aligns well with those that are also serving Nemesis. Essentially, I think the Black Lady storyline works a whole lot better here because I wasn’t subjected to so much Small Lady material that just made me hate the character originally.
Sailor Moon Crystal delivered pretty well in the first set for me with what it did and with a shorter and tighter back half it does it even better. Considering my less than polite feelings toward the original anime run of these episodes it’s definitely quite the turnaround to get me to like this. I still like the look of the show with its animation style and design – and having not seen the broadcast version before all the fixes certainly colors that – while the pacing is a big plus. The Black Moon arc may not have much in the way of memorable villains in a way but it delivers a good story and handles things with the 30th century, Chibi-Usa, and more better than I expected, leaving me a very good impression of this arc.
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: February 28th, 2017
Running Time: 320 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.