Sailor Moon: Where to Begin
So you’re excited for the Sailor Moon reboot, but you haven’t watched the show since you were eight years old. Or perhaps you have never—gasp!—had the pleasure of experiencing the pretty sailor suited soldiers. You want to get into this thing before Sailor Moon Crystal comes out this summer, but it’s intimidating trying to break into a 20-year-old fandom. Worry not, friends! This primer is for you.
What is Sailor Moon?
Sailor Moon is a manga, an anime, a stage musical, and a live action show about a teenage magical girl who is the reincarnation of a moon princess. It’s about friendship and love and fighting evil with magical jewelry.
Did you say musical?
I most definitely said musical.
Where do I start?
Anywhere you like! But let’s begin with the original:
* * * THE MANGA * * *
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Written in 1992 by Naoko Takeuchi, the manga is considered the foundation on which all other versions, including the upcoming Sailor Moon Crystal, are based. The current English-language edition, released by Kodansha Comics, consists of 14 volumes, and is widely available in bookstores.
Wait! I had some of the manga in the 90s, and it looked different, and the main character was named Bunny.
That version, released by Tokyopop, was based on the first edition of the Japanese manga. Because it was released while the English dub of the anime was still on TV, characters were called by their English names for the sake of consistency. The modern Kodansha version retained the original Japanese names.
I went to the bookstore and they also had this thing called Sailor V. What’s that about?
Sailor V is the prequel to the Sailor Moon manga. You do not need to be familiar with it to understand Sailor Moon, but it is a good read and I recommend it.
* * * THE ORIGINAL ANIME * * *
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At 200 episodes and three movies, the original Sailor Moon anime is likely the most iconic and well-known version. While it has been confirmed that the new anime will not be a direct adaptation of the original one, it will almost definitely be taking cues from many of its most memorable aspects.
200 Episodes? That’s way too much!
The anime is broken up into 5 seasons, with each season spanning its own story arc. Season One is only 46 episodes long, and can be enjoyed on its own. At this time, we do not know whether Sailor Moon Crystal will cover the events of the other four seasons.
What about the English dub? That’s what I watched as a kid.
The English dub is its own entity, with different names and different personalities for many of the characters. In addition, it only covered the first four seasons, and some scenes and episodes were skipped. You can enjoy it on its own, but you will be missing out on a lot of content.
* * * MUSICALS AND LIVE ACTION * * *
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The musicals, called Seramyu, ran from 1993 to 2005 and again in 2013, with a constantly evolving storyline. The recent 2013 musical, La Reconquista, ran as part of the 20th Anniversary celebrations.
The live action series, called Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, is a 49-episode super sentai-style TV drama that aired in 2003. It covers the events of the first season of the anime (or first story arc of the manga), with its own unique take on the story and characters. While easy to pass over because of the cheesy CG animation and fight choreography, the live action is charming and well-written.
Do I have to know any of this to enjoy Sailor Moon Crystal?
Probably not! The new anime will be its own entity, starting from the beginning, not a continuation of existing canon. But with so much great content out there to enjoy already, why not take advantage of it? Sailor Moon is great in any incarnation!