Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie Official Visual Book
劇場版「美少女戦士セーラームーンEternal」公式ビジュアルBOOK (Gekijouban “Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Eternal” Koushiki Visual BOOK)
Celebrate the Crystal Season IV movies with this release that includes summaries, character analyses, voice actor interviews, and artwork from the two-part film.
I’m going to open this review on a bit of a tangent. Now, I wouldn’t say I import a lot of stuff, but I’m no stranger to having to order from a Japanese store/seller to get books and goodies. And when I ordered the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie Official Visual Book, it didn’t come alone. It also came factory sealed.
But as soon as I took off the shrinkwrap, I noticed a smell. The best way I could describe it is that the book smells like Play-Doh. I don’t know if it has something to do with the printing process, the binding, or if I just got a freak copy, but it’s something to be aware of. I noticed it right away, but it seems to be the strongest from the middle of the book.
The book has a dust jacket, and the actual cover is a cleaner, monochrome version of the dust jacket. The full color version of the Sailor Team can be seen on the included folded poster, the back of which summarizes Crystal‘s first three seasons. It doesn’t look like the poster will be ripped out easily, so if you want to hang it up, you are going to have to take your time to avoid cutting Saturn’s arm off. There is very little room for error if you want her full gloved hand. Heck, I couldn’t even take a good picture of her full hand!
Anyway, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie is the third retooling of the Sailor Moon Crystal anime series. The first two seasons (which at first wasn’t even clear that it was considered two seasons) was an Internet release, which was followed by a TV series, and now films. Each of the groups feature a distinct, different visual style. The ONA heavily based itself off of the manga author’s (original) style, which meant it tended to feature detailed faces, long limbs and odd proportions. Not to mention this was backed up by generally sloppy animation. Season 3 was led by different staff, and they dropped the more mature, hard-to-animate designs in favor of a younger, fresher feel. Still, the style was a bit off from both the original manga and the still-heavily-merchandised 90s anime. So it was a bit of a shock when they brought in one of the most famous character designers of the original anime for the film series.
And that’s why I picked up this book and not the first Crystal visual book. Takeuchi herself often draws Sailor Moon in a more 90s anime-way (see: second edition of the manga, aka Kodansha Comics’ first edition’s covers). And even though she has some beautiful artwork, not all of her stuff is a hit. For instance, Neptune on the Eternal Edition volume 6 cover. Eesh.
While not perfect, the Crystal movies do a better job of balancing the manga vs anime, iconic vs new, detail vs animation-friendly. In some ways, this style feels like high-quality fanart, as for years no one thought we’d see the whole Sailor Team wearing bubble shoulder pads and knee-high boots. But, of course, this is all official.
And that’s the primary draw of The Movie Official Visual Book — it’s kind of like seeing the manga in full color. As it covers both films, almost every key scene is covered along with high-quality renders of the main characters in their various forms. I’m sure there are a few people out there who are interested in the franchise but haven’t checked out the “Dream” arc of the manga, but anyone who has read it will easily recognize the source scenes. Those who only know of the anime, however, will recognize most of the characters, but they may find a few pleasant surprises. Namely, the non-absence of Uranus and the other Outer Solar System Guardians. The SuperS anime season, which is the 90s equivalent of the Eternal films, is generally considered one of — if not the — weakest and/or most changed compared to the manga, so even if you don’t know the story and can’t read the book’s summaries, there are still enough pictures to make you go, “Oh, that’s neat!”
And yes, in case it wasn’t clear, everything about Eternal is spoiled in the book, from the opening eclipse to after the battle.
Still, relying so heavily on the manga has its drawbacks, like the Sailor Guardian’s newest uniforms lacking unique flairs (footwear). And for all of the “don’t compare this to the original anime!!”-like changes, just as Crystal Season III did for many transformation sequences and attacks, almost all of them are copied from the 90s anime or Crystal Season III. Not surprising, but certainly disappointing, especially since everyone but Sailor Moon got shafted somehow during the original five seasons.
After a brief recap of the franchise, the book summarizes the first film and then introduces the key characters: the Sailor Guardians, their associates, and their enemies. The girls’ human selves and Sailor forms have separate two-page introductions. Their civilian pages include facts like their birthdate and favorite food, and the Guardian pages include a breakdown of their transformation, pose, and attack. Then a similar breakdown occurs for the second film. These all feature official character portraits, screenshots from the movies, a paragraph about their role/what happens to them, and key quotes.
It’s not quite a perfect art of the film book or full reference guide. For the girls’ gowns, for instance, there are no pictures showing the back. While fans could use film screenshots or find the Materials Collection artbook which breaks down much of the manga’s art, it still might have been nice for reference purposes. And there aren’t a lot of images of, say, storyboards and such, which you may expect from something called a “visual book”. The visuals are the key point, but this is not exclusively about the pictures.
The story/character section makes up about 60% of the book’s 135 pages. Interviews cover the next 30+ pages with various staff including the director, every significant character’s seiyuu, and song artists. These are punctuated by background designs, lyrics, and seiyuu pictures, but for those who can’t speak Japanese, it goes on a little too long. Promo art takes up 15 pages, and it includes clean versions of the theater posters and product collaboration character designs, like Ichiban Kuji product artwork. Finally, the book details all of the upcoming and available merchandise to promote the films: figures, stationary, jewelry, accessories. Even those Polly Pocket-like toys. If you want to find your next item to import, well, this is where to look. The pictures are clear enough to make you say, “I want that!”, but unlike some other books, this section is short enough that readers don’t feel like they spent money on a glorified catalog.
In artbooks, promo art tend to be a highlight for me, as you get to see images often limited in their use. Here, though it’s a little odd. Like the “Tsukiiro Chainon” single. Sailor Moon is against a beautiful pink and blue colored moon with feathers. Well, in this book, the feathers are there, but Sailor Moon is against a solid white background. The pictures is clearly listed as being from the CD, so I’d doubt this would be used elsewhere. The same with the character song CD — just looks like clipart. Either way, because I knew was familiar with the image, Visual Book‘s representation fell flat. I know the purpose of a lot of this promo art is to be able to be plastered on any packaging, but at least for pictures like that if not all of them, I wish we could have seen the final presentation or a more lively version.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie Official Visual Book may be a bit basic with only two movies’ worth of content, the vast majority of which is lifted from another form of visual medium. Plus, there are a lot of interviews making it heavily geared toward Japanese speakers, and I’m sure some would have preferred Eternal to not have drawn closer to the original anime’s character designs. But whether you’ve seen the films or not, it captures that going-to-the-movies feel… just without the popcorn.