The new Japanese Sailor Moon Blu-Ray sets look good but not great in HD

Sailor Moon Japanese Blu-Ray Vol. 1 - Cover

The first of many Japanese Blu-Ray releases of the original Sailor Moon anime was out on June 14th. I got my copy from Amazon Japan and it is available in stores and via other online retailers. The set includes the first half of the first season, that being episodes 1 to 23, and sells for a whopping 15,747 yen which is $140 US. Why, you may ask, would someone bother to buy this release when they can get the Viz Blu-Ray release for a fraction of the price? I don’t have an answer which would convince most fans. This is a Japanese only release with no subtitles. There is however a significant improvement in picture quality over what we got from Viz, but this is no real surprise given what we’d had. Ultimately though this is a software upscaled HD version of a standard definition master. What this means is that they used video which was roughly DVD quality and extrapolated using software algorithms to make a 1080p HD video. While this will look better than a DVD to most people it’s still nothing close to what we would have gotten if Toei went back to the film source and made an HD transfer, like we recently got for the Sailor Moon R movie. Don’t take my word for it! Check out some sample screenshots.

Sailor Moon episode 8 - Viz Blu-Ray - Ami

Viz Blu-Ray

Sailor Moon episode 8 - Japanese Blu-Ray - Ami

Japanese Blu-Ray

Make Up! Sailor Senshi - Ami

Make Up! Sailor Senshi Blu-Ray

Sailor Moon episode 8 - Japanese DVD - Ami

Japanese DVD

In the above image, and many other samples included at the end of this post, we have a comparison between four versions of the same scene. The top two compare the Viz Blu-Ray to the new Japanese Blu-Ray, and it’s hard to see the differences with just a thumbnail but if you look at the full sized versions of each image you’ll see that there’s a difference. Also included for comparison are a screenshot from the Make Up! Sailor Senshi Blu-Ray which was included with Sailor Moon R The Movie and the original Japanese DVD. I include screenshots from Make Up! Sailor Senshi because when that special was done it used footage from the original film source which, in 1993, was not yet lost as it apparently is today. Since that film was then transferred to HD this gives us a look at what this release would roughly look like if we’d had the opportunity to have a better master. It’s not perfect as the aspect ratio was changed for cinema so we have a cropped image but it should give an idea of what we could have gotten. The Japanese DVD gives an impression of what the master likely looked like before software upscaling.

Sailor Moon Episode 1 - Viz Blu-Ray - Sailor Moon shocked by her transformation

Viz Blu-Ray

Sailor Moon Episode 1 - Japanese Blu-Ray - Sailor Moon shocked by her transformation

Japanese Blu-Ray

If you look closely at the fine details you’ll see that even with this new Japanese Blu-Ray there’s some blurriness to the image. We don’t actually see the imperfections in the lines that make these images and the backgrounds which aren’t using as solid colours as the foreground don’t look as nice as they could. All that said this looks nice on a TV. It doesn’t blow your mind when you’re sitting a few feet from your TV trying to put a crying 2 month old to sleep at 5:30am but if you’re sitting on a couch looking at the show it looks pretty good. In an alternate dimension where someone in the mid 90s knew better than to discard masters for a shows which, given the evolving nature of video and high definition TV, they should have known better than to do, we would have a nicer looking Blu-Ray. Unfortunately we don’t live in that dimension so this is what we have and it seems like this is the best looking version of Sailor Moon we’ll get. It’s not leaps and bounds above anything else we’ve seen but it is a mild improvement.

Sailor Moon Episode 1 - Viz Blu-Ray - Sailor Moon poses

Viz Blu-Ray

Sailor Moon Episode 1 - Japanese Blu-Ray - Sailor Moon poses

Japanese Blu-Ray

Make Up! Sailor Senshi - Sailor Moon poses

Make Up! Sailor Senshi Blu-Ray

Sailor Moon episode 1 - Japanese DVD - Sailor Moon poses

Japanese DVD

These are just a few comparison screenshots. Be sure to click them and then click the link that says “1920×1080″ to see the full image. I’ve included many more at the end of this post for reference. There will be some distortion due to jpeg compression on these but that should be minor.

Sailor Moon Japanese Blu-Ray Vol. 1 - Comparison between Laserdisc, Japanese DVD and Blu-Ray

Besides the image quality, what do we have here? Some pretty nice looking box art. Is it really classy and iconic to keep using the exact same laserdisc artwork or is it lazy? I think it’s a bit of both. Some people have criticized Viz for their Blu-Ray releases but I thought their artwork was on point. Here we’ve got art which has been used time and time again being recycled yet again. This was used in the 90s for the original laserdisc and VHS releases of the series, again when the DVDs were released in 2003, yet again when those DVDs were rereleased and once again with these. That art has been seen in other places over the years. This art is of course fantastic, as it was when it first appeared on those massive vinyl sized laserdisc covers which credit art director Kazuko Tadano for having made them. Once again the above image is just a sample. All of the disc art was reused from earlier covers and I’ve included photos of all of these comparisons at the end of this post.

Sailor Moon Japanese Blu-Ray disc 1 menu

The episodes included are… do I even need to talk about this? It’s episodes 1 to 23. It’s the first half of what might very well be the best season of anything ever produced on the planet in the history of history. This goes from Usagi becoming Sailor Moon right through her meeting Ami and Rei and fighting Jadeite and Nephrite. The next half will begin with Nephrite’s tear jerker final episode. Not a ton in the way of special features are included. On the fourth disc there are creditless lower quality versions of the opening and first ending theme as well as the 15 second commercials which played after every episode, promoting the next one. The laserdiscs for the first season actually had many more fun extras which have never been included in the DVD releases. Given what we see with the musicals it doesn’t seem out of the question to include a ton of silly bonus features. It would have been nice to see them here! I understand that there may have been no HD source for these but not every special feature in a Blu-Ray needs to be 1080p HD! The low quality credits and ads are proof of that.

Sailor Moon Japanese Blu-Ray Vol. 1 - Booklet - Episodes 8 to 10

The special booklet which is included gives episodes summaries for all of the episodes in this set. This is a nice addition. Each episode has one screenshot, some character art and a brief description to go with it. I would assume we’ll have something similar with the next set which comes out on August 9th.

Sailor Moon Japanese Blu-Ray Vol. 1 - Back

So what’s the verdict? Is it worth spending so much money on this release? This is almost certainly not something anyone but a hardcore collector would want to bother getting. There are less expensive ways to watch Sailor Moon in a language you understand. If, however, you are a videophile that absolutely needs to have the best of the best, well go ahead and get that line of credit approved so that you can buy all of these!

Keep reading for more screenshots, images of the packaging and photos of all pages of the included booklet.

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Evgenia Medvedeva’s performance at the 2017 ISU World Team Trophy in Tokyo recreates the first episode of Sailor Moon

Evgenia Medvedeva's Sailor Moon Figure Skating Routine

Two time World champion Russian figure skater Evegnia Medvedeva has given us another great Sailor Moon themed performance! She originally did a Sailor Moon themed routine last year and she’s updated it to reflect many of the events of the first episode of Sailor Moon. This was done this past weekend at the 2017 ISU World Team Trophy in Tokyo. A fitting location for a Sailor Moon themed performance! The soundtrack used for her piece includes a number of audio clips from the first episode as Usagi sleeps in, rushes off to school, meets Luna and ultimately transforms into Sailor Moon. As with the last routine it includes the original version of Moonlight Densetsu by DALI. You can watch the full clip below.

She did quite well at the competition setting records for Short Program, Free Skate and Total Score. Evegnia Medvedeva is a huge anime and Sailor Moon fan as we continue to see with her fun performances.

Evgenia Medvedeva's Sailor Moon Figure Skating Routine - Usagi meets Luna

Sailor Moon episode 1 - Luna freaking out with a bandage on her head

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The first episode of Sailor Moon aired 25 years ago today

Sailor Moon episode 01 Screenshot - Japanese DVD

It’s time to party like it’s 1992! 25 years ago today, on March 7th 1992, the first episode of the Sailor Moon anime “The Crybaby: Usagi’s Beautiful Transformation” aired on Japanese TV. At this time last year we were still celebrating Sailor Moon’s 20th anniversary in Japan but that has finally been replaced with the ongoing 25th anniversary. The Sailor Moon manga predates the anime series by a few months, with its first story being published in Nakayoshi December 28th 1991. Codename: Sailor V, the series which inspired Sailor Moon and which Sailor Venus comes from, was published earlier that year in RunRun starting on August 3rd 1991.

Sailor Moon episode 1 - Usagi runs into Mamoru

I can’t really be nostalgic about what I was doing in March 1992, listening to Kris Kross and being full of teenage angst! I certainly wasn’t watching Sailor Moon, which wouldn’t be seen here in Canada for another 3 years. I wrote articles about the 15th and 20th anniversaries on Powet.tv and at the time nothing was going on with the franchise. Now, with Sailor Moon Crystal in full swing, a new series of musicals in production, a movie in theatres and mountains of merchandise Sailor Moon is an international sensation once again!

Sailor Moon Episode 1 - Silhouette

Are you doing anything today to commemorate the 25 year anniversary of this great show? If you’re looking to watch the first episode again you can stream it on Yahoo! View with subtitles or dubbed by Viz. Canadians can watch the first episode of TubiTV.


Chris Wiggins, Sailor Moon’s narrator and the voice of Mr. Baxter, has died at age 87

Chris Wiggins

I am sad to report that Chris Wiggins, a voice actor from the original English dub of the Sailor Moon anime, has died at age 87. He passed away on February 19th after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The provided the voice of Mr. Baxter from the episode “An Unnatural Phenomenon”. Mr. Baxter was a mild mannered gardener turned ecoterrorist thanks to Nephlite’s influence. He also voiced the narration included at the beginning of the first episode and episode 41. This first narration, added for the dubbed English version, provided excessive spoilers for the upcoming season including the identity of the Moon Princess and Prince Darien as well as the specific fate of the Moon Kingdom.

Sailor Moon episode 15 - Ami and Mr. Baxter

Aside from his brief work on Sailor Moon Chris Wiggins also had a lengthy resume. As a fellow Canadian the roles I knew him best for were Chief Quimby from Inspector Gadget and No Heart from Care Bears. His obituary can be found in The Toronto Star. He will be missed by fans around the world.

24 years ago today, the first episode of the Sailor Moon anime aired in Japan

Sailor Moon episode 1 - Luna freaking out with a bandage on her head

Episode 1 of the original Sailor Moon anime, The Crybaby: Usagi’s Beautiful Transformation, aired on Japanese TV on March 7th 1992, 24 years ago today. It’s been a long time and love for the series is still going strong! More than that we are 4 years into the 20th anniversary and we are showing no signs of letting up that celebration!

Sailor Moon episode 1 - Usagi runs into Mamoru

The Sailor Moon official web site’s title remains the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon 20th Anniversary Project Official Site. The official Twitter account is @sailormoon_20th. This branding isn’t going anywhere any time soon! It’ll look really silly next year as we celebrate the 25th anniversary. The manga will be 25 years old on December 28th of this year!

Sailor Moon episode 1 - Crybaby Usagi's Magnificent Transformation

If you’re feeling nostalgic you can watch episode 1, The Crybaby: Usagi’s Beautiful Transformation, on Hulu either in Japanese with English subtitles or dubbed in English.

Watch Act 1 and 2 of the English dub of Sailor Moon Crystal on Hulu now

Sailor Moon Crystal English Title Screen

Sailor Moon fans who have been holding out for the English version can finally watch the new Sailor Moon anime. The first two episodes of Sailor Moon Crystal are now available to watch on Hulu and Neon Alley. We also have some news about the home video release. The Dark Kingdom story arc, which includes Acts 1 through 13, will be released on DVD, Blu-Ray and Limited Edition Blu-Ray February 9th. The three versions are available to pre-order on Amazon. The DVD will be $44.82, the DVD and Blu-Ray combo pack will be $69.99 and the limited edition combo pack will be $79.98.

Sailor Moon Crystal Act.1 Usagi - Sailor Moon - Usagi and Luna

For many fans this may be the first time they watch this series. Act 1, Usagi – Sailor Moon, is the first episode of the series based on the first act of the Sailor Moon manga. In it young Usagi meets Luna who lets her transform into Sailor Moon. Act 2, Ami – Sailor Mercury, wastes no time in introducing us to the second Sailor Guardian the genius girl Ami. Long time fans may note strong similarities between Sailor Moon Crystal’s first two acts and the original anime episodes 1 “The Crybaby: Usagi’s Beautiful Transformation” and 8 “The Girl Genius Is a Monster: The Brainwashing Cram School of Horror”, but this is just because of similarities to the manga. The original anime series told the story at a much slower pace and quickly deviated from the manga so fans will be surprised to see just how much things change along the way with this story. Sailor Moon Crystal was a very faithful manga adaptation, so this is a great way to appreciate the original story. Next week will be Act 3, Rei – Sailor Mars, which again moves the story along quickly by introducing yet another Sailor Guardian. This gives a good indication of the faster pace Sailor Moon Crystal is taking.

Sailor Moon Crystal Act.2 Ami - Sailor Mercury - Sailor Mercury

For those fans living in Canada, or elsewhere who can’t view the region restricted content on Hulu, I would suggest using some sort of proxy to view the content. There are many options to do this, some of which you will need to pay for, but a free option is Hola.org.

Support the site by preordering Sailor Moon Crystal on DVD or Blu-Ray using the links below.

20 years ago today Sailor Moon was unleashed upon the English world

Luna waking Usagi

August 28th 1995, 20 years ago today, the Sailor Moon anime first aired on YTV in English in Canada. This marked the beginning of the popularisation of the series in North America, where it acheived a great amount of success, as it had been and continued to do throughout the world. As a Canadian I experienced this first hand as the show played repeatedly on YTV and Global many times a day in popular time slots. Sailor Moon was an instantly recogniseable icon amongst Canadian adults and children alike when the show was in its prime. The series first aired in US on syndication starting September 11th 1995 though many American stations relegated it to less desireable times than Canadian stations had done. I recall getting up to watch the show in the early hours of the morning weekdays on UPN 38 and WPIX as many other fans surely did. Though everyone’s personal experience with Sailor Moon may differ wide spread exposure to the series in the US was less common until Toonami began airing the show on June 1st 1998.

Sailor Moon SuperS episode 133 - Chibiusa is an old lonely cat lady watching Sailor Moon

Some of you may be wondering how we can be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the show in North America when we are also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the show in Japan. It took over 3 years for the show to be dubbed and released domestically, with the first episode being aired in Japan on March 7th 1992. The so called 20th annivesary celebration that has been going on in Japan has therefore been going on for over 3 years. The 20th Anniversary brand still appears all over the Japanese Official site which is titled the Sailor Moon 20th Annivesary Project Official Site and the Official Twitter account @sailormoon_20th. At this point we are actually closer to the arbitrary 25th annivesary of the show in Japan than the 20th.

Sailor Moon 20th anniversary logo

Whatever the case Sailor Moon, as most of us have known it, has been around for 20 years. Here’s to 20 more!

Sailor Moon episode 1 - Usagi runs into Mamoru

Episode 1 of Sailor Moon Crystal edited with DIC dub audio

Sailor Moon Crystal DIC dub Sailor Says clip

Here’s something cool that a fan whipped up. It’s the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal edited to fit with dialog from the first episode of the English dub of the original Sailor Moon anime. It actually fits quite well though the episode is shorter than the full version as some scenes did not exist in both version. In a few instances a short clip from the original anime is included but for the most part it’s video from Sailor Moon Crystal and audio from the old Sailor Moon anime. She even included a Sailor Says segment! Watch the episode in the embedded clip below.

Since both the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal and the original Sailor Moon anime followed the manga closely this fits very well. Only in a few scenes did things not really work, such as Molly talking to Serena who isn’t actually in the room, but it mostly worked. A similar exercise would probably work decently for act 2 and potentially act 3 as the episodes where Ami and Rei are introduced in the original Sailor Moon anime followed the manga quite well. I spoke to Jessica who created this clip about the possibility of more episodes but there are currently no plans to do so as this would become impossible as the series progresses and deviates greatly from the source material.

Source: Jessica aka Time Machine on YouTube.

More clips of Viz’s new Sailor Moon dub including Usagi, Ikuko Mama, Jadeite and Beryl

Sailor Moon opening - Queen Beryl in the Dark Kingdom

Two new clips of Viz’s new Sailor Moon dub have been leaked. These feature the beginning of episodes 1 and 2. You can hear the voices of Usagi, Ikuko Mama, Jadeite and Queen Beryl. These were recorded at Anime Expo on July 5th. Viz premiered the first two episodes of their new dub at a panel where they unveiled the new cast. Recording was not allowed at the panel which is why the video is not visible. Because these only included audio I’ve embedded the YouTube clips to only include the progress bar.

The first clip is the beginning of episode 1, The Crybaby: Usagi’s Beautiful Transformation. You can hear Usagi’s opening monologue followed by the scene where she wakes up late for school and talks to her mother. Usagi is voiced by Stephanie Sheh and Ikuko Mama is voice by Tara Platt.

In this second clip we hear the first bit of episode 2, Punishment Awaits: The House Of Fortune Is The Monster Mansion. It starts out with side characters talking about the fortune house but then contains a brief exchange between Jadeite and Queen Beryl. Jadeite is voiced by Todd Haberkorn and Queen Beryl is voiced by Cindy Robinson.

Thanks to Dakota from our comments for finding these clips.

Source: Baillie Puckett‘s YouTube channel.

Watch Sailor Moon episodes 1 to 4 for free on Hulu

Sailor Moon on Hulu

Following Friday’s announcement of Viz’s acquisition of the rights to the series, the first four episodes of Sailor Moon are now available to view with subtitles for free on Hulu and Neon Alley, including episode 2 which has never been dubbed. Viz will be releasing two new episodes every Monday from now on. Though the episodes can be viewed for free they will include commercials which can’t be skipped. Hate commercials? That’s too bad. Hulu’s pay service Hulu Plus is truly terrible as it will not remove commercials.

The episodes are completely uncensored with English subtitles. The current episode previews are kept though they have been moved from before the credits until after the credits. Next episode previews are included in their normal spot at the end of the episode. Commercial bumpers are the only thing missing from these episodes.

Sailor Moon episode 01 Screenshot - Japanese DVD

Japanese DVD

Sailor Moon episode 01 Screenshot - Hulu

Hulu

The quality of the release is quite good. Since it is streaming it is not perfect but the quality is comparable to the Japanese DVD releases, the current best quality release there is, as can be seen with these example screen grabs.

Sailor Moon episode 2 screenshot - Japanese DVD

Japanese DVD

Sailor Moon episode 2 screenshot - Hulu

Hulu

The Hulu service is not available in all countries. As a Canadian I needed to use a proxy service to view the episodes. I use Unblock-US, a pay service, though others exist. I was not able to access the Neon Alley site directly even from a proxy. Though no legal Canadian option is available at this time Viz is trying to find a way to bring the show to Canadian. This includes talking to YTV about the possibility of airing it on TV. Once the DVD and Blu-Ray releases are out later this year, Canadians will be able to enjoy those.

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