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SailorMoon, "sentai series for young ladies", broadcast in France since 1994, is worth your attention in many ways...

Over four years ago, Naoko Takeuchi, a young shoujo artist known for her work on the figure-skating manga "The Cherry Project", wakes up in a flash: she has found the way to become famous. She creates the character of Sailor V, a masked heroin in a very sexy sailor outfit. Tôei Animation likes the first issues of the manga immensely, and the project is laid down for a sentai animated series (in the Saint Seiya or Samurai Troopers style) featuring a group of five young girls. The animated series was to be aired at the same time as the manga, Sailor Moon, was published. The success has not abated since then. Twelve volumes of the manga, four movies (including a short-movie) and over 170 TV episodes, split in five series, have been released so far.

Things are not what they seem to be ...

TSUKINO Usagi (Bunny Rivière in France, Serena in the US version) is a typical 14-old schoolgirl : not overly fond of homework and dreaming endlessly about love. One day, she meets Luna, a speaking small black she-cat that reveals her real identity : Usagi is the reincarnation of Princess Selenity (or Selene, or Serenity, pick your choice...), who in the days of yore (the Silver Millenium) lived in the Realm of Moon with the Queen Mother and her four faithful friends the Sailor Senshi (Sailor-suited Warriors). Driven out of her domain by the agents of the Dark Kingdom (ruled by Queen Beryl and her minions Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite and Kunzite), she was forced to seek refuge in the body of an earthling girl.

Usagi transforms into Sailor Moon, a crossbreed between a sentai fighter and a magical girl (she owns a magical rod and can alter her appearance and clothes, much like Minky Momo), and sends back to limbo the monsters of the Dark Kingdom trying to drain the energy from human bodies to awake their supreme ruler.

On the way, she meets the current incarnations of her former friends : Sailor Mercury in the 9th episode (as MIZUNO Ami/ Amy, the smart kid), Sailor Mars in the 11th (HINO Rei, Raya in France, Raye in USA, a hot-tempered but cute girl living in a buddhist temple), then Sailor Jupiter, alias KINO Makoto, also known as Marcy in France, or Lita (or is it Leda ? A much better, in reference to one of Zeus/Jupiter love conquests !). And eventually, Sailor Venus in eps 33 (AINO Minako (Japan), Mina (US), or Amelie/Mathilda in France), who realized her Sailor-potential one year earlier, long before the other Sailor Warriors, under the guidance of Artemis, a white (and male) counterpart of Luna... and acted as a super-heroin known as Sailor V. (Takeuchi was too emotionally involved in her former character just to drop her down ...)

This band of sisters, under the inspired mentorship of Luna and her lover Artemis, gradually becomes an efficient combat unit and defeats one by one the Dark Generals. These "handsome villains" are quite lovable. Nephrite, for one, as a deeply moving ending : after falling in love with Naru/Molly (Usagi's best friend until the beginning of her adventures), defects to the bright side, only to be executed shortly after.

After 46 episodes, Usagi, powered-up with the energy from the other team members (who dramatically give their lives one after the other), ends the threat of the Dark Kingdom forever. The Sailor-senshi get back to life, with no memories whatsoever of their fighting odyssey, and seem bound to live normal lives.

... A nice ending; but the Tôei would have been crazy not to profit of this success longer... Thus, Sailor Moon R followed, where Usagi sees her dream of a love story with Chiba Mamoru (Darrien) come true, the Tuxedo masked man that regularly (even inevitably) comes to her rescue in her darkest hour. He is none other than Prince Endymion, Prince Consort to Princess Selene. In this new series, the heroines are pitted against a threat from outer space (in the form of an alien vegetal life form, again hungry for human energy) for 13 episodes, during which they develop the skills for newer, more powerful magical attacks (they raise levels like in a Final Fantasy-like RPG !).

Then for the next 30 episodes or so, Evil forces from the future attack. This is the occasion to meet Sailor Pluto, guardian of the Time Gates (who appears shortly in the following series under the name of Meiô Setsuna, next followed in Sailor Moon S by Sailor Saturn). Also introduced is Chibi-Usagi, future daughter of Usagi and... Mamoru.

And it goes on, and on, and on ...

Starting from episode 90, a third series (Sailor Moon S for Super) confronts the Sailor senshi with a mad scientist and his mad female assistants. A mysterious second senshi team appears, with the somewhat older Ten'ô Haruka and Kaiô Michiru as Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. Chibi-Usa also comes back from the future, and she can fight, too ! as Sailor Chibi Moon.

The fourth series, Sailor Moon SuperS (awkwardly called SS by the producers for a short time, before the parental uproar quickly corrected that. In case you're wondering, the SS were infamous Nazi units during WWII, responsible for civilian mass murders), starting at episode 129, eventually presents the long-missing Sailor Saturn (No room left after that, I'm afraid), before taking it back.

The last series to date, Sailor Moon Sailor Stars, unites once and for all the ten warriors and transforms Usagi-chan into the nearly all-powerful Eternal Sailor Moon. No more laughs this time, it's gonna be serious ! In France, the second half of Sailor Moon S is currently showing. The manga, published by Glénat, is much more accurately translated than the TV series.

On the big screen...

SailorMoon also invaded the Japanese theatres. At the end of '93, a Sailor Moon R movie was released. New background music (as beautiful as in Sailor Moon S) and a perfect direction made it really pleasing to the eye and ear. But the story is catchy, too. It introduces Fiore, a childhood friend of Mamoru, who happens to be an E.T. and "of course" possessed by the soul of an evil flower bent on using him to conquer the Earth. It is the occasion for a series of verrrry romantic lines, superb flashback scenes and very sincere homages to Saint Seiya, Dragon Ball Z, Rg Veda (find it by yourself !) and even Nadia (almost the same end... and I don't need to say it's really moving).

One year later, a new work of art, this time based on a parallel story drawn by Naoko Takeuchi. Here, the small cat Luna finds true love with an... human, Kakeru, who wants to reach the Moon and find the beloved Princess haunting his dreams (as in the famous Japanese tale of Kaguya, from whence the title of this movie is drawn). Usagi, after deliberating with the other senshi, fulfils for a short while Luna's dearest wish by allowing her to enter for a short while Kakeru's dream in a woman's body to offer him an eternal kiss ... Though in fact Luna tries to appear as Princess Kaguya to effectively steal this so wished-for kiss, Kakeru recognizes in this woman the heart of the cat he nursed for a while ... and gives HER this loving kiss. One of the most stirring moments of Sailor Moon.

Although Sailor Moon presents evident flaws (repetitive fighting scenes, useless homage to other sentai shows, or some characters underdeveloped to my liking), although it is a very commercially-oriented series (portraying girls, so that young girls can identify, while boys ogle their nubile bodies), it nevertheless possesses an undeniable charm (without which Usagi & friends would never have had this amply deserved success). The credit for this should probably be attributed to an experienced staff, I mean Jun-ichi Satô or Kunihiko Ikuhara as directors, and Kazuko Tadano (seen on Dancougar and Crystal Triangle) for the base design...

Cyber Namida was created and designed by René-Gilles Deberdt. All rights reserved.