websitelink2023 Mooniversity: Sailor Moon Live and in Live-Action

Created by Rizal Azah
Welcome back to Mooniversity, our column for all things “Sailor Moon.” The two-part Sailor Moon Cosmos movie has been released in Japan, and intriguingly, it sees the return of actress Keiko Kitagawa, who played Sailor Mars in the live-action series Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (or PGSM for short) from 2003. That show is today’s topic, along with the stage musicals (aka Sera Myu) that have been performed regularly since 1993. I’ve written extensively before about my issues with the idea of adapting “Sailor Moon” into live-action, and part of the reason is PGSM, which I personally couldn’t get past the first episode of.

“Wait, what?!,” I hear some of you cry. “How can you write a ‘Sailor Moon’ column if you’ve only watched one episode of the live-action show?!”

Firstly, I’ve done the reading, so I know enough to discuss what’s interesting in a moment. Secondly, I think everyone has a right to pass on entries from a favorite series they dislike or are disinterested in; I love Transformers, but haven’t seen the last two Michael Bay films, and there are countless superhero projects I’ve sat out of, including a sadly increasing number of DCEU films, and the many film serials released in the 1940s (which is especially applicable in this case.) I’m not dismissing the show’s place in canon, or that it has admirers either, after all, the Star Wars prequels were bad, but it was still lovely to see their leads return in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, and likewise it’s cool Kitagawa got to help conclude the reboot.

I do enjoy that PGSM offers an insight into how much leeway Naoko Takeuchi — who was reportedly more involved with the show than the anime — would allow with an adaptation. At only about 51 episodes, it solely uses characters from the comic/cartoon’s first arc, but it manages to repurpose many themes and ideas from subsequent ones for the original cast, among several other fascinating changes:

– Instead of Chibiusa/Sailor Chibi Moon, Luna gains a Sailor Guardian form called Sailor Luna (designed by Takeuchi, and portrayed by then 10-year old Rina Koike.) Similarly, while Chibiusa isn’t around to become Black Lady, Ami is brainwashed by Kunzite into becoming Dark Mercury.

– The fear of Sailor Saturn’s reawakening is substituted for with Princess Sailor Moon, a colder, ruthless incarnation of our hero, created when the original Serenity’s soul awakens in Usagi’s body. Unlike Usagi, the Princess does not give a damn what happens to Earth, as long as she regains her beloved Endymion.

– Like Uranus and Neptune, Mars and Venus become close, culminating in Rei being the first to learn, and having the most emotional reaction when Minako (gasp!) passes away from an unspecified illness. (Don’t worry, she gets better.) Makoto, meanwhile, concludes the series by getting engaged to arcade owner Motoki.

– All of Beryl’s generals, the Shitennou, survive the series, leading to them having more complex motivations and decisions; we’re even introduced to Kunzite as an amnesiac man named Shin. Kunzite resents Mamoru; he and Nephrite are both interested in Ami; and Zoisite allies with Minako to stop Usagi from remembering her past relationship with Mamoru, in the hopes it will prevent their deaths from happening again.

So on paper, it should be fun to watch a version of Sailor Moon that resembles the Hong Kong dramas I grew up watching with my family (plus Power Rangers), but I came away simply embarrassed for the actresses (who all probably grew up on the original show) who got roped into doing the most generic, cringe-inducing take on the source material imaginable. Usagi’s first battle with a (goopy, CG) monster-of-the-week takes place during the day, in a conspicuously empty hall, resembling a fan film instead of the genuine article, and Luna’s cat form… is portrayed by a plush doll. Even the failed American pilot portrayed her with a real cat. Generally, I feel it would be cool to watch people shoot even the cheapest, corniest movie or TV show, but this didn’t even pass that most basic of tests.

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  1. Rizal Azah

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