During the 1990s, anime began to become hugely popular in western countries. While anime had previously existed in western culture, strong demand for the latest anime films and series of the 90s (most of which have set the benchmark for anime in their personal own way) meant that American anime distribution labels would have to find a way to localise these properties to satisfy a growing niche. As a result, massive hits like Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Pokemon became popular in their own right and signalled anime’s arrival into the mainstream of pop culture. Among the anime acquisitions of the 1990s was Sailor Moon, a series dedicated to the adventures of a high school girl who becomes the eponymous warrior and battles intergalactic enemies with the help of her friends, the Sailor Senshi (or the Sailor Scouts as they’re referred to in the English language dub). Popular in its own right, the series is unquestionably one of the most important anime series of the 1990s as its influence can be felt amidst shows like Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Cardcaptor Sakura. With a new series set for release later this year, now is perhaps the best time to have a retrospective look at the original first season of the show.
While many, myself included, look back on the series with only fond memories and warm nostalgia, the original Sailor Moon series is, unfortunately, not as great a show as one would like to believe. To begin, Sailor Moon’s first season doesn’t actually form some semblance of a plot until just over half-way into the season. Most of the episodes leading up to this point of the season can be regarded as insignificant filler which do little to move the season along. Moreover, many of the first season’s episodes are terribly predictable – once you figure out the pattern that one episode follows, expect that formula to be replicated in nearly every other episode. To be fair, Sailor Moon does draw inspiration from the Super Sentai (or Power Rangers) series which follows a very similar format though it doesn’t change the fact that this format does little in the way of establishing a plot.
In most cases, this would warrant an immediate disinterest in the show but that’s not quite the case here. While it is still rather unacceptable for a show to find its footing more than twenty episodes in, the momentum of the first season is kept afloat largely by its humour and characterisation. Usagi Tsukino, is the focus of the show and though her dim-witted and lazy attitude might come across as annoying to some, I found her to be a completely hilarious character. What’s interesting about her character is that she defies the expectations one would come to expect when a role of immense responsibility is given. Despite her well-intentioned actions against evil, Usagi reacts to fighting alien warriors the same way any sane fourteen-year old high school girl would. It’s qualities like these that make her character all the more fun to watch. There’s some great comedy to be had in Sailor Moon (particularly with some of Tuxedo Mask’s ridiculous proclamations) and although it understandably phases out towards the end of the first season, the comedic moments are just as memorable as the romance and drama of the show.
Sailor Moon’s first season doesn’t exactly scream quality but its flaws are masked by the sincere treatment of its characters. If you can get over a lot of the predictability, repetition and pacing issues, the show rewards you with an admittedly intriguing story based around some surprisingly cool concepts involving alternate realties and reincarnation. Though Sailor Moon is a children’s show at its core, enough content is available in the show to satisfy older audiences as well. It may be a bit of a cliché but there’s certainly something for everyone to enjoy in Sailor Moon. And even though the show might not be as good as some of you may remember it to be, perhaps rest assured knowing that one thing about Sailor Moon will always remain constant – the show’s ridiculously iconic opening theme song.