Why Was There No Sailor Stars Movie?

What could have been...

What could have been…

When you consider what a hot property Sailor Moon was as a full-blown multimedia marketing machine from the early- to mid-90’s, it seems like something of a mystery that there never was a movie for the fifth season to wrap the series up. After all, with the new stories and characters introduced in Sailor Stars, there must have been a lot of potential for making a movie, right? Well, that’s what we’re going to take a look at today!

Who would the next gaiden star be?

Who would the next gaiden star be?

The greatest problem facing the production of the Sailor Moon movies was probably that, frankly, they weren’t actually bringing in that much money as the series progressed. Though Sailor Moon R was a pretty massive success at the time, each successive movie made less than the previous, making the the movies less and less financially viable as the series continued. The income for the movie production house (after subtracting the theaters’ cut) was:

  1. Sailor Moon R: The Movie (12/5/1993) – JPY 1.30 billion
  2. Sailor Moon S: The Movie (12/4/1994) – JPY 1.05 billion
  3. Sailor Moon SuperS: The Movie (12/23/1995) – JPY 600 million
Flyer advertising Sailor Moon R

Flyer advertising Sailor Moon R

Though there was just a minimal drop between the first and second movies, you can see that by the time SuperS hit theaters, the movie made less than half of what the first movie had brought it.

Of course, it doesn’t actually mean much to say that it makes “less money” if we don’t know what we’re looking at in production costs. After all, profit is still profit, right?

Unfortunately, that’s a hard question to answer, since obviously production companies aren’t exactly very forthcoming about how much money they sink into projects, or at least they weren’t back in the day. I do think we can reasonably estimate the cost, though, by looking at how much other animated movies of the same period cost to produce.1

  • Sangokushi (1992) – JPY 500 million
  • Ghost in the Shell (1996) – JPY 600 million
  • Pokemon: Mew Two’s Revenge (1998) – JPY 300-350 million

Note that these do not include advertising costs – they’re purely how much is cost to produce the movie.

An average of the three movie budgets gives us around JPY 475 million to produce a Japanese animated movie in the 1990s. Now, going by that it would appear that all of the Sailor Moon movies were still a reasonable success, but general logic in the Japanese movie industry is that you’ll want at least double the production costs back in profits to be considered a decent success.2

Last, by not not least, as for why we probably never saw a Stars movie is probably simply because the popularity of the series was waning by the time the fifth season was on air, and that’s putting it charitably.

As you can see, near the end of the series the average viewership in Stars was actually falling below the lowest viewership in nearly every other season. In fact, the episode with the highest viewership in Stars was the very first episode, and it all dropped from there.

Taken together – the poor returns on the SuperS movie and the sharp decline in the series’ popularity – it seems like it was probably determined that it wouldn’t make financial sense to make a final movie.

Something like this, maybe?

Something like this, maybe?

While I can certainly understand the decision they made and think that it was probably the right one (personally, after the amazing story they managed to pull off in the S movie and having had Ms. Takeuchi’s direct involvement, I feel like there was a definite drop in quality with the SuperS movie… but that’s just me!), I still wonder what a Stars movie would have ultimately looked like. Obviously it would have brought the Outer Soldiers back – which would have been nice to see – but it might have also let us see the Starlights from a new angle. It’s fun to imagine, if nothing else!


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9 comments

  • Out of curiosity do you have any idea how long it took to make one of these movies? When would the decision to make or not make one have likely been made? I mean I know a standard animated movie often took years. The anime studio ones are surely quicker but since they did not even have any script source material are we talking 3 months? 6 months? 1 year?

    I’m actually a little surprised that Stars would have peaked at the first episode. I mean the first episode brought back the Outers even teasing the long awaited return of freaking Saturn, it did not center around Chibiusa even indicating her potential departure in the near future, there were no flying horses or other fairy tale stuff to be seen, and a mysterious new big bad mastermind was teased… What was not to like? The second episode while a little boring still brought the full return of Sailor Saturn and the debut of Eternal Sailor Moon which surely seemed like the potential for future awesomeness. I would have thought things would have only stalled out around the end of that mini-arc with the horribly anti-climatic ending it had. Unless…when did the first manga issue come out in relation to the anime series…did killing off Mamoru in the first issue of Stars make people tune out from the anime in droves?

    On an unrelated note….why does Luna-P have a perv face in that R Movie poster?

  • Moonchild3000

    It’s interesting that the SuperS movie made so little money, despite attempting to win the crowd by bringing back the Outer Senshi, who were absent from the corresponding TV series (except for the special episode).

    Speaking of the Outer Senshi…

    The SuperS movie already included Pluto, who’s been MIA since the final episodes of S, just for the sake of reuniting the three Talisman holders (off-topic note: I love how the Nakayoshi magazines refer to them by their elements – 天海冥の三戦士). The idea of bringing back *Saturn* seems trickier since she was de-aged at the time, but with what the eventual solution to the plot hole the anime caused by giving her back to her father ended up being, they really didn’t need any explanation to begin with, and having the entire team together in the movie would’ve been cool.

    The second, completely unrelated point, is that, besides having Saturn’s spotlight completely stolen by Sailor Moon during the finale, it took Sailor Moon S a suspiciously long time to even introduce Hotaru as a civilian. The Kaolinite arc at the beginning was probably more of a buffer so they could show off the new Senshi pair while waiting for the manga to catch up, but once Chibiusa was back, what was preventing them from starting the Hotaru subplot right then, instead of waiting until after the reveal of the Holy Grail?

    Was Saturn considered to be too creepy for a children’s program or something?

    And a somewhat more relevant question: were there really plans to animate all three “Exam Battle” stories?

  • Well for starters it looks like the dipstick promotion department didn’t even show/promote that the Outers were returning in the movie for the first official Super S Movie trailer… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXK4eXRZXXQ. I mean on the one hand I get not spoiling a potential surprise moment…but it’s not like it was that big of one especially since ultimately the movie posters would end up showing it any ways spoiling at least people in the theater before they saw the movie….

    Honestly that doesn’t seem like an effective trailer at all. Start with those juvenile balloon looking things, then way too much time spent on Usagi/Chibiusa scrambling around in fear which even looks like pretty meh animation quality to boot. Then a transformation sequence which fans have seen a few dozen times. A pointy eared kid playing a flute then talking to Chibiusa (A scene only good to annoy the Chibi/Helios shippers). Then a shot of maybe the only thing that would make me consider seeing the movie a cool looking villain..although she is doing nothing but talking. A few shots of those floating ship things and Sailor Moon gasping for some reason. Sailor Moon blasted in the back with fire in pretty much the only action scene of the entire trailer. The end of the transformation sequence for each of the Inners and Sailor Moon starting to use her Super S finisher. Ugh…just don’t see how that trailer would get people excited to see the movie? Especially considering that the audience was waning at this point they needed a trailer that seemed much more exciting and epic?

    Something closer to the Toonami trailer to me would have been sooo much better to get butts in seats!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_b2iSM_77M
    Mysterious foreboding set-up, elaboration of the plot with showing the creepy dream coffins and the big threatening black dream hole, actual action with the Sailor Soldiers including featuring the Outers, the villain actually doing something menacing frying Chibiusa in her hand, etc. Just seeing this right now makes me want to watch the movie again…and I actually don’t even like this dang movie much at all.

    • It’s really weird, to be honest. Everything about the SuperS movie feels like they didn’t actually want it to be a success, or like they weren’t really trying all that hard, at the very least. I’m not sure what it is about the movie, but compared to the other two movies and the rest of the anime in general, it just feels so uninspired and lacks the sheer epicness you usually felt.

      No offense to those who do love the movie, of course! I can see that it does have its own charm and caters a bit more to the “back to basics” approach of the SuperS anime, so I’m sure it must have its fans. It just isn’t quite what I was hoping for in a Sailor Moon movie, I guess!

    • @Xenox33

      Agreed, Toonami’s trailer is awesome (it’s got Peter Cullen voicing it for one!), the Japanese trailer doesn’t really look anything amazing, I think they were trying to save money or something by showing the stock footage, plus honestly those sound effects they kept adding are actually pretty darn irritating! The animation in the movie though is actually the best I’ve seen from a Sailor Moon production though, (one of my favorite shots is the ending with them looking at the sunrise) and at least the film is better than the trailer presents it (I love this film and respect your opinion on it), a case of “never trust a trailer.”

      Biggest flaw of that movie in my opinion is the villain has no backstory at all compared to Fiore and Kaguya.

  • the SuperS movie was always my least favorite. Although the animation was nice, the story and plot felt very rushed and tacked on when compared to the R and S movies.

  • The SuperS movie was a box office bomb? I never knew that! I’m one of the people who loves the SuperS movie (seen more people who love than dislike/hate it), but that’s partially because it was what introduced me to Sailor Moon, but I do like the art/animation of it, the story is simplistic but it’s good to me, though the R movie is still the best Sailor Moon movie. I think the S movie was the weakest, it’s good, but too much focus on Luna for me.

    Never knew Stars only peaked at its first episode, but I still heard it went out with a bang.

    Shame we never got one, I would have wanted to see what a Stars movie would have been like.

  • I’m seriously hoping that a new movie will come out once they end up showing the Crystal version of Sailor Stars. I think we all need a movie ending!

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