Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sailor Moon Memories

Upon revisiting the first season of Sailor Moon in the original Japanese, I wanted to write about some aspects of the series that I remember from my childhood. Being a 17 year old anime, I was surprised that it still held up after all these years.


My experience with this series started sometime in late 1994 (or was it early 1995?) when I started seeing commercials for this show on ABC. At the time, Anime was a new thing for me, and in the Philippines, it was only beginning to show signs of increasing popularity after a long slumber (no doubt the limitations for showing certain TV shows at the time was part of its dormant phase in the early nineties/late eighties, although one can argue that Voltes V and numerous anime adaptations like Princess Sarah or Peter Pan were big in their day.)

I didn't care about seeing the anime at first, but my cousin recommended it to me (and it was part of a huge Sunday afternoon cartoon block on Channel 5 - then a fledgeling new channel - which had a number of good shows on it)

I watched the first episode. Funny as hell. Since then, for the next season and a half I fell in love with it. Mostly because it was funny as hell, a break from all the doom and gloom battles of Dragonball Z. And the ending was killer. I actually called ABC 5 a few times to ask when the next new episode was coming up (and I bet a lot of operators were befuddled when loads of phone calls came in asking for new episodes.) I 'broke up' with the series after a long dry spell, as the second season was notorious for reruns. Since then I've never quite looked at the series long and hard enough.

Sailor Moon finished airing its last season (Stars) in the Philippines a number of years ago, after a long run. Again, its last gasp was buried in the current deluge of anime coming here from Japan.

So... my thoughts on Sailor Moon.

The Tagalog Dub was Awesome

It might be part bias since I grew up with it, but the Tagalog dub was Awesome.

I consider Channel 5 and 13's dubs to have the best tagalog dubs of its time. Sure Channel 2 had their high production values, Channel 9 had this English oriented dub team with shows Dragonball, Saint Tail and Dragonball Z, and Channel 7... well Channel 7 had its days, but 5 and 13 had the best dubs.

(Of course, there was the fact that most of these channel's anime were dubbed by the same people. Heh.)

The Tagalog dub had a Filipino version of the main theme (Moonlight Densetsu) and some scenes edited out, such as the opening intro thingy which I realize was in almost every episode. And yet, the Tagalog Dub did one thing that I will always appreciate, and that was to make an already funny show funnier. Let me explain.

For the Sailor Moon Anime, veteran voice actors and actresses were recruited to do the job of bringing these characters to life. If you listen to AM radio, you might have already heard some of them over at DZRH (666 AM.) Voice Actors or Dubbers here in the Philippines are terribly underappreciated, as they get less pay, don't get the same public attention or appreciation as some other people and are virtually invisible in this industry. But these guys are pros. It is hard changing your voice and keeping it that way for at least 20-30 minutes. And these guys voice your favorite anime/telenovela/koreanovela/radio show! Respect.

For Sailor Moon it was Olie De Guzman and Vilma Borromeo as Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars respectively which made the classic first season of the series shine. Even in the original Japanese Sailor Moon started getting interesting the time Sailor Mars was introduced. At that episode (episode 10,) there as a full fledged team instead of just one or two individuals. Plus, the third member (Rei) was one whose personality clashed with the klutzy and incompetent Usagi, and the two bickered, often leading into hilarious situations.

De Guzman and Borromeo for some reason injected fresh chemistry into this pair. I don't know if they adlibbed, it was part of a great translated script or something like that, but when they fought, it was manic and hilarious. They had experience, as in Princess Sarah, they were also cast in two roles against each other (Lavinia and the titular Sarah, but with the tormentor/tormented positions reversed.) I will explore this in a later part of this writeup, but I have this to say.

To Miss De Guzman and Miss Borromeo, who dubbed Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars for the first season of SM, if there is still some sort of Star Awards for Television or FAMAS or some shit, you both deserve some sort of award. Best Actress Pair or something like that. If I had the money I'd pay to make a trophy for you two. I feel you both deserve some kind of accolade a million times more than some talentless shit getting a best Actress award just for looking cute and shedding a few tears. Voice Acting is HARD, yo.

Moving on, as the season went on towards the more dramatic/epic episodes, everyone started speaking Taglish. I have never seen this work on any other show except this one. (No, Initial D Fourth Stage, it didn't work that well for you.) This was, of course, awesome to see. Remember when Bobby (or was it Phil) Cruz as Neflite/Nephrite started talking about eating Chocolate Ice Cream? Epic shit right there boss. Or Kunzite was speaking in Taglish about how he will never be defeated or something like that?

They have to show this series again one day in Tagalog in HERO or some other channel, even just for the first season. And DON'T redub it. The first one was perfect.

Funniest Episodes Ever

Episode 11 -Usagi vs Rei? A Nightmare in Dreamland

This was an awesomely funny episode, in Tagalog or English. Usagi and Rei go to an amusement park and fight over absolutely everything, even a poor child who managed to get between the two. In the Tagalog version is enhanced by the comedy that ensues between the two and the chemistry the two actresses have.

In another sequence, Sailor Moon and Mars are both hypnotized and run around following what seems to be Tuxedo Mask, when in fact they are riding brooms (and looking like idiots.)

This was the first episode that explored Moon and Mars' bickering, and the episode had a lot of comedy in it. Fun to watch after many viewings.

Episode 31 -
Loved and Chased! Luna's Worst Day Ever

This was a Luna-centric episode, and one of the funniest of the series. Most of the episode is actually from or inspired by Gone With The Wind. Luna is being chased by some cats when suddenly a fishbone stops them ala Tuxedo Mask's Rose. It is actually a fat cat who is apparently attracted to Luna (and his name is Rhett Butler.) A lot of comedic subplots occur, including:

* Rei Hino can't get a date
* Sailor Moon in her usual hijinks
* Zoisite tries to find the something-the rainbow crystal, leading him to the girl who is the owner of Rhett Butler, but he realizes that the cat is the monster. He goes to the sewer much to his disgust, and upon reaching a tunnel, he finds that it is covered in rats, and he releases what is the gayest anime character scream ever made.

You have to hear it to believe me.

The Ending was Epic

The last few episodes of the series were amazing, as at the time I was watching it, 1) I had never seen a conclusion to ANY animated series, 2) none had shown most of the protagonists end up severely screwed and 3) none had come up with a satisfying ending to the series that made one want even more.

There were almost tears in my eyes as the events of the last episodes unfolded on Philippine TV. I was but 10 or so years old back then. Note that those were almost tears. I would never be so emotionally moved by an anime until, maybe, Honey and Clover.

The Similarities to Sentai

I've been reintroduced to Sentai in the past few months and it's clear that Sailor Moon was intended as a fusion of shoujo and this genre. The Stock Footage, the monster a week formula, the adviser character, even the transformations and the upgrade at the middle of the series are all there. All it didn't have was the giant robots.

In Conclusion

There are a lot more things to discuss, but hell, I guess I can stop here. The show still remains a cornerstone of the Magical Girl Genre and in itself an anime classic for years to come.