Yesterday was Sailor Moon’s birthday – not the series, the character (yes, I know all their birthdays… Pluto’s is the day before mine) and I should have known that the Sailor Moon Crystal creative team was waiting for this day to announce what’s up with Sailor Moon Crystal Season 4. Namely, that we’re not getting one. At least not in the way we thought.
Yesterday the official Sailor Moon website announced that “Dream,” the fourth arc of the Sailor Moon manga, which features the Dead Moon Circus, major power-ups for our heroes, and several shots in the arm of Silver Millennium era mythology, will be adapted not as a fourth “season” of Sailor Moon Crystal, but as two theatrical films. Neither where these films are in the development process nor when and how far apart they’ll be released have been revealed. What is known is that director Chiaki Kon is returning from Season 3, which showed a marked improvement over the first two seasons in writing and animation, so these films could end up being very well made. There is, of course, some concern on how this will affect the content.
Sailor Moon Crystal has so far mirrored the manga pretty much act-for-act, with each episode coming out to about 20 minutes. The Dream Arc, has 11 acts, two of which are nearly double-size, so we’re really looking at about 13 episodes worth of content. You can squeeze just under three episodes into an hour, bringing the full running time to 4 ½ – 5 hours. So, for these movies to be as faithful as the series has been to the manga, each movie would have to be around 2.5 hours, and while that sounds just fine to me, it’s is incredibly rare for an animated feature to exceed 90 minutes. It’s certainly been done – Akira is 124 minutes – but it’s not the norm.
Now, I would be happy as a clam to sit down for a 2 hour-plus theatrical Sailor Moon experience, but I don’t know how likely that is, and if that’s the case, Sailor Moon Crystal could be facing a serious backlash from even its most loyal defenders. There’s a fair amount of debate on whether or not a few more liberties could be taken in the adaptation of the manga, as some aspects of print media don’t always translate well to the screen, and plenty of people are absolutely fine with not adding content to their precious manga canon… but I don’t know how crazy they’ll be about anything beyond the most cursory omissions.
One thing is for sure: this is quite a gamble on Crystal’s part, and only (running) time will tell if this is an incredibly savvy move or a disaster waiting to happen. I think we’re all hoping for the former.