Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sailor Moon

Bishoujo senshi Sailor Moon; animated fantasy romance series, Japan, 1992; D: Junichi Sato, Kunihiko Ikuhara, Harume Kosaka, Noriyo Sasaki, Konosuke Uda, S: Kotono Mitsuishi, Aya Hisakawa, Michie Tomizawa, Emi Shinohara, Rica Fukami, Toru Furuya

Tokyo. Usagi, a 14-year old girl, is one of the weakest students in her high school. But one day she meets a talking cat, Luna, who gives her the ability to transform into Sailor Moon and fight against the forces of evil; Queen Beryl and her henchmen who drain the people’s powers. Usagi is soon joined by Ami (Sailor Mercury), Rei (Sailor Mars), Makoto (Sailor Jupiter) and Minako (Sailor Venus). She also discovers she was once a princess on the Moon. Together, they destroy Beryl on the North Pole, but die. Yet, they come back to life and continue with their lives, not knowing what happened.

"Innocence has a power evil cannot imagine", says the tagline for "The Pan's Labyrinth". While it seems completely out of place there, it can be applied here, in a character where both the fantasy and reality worlds connect, Usagi Tsukino, whose untouched nature, as well as a wacky sense for humor, bring wrong to the right. She represents the remaining remains of innocence that is opposed to a world slowly consumed more and more by the negative, egoism and greed. The first season of “Sailor Moon” is actually one of the weakest since it was clear that the authors still were not sure how it should look like, but it already paved a new way for the ‘magical girl’ genre. It is a liberating fantasy on our rigid world and the embodiement of the classic quote: "When the power of love overcomes the love for power, the world will know peace". It is frankly a story only for the right, intuitive side of our brain, unlike most movies or animes made for the left side where everything is logical and realistic: its motto is: “Don’t think…feel”. The characters, from Ami Mizuno up to Minako Aino, are absolutely irresistibly cute, their facial expressions, looks of their eyes, movements and behaviors are contagiously alive and perfectly sum up every emotion the authors wanted to say, whereas the situations they encounter are magical: despite all our knowledge, rational explanations and tight scientific analysis of the world we live in that took away every unknown dimension and showed the whole Universe as predictable and calculative, there will always be something in our nature that will draw us to the unexplainable, unknown, magical side of our world. It is the classic 'good vs. evil' story, but with untypical execution: among others, it shows evil inciting negative energy among people, and then feeding off it.

The fascinating thing in this, first season, is that it treats the story as pure children’s comedy 90 % of the time, and then it completely unexpectedly turns into its opposite, into such a dark and serious adult drama that it takes the ground bellow your feet. The final episodes are among those that shock you since they are so dark it is black poetry, from the scene where the explosions on the North Pole melt the snow into water, but then freeze instantly leaving ice spikes with the senshi bodies on them up to the moment where Endymion grabs Sailor Moon by her neck. The moment where Zoisite is lying in Kunzite’s arms and his final wish is: “I want to die in beauty” and he creates flowers for that occasion, is real beauty. Also, some episodes are really clever, like no. 31, where Yuuichirou meets Rei in town and tries to ask her out on a date – if you look closely, behind him is a poster of a man, and behind her a poster of a woman, and their facial expressions change so subtly when the camera pans from one to another, it’s a delight. When he asks Rei out, the text on the man’s poster is “Now is your chance. Go for it!”, while Rei is flattered and the text on the woman’s poster is “My perfume…I am beautiful!” But when Yuuichirou gives up and leaves, the the man’s face on the poster seems sad and the text says: “Is it really all right?” Such a sly, sophisticated style is genius and is abundant in “Sailor Moon”. The clumsy teenage girl Usagi broke absolutely every cliché in the superhero book – unlike other superheroes, she is a girl, yet does not wear make up and has different clothes in every episode, and is an immature and imperfect but cheerful person, someone so down to Earth that her mischievous little brother even steals her towel in a public spa and leaves her naked. That is why her rise to a mature woman as Sailor Moon is a fascinating transformation – it shows how even the smallest people are capable of greatest deeds. The genuine feel and style turned "Sailor Moon" into a "superanime" and announced an era where the Japanese were the "masters of the universe" in animation.


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