shoujo

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon

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Back in 1999, there was a time in my life when 4 pm meant everything to me; Just getting home from school and finishing homework as fast as I could to tune into Toonami. When I first discovered Cartoon Network, it was newly added to our Comcast plan and by that time, Nickelodeon was lacking in good shows so I thought I’d check it out. I was only 11 years old at the time and while I still liked cartoons, I wanted a bit more than zany antics, so when I turned on the channel and first laid my eyes on Sailor Moon, I was hooked.

Sailor Moon, known by Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon in Japan, was probably not my very first anime, but it is the first one I really remember watching religiously. Though many will argue the English Dub is so terrible, they wouldn’t give it the light of day, for a kid my age it was perfect. The big eyes, the flashy transformation sequences, no matter how repetitive each episode was, I always made sure to tune in. I was damned if I missed an episode, and if I wanted to go out and play, I’d set my VCR to record it. Sure, I loved the other shows that aired, including ReBoot and Tenchi Muyo! but to this day none of them compare to my love for Sailor Moon. Even as an adult, this show still holds sentimental value for me and manages to get me teary eyed at times.

When I was about 13 years old, I got my hands on two Japanese VHS movies, Sailor Moon S and Super S, and for the first time I got a taste of what Sailor Moon was meant to be. While as a kid, I didn’t mind the corny jokes and changes to the anime, I didn’t exactly know what I was missing either. The two movies were a great treat for a fan, which so far had only seen what TV had to show. It would be nearly 8 years before I ever got to watch the series in its entirety, untouched, and with the original audio. Watching it again, I felt a sense of excitement as I watched each episode again, it was like watching it for the first time and I couldn’t get enough. I laughed, I cried, and wanted so much to see more of it.

The first season of Sailor Moon was one I was most familiar with, although I had watched the other two series, I didn’t completely remember all of it. Admittedly, I watched each episode using Sailor Moon Uncensored to see just what was changed in the English version I had seen first. Many of the episodes had a much stronger impact on me now than they had previously, though I suppose to be fair, one could chalk that up to age. The consecutive seasons were no exception to censorship, some of it silly, while the rest may have been to cover up plot holes from previous edits. The most drastic change I can think of is the way they handled the ending. In the English Dub, the last two episodes of the season were squished into one episode, omitting many elements that just made it so much more emotional and intense. Granted I cried watching both, but eh heh, what can I say?

It wasn’t until the final season of Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon Sailor Stars, that I felt I finally experienced the series. I felt as if girls who grew up watching the Anime would feel the same way I felt as I watched how much the heroine, Usagi,  had grown from the first series till now. When it ended, I cried so hard, not necessarily at the ending itself but the fact that from now on, this was it. There would be no more Sailor Moon to watch. While this was devastating, I never forgot what I had watched and how much it affected me. The fondness I hold for Sailor Moon couldn’t be overcome by any other series and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Once I finished the anime, the only thing left for me to do is watch the Live Action series put out in 2003, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. The Live Action takes many elements from the manga and reworked them into a unique retelling of its own. The show relies heavily on special effects, which is known as a Tokusatsu in Japan and it’s used for many of their attacks and transformation sequences. The series only features the 5 Inner Senshi and Tuxedo Mask and covers the first arc of the Manga, and as an adaptation, I feel on its own it’s great, despite the sometimes cheesy acting.

Overall, I feel Sailor Moon is a great show for young girls, as a typical Magical Girl anime. I loved it, I still love it and frequently crave more. Usagi, though she is a crybaby and a ditz at time, also has a compassionate loving side to her which warmed my heart and gave me a deeper appreciation for the character. If you’re interested in the Magical Girl genre, this is the place to start.

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Revolutionary Girl Utena

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I’m rather new to the blog scene, they’ve been around for years but I’ve never found myself able to keep up with one. I spend most of my time drawing, playing video games, or watching anime, so I thought maybe I could share my thoughts here as an outlet.

Revolutionary Girl Utena
Dios, Utena & Anthy

Most recently I finished watching the series Revolutionary Girl Utena, a contemporary fairy tale with a twist, which I feel strays away from traditional shoujo archetypes. I’ve heard people refer to it as the Neon Genesis Evangelion for girls, and I can see where they got the idea. They both deal with psychological elements, NGE may be darker than Utena ever was, but the elements present in the later arcs definitely put you through a loop when contrasted with the start of the series. The biggest thing I loved about this series, is that while things start getting dark and serious, they always have a touch of lightheartedness so that you don’t spiral down into some deep depression mid series. That itself makes it stand out from NGE which, while I liked it, it weighed heavily on me when the series ended and frustrated me to no end when I didn’t ‘get it.’ When Utena ended, I felt good about what I saw. I was happy for it.

There are many themes, many of them dark such as manipulation, death, betrayal, and even forbidden love, but also many light themes, such as friendship, chivalry, and a sense of nobility. There’s a good balance of both and I think that they did a great job expressing the darker themes, in a way that’s almost tasteful. I never felt awkward or dirty watching the characters, nor did I feel it was ever trite and unbelievable. Utena is very much a coming of age anime, as its main heroine Utena grows and changes she comes to learn more about herself as she gets wrapped deeper and deeper into the story. Sitting at just 39 episodes, it didn’t take me too long to breeze through it, though after initially watching only seven episodes, I stopped for a short time to watch other things. For some, it may start off a bit slow, but by episode 15/16 things start getting more tense and emotional and honestly had me hooked. At first I may have had my doubts, but after finishing the series, I feel it was definitely worth the time I spent watching it.

The story itself revolves around the “Rose Bride” and the Ohtori Academy Student Council, as the Council members fight to obtain the her, as she is thought to be the key to a coming revolution. The current champion is constantly challenged for the right to possess her. The Main Character, Utena, a chivalrous, kind, and trusting individual, met a prince in her childhood. She was so impressed with him that she decided to become a prince herself, reflected in her choice of clothing and personality. She attends Ohtori Academy where she meets Anthy Himemiya, who she soon finds wanting to protect when she sees she’s in an abusive relationship with a fellow student. Utena fights to protect Anthy and is pulled into a series of duels with the Student Council. Unaware what she’s gotten into, she defeats her opponent and obtains the “Rose Bride”, Anthy Himemiya.

Overall, for the series, I’d say a 8.5/10. The music was great, I felt a real concern for Anthy’s wellbeing, and I will admit I got a bit teary eyed at the ending. ( Ok, maybe I cried. A little. ) The story may have felt a little slow at times, there are a few Nanami-heavy episodes that I would consider filler that I didn’t like too much but all around, it was a good watch and I would definitely watch it again in a few years. The music in the series is mostly done in what I’d call a… Choral Rock style and then there’s even some jazzy elements, but overall it’s very catchy. For such a short series, the OST is actually pretty big, the collection I have is like 10 cds. The opening, sung by Okui Masami is very nice, but picking just one version, that’s the hard part. It’s definitely up there with some of my favorite series, such as Sailor Moon.

Two years after the series finished, they released a movie titled Adolescence of Utena in 1999, which was a retelling of the original story. It definitely took a different route with the series, as some of the characters either had their personalities tweaked or they were removed all together. If you liked the series, I still say the movie is a good watch and even has some more great music, so to me, that alone is worth it. If you feel like you want more, Adolescence of Utena was good, even if a little short, as long as you view it as a retelling.

If you like a Shoujo series with drama, this series is definitely for you.