Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: D
- 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.
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 60
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Sailor Moon
Sailor Moon R Movie: The Promise of the Rose
By Samuel Marshall
February 18, 2002
Release Date: February 08, 2000
Having watched this DVD, for the first time I felt an urge to send in a review. In summary, I have a lot of praise for this disc, a little criticism - and one serious warning.
A little context might help. My experience of Sailor Moon is watching the S and SS TV series, in fansub form (actually, downloaded from the excellent Senshi TV website). So, I've seen quite a lot of it, but not the earlier series. And I've watched only the Japanese version.
Now that's done, onto this disc.
First, the story itself.
If you've seen any Sailor Moon before, you probably know roughly what to expect. The story is more in-depth than a typical episode, but doesn't quite reach the emotional heights of some of "those" special TV episodes. It is strong, but with only an hour to play with, there was no way they could build up the characters (other than those we already know) as much as in a long TV series. I think they do a very good job given the time, but some points (particularly the heavy use of brief flashbacks) feel a little rushed.
If you haven't seen any Sailor Moon, then "what to expect" could be summarised as plenty of action (the senshi fighting bad guys etc.), a dash of comedy (mostly dealing with character relationships or their known foibles - don't worry, you get a brief introduction to each of them and there's nothing here that you won't pick up as you go along), and some tense, emotional moments where the characters have to make tough decisions, or find fresh reserves of strength, and so on. Because
this is Sailor Moon, the main characters can usually be relied upon to make the "good" decisions, and everything can usually be expected to turn out all right in the end - but I'll leave you to find out whether it does for yourself...
I won't give any detail about the precise story, others have summarised it and you don't need to know it to make a decision about this disc; however, in my opinion it is very good, and if you don't at least have tears in your eyes by the end, you have no soul. :)
Now, onto the DVD presentation.
Packaging (by Jason 71 of Mind Meld, Inc. who also did the Lain and Fushigi Yuugi design) is great, although just a smidgen below the standard of those two benchmarks. The DVD is very appropriately presented in a white keepcase, and the front cover is bordered by metalled gold print, which is also used for the title on the side. In short, an excellent cover, and I expect it to look great alongside compatible designs for the S and SS movies. Inside the box is a Pioneer-standard chapter list insert with the same picture of Usagi as on the front cover. The disc itself has a printed label which is nicely done, following the "pink with flowers" motif (which is a part of the plot for this title).
So that's the packaging. What about when you actually play the disc?
Video is just fine. On the negative side, there are glitches from the film master (occasional black dots, etc.) - I suppose it's a shame the worst of these weren't digitally retouched as it would only have
affected five or so frames. But, m ore positively, the colour is reallystrong and pure, and in general it looks great.
Audio... well, I have to say, audio is a disappointment. It's definitely mono, and I wish they'd obtained a stereo mix, or at least a higher-quality version. It isn't terrible but it isn't good either.
Essentially, if you imagine a standard audio cassette played on a cheap personal stereo, that's what this is like: it's okay, you can hear it perfectly well, but it doesn't sound good.
This is a particular shame because as I mention I've previously only seen RealVideo fansubs, and I was really hoping to get some "good" audio especially for the opening music, but this is not much (if any) better than those fansubs.
To summarise the audio, it sounds like a 1980 film (actually, my copy of Excalibur is better than this), though it was actually made in 1993. Oh well. Here's hoping the audio is better in the S movie.
(All this is referring to the Japanese audio - the English audio seems much better, but don't watch this dubbed - more on that later.)
The menus on this disc are fine. They are animated, which is always a downside, but the music used is soft enough that transitions are less painful: it's still slightly jarring when you click an option and the
music abruptly stops, but I wasn't going "ouch" every time. And they look great. So no problems there at all.
Extra features here are also better than we've come to expect from Pioneer. There's an art gallery as usual, but also a set of bio screens for each character. Now, if you've seen these in other releases, you're probably thinking "yawn". Yeah, they're normally crappy, but these ones are great - each senshi's screen has links to her transformation sequence and her attack (or attacks) from the movie. Very cool, especially since these include both English and Japanese audio tracks, so if your player is set to Japanese by default you won't have any "dub problems".
Ah, dub problems... and here we come to the warning I mentioned right at the start. I have never seen an American-dubbed episode of this show, so I was curious about two of those other extras - the Sailor Moon opening theme, and the ending song for this movie, in English dub.
The English opening theme is about what I expected. It's the same music as the Japanese version, but with somewhat different words (and there don't seem to be enough of them, I'm sure the Japanese version doesn't repeat like that). The vocals are pretty terrible and the lyrics are worse, but the music (and the animation) is still great, so overall, it's okay.
After that I played the ending song, which is taken directly from the English dubbed version of the film. It starts with a few heavily cliched dance sounds, and the music remains unoriginal, but is also quite pleasant. Then the vocals begin - in a change from the opening theme, these are sung reasonably well and the lyrics are not completely stupid. It seems like somebody spent more than ten minutes making this one up - I was quite impressed. It's nowhere near as good as "Moon Revenge" (the Japanese theme) but is certainly pleasant in its own right.
And then comes the problem. As I said, they took this straight from the English dub - which means, just after getting used to the quite-good song, you get the dub voices. This is an ending theme so as you'd expect it comes from one of the most intense, emotional sequences of the film. Voice acting is paramount. And did they do an okay job?
The dub is not just bad. It is beyond bad. It is execrable. It is actually worse than "Wind Named Amnesia". The senshi call Usagi's name with about as much emotion as they'd call a number in bingo. (At this point, the dub is just bad.) Then there's a little bit of "we need to give her more power" discussion. (This is reaching the "terrible" stage, since it kind of gives the impression that they stopped in this tense moment to spend some time calling long dull sentences to each other about some topic which bores them deeply.) And then... please, save me... Usagi does this speech about calling on the Silver Crystal's power (I don't recall the text from subtitles being the same, and in any case she was supposed to actually *care* about what she was doing)... and... I can't go on.
I was physically repulsed - literally, I really mean that, there was some strange feeling around my stomach. I actually kind of lashed out at my computer keyboard trying to hit the right key to stop it, before controlling mys'elf and pressing it more carefully.
To get this in context - I mentioned "Wind Named Amnesia". Well, I've sat through that entire film, dubbed. I didn't enjoy it, but I stayed put. This extra is maybe five minutes long, and I couldn't stand it any longer after about twenty seconds of dialogue.
Needless to say, I did not look at any of the rest of the dub.
I'm normally somebody who, after watching a DVD, goes through every single special feature and every trailer there is: I figure even if they're not that great I might as well see them, after all I paid good money for this disc. :) But in this case, I seriously do recommend that firstly, you don't watch the dub, and secondly, you skip that feature. Don't ever be tempted "just because it's there". It will hurt you.
To end on a more positive note, here's my summary of the disc (deadly extra ignored).
This is an excellent release and good value. The only problem with the presentation (bearing in mind that I didn't notice the minute "cut" that was apparently made at one point, so I think it really is small enough not to be a significant issue) is the Japanese sound, which is bad, but not to the point where it detracts from the film. The packaging and menus are fine, and the "character bios" extra is actually worth having (at least if you make your player default to Japanese).
DVD-ROM system - Player: ATI Player 3.1 Graphics: ATI Rage Pro graphics card, iiyama VisionMaster Pro 400 17" monitor Sound: Diamond Monster Sound MX300 sound card, Pioneer NS-5 stereo system