Usagi Tsukino returns, as peppy and put-upon as ever, in VIZ Media’s new English dub of the original Sailor Moon anime.
Sailor Moon launched magical girls into popularity, and for many in North America, the English dub of the anime was the first time seeing Japanese animation, with all its tropes and conventions. Now, Viz Media is releasing an all new, uncut English dub of the classic series. The first four episodes are now available to stream on Hulu and Viz’s Neon Alley service, with new episodes coming every Monday. VIZ Media has licensed all 200 episodes of the original Sailor Moon series, including Sailor Stars, assorted tie-ins and three feature films, for re-release in English. A Blu-ray and DVD release of the first set of this new dub is set for November 11.
The new, uncut English dub reverses many of the changes made when the anime made its English-language debut. DIC Entertainment first brought the anime to North American in 1995, but modified it considerably in order to meet broadcasting standards in the US and Canada. The original series was meant to accommodate two commercial breaks, while DIC needed to allow for three, leading to the removal of some scenes. Violence, particularly violence against children, was cut, and some scenes were modified to remove nudity, like in bathing scenes. The relationship between Sailors Uranus and Neptune was changed from lesbian lovers to cousins, and the gender of one of the villains, Zoisite, was changed from male to female. Name changes were also made. Usagi Tsukino became Serena Tsukino, and the dark, dashing, and handsome Tuxedo Mask, Mamoru Chiba in the manga and original anime, became Darien Shields. The remastered version removes all these changes made in the name of localization.
Let’s jump right in with a review of the first four episodes!
In the first episode, The Crybaby: Usagi’s Beautiful Transformation, we meet Usagi Tsukino, a 14-year-old girl facing mundane, 14-year-old problems. She sleeps in too late, she’s struggling in a few classes at school, and her brother relentlessly teases her. Late for school again, Usagi comes across a black cat, Luna, being tormented by some kids. The cat later follows Usagi home and reveals that she can speak. Luna gives Usagi a broach that allows her to transform into the guardian Sailor Moon, and reveals that it is Usagi’s mission to protect the world from a powerful evil as well as reunite all the other Sailor Scouts. Usagi is about to lose a lot more sleep.
Jadeite, a minion from the Dark Kingdom doing the bidding of the mysterious Queen Beryl, is stealing energy from humans to siphon to their even more mysterious Great Ruler. In the first episode, he targets a jewelry store, sapping the energy of anyone who wears the jewelry. After transforming, Usagi hears calls for help, and takes on her first enemy as Sailor Moon. Defeating in the monster in the jewelry store means she must learn the first of many signature moves, the Moon Tiara Action technique.
Jadeite returns with new schemes in the next three episodes. Operating a fortune telling business, a late night radio show for the lovesick, and a gym, he amplifies peoples’ desires and insecurities in order to drain them of their energy. Usagi slowly accepts her new role as Sailor Moon, and each victory gives her greater confidence. In recognition, Luna bestows another item of power on Usagi, the Disguise Pen. Usagi continues to thwart Jadeite’s schemes, and by the end of the fourth episode, Queen Beryl begins to see Sailor Moon as a threat.
Four episodes in and we’ve only met Sailor Moon. The other four main Sailor Scouts — Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter — won’t be introduced for a few more episodes. The focus on just Usagi means we really get to know her. When Usagi transforms, she has a new set of powers and a snazzy outfit, but at her core she’s still her insecure, emotive, klutzy self. She has to learn how to be a hero. Usagi is teased for crying a lot, but even that becomes an asset. Her red hair pins, which keep her signature buns in place when she is costumed as Sailor Moon, can amplify her cries into a sonic attack. Leaving out the other Scouts until Usagi begins to feel comfortable in her role as Sailor Moon means we also get used to the idea of Usagi as a hero, and begin to cheer for her.
One major character we do meet is Tuxedo Mask, a dark and handsome stranger who seems to be aware of Jadeite’s plans. Despite being the obvious love interest for Usagi, he’s rather ineffective. He only shows up to give pep talks to Sailor Moon, and temporarily distract the villain with his thrown roses and musical cue. It’s usually enough to give Sailor Moon the upper hand, but it makes me wonder what he’s up to that’s so important that he never stays for the whole fight.
The animation is the same as the original series, so you are likely to notice the money and time-saving tricks used, including reuse of frames, sequences and backgrounds. Sailor Moon’s classic transformation sequence is always identical, spliced into whatever danger she is in by having the background fill with magical light. The plots are simple and predictable. Usagi or Luna discovers a problem, Usagi transforms and goes to fight the monster, she struggles, either Tuxedo Mask or Luna says something inspiring, and Usagi saves the day with her magical tiara boomerang. As the series moves on, the plots get more complex, but at its heart this remains the fun, straightforward and trend-setting magical girl romp that it has always been.
The big change for this version of Sailor Moon is the voice actors. None of the voice actors from previous English dub reprise their roles, and the new cast was personally approved by Sailor Moon manga author Naoko Takeuchi.
Voice actor Stephanie Sheh strikes a perfect balance between Usagi’s tendency to whine with her passion and growing confidence, especially when standing up against injustice. Naruto fans may recognize Sheh and Kate Higgens (Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury) as the voice actors for Hinata Hyūga and Sakura Haruno, respectively. Michelle Ruff, who gives Luna an especially exasperated sound, really sells that she is much, much more than just a talking cat. Robbie Daymond moves effortlessly between disdainful and suave as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask. Cindy Robinson doesn’t have a lot to say as Queen Beryl in the first four episodes, but she’s every bit as terrifying as I remember her when she’s intoning darkly to her servants.
Main Voice Cast
Stephanie Sheh as Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon
Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury
Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars
Amanda C. Miller as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter
Cherami Leigh as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus
Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask
Supporting Voice Cast
Johnny Yong Bosch as Artemis
Michelle Ruff as Luna
Danielle Nicole as Naru Osaka
Ben Diskin as Gurio Umino
Tara Platt as Ikuko Tsukino
Keith Silverstein as Kenji Tsukino
Nicolas Roye as Shingo Tsukino
Cindy Robinson as Queen Beryl
Todd Haberkorn as Jadeite
Liam O’ Brien as Nephrite
Lucien Dodge as Zoicite
Patrick Seitz as Kunzite
These actors also voice the upcoming English dub of Sailor Moon Crystal, the new Sailor Moon anime series. Sailor Moon Crystal is available for streaming, with subtitles, from Hulu, Neon Alley, and Crunchyroll. Crystal is faster-paced adaptation of the manga, with more mature character designs which are closer to the original art. The full subtitled run of Sailor Moon is also available to stream on Hulu and Neon Alley.
Sailor Moon fans have a lot to be happy about this year, with the long-awaited re-release of an English dub for the original series, the new Sailor Moon Crystal series, and the imminent DVD and Blu-ray release. The new dub, as a more accurate adaptation, is a perfect way for old fans to reconnect with the show, or for new ones to discover it. Now, if only I could get the old English theme song out of my head. The new English dub keeps the classic Japanese theme, but I can’t stop humming about “fighting evil by moonlight.”