|Sailor Moon Re-launch in North America: What I'd Like to See - by Dan Bednarski (January 22nd, 2011)|
For years, I have been hoping for a re-launch of the Sailor Moon franchise in North America, as have many people. The series, though pretty successful, was mishandled in a number of ways. I'm not going to go into detail here of how it was mishandled, as the majority of this site is a testament to its treatment over the years it was over on this side of the ocean. The comparisons show how each episode in itself was treated, and most of the editorials here deal with what has been done outside the dubbing process itself. For the past few years, a re-launch wouldn't seem like it would have any possible chance of happening, given that Toei had ceased the extension and creation of new contracts worldwide. Toei had cut Sailor Moon from everywhere that wasn't Japan.
This was until last year, where in April, Toei would attend an industry convention with the intention of selling international licenses of Sailor Moon once again. While months would go by with no news stemming from this development, in the late summer / early fall area, a global revival had begun. Italy would be the first country to obtain a license, with many more to follow. The show got good ratings, and plans for merchandise would show, between DVDs and mangas, posters and dolls, to even a DS game due out this coming March. While a good part of the world is seeing a franchise revival, over here in North America we have had no news as of this typing. Rumors and theories have run rampant. I've stayed on the same basic stance about it for some years now, but with all the possibilities that there are, and that some people are curious as to my thoughts on the subject, I think it's time for me to sit down and really think about what I would like to see happen for a North American Sailor Moon revival.
Just to be safe, I'm going to add a disclaimer here. This editorial is merely a collection of my thoughts on what I would like to see happen should Sailor Moon finally get a new license in North America. While these scenarios have a possible chance of happening, this is in no way a report of what will happen. I am not affiliated with or employed in any companies that would have any part in the decisions that would make any of my thoughts below happen. With that, here are my thoughts for how I feel Sailor Moon should be treated should a license be signed.
It's no secret that Funimation is my number one choice for bringing Sailor Moon back to the states. I've been saying that for almost six years now. While I was met with some differing opinions on that choice, over the past year, others have been starting to take the same stance as I have. It's easy to see why, with just how much Funimation has evolved over the years, even just in the few where they had been my company of choice. They are the kings of anime in North America, and have the capability to do so much with the series. Everything on my list below, they can do and do it well. Another company that I feel is completely capable of doing everything I would like to see is Viz. They are also quite the powerhouse in the industry lasting the test of time just as Funimation has, and also like Funimation, has shown how well they can handle highly popular franchises. Either of these two companies would be a solid choice to take charge of the Sailor Moon franchise over here.
Let's get the obvious out of the way quickly, and say that we will accept nothing short of the R2 DVD master quality of where it comes to audio and video. We are no longer in the mid-1990s, technology has come a long way where we can make even older shows like Sailor Moon look better than when it was available originally. We have been privy to re-releases of a variety of anime from the 90s in remastered form which look much better than what we had prior. When the actual animators of the show have already done this for their domestic release in Japan, there is no excuse for us to receive anything less than what they already have available in Japan's DVD release. The fan outcry of ADV's release of the first two seasons is a testament to this. Pioneer/Geneon's release of the S and SS seasons, as well as the movies, were acceptable at the time (and also better quality than ADV's in my opinion, but that's a different discussion for a different time that has long past). We fans didn't accept ADV's boxes as a good release in 2003, there's no way we would even consider anything close to that in 2011.
While this paragraph right here may be considered a longshot, I feel it's important enough to mention this high up on my list. Before I even touch anything of a redub, let's talk about the translation. Sailor Moon needs a redone, more accurate translation. Quick breakdown of what we've been treated to: DiC's adaptation of the first two seasons, DiC's own changes between their first batch of episodes and the last bunch of R, ADV's uncut version still using DiC's script as a base of sorts, CWi's inconsistent dub of S and SS, and numerous fan translations. First off there has yet to be one company or group to handle the entirety of the anime. Second, the quality of any translation is debatable. What I would like to see is a company actually shell out money for people who actually have degrees and/or certifications that show how proficient they are when dealing with Japanese and English communications. Japanese is a highly complex language and quite difficult to properly translate, which takes years of study. I know of one company that starts translators out at just $10 per hour. Considering the expense of education (and living in general), spending years to have a good understanding of the languages and obtain the degrees and certifications to show it (which are hard as hell, talk to anyone who has taken the JLPT and you'll hear the horror stories of it, that test cannot be done by people who are amateurs), such a cheap wage is essentially a slap in the face. If other companies have similar pay rates, it's not surprising why translations are not as good as they should be. I would like to see this change in the entire industry, not just for Sailor Moon. I know that this is the least likely thing to happen on my list, but one can dream...
Now let's dive into the main release itself. The entire anime needs to come over here, including previously unreleased items. These never before licensed items include: Episode 67, the entire Sailor Stars season, all three SuperS Specials, and Ami's First Love. I can understand why recap animations such as the season memorials (and the first SS Special to an extent) wouldn't come over here, being that they are just recaps of events from the different seasons with nothing new to add. However everything else should come over to our side of the ocean. Everything should obviously be uncut for the releases, including a new dub. I know the subject of a redub is a touchy one, but it's necessary for the show to succeed in today's market. This would not be the first time a show would have been redubbed should this happen. Funimation redid their dubs of Dragon Ball Z, which was also heavily changed due to standards in the 1990s. The two shows fall in the same boat of poor treatment for the first years of their existence in North America, and DBZ had the good fortune of being able to get fixed to the way it was meant to be seen. I agree that the DiC dubs do hold a bit of a nostalgia factor being that they introduced many of us to Sailor Moon and even the anime world in general. However, these dubs need to be replaced with a more faithful representation of how the series was meant to be viewed. Will everyone be happy with some choices for voices? Probably not, it would be impossible to satisfy everyone with their expectations for what characters voices sound like in English in their mind. That's not to say that good people wouldn't be found for voices, there's always room for that element of surprise. There were some good surprises of good voices in the past dubs, and I'm sure more are possible as well. I would hope that many conflicting fan opinions of who should voice who would not deter the potential license holder from making a new dub. There should not be a re-release of the old dubs, this is a time we need to move on from them and bring forth a better product.
The obvious choice for release would be uncut bilingual DVDs. This is a given, it's been a standard for over a decade now. I believe the best way to release everything would be in season boxes. The box set release format is becoming more of a standard these days, plus with Sailor Moon already having previous exposure in this area, it makes even less sense to have individual DVD volume releases. If this was its initial release it would make sense, but it's not. It would be Sailor Stars' initial release, but after other boxes, releasing one season by individual volumes wouldn't make sense. As for the movies and other specials, I'm mixed. The release of the movies can work both individually as well as in a movie set easily. For the specials, I believe they should be placed with where they were shown. Ami's First Love would probably work best on the SuperS movie disc, as an individual disc for a short special would likely be seen as a waste. The SuperS Specials should be a part of the SS season box, either as an extra on the first disc, or even placed between episodes 131 and 132 where it aired originally.
I would also like to see a BluRay release of everything. It is quickly becoming the new standard for home video release, and allows for much more to be done. While I would like to see a bump in video quality, I know that it's highly unlikely to happen. Not that it's not possible, I've seen how crisp the BluRays of Card Captor Sakura look. I just don't see this happening without this happening in Japan first. Of course, I'd love if Toei would surprise us with a BluRay upgrade of Sailor Moon for the 20th anniversary next year. Some of you feel that BluRay might be a bit much for Sailor Moon, but on a poll where over 1,200 have voted over almost two years now, over 80% of the votes as of this typing have said they'd be willing to purchase a BluRay release. Yes, this is a small sample size, but the option of BluRay really shouldn't be ignored at this point in time. And I would absolutely love to see the original Japanese audio tracks mixed to stereo, if not 5.1. Various works have been remastered that are as old or older than Sailor Moon, Pioneer/Geneon's work with Akira jumps to my mind, it would be amazing to see what could be done with Sailor Moon. A dream for me? Yes. But one that would be amazing should it become true, and I'm sure others would be very happy with this as well.
Now we get to where I feel Funimation and Viz are ahead of other anime distribution companies. Everything mentioned above can be accomplished by essentially any company. While what I have here and below on my list can likely be done by other companies, Funimation and Viz have already proved they can excel in these areas. Before I jump into talking about potential TV airings as many of you likely expect to be next, I actually want to talk about streaming. We're in a much different place technology-wise as we were years ago, and streaming shows has been becoming a more widely used way to watch shows these days. Both of these companies have streaming options available on their sites for various shows they have the rights to. The really nice thing about streaming is that this makes the show available for anyone in the area to watch over the Internet with no additional cost to the viewer. This still makes the company money with the ads, which don't detract from the experience. If anything, I find it more convenient as it's like watching them on TV but with much less time for a commercial break. Making the show available to watch on the streaming sites would make people happy who have already purchased Sailor Moon products before be able to enjoy the new versions of the episodes without the need to make more purchases. While there are a lot of people like myself who would still purchase the new products even after already owning the older ones, there are also a lot who feel they've already spent enough on previous products and find it hard to justify spending more. With streams, they can enjoy what their previous purchases eventually yielded without spending more money yet still provide revenue for the license holder. It's a win all around I feel. And many, many bonus points if they can perfect a method to be able to stream episodes to a PS3 and Xbox 360 with ease. The PS3 is the cornerstone of my multimedia center in my living room, with its BluRay player, DVD player upconverter (DVDs look quite good on the HDTV with the PS3), the ability for me to stream videos from my server to it with ease, and of course, gaming. Granted, I've only tried streaming via Crunchyroll on the PS3 which doesn't work well when I try to watch in HD, so if either Funimation or Viz don;t have these problems with the PS3 browser I apologize. However, if they can find a way to make it work easier, I'd love to not always have to move my laptop to the living room for my streaming needs.
I do believe that Sailor Moon should air on TV to help increase its exposure. While I agree it's tough to decide what the best place for it would be, I disagree with those who don't think it would fit anywhere. With the rise and expansion of digital cable, there are plenty of options. I can't decide on what I feel would be the best, but I can make good cases for a lot of stations. Adult Swim is the topic of a lot of debate for the possibility of Sailor Moon to air on it, and for good reasons. While it's the station (yes, Cartoon Network is separate in my mind, and technically actually is separate in every way except the channel signal, CN is off air as AS airs and vice versa) that would most likely be the only one to be able to air the show uncut (or very close to uncut), the target demographic of the show would clash with that of who watches the network possibly the most of any other show with a few exceptions (don't y'all forget this is the same network that aired Pee-Wee's Playhouse). Other shows that straddled that same line (though not as much so as Sailor Moon would) failed. It's a tough call for AS and I can't decide if it would be good or bad if SM ended up on there. I have less of a debate with myself for a couple other stations that air anime today, in Nicktoons and Disney XD, whose big anime contributions are Dragon Ball Z Kai and Naruto Shippuden respectively. Why would I think this? Well, for starters, as standards and practices are much more different today than in the 90s, not nearly as much editing would be needed. With DBZ Kai, essentially DBZ with the majority of filler taken away, lots of things that were edited out in DBZ's initial dub are present with no issue whatsoever. Save for a select few moments (the senshi being hung on crosses comes to mind), most everything would be fine by today's standards. Controversial topics such as homosexuality, while still somewhat controversial, are not nearly as much as they were sixteen years ago. And it's not like the show throws it in your face anyways. These two stations also have more of a general audience than that of AS, which leads me to believe more new fans would be able to get into the show than with AS, where I feel not as many new fans would get into it. I'd like to be proved wrong though. Another network I could see as a good home for Sailor Moon is SyFy. They're no stranger to anime, now that I think of it can likely air it uncut (or very close), and have good potential to bring in a percentage of new fans. They've made some changes to have a bit of a more broad appeal, and Sailor Moon could be a good addition to their lineup. A bunch of people have mentioned the show could likely end up on the Funimation Channel should Funimation get the show, which would be kind of an obvious thing to happen, but I have a couple gripes with this. One, this channel still has very limited availability and limited appeal in the places where it is available, which leads to point number two, because of this it's highly unlikely to attract that many new fans. A TV airing needs to attract a lot of new viewers to convince them to buy things, and I doubt the Funimation Channel can do that. As for why I haven't mentioned CN, I don't think they would be a good home for SM anymore. They're not the powerhouse for shows that they once were, I'm not a fan (and neither are a lot of people) of the direction they're heading in and of many decisions they've made, and most of all, they played a big role in the lack of quality in CWi's dubs. At this point, I would rather see the show be handled by people who had nothing to do with it before.
As I made a quick mention above, a TV airing needs to bring in new people to buy things. And by things I mean a lot more than just DVDs and BluRays. Italy has the biggest revival of Sailor Moon going on with a lot of merchandise either released or on its way. Posters, dolls, costumes, DVDs, manga, a new game; a lot is going on over there right now. We need to have a merchandise blitz as well, where both Funimation and Viz have already proven to be the masters of. For their popular shows, you can find random things for them almost anywhere these days. Just the other day I saw DBZ party favors in a dollar store. These two companies know who to go to for making and distributing all of these things, and they can do just as good work with Sailor Moon with merchandising. Right now, a bunch of people are importing a variety of new merchandise from Italy, it would be cheaper and more convenient if we could be able to purchase such things ourselves. And if a new video game can be arranged, even better. I'm looking forward to the new DS game (yay for DS games being region free), I'm far from the only one, let's see something (official) start up over here for some new games. I can't say much for the manga as I don't really keep up with that industry as much as you think I would, but having a proper release of that can only bring more good things.
If either Funimation or Viz got the Sailor Moon license and can give the franchise the treatment as I describe above (or at least very close), I feel it would be a great revival. However, I do want to mention a few more things that are longshots at best. They are probably closer to being considered dreams really. But if any of these following things can be done, this potential revival can be upgraded from great to amazing:
* License the live action series: Hear me out on this one. I know the concerns anyone would have with this. Yes, the odds of it just breaking even are slim, but I am thinking more in the grand scheme of the Sailor Moon franchise. Having a sub-only release (and streaming as well) gives the brand more presence, gives fans like us more confidence that by even touching this series they plan to take a revival seriously, and more things for newer fans to see if they so choose. More live action shows have been coming over here (I wouldn't say it is becoming normal yet), bringing one for a popular franchise can be a good thing.
* Get all the bonuses from the Japanese LaserDiscs: This would appease the hardcore fans, simple as that. A lot of hardcore fans will complain about various things, give them less to complain about by bringing all these extras over and subtitled. Make it a goal of the only fan complaints to be the redub since complaints about voices are unavoidable.
* GET FANS INVOLVED: Yes, that's right. Let fans in on the action for different aspects of the revival. For about six years now, the Sailor Moon fandom has stayed alive solely by contributions of its fans. I'm not just talking about certain sites and forums, I'm also talking about people who have made actual, tangible goods. Art in so many formats, plushies, video games, posters, shirts, Sailor Stars in multiple formats, the list goes on and on. Offer these fans jobs for all the different merchandise. The way I see it, hiring fans who have shown exceptional work gives them the chance to officially have an impact in the franchise while making more money than they normally would, and other fans will be happy to hear this news and be more apt to continue to support the franchise. It's a win-win all around. Acknowledge that fans have kept steam for Sailor Moon going for years and take advantage of how known some of them are for what they do. Reward us for keeping the fandom alive by letting us take part in the revival.
Why Fan Translations Are Still Necessary - by Dan Bednarski (May 16th, 2011)
Sailor Moon Re-launch in North America: What I'd Like to See - by Dan Bednarski (January 22nd, 2011)
Can we start to put an end to the stupidity? - by Dan Bednarski (September 19th, 2010)
Goodbyes Are Always the Hardest - by Robert Wheeler (May 4th, 2005)
Goodbye SOS. Good Riddance or Fond Farewell? - by Robert Wheeler (December 16th, 2004)
The Trouble With Whiners - by Robert Wheeler (October 10th, 2004)
Uncut Sailor Moon: Worth the Wait? - Part 2 - by Dan Bednarski (January 6th, 2004)
Uncut Sailor Moon: Worth the Wait? - Part 1 - by Dan Bednarski (September 23rd, 2003)
Disliking Vs. Hating - by Robert Wheeler (April 3rd, 2002)
The Twelve Dubs of Christmas - by Tiffany Wood (December 23rd, 2001)
Optimum Productions? Flagrant False Advertising... - by Robert Wheeler (September 3rd, 2001)
The Anime Translation and American Society Problem - by Dan Bednarski (August 6th, 2001)
Pioneer's First SMS Release: Heart Collection I - by Dan Bednarski (March 5th, 2001)
Annoyance: A Letter to the People - by Tiffany Wood (February 9th, 2001)
Cartoon Network - The Hypocrite - by Robert Wheeler (January 14th, 2001)
Moonian Rhapsody - by Tiffany Wood (December 25th, 2000)
Does Your Site Suck? (Repost) - by Tiffany Wood (October 28th, 2000)
The North American Sailor Moon World - by Dan Bednarski (September 26th, 2000)
The Trouble With Dubbies - by Robert Wheeler (September 13th, 2000)
Sailor Moon Fansubs - by Dan Bednarski (August 13th, 2000)
Does Your Site Suck? - by Tiffany Wood (August 6th, 2000)