Sailor Moon R laserdisc featured Columns 

Mooniversity: Sailor Moon R

By | November 22nd, 2022
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1994 promotional poster

Welcome back to Mooniversity, our monthly look at all things Sailor Moon. Today we are revisiting Sailor Moon R, the second season of the ’90s anime (which, depending on who you ask, stands for Sailor Moon Return, or Sailor Moon Romance.) Slightly shorter than its predecessor, at 43 episodes (which first aired in Japan from March 1993 to March 1994), the season can be roughly divided into three cours, the first of which is an original story resolving the loose ends from the first season finale, while the other two adapt the ‘Black Moon’ arc from the manga, introducing Chibiusa, the eponymous clan, Sailor Pluto, and the far future of Crystal Tokyo.

The first 13 episodes revolve around the Sailor Guardians and Tuxedo Mask regaining their memories after their resurrection in the previous season finale, and the alien siblings Ail and An, who are collecting energy for the last remnant of their homeworld, the Makai Tree. A lot of fans write off this arc since, apart from fixing our heroes’ memories, it’s not relevant to the wider story, and is therefore entirely skippable, but Ail and An are a pretty sympathetic and likable pair of antagonists, with them respectively forming an amusing love triangle with Usagi and Mamoru in their civilian guises.

However, the most memorable part of this arc has to be the amnesiac Mamoru’s new alter-ego, the Moonlight Knight, a hilarious yet endearingly Orientalist hero, a white-clad Bedouin figure whose leitmotif emphasizes a Middle Eastern flute. Yes, Orientalism is bad, even from a Japanese studio, but isn’t it great how the most romantic guise Toei Animation could conceive of after Tuxedo Mask was an Arabian Nights wannabe? As a half-Lebanese fan, I can’t help but feel a little proud, and envious of how cool he looks, as well as (yes) the probably unintentional resemblance to Marvel’s Moon Knight.

Mamoru Chiba's temporary alter-ego the Moonlight Knight

So, everything goes back to normal, just as Chibiusa falls out of the sky onto Usagi, the Black Moon Clan’s Rubeus and the Spectre Sisters show up, and (to add insult to Usagi’s injury), Mamoru suddenly breaks up with her after receiving disturbing premonitions of their future. It’s a major departure from the source material, and a pretty heartbreaking moment, with Usagi struck like a deer in headlights at this abrupt turn.

However, it makes little difference to the formula, with Tuxedo Mask still showing up to help the Sailor Guardians against each monster-of-the-week, before abruptly leaving because he can’t be with Usagi. The reason for this change is likely lost to the midsts of time, although it might’ve been done to ensure Usagi was more sympathetic than her manga counterpart, who becomes irrationally jealous of Mamoru and Chibiusa. Similarly, when the reconciled couple meet King Endymion in the future, he reveals he sent the visions to test their love, somewhat absolving Mamoru of the blame for the break-up.

Usagi's reaction to Mamoru breaking up with her is simply devastating

Among the other major differences from the manga are how many of the Black Moon Clan receive redemption arcs: the Spectre Sisters all eventually see the light, inspired by the Guardians’ compassion and empathy, while Saphir (who doesn’t try to kill Usagi, natch) is tragically murdered by Wiseman for trying to get his brother to see the light; Prince Demade responds by turning on his evil “advisor,” and sacrifices himself to protect Sailor Moon from the fiend.

Rubeus still dies, closing out his cour getting hoisted by his own petard, while Esmeraude receives a fate similar to the dwarf Fafnir from German mythology, being forcibly turned into a bloated dragon by Wiseman, as a “reward” for her hunger for more power — still, it’s hard not to feel a little sympathetic at how she’s tricked into becoming a mindless, hideous monster, simply because she wanted Demande to desire her more than Neo-Queen Serenity.

The terrible transformation of Esmeraude

Perhaps the biggest change has to be how, instead of Sailor Pluto (who’s absent from the finale), it’s Usagi and Mamoru who are responsible for bringing their daughter back from the brink of her corruption into Black Lady, which is how it should be really: since her redemption and Wiseman/Death Phantom’s demise are in the same episode, it’s a more emotionally satisfying conclusion to the whole arc, and pays off Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship woes too. Interestingly, Chibiusa does not become Sailor Chibi Moon here, presumably as Toei liked the symmetry of her in a white dress resembling that of her mother’s better.

Continued below

Overall, despite Death Phantom being a far less interesting final boss than Queen Beryl, Sailor Moon R is arguably a stronger season than its predecessor, thanks to having all five of the main Guardians in unison from the start, and by featuring better pacing as a result of starting with an original story. Last but not least, the season features not one but two barnstorming moments set to pop music.

This is the sound of an electric guitar kicking in

Perhaps buoyed by the transcendence of the main theme being played over Queen Beryl’s defeat, the 22nd episode (eight chapters into Chibiusa’s story) sees all of the Sailor Guardians and Spectre Sisters face off to the sound of “Ai no Senshi (lit. Warrior of Love).” And if that wasn’t awesome enough, in the finale, our heroes do battle with Death Phantom to “La Soldier,” the song from the stage musicals, which had only just begun in 1993 — suffice to say, hearing it is exciting.

We’ll cover the tie-in movie at a later date; see you next time for Sailor Moon S.

//TAGS | Mooniversity

Christopher Chiu-Tabet

Chris is the news manager of Multiversity Comics. A writer from London on the autistic spectrum, he enjoys tweeting and blogging on Medium about his favourite films, TV shows, books, music, and games, plus history and religion. He is Lebanese/Chinese, although he can't speak Cantonese or Arabic.


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