As I made pretty clear in my Anime Tier List, Kunihiko Ikuhara is one of my favorite creators, having overseen 3 of my all time favorite shows. But it was his work on Sailor Moon where he first made a name for himself. I still haven’t watched all of Sailor Moon (And so am not ready to rank it) but my favorite stuff from what I have seen hands down have been the episodes directed by Ikuhara. Those episodes just tend to just look a little better, and be more visually ambitious; my favorite being the one where a fat cat becomes infatuated with Luna and is a basically a Tuxedo Mask parody (Also he turns into a monster and when he gets “refreshed” he says “Meowfresh.” 10/10).
Of the three movies the original Sailor Moon TV series got Ikuhara only directed this first one that cam out during the second season of Sailor Moon. (Ikuhara would became the series director staring with season 3, Sailor Moon S) It’s also worth noting that Ikuhara was originally going to direct the third Sailor Moon movie with a plot about Sailor Neptune and Uranus at the end of the world, but he left the series because he wasn’t granted the creative control he wanted. Ikuhara reworked that plot idea into what became his next series, Revolutionary Girl Utena.
The plot of this movie centers around an alien who met Mamoru when they were children, Fiore. In the opening scene we see a young, crying Mamoru hand Fiore a rose (Which just makes sense, throwing roses at people is kind of his thing) before disappearing, promising to to one day return and give Mamou a flower himself. In the present Fiore finally returns, with Mamoru slow to remember him having assumed that he had dreamed Fiore up to help himself deal with his loneliness of not having parents. Fiore is also a jerk who shoves Usagi to the ground after she gets a little jealous of how forward Fiore is, informing him that Mamoru is hers and that he can’t have him. But it turns out that Fiore is possessed by and evil flower that takes controlled weak willed individuals and uses them to drain the energy of entire planets. Action and adventure ensue.
One of my problems with the theatrical Power Rangers movies is that they take the amount of action beats that would be present in a single episode and stretch them out over a full runtime in the interest of fitting Hollywood structure. So even though they’re supposed to be the big budget version, with larger stakes, it makes them feels likes exciting than the cheap TV show that’s just a toy commercial. Even if the execution were better, that that approach discounts the trashy high that cramming that action into a single TV episode delivers.
Sailor Moon R: The Movie does not make that mistake.
In fact the first half of the movie feels just like an episode of the show, just with some better widescreen animation; all the transformation and attack animations are redone but true to the originals. You’re not spending the whole movie waiting for action, you get the action you expect early, before the movie really takes off.
And by take off I mean the Sailor Scouts teleport into space and fly around shooting lasers decimating a horde of monsters. It’s great spectacle that you don’t get on the show. This is the Sailor Moon equivalent of the Galactus trilogy, or like Sailor Moon vs Starro. It’s the best kind of simple super hero event where suddenly an immense scary force shows up, threatens everything and has to be dealt with immediately. In American superhero comics it kind of happens too often to always have the impact it should, but for a series like Sailor Moon that’s all built around long arcs with the same villain, having a complete story happen this fast is exhilarating.
It just uses its time so well. In my Guardians of the Galaxy 2 review I talked about how that movie got bogged down by the need for every character to have their own full arc. This movie does so much more with small individual moments. Short flashbacks of interactions that meant everything to a character are effective, while drawn out conversations where characters spell everything out is the equivalent of pulling teeth. Show don’t tell, it’s not only better it also takes less screen time.
And this movie nails the emotional core of the series. The world may be in danger, but ultimately what really matters to Sailor Moon is saving her friends and not wanting to see them hurt. This a story about saving the day through the power of love and friendship and it works because it’s not done in an abstract way, everything is built around real moments between characters. That’s what makes the narrative compelling and effective.
Lasers in space are good too though.
Even if you’ve never watched Sailor Moon, I’d recommend this movie because it delivers on everything the show does well. This is Sailor Moon, if you’ve seen this movie you know what Sailor Moon is. And it’s only 62 minutes.
I love this movie. It’s great.
Thank You For Your Time.