Friday, September 9, 2011

SMCS Companion Piece #19: Sailor Moon

Yes, this is really late.  I wanted to have this up by midday this past Saturday but unfortunately real life things kept me from working on it and I HAD to upload the Rise of the Planet of the Apes review first because I’m now working on the mantra of “Don’t Watch a New Film in Theaters Until I’ve Reviewed the Last Film I Saw”.  Thus this post is super late.


Anyway this past weekend of the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show we “watched” none other than Sailor Moon.  Now obviously I talk a lot about anime on this blog so it goes without saying that I have stuff to say about this show.  I did indeed watch this series as a kid, along with Dragon Ball Z which in a lot of historically relevant ways can be seen as the sister series to this show as far as American Television is concerned (Though weirdly it’s in the fanficiton world it is extremely associated with Ranma ½ which is odd as they don’t have much in common other than both taking place in Tokyo).  This was my least favorite of the two, which is actually kind of saying something, but hell if I didn’t watch every single episode during its runs of syndication and Cartoon Network.   In any event this is a particularly long and complex property so be prepared for a rant-like post.

It is originally known as Bishoujo Sailor Moon in Japan (Officially translated as Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon outside of it) and based on a manga of the same name beginning publication in 1992 by Naoko Takeuchi.  It actually is the sequel, more or less, to a slighty earlier manga called Sailor V (Sailor Moon apparently was a modified version of that comic when Sailor V began being propositioned for an anime).  An anime adaptation of the comic began soon afterwards.  The franchise was a huge hit and even to this day it’s a high money maker for Toei Animation.  The cartoon is split into five series: Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon R, Sailor Moon S, Sailor Moon SuperS, and Sailor Moon Sailor Stars.  It was released internationally throughout the 90s and came to North America in 1995 by way of DiC Entertainment.   Actually before DiC nabbed the rights to the show they competed in a bidding war with Toon Makers which they obviously ended up winning.  Now before I trash the shit out of DiC’s version of Sailor Moon, and I will, I want to take a second to state that as bad as things were they could have been a lot worse as Toon Makers actually did some proof of concept work on the show before they ultimately failed getting the rights.  Check it out:


Holy crap!  That kind of puts the “Sailor Moon Says” segments into perspective, I’d say.

More horrifying American Sailor Moon stuff after the jump.

Drunk again, Usagi?
DiC did in fact grab the rights and, as was typical, went about with Americanizing the property in their dub.  If you recall way back last year when I talked about Gigantor ever since Japanese cartoons have been broadcasted in the US starting in the 1960s they have usually been heavily edited.  So character’s names got changed to more easy to pronounce Western equivalents, episodes deemed irrelevant or offensive to the demographics’ sensibilities were tossed out, most references to the show starring Japanese people in Tokyo were heavily downplayed to the point where some characters were talking with an American east cost accents (Though to be fair most characters talked with a Canadian accent because this was dubbed a Canadian company), and the original score was replaced with generic and repetitive synth music.  DiC went a bit further as the content of the original show was not appropriate for the audience they were targeting (Apparently) so violence was toned down heavily and the show was the victim of a lot of censorship.  Probably the most obvious example during this first run was DiC changing the male villain Zoisite Zoycite into a female in order to hide the fact that he was homosexual and in a relationship with fellow villain Kunzite Malachite

"She's a man, baby!"
Tellingly DiC hired Carl Maeck, an incredibly infamous writer who is known for adapting anime into things barely resembling their original content (Maeck passed away last year), to adapt the series for English speaking audience for the first few episodes only to replace him Fred Ladd was infamous famous for his work on Tetsuwan Atomu Astro Boy.  Also added was a dumb segment called “Sailor Moon Says” where Sailor Moon would spew out useless life lessons to be taken from the day’s episode due to the incredibly annoying mandate at the time about giving education value to all shows aimed for kids.   Listen parents, educational messages are all well and good but sometimes kids just like to watch crap blow up.  You do too, admit it.  DiC produced 65 (After editing) episodes of the show before giving up on it due to issues making of profit off due to syndication and bad timeslots.  Cloverway Inc, an international branch of Toei Animation, acquired the rights afterwards.

In 1998 Cartoon Network began airing Sailor Moon on their Toonanmi block alongside shows like Dragon Ball Z and Robotech and Voltron.  After it became a success CN backed and Cloverway dubbed new episodes of Sailor Moon began airing.  Cloverway’s dub was less strict than DiC’s had been (The original music was mostly unaltered and there was less censorship) but still did it’s best to Americanize the show and, in an extremely controversial move, altered Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus’ relationship and changed the two to being “cousins” when they were originally lesbian  lovers (or at least heavily, heavily implied to be).  Way to be LGBT sensitive, assholes!  The final series, Sailor Stars, was never dubbed likely because it featured new character who changed genders when they transform into Sailor Senshi Scouts.

Don't worry, kids: they're just cousins!
(Kissing cousins...)
 As far as the storyline goes…it is a damn long and messy affair with bizarre twists, ridiculous power-ups, and frankly nonsensical story elements over the course of the five series. So I’ll put it as simply as I can: Usagi Serena is a typical junior high student (Albeit lazier, whinier, clumsier, and more incompetent) until the day she meets a talking cat named Luna.   The cat explains that Serena is really the guardian of love and justice Sailor Moon and charges her with the task of finding the lost Moon Princess and recovering the Silver Crystal while also battling the evil forces of the Dark Kingdom Negaverse.   Along the way she makes allies in the Sailor Scouts, meets the mysterious Tuxedo Mask, and discovers that there is more to her past than anyone previously realized.

The fact is that the North American dub of this show was garbage because of pretty much all of the reasons I gave earlier and also add that the dialogue was cheesy and stilted most of the time and the voice acting more often than not subpar.  While the DBZ cartoon had its own problems and was hard to watch as well this anime was a far greater victim of American editing.  To be fair I also have trouble with the original anime as well but mainly because I find the early episodes so goddamn sugary that I can’t bring myself to watch it long enough for it to get better (Which many people have assured me that it does).  I don’t mean to say that the original cartoon was “gold” but what I saw of it wasn’t necessarily a bad show; the American version however was indeed a bad show.  Toei Animation pulled all international licenses of Sailor Moon in 2005, which is why you can’t really find DVDs of the old show very easily (Or cheaply) as well as why the 2003 live-action show, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, never came to North America at all.  However recently Toei has allowed several countries to began broadcasting the show and starting this month Kodansha USA will begin re-releasing the original manga.  As FUNimation Entertainment has also expressed interest in re-dubbing the show in the past so the chances for a new, unedited version of Sailor Moon in this country has never been higher so if you’re a fan keep your fingers crossed.

Personally Sailor Jupiter was my favorite character
Um...not that I really paid attention to this girly show.  Um..yeah.  FOOTBALL!
For a less biased take on Sailor Moon click here.  For the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show blog and podcast click here and here.

3 comments:

  1. Truthfully, the manga was better then either anime version. Hell, the English translated manga worked better then the orignal Japanese anime.

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  2. There've been no updates to the iTunes feed since Buford Files.

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  3. You know I just checked that earlier today and saw that. I don't know why that is but I plan on checking it.

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