Sailor Moon Eternal – A Spoiler-Free Review

Sailor Moon Eternal (January 8, 2021))

Sailor Moon Eternal (January 8, 2021))

After a three and a half year wait — and an unexpected delay right before releaseSailor Moon has finally returned to the big screen after a 25 year hiatus.

Much like many other fans in the West who only learned of the series after it ended its run in Japan, the idea of ever seeing a new Sailor Moon theatrical release on the big screen seemed impossible.

And yet now that dream’s come true.1 This morning I sat down and watched magic unfold, and I’d like to share some of that with you.

Today I’d like to talk about my general thoughts and impressions of the movie while keeping all specifics to the absolute minimum. So without further ado, let’s dive right in!

Sailor Senshi ready to #GlowUp

Sailor Senshi ready to #GlowUp

Trying to write a “spoiler-free” review of anything is surprisingly difficult due to the simple fact that what a spoiler even is depends on who you’re talking to.

Some would say that what is in the trailer or pre-release movies is completely up for grabs, and yet others even avoid those in the hopes of keeping themselves a blank slate for their favorite movies.

That’s why I’ve chosen to speak in generalities and about the impressions I left the theater with rather than discussing individual scenes or aspects of the story.

Hopefully that will help avoid any issues for those of you out there who want to see the movie with a completely open mind.

Sailor Moon Eternal: Now Showing (Shinjuku Wald 9)

Sailor Moon Eternal: Now Showing (Shinjuku Wald 9)

General Impressions

To be completely honest, I actually went to the movie fully expecting to dislike it. I’m not generally a fan of Sailor Moon Crystal and only follow what’s happening with it from a Sailor Moon news perspective,2 so my expectations were pretty much low to non-existent.

And yet, in spite of that, I was at the edge of my seat for the entire ~90 minute runtime. In fact, I even want to go back and see it again.

Read also:  What Were Ikuhara’s Inspirations for the Sailor Moon R Movie? (Part 3)

Is it perfect? No. Is it great? That depends on you. Does it do justice to the Sailor Moon manga? Absolutely.

Busting heads with Sailor Moon

Busting heads with Sailor Moon

Art Direction

A question I see bouncing around a lot online is about whether Toei Animation finally got their quality control situation together for the movie.

The short answer is: pretty much. The longer answer is: if you look for problems, you’ll find them.3

However, we seem to be quick to forget that even for how great the original 90s anime may have been, not a single episode went by without at least some animation error. Even the movies weren’t safe.

Sailor Moon R: the Movie (note the slip that holds Minako's choker changes from white to red)

Sailor Moon R: the Movie (note the slip that holds Minako’s choker changes from white to red)

That said, I would say that by and large the animation is much better in Sailor Moon Eternal than what we’ve seen in other offerings in the series. Some of the poses feel a bit stiff and there are some moments where I wondered if hands could really contort in such a way, but nothing huge.

It’s also worth mentioning that there were some minor changes to the locations and settings to account for the fact that 25 years have passed since the story was originally written, but the changes are hardly jarring and many people may not even notice.

Henshin time!

Henshin time!

Story

If you’ve read the manga, then you know exactly what’s going to happen, even down to specific lines of dialogue.4 Many of the key visuals/set pieces in the movie can even be directly linked back to individual panels in the manga.

Though this is generally true of most of the Sailor Moon Crystal series, I was a bit disappointed to see that was still the case here. While the pacing of the movie was generally pretty good, I do wish they would have been a little more selective in paring down parts of the story or expanding on others to help develop the characters a little better.

Read also:  Why Did ChibiUsa Call Sailor Moon Everyone's Mother?

Due to the fact that most of the dialogue is restricted to either what was said in the manga, or expanding thereon, it means that characters without (m)any lines in the manga feel underused and even out of place. While it’s okay to have someone not speak across multiple panels, it stands out in an animated feature.

That said, there are a few small differences to the story to account for how the movie breaks up into two parts, but I won’t go any further.

Usagi and her Sailor Crew

Usagi and her Sailor Crew

Final Thoughts

All in all, I’m extremely satisfied with Sailor Moon Eternal and look forward to seeing the second half. As I mentioned earlier, even I was a bit taken aback by how much I enjoyed the movie considering that I haven’t followed Sailor Moon Crystal closely and was unfamiliar with the voice cast.

I’m sure opinions will be heavily divided on this, but personally I’m hoping that Sailor Stars also gets the movie treatment rather than going to individual episodes like the past three seasons. If I want to take my time and dwell on each individual act, I can read the manga. A 3 hour movie just about hits that sweet spot for watching through a full story from start to finish.

But those are just my opinions. If you’ve seen the movie, what do you think? If you haven’t, what do you hope to see in it? Let me know down below!

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References:

  1. Fitting, really, when you consider that the Dream manga arc is all about chasing one’s dreams. In short, the pun was completely intended.
  2. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad it exists and people love it. It’s just not for me. So please don’t flame me.
  3. So don’t? Just enjoy the movie?
  4. Including possible typos from the manga!!

18 thoughts on “Sailor Moon Eternal – A Spoiler-Free Review

  1. Thank you for this review. ^^ It was really well written and basically answered everything I was trying to find out/wanted to know about the movie.

    I’m really disappointed it’s just another “almost exactly the manga but animated” production like Crystal, I was hoping with the animation trying to take cues from the 90’s anime the writing would too, or at least give some of the other characters more screen time and lines. I get there’s only so much you can do in an hour and a half but, still. I’ve tried it multiple times and I think the manga just, isn’t for me. The Dream arc especially I know a lot of people consider at its best in the manga and the best arc in the manga’s run but I haven’t been able to get through it myself. I was really hoping this movie would try and change some of that, or in a best case scenario take elements that worked in both the manga and anime versions and use them to make a unique version.

    Rambling but, thank you again for posting this review. ^^

  2. I live in North America and I can’t wait to watch it when it’s released here.
    Thanks for the great review! Sounds like this movie is well worth the wait and promising enough that it will deliver some good expectations.

  3. I still haven’t seen more than one season of Crystal, as I’m a huge fan of the manga (and the openings/OSTs of the old anime), and all I could think while watching was “this is NOT the adaptation of the manga that I’ve been wanting to see since childhood”, though I’ve also heard that Crystal gets better in later seasons. That said, I loved the trailer, and this post makes me hopeful for the movie!

  4. “Does it do justice to the Sailor Moon manga? Absolutely.”

    That’s all I hoped to hear. It’s my favorite arc of the manga and it’s a shame how it was the worst season of the anime. When Crystal stopped after three seasons, I thought it was such a shame because Stars and especially SuperS could have used a remake far more than the first three seasons did.

    Since the S season was at least passable after the very poor first two seasons, it sounds like after all this time they’ve at least come up with the ability to do a decent job of adapting the manga to the big screen, they’ve gotten better as it goes along. Hopefully this will be successful enough that they go ahead and finish the job and adapt Stars as well. The anime version was entertaining enough, it was just so different from the manga.

  5. That’s good to hear!
    Hopefully, we do not have to wait much longer before we hear of an official western release.

  6. Is Sailor Moon Eternal movie part one ready to be seen online or will take 3-5 months because it can be seen free online like other films.

  7. I really want to see it, but for the things that have shown it has been disappointing. I actually enjoy crystal despite the issues it has had. I only wish it was more developed with what was not able to be developed in the manga. There are so many things they could have expanded on and made it an even better story. For example season 3 took some things and expanded on it maybe if it had 26 episodes or more we could have a good expansion of the story in the manga. I really wish they tried to do something new for the Super transformation for sailor moon and the other sailors. I wish they tried something different for the attacks as well. From what they have shown for the non-attack/transformation scenes some seem really good. I hope to see more expanded story/better action/transformation, but we already know the didn’t do anything new so I guess I just hope to see the manga come to life.

  8. This was great! Thank you so much for giving us your thoughts <3
    But question, where did you see the movie? Or are you based in Japan and that's how? lol ^_^
    I'm from the USA and been searching everywhere in where i can stream it online. i wanna see it soo bad ='(

  9. I love the entire SuperS/Dead Moon story arc in the manga. Aside from the original Dark Kingdom arc, it’s my favorite. Each chapter reads like a character piece, going deeper into the lives and personalities of our Senshi. We learn about their insecurities and some of their fears. In the movie, I can’t wait to see the scene with Minako and Artemis in his human form. Most of all, I want to see Elysium and Queen Nehelenia’s true backstory!

    Is there any news about when the Sailor Moon Eternal movie will come to the U.S.?? As much as I’d be ecstatic about going to Japan, I am totally broke right now and obviously can’t travel anyway, due to the pandemic. Thanks for a great article! Would love to see a spoiler one that really breaks down each scene in the movie!

  10. Thank you for this spoiler-free review!

    Question: Did you watch the initial release of the SuperS transformation sequence on YouTube with Usagi and Chibiusa, and did they clean up the stiffness and choppiness in the movie? I know that was a big source of contention for many fans (including myself) 🙂

  11. I’ll be honest. I just have no interest whatsoever to see this.

    Crystal (they even changed the name now) has frankly done nothing but disappoint and frustrate me one arc after the next, and the way you describe it doesn’t really fill me with confidence either.

    For one thing, unlike a lot of people it seems, I always found the Dream arc extremely overhyped and at best average to begin with.

    In particular I dislike how the Inner Senshi are obliged to make what I regard as rather pointless sacrifices in order to prove their devotion.
    Never mind how back in Labyrinth they were essentially punished for having desires outside of Usagi. It’s not a development I am especially happy about, or seeing adapted.
    This reboot for me has repeatedly done those four dirty. Especially in how they are constantly being beaten up/captured/brainwashed just to prop up other characters.
    Then there is that unpleasant thing with Artemis and Minako…

    From what I can gather, they are just doing the same thing they did before, but with slightly cuter designs. Which ultimately comes down to riding heavily off peoples nostalgia, and bias towards the Manga, while not making any real effort to tidy up its number of shortcomings or expand on the material.
    I am assuming that the members of the Dead Moon Circus were completely bland and interchangeable with one another, and Nehelenia portrayed as a glorified Maleficent knock-off?

    In the end, I’m just not prepared to give Toei the benefit of the doubt anymore. I gave it many chances to redeem itself, and have been let down every time.

  12. I’m surprised at these comments of disappointment over them not “fixing” issues with the manga. I’m not sure how you’d expect them to do such a thing with the rather brief runtime. Not to mention that anime adaptations in general have grown more committed to matching their source material in the past dozen or so years.

    • I think being faithful to the source material is important, but at the same time, I think it’s also worth accepting that the manga wasn’t without flaws.
      Trying to make direct copies from page to animation can sadly lead to some major issues as what is totally natural in manga form feels stilted and awkward in animation.

      To say nothing about the things that haven’t aged well in the past 25 years…

  13. I’m glad people like it! I’m personally not a fan of manga/Crystal versions – it’s hard to describe, I know it’s the first version of the story, but I’m just so connected to anime version of tone, characterization. But I know it’s just my personal opinion and I’m not going to argue with manga fans!

    I hope that after Crystal/Eternal is finished, we will get something small in 90s anime universe? They are using 90s anime artwork edited with manga costume details in Universal shows so I have small hope…

  14. So far I have absoluted loved crystal and the closeness to the manga i still love. I cant wait to see the movie released in the rest if the world. The visuals already look promising and 8 yo daughter whos at perfect age to see chibimoon as heroine as well.
    ( although from what it looks like chibiusa is still small for age although i think it maybe an anine thing remembering how pop in doremi us still half the height if the others ecen in s 4 xD

  15. I’ll be perfectly straight with you. I thought it was an overhyped lacklustre mess.

    Once again they couldn’t be bothered trying to fix even the simplest of issues that plagued the Manga (if that’s what you mean by doing it justice). As a result the only actual ‘improvements’ from Crystal were purely superficial ones.
    I didn’t have to go looking for problems, so much as they jumped out of the bushes and danced around naked in front of me.

    First off, the writing was half-baked and sloppy as per norm. Throwing a load of random stuff/nonsense at you that never received even a reasonable degree of development, largely thanks to the plot (or whatever passed for one) rushing through everything.

    It also blatantly leaned a lot more heavily on nostalgia then before, even stooping to copying visual sequences right out of the 90’s Anime in a transparent attempt to try and sponge off the popularity of that.

    The Inner Senshi remain the same paper-thin glorified accessories to Usagi they always were, and Rei is still bland. With the focus they (finally) received being neither particularly good nor meaningful, and certainly doesn’t salvage them from the redundant jokes they’ve been made to look up to this point. Especially since the Outers still have to come bail them out anyway.
    In fact the vast-vast majority of the cast were poorly handled. Had precious little to no actual character, meaning again I had to supply all that for myself in order to remotely care about a bunch of glorified props I would otherwise never have given the time of day too.

    The actual title forms themselves didn’t even turn up until right at the very end, and essentially did nothing beyond look tacky.

    Finally, the Dead Moon Circus were all dull and generic to the point of tedium, complete with interchangeable dialogue. Just like every previous villain group.
    Perhaps instead of trying to destroy the world or whatever, they could do something significantly more productive with their time. Like trying to find a speck of actual personality to share between them.

    Sorry. But ultimately just like Season 3 I am again left baffled about what precisely I was meant to be impressed by. That they took something that was already heavily flawed, then just lazily copy and pasted all of those flaws over? While simultaneously squandering all it’s own potential in the process, choosing instead to focus primarily on surface level fan-pandering, while relying heavily on prior familiarity with better executed versions of the characters/material in order to fill in a good 95% of the substance for it.

    Toei continuously fails to grasp a simple fact here, that the reason why this adaptation has struggled so miserably since day one and is widely ridiculed, does not lay specifically in the way it looks. Making the designs more moe won’t solve that, nor distract from those core issues.

    Of course I fully expect to be dismissed as some ‘mindless hater’ determined to find any fault just for the sake of it, instead of just shutting up and gushing over everything like a good little sheep.
    But I have repeatedly been patient and open-minded with Crystal, and have repeatedly been let down in return, nothing of any real value has changed here despite what apologists might say.
    Heck the only reason I even bothered this time was because someone kept pestering me to watch it, smugly assuring me that I would ‘love it’. Needless to say he was proven wrong, and I’m not going to pretend to like something just to please other people.

    You certainly can’t tell me they couldn’t easily have done better then this. We already have the likes of PGSM and the Myus as proof, so why should I have to compromise just to suit their laziness?

    In conclusion. Just like the rest of this reboot, Eternal ends up amounting to little more then another pointless and forgettable nostalgic dependant cash-grab, that at best was just going through the motions. Provides nothing noteworthy in its own right, and would have been virtually ignored by everybody if it had been some standalone product. And nothing compels me to ever want to sit through it again.

    As for Stars, I most definitely will be avoiding that inevitable train-wreck like the plague. Three hours of watching everyone not called Usagi casually reduced to useless canon-fodder/mindless puppets. Have an ‘enjoyable’ time with that.

    Additionally. Anyone yet again feeling the need to bleat on about rose-tinted glasses and resort to throwing the original series under a bus in some desperate attempt to try and prop these movies (along with the rest of Crystal) up. That just merely serves to reinforce my point, in regards to it being completely incapable of standing on its own two feet.

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