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Even these tapes cost something

  Sailor Moon Episode 1: A Moon Star is Born
 
2001 | DIC Entertainment L.P.
DiC Sailor Moon promo UK MVM vhs

A slightly more modern VHS this time. I never saw this infamous rendition when it was first shown, it caught one of those CG transitions and thought "nah!"

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Manga artist Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon had its origins in an earlier work of hers titled Codename Sailor V. Young school girl Minako Aino discovers from a talking cat named Artemis that she is destined to be Sailor V a super heroine defending Earth from the evil Dark Agency. First published in 1991 the series was short lived, compared to its sequel, but contained many recognisable elements that became the signature of its more popular successor.

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon (Pretty Solider Sailor Moon) appeared the next year initially as a manga serial in Nakayoshi then, a month later, as an anime TV series. Originally planned as an adaptation of the Sailor V story Takeuchi decided instead to rework the scenario, combining her ideas with the tropes of the popular live-action Sentai Super hero team series. Expanding the cast from a single Sailor Senshi to a team of five; Sailor Venus, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter led by the titular Sailor Moon.

Clumsy school girl Usagi Tsukino realises her destiny of becoming the Soldier of Love and Justice; Sailor Moon after a chance encounter with Luna a talking cat. She and her teenage team defend Tokyo and the world from the evil Queen Beryl and the Dark Kingdom.

The Sailor Moon TV series, animated by Toei, aired on TV Asahi for 46 half hour episodes until February 1993. The second series titled Sailor Moon R began only a week later and the pattern continued through three subsequent series; Sailor Moon S, Super S and Sailor Stars with the final episode of Stars shown 8th February 1997 meaning an unbroken run on TV Asahi's airwaves of five years.

The series was initially very popular prompting a tidal wave of merchandise including numerous Super Famicom, Gameboy etc video games, dolls and girls accessories.

 

Saban's success with the American-Japanese hybrid Mighty Morphin Power Rangers caused a renewed interest in adapting Japanese programming. In the mid-ninties two companies DiC Entertainment and Toon Makers, put in rivals bids to Toei to license the Sailor Moon property. DiC intended a straight forward localisation and dub whereas their opponents planned a completely new show comprised of one half live action and one half brand new, American made animation, using the Japanese original as a template similar to Saban's series. Toei was not interested in the direction Toon Makers were going and ultimately DiC were successful and licensed 72 episodes of the series comprising all 46 of the first series and 26 of the follow on Sailor Moon R.

To meet the required 65 episodes for U.S. syndication six episodes were dropped completely. Due to the violent deaths of all five Sailor Scouts (as they became known) the final episode of season one became merged with the first of season two, in which they were resurrected. This would be just one of numerous instances of censorship which outraged fans in the West. Further arbitrary cuts were necessary to each episode's running time to allow for two ad breaks and a new "Sailor Says" feature at the end of each show to comply with newly passed rules requiring educational content in all programming aimed at kids.

Other changes were more standard though, changing the characters names, re-scoring the episodes and recording an English language theme song. The odd CG effect was used to liven up the old animation alongside bold CGI scene transitions. The DiC version of Sailor Moon first aired late 1995 with the Canadian broadcast two weeks ahead of the North American syndicated debut. The ratings were very poor with the early weekday morning time slot being blamed. The series was rebroadcast two years later by Cartoon Network as part of their Toonami block, where it faired better.

It wasn't until 1999 that there was a UK release and that proved to be an equally muted affair. Appearing first on the digital satellite channel Fox Kids before its terrestrial showing two years later in the typically Disney-centric GMTV Saturday kids slot. Video and DVD sales both sides of the Atlantic were disappointing.

Other adaptations around the same time appeared in Australia (the DiC version), France, Spain, Italy and China. While Usagi became Serena in English most other territories favoured Bunny!

 
Galaxy Express 999 Poster Galaxy Express USA poster  
A promo image of the 1st series
 
The collected Manga
 
A page from the 1st issue
 
 

Not only does this video open with a toy commercial, it ends with the exact same commercial. On top of that this video came strapped by yellow tape to a doll! Just how much advertising do you need? I get it: "Buy our dolls!"

From a far away place and time Earth's greatest adventure is about to begin! Wow, I wonder what that relates to - it sure isn't this show! This grand statement is followed by the all new credit sequence accompanied by the all-new song lyrics. I don't mean to be harsh but the singer's voice is really flat and unappealing but I like the way she fits Sailor Mercury's name into the melody "#Sailor Mer-Cue-Ree!#". Damn those syllables.

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Moon episode 1 a moon star is born

It's also worth noting that, according to the song, Sailor Moon never runs from a real fight. A caveat there which allows her to choose which fights she deems worthy of her time. Superman never had to work under such bureaucracy, but then these are litigious times, I guess.

So, apparently a thousand years ago the Earth's moon was home to a peace loving - and presumably oxygen and gravity shunning - race ruled by Queen Serenity. But, one day everything was destroyed by evil Queen Beryl (yes, Beryl) using the power of the Negaverse. How could this happen? Queen Serenity's advisors were a pair of cats. Yeah. How hard can it be to take a planet from "the crazy cat lady"?

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Moon episode 1 a moon star is born

All this is actually footage from future episodes being used to try an hook the easily distracted Western kids into the plot straight away, they're all too dumb to follow it on their own.

Young Serena, late again, runs to school, passing a parking lot (where all the signs are written in a crazy language - must be 'California' again) she scares off some mean kids picking on a stray cat. The rescued mog has a band aid across it's head which the girl peels off revealing a crescent moon shape beneath (with added DiC glow!). The cat thinks to itself in an ill fitting old English nanny voice. It seems to recognise Serena. The scene (somewhat shortened) ends as the girl continues her dash to school, leaving the cat behind.

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Moon episode 1 a moon star is born

A CGI transition heralds the coming of a new scene. Nothing draws attention to the age of your cell animation like shiny, new computer graphics.

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Moon episode 1 a moon star is born

The next quick scene doesn't really make a lot of sense. Serena stands in a corridor with her lunch box and chopsticks, talking about a "new Sailor V video game". Who is she talking to? Her teacher appears from behind the door and yells at her for a low test score.

Later on, Serena sits outside on a kerb, lamenting her bad fortune. We meet two characters with voices that push viewers limits of endurance by varying levels; Melvin and Molly. Molly is by far the worst, her mock New York accent is mystifying. I hope she didn't have a very big role in the series. "Dweeb" Melvin suggests he be Serena's tutor to which the pretend New Yorker states "She doesn't needa toota she needs a trip to the mawl to get her mind arwfa this."

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Moon episode 1 a moon star is born

In some creepy place Queen Beryl is sitting with her crystal ball. She waves her arms around. She does this a lot it seems, it might be a medical problem, better not stare. She needs a lot of energy to unleash the Negaforce on the human race. Her servant Jedite offers to do this for her and she accepts.

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Moon episode 1 a moon star is born

At Molly's mum's Jewelry store something odd is going on. Her mum has put all the items on a 90% off sale. Despite all these great deals no one seems to be buying, content instead to stand are trying things on. Fortunately for the audience at home the woman claiming to be her mother has an unnatural internal monologue explaining how she is actually Morga of the Negaverse and her jewels are actually sapping the human's "frantic energy". Ahh, stealing Earth's energy; the Decepticons were constantly doing this, back in the eighties. Not a week would go by without an attack on a power plant or hydro-electric dam. Makes me nostalgic...

On her way out of the store Serena encounters a mysterious man who accuses her of being a "meatball head". Who could he be? Further down the street Serena passes a video game arcade displaying posters for the new Sailor V coin-op, which causes her to morn her own dull life while fearing her mum's reaction to her poor grades. That Mary Poppins-cat is stalking her too.

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Moon episode 1 a moon star is born

Returning home Serena's mom is insistent on seeing her grade for the Algebra test. For some reason the English re-write needlessly changes the lines leaving Melvin insets to go unexplained and completely failing to match the dialog to Serena's emotions. Anyhow, the results are the same - Serena is kicked out the house, but not up the butt since her brother's scene is removed.

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Moon episode 1 a moon star is born

Back at the Jewelry store things take a sinister turn as the shoppers succumb to exhaustion and 'mother' reveals her true nature to Molly. At some point Serena has been allowed back in and is now taking a nap. The cat that has been stalking her all day wanders in. It reveals her true ultimate destiny, she squeals about hallucinations and too much studying. Eventually things start to move along, Serena transforms into Sailor Moon (even knowing the correct poses and everything - not bad for a first attempt) and it becomes apparent that Molly is in danger. That cat's Miss Marple voice is real irritating.

We don't get to see Morga's transformation (even though it is shown at the start of every episode in the opening credits) nor do we see her throttling Molly or her head twist around to look at Sailor Moon's arrival. The disciple of the Negaverse sends the hypnotised shoppers after Sailor Moon. In the Japanese original one attacks her with a broken bottle - you better believe that clips gone! (This attack resulted in a cut knee which has been re-painted black for the US audience).

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Moon episode 1 a moon star is born

Disheartened, Serena wants to give up but Luna warns her that if she allows Morga to win the whole universe could cease to exist. After ad break two Tuxedo Mask makes his appearance to encourage Sailor Moon to fight on and not become a bloody mess in the shag pile. Sailor Moon's crying is amplified by her hairstyle causing the monster to become immobilised. Luna instructs the unwilling hero to throw her Tiara while reciting "Moon Tiara Magic" so she does. "I shall return!" declares Morga in complete denial of the fact she is currently crumbling into dust.

Next day, at school, all the girls involved in the incident are explaining it away as a "weird dream". One that they all had together. In the afternoon. If I was part of such a group hallucination I'd be worried about the town's water supply or the proximity of that sinister chemical factory , but that's probably just me.

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Moon episode 1 a moon star is born

"Sometimes, the hardest thing in the world is believing in yourself!" So says Serena as part of the FCC's mandatory 'Sailor Says' section that directly follows the story. Now, maybe I was a weird kid, but I used to look forward to the educational bits at the end of He-man and I remember being sort of proud that Mask was trying to make me a better person, but this moral message seems a bit lame. No new animation here, just used and un-used clips from the episode with a voice over from Serena.

Sailor Moon

"But you never know what the real you can do! Set your mind and heart on it and anything is possible!"

 
Missing videos Missing videos

"Please Buy Our Dolls! Pleeease!!"
That naff ad from the promo tape. I like it where they "fly" away!

Sailor Says...
How did this meaningless "lesson" appease the regulators?

 
The animation is still good
 
A reasonable new score
 
Average dub
 
Poor script
  Those terrible CGI transitions!
  So many cuts!

As I said at the start I never saw this one until now. By the time it reached the UK there was already Pokemon, Digimon, Yugioh, TF Armada, Flint the Time Detective etc and it was quite clear from these bland adaptations how low an age group they were targeting and just how 'safe' the market for animation in the US had become. By the time this series had reached the end of the DiC production line, anything even approaching a sharp edge had been thoroughly blunted.

Having watched it now, at first glance the episode seems fairly intact, some obvious edits to the climactic first fight but not much else. Watching the DiC edition side by side with the uncut original it is surprising just how much stuff got taken out - of one single episode! Arbitrary little snips from practically every scene born out of a need to make a lot of space for the new introduction, two ad breaks and the all important Sailor Says lesson at the end. No wonder the fans were angry.

While most of the new voices are perfectly fine, and Usagi's is actually well suited, the overall production is just too kiddified. Thank god for the subtitled R1 DVD release, huh Sailor fans?

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