This Sailor Moon Eternal review contains NO spoilers! Read on with confidence.
Back in 2016, the final episode of Sailor Moon Crystal closed out the manga’s “Infinity” arc and in its last moments teased what every fan was hoping for next, something we’d all been deprived of for far too long… a faithful adaptation of the manga’s fourth arc, entitled “Dream.”
The premise of “Dream” is that on the day of the solar eclipse, the Dead Moon Circus, an ancient enemy of Silver Millennium (the Moon Kingdom) appears in Tokyo. Their leader, a withered hag named Zirconia, sends her minions to locate the Silver Crystal—big surprise—as well as a new MacGuffin called the Golden Crystal. This is so her mistress, Nehelenia, can step up as the rightful ruler, or so she claims, of both Silver Millennium and Earth. Around this time, a Pegasus appears to Chibi-usa, asking for her help in defeating Nehelenia. The Sailor Guardians, all freshly minted high school students, step up to face this new threat, only to be hit where it hurts when the agents of the Dead Moon get inside their heads, triggering their deepest fears in order to take them down.
“Dream” was where the manga, having just hit its stride in the previous arc, really started to go for the gold in terms of character development and mythology. The Sailor Moon team was finally complete, and we got to explore the hopes and fears of each character. We saw flashes of Silver Millennium that not only built upon the backstory we first saw back in the “Dark Kingdom” arc, but gave that backstory further depth and new context.
We even learned more about Elysion, the Earth realm to which Prince Endymion was heir. All that and Chibi-usa got a love interest who was more than just a generational Xerox of her father; Helios was a completely different character from Mamoru with his own distinct personality, motives, and backstory. “Dream” was, for many fans, where the story of Sailor Moon went from awesome to enthralling.
And then Sailor Moon SuperS, its anime adaptation… was not.
Look, SuperS had a lot going for it. I think it gets more hate than it really deserves, but a lot of that is because it took so many liberties with the story and omitted so much of what made “Dream” great (most notably the return of the Outers), which rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Not to mention the tonal whiplash of going from the bittersweet darkness of the previous season to something a lot more lighthearted and comedic outside of a few key episodes.
Which is really just a long-winded way of saying that Netflix’s Sailor Moon Eternal was a long time coming, and fans were hungry for it. It’s legitimately good with a few very minor caveats, and it’s now available on Netflix.
The change in medium works fine. The cliffhanger that Part 1 ends on plays out a little differently from how it does in the manga, but everything is still there, just rearranged to make Part 1 a satisfying movie unto itself, which I wholly approve of. And due to the nature of the earlier acts of the arc, Part 1 feels somewhat episodic. Shuffling a few scenes around might have made it a stronger adaptation and a more cinematic experience, but it was faithful to the source material, which is what the fans wanted, so it gets points for that.
There was a shift in the extent of the localization. Sailor Moon Crystal’s English dub eliminated a lot of the Japanese language elements like honorifics, and while I understand that to a point, hearing Usagi call Mamoru “Mamo” always struck my ears a little wrong and took me out of the moment. In the Sailor Moon Eternal films, that problem no longer exists, and hearing Stephanie Sheh (Usagi) and Robbie Daymond (Mamoru) call each other “Mamo-chan” and “Usako” felt so natural that I didn’t even notice they were doing it for, like, the first 40 minutes. Which is as it should be.
Overall, the Viz dub cast does a great job, having really settled into their roles, and it’s also nice seeing John Eric Bentley, Michael Yurchak, and Erik Scott Kimerer showing their range by adjusting their performances to match the differences in the Amazon Trio’s manga counterparts. Oh, and the music is pretty good too, better in Part 2 than Part 1, but not by a very wide margin.
As for the story, were cuts made? Obviously. All you have to do is look at the total running time to see that. But to be honest, it’s not really anything anyone but the most fundamentalist fans will miss; all the beats are there: the character development, the power-ups, the villains, the cats’ human forms, the Amazoness’ entire storyline, Chibi-usa’s entire storyline, and (thank you, God) Mamoru’s entire storyline—something he desperately could have used in the later seasons of the ’90s anime, where he had been reduced to the most boring and unengaging love interest since Raoul from Phantom of the Opera. It’s all there, folks, and if you loved the manga, you’re going to love Sailor Moon Eternal. If you’re unfamiliar with the manga, but have been digging Crystal, you’re going to love it. And if you prefer the ’90s anime to the manga… you’re still probably going to enjoy it a great deal.
Oh, and do yourself a favor and watch the closing credits to both movies. Part 1 features a cover of “Watashitachi ni Naritakute,” the first ending theme for SuperS as well as a post-credits scene that teases Part 2, and Part 2 has a cover of “Rashiku Ikimasho,” the second ending theme for Supers. I was hoping for a post-credits scene for Part 2 that might tease an adaptation of Stars, but sadly… no such luck, so we’re going to have to live with that suspense a little longer. I’m guessing an adaptation of the final arc of the manga is going to be predicated on how well Eternal does, but hopefully, we won’t have to wait until 2026 to see it.
Overall, I give Sailor Moon Eternal, Parts 1 & 2 the seal of approval. You’re going to have fun and feel that Sailor Moon love where it hits you best, so make a double-feature night of it, pop some popcorn, and dream a little dream.