Anime,  Netflix

Sailor Moon Eternal: 29 Years Later!

It’s been well over one month since Sailor Moon Eternal made its worldwide debut via Netflix, so now that you’ve all had enough time to watch both parts, I have come to share my thoughts and opinions! This is going to get very spoilerific, so turn back now and leave if you have not yet watched the films! That warning out of the way, if you have no idea what Sailor Moon Eternal is, please check out my dedicated page here for all the info you would ever need. That just saved me from having to do a long introduction (as I usually do). I’m going to approach my review from a pros and cons perspective and list out my thoughts. I know how sensitive my fellow Moonies can be, so please keep this in mind: these are simply my honest thoughts and opinions. They are by no means ‘correct’ or factual, and I absolutely love Sailor Moon, so do not get butthurt. Perhaps we’ll have some common points?

The Things I Liked

The True Story Finally Brought to Life.

I love my 90s Sailor Moon Anime and there is no one who can deny that. However, I’ll always be the first person to admit that there were plot holes left and right that did not always make sense, even without knowing what took place in the Manga. I never read the Dream Arc and only ever experienced Sailor Moon SuperS, so watching Eternal come to life was basically nothing short of amazing if only to know the real story. We have to forgive TOEI Animation for the plot differences back in the 90s considering the Anime was almost always far ahead of schedule compared to the release of the Manga, so we know they had to improvise most of the time. While I preferred the humor, character development, music and more about SuperS, Eternal’s faithfulness to the Manga dropped far more critical hints about the past and future. I always looked at the Dark Kingdom Arc as covering the events of the past, with the Black Moon Arc focusing solely on the future. The Infinity Arc brought the story back into the present, which left the Dream Arc where? Well now it makes sense, as it covers elements of all three time periods throughout the two films. From what we’ve seen of Sailor Moon Crystal thus far, the tone of the Manga was much more serious, and the elements of evil were much darker and sinister. It was interesting to see the difference between 90s Nehelenia who was misunderstood, insecure, and lonely, versus this Nehelenia who just seemed to be a vengeful asshole. While I discuss a whole bunch of the amazing differences below, my favourite part was the debut of Eternal Sailor Moon. It’s funny how the 90s Anime did the polar opposite of the Manga where Super Sailor Moon and Queen Nehelenia ended up pushing into Sailor Moon Sailor Stars, as opposed to here where the Eternal Guardians all appear (more below). I especially love that an iconic illustration of Eternal Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi was brought to life in Anime-form (directly below). I think us Sailor Moon fans keep getting swept up in the debate as to which series is better, when really we should consider them to be two very different shows. The 90s Anime was designed to be fun and memorable for all audiences, where as Crystal (and now Eternal) is meant to give us the linear play-by-play storyline as Naoko intended it. There is enough room in our hearts for both narratives and I’m glad that 29 years later we’ve been given a choice to see both!

Everyone in Their Eternal Sailor Suits.

While we certainly were able to enjoy a full season of Eternal Sailor Moon back in the 90s, I’m not sure why TOEI never treated us to the rest of the Eternal Sailor Guardians. I suspect it was to save them from having to animate new transformation sequences on top of having to budget for the Sailor Starlights. Thus, the white-boot army of women only ever existed in the Manga. Not anymore! As you can see below, there is big meaning to why this part of the series was renamed to Eternal. The Eternal Sailor Suit represents unity as a team, as each Guardian now looks evenly ranked and aligned. What I mean by this is that we say goodbye to Sailor Saturn‘s crystal brooch and Sailor Uranus‘ lack of neck stripes, among other unique differences. The Outer Guardians always had their special assignments and abilities setting them apart from the rest of the team, but in Eternal they finally regroup with the others to form one syndicate. It certainly is symbolic that everyone would now take up the same uniform. If you couldn’t tell already, I just love it.

Foreshadowing the Future Princess of Earth.

While the 90s Anime introduced the same core characters as Eternal does, it missed critical details from the Manga that really brought to life what the future of Sailor Moon and friends could look like. It seems a bit ridiculous to discuss this when Sailor Moon R/Crystal Part 2 completely explored future Crystal Tokyo and the rulership of King Endymion and Neo-Queen Serenity. Mainly, we know what happens in the story up to a certain point in the future (pretty much the upbringing of Small Lady still pictured as a child). The present-day plot includes Chibi-Usa‘s training to be the next Sailor Moon in this time period, presumably because there is danger in the present and mostly peace in the future. Eternal brings us some key sneak peaks at what is meant to happen after Chibi-Usa finishes her training and ‘grows up’ to be a full Princess/Guardian. For starters, Helios makes several references to a maiden who appeared to him (in both the old Anime and this movie). While in both versions it is obvious that maiden is Chibi-Usa, the Eternal films offer a deeper explanation and visual. Specifically, Helios envisions a maiden of the Moon from the future, but instead of the obvious Neo-Queen Serenity possibility, the maiden introduces herself as Princess Lady Serenity. Thankfully the image below makes it pretty apparent who this maiden really is. I think it’s really cute that we now know what the future Princess of Earth will look like (which turns out to be exactly like Black Lady, but with kinder eyes).

Suggesting the Future King of the Earth.

Sailor Moon SuperS did a great job of portraying the romance between Chibi-Usa and Helios, but it barely glossed over Helios’ backstory. While Elysion was shown a couple of different ways in the old Anime, Eternal had much better scenes and explanations of where/what the sacred place used to be. We know Helios had allegiances to Prince Endymion and guarded a so-called Golden Crystal, but Eternal provides a deeper context into the relationship. Helios is often referred to by his rightful title of priest and is depicted to protect the sacred temple of Elysion within the Golden Kingdom on Earth, under direct rulership of Prince Endymion. This relationship reminds me of what Luna is to Sailor Moon. Outside of Endymion and the 4 Generals (Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, and Kunzite), Helios is the only other known character to have lived on Earth during Silver Millenium as an active part of Endymion’s court. What this means is that Helios becomes an ideal partner to unify the Earth and Moon once again by marrying Chibi-Usa. When thinking back to the importance of Serenity and Endymion’s bond, Helios makes the most sense as he has always protected Earth and the future Princess is a product of Earth and Moon. Both the 90s Anime and Eternal make heavy suggestions that Helios will see Chibi-Usa again in the future and that the feelings they have for each other are mutual. As far as we know, Chibi-Usa never goes on to have another romantic interest in the present-day or future. Besides, I think we all approve of this couple, right?

The Real Amazoness Quartet of the Future.

I was never particularly a huge fan of the Amazoness Quartet and found myself more drawn to the Amazon Trio instead. TOEI, although diverting from the Manga, still did a fantastic job of fleshing out the personalities and plots for Tiger’s Eye, Hawk’s Eye, and Fish Eye back in the 90s. If you haven’t read the Manga, then Eternal presents a surprise change where the Trio serves as tools used briefly by the Quartet who are actually the main enemy in the films. Back in SuperS, the Trio and Quartet were given mostly equal screen time; additionally, the ending of that season suggested that the four girls became free to live ‘normal’ lives when Nehelenia ascended back into darkness. Eternal brings about another pleasant surprise and major suggestion about the distant future. It turns out the girls are really the Sailor Quartet. Yes, they are Sailor Guardians as such: Sailor Vesta Sailor Juno, Sailor Pallas, Sailor Ceres (pictured in order below), all named after 4 asteroids in our Solar System. However, they are not meant to be ‘awakened’ during this time period and should be in a deep sleep until the need arises for them to protect their Princess. In case you are confused since our Princess already has four Sailor Guardians protecting her, Sailor Ceres blatantly states they are referring to Sailor Chibi Moon in the future. With all these clues, I think it’s safe to say that once Small Lady becomes an ‘adult’, she will take over as Sailor Moon with these four at her side in addition to her future lover, Helios. Naoko, please write this story!

Seeing Queen Serenity in Action Once Again.

Queen Serenity has always been one of my favourite characters in the series (I guess I’m attracted to the mysterious types), so to see her again in Eternal was an absolute treat. In the 90s Anime, the last time Queen Serenity received screen time was in Sailor Moon R when she granted Sailor Moon her Crystal Power. Even prior to that, her appearances were limited and little back story was given to her. I absolutely loved seeing more of her in Sailor Moon Crystal as many more snippets to the past were taken from the Manga. While Queen Serenity was not mentioned in the Infinity Arc, it was a major surprise to see her in some many flashbacks during the second Eternal film. In SuperS and Sailor Stars, Nehelenia had mentioned being banished away by the light of the moon once before, but to see the actual scene was just breathtaking. Queen Serenity’s powers were absolutely amazing, and she had a regal aura to her that everyone seemed to respect. I was most intoxicated by her eyes, which were so deep and serious (see below). It got me to thinking about whether Queen Serenity was in fact a great leader or even a decent people person. Hear me out: 1) She wanted a child, but without a man. 2) She plucked children from other planets to guard said child and perform other solitary duties. 3) She never passed on the torch to her daughter by training her to become Sailor Moon, which leads to a sheltered Princess Serenity killing herself instead of fighting for the Moon Kingdom‘s survival. 4) Out of her will for her daughter to live again, Queen Serenity sent everyone to be reborn on Earth (along with the enemy), basically creating a doomsday for them to deal with on Earth without her help. 5) Finally, in the flashback scene shown in Eternal, Nehelenia tries to explain to Queen Serenity that darkness goes hand-in-hand with the light and that she has just as much a right to live on the Moon. When Queen Serenity calls her an outsider, Nehelenia reminds her that she also came from a distant place to the Moon, meaning they are not so different. I’m not saying Queen Serenity was wrong in banishing her, but this is one time where I agreed with TOEI’s solution in Sailor Stars a bit more than what was in the Manga. It suited Sailor Moon more to try and give light to Nehelenia rather than to kill her. For anyone who read the Stars Arc of the Manga, you’d know that in the end Sailor Moon is thoroughly educated about the light and darkness belonging together and she herself chooses to live in a world with both entities. If you ask me, the daughter exhibited more protagonist traits than the mother. Granted, we don’t know much more about Queen Serenity’s past prior to the birth of the Princess and what made her into who she was. What an exciting train of thought though. I contend that Naoko should also write this story as well!

The Other Princesses and Their Power Guardians.

Piggy-backing off the topic of the past, we know that Sailor Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus were all taken from their home planets and brought to the Moon to protect the Moon Castle and Princess Serenity. Sailor Pluto was taken from her home planet to guard the Space-Time Door for eternity, while Uranus and Neptune were stationed on the outskirts to protect the inner solar system from outside invaders. Sailor Saturn, as far as we know, was always asleep until she was summoned at the last-minute. In the past it was mentioned that outside of their mission, the Sailor Guardians were Princesses of their own respective planets as well, each with their own castle. However, just like in the real world, those planets are not inhabitable and show no signs of life, so it makes sense for the Princesses to have missions to keep them busy. As representatives of their own planets, you may be wondering what happens when they abandon ship? Well, Eternal introduces the Sailor Power Guardians, basically mini versions of the Sailor Guardians who live on their home planet and protect it via the castle while they are away (see below). Interesting factoid… the planetary castles have names: Mariner Castle (Mercury), Phobos-Deimos Castle (Mars), Io Castle (Jupiter), Magellan Castle (Venus), Miranda Castle (Uranus), Triton Castle (Neptune), Charon Castle (Pluto), and Titan Castle (Saturn). The Sailor Power Guardians and the castles all appear more in the Stars Arc, so hopefully a sequel is on its way for us get some visuals!

Mamoru Finally Finds his Purpose.

I always feel bad about this topic because it’s one of those well-established facts to both fans and non-fans alike: Tuxedo Mask is largely useless. If we are to believe that Sailor Moon embodies Girl Power and that the general idea is that women can defend themselves and stand their own, then we also have to believe that Tuxedo Mask is only there to serve as a love interest and baby-maker. It sounds horrible, but TOEI did him dirty in the 90s by never giving him his attacks from the Manga nor extended focus. Eternal, as much as it focuses on characters like Sailor Moon, Chibi-Usa, and Helios, spends time on Mamoru for a change. In essence, the Dream Arc’s conflict interferes with his past and his home for a change. One of the key differences between SuperS and Eternal is the Golden Crystal. In the 90s, the Golden Crystal is made to seem like it came from Pegasus‘ horn and was an object belonging to Helios. Eternal clarifies that the Golden Crystal is much like the Silver Crystal, an immensely powerful stone that belongs to the true Guardian of a planet. Sailor Moon’s Silver Crystal manifested from inside of her in the Dark Kingdom Arc, and finally now in the Dream Arc it is revealed that Tuxedo Mask has a similar power inside of him. The coveted Golden Crystal holds the power to protect the Earth, and this is the holy relic that Helios the priest guards. This is a very intriguing revelation because it puts Tuxedo Mask on the status level of a Sailor Guardian and finally gives him a sense of belonging in the mix, thus busting the myth that only the female warriors mattered in the series. Perhaps this is the catalyst to explaining why King Endymion has always seemed more powerful than Tuxedo Mask.

The Much-Needed Background Context.

It certainly was an unexpected treat to see some characters that were scarcely mentioned or just didn’t exist in the 90s Anime. Each of the four Inner Guardians have a challenging awakening in Eternal (as they did in almost every season of the 90s Anime). First off, we finally receive an introduction to Ami’s mother and some visuals of her father (pictured below). The explanation of why they divorced and what their current relationship is like as a family was very sweet. Additionally, we get a glimpse into Rei’s past too during her challenge; I won’t spoil it here, but Eternal’s grandpa has a very different look compared to 90s’ grandpa! There’s not a lot of background into Makoto’s past, which I guess stems from the way the Manga was written. Additionally, there is not much insight into Minako’s past either, though at least one can argue there is an entire Sailor V Manga story to reference. In light of not exploring the past issues for these two characters, it looks like Naoko focused on their present insecurities as the challenge for each. At the end of each challenge, the girls power up and transform (samples of all four video clips are down below).

Human-form Luna, Artemis, and Diana.

While long-time Sailor Moon fans were treated to a beautiful appearance from human Luna in the Sailor Moon S Movie, we never received a look at any of the cats’ human forms in the main Anime series. Until now. Luna is briefly shown in season one of Sailor Moon Crystal, but it’s here that we see Artemis and Diana in their human forms for the first time. Cheers to our favourite feline family!

Meeting Some new Characters.

The 90s Anime was known to exclude some characters from each season of the show, so no surprise that there were a few new faces in Eternal. Pictured below are the Maenads, twin shrine priestesses tasked with guarding Elysion alongside Helios. Apart from the Amazon Trio and Amazoness Quartet, we briefly see another set of twins, the enemies Xenotime and Zeolite (shown in one of the video clips below). Another treat is the human-like appearance of Mars’ pet crows, Phobos and Deimos (also shown in another video clip below). Aside from these completely new faces, I mentioned some other ‘new’ appearances above that were not part of the 90s Anime: Princess Lady Serenity, the Sailor Power Guardians, human Luna, Artemis, and Diana, and finally the various family members.

The Things I Questioned

What was the Point of the Movie format?

From the onset, I (like many others) did not understand the decision to veer off course from the existing TV series and turn the fourth season of Sailor Moon Crystal into a film. Maybe TOEI looked at the length of the Dream Arc and thought the runtime of two movies would equal the same as a full season, but I feel like we still ended up losing some story build-up. After seeing the level of effort and artistry TOEI poured into the Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna film, I felt a glimmer of hope that a new-age Sailor Moon movie would bring about high-quality animation and impressive visuals for the theatrical release. Well, as one would expect from TOEI’s continuous disregard for the series (since Crystal began), there was really nothing to set the films apart from the TV show. There was zero creativity poured into Eternal when it comes to elements outside the Manga (like the transformation scenes, which I’ll touch on more below). Not even a memorable Opening Theme or title sequence was thrown our way. Subtle pieces of the animation were well thought out (like World Shaking), but the stellar visuals from Crystal Season 3 had already set the benchmark for success and Eternal didn’t score above it. Eternal bragged about the return of character designer Kazuko Tadano (who provided the character design work for the first two seasons of the 90s Anime). Admittedly, this was an exciting prospect and should have been the case from the start of Crystal because it’s familiar and comforting. Yet, there were several instances where animation was recycled from Crystal Season 3 without changes being made (see my least-favourite shot of Uranus’ weird mouth below which carried over into Eternal). The 90s Anime movies did well to ensure the animation was not repetitive, limiting each Guardian to one attack sequence and then animating it in a different style if used again. No consideration was given to this in Eternal where we had to constantly see the same cheapy Moon Gorgeous Meditation footage several times. Although I didn’t notice this next point at first, many fans pointed out that the panel-to-panel adaption from the Manga in one continuous film threw off the timeline of events. In truth, the film makes it seem like everything took place over two or three days at most. While I acknowledge the Manga comes off this way, the separation of chapters at least made each event seem isolated and monumental, where else the first Eternal film just felt like a run-through of short stories. Overall, was it worth the wait from 2016 until now? Not really. This result could have been achieved a long time ago. Granted, we know COVID-19 put a wrench into things and no one is saying Eternal is horrible (after all, I listed all the great things about it above), but us aging fans could have been onto the Stars Arc by now with the same amazing production values from Crystal Season 3.

Was the Wait for all Transformations Worth it?

One of the biggest hype-ups for Eternal was the debut of Sailor Saturn’s transformation sequence, decades after the initial Anime series. She was the only Guardian to not receive one in the 90s show nor make an appearance in the movies. In general, Saturn was given scarce presence back then compared to how big of a role she played in the Manga. So, does this brand-new transformation sequence measure up to our expectations? I’m going to say no. Here is why… My first reason is that it’s not really all that ‘brand-new’ when you consider they copied a video-game exclusive transformation she was given back in the 90s for the Sega Saturn. The second reason is that it does not blend well with the other Outers’ sequences. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto have largely two-dimensional animation because even those were blatantly copied from the 90s Anime down to the frame. Here the animators went a little rogue by copying some angles from Saturn’s appearance in Crystal Season 3 and giving it a more 3D feel. Saturn’s sequence is also shorter and doesn’t follow the same theme as the other three Guardians where they rotate, have their lipstick applied, and then pose. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not hating on Saturn’s transformation for standing out, but my argument is that all of the sequences should have been uniquely different then. I’m sorry, I just wasn’t impressed. Speaking of not impressed, I don’t really have love for the other Guardians’ transformations and attacks either. Let’s give credit where credit is due… At least in Crystal Season 1, the animation team tried something completely different for the five main Guardians. Fans were not onboard with the CGI effect, but at least creativity was poured into the process. In Season 3 of Crystal, the animation team brought in all-new transformations and attack sequences, again pulling from their creative juices. Eternal offered nothing new to fans. Every transformation and attack was a carbon copy from SuperS/Stars or Crystal Season 3. I’m all for nostalgia, but it’s been almost three decades since the original series aired and animation has hit new levels since, so why not take the time to show off some new tricks? This is what I mean by TOEI’s lack of care for the series when PreCure gets all the bells and whistles. Out with the old and in with the new, right? Anyway, you can judge for yourselves as I’ve added all transformations in the video clips down below.

Really, No Theme Songs?

The part of me that thinks logically is saying that TOEI most likely didn’t add Opening Themes/credits to the films because they wanted to use all of the time for core storytelling. However, knowing how lazy and uncreative they have been with Sailor Moon’s entire revival, I’m absolutely sure the reason is because it would have taken energy and effort. My opinion sounds harsh, but I really cannot believe Eternal was meant to be a sequel to Crystal Season 3. Progressively it got better from Season 1 to 3 and no fan can argue that. In fact, Season 3 had so many theme songs and new animation that I cannot complain about a damn thing. Even from the perspective of music, new songs were composed/rearranged for Eternal, but only one insert song named Moon Effect (I hate it) made it into the second film. I really liked Tsukiiro Chainon, and while it made a good ending song, I fail to see why TOEI couldn’t use it as an Opening and leave the newly arranged versions of Watashi-tachi ni Naritakute and Rashiku Ikimasho to end off the films. Let’s face it… part of the joy of watching Anime is to see Opening and Ending Themes, something that the west has moved away from. We know that in Anime films, the ending credits are usually not animated, but countless films still have Openings. This marks the first time in the entire Sailor Moon series where there was no Opening Theme and just the shitty logo below.

So, Goodbye VIZ and all Sense of Continuity?

I am a huge fan of TOEI going the route of Netflix; let’s face it, the future of any show or series hinders on the popularity and reach of success it garners. It would be crazy to not support this because it marks the first time Sailor Moon is accessible to masses of fans and non-fans alike. While Sailor Moon can be found on Crave in Canada and Hulu in the US, Netflix still leads the way internationally. Netflix’s mission to have all of their programming dubbed into as many regional languages as possible is also a huge plus for fans. With the previous method of a localized dub prepared for home video release, it was purely up to studios in respective countries to decide if they wanted to license the show and therefore dub it. It’s always a gamble for fans, but with Netflix being an international online streaming entity, one license fits all. There is a drawback, and that of course is the break in sequence thus far regarding the home video releases. For starters, the English dub for Sailor Moon Eternal was fully organized by Netflix and had no connection to VIZ Media, responsible for releasing Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon Crystal thus far on Blu-Ray and DVD in North America. It seriously calls into question whether or not fans will ever see a home video release of the films in any of the countries where Netflix streams it (except for Japan). This is a big deal for people like me who collect Sailor Moon merch and have the rest of the series housed in beautiful sets. Another fear is that nothing is permanent when it comes to Netflix as they are known to take titles down sporadically. I know that some Netflix shows have been licensed for home video release, so perhaps there is a glimmer of hope for the future, but for now we can consider that this it. On the plus said, Netflix has since released the rest of Sailor Moon Crystal, including the VIZ English dub. I’d say that is a positive sign!

Why oh why did They dub the Suffixes?

Speaking of breaking continuity, I just cannot fathom who really thought it was a great idea to include the Japanese naming-suffixes in the English dub. I personally don’t like it because it just sounds awkward in English, and it no doubt sounded extremely odd in Eternal’s dub. Considering the same cast returned to dub this film, I bet it felt strange to them to adjust to this after dubbing 200 episodes of the original Anime, 3 movies, and 3 seasons of Crystal without using the suffixes. Considering that Netflix is on target to build a powerhouse on Anime and have dubbed countless other titles to date, why was the decision made to do this with Sailor Moon Eternal? I guess we’ll never truly know…


Please believe me when I say I did not intend to write this much. I know I can be long-winded, but even I surprised myself here. What I didn’t write about above is how monumental the international premiere of Sailor Moon Eternal was for me. At the time, I booked off a couple of days just to watch, re-watch, and absorb the films. Despite the things I questioned or did not particularly like, I cried throughout and felt genuine happiness. When I think about the things I never thought would be possible, I sit here baffled at how everything turned out. I remember the early 2000s when Sailor Moon all but disappeared from the world and fans were told it was the end of the line. In the last 10 years I’ve been able to buy all new collectibles, view the entire series re-released in 1080p, hear Sailor Stars dubbed in English for the first time, watch the Sailor Moon movies in theaters, see a live musical in New York, experience a brand-new Anime series dedicated to the Manga, listen to new music compositions, and now be a part of the international world premiere of Sailor Moon Eternal. How could I not be emotional? This is more than I could have dreamed of. Within 2022 marking the 30th anniversary of Sailor Moon, I really am hoping there is more to come. Even if you’re not a die-hard fan like myself, please support the cause and head over to Netflix to watch and re-watch Sailor Moon Eternal. We have one more Manga Arc to cover and, trust me, the best is yet to come!

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ARTICLE ARTWORK

“‘劇場版「美少女戦士セーラームーンEternal」公式サイト” Sailormoon Movie Official, sailormoon-movie.jp.

VIDEO CLIPS

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal The Movie Part 1. Directed by Chiaki Kon, screenplay by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, TOEI Animation, 2021. Netflix.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal The Movie Part 2. Directed by Chiaki Kon, screenplay by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, TOEI Animation, 2021. Netflix.

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