Length: 160 minutes (combined runtime of two films)
Director: Chiaki Kon
Writers: Kazuyuki Fudeyasu
Voice Cast: Kotono Mitsuishi, Kenji Nojima, Hisako Kanemoto, Rina Satō, Ami Koshimizu , Shizuka Itō, Misato Fukuen, Ai Maeda, Junko Minagawa, Sayaka Ohara, Yukiyo Fujii, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Nanao
Release details: Streaming on Netflix from 3 June
4 out of 5 stars
The beloved Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon anime ran for five seasons from 1992 to 1997, with each season adapting one story arc from the manga. While the old anime adaptation covered the same basic story beats as the manga, it made several changes to the manga that some fans (and even the creator, Naoko Takeuchi herself) did not appreciate. The 2012 Sailor Moon anime adaptation of the series, Sailor Moon Crystal, has thus far been very faithful to the manga. After running for three seasons (covering the first three arcs of the manga), a decision was made to turn the fourth story arc into a pair of movies instead of a fourth season. Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie can be considered to be the fourth season of Sailor Moon Crystal, leaving just one more story arc to be adapted for the series.
Sailor Moon Eternal is the anime adaptation that all Sailor Moon fans have been waiting for. Unlike the first three story arcs (which more or less included all the major characters and saw relatively faithful adaptations in the old anime), the fourth story arc, Dreams, never truly got an anime adaptation that felt true to the manga. This film gives us all that and more, with fan favourites come to life. If there's one thing that'll have you hearkening for some Sailor Moon nostalgia, it's this film.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie actually comprises two films. The Dead Moon Circus arrives on Earth to steal everyone's dreams for nefarious purposes. However, there's more than meets the eye to this group of villains, as the Sailors discover a deeper connection between them and the Dead Moon Circus — as well as a mysterious new player in the game, the Pegasus.
Fans of the original anime will notice one huge improvement with Sailor Moon Eternal — the lack of filler. The 1992 series' adaptation of the fourth story arc named it Sailor Moon SuperS, and it was rife with filler episodes that spotlighted unimportant guest characters, without adding to the character development of the main cast. Of course, since Sailor Moon Eternal is a very faithful adaptation of the fourth story arc of the manga (titled Dreams in the manga), it stands to reason that there wouldn't be any filler, since there wasn't any in the manga. However, it still retains the fan favourite elements from the anime, such as the transformation sequences and attacks — as well as giving us the long awaited transformation sequence for Sailor Saturn!
In the 1992 anime, the Sailors have their own extended transformation sequences, which show how they turn from their civilian forms into Sailors. However, one Sailor notably had no transformation sequence of her own – Sailor Saturn – because she didn't regularly fight alongside the other Sailors. The only animated transformation sequence of hers existed, rather aptly, in a Sega Saturn game called Sailor Moon SuperS - Various Emotion, but it wasn't quite on par with those of the other Sailors. Sailor Moon Eternal finally plugs that gap by giving us a full-length transformation sequence that is as detailed as those of her comrades.
Being a very loyal manga adaptation means that the movie gives us many iconic scenes from the manga that have never made it to the small screen before. We get to see all of the Sailors' pets take on human form (in full colour glory), as well as the two villains Zeolite and Xenotime. More importantly, we get to see all the Sailors take on their final "Eternal/Star" forms in the film, something that was never shown in the original anime. While opinions on the costumes for their final forms are still firmly divided (especially regarding those shoulder pads), it's wonderful to see them actually in action.
However, if you're a Sailor Moon fan, then you probably already know how formulaic the story is — so the first half can get rather dreary as it establishes the villains and then goes on to focus on the Inner Senshi (Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus) one by one. Even though there's no filler, there's not as much action in the first half than in the second half, and this is where some tweaks could have been made to include more battle sequences in the first half.
Since the series adapts a series conceived in the '90s, there are some design elements that can look rather dated. For example, each Sailor will pose against a unique background framed with flowers after their transformation sequence. While the sequences themselves are fluid and beautifully animated, the floral frames look like something plucked right out of the '90s. It sticks out like a sore thumb (reminding you of just how old the series is), which doesn't do justice to the actual image on screen.
Nevertheless, these are minor flaws in a series that has been a long time coming. Seeing the Sailor Moon manga come to life on screen, in a way that honours the source material, is such a joy to behold. Also, it's just incredibly fun watching colourful princesses with their shiny energy blasts battle odd monsters, as well as seeing them all unite in a display of what Sailor Moon is all about — teamwork and friendship at its best. It takes a while to start, but it gets so, so good towards the end.
Here are some more stills from the movie:
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