Sailor Moon R: The Movie

This is one of those reviews where I feel like literally every single person interested enough to read it already knows far, far more about the topic than I do and is just waiting for me to make a massive ass of myself. I never watched Sailor Moon growing up and was only vaguely aware of it as the animé that most people think of when they hear the word “animé”. So I went on a rather fascinating tvtropes binge (did you know that the entire Japanese magical girl genre was inspired by the American sitcom Bewitched?) and I’m proud to report that I’ve gone from being absolutely clueless to loveably befuddled in record time.

Okay. So. Let’s start at the end and work our way backwards.

What is Sailor Moon R: The Movie?

Sailor Moon R is a movie based on Sailor Moon R.

What is Sailor Moon R?

Sailor Moon R is the second season of the Sailor Moon animé.

What is the Sailor Moon animé?

The animé adaptation of Naoko Takeuchi’s manga about schoolgirl Usagi Tsukino who discovers that she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior princess from a kingdom on the Moon. As Sailor Moon she battles evil monsters with the help of other girls/reincarnated warriors such as Sailor Mars, Sailor Venus, Sailor Mercury and Sailor Jupiter. It’s a fusion of the magical girl genre with the sentai superhero genre.

What is best in life?

To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of the women.

Why don’t girls like me?

Because you’re not actually a person, you’re just a rhetorical device I’m using for this review.

What? Wait come back!

We begin on the roof of a psychiatric hospital where two young boys are talking. One of the boys, whose name is Mamoru Chiba, hands the other a rose. The other boy vanishes, but promises that he’ll return with a flower for Mamoru.

In the present, Mamoru is a teenager and is visiting the local botanical gardens with Usagi and the other sailors. Alright, so let’s fill in a little backstory here. Mamoru was a recurring character in the series who was just this guy that Usagi didn’t have a lot of time for.

No, Usagi only had eyes for Tuxedo Mask, a dashing mysterious superhero who would always show up and help her in the nick of time.

Yeah, you can probably guess how that particular plot thread was resolved. So this movie is set some eighty episodes into the animé’s run and Mamoru has unmasked and is dating Usagi. They find themselves alone and Usagi tries to steal a smooch while the other sailors spy on them like a bunch of pervs. With the sailors is Chibiusa, a small pink haired child who is very jealous of Usagi trying to kiss “my Mamo” which is super weird because Usagi and Mamoru are her parents in the future or something, I dunno guys, it’s a weird show.

Anyway, Mamoru’s drama sense starts tingling and he leaves Usagi mid-pucker to go outside. There, he finds an extremely sexy young man.

Or possibly your friend’s cool mom.

This tall drink of water apologises to Mamoru for taking so long but says he finally found the perfect flower for him. He then takes Mamoru’s hands in his in just the straightest way.

“Boys…holding hands…with boys?!”

Usagi and the other girls see this and Usagi rather politely but firmly tells the newcomer to “step off, skank” and the stranger knocks her to the ground. Fioré (for ’tis his name) tells Mamoru that he will fulfil his promise to him and then leaves in the traditional manner of spurned ex-boyfriends, vanishing into the sky in a flurry of rose petals.

The sailors return to Hikawa Shrine which essentially functions like their Batcave and their talking cats (they have talking cats) named Artemis and Luna tell them that a big asteroid is headed towards Earth. The asteroid isn’t expected to strike Earth, but the cats are worried because the rock is giving off “strange plant” energy. The sailors quickly derail the meeting though by speculating on Mamoru and Fiore’s relationship. Because this is the 2014 Viz English dub and not the original Optimum dub from the 2000s, this means actually acknowledging that Fiore and Mamoru might have had a romantic relationship. I mean, no one actually says “dem boys fuckin'” but from context its unambiguous that that’s what they’re talking about. Unlike in the original dub where Fiore and Mamoru are just good friends.

The next day, the sailors mosey into town and are attacked by ordinary Tokyoites who have been turned into zombies by mysterious vines. The sailors defeat the zombies and Sailor Mercury traces the attack to a single innocuous looking flower.

“HA! IT WAS I, YOU FOOLS!!”

The flower turns into an evil sexy flower lady called Glycina and the sailors transform to battle her. I…kinda feel like bringing up the fact that the transformations are ludicrously over-sexualised is beating a dead horse at this point. It’s one of the things the show is most famous/notorious for and I don’t really have anything more to add other than “yup, that is “child beauty pageant” levels of uncomfortable”.

Anyway, the flower captures Mars, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter in her vines and starts draining their energy. But they’re rescued at the last moment by Sailor Moon who cuts through the vines yelling: “The life of a flower is too short! That’s why girls should fall in love while they can!” which is just a great message for this movie’s fanbase god DAMN. Anyway, they defeat Glycina but Fioré shows up and reveals that this was just an experiment to see if his flower could survive on Earth. Fioré reveals his true form, which is much more “David Bowie in Labyrinth“.

 “You remind me of the babe.”

Fioré is wearing a flower that Artemis and Luna identify as a Kisenian and which is clearly mind controlling the poor lovesick putz. Fioré attacks Sailor Moon but is stopped by the sudden arrival of Tuxedo Mask, most dapper of all superheroes. Fioré is delighted because he instantly recognises that Tuxedo Mask is Mamoru. Something that, I hasten to add, Sailor Moon only figured out after EIGHTY ONE EPISODES. AFTER HE TOLD HER.

No no. You definitely made the right choice, bud.

Fioré decides that his beloved Mamoru has been enmeshed in the wiles of a diabolical intellect of unfathomable depth and tries to kill Sailor Moon. Mamoru takes the hit and lies dying in Sailor Moon’s arms. Horrified by what he’s done, Fioré whisks him away to his base on the asteroid and stores him in a magical crystal so he can heal and to give good old Stockholm Syndrome a chance to work its magic.

We learn more about Fioré and Mamoru’s past. Fioré was wandering through space when he fell to Earth, exhausted. Mamoru, who had just been orphaned in a car crash, took care of Fioré. But Fioré couldn’t stay on Earth because of the atmosphere so he had to return to space. Tearfully, Mamoru gave him a rose as a parting gift and Fioré was so touched he decided to scour the galaxy to find the perfect flower to give him in return. Then he found the Kisenian flower which suggested that Fioré should wipe out all of humanity for leaving Mamoru alone and sad and Mamoru’s all “whoah, no, you completely misread me on that one”. Fioré then tells Mamoru that “no one’s allowed give you flowers except me”.

“You see, “flowers” are a metaphor for…”
“Your dick. Yeah. I got it.”

Back on Earth, the sailors plan to teleport to the asteroid to rescue Mamoru and save the Earth but Sailor Moon doesn’t want to go because she doesn’t want to put the other sailors in danger. Of course, if they don’t go, the whole planet’s doomed anyway so…guys I’m starting to worry this girl just ain’t that bright. Anyway, Chibiusa tells her to buck up and get back out there and give one more for the gipper and rescue her future Dad.

The sailors travel to the asteroid and battle an entire army of flower monsters. They fight them off but the Fioré appears and captures Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Mars. The other sailors yell at Sailor Moon to keep fighting to save the Earth but Fioré tells her to surrender or he’ll kill her friends and she’s all…

…and drops her wand. Fioré begins drains Sailor Moon’s energy but before he can kill her, the other sailors beg for her life, saying that without her each one of them would be alone. This just further convinces Fioré that Sailor Moon is a devious, manipulative home-wrecking skank who must be destroyed before she steals ALL the boyfriends in the universe but just before he can land the killing blow Mamoru breaks free and throws his rose into Fioré’s heart. This (somehow) causes all the flowers on the asteroid to die but also causes the asteroid to change course and it’s now headed for an impact so, y’know, swings and roundabouts.

Sailor Moon decides to use the Silver Crystal, an immensely powerful magical artifact to change the course of the asteroid which will probably kill her. Fioré attacks her and touches the crystal, which causes him to see a memory which reveals that it was actually Usagi who gave Mamoru the rose in the first place that he then gifted in turn to Fioré.

“My God! It was her dick all the time!”

Realising that he’s been just a Grade A chump, Fioré allows himself and the last Kisenian flower to be vaporised. As the asteroid enters Earth’s atmosphere, the sailors combine their powers. It’s the power of friendship versus gravity and, not surprisingly, they make gravity their bitch.

They succeed in redirecting the asteroid but they’ve paid a terrible price; Usagi is dead. But, the ghost of Fioré appears before Mamoru and gives him a flower. He says that this flower contains the last of his life energy and that he most draw the nectar out with his mouth and then kiss Usagi.

“See, the nectar represents my…”
“DUDE I GET IT.”

He kisses her, she comes back to life, she decides not to ask what that weirdly familiar taste in her mouth is I am skirting on reeeeeal thin ice with this whole review everyone’s happy let’s just end it there.

***

It’s weird to feel nostalgic for a show that you never watched as a kid but I gotta say, I really liked this. It hits that real sweet spot of being good enough to enjoy unironically while being deliciously, hilariously “nineties animé”. This actually made me genuinely sad that, as a 39 year old man, I almost certainly can’t start ordering DVD boxsets of the show and trade paperbacks of the manga without getting put on a watchlist.

Scoring

Animation: 06/20

So, there’s clearly been a bump in the animation budget from the TV show and the action now has a pleasant zip and fluidity to it. It’s hardly top tier though and the character models are often painfully generic, to the point where it can be difficult to tell characters apart. I mean, look at this picture of Sailor Moon…

…which is actually a picture of Sailor Venus which you didn’t even notice thereby proving my point.

Lead: 10/20

I like that Usagi is an unapologetically feminine girly girl who nonetheless wrecks shop on a cosmic scale.

Villain: 08/20

Look, who HASN’T turned into a world-threatening supervillain after a bad breakup?

Supporting Characters: 12/20

The Sailors make for a great team of contrasting archetypes. Smart one, nice one, tough one and…um…weird psychic one. Re-inventing the wheel? No, but good, solid fundamentals.

Music: 11/20

Light, breezy little J-pop numbers for them who wants ’em.

FINAL SCORE: 47%

NEXT UPDATE: 31 October 2022

NEXT TIME:

19 comments

  1. Thanks for the review. My own feelings about Sailor Moon are pretty vague, but I do appreciate how hugely influential it is. Even though the main character is a bit…well. 😅

  2. Reading this review reminded me of the childhood games me and my siblings would play with legos and stuffed animals.

    “But his old boyfriend says ‘everyone has to die!’ and sends the asteroid towards earth – ”
    “But then Sailor Moon saves everyone with the silver crystal!”
    “But then she dies!”
    “No!”
    “YES! But then the boyfriend is sad and gives him a flower to bring her back to life!”
    “YES!”

  3. I know very little about this series, my sister used to watch the DIC dub back when we were kids but my memory’s a little hazy. Mostly I remember the arguments to switch the channel to Beast Wars.

  4. Weird to think that for a while this was THE anime. A couple of years later that would be either Pokemon or Dragon Ball Z, but for a while the one anime absolutely everybody could name was Sailor Moon.

    I never developed any attachment to it, though I did watch sometimes with my sister. I do appreciate it for being ahead of its time in many ways, though.

  5. “(did you know that the entire Japanese magical girl genre was inspired by the American sitcom Bewitched?)” I kinda hate this common talking point, the shows that were inspired by Bewitched I do not consider the same genre as Sailor Moon.

    I don’t not consider the transformations “Sexualized’ at all, not even 1% the fact that that’s all Westerners can think looking at is says more about us then the Anime.

    Actually in the series Mamoru and Usagi’s identites were revealed to each other around liek episode 31, less then 10 epsidoes after Mamouro himself became aware he was Tuxedo Mask. In the Manga/Crystal it happens episode 6.

    I give this movie a 10/10, it’s a perfect encaslations of Sailor Moon.

  6. As a cootie-hating young boy, I never watched Sailor Moon. These days, my girlfriend really likes it, so I hear about it sometimes. Which is fair, since I talk about Yu-Gi-Oh a lot.

  7. Regarding the transformations, it is important to remember that the actual main audience for Sailor Moon in Japan, the TV viewing target, the ones buying most merchandise, were little girls. For them the Barbie-like nudity while shiny pretty clothes were put on the protagonists were, well, like dressing a Barbie with fancy clothing while identifying with her.
    The whole creepy older men are just a side-product, but there are alleged adults who are going to sexualize Spongebob, there is no escape.

    In defense of Usagi herself, it is only in the anime that it takes her over eighty episodes to learn Mamoru’s secret identity. In the manga she knows it by volume two. The anime has tons of filler, which to be fair fleshes the characters out a lot.

    Nobody is going to put you on a watchlist for ordering Sailor Moon stuff, Jesus. We are not so far into the global police state yet. Yet. Enjoy it while you can.

  8. I caught the first episode of the DIC version when I was . . . I dunno, 12 or 13? And then I didn’t see another episode until I was a couple decades into adulthood. So like a stereotypical golden retriever, I was happy to just trot alongside you in this review.

    Fun fact: in Italian, the word for “flowers” is “fiore.”

  9. Heh heh, he’s studied up on Magical Girls. NOW we dump Modoka Magika on him!

    Actually, you’d probably like it, but it is best gone into as cold as possible, and best watched about 3 episodes at a time (of 12).

      1. Nah, it’s more often called, “The Evangelion of Magical Girl Shows”. It IS a fairly complicated storyline, like Flip Flapers, but much less fanservice (although figuring out which Magical Girl property each character is “drawn from” would get the “geek quotiant” going.

        But enough, too much telling spoils the watching, especially of THIS one.

  10. Dear Mouse, I hope you’re enjoying a little schadenfreude over there in the Emerald Republic because SOMEBODY should be able to get a few laughs out of the three ring circus these clowns are laying on for us.

    If you’re ever curious as to why we Britons are generally keen on keeping the monarchy, days like today generally loom large – at least nobody ever voted for a right Royal noodle!

    1. Mouse, you’re a rodent with a record of knowing his folklore, mythology and other occult oddities so please help a Briton out – has somebody been exporting Fairy Tale tricksters on the sly or have elements in the Irish Netherworld just moved beyond cussing out old GB and actively started hexing us?

      This whole sequence of events feels like the writers of a rather dark political comedy have become authors of the United Kingdom’s fate and I DON’T LIKE THE SCRIPT.

      1. Anyway, I hope your wife and mini-mice are doing well at the House of Mouse (Emerald Isle), also that things continue well for you with the Muse.

        Best Wishes!

  11. I’d love to recommend an underrated anime film worth reviewing: “Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise”. It was the first anime film produced by Gainax and has some of the greatest animation of any 80s anime. I think it would a be very interesting film for talk about.

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