Growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the only exposure to the Sailor Moon metaseries I had was the dub that came on weekday mornings before school. At the time, it was bright and colorful and Americanized enough to keep my attention. I didn’t know too much about anime, but I liked the fact that Sailor Moon reminded me of Power Rangers. Also, since I love cats, seeing Luna and Artemis was awesome and an added bonus.
That said, I knew the DIC version was terrible, even as a kid. Of course, I’m not the only one who feels this way as the DIC dub has long been the subject of scrutiny.
Everyone either had a Northeasterner accent or sounded older than their character’s age. This includes Luna sounding like an old British woman. Names were changed (which was the norm in most kid-based dubs in the era) and Usagi became Serena, Mamoru became Darien, etc. On top of that, most of the original series was lost in translation. This included episodes being cut for content, losing some of the original background music and turning “Moonlight Densetsu” from a love song of sorts into a superhero theme song. Yes, “fighting evil by moonlight” is probably engrained into every early 30-something’s headspace forevermore. It was a bop by ’90s dub standards. But, in remaking the theme, we lost some of the awesomeness of the original/the original’s actual translation.
I guess that’s what ended up happening when trying to turn something that had some relatively mature themes such as Sailor Moon into an early-morning syndicated cartoon.
Fast forward to 2021. I finished the second season of Kaguya-Sama: Love is War. Love is War is a hilarious romantic comedy that I may discuss at a later date. Nevertheless, I wanted to start a new series, but I wanted that wasn’t a straight-up romantic comedy. I went to Hulu–“Hewlew” shenanigans be damned–and saw that there was a Sailor Moon redub and a reboot series, Crystal. I’m usually not the one to turn down the source material. That said, I was so burned by the original DIC-produced dub that I went straight to Crystal before diving (back) into the 1990s version. For better or worse, the story moves a lot quicker than the original version.
Sailor Moon Crystal removes a lot of the filler from the 1990s series, instead opting to retell the manga seemingly 1:1. Sure, some of the character development gets thrown out the window in the first season. If you’re looking for my recommendation, Crystal jumps more into the action instead of taking over 30 episodes to introduce the core five Sailor Guardians. This is good in some ways, but it also leads to a somewhat uneven first season because of this jump into the action. We don’t get to spend as much time with the core team before they go up against the Dark Kingdom.
If you’re looking for more characterization (and a classic soundtrack), stick with the original 1990s series. It had the advantage of going on alongside the manga. While waiting for the manga to progress, the ’90s series creators could add more characterization. This meant we got a lot of filler episodes/villain of the week episodes, but the characters seemed a bit more well-rounded in the first season of the 1990s version versus the first season of Crystal. Plus, the ’90s version balances the comedy and drama a bit better (Crystal is much more dramatic from the jump).
That said, I recommend Crystal for first timers (or those who want less filler in the story). It really comes into its own when we get to the third arc (which correlates to Sailor Moon S in the original series). It’s kind of like Clannad in that the first third of the story is decent to good, but it sets up the second third. The second third improves on everything the first season gave us, while also setting up the vastly superior third portion (or, in the case of Clannad, the first season sets up the emotional rollercoaster known as Clannad After Story). One of these days, I’ll write about Clannad. For now, though, enjoy this cute GIF of one of the characters.
Getting back on track, you’re probably wondering why I’m dedicating space to write about a series that hasn’t seen a ton of new material since the third season of Crystal ended in 2016. It’s two-fold. One, as seen by my review of Cardcaptor Sakura, I love what some may consider classic series. Regardless of if they’re body-shifting romantic comedies (Ranma 1/2), space westerns (Cowboy Bebop) or magical girl series, if they’re good, they’re good. Sailor Moon‘s redub and Crystal are good. They’re damned good, in fact. The second reason is that Netflix, the anime purveyors that they are, recently picked up the streaming rights to two new films titled Sailor Moon Eternal. These films amount to a condensed retelling of the fourth arc (covered in the original series during Sailor Moon SuperS).
Long story short, if you’re looking for an anime that blends shojo love story, some comedic moments with general shonen badassery, Sailor Moon–both the 1990s version and Crystal–is a must-watch.