The ongoing 20th anniversary of Sailor Moon began in 2012, and brought with it tons of new merchandise, events, 90s anime re-releases, and the biggest of them all: a brand new anime adaptation produced by Toei Animation: Sailor Moon Crystal. The anime was announced in 2012 and finally began its web-only run in July of 2014. The 26-episode run just concluded earlier this month, with the final confirmed episode airing on July 18, 2015. The anime initially excited many fans of Sailor Moon (often called “moonies”) who had always wanted to see an anime telling of the story as its creator, Naoko Takeuchi, wanted it to be told. The original voice actress of Usagi/Sailor Moon, Kotono Mitsuishi, was even announced to return to voice the clumsy titular character. There were so many reasons to be excited for Sailor Moon Crystal. The hype surrounding the anime eventually dwindled, as many moonies chimed in with their mixed reactions. Join me as we reflect on the ups, the downs, and the derp-faces-a-plenty of Sailor Moon Crystal and fantasize about what could possibly happen next!
Delay after delay, month after month, Sailor Moon Crystal finally premiered online to much fanfare. After all, an anime icon was returning. The original 90s Sailor Moon introduced many people around the world to a fascinating facet of Japanese culture called “anime.” And so, it seemed like everyone who watched the adventures of Serena and Sailor Moon as a kid was excited that she was finally returning with an updated look. What many people didn’t know, however, was that Crystal wasn’t just a remake of Sailor Moon’s 90s adventures–this was a strict manga adaptation starring Usagi Tsukino, not Serena.
Sailor Moon Crystal’s first episode was gorgeous, and although some fans disagreed with some choices, like the CG transformation sequence, many fans were happy with it. It was nearly identical to the first episode of the original 90s anime, at least in terms of story. However, from there, Crystal took a new route which followed the manga story more strictly, cutting out filler. The animation quality quickly began to decline, as did the viewership. In Japan, Crystal was streamed on NicoNico with the first episode being viewed 1,130,861 times. The second episode had 454,772 views, and the last episode currently has 66,438 views. It’s a steep drop, showing that the ONA (original net animation) lost nearly 70% of its viewership just after the first episode, and continued the dwindle as the anime progressed. The animation quality, which was allegedly outsourced to studios in China and the Philippines, was at times so bad that major fixes had to be done for it to be decent enough to sell on BluRay. Crystal had several beautiful moments, but overall was very lackluster. And finally, the Sailor Guardians often times lacked personality, and they had minimal character development. These were just a few of the complaints moonies had, feeling that such a beloved and classic piece of anime history deserved better.
Despite all this, I, among many others, enjoyed Crystal. It’s a mesmerizing tale that, no matter what medium it’s told in, always manages to hit me right in the feels. Depsite low viewership, the anime has brought with it a seemingly unstoppable wave of new merchandise, with everything ranging from feminine products to a full-blown Sailor Moon restaurant in Tokyo for Usagi’s birthday. Many suspect that the anime was just a vehicle to move this merchandise, such as many children’s shows like My Little Pony are created to do. VIZ Media is also working to bring Crystal to the North American market, with an English dub currently in production.
So, what’s next for Sailor Moon and her fellow Guardians? There’s a new musical soon to debut in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, called Bishōjo Senshi Sailor Moon -Un Nouveau Voyage- (Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: A New Voyage) that covers the Infinity arc of the manga. If you’re looking for more anime, you’re out of luck (for now). Following the final act of Sailor Moon Crystal, what is usually a “To be continued” screen was replaced with a cryptic “À bientôt” (see you soon) message. This is either a hint from the creators that they’re working on more, or it could just be way for them to say goodbye to the anime, while encouraging viewers to go out and see the new musical and buy the endless amounts of Sailor Moon merchandise.
The Japanese television broadcast of Crystal began in April, and if there is more to come, it could very well be that the showrunners are waiting for that broadcast to be completed before getting people excited about another season. Moonies have already taken to social media, begging Toei Animation and all those involved with the creation of the anime for more. The Sailor Moon Twitter account directed fans to keep an eye on the official website, so there may be hope for news in the near future. As some moonies agree, the story of Sailor Moon is just beginning, and really reaches its stride when the rest of the Sailor Guardians are introduced. For the time being, all we can do is hope that the animated story of Sailor Moon isn’t over just yet.
Stephen is an art student at Fresno State University. Stephen's favorite animated films are Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, and Tarzan. His ultimate goal is to one day work for Disney. Follow Stephen on Twitter (@stephensweeps).