Film Talk: Pretty Guardian Sailormoon, Act 1

Posted March 31, 2015 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Film & TV, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments


Pretty Guardian Sailormoon: Act 1 (PGSM 1)Welcome back to the epic rewatch of the Pretty Guardian Sailormoon Live Action show! When last we left off, I discussed Act Zero and a general idea of what I was doing. This week, we’re into the series proper with the first episode, appropriately titled Act 1.

As it’s the first episode of the whole thing, there are technically no spoilers. Practically, there will be spoilers for Sailor Moon Classic, Sailor Moon Crystal and, of course, the manga. It’s kind of hard to avoid because I most likely will be drawing on what I know of all of them to go play Spot The Changes and have opinions on the matter.

Act 1

When last we left off, Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor V had a run-in after some robbers tried to steal stuff from a jewellery store. I WONDER IF IT’S THE SAME ONE AS IN THE PREVIOUS EPISODE. (I mean it’s clearly not the same scene as in the previous episode, though that one has echoes of this one — or the other way around for me — but still.)

Venus I don’t think that actually makes you more aerodynamic? But then it’s physics, what do I know? I’m an English major for a reason. Well, many reasons. Not all of them involve “I like literature” or variants thereof.

Huh, I don’t remember those shots of the moon from the last time I watched the show. But then it’s been ten years and I’m just happy to remember as much as I do. It does look odd, though I remember there was actual text over this in the initial TV release. On dvd it just looks… like they needed filler visuals to finish off the song, which is a shame.

I like this introduction of Usagi, actually. In all the other shows, we see Usagi getting up late as well, but we see very little interaction with Shingo. He shows up in a few token episodes, much like Usagi’s parents, and… disappears. It’s nice to see him show up so early and get a sense of their sibling relationships. We also get a much longer glimpse of Usagi’s mother, though she’s very different from the glimpses we see in all the other versions. Here she’s much more used as comic relief.

Interestingly, Usagi now remember nothing of ever having met Sailor V. Apparently.

And then a plushie fell on Usagi’s head. Again, we can see how Minako meeting Artemis mirrors this in the way that their personalities are different, which is neat. But I remember watching this the first time around and noticing that they really were going to go with the whole “Talking stuffed toy” approach and… It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Though I do like that we’re not asked to believe that they’re actual cats because that would work even worse.

Starting this project right on the day when I’ve watched another Sailor Moon Crystal episode actually makes me realise how much I miss having scenes like this karaoke scene in that show. PGSM, as I recall, actually has a really nice and effective balance between “character building” and “plot progression”. It lacks the filler episodes that Classic was plagued with, but it doesn’t have the “ZOMG! SLOW DOWN!” pacing issues that Crystal has. And that’s partially because it know it’s doing its own thing. PGSM isn’t tied to the manga narrative. (You’ll start to see later on just how very much it isn’t tied to the manga narrative.) So it can incorporate scenes like Usagi and Naru singing karaoke a lot more easily than Crystal could and with a lot less filler material than Classic would surround it with.

One episode in and we’re already looking at girls’ appearances in-show. I’ll warn you now that PGSM takes that about as far as the other versions do. (Also, that girl is not that skinny, you two. Certainly not any skinnier than you both are. Stop finding it impressive. And stop aiding in making thin the thing to be. Body positivity is important.)

CG cat is very CG. I still don’t like how it looks. I much prefer the stuffed toy approach.

Ah, no. No, I think Mamoru is even worse than I remember. In the other versions, what happens is that he notices Usagi’s grade and makes, to my recollection, no comment on her physical attractiveness at all. Just on the fact that she got a low grade and should study harder. Which, while it isn’t very nice, is a lot harder to construe as emotionally abusive. Please, PGSM, I don’t want to spend a good 50 acts talking about how this Mamoru is horrid.

Look! That thing I mentioned about the not-filler and the way PGSM has space to show us what characters are like? It’s not restricted to the main characters. Naru gets bits of it too!

I would like to quibble about the whole “We’re looking for a princess and four senshi” thing, but since we’re going to be keeping Venus as a lone agent for a while yet, I’ll forgive it as probably a ploy rather than a plot hole. That said, I am saying this with hindsight.

I like this introduction to Sailormoon. It’s a lot slower than the others and it allows Usagi a chance to pretend that it really didn’t happen. It also allows for more tension to build regarding Naru. And an interesting introduction for Jadeite, compared to the other ones, I think. PGSM is a lot more mysterious about what it wants than the other versions. At this point, all we know (if we didn’t watch Act Zero) is that someone is after the ginzuishou and may or may not be in league with this group. Also Usagi is supposed to become a senshi to fight evil like this.

In the other versions, we already know more than Usagi does at this point. It’s a nice change in my opnion. I also like the change to how Usagi’s introduction is introduced. She’s not the brightest in how she’s tackling the problem of “My friend is in trouble”, but she’s tackling it and it makes her transformation one of necessity rather than the “hey, repeat after me if you want to see a shiny!” vibe. Although how she doesn’t break anything in that fall… who knows.

The phone that we explicitly saw Usagi leave behind, Luna? That phone? No, I gather that she’d have taken it with her when she was actually ready to go out, but it’s just… It looks off with the show having so focused on the fact that Usagi left it behind when she left her room.

We do, however, miss out on Usagi being told how to transform, which is a shame because that’s, um, kind of important to show us. Besides, we got to see how the not!pen (read: phone) disguise works. Why not add a line? Did I miss it? Also the transformation (as you might expect from the way the OP is styled) has an odd focus on make-up. And I still don’t like the live action transformation sequences. (Venus’ is especially grating.) They’re not elegant and they don’t flow that smoothly.

No, Luna. No, fighting does not work like that. You actually have to practice and learn. Although I suppose knowing your innate magical abilities if you’re vaguely reawakened to who you used to be is not out of the question.

CHOREOGRAPHY FIGHT. I know, I know. All film and show fights are choreographed. But tokusatsu shows like this one… tend to make sure you know it’s choreographed rather than the other way around. I never knew how much that bugged me.

And LOOK! Look who only needs saving because she’s inattentive to having a knife (well, okay. Crystal shard. It’s sharp, same end result.) thrown at her back and not with the main villain! Usagi, that’s who! I think that’s always been one of the people’s main issues with the idea that girls are capable of defending themselves in that even a show like Sailor Moon Classic has a tendency to let Tuxedo Kamen rescue Usagi. It may not happen as often as we remember, but it happens. And while it happens here, it doesn’t have the same vibe to it. Yes, she’s rescued by Tuxedo Kamen. But a) she didn’t need rescuing from the Monster of the Day, b) it was a very close situation and it’s not a situation in which anyone would have fared much better than Usagi purely because she noticed too late. Not because she’s not got a clue what she’s doing or anything like that.

And that’s it for the first actual episode of Pretty Guardian Sailormoon. If you’ve watched Crystal, read the manga or seen Classic, you’ll already have noticed that we’re in for quite a few changes to the storyline, but so far they’re been reasonably minor ones such as turning Naru’s mother into a jewellery designer rather than a store owner. (Got that one misremembered, didn’t I?) And a different way of introducing the Dark Kingdom and Usagi’s transformation/senshi form. We’ll be seeing more changes.