The third series brings with it a slightly edgier feel and some new sailors too, both of which help make it my favourite of the Sailor Moon material.
This time the Sailor Soldiers go up against the Death Busters, who are out to steal pure heart crystals. These crystals are the manifestation of a persons pure heart however, and without it the victim will die, so Usagi and the others leap into action as even they are targeted. However, two mysterious new figures appear, Sailors Uranus and Neptune, and theyíre after pure hearts too! Within three special pure hearts are talismans, which if brought together with release the Holy Grail. With that the Death Busters can bring their master Pharaoh Ninety into the world and destroy it, but if the right person gets it all will be well. And on top of that Sailor Pluto warns of the impending awakening of Sailor Saturn, the soldier of destruction and bringer of the Silence.
This series is a little darker and more intelligent than the last two. The plot is full of turns and both the Sailors (thanks to their new arrivals) and the Death Busters are riddled with intrigue. There is a lot less black and white in the morality here, making for a more involving and interesting show. It also deals with some bigger issues like the first series did in its harsher moments, and the Death Busters are my favourite of all Sailor Moon villains, backstabbing and bitching but with their own hopes and aspirations. Professor Tomoe is great as their mad scientist lead, both manic and intelligent while not afraid to have his own comic moments, such as making coffee with his chemical apparatus, or playing twister with the others after a mission briefing. Heís far more well rounded than most villains, and has some great plot twists of his own. Sailors Uranus and Neptune are also good characters, exploring the less idealistic side to heroism and putting themselves at odds with the younger soldiers. They arenít as overexposed as you might expect from new additions, having enough screen time to know them while leaving you wanting know that bit more rather than over saturating you like we got with Chibi-Usa in the R series
The old cast also gets good screen time, with a good round depiction of them all. Minako gets a great bit of freaky comedy over the stealing of her heart crystal, and Makoto gets an episode all about her strong side which is nice after being mostly absent in R. It also gives them all, Usagi in particular, more good things to develop with as they come up against a sometimes quite cruel enemy as well as the conflicts with the Outers Soldiers (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto).
This is similar in content to the first season, but dealing with it in a less overt way, making it more delicately tragic rather than obviously so. Still, lots of issues here that might go over kidsí heads or be a bit much for them to deal with. Also, Haruka (Uranus) is a serious flirt with the other girls, and itís very obvious she is romantically involved with Michiru (Neptune). The dub made them cousins in an attempt to make it more Ďacceptableí, but that just makes them look incestuous!
Animation wise you know what youíre getting here. Nothing much new, except to say that all the new character designs are nice and fit well. The whole cast gets more screen time looking more slender and mature, after plenty of times in the previous series when their faces looked a little odd and chubby from certain angles, and since they are older now it does fit. Again, simplistic though Professor Tomoeís design is for much of the show, his head mostly in shadow with shining glasses, it is a very fitting caricature for him when in mad professor mode.
Well the whole dub is here on the uncut DVDs, so here is the Dub review for Sailor Moon. I also assume it applies for the other seriesí as well, except that the original and R were also visually butchered. This dub is bad. Really bad. All the characters sound like adults playing children in a school play. With the exception of a few nice lines it never sounds natural and the voices themselves sound badly put on. Uranus and Neptune in particular add to this by having barely any vocal range, even if Uranus is butch, and their inflections sound awkward and off kilter. And thatís the main cast. The supporting roles are worse and thanks to their phoney accents I had to skip any part Umino and Naru played. Naru aes a vowcaylly chaylleyngd vayllaey goil? It was dire. Thankfully they only had small parts in this series, and Iím only glad I havenít seen the dub of the original. Oh, and their names are now Melvin and Molly. Most of the names were changed, and crazily the ones that werenít were even more Japanese than some of the ones that were. Ami becomes Amy, but itís still Amy Mizuno. Hotaru, the friend Chibi-Usa (Rini in the dub) make is the only main character who escaped unscathed. And the last complaint is the way they call out their attacks. Not only have about half been re-named, with the rest adding the planet name to them, but itís the way they are called out. It's not surprising, but itís done like American superheroes, where the words are called grandly and the hero is gifted with power. In the Japanese it sounds punchier, as though they are actually performing something that requires skill, effort or at least concentration. It may seem like a small thing, but it alters the feel of the magic and makes it less impressive.
However, as much as I hate this dub I must admit it could be worse. If you didnít know all the things they changed, all the down marketing they did and all the liberties they took you could say it was just a reasonable American cartoon with some bad acting. You do, after a while, get used to the poor voices and find it becoming mildly enjoyable, laughing at all the things the tried and failed at or the things they expect you to buy into. I laughed so hard at the changes they made to some of Haruka and Michiruís dialogue to make them cousins, and with the way itís acted it sounds even more like they want each other than the original from what I can tell! And when the scene with Usagi, Ami, Rei and Minako (now Serena, Amy, Raye and Mina) are gossiping about Makoto (Lita) being on a date with Haruka (Amara) became one about ice cream and boys I had to crack up. The girls have all become that bit more two dimensional thanks to added boy addiction in the script. Mamoru (Darien) when not being Tuxedo Mask isnít too bad, and likewise Minako and Makoto and some of the bit parts do reasonably at times too, with the Death Busters, renamed the Bureau of Bad Behaviour (a quirky name I quite like apart from the blatant re-writing), not always doing badly either. And there are two very well done and entertaining voices that I have to commend. The first is Professor Tomoe who has a great laugh and fills his part with gusto and overacting that fits his manic silhouette and body langue nicely, even if he doesnít do so well when not in mad scientist mode. The other, to my astonishment, is Chibi-Usa. In Japanese I really didnít like her, even if she is a better character here than in R. In this dub I was rooting for her all the way! She is well acted with tons of personality coming through in her voice that was cute and on the right side of annoying but didnít grate the way the Japanese did. She made the most of her comic relief time, matching mood with what happening on screen well, and actually sounded like a real person rather than an actor doing her job badly. With a high pitch like that I would guess she really was a child doing it, which puts the others to shame.
Despite the lengthy rant over the dub (which I watched all of for this review) this is certainly my favourite Sailor Moon material, with a good atmosphere that doesnít cheat you in drama, moral dilemmas or crises and a cast that is playing off each other well, both comically and dramatically. If you like Sailor Mon this is a must get. If not this probably wonít change your mind after missing the last two series, but it might be enough of a darker introduction to get you into it, if only to see what came before. Highly recommended, even if the speeches can still get on your nerves a little.