Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie
A faithful anime adaptation of Naoko Takeuchi's original Sailor Moon Super S storyline.
The original series adaptation of Sailor Moon Super S (in 1995) kept most of the characters from Takeuchi's original, but very little of her story survived otherwise. There was no obsession with peering into peoples' "dream mirrors" in the original manga, for example. That business largely grew out of the series' formula (cliché, really) of people being searched for something by a villain; and Sailor Moon and her cohort having to stop this, and defeat the Monster-of-the-Week the villain created either to perform the task itself (e.g., in the S series), or to cover their own escape (in Super S). The Amazon Trio, who became major characters in the 1995 anime, and interacted (in various guises) with many ordinary humans as well as with Usagi's pals, in Takeuchi's original (AND in the new adaptation under review) were minor characters, subordinate to the Amazoness Quartet, and only had ONE interaction each with ONE of the girls before they were summarily "staged out" (to borrow the series' terminology.)
I felt the insertion of these myriad stories of the Trio looking into people's "Dream Mirrors" slowed the momentum to a crawl, and gave the Super S series a bloated feel in particular. (Even though all seasons of the show employed some version of this device, AND even though a few of these "original" (non-Takeuchi) stories weren't so bad. My favorite, as I recall, was the one with the portrait artist who his clients never wanted to pay because he painted them as they actually LOOKED, rather than in a flattering manner.)
The original series adaptation even portrayed the chief villain, Nehelennia, in a different way than Takeuchi did, and with a somewhat different motivation. Mamoru has a larger role in Takeuchi's original than in the old series adaptation; again, you'll see his role as she originally conceived it in the new production. But you'll also see that Takeuchi once again has Mamoru shoving Usagi away, without explanation, when he feels she's endangered by being with him; really, after Mamoru broke Usagi's heart doing this in the previous R storyline, you'd think he'd know that she'd rather face ANY danger than feel estranged from him.
Takeuchi's Usagi, as I believe Tim (our resident expert on Sailor Moon) has also noted, was a much less comical character than the conception of her in the first TV series adaptation. While she was always well-meaning, the original TV series usually put her somewhere on a spectrum between naïve and a total idiot, and, tellingly, her VA in the English dub gave her a Valley Girl manner, which was standard shorthand at the time to depict a character as dense. There's a LITTLE of this in Takeuchi's manga, but Usagi seemed mainly used for pathos rather than humor there, and since the movie under review follows Takeuchi's version, you won't see too much of "goofy" Usagi- and if that's what mainly makes her endearing to you, you'll miss it. I haven't seen much of Sailor Moon Crystal, the new series adaptation that is also said to follow Takeuchi's original manga more closely than the 1990's series did, but I've heard the same complaint about it- that Usagi is just not as much "fun" when played (relatively) straight. (Takeuchi's own comments, in the manga, suggest that Usagi was a "Mary Sue" kind of character (in other words, a representation of herself), so I guess I can understand her objections to Usagi being portrayed as too much of an idiot.)
Sailor Moon Eternal also restores the Outers (Sailors Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Saturn) to Super S; the 1990s series omitted them entirely in the Super S season, though it apparently felt guilty about this omission; for in the first few episodes of the following Sailor Stars season it almost immediately brings back its just-defeated villain so everyone, including the Outers, can have a shot at them. While I hated Stars as much as anyone starting about the time the Starlights appeared, the first few episodes I didn't think were bad at all, in spite of the usually fatal mistake of resurrecting a villain too fast: there was effective foreshadowing; the Inner and Outer girls were on the same page for once (in the old anime series, they never were before or after); AND there was some fascinating metaphysics involved in the surprisingly satisfying ending of that little subplot- again, even though everything that followed, through the end of Stars, was abysmally awful.
(I felt having the Inner girls at odds with the Outers (well, at least Uranus and Neptune) was really a welcome innovation back in the S series that preceded Super S; Usagi and the Inner girls' feeling that no innocents should die, versus Uranus and Neptune's attitude that you-have-to-break-some-eggs-to-make-an-omelet, I thought made for MUCH better drama than the generally worshipful attitude the Inner girls had for the Outers in Takeuchi's original. But I digress.)
I never much cared for Takeuchi's manga art, which I found "wispy" and vague; I thought the lack of definition often made it hard to figure out exactly what was going on. The 1990s series art was far from perfect too; it obviously showed the effects of low TV budgets and tight production schedules (and don't get me started on the art team that drew all the characters' heads like balloons.) The artwork in the movie adaptation under review, by contrast, is vibrant and well-delineated.
I also didn't care that much for the Super S focus on Chibi-Usa, though to tell the truth she was a major focus of the story ever since she was introduced back in the R/Black Moon storyline. I guess Super S is her "coming of age" story (she SEEMS a bit young for that, but she's precocious), complete with a romantic subplot for her, AND her own set of Sailor Guardians. Really, isn't it a bit early for all this? After all, her mom (Usagi) hasn't even come into HER own (i.e., inherited the Earth) yet...
There are a couple other things that struck me, and they both involve clothing, of all things. One was Pluto's loungewear (mildly risque.) The other was that the girls sure do a lot of costume changes toward the end- maybe even one or two more than in the manga.
I'm going to Rec the original series version of Super S anyway- it has its virtues, even if it's not nearly as concise (!) as this movie.
This is Takeuchi's storyline pretty much exactly as she created it. I guess my main problem is that Super S and the whole Dead Moon Circus group of villains was not my favorite storyline. (THAT was the S series, believe it or not.) Some might prefer the more comical Usagi of the old show to the version here, even though this IS as the original author conceived her. In any case, I really feel grateful to Sailor Moon Eternal, for it's finally given me the opportunity to write about one of the shows that got me started in anime- nearly three decades ago! — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Netflix rates TV-14, for Fantasy Violence
Version(s) Viewed: Netflix video stream
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie © 2021 Toei Animation/Studio DEEN
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