Three years. Three very long years have passed since the initial June 30, 2017 announcement1 of the continuation of Sailor Moon Crystal. As we sped toward the third anniversary from the announcement, we found ourselves less than 100 days away from the long-awaited theatrical debut.
That was, of course, until the surprise June 18 announcement that the movie would be pushed back until January 2021.2
So how did we go from Sailor Moon‘s editor-for-life Fumio “Osabu” Osano announcing that we were moving full steam ahead toward a September 11 release3 to a 4 month delay, all in the span of a little over a week?
Today we’re going to take a deep dive into this troubled production and look into this most recent development. Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the 90s anime of a Sailor Moon Crystal devotee, there are some interesting insights for everyone!
It’s quite interesting when you stop and consider that the last time Sailor Moon was on the big screen was exactly 25 years ago with the Sailor Moon SuperS movie. Though the movie’s plot had nothing to do with the anime’s Dead Moon story arc, it’s still interesting to me that Sailor Moon will be hit theaters twice in a row in essentially the same place in the series.
And hey, we’ll even get Sailor Saturn this time around too!
While the topic of where the Dead Moon arc would be split in half had long since been a point of vigorous fan debate, that issue has largely become null and void with the other major announcement to accompany the delay: Sailor Moon Eternal Part II would come to theaters on February 11, 2021 — barely a month after Part I debuts.
Even though all of the official Sailor Moon channels have been mum as to why this happened, a quick look at the trends of the current anime industry — and the entertainment industry in Japan at large — provides a much clearer image behind Toei’s choice.
And to the surprise of no one, it basically revolves around money.
To say that the Japanese theater industry is hurting due to the 2020 health pandemic is a gross understatement. May 2020 marked the worst ticket sales of the year, suffering a staggering 98.9% drop in sales compared with May 2019.4
Making matters worse, there’s very little that the theaters can do themselves to improve the situation. Their fates lie in the hands of consumers and their confidence with being outside as well as those of the movie studios and what they’re willing to release. This in turn becomes a vicious cycle as none of the big hit producers want to release their movie into a failing market, possibly forever tainting the film’s reviews.
In order to address the public’s concerns, Toho Cinemas and many other theater operators have chosen to remove every other seat in the theater to stay within social distancing guidelines and introduced longer, more stringent cleaning and sanitation procedures between showings.5
Great though this may be, it has the curious side effect of limiting each showing to half the normal audience size as well as cutting back on the number of showings possible per day due to the cleaning. So even in a perfect world, their profit margins have been cut back sharply.
And then, of course, there’s the latter issue: the theaters need strong movies to bring audiences into the doors in the first place. With Hollywood in a holding pattern since Spring and other major Japanese studios following suit, sales continue to decline. This, in turn, causes movie producers to become more hesitant to release in the weak market.
Detective Conan: the Scarlet Bullet, originally set to debut on April 17, was one of the first anime films to simply give up on 2020 entirely. On June 8, the official Twitter account released a statement to say that the movie would be delayed an entire year until April 2021.6
The movie is already completed, but they’ve chosen to wait until the situation is safer (… and the market has improved).
Personally, I think this was the push Toei needed to delay Sailor Moon Eternal.
Though Kodansha’s senior producer and Naoko’s long-time friend and editor Fumio Osano was pushing the September 11 release date as late as June 10 in Animedia’s two-page feature on the upcoming Sailor Moon Eternal,7 it’s worth noting that these interviews are written weeks, or even months, in advance.
Though purely anecdotal, I oversaw the planning of ~5 months worth of articles for a popular Japanese magazine.8 Essentially, we would provide all of the information, pictures, and products about 4-6 weeks in advance for the editors to work on internally and then we would receive the final article for our review around 2-5 days before the magazine went to the printers. I’d bet Toei signed off on this at the end of May at the latest.
Much like Detective Conan, I think we can be reasonably sure that the Sailor Moon Eternal production is finished, or at least very close to it.
Or in English, for those who prefer it:
I’m really sorry to announce to all of you that have been looking forward to the movie that it’s been delayed. Please look forward to the back-to-back release of Parts I and II next year. I’ll keep all you Sailor Moon fans in my heart as I record my lines for Part II. The light of the moon transcends time to bring with it a message of love…
While the message is touching in its own right — and who would expect less from someone who’s breathed life into Usagi for nearly three decades? — it also tells us something very important: Kotono was already done recording her lines for Part I at this point.
By virtue of the fact that they’re targeting to get Part II out in February of 2021, it’s unlikely that they simply needed more time to finish the first film before it’s September 11 debut. The movie would need to still be on schedule for completion if they hoped to have the resources to finish Part II. After all, most of the essential staff (art and story direction, music, and voice talents, etc.) have to work on both. You can’t just hire more people to solve that problem.
Personally speaking, I wasn’t really put off too much by this announcement when it first came out. Sure, it’s unfortunate that I’ll need to wait four more months to see the movie, but it also means that I won’t have to wait long to see the second half. I’m honestly more excited at the prospect of being able to marathon the two as one full, complete story.
But how about you? Are you looking forward to the Sailor Moon Eternal release? What key points/scenes in the Dream arc do you think the movie needs to hit in order to properly capture the magic of the manga? Let me know down below!
- See 「美少女戦士セーラームーン Crystal」第 4 期＜デッド・ムーン編＞ ↩
- See 劇場版「美少女戦士セーラームーンEternal」公開延期と新公開日決定のお知らせ ↩
- See the July 2020 issue of Animedia ↩
- See 映画興行収入、過去最低更新 新型コロナ ↩
- Let’s ignore for a second that they really weren’t bothering to thoroughly sanitize anything until now; see コロナ禍の今、改めて考える“映画館で映画を観る”意義 前代未聞の休館を経験して ↩
- See 6:00 PM · Jun 8, 2020 twitter post from @conan_movie ↩
- See fn. 3 ↩
- Don’t ask. ↩
- See 8:34 PM · Jun 18, 2020 tweet from @kotochawanmoon ↩