What Does the Future Hold for Sailor Moon?
With the trailer for Sailor Moon Cosmos finally arriving, completing a long-awaited adaptation of the original manga, we look at what the future might hold for the beloved anime franchise.
Sailor Moon Eternal, a duology of feature length animated films adapting the manga’s Dream arc, premiered in Japan back in January 2021 and dropped on Netflix the following June. This duology was highly anticipated since Sailor Moon Crystal was effectively cancelled after its well-received third season, and while some were concerned it might lack the runtime to adapt the arc authentically, the response was overwhelmingly positive. The only question that remained was when the final arc of the manga, Stars, would get the same treatment. Now, nearly a year later, we have our answer.
Set for a Summer 2023 release, a new duology of films titled Sailor Moon Cosmos will finish what Sailor Moon Crystal began, a faithful—at times perhaps too faithful—adaptation of Naoko Takeuchi’s iconic manga. This final arc will bring in fan favorite characters (and fetish ball inspirations) the Sailor Starlights, the polarizing Chibi Chibi, the ultimate villain, Chaos, who attacks through the manipulation of Sailor Galaxia and her Anima-Mates, and of course… Sailor Moon’s ultimate form (via some metaphysical gymnastics), Sailor Cosmos.
The Sailor Moon franchise has had a somewhat fraught production history, first with the original 1992 anime, then again for different reasons with Crystal in the 2010s. Due to production schedules and the fact that the manga was being written more or less concurrently with Sailor Moon ’92, the anime deviated from the manga in several significant ways. The most notable of these was the telescoping of the narrative with the inclusion of filler episodes, roughly tripling the length of each arc. Some of these filler eps are good, some are bad, and which are which is entirely subjective, but one thing all the fans can agree on is that the original manga story was not accurately represented, especially in the later seasons, which bear little resemblance to the source material outside the characters’ visual designs and names.
Thus the great appeal of Sailor Moon Crystal was a faithful adaptation of the manga, and that’s exactly what the fans got. However, while the story was faithful, the animation quality, particularly in the first season, was less that stellar. Considering the size and fervor of the Sailor Moon fanbase, and what a guaranteed commercial success Crystal was bound to be, many fans took this as a slap in the face, especially after such a long wait to see the manga’s story animated, but Toei course-corrected immediately, improving the animation in the show’s second season and giving it a complete overhaul in its third with a new art director. And then… there was no fourth season.
Despite the suggestion of more to come in the final shots of Crystal, fans got antsy. The Dream and Stars arcs, having deviated the most in their anime adaptations, Sailor Moon SuperS and Sailor Stars, were what fans were really looking forward to seeing animated, and the idea of getting stiffed on them yet again was incredibly off-putting. But then the Sailor Moon Eternal films were announced, with all the promotional material boasting a bigger budget and another bump in animation quality, and the final product didn’t disappoint.
WHAT COMES AFTER SAILOR MOON COSMOS?
We’re only a year away from embarking on the last leg of this journey, one 25 years in the making: an animated adaptation of the final arc of the manga with its original premise and original ending. The fandom is ready; we’ve been ready, and going by the performance of the Eternal films, there’s no reason to think Cosmos will be any different. For the first time in this history of this project, there’s no reason not to be optimistic, which now leaves only one question…
Where do we go from here? What’s next for this franchise? Obviously, an immediate reboot isn’t on the menu. It’s going to be at least a few years before this story and these characters are tackled again, but when they are, what will it look like?
So much of Crystal’s identity, its entire mission statement, was to faithfully adapt the manga, and it did, sometimes to a fault. Whatever your opinion, however, it can’t be denied that it accomplished what it set out to do. Naoko Takeuchi’s objections to the liberties taken by the ’92 anime were addressed, all trespasses rectified. Every fan clamoring for the manga in animated form has gotten what they wanted (or at least will next summer when Cosmos drops), so what will the next incarnation of Sailor Moon be? We’ve had the manga, then Sailor Moon ’92 and its non-canon feature films, and now Sailor Moon Crystal and its continuation in Eternal and Cosmos. There’s also the live-action tokusatsu series Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon as well as countless stage musicals. So, now that the manga has been adapted faithfully, satisfying purists, maybe a new take on the story with a few liberties won’t be quite as maligned.
A SAILOR MOON REBOOT?
Anyone who’s followed Den of Geek’s Sailor Moon coverage over the past decade knows where I stand on this, and this superfan’s opinion isn’t universal but it’s not unique. Sailor Moon ’92 had a lot of filler and some questionable changes, but other changes it made were improvements. A large contingent of fans love the manga’s story but feel its pace was a little too intense and didn’t allow for much character development outside the central power couple. Takeuchi herself has said that there were more ideas and character beats she’d have liked to explore if she hadn’t been hamstrung by relentless deadlines. A fresh new take on Sailor Moon that could pull from all its iterations has a certain appeal.
Whether it’s a new manga, a new anime, or a western comic or cartoon, a new vision of Sailor Moon that combines the lore of the manga, the spirit, comedy, and expanded supporting cast of the original anime, the solid character drama of the tokusatsu, and perhaps even some of the quirk and randomness of the original DiC dub would be mind-blowingly awesome. And perhaps now that there’s an official release of the manga and both anime series, professionally subtitled and dubbed, thanks to VIZ Media, a localized version of the story won’t be decried as such a sin.
I, for one, am ready for a reimagining set in San Francisco or some other bayside city featuring a Black or Latina Sailor Moon. And let’s see a supporting cast that’s equally diverse. Let’s vary their body types a little beyond Jupiter and Pluto being a little taller than the others. Let’s give Pluto that rumored but ultimately debunked Romani heritage. Make it official. And this extends to all the characters, not just the Sailor Senshi. Ain’t no reason that Spanish guitar behind Tuxedo Mask’s entrances can’t be emblematic of a Latinx background or that Naru can’t be revamped as a bright, funny Jewish girl from Yonkers. If someone told me a new version of Zoisite was nonbinary and Umino was on the Autism Spectrum, I would 100% buy it, so let’s do it.
Let’s meet the girls’ families for more than a brief cameo. How does Ami really feel about her absentee dad fucking off to be an artist in the woods? What’s it like for Usagi and Mamoru reconciling the epic romance of their past lives with their at best semi-compatible present life personalities? How much of a mindfuck is it for Setsuna (Pluto II) to be the time-displaced reincarnation of someone (Pluto I) who exists outside of time and was born thousands of years ago but won’t die for several more centuries in Crystal Tokyo? And what’s it like for her to be in love with a future version of a guy whom she can’t steal away from his girlfriend without betraying her vows of service and effectively aborting a child she’s quite fond of… or was fond of… or will be fond of?
Whatever. Time travel is weird.
I want to know what makes the villains tick beyond just doing things for the evulz. There’s at least a hint in the manga of some philosophical/political underpinnings to Beryl’s rejection of the Moon Kingdom. Sure, she’s in love with Endymion and jealous of Princess Serenity, but it would be far more interesting (and far less cliché and sexist) if that weren’t the only reason she sold her soul to a demonic entity and annihilated at least two civilizations. And with anime trending away from long stretches of formulaic filler episodes, you wouldn’t need a 200-episode series to accomplish this.
All of this is pipe-dreaming, of course, but the fact of the matter is, whether it’s in five years or ten or twenty, whether it’s on the page or on the screen, a reboot of Sailor Moon is inevitable. It’s simply too iconic an IP and too much a part of the pop-cultural lanscape to just end next summer when Cosmos drops. And when that happens, when Sailor Moon indeed returns, it can… at last… be anything.