Apologies. This review would have come sooner if not for a shipping SNAFU with my review copy, but I finally got the Special Collector’s Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack for Sailor Moon Crystal’s Dark Kingdom Arc, retroactively referred to as Season 1 by the official production team, so that’s what we’re going with. So, how did this home release measure up?
Hold on. I’m going to need a drink for this. A strong one.
I’m going to start by saying that I don’t expect the impossible. Not every home release is going to be the Game of Thrones Blu-rays, and I don’t expect them to be. This is a campaign of limited resources and what Viz can offer is almost entirely dependent on what Toei gives them to work with and how much time and money they’re willing to invest in a home release. That said, let’s dive into my review of what I like to call the “It Took You Two Years For This?” Edition also known as the “Are You Serious?” Edition or the “How Lazy Can We Be?” Edition.
I’ll do this set a kindness and start with the good points.
On the upside, we’re getting the Blu-ray versions of the episodes, rather than the original online streaming versions, and thank Gods for that because do I even need to go into it? No, enough has been said on that count by everyone. So, the episodes are crisp and clear, still animated pretty crappily but that’s not the fault of the Blu-Ray. I’m not killing the messenger on that one.
The full-color prints of the Japanese DVD covers are a smart inclusion so that the American consumer doesn’t miss out on that beautiful artwork. I’m still trying to work out the logistics of Mars’ pose, but it’s illustrated beautifully.
And while we’re talking illustration…
The real value in the set comes in the companion booklet, which is chock full of full-color artwork, not just of the Senshi, but also the villains, the supporting cast, items, and locations. It also features an episode guide, cast interviews, song lyrics; It’s very thorough. It’s also the best we’re going to get in the realm of special features.
I don’t want to sound greedy, but I gotta be real here. In the current market, for better or worse, extras have become a standard metric of home release quality. Sadly, this set is hurting for them in a very real way. The Blu-rays themselves have clean opening and closing videos as well as the trailer, but those barely even counts as extras. That’s just standard for anime. And the Blu-ray image gallery? Here’s a clip to describe the degree of sad that applies to the paltry dozen or so images offered for the entire season:
There is an interview with the voice actors for the Senshi and Tuxedo Mask (though Kate Higgins is conspicuously absent yet again; what up, girl?) but it’s fairly short and doesn’t really explore any of the questions, which are fairly softball, in any real depth. Cristina Vee talking about the differing interpretations of Sailor Mars is about as good as it gets. I seriously sat down and watched all the available special features in fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes. For real. That means if you get the Standard Edition Blu-ray, you would get what could be considered sparse even for a basic DVD release. I mean, seriously. Come on, Viz.
Where was the “Moon Pride” video that blew up the internet two years ago? Where were the episode commentary tracks from the Japanese Blu-ray releases? Viz has the rights to everything Sailor Moon, and it wouldn’t be the first time an anime home release subtitled a Japanese commentary. I get that Sailor Moon Classic is nearly 25 years old, so I’m forgiving of a paucity of behind-the-scenes material for a series made in the ’90s, but Crystal dropped in 2014, in the era of home release.
This isn’t 1998. We’re living in a post-Lord of the Rings world, and when you issue a home release, you know what’s expected of you, especially when you’re dealing with a fanbase as rabid and loyal as the Moonies, double that if they’ve been waiting DECADES for your product. Even if they didn’t plan for it over in Japan, you’re really telling me Viz couldn’t have arranged some interviews or behind-the-scenes looks at the animation team’s process, the Japanese seiyuu, or at the very least their own American voice actors in the studio or at a table read or something?
Honestly, what is Viz holding out for? If they’re sitting on some motherlode of extras to release in a series box, I not-so-humbly suggest that it is not the genius marketing ploy they may think it is. Just take a look at how gamers feel about how much of their games are becoming monetized DLC to forecast how well something like that would go over.
Look, it’s not out of line to say that even if you liked Crystal, which I for the most part did, the show came as kind of a disappointment. The fanbase was pretty evenly split on the writing, but I think we can all agree that the visuals for the first two seasons were half-assed as hell. With all that dragging it down, a really solid home release, while not able to make up for those shortcomings, would have certainly made it worthy of purchase beyond the completionist impulse. Sadly, I’m guessing most fans will find this home release, much like its source material, something of a let-down in one way or another.