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Sailor Moon Sailor StarS Part 1 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read
One of the more anticipated arcs finally arrives.

One of the more anticipated arcs finally arrives.

What They Say:
Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians are about to face their greatest challenge yet — high school! But as the girls take their next big step in life and Chibi-Usa prepares to return to the future, a mysterious force frees the evil Queen Nehalennia! While the struggle to contain her old enemy will be difficult, it may be Mamoru’s year of studying abroad that hurts Usagi the most. But there’s even more to take Usagi’s mind off of long-distance love with the arrival of the villainous Sailor Anima Mates and the heroic Sailor Star Lights! Who could be behind this new wave of evil? And why are the Star Lights resistant to working with Sailor Moon? Usagi has her hands full, but she’ll always make time to write a love letter to her beloved Mamo.

The Review:
Audio:
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 are 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 match 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.

Video:
Originally airing in 1997 and 1997, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The episodes of this set, 167-183, are spread across three discs that give it enough room to work with. Produced by Toei Animation, the release largely looks like the previous one in terms of color saturation and the solidity of detail to it. The pink character are definitely still a thing, and it feels a bit stronger this time around, but the whole thing is pretty much baked into every release we’ve had for the last couple of years. The colors are nicely defined and solid throughout with no problems such as breakup or noise amid it all. The high motion sequences, especially the transformations, look great with a clean look to them that doesn’t suffer from macroblocking or any other issues, resulting in some very appealing sequences. The show is certainly the best it’s looked in North American release and is well spread across the three discs.

Packaging:
The limited-edition packaging design for this release is similar to what we’ve gotten in the past which means I like it a lot and the general consistency is welcome. The front of the box and case uses the same image of Usagi standing tall but with the box and its wrap getting the better paper quality that really adds some richness to it. I like that it has just Usagi as it feels really definitive. The back of the box just goes with another piece of Moon jewelry while the back cover keeps to the light blues 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. The new trio gets the main artwork piece here that looks great with the simplicity and color design of it all while the rest is the standard technical grid and production information that lists it all cleanly and clearly.

The set also comes with a gorgeous squarebound book in full color that goes into an episode by episode guide, lots of character material, and some great character design material before digging into some visuals. It’s a delight for fans with just how well presented it is. The set also comes with a spacer box to hold the second half when it arrives..

Menu:
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. 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.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty good as we get some familiar material and some new interviews. The interview with Laura Post as the queen gets a fourteen-minute piece that goes into how she dealt with bringing the character to life. Stephanie Sheh gets two interviews where the first is her with her cute pupper talking about Usagi while the second is a three-minute “chibi” interview where she talks about the character of Chibi Chibi. In addition to that, we get the clean opening and closing as well as an art gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The elusive Sailor Moon Stars series finally has its home video release, coming some four years after Viz Media began streaming them. The plan took a while as they were essentially redoing everything prior to it with the new dub and had to get all of that released, which took time. With this season having not been released before dubbed on home video and it being the final run of episodes with the next half that we’re getting, it’s welcome to finally have almost everything on Blu-ray once and for all. The show has had such a problematic release pattern going back to the 90s for a range of reasons that it’s just very satisfying to be almost done with it and to have something definitive out there (and, likely, a full series monster set at some point as well). This season is all-new to me so there’s a lot to like in finally getting something that feels fresh even if it does play to the usual trends that are Sailor Moon.

This set has episode 167 through 183 out of the 200 episode run and it gets things moving for this arc well. It’s an interesting arc overall as the first six episodes I believe are focused largely on the return of Queen Nehelnia before it gets into the arc that finishes out the series. This is a fun little arc overall since I like Nehelenia and her being freed just as Chibiusa is about to go back makes for a good bit of chaos – even if I wish she was able to go back sooner. There’s a lot of decent character material across this arc, such as what we get with Hotaru as she’s changing a good bit, but I like seeing how Mamoru starts to come across differently thanks to a shard from Nehelenia’s mirror that strikes him int he eye. It takes time for it to really come to fruition as her curse unfolds but it’s enjoyable seeing him as more of a key figure combined with it being a short arc. Especially since the start of the next arc has Mamoru leaving to study abroad in America. Putting a focus on him and the others is the best way to try and give him a little extra attention.

The premise of the new arc that carries us through to the end involves the arrival of a new idol group in town called three Lights. They’re made up of Seiya, Yaten, and Taiki as Sailor Star Fighter, Healer, and Maker respectively. And the Outer Senshi doe not care for them in the slightest when they finally do get wind of them some time after Usagi has made friends with them. Particularly since Usagi has gotten very close to Seiya and spends a good bit of time there. The group makes up the Sailor Starlights and they’re trying to deal with the problematic villains du jour since the usual routine of regular people being transformed into things happens here. This time, they’re creatures called Phage. Fixing the transformation isn’t in their wheelhouse but we see Eternal Sailor Moon can. Which, with all the names and the way things have grown over the seasons, reminds me of just how unwieldy everything is getting with this arc and before it.

A lot of what we get from this point forward is the familiar material in terms of structure. The Three Lights as idols end up in the same school where Usagi and the others are and they end up getting mixed up in some clubs or athletics, lots of people get transformed into Phage, fights ensue. And along the way we see Usagi getting closer to them and some small reveals of who they are. The original scouts aren’t completely forgotten by any stretch but the cast has grown a lot so it has to be handled as best as it can. I rather liked the episode focusing on Ami and the teacher that she likes as he’s excited about a comet that’s come back to Earth as it makes its grand cosmic journey. She’s more forward than she used to be about it and matters of the heart, which is welcome to see, and it adds the extra emotional component when she has to face him as he’s turned into a Phage as well for a while.

While bigger things are set up as time goes along here, I was amused by the way where with Mamoru out of the picture, Usagi falls for Seiya rather quickly and even gets some real dating in. Considering what we’ve seen of their story arc into the future in past arcs and alternate timelines, I guess one can’t fault her for seeing what a little other potential is like. But at the same time, they’ve been bonded so heavily that it’s hard to imagine it not working out with Mamoru without some sort of catastrophic event happening due to the back and forth of the timeline at times. Still, it’s nice to see this side of Usagi as it plays out since she’s in high school now and now quite the flighty basket case that she often came across as way back in the very first season where she was little more than a caricature.

In Summary:
I won’t claim any sort of Sailor Moon burnout since the sets have been spread out well enough over the last few years. Viz Media has largely done a good job of bringing this out for fans outside of the pink hue issue and I know way too many people that are just thrilled to have these sets. And this one in particular since it was lost for so long from release. It’s an interesting seeing that brings in a lot of characters that you can’t be sure exactly how they’ll be handled, what their real story is, and how it impacts the big picture elements. And that uncertainty is welcome after sets that we’ve seen multiple times over the decades. Viz’s release here with limited edition looks great and has a fantastic book that really delivers the good. I’m excited to see everything wrapped up soon and how they’ll deal with the license from there.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Cast Interviews, Art Gallery, Trailers, and Opening and Ending Songs

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

Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: June 18th, 2019
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 408 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

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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