uncut versions of the original show were now available for streaming. Given the choice between old and new, I totally wanted to take a walk down memory lane. They've been coming out with two new ones every week and I've been following it faithfully.
If you've never watched the show, here's a rundown. Middle-schooler Usagi Tsukino meets a talking cat named Luna and is given the power to transform into the superhero Sailor Moon and defend the Earth from evil monsters from the "Dark Kingdom." Eventually, four other girls join her - feisty, bullying Rei (Sailor Mars), rough and tumble Makoto (Sailor Jupiter), glamorous Mina (Sailor Venus) and sweet, brilliant Ami (Sailor Mercury). I had a dorky crush on Sailor Mercury back in those days, even if she had the lamest powers (shooting bubbles? really?). Eventually, they would meet other girls to round out the Solar System, but my most vivid memories are of the first story arc, where the girls have to fight the minions of Queen Beryl. Beryl preferred to give orders rather than get her hands dirty, so most of the time the Sailor Guardians faced off against her four generals - whiny, incompetent Jadeite, suave, calculating Nephrite, vain, vindictive Zoisite and experienced tactician Kunzite. In most episodes, a mysterious male hero named Tuxedo Mask would show up to bail the girls out of a jam so they could finish off the monsters with their signature techniques.
The storyline that really grabbed me was the unexpected tragic love story between the villainous Nephrite and Usagi's friend Naru. On one level, it's all kinds of skeevy - she's in middle school and he's a grown-ass man - but I would challenge anyone not to be moved when he dies heroically to protect her and she lets out an agonized cry of pain. The dub couldn't reduce that moment's power and from then on, the show adopted a much tighter continuity between episodes and went from just a curiosity to something I eagerly awaited every day. It all leads up to an emotionally wrenching climax where four of the Sailor Guardians are killed in battle, leaving Sailor Moon left to face Queen Beryl on her own. The American distributors were clearly shocked by the intensity of the episodes. They cut so much content from them that the season finale went from being two episodes to one. Even with the dialogue altered and the darkest moments omitted, the power of those episodes was unmistakable and it was easy to intuit what was really going on. When she finally defeats Beryl, Sailor Moon is able to restore everyone to life on Earth although they can no longer remember each other and their adventures...until the next threat to Earth arrives, at least.
It's clear to me now that this has aged a LOT better than Power Rangers. Obviously it can't compare to more revered anime like Death Note or Paranoia Agent or Monster, but for a kid's show it's quite enthralling. I may write a follow-up to this one in a few months when I've seen more of the episodes. At some point, the series is sure to go beyond what I saw as a kid and into the later episodes which I am totally unfamiliar with. Consider me excited.