Sailor Moon Crystal (2014) VS The Original

Sailor Moon Crystal
Usagi prepares to fight in her new, flashy form

Viz media announced with a bang in May that they would be releasing the currently airing Sailor Moon Crystal and the original Sailor Moon series with a new dub cast. This was fantastic news as the old dub, despite its nostalgic value, had some weak performances. The big question on every fan’s mind while they count their pennies, is this: “Which version should I purchase?” For those with many dollars to spare there is an easy answer: just buy both! To everyone else, some vicious mental debate has begun. As three episodes have been released of Crystal so far, I would like to help mediate the inner conflict.

Ever since the preview images and character designs for Sailor Moon Crystal were released, there were cries of disappointment from the masses. What did Toei Animation do with the art style? It was ‘animation this’, ‘animation that’. It was pages upon pages of online craziness. Forget every other aspect of the production – this was enough of a problem that Sailor Moon Crystal‘s potential was ignored. As animation quality only makes up a small portion of what makes a series great, I tried to keep an open mind, “Toei Animation can’t stuff it up that badly” I thought.

Usagi Sailor Moon
Two conflicting art styles in Crystal

It is sad to say that despite my hopefulness, Crystal gravely disappoints on the animation level. Don’t get me wrong, the character designs are not the problem. They may have long legs like something from Tsubasa Chronicle or a slender man, but their ability to remain faithful to the manga while retaining a modern vibe was refreshing – especially given how dominant the moe style character designs are nowadays. The coloring is a bit strange with a large contrast between characters and the backgrounds; high saturated characters look odd against watercolor backgrounds with fine lines; the shading is bizarre with blurry contours. The 3D transformation sequences have been scoffed by blogs all over. The 3D does not meld very well with the 2D. It is as obvious as the robots of the Zoids franchise. This makes the transition from the previous shots jaunty and unappealing. That being said, perhaps Japan has taken the world’s feedback into account, because the transformations of Ami and Rei look a lot better than Usagi’s. Or maybe it is just the coloring which makes the 3D blend more effectively. But the worst part of the animation is the quality of movement. The characters move like robots – clunky and awkward – and there are plenty of stills to go around. In this respect, the original Sailor Moon beats Crystal. Yes, and it was made twenty years ago!

The lack of believable movement is insanely dissatisfying considering the advancements animation has made over the past two decades. Where is the torso rotation when Usagi runs? Why do the characters become off-model when they turn their heads? Where is the body language? Crystal looks half decent in fight scenes, but the strongest animation is in the opening sequence. Why doesn’t the entire show look like that? The 1993 version is certainly not perfect in this regard either, but it still does better than Crystal. Since Toei was going for a water color look with the backgrounds, it seems far more appropriate to match the character designs to them. Usagi Drop or Chiyahayafuru are two examples of series that do this. This seems like the sort of style Crystal was, or should have been, aiming for. The only way Crystal improves on the original animation is the pristine polish of the picture. It is clear and vibrant. The end.

An example of how Crystal could have combined the coloring ideas.
An example of how Crystal could have combined its coloring ideas.

Production values aside, Crystal does a good job. Sailor Moon’s story is not overly complicated, but interesting and somewhat unique in the realm of magical girls. Here, the screenplay keeps close to the manga which means there is a lot of filler cut out. To demonstrate the quantity of waffle, Rei is introduced in episode 10 of the original, and we have already gotten past at least 5 filler episodes by watching Crystal. Hallelujah! Sailor Moon was the show that made a lot of magical girl tropes famous: transformation sequences, catch phrases and a sense of episodic repetitiveness. These quirks can be tiresome after a while but are also strangely charming. It relies heavily on its characters, which are unforgettable.

The score for the original Sailor Moon by Takanori Arisawa (War of the Worlds, Digimon) had orchestral pieces, and they were relatively dark and set the mood well. Yasuharu Takanashi (Hell Girl, Shiki) for Crystal takes the same approach but adds an extra layer of mystical to it with choir ensembles. It continues having wispy, fantasy-like overtones, even in lighter moments. “Moonlight Densetsu” by DALI is a must-hear for any new Sailor Moon fan, but that does not mean Crystal’s songs are bad. On the contrary they are incredibly catchy and fun to listen to. “Moon Pride” by Momoiro Clover Z certainly does the energy of the series justice. The ending song, “Gekko”, is more subdued and fits the darker aspects of the story. What has been released of the new English dub so far is excellent. The most notable improvement is of the baddies, Jaedite and Queen Beryl, who were overacted in the original. Usagi by Stephanie Sheh is remarkably close to the original Japanese without sounding irritating. Let’s not forget the faithfulness to the Japanese version by retaining original character names.

99% of viewers agree that this transformation is the superior one.
Fan reactions from Kotaku and blogger Victoria McNally seem to agree that the original transformation sequences are superior to the remake.

So far, the confused artistic choices for Sailor Moon Crystal are the only things holding it back from being absolutely amazing. With various plusses and minuses, neither the 2014 or 1993 version live up to the standards of its competitors. Other animation studios like I.G, BONES, Madhouse, Sunrise or Kyoto Animation better display what Sailor Moon Crystal could have been, but sadly isn’t. Both series are entertaining, but the pacing in Crystal is a lot faster than the original, which makes for a more gripping story. The gift is a lot nicer than the wrapping paper in this instance. The deciding factor at this stage about which version is worth the purchase comes down to personal preference: Are artistic problems or filler more frustrating? Neither series is perfect, which is a shame considering that Crystal had the potential to be close. However, this setback certainly hasn’t made anyone forget Sailor Moon. Hopefully it will stay that way.

Works cited

Hernandez, P. The Internet Reacts To Sailor Moon Crystal. Kotaku. http://kotaku.com/the-internet-reacts-to-sailor-moon-crystal-1601014716

McNally, V. (2015). How Sailor Moon Crystal Has Failed Me, And What It Could Do Better. http://www.themarysue.com/how-sailor-moon-crystal-has-failed-me/

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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60 Comments

  1. Ryan Errington

    An engaging article, I liked your analysis.

    • Great, but how did you find it engaging and what did you like about the analyses?

  2. As classic as that original opening theme song was I was really hoping that they would use that again, or at least use a modernized remixed version.

    Hell even Pokemon has gone back to its roots with their theme song. I know that doesn’t make the show any better, but it’s a nice little nod to the past.

  3. I loved every second of this show, my only complaint at all is that it is only getting new episodes every other week.

    • Not even, It is every 1st and 3rd Saturday. When we get 5 Saturdays in a month we are boned for 3 weeks xD

  4. IraCaron
    0

    I watched the premiere and it seemed pretty good overall although it made me also want to watch the show I was accustomed to watching as a child. Regardless, nice start to the series and great article.

  5. I hate it when they mix CGI into Anime.. I prefer the grainy fully (or mostly?) hand drawn anime art style from the 80’s/90’s

  6. I feel stupid. I saw this show as a kid, in dubs, when she was called Serena.

    I only just realized she’s the “Moon Rabbit” from Buddhist folklore.

  7. Dragonball Kai > Sailor Moon Crystal

  8. Leach Leatha
    0

    I always used to skip Sailor Moon after Inspector Gadget, A Pup Named Scooby Doo, and Speed Racer re-runs back in the day because I thought it was too girly.

    • That’s a shame, cause Sailor Moon has a really beautiful story.

  9. I think the transformation scene was my favorite scene in the whole first episode, mainly because it just looked more epic and visually stunning than the original version (blasphemy, I know =P ). In a sense at how the Rebuild of Evangelion movies are enhancing their animation with CGI to build upon what they did in the original anime, they are doing the same with Sailor Moon: Crystal. Can’t wait to see the next episode! XD

  10. The music was my favorite part.

  11. Was pretty impressed with this. The music was disappointing, only because the original soundtrack is such a classic though.Even the music DIC changed was still fantastic.It’s not that the soundtrack was bad, just that the original soundtrack was so good in both the original show, and the butchered dic version.

    The original show is what got me into anime, and I’m so glad at how cheap it is now. i remember having to pay 25 for a dub or 30 for a sub VHS with 2 episodes. My comic shop had fansubs of Sailor Moon seasons 3-5 which my sis and I spent all of our allowance for over a year buying. That at least was 4 eps for 20 bucks, of real poor quality but still.

    It’s nice that after years they are finally bringing out the whole show to America with new releases, they just finally brought the original manga over here properly, and now we are getting this show. It’s a goo time to be a moon fan.

  12. Not even gonna front, I did used to watch Sailor Moon sometimes when Dragonball Z went off on Toonami.. The good ol days

    • Lajuana
      0

      I never watched SM but I was addicted to DBZ on Toonami. I’d get home from school, grab some Oreos and milk and watch that and Gundam Wing

  13. Larae Keys
    0

    Was never really a fan of the anime, my sister liked it but it was a bit too annoying and girly for me, but I appreciated what it met to the anime culture.

    The manga on the other hand I have liked for the little I’ve bought for my sister and have to admit I like the story of this more. Watching the first episodes of SM Crystal was a delight. It’s beautiful, I know the story is a whole lot more serious and I can’t wait to see the shit that goes down. Can’t wait for more…

  14. I’d watch this over Attack on Titan any day.

  15. Victorina
    0

    The opening theme was a letdown after how unique Moonlight Densetsu was. I did like the new closing theme though. Also, overall I thought the visual style and animation captured a feel similar to the original, which is pretty good seeing as the original was made decades ago. It’s very nostalgic but with enough updates to freshen it up. I think they’re doing a good job of walking that fine line.

    I’m getting used to the super slender forms. I keep reminding myself that that’s how they are in the manga. It’s just more obvious that, man, they’re skinny, when they’re fully animated bodies and not static, flat pictures.

    Oh and yes, Usagi seemed way less expressive to me too! They need to work on giving her eyes a bit more variance. She’s such a lively character that it’s painful to see her with the same spacey, open-mouthed expression half the episode.

    • Jordan

      I never thought of Usagi’s expressions before, but you make a great point! Hopefully they’ll fix it up

  16. I just watched it today on the morning. I really liked it!! I never watched Sailor Moon before… I was more into Saint Seiya at that time so I cannot compare it but it was very good!!!

  17. I think a lot of fan disappointment comes from (appropriately) high expectations.
    The animation is poor when you compare it to Sailor Moon S/SuperS and it’s poor compared to other recent anime titles.
    I personally think the choice to attempt a literal translation of Naoko Takeuchi’s manga style onto animation was foolish. I don’t think it lends itself well.
    Fortunately we’re only 3 episodes into the 26 of this first season, I’m hoping that the personalities will start to shine through later.
    That filler may have padded out the original series, but it also allowed for more in-depth characterisation.

  18. Enid Cary
    1

    It was awesome and I loved how loyal it was to the manga. Including Usagi meeting Luna, “Moon Tiara Boomerang”.

    I don’t care at all that the transformation is CGI, I think it looks great and Usagi looks beautiful.

    The one thing I love most about this show is hopefully it will keep this. NO FILLERS!!

    • The transformation looked like crap. It’s like watching a cg cut-scene from a PS1 game. You now what state of the art cgi looks like today? Try watching Pixar, or even an anime with real cg. Please.

  19. Helen Parshall

    I do agree with you a lot about the style – i wanted more with all the advancements in technology we’ve made in the time between shows! That being said crystal makes me incredibly happy. I think it does what it set out to do decently – the manga is coming alive for another generation of kids. As I’m currently embarking into sailor moon universe as a whole thanks to a pushy friend, I really look forward to seeing how Crystal takes up the monumentous task of being fresh but still true to everything else. I love it so far!

  20. It was much better then my expectation I am more into the popular ones like sao shingeki but gave it a try and enjoyed it.

  21. I liked your analysis, I haven’t seen the new Sailor Moon Crystal, but I grew up watching the original Sailor Moon. I’m sure the new series has its good qualities, but I will always be biased towards the orignal…because its AWESOME

  22. It’s good, just not good enough.

  23. Great article. Totally agree with you. I was hoping for a better animation. Hopefully this will get better. At least ep. 5 looked better…

    • Jordan

      It is annoying. I’ve had to be extra careful to look past it, because animation stuff ups usually piss me off. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  24. I accepted Crystal for what it was and came into it with the expectation and understanding that it is a revamp of the series and not a remake of the original. We’re seven episodes into Crystal now and I’m just in love with the series. I like the animation, I LOVE the music, I love the characters and manga story line. I like that it try’s to keep current as well (they’re using iPads for example). I’m just frustrated that I have to wait two weeks for the next episode. I hope they keep going and finish the whole series under Crystal. Sailor Moon fan for life!!!

  25. I’m absolutely loving SM Crystal. It just brightens my entire day whenever I get a new episode. If it’s a SMC week I think about it all week in anticipation. I think they’re doing an awesome job of things. I’m so happy they kept original Usagi’s voice as well!

  26. I recently tried to rewatch the original Sailor Moon series along with Crystal, and I found myself getting annoyed with the pacing of the original. I agree 100% that the filler episodes being left out is praise-worthy. With the new series, the pacing allows for the characters to develop a lot more because their stories are the main focus, and the main plot structure of each episode differs a little, which is quite nice and a great change from the original.
    I agree with you overall opinion on the two series, and thanks for the great, engaging read!

  27. freedomwriter88
    0

    I am enjoying Sailor Moon Crystal, but I do think you hit it on the head with the animation. The CGI animation lacks in this situation, and the characters come off as stiff. (Also, the lip gloss on all the girls is a bit frustrating.)

    I think, and due to when I got into anime, I prefer the drawn look over the CGI. Still, I like the hair on Usagi in Crystal.

    I am glad that they have made Mamoru a bigger character, and he is not in his 20’s, but 17. I think the relationship is already better than what they built with Usagi and Mamoru in the original.

    The biggest thing I miss from the old anime is the humor. I feel like all the girls had a bit more personality. Not always in a good way, of course, but a blend between Crystal and the over drama in the original would be lovely.

    • Jordan

      I think its because the manga is a lot more dramatic… I agree that a lighter approach would be nice to help contrast it.
      I also think they should just stick to the hand drawn animation. It looks way better.

  28. Liz Watkins

    I have not watched Sailor Moon in many, many years. I had almost forgotten about it with everything else we have today. This article makes me remember how much I loved it. I need to introduce my nieces to it now!

  29. From what I’ve heard, Sailor Moon Crystal is doomed b/c its studio, Toei, is hugely overworked. In the midst of managing several franchises that are dozens (if not hundreds) of episodes long, from One Piece to Precure, they just don’t have the time or the manpower to give Sailor Moon Crystal the attention or the polish that it deserves. It’s a shame, because the staff seems pretty okay and Sailor Moon itself still has many fans in both Japan and the US. But even with an episode being released every other week, Toei’s still forced to farm out its episode to other companies and put out universally unpolished animation. For what it’s worth, Toei’s also putting out World Trigger this season (which similarly looks really, really bad, likely for the same reasons.)

    Living up to the original Sailor Moon would have been a tough battle: as much as 90s SM was weighed down by filler, that filler was a playground for creators who would later become powerhouses in the animation industry, from stalwart Junichi Sato to Princess Tutu mastermind Ikuko Ito to maverick Kunihiko Ikuhara. Crystal had a niche to fill as a more faithful and condensed adaptation of the manga, but it looks as if its poor scheduling has wrecked its chances. A shame!

  30. The biggest thing that bother me about the designs are the lips: they look like they are constantly wearing some lip gloss or lipstick and it just looks silly! Also, I agree that the transformation sequences should have stuck with the 2-D animation, since the 3-D animation seems too out of place and it feels like I am watching a cut scene from a video game. But other than that, I am adoring Crystal!

  31. Greenwalledtower

    I appreciate Sailor Moon vicariously through my wife, who is an absolute fan. I know a lot of people are disappointed with the remake, but she loves it, partially because of the updated artwork, but also because it is much more faithful to the manga.

  32. I watched Sailor Moon Original when I was a kid and absolutely loved it. I liked the development the series had, despite it being a lot different from the manga. True, Crystal kept close to the manga, but animation wise, it’s a bit too shoujo for me, and Sailor Moon is supposed to be the queen of shoujo, however, the animation gives it too much. On top of that, the slender figures don’t even make the girls look like middle school students. I have a middle school sibling who is taller than me, but I can bet you those girls could beat us both in height! So I think their choices were a lot unrealistic as well. The 3D animation is also very tacky. Pretty cool, but it should not be mixed in with this art style.

  33. Sailor Moon was the first anime that I ever watched, and to this day, it remains as one of my favorites. I’m always up for some strong, intelligent, crime-fighting magical girls. And that’s exactly what Sailor Moon delivered. Middle school girls that had regular teenage issues like me, but who also moonlighted as warriors of love and justice. I can’t think of a better combination. So when I heard that Sailor Moon was getting a reboot, I was ecstatic. But upon seeing the new character designs, I, like lots of other people, was incredibly let down. “What happened to the cute girls from my childhood?” “Who were these tall, slender women?” And lots of other questions like these came to my mind. But after watching the first episode of the remake, I realized that this show was different, not bad. The story was basically the same (maybe a bit closer to the manga) and the characters definitely hadn’t changed, so why was I so upset? That’s when I realized that I was instead expecting a remastered version of the original (shoutout to Disney), and I was never going to get that. I decided to, instead, appreciate Sailor Moon Crystal for what it was, its very own show, and that’s when I truly saw its beauty and began to appreciate Sailor Moon again.

    • Jordan

      You make a good point. It’s important to recognize that SMC is its own being … it isn’t trying to completely mimic the original series.

  34. Sailor Moon was the first anime I ever saw. I loved it, and as a boy I was criticized constantly for standing up for it while other boys watched things like Dragon Ball Z. I thought the comparison was silly since one was about fighting and the other was about character development. Not to surprising as we go into our teens my friends were drawn to anime that specialized in action and animation while I was drawn to ones about characters interacting with each other. These preferences always led to debates and conflicts with friends even now… oh well my girlfriend and I met because we both love Sailor Moon and we plan to watch this one together once it finishes (we don’t like waiting for new episodes, we rather wait till they are all out).

  35. Terry Adams

    I finally caught up with Crystal today, and I have to say that I’m very satisfied with the story so far. As you mentioned, the animation can be a little odd at times, but I actually really enjoy the overall style it presents (definitely something different than most shows). This version of the story is far more developed when compared to what I remember from the original, especially when looking at characters such as Queen Beryl, which is something I really appreciate.

  36. I Like the old one Better this new one I don’t like i wish you would of made more eps of the old S M like redo the old one and make more seasons

  37. The previous Sailor Moon that was on Toonami was an alright anime but this new sailor moon brings a new attitude to the world of Sailor Moon and it gives the viewer a better understanding of the character of Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts.

  38. hannahleety1217

    Sailor Moon is a classical piece for 80s to 90s generations. Actually it is great to have a remaking version but to be honest, i would prefer the older one as I like the original drawing style personally 🙂

  39. For me, the choice is easy: the 1993 version tops Crystal. Not only is the art style abominable, as mentioned, but the script is better, too. In Crystal, there comes a part where Usagi admits she is Sailor Moon to Mamoru – and is then conflicted whether or not she should transform when confronted by an enemy because he will know her identity. I find that the script in Crystal is also over-simplified, reducing the bad guys to “I’m evil because evil is fun!”. In the original, Beryl knew she was bad, but she justified it. In Crystal, they don’t even try. It’s like they exist just because Sailor Moon needs bad guys to fight.

    Finally, yes, there are a lot of filler episodes in the original, but they don’t feel that way. With the extra content, we get more character development, more believable relationships (as opposed to Usagi x Mamoru’s overnight romance), and more time for Usagi and the Sailor Scouts to believably hone their skills to the point where they are ready to face Beryl and Metalia. Though these filler episodes are Manga Canon, I feel they add some much needed pacing to the original manga.

    So for me, the choice is crystal clear 😉

  40. Emilie Medland-Marchen

    I definitely agree with your complaints about movement and the meshing of 2D and 3D animated sequences. I remember the original Sailor Moon being incredibly vibrant and well animated, in a way that really complimented the characters. There were comical moments with a lot of minimal animated movements, but the control and fluidity that defined the animation of the transformation sequences was really impressive for its time. In Crystal, this fluidity seems stunted, the girls more like walking portraits rather than dynamic, moving characters. I think that’s a stylistic choice, given the extreme change in art style, but it seems like a poor choice given that the Scouts are supposed to be courageous, brave and always in charge. The animation in the original reflected their capability with its dynamacy. With the new style, it seems like their abilities are stunted along with their movement. They don’t seem as capable and courageous as they once did.

  41. I couldn’t agree more. When I first saw the transformation scene I was so confused and disappointed because it lacked the dreaminess of the original ones. But the willowy figures of the girls in Sailor Moon Crystal is close to the original drawing style.

    • I agree as well that the drawing style of Sailor Moon Crystal does come closer to the manga in terms of the willowy design of the characters. Nonetheless, the Sailor Moon manga did have that underlying dreamy quality to its artwork that the original series was better able to capture with its softer lines which helped the characters blend in better with the backgrounds. In the end though, I don’t believe that either the old Sailor Moon series or Sailor Moon Crystal ever capture the full essence of the manga’s style, only bits and pieces within their own separate portrayals when the manga’s style was more of a combination of both.

  42. Sailor Moon was my childhood so I was understandably excited when I heard about this reboot. But after watching a bit of the first Crystal episode I was disappointed. A reboot is only warranted when there is something that can be improved upon. How animation from the 90’s can out do today’s technology is odd, to say the least.

  43. As a person with a “minor in media studies”, you might want to learn the reasons you should avoid making up “statistics” like “99% of viewers agree that this transformation is the superior one”. Making up statistics is a no-no.

    • Jordan

      Yes, true! I’m not sure if those numbers exist, but maybe there are the sales of Sailor Moon vs Crystal DVDs which can provide a clue? I’ll ask the site moderator if this can be updated. Six other writers looked through it and didn’t point this out, so most overlooked this minor detail. Hope you liked the article anyway!

  44. Having watched the original and now starting on Sailor moon Crystal, I like Usagi in the Crystal version better. For once she is not annoying and crying all the time and also not knowing what to do. In the Crystal version she is more matured. Rei is not mean/picking on her and the romance between Usagi and Tuxedo Mask is much better. Just my 2 cents

  45. I totally agreed the original Sailor Moon ( original to me) with Sailor Moon as Serena was 100 times better! I tried eating Crystal with my daughters and it sucked! The voices aren’t as unique and the sailor moon transformation that includes makeup?! Lol no… Stopped watching and am torn away since I can’t stream the version I like anywhere

  46. Watching* not eating lol

  47. The dichotomy I think lies in the approach: the older generation vs the new generation. For those of us that rushed home from school to catch Sailor Moon in the 90s, we, of course, would have the highest of expectations for a remake. For those with relatively no experience with the series save an obvious signifier in a more contemporary anime, they would be approaching SM engaged not so much in nostalgia.

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