Sailor Moon is one of those series that divides anime fans – it seems as though people either love it, or despise it. Due to its overwhelming popularity, people are quick to criticise it, sometimes unfairly. The voice acting in particular is very often under attack, as is the reworking of some of the plot to make the anime okay for American television. Despite this, Sailor Moon remains one of my earliest anime favourites.
One of my first memories of getting into anime involved me stumbling down the stairs during the summer holiday at a ridiculously early time of the morning (knowing me it was probably half ten) so that I could watch the latest instalment of Sailor Moon. The one of the first mangas I bought was the original series by Naoko Takeuchi. The first anime book I bought was the Sailor Moon RPG guide. (And I don't even play RPGs) Getting the picture…?
Sailor Moon is undoubtedly the most famous shoujo anime in the West. It follows the story of a young girl named Serena who is pretty average. Not in the looks department, obviously, but in all others she is likeably flawed. She’s not an academic genius, she’s clumsy, she’s greedy, she whines… and so on, and so on. (So, as far as I'm concerned, the annoying VA is entirely appropriate to Serena's character!) She continues in her normal average teenage girl existence until a cat informs her that her destiny is to become Sailor Moon, the leader of a team of female warriors like herself. (Funny, last time a cat spoke to me I had to go see the doctor.) Not only that, but in a previous life she was Moon Princess Serenity, and faced an attack from the evil minions of the Negaverse. Now, reborn on a different planet, hundreds of years later, she must face her old nemesis again, defending the earth from their sometimes trivial attacks.
Volumes 10 and 11 are well into the plot, so if you wanted to watch Sailor Moon from the beginning, they really aren’t the place to start. They contain episodes 55-60 and 61-66 of the American dub of the series. They also contain the ‘Sailor Moon Says’ section of the show, which has been edited out on previous showings on TV here.
In these episodes, Serena’s heart is broken when Darien cruelly claims the couple have broken up. Serena, who knows their love was destined to be hundreds of years before they were even born, does not take this news with a cheerful shrug. As her romance with her beloved crumbles around her ears, she can be forgiven for letting her guard down when evil attacks. Bizarrely, the latest evil plot to take over the planet centres around – you'll never guess – a cosmetics shop. These episodes come from the series that was originally called ‘SM R(eturns)’, and features Rini and the Black Moon baddies.
Sailor Moon is a mixture of moving romance, slapstick comedy, dramatic battles and typical teenage angst. Sometimes this mixture confuses people, or puts them off, but I find it really works for me. Despite the sometimes monotonous monster of the day type episodes, there are those with very strong plots – these are the ones that make the series so rewarding to watch. Part of the charm for me also is the characters, the five girl team of Sailor Scouts who each have a loveable and different personality. I think everyone has their own personal favourite, but I could never decide between Venus (she’s a Libra like me), Mars (who could resist her fiery personality?) and Jupiter (you have to love the tomboy!).
Sailor Moon got me into anime because of the quality of the overall plot and character design – and let’s face it, there are very few magical girl animes out there that can even touch it for popularity.