Sailor Moon S TV Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2001
The Sailor Moon S TV series has finally arrived in a way that will please a majority of its fans. The disc includes some nice features as well as the near-required dual language option. And heck, it's got 7 episodes (that's the first 2 VHS tapes on one disc)! There's a lot to say about this disc, so we'd better get started. Please keep in mind that while I may point out some tiny flaws with it, it did not drastically affect my overall opinion of the disc.
If this disc suffers from one flaw in particular, it would have to be in this department. The English audio was produced by the Canadian group Optimum Productions, the same team behind the English versions of Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon R, and the 3 Sailor Moon feature films. The voice cast and script of Sailor Moon S are exactly the same as they were when it aired on Cartoon Network, including name changes. The acting is standard extra-cheesy Sailor Moon dub material, and I would hardly consider it the highlight of this disc. The English audio also suffers from a slightly annoying technical problem. The background music (while the same as the music from the Japanese audio), is suspiciously quiet. The English voice actors overpower the music to such an extent that often the series seems to be dialogue-only where the Japanese version has strong musical support. The Japanese language track is clear, but unfortunately suffers from a problem similar to the audio on the US release of my favorite anime film, Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro. The audio seems a bit worn and scratchy at times, especially during the opening theme song and the commercial break ditties. This is especially strange because the commercial break tunes on the English track sound clear as day. If you listen to the vocal-free version of the theme in the Karaoke function in the Extras menu (more on that later), it sounds not only scratchy but muffled as well. My DVD player describes both tracks as standard Dolby 2.0, but they play out like a mono track split into two speakers (just as the disc's case claims). Overall, the audio sounds pretty good, but it could have been better.
The video transfer is very clear, much more so than VHS fansubs, which I'm sure will please those many Sailor Moon fans who resort to fansubs as the only decent way to watch the series. The opening theme visuals are very well synchronized with the music, which helps immerse you into that "Pretty Soldiers" universe. In fact, Pioneer went an extra mile with this video and inserted English text into the opening and closing clips where Japanese writing originally rested. Unfortunately, they made a bit of an error in the closing video where the credits actually cover up much of the half-screen animations of Usagi walking or little light-projections of the show's cast members. Thank goodness Pioneer has gotten into the textless closing/opening habit, as I'm sure we'll get to see one or two of them on the second disc in this series. The subtitle font used is one I have become very fond of (it is the same that was used in all of the Sailor Moon Movie discs). During the closing theme "Tuxedo Mirage," the subtitles flash (similar to the original Bubblegum Crisis release) so that the English translations can change while the romaji writing remains the same. Nothing big, but it's just something I found odd. If AnimEigo was able to get around it in their BGC re-release, why couldn't Pioneer pull it off? Overall, the transfer is pretty darn good. Rainbows weren't a real problem as far as I could tell, and only the subtitles were a bit pesky (then again, all of the smaller-size subtitle fonts look blurry on my TV set). And one more thing: the video appeared to be a bit "zoomed-in" from the fansubs I saw. I especially noticed it during the transformation scenes, where you could see that their figures look a bit larger and are partially cut-off. After watching the whole disc, it's not too noticeable in general, though.
I have a hate-love relationship with this packaging. The image on the front is very attractive in the same way the cover for Sailor Moon S: The Movie was. Its dark, starry night sky blended in with the dark areas of Sailor Moon's figure works well as an eye-catcher. The back of this cover is a bit crowded with writing, but manages to look pretty nonetheless with multiple stills from the series. However, if you do not like the wordy cover, you have a second option with the reversible cover! The inside of the disc's cover shows a shot of Sailors Mercury and Jupiter colored similarly to Sailor Moon. The back of the flip-side shows Prince Endymion and Princess Serenity in a field of rose petals as well as an image of Sailor Moon holding her wand against herself in a gentle manner. That image of Sailor Moon alone is also the picture that is printed onto the top of the disc itself. And you can still see the flip-side of the cover without even sliding it out of the plastic because the case itself is transparent! Ah, Pioneer, you make me proud. The insert is a simple episode/track list with the image of Tuxedo Mask and Usagi holding hands that appears on the back cover. The only real gripe I have about this packaging is the way the disc is held in place. Anyone who has purchased the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV discs knows what I'm talking about- the wacky foreign Scanavo casing that makes it an awkward tug of war just prying your beautiful disc away from its petroleum-based shell without shattering or bending it in the process. Once you get the hang of it and take the right approach, it's easy to get used to.
The menus are animated, but look pretty cheesy (all of the animations stem from Sailor Moon's "Moon Spiral Heart Attack", which we see plenty of already in the series itself). Had Pioneer used the same person who designed the gorgeous Sailor Moon S: The Movie menus, I would have been in heaven with them. As it is, they're kind of bland and use the "crescent moon" shape from the English Sailor Moon logo a LOT.
The textless opening with karaoke function was pretty cool, and I have to admit I did know the theme song by heart already, so it was easy for me to try. However, I couldn't do it long without cracking up at myself just for singing along. It was also very interesting to hear how much the opening theme relies on those vocals to carry the melody (you can turn the vocals on and off using your audio button). The white subtitles (which use a different font from the rest of the disc) turn green word-by-word as it goes, so it's easy to follow along. And hey, they don't flash as each word colors in! And finally, the Sailor Moon gallery is pretty unimpressive, though these more technical drawings would be fairly interesting if they weren't shrunk to about 1/4 of the screen! What was up with that?! Nice selection of extras, though with how popular this series is, I'm sure they could have produced more.
A great deal of the anime fandom out there has determined whether or not they are Sailor Moon fans by viewing the English dub alone. I encourage each one of those people to give this disc a spin simply because of how engaging this storyline can be.
Episode 90 (that is to say, the 90th episode of the entire Sailor Moon saga, and the 1st episode of the Sailor Moon S series) re-introduces our cast in a casual way which expects the viewer to be very familiar with them already. For those who saw even the English dub of the first two seasons, this should be a fairly simple adjustment. It begins by revealing a vision Rei (Sailor Mars) witnesses, involving a gigantic wave of power, shattering stone images of the other 4 Sailor Soldiers. She also sees a glowing light, to which Rei asks, "Are you the messiah?" As the wave draws nearer, the glowing light splits into three and vanishes, and the vision ends. This is an obvious foreshadowing of a revelation we receive in Episode 91 (or the 2nd episode on this disc), where the evil scientist Professor Tomoe and his scantily-clad female assistant, Kaorinite, discuss their plans to capture three talismans(!) from the owners of pure hearts in order to reveal the holy grail(!!) and rule the world. Their group, the Death Busters, use special eggs called Daimohns to inhabit inanimate objects and transform them into living, fighting creatures which capture pure hearts. To anyone who saw Sailor Moon or Sailor Moon R, this sets up the standard "stretch-out-the-plotline" filler system that we've all seen before (even in the first half of The New Tenchi Muyo!). However, the episodes that contain nearly zero plot advancement (there are about 3 episodes like that on this disc) usually fill in the dead time with silly episodic stories, which amuse and entertain to no end.
In some of the earlier episodes, however, we do see some story hops. Sailor Moon gets a new transformation and attack (to keep it fresh!), and some mysterious figures appear in shadow form to observe whether or not the pure heart just stolen (from whoever the victim of the day is) is a talisman or not. We also get to meet two new regular characters, Tenoh, Haruka and Kaioh, Michiru, who are very interesting indeed and lead their own mysterious double lives....
Good stuff! Even though it's incomplete, it's still worth picking up. It doesn't have a real cliff-hanger at the end of the disc, so you can probably hold out until Pioneer does their next great DVD collection, which will hopefully hold just as many episodes, if not more!
Pioneer DV-525 DVD/CD/VCD player, Magnavox 20" CRT TV, Mitsubishi amplifier (model unknown)
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 165
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Sailor Moon