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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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.

Listen to a bunch of new clips from Viz’s new Sailor Moon dub

Cricket Brown as Haruna having her skirt flipped by Umino

We’ve got four new dub clips to share from Viz’s new Sailor Moon dub. The first, uploaded to YouTube last week, is an exchange between Jadeite and Queen Beryl from episode 5, Scent of a Monster: Chanela Will Steal Your Love.

Two more clips have been added to Hulu’s Sailor Moon page. The first clip has Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury and Sailor Mars fighting Jadeite in episode 13, Girls Unite: The End of Jadeite. The next clip is an extension of the clip we already saw between Luna and Sailor Moon from the first episode, but this time includes her transformation and a short clip of Naru’s voice.

Finally we have more leaked footage, this time from San Diego Comic-Con. This fooage includes Umino from episode 2, Punishment Awaits: The House Of Fortune Is The Monster Mansion, acting evil under the influence of the fortune teller’s cards and interacting with Usagi, Naru and Haruna. We also see Usagi’s first meetings with Ami from episode 8, The Girl Genius Is a Monster: The Brainwashing Cram School of Horror, and with Rei from episode 9, The Cursed Bus: Enter Mars, the Guardian of Fire Several.

In these clips we hear the voices of Stephanie Sheh as Sailor Moon, Kate Higgins as Sailor Mercury, Cristina Vee as Sailor Mars, Michelle Ruff as Luna, Cindy Robinson as Queen Beryl, Todd Haberkorn as Jadeite, Ben Diskin as Umino and Danielle Nicole as Naru. Cricket Brown will be playing Haruna. This actress had not been announced previously. The actor voicing Rei’s grandpa is still unknown. Check out this link to see the rest of the cast.

The new Sailor Moon dub will be included on the upcoming DVD and Blu-Ray release coming November 11th. You can pre-order it from Amazon using the link below.

Sailor Moon episodes 7 and 8 are now available on Hulu

Sailor Moon episode 7 - Cross dressing Umino with Naru

This Monday, June 2nd, Hulu has added two new episodes of Sailor Moon. These episodes are subbed only by Viz and are being released at a rate of two episodes a week every Monday for the foreseeable future. This week we have episodes 7 and 8.

Episode 7, Usagi Learns Her Lesson: Becoming a Star Is Hard Work, has Usagi and her classmates going wild preparing for the Cinderella Caravan, a local talent show promoted by teen idol Mikan, or rather a monster who is posing as Mikan. The talent show is nothing but a plot by Jadeite and the Dark Kingdom to steal energy. Along the way we have Usagi and Naru breaking the 4th wall by performing the show’s theme song and Umino cross dressing in an attempt to do anything to win the contest!

Sailor Moon episode 8 - Ami and a Youma

Episode 8, The Girl Genius Is a Monster: The Brainwashing Cram School of Horror, introduces us to Ami Mizuno, a quiet genius at Usagi’s school with an IQ of 300 (IQs over around 160 are generally thought to be beyond our ability to properly measure). The Dark Kingdom has infiltrated a cram school and Usagi suspects Ami might be in league with the enemy. As it turns out she’s the latest Sailor Guardian Sailor Mercury!

Next week we’ll be seeing episode 9, Usagi’s Misfortune! Watch Out for the Rushing Clocks, which although dubbed in English was sometimes not aired in syndication due to the unfortunate English title “Time Bomb”. Also released next Monday will be “Cursed Buses! Fire Warrior Mars Appears” which is the first appearance of the greatest character in the series!