Sailor Moon R Movie: The Promise of the Rose (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, February 08, 2000
As some of you from the chat may know, I run a website at http://senshitv.dhs.org called SenshiTV, and if any of you look at it, you can tell what a flaming Moonie I am, so you can bet your life I'm scrutinizing this disc as best I can. I went on an SMR marathon tonight, and watched my fansub again, then the DVD with Japanese audio and subtitles, then the DVD in English.
First off, I'd like to mention the great Sailor Moon primer written by Erich Owens here at this site, which many of you should probably read if you're unfamiliar with Sailor Moon in its Japanese or English incarnations. In this review I will be using their original Japanese names, so please consult the primer if you are only familiar with the dub names.
Second, I must say that it has been a long time coming for this disc. The subtitled VHS tape was released back in August, but I had held off buying it, despite my moral issues since I have fansubs of all the movies, but I promised myself that I would buy the DVDs. And I did, and I'm definitely not disappointed. This is an excellent disc, I can't praise it enough. Sailor Moon R is one of my favorite movies of all time, Anime or otherwise, and while this disc does have its flaws, it definitely belongs on any Anime DVD collector's shelf.
The Audio on this disc has two sides to it. First there's the English track, which is a Stereo Dolby Digital mix. However, I listened to this on headphones since I had trouble hearing any directional sound, but still the only times I heard sound coming mostly from one ear were during a few scenes (such when Usagi jumps after seeing the caterpillar) and during a few "modified" speech segments (like when Mamoru is talking to Fiore from inside the crystal encasing). The sound is crisp though, however the quality of the dub leaves much to be desired.
While not the worst dub by far, there are still many inconsistencies with the original, as you'll be able to tell just by turning on subtitles while watching the English track. One symptom this dub suffers from is one that has been mentioned here before (in Chris' review of the first Battle Athletes OVA volume, I believe) where it seems that the dub's writers feel that a lack of speech is a waste. There are many scenes in which there is normally no dialog in the Japanese section (sometimes stunned silence, gasps, simple nodding or grunting as an acknowledgement) that are replaced with lame speeches in the dub. These seem to detract from the whole dramatic experience. Another problem is one that's been present in the TV dub from the beginning, that the character traits have been altered slightly (especially Chibi-Usa's) and the dialog has generally been dumbed down.
Frankly, what really did it in for me was when Chibi-Usa says, in the original, "Thanks for saving me, good luck!" but in the dub turns into, "Hey Ditzoid - thanks for saving my life. Now do your stuff, Moon Mama!" OK, I almost vomited right there. I understand that the dub is obviously supposed to cater to a younger audience, but that was the last straw. Chibi-Usa NEVER refers to Usagi as her mother, except when she needs something from her (like when she needed someone to take her to the Circus or when she wants Usagi to make some concession for her). In fact, she denies it's true on several occasions (like in episode 104, I believe, when she says that she could believe Mamoru was her father, but that she couldn't believe she had any relation to Usagi, whatsoever). It's stuff like this that made the dubbed track not totally enjoyable for me, but it will probably satisfy those who are only familiar with DiC's dub since it seems to be fairly faithful to that "adaptation" of Sailor Moon. Oh - and they must have lost the voice actress who did Ami because now they have Sailor Moon's voice (dunno her name, was never interested in the English VAs) doing a semi-decent impression of Ami's old dubbed voice.
The Japanese track, on the other hand has problems. I have to contradict Chris here, because upon close inspection, the Japanese track is not in Stereo, it's mono. Not only on the back of the case does it list the audio as "Mono / Stereo" (which I assume means one audio track is mono, and one is stereo) but after listening to the fansub (which was in stereo) and then the DVD, I can tell you that I could certainly tell subtle differences. This is really a shame since that means the Japanese LDs of the Sailor Moon movies actually have better audio than our DVDs here.
Next is the audio quality on the Japanese track. Pioneer must've gotten a hold of a very poor mix, because not only is it in mono, the audio sounds very poor. My fansub sounds clearer than the DVD, which is really ridiculous when you think about it. The Audio is tinny and sort of muffled, sounding like it was coming from a 2nd generation audio cassette copy or something. There is also a place where the audio skips and repeats at 27:54, which is right where they change film reels (you can tell by the orange circles that appear 7 seconds and 1 second before the scene changes, these are cues on film for the projector operator to switch reels). The saving grace, however, are the translation and the subtitles, which I'll get to later...
The Video, first off, is not wide screen. Upon first turning on the movie, I noticed this right away, and it enraged me. However, upon closer examination and a side-by-side comparison with the fansub, I was totally blown away by the fact that the movie was actually animated in soft-matte! This means that the black bars you would see in a theatre are artificially applied! Each actual frame is drawn in 1.33:1, but to display it on the movie screen they chop off the top and bottom. There is a good and bad side to this. The good side is that you get your whole screen filled, but you don't lose anything. The bad side is that for purists, like myself, you're not really getting the movie as the directory (Ikuhara Kunihiko, who also did Utena, I believe) originally intended it to be watched. For instance, there's a continuity error at the 40:00 minute mark where Usagi is holding the Moon Rod as she's thrown down the hill, but when she's getting up you can see her hand is empty at the bottom of the screen, but then she has it back in her hand as she runs back up the hill. You don't see this in the widescreen version. I say that these two factors cancel out, at least for me they did, so I'm overall very happy with the route they took. This means, however, that they had to go get a copy of the film, which does not appear to have been kept in very good condition, even (as Chris put it) by Japanese archival standards. While this is understandable since the movie is 7 years old, it does distract the viewer at times.
The Packaging is great, it really looks attractive (it's a very similar style to the Tenchi Forever packaging, down to the white keepcase). It's got chapter stops on the inside, as well as a nice looking cover and a very cool looking spine which has gold foil for the title. It clearly lists languages, age recommendations (although they don't have Pioneer's symbol for 13 & up, only writing), regions, and sound mixes.
The Menu system is one of the best I've seen Pioneer do in a while. Not only are there animations and music on all the menus, but there is a bunch of information in there that's useful to first time viewers (and possibly even seasoned veterans like myself). The Setup screen for languages and subtitles suffers from the same problem as a bunch of other Anime DVDs - they don't tell you what's currently selected, you can only click on what language and subtitle option you want, but you can't tell what's there already. The "Extra Stuff" section has character bios (including birthdays and other personal stats) as well as descriptions and backgrounds, and each Senshi has links to their transformation and attack sequences. Then there are a bunch of hi-res still images which you can browse, and finally, they included the Opening and Ending sequences from the edited dubbed version. For those who don't know, there are 3 different releases of the SM movies now: Uncut Subbed, Uncut Dubbed, and Edited Dubbed. The edited versions change the intros and endings. In the SMR movie's case, they replaced "Moon Revenge" (the original ending theme) with "The Power of Love" which is from the English Dub's TV Soundtrack, I believe, and while it isn't bad (it's got a good beat and you can dance to it) but Moon Revenge is the favorite song of many a moonie. Still, I'm glad they included them, as this made me even more satisfied that I waited for the DVD because it meant I got the best of all 3 worlds.
Now for the content. I've already mentioned that SMR is one of my favorite movies of all time, so you know my feelings on the storyline. It's a truly sweet and touching plot, which still manages to move me to tears at the end (although not listening to the dub track) but it doesn't make me bawl uncontrollably like at the end of the Stars Season in episode 200 (which has cost me 3 tissue boxes so far after all the times I've watched it). The animation is of very high quality, the acting is great, and best of all is all the consideration that was given to the hardcore fan.
Despite the not-so-high quality Japanese audio track, the Subtitles on this disc are the BEST I've EVER SEEN on any Anime DVD. Comparing it with the two other translations I have of the movie, this one is very good in terms of accuracy, but also in terms of readability. The word and phrase choices of the translator, Rika Takahashi, are absolutely excellent, and they convey the true meaning of the dialog very well. What really hit this home for me is when Chibi-Usa, after firing the toy gun at Usagi, says "Heroes of justice don't cry!", which is definitely the most effective way I've heard this line translated yet, and it is a great credit to Rika for the fine job she did. The other great thing about the subtitles is that not only did they subtitle the songs, they did it in BOTH LANGUAGES!! Yes!! AND in DIFFERENT COLORS!! During the intro and ending sequences, they have both the English translation, and the Romanji translation, and in different colors which makes it easy to read. It also seems that Pioneer has come as close to perfection as possible when it comes to subtitles changing (like when a new line is said by a character while the current song lyric remains the same). There was no flickering on my DVD-ROM setup, but there was a tiny bit of it on the Set-Top box, but this is probably a limitation of the DVD format, and unlike the Fushigi Yuugi boxset, there is no weird problems when it comes to centering the text when the line changes. What really blew me away was that during the credit roll, they actually leave the bottom section of the screen blank so that you can read the subtitles without them overlapping the credits! Never have I seen so much effort being put into a sub track, and it's GREATLY appreciated! The only complaint (and I had to search my brain for this one) that I could come up with concerning the subtitles is that there wasn't a sub track for the hearing impaired, unlike a lot of Pioneer discs, which if you are or know someone who has hearing problems could be an issue.
Other than that, I can only give my most glowing praise to Pioneer for producing the best commercial subtitling job for an Anime that I've ever seen.
This disc has some flaws, especially the quality of the Japanese audio track, but I'm not sure what Pioneer could've done other than record the audio off of one of the LDs from Japan (which they probably aren't allowed to do). However, there are far too many redeeming qualities on this disc to pass it up. If you're a fan of the Japanese original, you cannot go wrong with the subtitle track (if you can live with the Japanese tracks' audio quality) and if you're a dub fan, the dubbed track stays true to the English TV series. Despite the few problems it has, I highly recommend this disc. It's truly an excellent film and a good enough technical presentation of it that, while it may not be perfect, does a wonderful job of getting its message across and giving the viewer a truly enjoyable experience.
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: C+/A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Sailor Moon