Well, having found good quality material to watch (and the original stuff, not the recut for US tv terror) I was still happy to let it sit and brood on a shelf. The idea of subjecting myself to such an immense number of episodes, of a dated series, aimed at young Japanese girls and best known for having an intensely irritating lead character was easily avoidable. However finding someone crazy enough to volunteer to watch the first season with me tipped the balance. It's going to take a while though.
So have I worked out what it is about this show that has given it such durability? Not really, but a couple of things do come to mind.
- The first is that the show ages quite reasonably. The action is all posing and repeated animation sequences after all, and the rest is just character work which doesn't really need flashy animation to work. The music is quite good, watching the three leads bounce off one another can be entertaining and Usagi's voice really is capable of peeling paint.
- The enemy fields a dark queen who goes a long way towards suggesting secret plans, even though she doesn't do a whole heap. She has a sequence of bishounen generals, disposed of when they fail too often / get boring, who have somewhat different tactics. And those generals summon a freakish monster of the week for the girls to defeat. The action itself is boring, the girls really don't have an immense range of tactical options (poor ami and her unexciting bubble-bath attack) but it does get a decent sense of horror / threat going. The monsters are pretty nasty looking, some of their schemes are quite cruel and it honestly does seem like they are doing their best to really splatter the sailor senshi. They almost remind me of devilman, and are really quite shounen monsters for such a series. Was sailor moon the first magical girl show to have truly monstrous opponents? I know the first magical girl series did not have such oppositional focus.
- Usagi is immensely annoying. This does help somewhat to draw other people, including the other sailors, out as they react to her being off the wall. But I also wonder if her being so boyish, and flawed, is actually part of her popularity. Did her flaws allow fans to see her as someone they could potentially replace? Or is it that she's such an antithesis to the ideal Japanese female that it was all rather exciting at the time? She certainly is somewhat impressive in the scope of her flaws, especially her interactions with her mother.
- And of course, there's the outfits. Near naked transformation sequences, suspiciously busty 14 year olds and extremely short skirts yet relatively simple designs and an extremely recognisable motif go a long way to explain the cosplay popularity. This is assisted by the fact that much of the action consists of nicely staged, but relatively static, poses.
I must say, however, that the eye-catch still scares me. When entering into the adverts a spotlight scans the screen until it highlights sailor moon. That's fine, no problem, but the all male chorus of "sailoooor mooooon" when she is highlighted is frightening. It reeks of fanboy, and those rather older than 14.
Oh well, will be interesting... I hope.
Also bought myself a keyboard. 60$ US + the same in postage (ouch!) in order to buy a modern reproduction of a 20+ year old keyboard from the one place that still makes them. I hope they're as good as I remember them!