Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Rise, Fall and (Possible) Rebirth of Sailor Moon! Chapter 7 - Arrival in the States!

With 200 episodes, 3 movies, 5 specials under its belt, Sailor Moon became one of the most popular animes in all of Japan. When it was released elsewhere in the world, most of the episodes remained intact. But, here in the states, Moonface's path there was a long, difficult road and here's why.

It all began in the 90s. Toei was making bids to companies to bring Sailor Moon to the states and first ones to get was not only Renaissance-Atlantic Entertainment, but also Bandai (who made the Sailor Moon dolls in Japan) and Toon Makers. Their idea for Sailor Moon back then was a live action/animated hybrid t.v. show. A 17 minute pilot and music video were made and shown to Toei but they rejected it flatly, stating that it will cost more to make an original show than exporting and dubbing actual anime itself. According the Cartoon Encyclopedia that I read at the school library once, this show was described as "a cross between the Babysitters Club and She-Ra." And because Renaissance-Atlantic did music with Saban, after aquiring Super Sentai footage, which ultimately became Power Rangers, this version of Sailor Moon was mistakenly called "Saban Moon." This idea never came to into fruition beyond the pilot and the music video, although some of the merchandise for that version were used years later, including the Moon Cycle.

Not long after, somewhere down the road, Renaissance-Atlantic lost the rights to do Sailor Moon, and ended up with DIC Entertainment, now called Cookie Jar Entertainment. DIC, who were known for such cartoons like Inspector Gadget, The Littles, MASK, and cartoons based on video games like Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog, decided to give Sailor Moon a shot and unlike the Toon Makers' version, this one is a an english dub of the anime itself. Years before Sailor Moon, DIC did an english dub of an anime before, which was Knights of the Zodiac, which was a kid-friendly, edited, english dub version of the ultra-violent anime called Saint Seiya, one of many animes done by the same people who did the Sailor Moon anime, Toei Animation, Co. Ltd. To make it happen, DIC did a short promo on the anime itself, saying that it's bigger and popular than Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles combined. In the promo, some things were different that what we see the anime now. For instance, the Sailor Senshi's civilian names were different from the actual english dub today:

Sailor Moon - Victoria
Sailor Mercury - Blue
Sailor Mars - Dana
Sailor Jupiter - Sarah
Sailor Venus - Carrie

Luckly when the anime came out, the names were changed to the ones we know today:

Sailor Moon - Serena (Short for Serenity)
Sailor Mercury - Amy (replace the "I" for Ami and added the "Y" and her english last name was Anderson, but it was mentioned in one episode before going back to Mizuno.)
Sailor Mars - Raye (her name pronounciation is the same, except her first name is spelled R-A-Y-E and not R-E-I.)
Sailor Jupiter - Lita (a pun for lightning or named after Leda, one of Jupiter's moons and not related to the ring name of former female wrestler, Amy Dumas.)
Sailor Venus - Mina (DUH! It is short for Minako. Artemis calls her Mina in the manga. So, there is no change to her first name, sort of.)

Although they weren't in the promo, but appeared in the later seasons of the anime, here is the rest of characters' english names:

Mamoru Chiba - Darien Sheilds
Chibiusa - Rini (Short for Serena, just like Chibiusa is a nickname for little Usagi, so...nuff said)
Sailor Uranus - Amara
Sailor Neptune - Michelle (alternate english name for Michiru)
Sailor Pluto - Trista

The only character whose name isn't changed is Hotaru Tomoe (Sailor Saturn). However, they mispronounce her last as To-Moe and not its proper pronounciation, To-Mo-E.
And of course, Tuxedo Mask at the time was called "The Masked Tuxedo," which was either a nod or a rip off of Masked Rider, the english equivelant of the japanese action show, Kamen Rider. After all, Kamen is japanese for mask and Kamen Rider means Masked Rider, go figure.

(clears throat) Anyway, the anime itself wasn't released until September 11, 1995, not only around Sailor Mercury's birthday, but also 6 years before the tragegy that is 9/11. When Sailor Moon first aired, it was on Fox Kids as a sneak preview. The episode they showed was "The Return of Sailor Moon," the storyarc that began the anime version of Sailor Moon R, that was the filler season known as the Doom Tree Saga. But, somewhere in the middle of fall, the actual anime was released in syndication. When the anime started from the first few episodes, they had a Star Wars-esqe crawl that reads:

"From a Far Away Place and Time, Earth's Greatest Adventure is About to Begin."

Second of all, not only the original music was done by Don Perry Music, but the Sailor Moon theme in the english dub was their take of the theme from the original japanese version, Moonlight Densetsu. It was sung by Brynne and Nicole Price. The tune of Moonlight Densetsu was there, the only difference was the lyrics. The same thing happen many years ago when Speed Racer (Mach GO GO GO!) came to the states. Just like Sailor Moon, the music from the intro of Speed Racer was the same like the original japanese version, the only thing different was the lyrics. Anyway, the original japanese version had decent songs like Ai No Senshi and Moon Revenge. But the english version a decent list of songs, too like My Only Love, Oh, Starry Night, Rainy Day Man and my personal favorite, She's Got the Power. And why that song is my favorite, because of one man, Stan Bush. That's right, boys and girls, the same Stan Bush who did the songs, Dare and The Touch for Transformers: The Movie. I always assume that there would be a Sailor Moon/Transformers through Stan Bush. Moving on.
From the first season to all way to the Ayakashi sisters reformed, the first 82 episodes of the english dub were released that time. Here is an interesting fact on the english dub's production, Fred Ladd, who was the creative consultant for Sailor Moon, was also the one responsible for being classic animes like Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atom), Kimba the White Lion and Gigantor (Tetsujin 28) to the states. After the first intial run, the show was cancelled until it was brought back by Cartoon Network in 1998, thanks in part by a internet group known as S.O.S., Save Our Sailors. Not only the first 82 episodes, but also the rest of episodes of the Sailor Moon R arc, which at the time were called "The Lost Episodes." However, after the last episode of the Sailor Moon R saga, DIC lost the dubbing rights to Sailor Moon and ended up on the door step of Cloverway, an international branch of Toei Animation. Under Cloverway's direction, they dub the episodes of both Sailor Moon S and SuperS, and with some controversial edits, which I will mention later. They were plans for a dub of the last season of Sailor Stars, but due to lockdown by Toei and english licencies expired their licences on the property itself, it didn't happen. From the 200 episodes from the japanese version, only 159 episodes were dubbed, some were edited for content. Speaking of which, I talked about the good, but let's talk about the bad. Although the voice acting was good, some of the writing is a bit akward at times, the original music is a bit different for my taste, except for the transformation theme, the senshi theme, the riffs of Tuxedo Mask, etc. and of course, the editing. The FCC had a field day with this, including muting death scenes, including turning the two part finale of season 1 into one episode. Kids gotta learn about life, and show them that its not all sugar-coated, if you get my drift. In the DIC dub, they use to do a short segment called Sailor Says. You all know that I grew up with action cartoons that have life lessons after every episode like G.I. Joe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Centurions, The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and so on and so forth. Of all the animes that have life lessons at the end of every episode, except for The Return of Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon was the first. One more thing, when Cloverway took over they dub, they maintain the music from the original japanese version, but the damage was done.

Bottom Line, the english dub of Sailor Moon is like a double-edged sword. Despite the name changes, the editing, original music, and everything in between, it was still a decent anime to watch and if it wasn't for this dub, we would never had the chance to look up Sailor Moon's past and know its differences between the dub and the original japanese version.

Next time, I will talk about the controveries around this wonderful anime and the reasons it got grounded in Japan for many years after the dub was cancelled. Until then, Stay Gold and Godspeed.

(Street Fighter Alpha Stage End theme plays) 

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