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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, '12, 2:36 am 
Hello folks! This is where I review animated shows. This will generally be limited to shows that are built around story arcs, so a fair chunk of Western animation may well be excluded. For rather long anime series that re subdivided,I will review them by arc, as one can't really write a single comprehensive review of 200+ episode series that cover a number of different storylines over their runs.

Let's get this show on the road.

Original run: 1993-1994
Native language: EN
Genre: Action Sci-fi
Episodes: 52

Exosquad was part of the great boom in American animated storytelling that was kicked off in the early '90s by Batman: The Animated Series. The show itself was created by Will Meugniot, an animation writer and director who had previously worked on the excellent The Real Ghostbusters, and who was also largely familiar with the Gundam franchise before it made it big in the US with the advent of Gundam Wing on Cartoon Network's Toonami block- as early as 1995 he said that if the original Gundam was about WWII's Pacific theater, Exosquad was about the European theater of the same war. The real question is- how does it hold up now?

So, the basic plot is as follows. It's near the end of the 22nd century. Venus an Mars were terraformed, Earth was prosperous, but all was not well. The prosperity of Earth and the inner worlds was built on the backs of the Neosapiens, an artificial race of physically and mentally impressive slaves who were bred and created to be used as slaves in the terraforming of Venus and the mining on Mars, and fifty years prior to the start of the show they launched a massive rebellion against their human masters. While the rebellion was crushed in a large part to the creation of the ExoFrame, which is basically what you get when you take a Power Loader from Aliens and make it hulk out and grow guns and missiles, the Neosapiens were given their freedom and the planet Mars as a homeland, and are represented in the homeworlds senate by their Governor-General Phaeton, a veteran of the rebellion.

However, old resentments still linger, and Phaeton has been secretly re-arming deep under the surface of Mars- and when the Exofleet is sent away to battle space pirates at Saturn, Phaeton musters his fleets and armies, and launches a war against the inner planets, taking all of them by surprise and placing them under his control. It falls to Exofleet to undertake the Herculean task of defeating Phaeton's vast forces and liberating the inner planets- and to the Exoframe pilots of Able Squad operating out of the Exocarrier Resolute, who, by accident or design, find themselves smack in the middle of just about all of the most pivotal battles of the war.

The first of the strong points of the series is that all of the members of Able Squad are not only properly characterized but are also quite capable- at no point does the show become about a main character with the rest ending up effectively being cheerleaders as the main does his own sort of thing. Character development and behavior in this series, on both sides of the war- while characters do change over the course of the series, no one suffers a sudden hard right turn. The two sides are hardly monolithic- the Earth Resistance and Exofleet at times seem to be rife with human spies and collaborators, and a few of the supporting characters are outright racist against the Neosapiens. On the other side many of the Neosapien leaders are hijacking the cause for the purpose of attaining great personal power, and over time we encounter Neosapiens that believe in the cause of redressing old grievances, but become ever more disillusioned with a leader who seems to be slowly descending into utter madness. And then there's the matter of the Neosapiens that have stayed loyal to Earth and the Exofleet, such as Marsala, the leader of the first Neosapien rebellion. It's these sorts of complexities that elevate the show.

In terms of the actual storywriting, the show is hardly shy about taking the viewer into some pretty dark places, even if it does sometimes only rely on the viewer's imagination to connect the dots. The show will rarely have a character explicitly say that something is horrific, but generally prefers to lead by implication with the dialogue so that the viewer is free to imagine the worst- and with lines like "There aren't any dogs left on Venus anymore- not after the famine.", it's hardly difficult.

One think that can be rather shocking is that the art design can tend towards the garish. Exosquad did have a rather strongly pushed associated toy line, and some of the designs are built towards being toyetic. The design tends to be extremely '90s (if that makes any sense at all). This is mainly geared towards the E-Frame and character designs, and the actual landscapes and backgrounds are as bleak or colorful as could realistically be expected, depending on the location. The animation can be a bit clunky at times, but it is generally held to at least a reasonable standard for television animation.

Which does bring me to a bit of a sub-section of the above- the actual major battle sequences in the series are fantastic, not just in their placement or effects in the story, but they generally take an "all hands on deck" approach, as I call it. While E-frames are powerful, they don't dominate every aspect of warfare with impunity to anything but each other- the different service arms of the Exofleet often have to rely on each other to get the job done. In the episode The Price of Courage, Exofleet's E-Frames can't break a powerful Neosapien fleet, so they have to rely on supporting warships to make a fusion torpedo attack to force the Neo fleet to disperse so that they can attack with any hope of success. Regular powered-armor infantry are needed to fight in cramped indoor facilities, and warship support is vital as some targets are just too tough to crack- and it helps that the ship gunners in this show are capable of reliably hitting targets smaller than an apartment building.

If the series does have any limitations, it's actually in the show's soundtrack. There aren't that many pieces of music used throughout the whole of the series- for example, there's really only one piece of battle music in the whole series, which does double duty as the series's main theme.

It is a show that should be watched, and it is currently all up on hulu. The story of the Neosapien war is concluded in the run of the show, even, but unfortunately the last episode is an unintentional cliffhanger, as it was meant to be the beginning of a second story arc. Still, even incomplete, it is a show worth checking out.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, '12, 2:29 am 
Exosquad was one of the few shows I didn't watch back in the day. I remember seeing some of the toys around. I also thought they tended to be garish in design, so that turned me off of the show. But I have to admit, this review peaks my interest. Maybe I will check some of it out on Hulu later this week.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, '12, 3:46 am 
I recall it being a bit on the dark side for 90's TV. The 90's in general was a rough time for animation. With only a few shows standing the test of time.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, '12, 10:24 pm 
Rylen wrote:I recall it being a bit on the dark side for 90's TV. The 90's in general was a rough time for animation. With only a few shows standing the test of time.

Well, the '90s gave us shows that were awesome (Exosquad, Batman: the Animated Series, Earthworm Jim, Men in Black, The Tick) as well as awesomely terrible (Darkstalkers, Captain Planet, Double Dragon). There really wasn't much in between.

On that note, most of the anime I'll be reviewing is likely going to be pre-millenial. There's just not much past 2000 that has really appealed to me.

Last edited by R-90-2 on Wed Nov 28, '12, 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, '12, 10:59 pm 
This is going to be a job an a half. Since this show does actually have 200 episodes on the nose, I'm just going to have to do this by arc.

Sailor Moon
Original run: 1992-1993 (Full show ran from 1992-1997)
Native Language: JP
Genre: Magical girl
Episodes: 46 (Full show has 200)

You really can't talk much about anime in North America without talking about Sailor Moon. You also really can't talk much about anime in Japan without talking about Sailor Moon, as the work ended up redefining an entire genre practically overnight. In the US, it became the first successful shoujo title to cross the Pacific, and hit its heyday just as the world wide web and other parts of the internet were coming into widespread use, meaning that fans of the show could gather and talk about in ways that were not necessarily available to fans of earlier localized series, such as Star Blazers and Robotech. The reason that Sailor Moon was even localized was that it came on the back of the immense popularity of Power Rangers, which was the vehicle used to bring the Super Sentai franchise to American shores.

The Super Sentai franchise actually figures rather heavily in the creation of Sailor Moon. As the creator of the original manga, Naoko Takeuchi was a rather large fan of Super Sentai series, her goal with Sailor Moon was to create a girls' manga that incorporated much of the plot structure and themes of Super Sentai- so if it had ever seemed that Sailor Moon was Power Rangers for girls, that was just plain the whole point in the first place. The reason this was a turning point is that magical girl shows prior to Sailor Moon were generally not action series, but comedies or rom-coms or similar. After Sailor Moon, that changed entirely, and now one can't think of magical girls without think of them defeating some kind of monster or similar challenges (as in Card Captor Sakura). Every magical girl show that has come after Sailor Moon owes something to the show, whether consciously or no.

The franchise is and remains immensely popular. In Japan, it spawned not only the usual steam of merchandise, but also a host of stage musicals and a live-action series, thus making the circle complete. In America, it resulted in an explosion of the female portion of the anime fandom, and it still remains well-remembered, as evidenced by the fact that the first print run of the recent reissue of the manga sold out in less than a month, outselling all other manga in its first week on the shelves.

And there's a remake of the series that's going to have a simultaneous intenrational release next year. How about that?

But enough history. This is a review!

So, the plot is largely as follows- Usagi Tsukino, a self-admitted klutz, crybaby, and chronic underachiever suddenly attracts a fairly large stack of strange happenings. Her usual day doesn't usually involve a talking cat hopping into her room and telling her that she has been "volunteered" to become Sailor Moon and fight the evil that infests Tokyo- and she doesn't actually get the full experience until she has to save her best friend from being choked to death by a monster that was impersonating her mother. So, Usagi now has even more responsibilities on top of the rest of her teenage life, such as fighting off the forces of Queen Beryl's Dark Kingdom, finding the Moon Princess, and getting through it all alive. At least she's not alone- joining her on the mission would be Ami Mizuno, a shy genius who plays host to the powers and devices of Sailor Mercury, Rei Hino, a bad-tempered future-seeing shrine maiden who takes the role of Sailor Mars, Makoto Kino, a hard-fighting, hard-crafting semi-delinquent who can give some monsters a hard time even when she's not Sailor Jupiter, and Minako Aino, Sailor Venus, who ha ben at this whole superhero business longer than any of the others. Also aiding them is the dapper, helpful, but ultimately mysterious Tuxedo Mask, a man on a mission which may not necessarily line up with their own.

in general, one's tolerance for Sailor Moon as a whole is dependent on one's liking for the Super Sentai episode formula, which one is familiar with if they have watched any of said franchise, or even just Power Rangers. You have the setup, you have the character stuff in-between, you have the battle at the end where our heroes blow up the monster/drive off the henchman/whatever. One of the parts I do like is that our heroines can be rather inventive- they defeat the first of Queen Beryl's top henchmen by running him over with a plane, for example- while they end up relying more on their powers in later arcs. While there is some amount of filler, the overall plot never feels much like it's standing still because of the changing goals of the villains- and because the show rather consciously uses the Super Sentai/Power Rangers formula, one is freed from the dragging, multi-episode fights that plague certain other action series.

Unlike most super sentai shows, however, the team does not start all or almost completely together right at the start. the rest of the sailors are slowly attached to the team over the course of this arc, and the last of the five, Sailor Venus, only joins the team roughly 3/4ths of the way through the first arc of this show. In some ways, this arc of the show is largely an extended setup for the four arcs that follow (five if you count a certain one, but that will be covered in my review of Sailor Moon R), as the show takes its time with establishing the various characters that the viewers will be spending their time with for the rest of the series. The first few episodes, when Usagi is on her own, are on the weak side, because the interplay between the various main characters is what really comprises the meat of the show. While the main cast has some basic traits to hang a character on, there are some additional subtleties one can look for. For example, Usagi's friendships with the other girls aren't always initiated on the purest of motives, and while Ami is generally written as something of a sheltered geek, there are implications throughout that she actually enjoys monster-hunting, something that the others find an unwelcome nuisance at best.

While the villains of the show tend to use the Super Sentai villain plans, it never feels especially stale- Queen Beryl and her henchmen have it together enough to actually advance their plans, and do actually change goals and objectives depending on the changing circumstances presented by the interference and actions of the heroines. they also introduce a feature of the show that it largely present throughout all five major arcs, being that the villains are terrible at working together. whether it's because the Queen has lost patience with their failures, or just intra-hench rivalries, only one of Queen Beryl's main commanders is directly done away with by the Sailor Senshi. Even with the lack of a united front, the final battle is an uphill struggle.

For people who are mainly used to modern series, the animation of Sailor Moon is going to look very dated at this point, and it doesn't really improve all that much as it moves into the later arcs. The action sequences follow the sentai formula (though with less melee combat) and end with a finishing move, and tend to rely rather heavily on better-animated stock footage for the Sailors' transformations and special attacks, but fans of older series have probably gotten used to stock footage in just about any genre you might care to name (especially shows that begin with an 'M' and end in 'across').

The show's soundtrack is ultimately rather serviceable. It doesn't have many standout hits, but there's nothing in it's somewhat jazzy portfolio that grates either. However, there's a reason that Moonlight Densetsu (the show's opening theme) is one of the most enduringly recognizable anime themes on either side of the Pacific.

While this review is based on the original Japanese (ENG subbed) i do have to say that there are a couple of things that I missed from the DiC English dub, such as the "Granny Luna" voice- it provided a sharper contrast between herself and the immature Usagi, and made it even more of a jolt when Luna descended into a moment's kittyness.

In general, I recommend this show if you can deal with having the Super Sentai formula as the basis for an action series, and as far as this arc goes, it's actually a rather solid kick-off for the show in general. I do recommend going sub for this one, as it works best in its original context, much of which was lost in its localization.

(Reviewer's note: While I know there were some anime female superheroines that predated Sailor Moon, SM was the first that was really aimed at girls rather than teenage boys.)

Last edited by R-90-2 on Mon Dec 17, '12, 11:36 pm, edited 3 times in total.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 5, '12, 3:46 am 
Sailor Moon R
Original run: 1993-1994 (Full show ran from 1992-1997)
Native Language: JP
Genre: Magical girl
Episodes: 43 (Full show has 200)

Sailor Moon R was the second 'season' of Sailor Moon, and it actually comprised two arcs- the first, the Makaiju arc, is the only one in the anime that doesn't have any equivalent in the manga. While Sailor Moon R was aired as part of the DiC dub, but the entirety of Sailor Moon R would not be fully aired in the US until 1998, when the show was picked up by Cartoon Network as part of its Toonami block. It was also the last arc handled by DiC, as the dubbing duties for the following two seasons, S and Super S, were handled by Cloverway Inc., the branch of Toei Animation responsible for distributing their properties overseas.

So, the basic plot is as follows. After Usagi and her friends defeat Queen Beryl and the Dark Kingdom, the five teens are ready to settle in for a normal life. However, as Earth just can't stop being in danger, the Sailors must once again plunge back into the fray to save the world. A battle against a pair of alien invaders and their monsters becomes the prelude to a struggle against the Black Moon Clan- a band of criminals who had been exiled from Earth in the far future. Advised by the shadowy Wiseman, their attacks put both the present and the future in danger- and added into this is a kid out of nowhere, who enters Usagi's live in search of the Silver Crystal that was so instrumental in the defeat of the dark forces up until now.

As said above, Sailor Moon R consists of 2 arcs. The first arc, the Makaiju or "Doom Tree" (in English) arc is composed of 13 episodes, and is the only arc on the show that is exclusive to the anime series. Despite that it has no grounding in the source, it is actually a fairly strong mini-arc, serving the purpose of showing the heroines' transition back to their duties as the Sailor Senshi. While it is fairly strong, it is rather unfortunate that almost none of the attacks that the Sailors pick up over the course of it are retained through the rest of Sailor Moon R, especially since many of them are actually quite useful and would've been a big hep in some of the later battles of not R, but possibly the rest of the series as well. It may also be because the events of the mini-arc don't have any special bearing on the rest of the show, except for the aforementioned return to duty and the character development thereof. It does, however, establish a very important precedent- killing the villains isn't always the way the Sailors get them off of their backs.

The Black Moon Arc is by far the most substantial part of sailor Moon R, as it establishes a number of aspects of the Sailor Moon setting that become rather important throughout the rest of the run, such as the state of the future of the planet Earth, and the involvement of the main characters in creating it. While not always directly referenced, the eventual fate of our heroines is something that hangs over the rest of the series. It's important without being enormously intrusive outside of the arc in which it was introduced.

Sailor Moon R also introduces us to two characters on the protagonist end, one of which is especially loved by the fandom, and another which is not. The former is Sailor Pluto, the guardian of the door of time and space. While characters out of their teens are generally consigned to the role of mentor figures in magical girl series, Sailor Pluto may well be one of the few examples in the genre of a magical woman- someone who has made it to her adult years but still participates in whatever shenanigans the series focuses on.

(She is also the source of an amount of 'shipping with The Doctor from Doctor Who that could best be quantified as "endless")

The second would be Chibi-Usa, a character that was divisive at best when she first appeared on the scene- at least in the US. There's a certain aversion to the introduction of cute child characters into series, as it's often associated with desperate attempts to prop up flagging shows. It also almost never succeeds. While I do not share some of the hate that has been directed towards the character in the early years, Chibi-Usa's characterization only really takes off in the arc that follows this one. While there is some in this portion of the series, she does spend a fair bit of time acting as a macguffin herself.

What also saw a bit of a downgrade was the monsters of the week. While the youma from the previous arc were very much their own distinct entities, most of the monsters used by the Black Moon Clan suffer from what might be called the Pokemon speech deficiency, in that they can only say their own name, generally. The main villains of the session are a bit more intriguing. As the Black Moon Clan are criminals rather than the fanatics we will got before and after, they are far more willing to give up the ghost once they realize they are getting a raw deal, and a startling number of the henchies back down and go legit. Al and En from the Doom Tree arc are merely looking for some means to survive.

The soundtrack remains largely the same as in the previous season, bu there are a couple of excellent additions to the rotation, including the song used in the final battle, "La soldier". While there is a new opening animation, Moonlight Densetsu is still the opening song, as it is for all except the very last of the five seasons.

The arc's primary importance in the show is to reveal the future destiny of our heroines, and it also marks the pint where the number of supporting characters outside of the main circle begins to diminish both in numbers and importance. While the Black Moon arc is not the strongest arc the show has to offer, it is certainly not the weakest.

(Reviewer's note: Sailor Moon R is also responsible for what was one of the most enduring euphemisms in the American anime fandom. There is a now-notorious scene where the girls agree to help Mamoru put on a play after all of his friends bailed on the project, and they get to arguing over who gets to play Snow White. In the original Japanese, Makoto says she should get the role because she has the biggest * [and dares the others to compare]. In the English version, she says it's because she has the most talent. Slang was born. What makes this especially unintentionally hilarious is that the DiC dubbers removed none of the visual/audio cues, so...)


(...there you go.)

(Sailor moon R is also the only season to have two separate openings)

PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, '12, 4:22 am 
Use to set my alarm clock to get up at 7 a.m. on Sunday mornings for the oppurtunity to watch Sailor Moon and original Dragon Ball on a local TV station. Exo Squad was also great, held a time slot in the 7 a.m. timeframe on the local NBC station on Saturday mornings. Was the closest thing to Robotech there was i nthe 90's, which was rather ironic since they re-launched the Robotech mehca action figures under the Exo Squad toyline.

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, '12, 4:32 pm 
Tweeg wrote:Use to set my alarm clock to get up at 7 a.m. on Sunday mornings for the oppurtunity to watch Sailor Moon and original Dragon Ball on a local TV station. Exo Squad was also great, held a time slot in the 7 a.m. timeframe on the local NBC station on Saturday mornings. Was the closest thing to Robotech there was i nthe 90's, which was rather ironic since they re-launched the Robotech mehca action figures under the Exo Squad toyline.

There's a whole lot of story behind the RT/Exosquad dealie, but I'm kinda vague on the details at the moment.

Sailor Moon S
Original run: 1994-1995 (Full show ran from 1992-1997)
Native Language: JP
Genre: Magical girl
Episodes: 38 (Full show has 200)

Sailor Moon S was the third of the five "seasons" of Sailor Moon, and it was the first one picked up by Cloverway after DiC gave up the rights to the show. While there are certainly differing opinions when it comes to the quality of the voices chosen for certain characters in the switchover, certain aspects of the new dubbing scripts were more faithful to the original stories*. It's at this time that the series switched entirely over to Cartoon Network's Toonami block in America, and would share a spot with the exploding amount of anime that made up that particular block until the end of Toonami. It is, in both in its original and English incarnation, considered the strongest arc of the Sailor Moon series.

So, here the story goes: After defeating Wiseman and the Black Moon Clan, our heroines now go back to more mundane challenges, such as the intense studying required for their high school entrance exams. The next threat, however, is not foreign, but domestic- a mad scientist and his band of followers are creating powerful monsters in order to extract the crystallized essence of people's souls to find the three keys that will lead them to the Holy Grail, allowing them to gain anything they wish- including the world itself. The monsters are so strong that they even attack openly, and Sailor Moon and her friends can barely hold their ground. However, they are joined by the powerful Sailor Uranus and Neptune, and even Sailor Pluto has taken the field to help. However, the new pair of sailors are almost as ruthless as they are strong, and almost appear to have the same goals as the Doctor and his followers. And even beyond that plaguing the dreams of all of the sailors, are visions of The Silence- the coming of a great darkness that will cause the extinction of the world.

Sailor Moon S's introduces a number of new characters to the show on both ends, none of which really detract from the viewing- the writing for this season is really on-target. Sailor Uranus and Neptune act as cynical foils to the main cast's eternal optimism, and they are far more willing to sacrifice others for the sake of the mission than Usagi and her friends. while they will work together to destroy the monsters, the two groups are also just as frequently at odds even briefly coming to blows at some points. The villains are also the first villains in the series that don't have some monstrous origin- the Death Busters are largely humans who are getting by with the power of evil science and a bit of smarts. They even present a slightly more united front than the villains of other arcs, as the professor never does away with any of his own henchmen (and, in fact, is a fairly nice boss, as these things go), and aside from a couple of instances of teamkilling, the Sailors have to do away with more of the main henches in this arc than in any other.

This is also the arc where Chibiusa actually starts to become her own character rather than a macguffin, and that too is handled with surprising skill- at least some people who may have been turned off by her role and mannerisms in the previous arcs may actually enjoy the development she gets in this one, where she finally starts to become her own person and develop connections outside of the main cast, which, while eventually becoming important to the resolution of the story, is not obviously cast as the center of the whole plot. there is some mishandling of the rest of Sailor Moon's inner circle, apart from the title character herself. This particular arc of the show unfortunately occasionally falls into shounen syndrome, where the supporting characters end up contributing a good bit less to fights than in previous arcs, and in a number of cases being effectively useless because of advancing power levels. It's a shame it ended up this way, as otherwise things on the character front would be almost perfect.

As far as the progression of the story goes, there at least feels like there's less filler in this particular arc than in the previous seasons. While the series does certainly have its own share of monsters-of-the week, they at lest try to advance the plot, relationships, and so on a bit more quickly. This particular season is also excellent at setting its tone- right off the bat we are treated to two aspects of this particular arc- first being that the doomsday clock is sitting precariously at one minute to midnight, and second that no one is really safe, as the first monster attack occurs right at one of Usagi and friends' most common hangout spots, in broad daylight, with no attempt at subtlety or secrecy. The former is reinforced throughout the series, but not to the point where it becomes annoying or obtrusive. The fact that the villains are people who weren't "born to evil" like in the Dark Kingdom or Black Moon arc lends something a little extra, as these are basically humans who decided to dedicate themselves to the Professor and his mad schemes. It lends an almost cult-like atmosphere to their proceedings, even if they are scientists. This particular season is considered to have the best climax of any of the five main arcs, and I do have to agree.

One of the major things that changed from the previous arcs was that the soundtrack got a complete overhaul for Sailor Moon S. Aside from once again using Moonlight Densetsu as the opening theme, pretty much all of the music has been replaced with forty-two brand new pieces, none of which are remixes of previous music. Most of these are very good, especially those associated with the villains. In other aspects, however, there is a slight increase in the fanservice aspect, largely attributable to the fact that the series director at this point was Kunihiko Ikuhara, who would later put his mind to the mad, mad creation of Revolutionary Girl Utena. Thankfully, it's not to an enormous degree.

Sailor Moon S is a very worthy followup, and I would have to say that it is probably the best of the five seasons of Sailor Moon. It is the arc of the series that got me seriously interested in Sailor Moon as a show, and is probably one of the better story arcs to come out of action anime period.

(There was one rather notorious and ham-fisted change in the dialogue that was so poorly handled Cloverway may have been better off not bothering. Bad censorshipdoes have its own history in English localizations, of course- for example, in the localization of the third series of Space Battleship Yamato to Star Blazers. In the original SBY III, there's a scene where general Dagon is told that if he fails again, he'll be killed- but in Star Blazers Dagon is told that he'll be turned into a mindless robot slave, which, depending on who you ask may be an even worse fate.)

(Also, this season technically has two intros, but they're so similar that one will suffice.)

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, '12, 12:47 am 
Sailor Moon SuperS
Original run: 1995-1996 (Full show ran from 1992-1997)
Native Language: JP
Genre: Magical girl
Episodes: 39 (Full show has 200)

Sailor Moon SuperS is the fourth season of Sailor Moon, and left with the task of having to follow up on the superb previous season. For one reason or another, the staff on the show as not quite to the task. As far as I've managed to dig up, there seemed to be a general feeling at Toei that the show was losing its core audience, and so the apocalyptic drama of the previous season was considered to be a poor direction to continue with the series, even though the manga arc that the SuperS season drew on was almost as dark as the one that served as the inspiration for Sailor Moon S. As such we get a level of sugary cuteness that manages to exceed even the earliest seasons of Sailor Moon. This attempt backfired considerably, and it was not without cause- Sailor Moon SuperS is probably the weakest season of all of Sailor Moon.

The story begins in a dream- Chibiusa's specifically, in which she is stranded in the middle of a crystal forest. In there she encounters a white pegasus (alicorn, really) that tells her to keep his presence in her dreams a secret. That very day, a solar eclipse occurs, and from the dark side of the moon a stronghold emerges, the headquarters of the Dead Moon Circus. Their goal is to seek out Pegasus, as he has been opposing them for far too long to let go- and to find him they must search through the dreams of others. However, Pegasus is no ambiguous ally, as he appears briefly in the real world to grant Sailor Moon the strength to oppose these new enemies. However, there is one whom even the creatures and masters of the Circus bow to, the eternal queen of the Dark Moon.

While I did praise the strengths of Chibusa as a character during my review of the previous season, this one actually suffers a bit because the season is actually rather Chibiusa-centric, largely at the development of other characters. As she is the one who has primary contact with the main macguffin of the series, she gets almost as much time as the title character of the show. Chibiusa's main strengths in the previous season were as a supporting character- while her contributions and actions in that season were important, it was not at the cost of overshadowing the other long-established characters of the series, all of which have been part of Sailor Moon's band of heroines for far longer- the creators of the show might have gotten away with having one arc center around Chibiusa, but two was, perhaps, a bit too much for most of the fans to tolerate, especially as it's at the expense of characters who have been a part of the show ever since the first arc, some of which even joined up fairly early on within that. The most that the other members of Sailor Moon's inner circle get is a single character-focused episode, largely built around establishing their own Super forms to catch up with Sailor Moon.

The villains themselves are not particularly noteworthy, for the most part. This is, in fact he only season of the series where none of the villains are done in by Sailor moon or her friends, and while they do defeat the Queen, there really isn't any closure to the whole proceeding, at least not in this season, as the true end of that villain's character arc ended up being shunted forward to the fifth season of the series, which was unaired in the US. Perhaps the most that can be said for the villains in this particular season of the show is that they at least keep their theme, especially with the monsters of the day- all of the monsters of the day, right up to the end of the season, are monstrous versions of various sorts of circus acts and performers. It's not like there was no dramatic potential, as the monsters of the day are the soulless, monstrous husks of the former subjects of the Dark Moon Kingdom, but not much came of that detail save for a note of backstory.

One of the other problems I did have with the story progression is that the goals and methods of the villains are also largely static. In the previous major arcs of the show, the immediate plans, methods, and/or objectives of the villains would change as circumstances changed, or as new villains were introduced and brought their own ideas to the table. While the show never really deviated far from the usual sentai formula, there was, at least some illusion of the villains changing tack as the story progressed, lending some much-needed variety, even if it only existed in dialogue. SuperS is actually bereft of this component, and the search through people's dreams remains the sole point of the overall strategy of the bad guys ll the way up until near the end. The villains, while implied to be murderous, also lack the savagery and boldness of the previous seasons, resorting to schemes that would not be out of place in season one. This isn't to say that the season is entirely bereft of good moments (such as Sailor Mercury unlocking her own super mode), but one cannot sustain a whole series on a few good moments here and there.

At the very least, the music direction remains of at least decent quality. The show does introduce some new pieces, but not nearly as many as were introduced in Sailor Moon S. While the villain pieces are appropriate, this does, however, play into the fact that the villains as a whole tended not to be as serious as the Death Busters from the prior season.

The only real reason to watch SuperS is because of the necessary plot points that become part of the earlier sections of the last season. On rewatches, there really isn't any reason to sit through the whole season. It lacks the charm of the first season, the worldbuilding of the second, and the tense, apocalyptic drama and inspired climax of the third. It really has nothing distinguishing to recommend it as compared the other seasons.

(Since the intro for Sailor Moon SuperS contained a couple of brief moments of barbie-doll-ish nudity, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor in posting the intro here. EDIT: then I remember the second intro for Sailor Moon R, so NEVER MIND)

Last edited by R-90-2 on Wed Dec 19, '12, 12:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

PostPosted: Sat Dec 22, '12, 1:33 am 
Sailor Moon Sailor Stars
Original run: 1996-1997 (Full show ran from 1992-1997)
Native Language: JP
Genre: Magical girl
Episodes: 34 (Full show has 200)

Sailor Moon Sailor Stars is the last of the five seasons of Sailor Moon, and has the distinction of being the only one of the five that was never actually aired in the US. Because of this, it was the focus of much discussion as the internet started to come into common usage, and was one of the major targets of fansubbers at the time- my first experience with fansubbing actually came when a couple of people in our high school anime club brought a VHS tape of fansubbed Sailor Stars episodes into the classroom. Looking back on it, after having watched the whole thing, it has become fairly obvious to me that this season of the show had zero chance of ever making it on American television, even though it was broadcast in full in Spanish-speaking countries, Italy, and in other places besides. It is a real shame that this season was never broadcast, as it is actually one of the better ones of the show, as it both redeems a previous arc, and the one that takes up the majority of the season is both good and doesn't overstay its welcome.

So, here's the situation. The girls have finally graduated up to high school, and even the usually thick-as-a-brick Usagi managed to buckle down and pass her entrance exam. All of the girls except Rei will be going to the same school Makoto finally gets a school uniform that can fit her, and things are good all around, with the little ding that Mamoru Chiba will be studying abroad, so Usagi will have to go without her boyfriend and Tuxedo Mask. However, someone breaks Nehelenia of the Dark Moon out of her self-imposed seal, and urges her to take revenge on the Sailors. While Sailor Moon and her friends manage to overcome Nehelenia once again, thanks to the return of Sailor Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Saturn, this victory is soon followed up by the arrival of Shadow Galactica, a fearsome group of enemies who have already devastated numerous worlds- their very arrival causes the death of Mamoru Chiba, depriving the Sailors of their most constant ally. Even with all of the solar system's Sailors on hand, and the arrival of a new group of Sailors, the Starlights, they may not have enough strength to win, as the driving force behind Shadow Galactica's ,arch across the stars is none other than Sailor Galaxia, the mightiest Sailor Soldier to have ever lived.

This season of the show marks the departure of Ikuhara as director, who was responsible for overseeing both Sailor Moon S and SuperS. Perhaps the most important thing that this season did was give us a proper, closed conclusion to the Dead Moon arc, and the finale we got for Nehelenia in this season might well have redeemed a fair part of SuperS, had it actually been included in that season. However, as much as it would have worked in the prior season, it is also well-placed in this one, as it actually foreshadows how Sailor Moon is going to approach the events of the Shadow Galactica arc that follows immediately afterwards. this conclusion doesn't last too many episodes, to it doesn't intrude too much on the main arc of the season- there are no points where the main arc feels especially hurried.

Until the end, the villains of this series offer a return to the insidious secrecy of villains form earlier arcs of the show. Howeve, in this case it is further enhanced by one single fact: While earlier villains operated in secret, or used monsters that could pass as or disguise as human, Shadow Galactica manages to one up such concerns by being able to turn literally anyone into a monster in their service (though Usagi can restore them). Another aspect of this is that their plan is actually rather novel for the series. In all of the seasons prior to this one, dealing with the Sailors was merely something that intersected with the plans of the enemy, the Sailors being obstructions that resisted their real plans. However, in this season, the target of the villains of both arcs is the Sailors themselves. Sailor Galaxia herself manages to actually remain menacing throughout the series, due to the fact that the writers seemed to have agreed on a single, simple rule- whenever she gets out of her chair, someone is going to get killed.

It's also worth talking about the Sailor Starlights, as at this point it has been quite some time since entirely new sailors have been introduced, the last time being Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn back in Sailor Moon S. While they are very much their own team, their dynamic does actually resemble that of Usagi, Ami, and Rei back in the early parts of the first arc of the show. Seiya (Sailor Star Fighter) is a bit goofy, a bit snarky, but can get very serious when the chips are down (but is slightly less book-dumb than Usagi), Taiki (Sailor Star Maker) is the reserved, intellectual and mature one, and Yaten (Sailor Star Healer) is the dedicated one with the short temper and occasionally clashes with Seiya. Aside from some of the English WTFery in their attack names that's really par for the course in the show (Star Gentle Uterus? Really?) they are still very welcome additions to the series.

What this season is actually very good at is managing its moods. while there is a bit more comedy in this one than there was in Sailor Moon S, it definitely does not descend wholesale into the sugary sweetness that characterized a fair chunk of SuperS. So, while there are scenes such as a point where Usagi's group, Uranus, Neptune and the Starlights all cram into Usagi's suburban dining room to fight a single monster, the show never makes an excessively light tone about the overall situation of the show itself. It is a fairly balanced season in that regard. The finale, while perhaps not as inspired as the one for Sailor Moon S, is a worthy capstone for the show, as it shows three importan things- the Starlights' dedication to the mission, how far Uranus and Neptune really are willing to go if it means a chance of saving the Earth, and the true extend of Sailor Moon's strength and mercy.

While there are a number of new music pieces for the show, as there have been a number of new characters and groups added, Moonlight Densetsu is no longer used as the opening theme, and there are no remixes of it to be found throughout the while season. However, Moonlight Densetsu is used once more, as the series ends much like many of its early episdoes began. Usagi telling herself like she is- while she's a rash, and a bit of a crybaby, at the end of the day she is also the soldier of love and justice, Sailor Moon. Cue Moonlight Densetsu once last time, to close out the whole series.

Sailor Stars is a worthy cap for the end of the Sailor Moon series, ensuring that it doesn't end on a sour note, as a number of series have done over time. It is probably the best-paced season of the series, contains a number of very good new characters, and ends on a good note. There's really not much more one can ask.

Overall, I would say that Sailor Moon isn't a show for everyone, whether on aesthetic or structural. It is, for better worse, rather formulaic in its episode structure owing to its super sentai heritage, but it is still regarded as being one of the classics of anime and is responsible for redefining an entire genre from the ground up. It still remains beloved by many even now, perhaps with good reason. In Japan, it was a pioneer, and in the US it was an action show aimed at girls, something that still remains rare as hen's teeth.

And sometime when I've managed to see the upcoming remake, I might just review that, too.

(Sailor Stars intro)

(One of the more standout reasons for Starlights not making it to the US would likely have to do with the Starlights themselves- while they are naturally female, they disguise themselves by becoming physically male, and then shift back to female when transformed. While not to over-praise Japan, I merely stated the above in the first paragraph becase numerous other countries seem to be more open about accepting more divergent ideas and visual content about what is allowed in "kids" animation- for example, Italy ran the Fist of the North Star TV series entirely uncut, and there remains a large Italian fanbase for the show.)

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