The Nogizaka46 x Sailor Moon musical was released on DVD and Blu-Ray in Japan on March 20th and I’ve been working on this post since around then. The musical was originally performed in Japan last summer but I’d never gotten around to seeing any version of it until now. As such this will be a review of the Blu-Ray itself as well as my thoughts on the musical. If you’re looking to pick it up there are three version up on Amazon Japan. The limited edition Amazon Blu-Ray, now sold out, includes two folders. The regular Blu-Ray seems to be the same without the folders. Finally the DVD is a bit less expensive but of much worse quality. Keep in mind that as is often the case with Japanese Sailor Moon releases this set includes no English audio or subtitle options.
Right off I have to say that I’m very happy to see that this release is on Blu-Ray and not just on DVD. I have not hidden my contempt for the sub par DVD releases we’ve gotten for the recent musicals, always featuring horrible looking 480i standard definition video. This release finally gives us a Sailor Moon in high definition! Looking at the fine print on the back of the box we see that it’s technically 1080i and not 1080p as you might see for most Blu-Ray releases. I guess they just love that interlaced video! What’s the difference? It’s nothing major! 1080i mean it’s interlaced instead of the 1080p progressive scan. Interlaced video works with scan lines where odd and then even lines are updated one at a time instead of the entire image being loaded one complete frame at a time. If you pause an old VHS tape you have probably noticed how there are often two images overlaid on the screen at a time which is the side effect of this. It can also affect the quality of screenshots. At such a high resolution it’s harder to notice and in motion it’s even less obvious. Most television is broadcast at 1080i and still of very high quality, so it’s really not a big problem as far as I’m concerned. Screenshots included in this post have not been modified to eliminate the scan lines and they still look decent.
Overall the image quality is quite good! This musical looks great in high definition and after seeing so many standard definition releases, this really is a pleasure. The musical features a lot of fun special effects which are projected onto the stage and these are all captured beautifully in high definition. The sets, actors and costumes all appear clearly like only those who attend these shows in person have been able to see in the past! The camera work on the musical is good, following the important action when needed and letting us see the full musical. All special features included are also in high definition and those look great as well.
The musical itself is quite enjoyable. This is the Nogizaka46 musical meaning it features members of the band Nogizaka46 as the main cast. They make up two teams, Team Moon and Team Star, and this three disc set includes the full musical in both Team Moon and Team Star versions! From what I could tell both of these musicals were essentially the same, with the main cast of Sailor Guardians differing between teams. All other characters were played by the same actors in both versions. As this covers the Dark Kingdom story arc the extended cast includes Tuxedo Mask, Queen Beryl, the Shitennou, Queen Serenity as well as Umino and Naru. It’s great to see Usagi’s friends included in this musical.
The story of the musical follows that of the manga quite closely, which also follows quite well with the original anime and Sailor Moon Crystal. This is more faithful than most other musicals. Although there is no English dub or subtitles on this set fans familiar with the series should still be able to follow easily enough. We start out with the first story, introducing us to Usagi, Umino, Naru and even Haruna as well as Luna and Morga. We then move on to the second with the introduction of Mercury and then Mars, all somewhat following their introductions from the manga. Next we start to combine stories by having Sailor Jupiter introduced during the Masquerade Dance Party and things start to deviate.
The main difference in this version, which we start to see at the party, are the pairings between the Sailor Guardians and the Shitennou. This was originally hinted at in some art in the Sailor Moon manga though those relationships, aside from a bit of Minako and Kunzite’s, were not really fleshed out. These were brought back in Sailor Moon Crystal which was a nice addition, though the series was so closely based on the manga that there wasn’t room for much deviation. They were kept alive to dwell on the pairing only to be killed off later before it really went anywhere.
The rest of the musical goes through the story of the manga which has been touched upon in previous musicals. The gang go to the Moon and talk to a hologram of Queen Serenity. We get a series of deaths and suicides and evil Mamoru trying to kill Usagi and ultimately the world is saved.
Finally the musical ends with an interesting scene! The gang are hanging around and Usagi sees something falling from the sky. Is this meant to be Chibiusa? If so, why are we including this scene? The first story arc of the manga does indeed end with the arrival of Chibiusa to set up the Black Moon story arc but in that case there was the intention to have it continue! The Nogizaka46 x Sailor Moon musical is, as far as I understand it, only meant to be a one time thing. Could this really be setting up a Nogizaka46 x Sailor Moon musical 2? Not sure about that!
Technically the musical looks great. The puppet work on Luna was particularly impressive. There was an actor who can very clearly be seen controlling Luna, which can be a bit distracting, but the actual cat’s movements were something which would not have been possible by other means. Beyond Luna there were also Phobos and Deimos puppets. These two crows were also controlled by human puppeteers which can be seen on the stage. Luna even gets a chance to ride on one of the crows!
The musical is followed by the now expected seemingly never ending series of encores which includes an enjoyable rendition of La Soldier, a classic from the first Sailor Moon musicals, and a version of Moonlight Densetsu sung by the entire cast. We then have each cast member sharing a few words and crying, which has become another staple of the final performances of the musicals.
Aside from the Team Moon and Team Star discs there is a third disc which includes bonus features. Each feature has both a Team Moon and Team star version. The first feature is a “cast cam” which is a bunch of behind the scenes footage of rehearsal and the performance of the musical. One moment includes the cast of Team Star singing happy birthday to Ranze Terada who plays Sailor Mars in Team Star. This was funny to me as it was, in September 2018, her 20th birthday which reminds us that she, and many others in this musical, are so young that they were no only born after Sailor Moon started airing but even after the original Sailor Moon manga and anime were done.
Next there is a game! I should remind everyone at this point that I do not speak Japanese so it was a bit hard to tell exactly what was going on. In each case they pitted the Sailor Guardians, who were a different group between the Team Moon and Team Star games, against the Dark Kingdom, who are the same actors in both versions and therefore both games. As far as I can tell Team Moon did a game of charades and Team Star did a Pictionary or Win Lose or Draw style game where one sketches something and the others have to guess it. Both seem entertaining but it’s hard to get much from these features when you don’t speak the language.
Finally we have a series of clips to highlight the various characters. These are all clips from the musical but often the camera angle is changed to focus on that particular character. This sort of features seems mostly useless to me.
The packaging is good. This is a nice looking set with photos of both casts on the front. The art of the discs themselves is quite nice. There’s an insert with a few pages again showing both casts.
Since I ordered the Amazon Japan limited edition version my copy also came with two mini folders. One features Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask and the other features the Sailor Guardians.
All in all I would say this set is quite worth it. Yes it is expensive compared to buying a movie in North America but it’s not much more than the other musical releases and it really is a much higher quality release. After so many sub part standard definition DVDs it’s a real treat to get this Blu-Ray. The image quality is fantastic. The set includes two full versions of the musical and numerous extras. The lack of English audio or subtitles is of course a problem for English speaking fans. This set was made for a Japanese audience but other fans should enjoy it.
Ultimately fans may find that this istheir best chance at seeing this musical. Like many others I enjoyed watching the fan subbed versions of the musicals supplied by Miss Dream. After they received a takedown notice for four recent musicals, it seems that they will not be subtitling any of the newer musicals. (June 8th update: Miss Dream’s Dan Bednarksi has clarified in a comment on this post that the issue had to do with the trouble getting a translator for this musical. The two teams added complication to this issue as it would potentially double some of the work needed.) As a result importing the musicals on video may be the only way some fans will be able to see them! I certainly hope that some time soon we will be seeing international releases of these musicals with subtitles for fans to enjoy. Perhaps this will happen around the time we get more Sailor Moon Crystal!
Keep reading for a lot more photos of the set and screenshots from the musical.