When Sailor Moon first aired in the early 90s, anime was just starting to get a foot hold in the west. Attempting to profit from the success of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, DIC Productions produced a highly localized version of the Sailor Moon anime for western audiences. Featuring changes such as ‘westernizing’ the characters’ names, altering the ending to the first season of the show, and a lengthy list of acrobatics to avoid showing gay or lesbian relationships, the original DIC Productions dub gave western Sailor Moon fans a heavily edited and almost completely different version of the show, with DIC even failing to translate the fifth and final season in any capacity due to Toei Animation revoking the license for the show. Thankfully, nineteen years after the show finished airing in the west, Viz Media has finally begun to provide fans of the show with a faithful first translation of the series’ final season in the release of Sailor Moon Sailor Stars: Part 1.
There are two main story arcs in the final season of Sailor Moon. The first arc picks up after the climactic battle with Queen Nehelenia in the season finale of Sailor Moon SuperS, featuring a six-episode story dealing with Nehelenia’s return. Though brief, this first arc provides several battles against Nehelenia’s forces for the Sailor Guardians to overcome by using their own strengths to defeat Nehelenia’s forces (such as Sailor Mercury’s tactical intelligence or Sailor Venus’ leadership qualities) before finally confronting and defeating the Queen once and for all. Even though Sailor Moon receives her final transformation in this arc, Eternal Sailor Moon, each of the individual Sailor Guardians, including the Outer Solar System Guardians, are given ample screen time and importance to Nehelenia’s eventual defeat.
The second arc features the appearance of another group of Sailor Guardians known as the Sailor Star Lights, a trio of women posing as an all-male idol group whose search for their lost princess causes them to cross paths with the Sailor Guardians. The Sailor Guardians and Star Lights are then thrust into battle when the villainous Queen Galaxia begins sending her own Sailor Animamates to search for Star Seeds across Earth. While the introduction of the Sailor Star Lights provides the set up and context for the final arc of the series, the episodes featured in Part 1 focus more on their high school and idol group dynamics than their quest to find their princess, which tends to slightly drag on near the end of the collection.
Though Part 1 ends long before the Guardians confront Queen Galaxia, the second-to-last-episode included in the collection introduces Chibi, an odd character who plays a pivotal role in the series finale. Her sudden appearance halfway through the season signals the march towards the series’ conclusion, and audiences invested this far into the series will no doubt want to see the role she plays in the inevitable Part 2 release.
As with all of Viz’s Sailor Moon releases, this collection is completely uncensored, which most prominently allows fans to finally see the proper depiction of Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus’ lesbian relationship, as opposed to the strange depictions of the lovers as cousins.
When it comes to picture quality, home releases of classic anime are somewhat of a mixed bag. Some collections are beautiful and present the anime in a modern restoration that preserves the colors, contrast, and detail of the original animation cels, such as the Ranma ½ Blu-Ray collection released by Viz in 2014. Other times, restorative efforts such as noise reduction or color saturation butcher the original art and presentation of the series, as seen in Funimation’s Dragon Ball Z 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition set.
Sailor Moon Sailor Stars is a great example of the former, as watching each episode in 1080p makes it look as if one is watching animation cels moving in real time, to the point where one can even see the smallest changes in line art between cels. The transformations of each Sailor Guardian benefit the most from this visual update, as the effects are more vibrant and the fluid animation of each transformation is on full display. Overall, Sailor Moon Sailor Stars looks beautiful, capturing the details and idiosyncrasies of classic 90s animation.
Sailor Moon Sailor Stars is a product of the late 80s/early 90s, and this is nowhere more evident than in the series’ soundtrack. Casual music features soft drum beats, sharp trumpets, and the occasional burst of a synthesizer leading a track (5 Highschool Students), while dramatic moments feature rising horns and quick moving strings sections (Mirror Paredi). The music never feels out of place, and the background music during the moments of the girls’ non-Sailor Guardian lives is so highly reminiscent of the 90s that one may think they’re in the lobby or elevator of a nice hotel.
As this is a continuation of the new dub produced by Viz, the voice actresses from previous seasons all return to reprise their role. Stephanie Sheh, who provides the voice of Usagi, does a fantastic job of capturing Usagi’s loud, ditzy, and sometimes annoying personality, while Kate Higgins, Critina Vee, Amanda Miller, and Cherami Leigh bring their talents to the other Sailor Scouts. Of particular note are the performances of Melissa Hutchinson, Erica Harlacher, and Sarah Williams as the Sailor Star Lights. Each actress provides a deeper, yet youthfully male voice for their characters in their civilian identities, but provide strong feminine voices when transformed into Star Lights, further reinforcing the concept of the Star Lights’ cross-dressing identities.
For those who prefer to watch anime with subtitles, Viz has also included the original Japanese voice track for Sailor Moon Sailor Stars, featuring the brilliant voice work of veteran voice actress Kotono Mitsushi in the role of Usagi. As the Viz dub does not feature any significant changes outside of a few instances of localization in the script, choosing which audio track to listen to comes down to a matter of personal preference.
The Sailor Moon Sailor Stars Limited Edition Bu-ray is scarce on extras, featuring only the opening and ending credits, a small gallery of high-quality production artwork of each Sailor Guardian, two interviews with Stephanie Sheh and an interview with Laura Post regarding their voice work for the series. Fans wary of the Limited Edition’s price tag can breathe a sigh of relief, as there is no difference in the extra content between the Limited Edition and the Standard Edition. Fans who want more Sailor Moon Sailor Stars content will have to resign themselves to hoping for the best in the release of Part 2.
The packaging of the Sailor Moon Stars Limited Edition is a highlight of the collection. The series is included on three Blu-ray discs (with an additional three DVD copies included) held in a single Blu-ray package and featuring a reversible cover. The Limited Edition also features a mini-artbook featuring an episode guide, credits, a relationship chart, trailers, and profiles on each of the Solar System Guardians and Tuxedo Mask. The collection is housed in a sturdy cardboard box set with room to store the art book and the eventual Blu-ray release of Part 2.
Though the extra content is scarce and exactly the same as the non-Limited Edition, the packaging for the collection may be enough to sway dedicated fans or collectors into dropping the extra $10 for the Limited Edition.
It may have taken nearly two decades, but Viz has finally given western Sailor Moon fans a release of the shows final season that keeps the spirit and intent of the original series intact. For fans of Sailor Moon, the collection cannot be recommended enough, if not solely for the fact that this series has never been properly released before. For casual fans, it may be a bit confusing to jump straight into the end of the series, but those who do will not only be happily surprised but will almost undoubtedly run to catch up on past seasons of the show. The Sailor Moon Sailor Stars Part 1 collection is worthy of the title of Sailor Guardian and is a must-watch for fans of the series.
Sailor Moon Stailor Stars Part 1 was released on June 18, 2019 by Viz Media with a retail list price of $69.99 for the standard edition and $79.99 for the limited edition. A review copy of this collection was provided by Viz Media.
- Fantastic Picture Quality
- First Time Released In The West
- Lack of Extra Content