Sailor Moon R Movie: The Promise of the Rose (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, February 08, 2000
Damn... this is what I've been waiting for for several years: a domestically released, fully licensed subtitled version of Sailor Moon! I really make no bones about liking Sailor Moon: while I admit that the animation is somewhat limited, even when compared to other "magical girls" shows like RayEarth, I think that Sailor Moon gets the balance of youma-fighting, romance and comedy exactly right, with no small amount of self-parody thrown in for good measure! And, I like how this series is set in contemporary Tokyo, rather than sending the girls to some alternate world (though how can Usagi's/Serena's father afford such a big house in central Azabu Juban, Minato-ku on a newspaper writer's salary?).
First off, I'm grateful to Justin Emerson for pointing out in his Alternate Angle review that this film was actually animated full-frame, and then the top and the bottom of the picture were removed using the "soft-matte" process for Japanese theatres. Since I know now that this film was animated full-frame, I won't dock it one letter rating for not being letterboxed like the original Japanese LD of the film. I take a different view from Mr. Emerson, however, in that I prefer seeing this the way that it was originally animated, full-frame, rather than the way that it was seen in Japanese theatres, which would presumably have been in either a 16:9 or a 2.35:1 format. As for Mr. Emerson's Moon Rod nit (well-spotted, by the way) around 40:00 (where Sailor Moon is holding on to her Moon Rod as she's rolling down the hill, not holding on to it at the bottom, but then holding on to it again as she runs back up), I don't think that they intended to draw Sailor Moon's hands empty below what would have been cut off for theatres, I think that this was an accident, and they got lucky when this film hit the theatres. (Exactly like the disappearing, reappearing cigar hole on Arnie's chest in the biker bar in Terminator 2: you can't see it on the soft-matted letterboxed DVD, but it's very visible on the full-frame videotape!)
I can't directly compare this disk to the LD version, as I don't have the LD of this film. But I DO have (imported) LDs of the Sailor Moon R TV series, and the quality of the video is about the same, clear but not spectacular. One curiosity about this disk in terms of video quality is that, although this isn't the soft-matted version used in theatres, the "cigarette burns" are still there. (What are "cigarette burns"? Ever see the film Fight Club? The "cigarette burns" indicate to the projectionist when to change reels.) The animation quality is slightly improved over the television series, you get more fluid motions like the scene when Usagi reels backwards after seeing the caterpillar, but still, it's pretty much consistent with the animation quality of the second TV series. (In terms of the total series, the animation quality gets substantially better with the third TV series, Sailor Moon S, though my favourite Sailor Moon series is still the original "classic" Sailor Moon series, which had the most primitive animation of all five seasons.)
This is the Isseki nichô department. (Apparently, according to Nobuo and Carol Akiyama's 2001 Japanese and English Idioms book from Barron's Educational Series, "isseki nichô" is the Japanese equivalent of to "kill two birds with one stone".) Some people are reporting in the forum that Pioneer "edited" the scene at 0:50:12 where (minor spoliers) Fiore has his hand on Sailor Moon's locket. In the Japanese version, although the "camera" is on Usagi's face, it is Fiore's voice we hear saying, according to the subtitles "You're just trying to fool me by pretending to be nice." However, should you switch over to English, it is "Serena" who is talking in this shot. She says to Fiore "Maybe you'll believe me if I show you how Darian became my friend!" What's the problem? Her lips move along to the English words so that, when you watch this in Japanese, it looks as though Fiore's words are coming from Usagi's mouth! I chalked this down to being an "animation glitch" on the part of Studio Live, the specific animation studio responsible for Sailor Moon, but, as I've misplaced my fan-sub, I thought that I'd ask Mr. Emerson about this incongruity, since he did a direct comparison to the fan-sub in his review.
What's the verdict?
Apparently, Pioneer did indeed "touch-up" this scene slightly. In the original, Usagi's lips are motionless. Pioneer (or Optimum, which handled the dub) altered the scene, adding the mouth (taken, presumably, from a nearly identical shot seen a few seconds earlier, at 0:50:06). I guess that, without "Serena's" introduction, little kids wouldn't be able to guess that what follows is a flashback to about ten years before, which is why, I presume, Pioneer or Optimum changed it in the dub. I'd put Pioneer in a fairly minor level of Sheol for this transgression, or perhaps the Catholic purgatory, or maybe even Heck from Dilbert. Probably, I'd consign Pioneer to about the same level as I'd put C.P.M. for the edited closing sequence of Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer. It's not as though they cut anything out. I'm not about to sign a petition demanding that Pioneer recall all copies of this disk. Still, altering an image slightly to suit the dub on a bilingual DVD is an annoyance, and I would hope that Pioneer not repeat this again in the future.
As for the dubbing... well, it's not fair to compare this to regular dubs in terms of accuracy to the original Japanese dialogue. This dub was specifically designed for those people who are only used to watching the English-language version of Sailor Moon on YTV or the Cartoon Network. Yes, they do fill some scenes, which were silent in the original, but, and I am afraid that I will have to make a few generalities, I think that they're aiming the dub at a, ahem, less mature audience than the subtitled version, especially those whose total net experience with anime, as I said before, is watching stuff like Sailor Moon and Pokémon on children's TV. Most of you who are reading my words are adults and thus don't need everything explained out for you, which is why you might find the additional dialogue annoying. (I recall that some people had the exact same problem with Disney's dub of Kiki's Delivery Service.) But kids aren't necessarily used to the cues (i.e. Chibi-Usa/Reeny inserting tissue paper into Usagi's/Serena's nose to wake her up) that anime fans readily understand, and they need the additional explanations for things provided in the English dialogue. Also, this film is a bit more slow paced than what kids watch on television, so the dub makes up for this by inserting a lot more dialogue. But some scenes, like the aforementioned scene with Chibi-Usa attempting to wake Usagi up, work a lot better in the original Japanese.
Sailor Moon dub veterans will no doubt notice that the voice of Ami/Amy/Sailor Mercury is now performed by Terry Hawkes, who is also the voice of Sailor Moon, and not Karen Bernstein who was the voice of Sailor Mercury in the original batch of 65 episodes in 1995, and in the 17 remaining episodes of Sailor Moon R. (For more information on the voice actors and actresses, please check out Optimum Productions' Voice Stars Website.) I'm afraid that here I'll have to disagree with Mr. Emerson: Terry Hawkes makes Amy sound exactly like Serena. She doesn't remotely sound like Karen Bernstein's version of "Amy". Now, I didn't like the way that Karen Bernstein dubbed Amy's voice when I first heard it, until I rewatched my fan-subs with the English dub in mind. I have to admit, in terms of cadence and intonation, Karen Bernstein's Amy is very close to Aya Hisakawa's Ami. So, I, for one, really miss the presence of Karen Bernstein's voice on this disk, but I guess that she had prior commitments. By the way, I wonder why Karen Bernstein's name is still included in the credits!
In Japanese, the guest voices for this volume are Hikaru Midorikawa as Fiore and Yumi Toma as Kisenian. On the Sailor Moon R TV series, they were also the voices of Seijuurou and Natsumi Ginga. And who exactly are those characters? None other than Earl (a.k.a. Alan) and Anne, the aliens from the "Doom Tree" series! (I love those episodes; I have them on LD!) I know that I'm not the first one to point it out (though I don't think that anyone else here has pointed it out in their reviews), but, although it's never mentioned directly in this film, Fiore is almost certainly from the same planet as Earl and Anne. Not only does Fiore have the same voice as Earl, but he looks very similar (except a few years older) to Earl in both human and alien forms. Why else would they use both voice actors unless it was an intentional allusion?
The voice of the child version of Mamoru is credited to "Emi Ogata". In Oh My Goddess, AnimEigo also credits an "Emi Ogata" with the voice of the child version of Keiichi Morisato. Other than that, I'm not aware of any "Emi Ogata" active as a voice actress in Japan. What gives? Let's look at the kanji using the Nelson kanji guide. The "E" in "Emi" means "blessing" (kanji #1681 in the old Nelson). Another ON (or Chinese) pronunciation is "KEI", and the KUN (Japanese) pronunciation is "megu(mi)"! With "beauty", "Emi" can also be pronounced "Megumi". As you may know, Megumi Ogata is one of the best-known contralto voice actresses in Japan. Don't believe me that "Emi Ogata" is really Megumi Ogata? Well, you don't have to take my word for it! Check out the Megumi Ogata listing on Hitoshi Doi's Voice Actor database! I hope that Pioneer corrected this error in the credits for the Sailor Moon S movie.
There's also another minor translation error on this disk: the name of Raye's grandfather's temple is "Hikawa", not "Hino" (Hino is, of course, Raye's myôji, or family name). (More fun trivia: there actually is a "Hikawa" temple in Tokyo, in Akasaka 6-chome (right next to Roppongi), and not too far from Azabu Jûban, where Usagi lives) in Minato-ku, but the "Hi" is "ice" (Nelson kanji #131), not "fire"!)
Switching gears entirely, let's talk about the music. It sure is fun using the "AUDIO" button to switch back and forth between the Japanese and English versions of the Sailor Moon theme song! While the English song isn't exactly like the Japanese version, "Moonlight Densetsu", it does match up second for second at some key points, particularly the main 8-note bar heard right at the beginning, and before the final verse. Please note that the bell tolls heard during the Toei logo sequence (the waves crashing on the rocks) on the English language track, are taken from the beginning of the opening sequence from the Japanese version of the TV series. Some of the background music is original, but some of it is stock background music from the TV series. The background music for Sailor Moon's transformation sequence is the same melody as that used on the Sailor Moon R TV series, but using different instruments: there's a woman's voice in place of the fake violins! As I think has been previously been noted, "The Power of Love" is from the album by "Sailor Moon & The Scouts" entitled "Lunarock" (EMI Music Canada Catalogue #7243 8 21704 2 6). It's not exactly on par with "Moon Revenge", the Japanese closing song, but be grateful that they didn't choose "Daddy's Girl" or "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (yes, a cover of the Beatles' song), two of the other bubblegum tracks from "Lunarock"! (In fact, the only compelling reason for North American Sailor Moon fans to buy "Lunarock" is because it has "Moonlight Densetsu", the Japanese opening song (DALI version), and "Ai no Senshi", an image song from episode 68. (And that's only for those of you who don't buy import CDs.) "Moon Revenge" is one of my favourite Sailor Moon songs; you can feel the urgency as they descend back to Earth! I wish either Pioneer or EMI Canada would produce a soundtrack album containing songs and music from the three movies. I had the bootleg version of the "Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon SAILOR STARS Best Song Collection" (GA-089) from SonMay (a.k.a. SM Records), the notorious Taiwanese bootleg anime CD company, which contains all of the movie songs. Last year, I replaced it with the legitimate Japanese "SAILOR STARS Best Song Collection" CD (Nippon Columbia COCC-13720), but, much to my chagrin, the movie songs, including "Moon Revenge", were not included. I intend on replacing the bootlegged movie songs with the legitimate item eventually, but it would be a lot easier (and cheaper) for me if Pioneer (or EMI Canada) would put them all on one domestic album!
This is the Potpourri section: stuff worth mentioning, but not worth a full paragraph, especially since each one of these issues has been mentioned before by Chris or by other Alternate Angle reviewers. The animated menu: I must admit, I adore the look of pink petals on a blue background (or the reverse: see my Utena review)! But, in the future, I won't be judging Pioneer disks (or those of any other company, for that matter), on how much time that it looks like they spent on the menus. I'd much rather that anime companies try to get as much out on DVD as possible, while keeping the price as low as possible. I, for one, would rather not see anime companies wasting too much time and resources on eye-candy extras, that you really look at for all of five seconds on your way to anime goodness. Subtitles: much improved over Tenchi inTokyo vol. 8, but I still like the Tenchi Forever font best. I was impressed that they did manage to put two colours of subtitles on the screen at the same time without resorting to "cheating" by having one set of subtitles as "hard" subtitles. Transformation sequences: I'm a weirdo that likes to watch the transformation sequences over and over 'cause I love the exciting music, so I'm grateful that Pioneer lets you watch them from a menu, as I don't have to fast-forward or rewind to watch them again and again. Sound: pretty much the same as my Sailor Moon LDs... but I only have the most basic of video set-ups (a low-end Toshiba player with an average Sony Trinitron TV). If there are some issues with the Japanese sound, I'll take Justin's word for it. He has much better equipment listed under "Review Equipment".
As for the movie itself, it's not too complicated. In fact, I don't really need to go into the plot summary as Pioneer pretty much gives everything away on the back of the case. (It seems that lately, Pioneer has either been giving away too much (e.g. Tenchi Forever, Tenchi in Tokyo: A New Ending) on the back of the case, or, in the case of the Fushigi Yûgi Suzaku set, not telling you anything about the series at all!) So, I can just give you my thoughts. Of the three films I think that the first one has the best song, "Moon Revenge", the second one has my favourite story (Luna falls in love), and the third is the most visually interesting. The problem I have with all three Sailor Moon films is that they last exactly just one hour each. Each one could stand to be at least a full half hour longer. In this particular film, they're already getting to the final battle after just 33 minutes. I think that they should have developed the subplot about Fiore's love for Mamoru a little bit deeper. I suppose the big problem for Sailor Moon fans is that each season of the TV series runs for at least 40 episodes (many multi-season TV series run for only 26 episodes per season), so they have adequate time (over 900 minutes per season) for character development. As such, this film has to deal with the exposition, the development and the resolution of the Fiore storyline in about 1/15th of the amount of time that they have available in each season of the TV series. So, quite understandibly, everything about Fiore seems abrupt.
Compared to the second film in particular, this film is light on the comic relief, though you still get some. This is a little easier to understand, you expect the romantic side of things to be a little more intense than the comedy in the film version. There's one great witty banter scene between the girls where they are supposed to be discussing the strange goings on with the flower-seed shaped meteor, but spend more time wondering whether Fiore is gay! I thought that the scene with the discussion of Fiore's sexuality would surely have been cut out of the dub version, but they just changed it to a discussion about how "Darian" is popular with everybody. In fact, I was wondering what had actually been edited out of the dubbed VHS tape, but then I picked up Animerica Volume 8, Number 2, which has a fairly detailed list of deleted items.
Now, I was sure that I had seen a character much like the Kisenian Blossom in another anime, but it took me quite a while to figure out exactly were I had seen something like her before. I wonder how many other public television stations, like TV Ontario, carried the Japanese animated TV series version of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince stories in the early 80's? (C'mon, some of you must remember the theme song: "The Little Prince, in outer space, can catch a shooting star and sail away..."!) Doesn't the Kisenian Blossom remind you of the Rose Girl that the Little Prince (of Planet B612) loved? And speaking of similarities, isn't the scene where Fiore tries to skewer Sailor Moon, but instead digs his nails into Tuxedo Mask, almost a shot-for-shot reenactment of a similar scene in the first season of Sailor Moon? They should have inserted the song "My Only Love"!
One thing's for certain, I never was someone who could have been called "an anonymous Sailor Moon fan"; secretly squirreling away a stash of tapes for my own enjoyment, but too ashamed to admit the fact that I like the show to others! I am looking forward to Pioneer's release of the next two films on DVD, and hope that Pioneer would consider putting all 200 episodes subtitled on DVD (or at least the first TV season).
Toshiba SD-2107 DVD player, 27-inch Sony Trinitron KV-27S40 television using the set's internal speakers, standard red/white/yellow A/V cables ("Heavy Duty" "Gold", from Radio Shack).
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
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