Thursday, July 28, 2011

Web Work Review: Sailor Moon R Abridged

Out of all the popular and "well-made" abridged series on the Net, I have to say that Sailor Moon Abridged by Megami33 and company is my least favorite.  It's weird because I'll admit they do a lot of good things with their show.  Their complete overhauls of their characters are fun to watch, except when they go too much or too far, they take some potshots at the English dub (if not nearly as many as something by, say, 4Kids), and their actors are more often than not very, very good.  What leaves a bad taste in my mouth might come off as silly, but I can assure you it is serious business for me: the music selections.  Whoever does the editing for that show apparently runs under the assumption that it's good practice to pick and play song snippets based only on taking that segment's lyrics at face value.  For example, If a scene takes place in a burning building, a less-experienced music supervisor would set it to "Great Balls of Fire", "Ring of Fire", or "Disco Inferno", and I can guarantee you those songs weren't written with being trapped in such a scenario in mind.  Even if they were, having the music tell you what's going on in front of your eyes is corny, noobish, plus you run the risk of the whole song having a meaning unbefitting of the moment it's been appropriated for.  This is a phenomenon known as "Isn't It Ironic" and, if you haven't gathered by now, it's one of my pet peeves..  So given that this is how I happen to view the whole of Sailor Moon Abridged, I did not have fond memories of their take on the Sailor Moon R movie after the first time I saw it.  But would a second third fourth fifth run-through change my opinion?

NB: As we go through this movie, I would like to remind everyone that I will placing most of my critiques against what the SMA team did themselves to the source movie and not to the movie itself, so the plot of the source movie will be glossed over for the most part. 

So the opening credits sequence deptics the civilian scouts visiting a flower park, and - is that the Japanese theme song in the background?  Hm, we might be in for a better show than I thought.  Also of note are the credits themselves; the footage used keeps the original Japanese opening credits (superimposed with added credits from a fansub), but Mina, being the space case that she is, can not only see the credits on the fourth wall, but assumes from them that their action is taking place in... Korea.  I warned you, this kind of character derailment is one of the things I really like about SMA.

Then the plot barges in, and we meet our villain Fiore, who in this version is portrayed as a former gay partner with Tuxedo Mask / Darien ten years before, no matter how much Darien (and Serena) try to deny it.  Also, get used to hearing the phrase "ten years"; they're trying to turn it into a meme.  They next day, the civilian scouts discover a mess of dead unconscious zombied bodies littering the streets of Tokyo Tokyo, USA, due to a flower monster born from a magical dandelion planted that night.  It's at this point where the scouts transform, and, well, the leitmotifs this show's editors use for the transformation sequences have never rubbed me the right way.  They're all songs related in title only to each Scout's element or character trait.  This movie happens to introduce new transformation songs; will we have any more luck here?  ...NO.
  • Sailor Moon: "Candy Store" by Hyper Crush.  Need I remind you that fat/bulimia jokes are a big thing with here in the abridged show.
  • Sailor Mercury: "Don't Trust Me" by 3OH!3.  Specifically, the part that goes "Shush girl/shut your lips/do the Helen Keller/and talk with your hips" because, you know, she's so quiet and almost no one in-series can hear her.  Protip: I hear the real Helen Keller wan't mute.
  • Sailor Mars: "Fire Burning" by Sean Kingston.  She uses fire magic.
  • Sailor Jupiter: A remix of "Somebody Told Me" by The Killers.  In SMA, Sailor Jupiter is a male-to-female transgender, so they must have thought that taking the line "[...]you had a boyfriend/who looked like a girlfriend" literally was a good idea.
  • Sailor Venus: "LoveGame" by Lady Gaga.  Her powers are usually interpreted as love or heart-themed, as per her namesake goddess.
So yeah, not funny all around.  Oh, and Moon's late to the party (claiming that she was distracted by a buffet left unattended), so after transforming she discovers the other Scouts were knocked out (with Mars enjoying the pain).  The monster proceeds to finish off Moon, but is blocked twice by Tuxedo Mask.  His second defence leaves him all but dead (complete with a slow-motion censor sound), letting Fiore and the monster take him up to wherever.  Something else about this series that's always bothered me, particularly around this scene: their censorship is inconsistent.  For example, s??? doesn't get censored but bulls??? does?  Either censor both or neither of them!  ...Preferably both.

But before they can do that, Luna and Artemis give the scouts some exposition, and Mini-Moon gives some well-wishes of her own.  Perhaps I should explain: Sailor Mini-Moon first appears in season 2 of the original show, and the original movie was set at the end of that season, but the SMA crew didn't get that far at the time.  Thus, in their version of the 'verse, Mini-Moon makes her debut here in season 2's movie.  Don't worry; we're given explanation that she is the daughter of Serena and Darien in the future (after a seven-year food-induced coma).  Woah, this is heavy.  Serena is none too pleased at the sudden announcement, particularly in this interpretation.  Also, why does Mini-Moon only talk in baby-like giggles?  Is she really supposed to be a baby in this continuity?  Please, she had better get some more characterization in the series proper.

So the scouts fly off to invade the poorly-CG-renered asteroid (this was 1994; it's not SMA's fault) and discover Fiore, his pet flower monster, and Tuxedo Mask, trapped in a crystal prison filled with... vodka.  Which is a healing substance on Fiore's home planet.  So... space vodka?  They should so use that on DBZ Abridged.  Back on topic, Fiore tells the Scouts of his plan to take over the world by littering it with his seed.  ...That's supposed to be flower seeds, people.  I really, truly wish you don't know what else the could mean by that, I said in sincerity mode.  Then again, they run with that joke for a long time, so the more innocent of you would have to live with it.

A wave of flower monsters rises up to face the Scouts, and after yet another "seed" routine, the Scouts make short work of them.  Mars even calls out her attack with "Mars Spinning Bird Kicku!" apropos of nothing.  No, seriously, her attack doesn't even remotely resemble the Spinning Bird Kick.  Even the one from that one awful movie.  But the flower monsters make one last stand and the other Scouts, sensing the danger, push Moon out of the way before getting swallowed up by the seed... beasts.  I apologize.  Fiore takes advantage of the situation by stealing Moon's energy in exchange for letting the other Scouts free.  Tuxedo Mask breaks free of his healing space vodka crystal prison (stacking adjectives make it awesome) and albeit drunk, protects her from being killed in the process, by throwing a fateful rose at him, killing the monster.

But wait!  The asteroid they're on is about to crash into Earth, acheiving Fiore's goal of destroying the planet after all!  But not if Moon's crustal has anything to say about it; it triggers the power of love which revives her to consciousness, dematerializes Fiore, and re-dresses her.  In the face of all this stress, Megami33's voice remains cool, calm, and collected, cementing her status - and my opinion - of her as a talented little actress.  And - what's this?  They're playing music from the actual (Japanese) soundtrack?  This is just a torrent of awesome!  The SMA crew is treating this epic scene with the dignity and respect it deserves!  I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT!! AND IT IS --

"Let's shift into turbo!"

And with that, the music suddenly cuts to the theme song from Power Rangers Turbo.  Oh, right, because she just said the word 'turbo', and it's in the title, too...



FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUI forgot my lines.  ..."That's it, I'm taking this review into maximum overdrive"?  I'm not writing that!

Well, there you have it.  This has got to be the worst example of careless music selection in the whole of Sailor Moon Abridged, made even worse by the fact that they interrupted the crowning music of awesome from the source movie while doing it!  And let's not even get into Power Rangers Turbo's widely-held status as one of the worst seasons of that franchise!  You finally really did it...  You maniacs!  You blew it up!  ...The moment, I mean.  And what's up with the credits, with that "Sailor Earth" dance?  I'm not sure of the rules, but is it possible to have a Big Lipped Alligator Moment in the credits?  Phwew, I'm way past the point of caring.  You may now exit your browser.

Looking back on this "movie", I don't hate it as much as I did after the first time I watched it.  I guess the shock of the ending has worn off, although I still maintain my point that it was a boneheaded move to bait and switch the soundtrack like that.  It's times like these that make the project come across as the work of a pre-teen AMV maker.  Although looking at the franchise in macrocosm, that would be an unfair comparison to make, since they put a lot of work into other aspects of the show, particularly the character redefinement.  So, sorry if I'm spending so much time discussing what may be viewed as a minor or non-issuee to many others out there, but by Sabrina, it's been bothering ME.

The Call: 3 inappropriate background songs out of 5 (C)

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