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Toon Takeaway: Sailor Moon Crystal Part 1

Title: Sailor Moon Crystal

Studio: Toei Animation

Rating: B-


I’m not going to provide a summary of this show. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the story. Magical school girls fight bad guys with makeup. As we probably all know, Sailor Moon was one of, if not the biggest, animes in the 90s. It completely changed the magical girl anime, so much that the show became the template for the whole genre. It, in tandem with Dragonball Z, Pokemon, and Digimon, sparked otaku culture here in the US. Of all anime fandoms, Moonies had and still retain the position of most loyal, most dedicated, and most obsessed anime fandom EVER. Part of what made this particular anime so special was its celebration of the variety of forms of femininity without ever compromising the innate power of each character. You don’t have to be a tomboy to be a strong girl, a common archetype in the more progressive 90s toons. Girls all over the world found themselves captivated by the beauty, color, and power of Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon. You can go shopping for cute things while talking about boys and still kick major ass. You want girl power? This is your one-stop shop. For a show this big, I’ll start with an overall review, then do the individual seasons.

In addition to becoming a kind of shrine to femininity, this fandom was also a haven for us queers. We not only had coded gay characters, villains Kunzite and Zoisite and anti-heroes Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, but they were more than just queer stereotypes (see Jafar from Aladdin). They were complicated, delicate individuals. Even for gay villains, the tenderness between Kunzite and Zoisite was pure enough to touch the hearts of many. The Sailor Scouts shaped a significant portion of my life, giving me the courage to date my first love; a girl in my piano class (more on this later). So when in 2014 the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal, the anime reboot, premiered at Anime Expo, I geeked right out of my socks. So how does Crystal stand up to the legacy of Sailor Moon R and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon, such important cultural artifacts?

The Good:

The way that Crystal handles the Sailor Soldier legacy is by sticking closer to the source material, the manga written by Naoko Takeuchi. The 90s anime was a retelling of the story, changing many story elements from the original. For instance, aliens Ail and Ann were created for a filler arc that would let the manga get far ahead enough of the anime. Crystal sticks with the manga’s storyline.

The Moon rod is created by Usagi and Tuxedo Mask’s love instead of just being given to her, people die, and Mini Moon lacks power instead of holding too much. Also sex. By sticking to the original story, we are given a fresh look at a story we love. We’re allowed to see the reasons behind each character’s personalities and add a layer of depth to Sailor Moon R. It’s incredibly satisfying to see the power of love in action since it was such an essential element of the manga that disappointingly was left out.

The pace of Crystal is just right. It knows you know the characters and doesn’t spend too much time setting up. The first two story arcs are compacted into 12 and 14 episode seasons, each episode a summary of the manga’s books. So efficient! And it’s so great not to have the awkward Sailor Moon Says segments that were ham-fistedly shoved into the 90s dubs. Ugh.

The Bad:

I hate the combination of 2d and 3d animation in anime. The fact they use this only for the transformation sequences feels quite cheap. I get it conceptually, but it’s still just not working for me. Also, all of the art in episode 3 is just horrid.


The Art:

Speaking of art, Crystal’s animation style is divisive amongst Moonies, particularly season 1. Some feel the animation is cheap, some hate the 3d pieces, while others feel it is a bridge between the anime and manga. It alternates between the loose watercolor feel of the manga, the 2d animation of the 90s, and the all-its-own 3d animation.I personally feel it doesn’t work together. It’s just too eclectic for my tastes. Again, I get it conceptually, but for an anime this important, I feel the animation should have been on the levels of Kill la Kill (see my previous Toon Takeaway). The art was so divisive that Toei Animation had to step up their art game between seasons because the fandom was in such a mess. Moonies have since calmed the frick down. See manga, Sailor Moon R, and Sailor Moon Crystal comparison below.

In addition to the incongruity of styles, the animation can sometimes fall into wtf anime. Eyes look awkward, proportions get bizarre, and weird expressions can destroy moods. There’s even a tumblr dedicated to the weird art; well, that and fangirl complaining. Just take a look at some of these screenshots.

But it’s not all bad. Ignoring the stylistic approaches, the transformation and combat choreography is on point. All great. Fantastic backgrounds! Motions developed for each Sailor Guardian’s personality and element. And so kawaii! Take a look at these transformations! Paired with the excellent soundtrack, these magical girls give me life!

To be continued:

When I return, I’ll write about the first arc, Dark Kingdom. That’s where you’ll start to understand how this anime landed in the B range, despite the art. But until then, what do you think about Crystal, or Sailor Moon in general. Which Sailor Soldier/Scout/Guardian has the best transformation sequence? Let us know in the comments.

Links and other opinions:





10 Creative cosplays at San Diego Comic Con 2015

One of my favorite things about going to conventions is seeing how creative fans can get with their cosplay. So many original ideas and amazing craftsmanship! In this post, I will be highlighting some of the most creative cosplays seen this year at San Diego Comic Con. Check it out!

1. Chewie's Angels - The purple, pink and turquoise angels were one of the most talked about group cosplays this year! Don't you wish there was a movie about these characters? YES PLEASE!

2. Frozen Mad Max - Elsa, Anna, and Olaf are ready for the Fury Road as Imperator Elsa, Mad Anna and Olaf the War Boy in this super original cosplay!

3. Vanellope Von Schweetz - Vanellope drove all around San Diego on her amazingly crafted race car. How adorable is this? It looks like real candy!! Cosplayer: On the Go Cosplay. Follow her on Instagram @cellogirl4life .

4. Steampunk Star Wars - Eiraina Schmolesky (Steamy Leia) and Shaylor Duranleau (Baron Von Maul) are the cosplayers behind this steampunk take on Star Wars. Leia's headpiece is gorgeous!

5. Edward Scissorhands - The perfect family cosplay! This little boy is Clark del Rossario, he's a huge Tim Burton fan and get this... he is only 6 years old! This has to be one of the cutest cosplays ever!

6. Joke Skellington - The Joker meets A Nightmare before Christmas in this beautiful and colorful cosplay by Gregarious Geek.

7. R2-D2 mashups - Between a Hello Kitty/R2D2 and a Mega Man/R2D2 (by Alston Stephanus), it is difficult to choose a favorite so I decided to highlight both!

                                  Hello Kitty/R2-D2


8. Mushroom Kingdom Warrior - As a lover of everything Super Mario, this cosplay makes me want to be a Mushroom Kingdom warrior as well! That blue shell shoulder pad? AWESOME.

9. Canine Green Arrow - This adorable little bulldog stole the show with his Green Arrow cosplay! Even Deadpool wanted a photo with him!

10. The Avengers Angels - Inspired by the Victoria's Secret Angels, these 9 creative cosplayers did their own superhero take!


Captain America: Jacqueline Goehner

Iron Man: Miss Chrissy Lynn

Scarlet Witch: Elisa Teague                                  

Black Widow: Amanda Franchini

Thor: Castle Corsetry                                                

Loki: Scruffy Rebel

Hulk: Golden Lasso Cosplay                                    

Hawkeye: Bernadette Bentley

Nick Fury: Ivy Doomkitty

10 reasons why Tina Belcher is a great role model

With the release of Bob's Burgers season 4 finally on Netflix, (and binge-watching all of it last night), I have to point out that this show has some of the most gender-positive animated characters in the history of television. Every character is different and weird in their own way and they all have an equal purpose on the show. Each episode makes me love each character more and more. The Belchers are a great example of a family that is loving and supportive, with imperfect parents and children that defy gender roles. Naturally, each Bob's Burgers fan has their favorite character in the show, but in this article I will be focusing on the amazingly awkward Tina (my favorite character). Here's why she is a great role model for everyone:

1. Even though Tina is awkward, she is also confident. She accepts who she is and is not afraid to share her interests with others. She has shown multiple times that being a dork or a geek is nothing to be ashamed of. It's actually something that should be embraced. In a world full of people pretending to be someone else, Tina is a prime example that being yourself is all you need.

2. She has taught us that the only person in charge of your life and your happiness is you. Tina doesn't allow people to define her or change who she is. She is her own hero.

3. She is an eternal optimist and always finds the good in every situation. She sees the opportunity in every difficulty and even though she doesn't have the best of everything, she makes the best of everything. That doesn't mean she doesn't fall apart from time to time, because she does, but she is able to learn from her mistakes and move forward with a better attitude and with more confidence.

4. She perfectly represents an awkward teenager going through puberty in a way we can all relate to. Every single teenager, of every gender, has had to deal with the crazy hormonal changes that come with puberty. Tina's blunt sexuality, is never seen as a joke, but as part of her personality. We laugh at her but we also root for her because we identify with everything she is going through. At an age where nothing holds you back more than your own insecurities, Tina is brave enough to embrace the changes and frustrations that come with being a teen. 

5. She loves, supports, and trusts her family. She is a great sister to her younger siblings and a wonderful daughter. She is always there for all of them no matter what. She is always honest with them, accepts them for who they are, and protects all of them against anyone who wishes them harm.

6. She's not afraid of going after what she wants by being goal-oriented and determined. She knows practice makes perfect and giving up is not an option. She's taught us that even if you stumble and fail, you can still get back up and try again. When people challenge her attributes and skills, she always does her best to prove them wrong. She is also not afraid to make the first move, therefore breaking gender stereotypes and demonstrating that girls can also be dominant figures.

7. She is able to stand up for herself and others. She might be shy sometimes, but when she needs to defend herself, she steps up and does it. She also knows that being mean is not the answer, therefore she always finds ways to speak her mind with respect. She lets people know that just because she is nice, it doesn't mean she is weak. 

8. She never misses the chance to make people feel special and to encourage others to be better. Even when people around her have negative attitudes, she's ready to step in and make them realize how amazing they are. 

9. She is honest and humble. For Tina, telling the truth is very important, even when doing so could affect her. She thinks with sincerity and acts with integrity. She respects everyone. A character that chooses honesty over deceit every single time, is an amazing role model in every aspect. 

10. She is a modern feminist hero. Even though she is boy crazy and has a big obsession with Jimmy Jr., Tina doesn't allow that to define her. She knows what she wants, is comfortable with her sexuality and always stays true to herself. She sees everyone as equals and at the same time is proud to be a girl. She's not constrained by gender stereotypes and doesn't play the damsel in distress. She can rescue herself. She is the perfect example that you can be a feminist, be boy crazy, and enjoy being a girl, all at the same time.

Keep being the amazing role model you are Tina! And remember, don't have a crap attack.

Nobody puts the lady geek in a corner: How Dirty Dancing is feminist

You know what I'm talking about... HOT.

I saw Dirty Dancing for the first time when I was 12 years old. It was playing on TV and they were showing that hot intro with all the couples dancing in slow motion. Obviously, being a teen with raging hormones, I sat down to watch it. To my surprise the first scene is a girl reading a book and looking… completely normal! Then I heard the first line of the movie and I was hooked: “That was the summer of 1963, when everybody called me Baby and it didn’t occur to me to mind”. For some reason that opening line stuck with me… Maybe it was the feminist in me trying to tell me something... I proceeded to watch the movie in my living room; afraid my mom would come in and catch me watching one of the dirty dancing scenes or worst... the sex scene. At that age, I didn’t fully understand why that movie made such an impact on me. It could be argued that a teen girl would get obsessed with a movie like this because of the romance and shirtless, dreamy, Patrick Swayze… but no, it was more than that. As I watched, I became more and more intrigued with this awkward female main character that had no problem standing up to people, helping others unconditionally, not being ashamed of showing how smart she is, and above all, demanding to be treated as an equal to the men around her.  

So awkward....

Today, I am 29 years old and I have watched Dirty Dancing more than a 100 times. I am not joking... Before you start judging me, keep in mind that this movie is constantly playing on TV… I am counting those times too… Of course if it is playing on TV, I stop everything and watch it… but still... The more I watch it, the more I continue to love it. I’ve come to realize that the reason I love this movie so much is because it was one of the first movies I saw that featured a smart girl being the main character and most importantly, it is a feminist movie in many, many ways. It is! Trust me. Let me tell you why:

1. Standing up to your parents… a.k.a GROWING UP: The plot of the movie is not the romance, but the struggle of a girl becoming a woman. “Baby” starts the movie being daddy’s little girl, but towards the end she becomes her own independent self. The scene that shows that full transformation is not the sex scene, or the dance scene, but when she confronts her dad. We all know how that feels like. That moment when you realize your parents are not always right and that they are just like you with insecurities and flaws. When you become an adult, there will come a time when you are going to confront your parents and tell them they are wrong. It doesn’t matter the situation. You will have the courage to do it, and if you have been a nice kid your whole life, like "Baby"… like me… that is one of the scariest things you’ll ever do. To see her, a woman, confront her Dad, is extremely empowering even to this day. The whole speech is absolute perfection: You told me everyone was alike and deserved a fair break. But you meant everyone who was like you. You told me you wanted me to change the world, make it better. But you meant by becoming a lawyer or an economist, and marrying someone from Harvard. I’m not proud of myself, but I’m in this family too. You can’t keep giving me the silent treatment. There are a lot of things about me that aren’t what you thought. But if you love me, you have to love all things about me. And I love you. And I’m sorry I let you down. I’m so sorry Daddy. But you let me down too.” Simply amazing. So many people can identify with this monologue, but to see a woman deliver it makes it even more special to me.


2. Women cheering for other women: Sure, the movie’s main relationship is between Johnny and Baby. But, the relationship between women in this movie deserves to be highlighted. We are used to seeing movies with just one woman as a main character. If there’s more than one woman, they are usually fighting over a guy, being frenemies, stabbing each other in the back, or simply not interacting with each other. Not in Dirty Dancing. In the movie, some of the most best relationships are between Baby and Penny and Baby and her sister. Let’s explore each one:

a. Baby and Penny – Baby sees Penny for the first time in a dance class and they don’t interact much.  Later, Baby believes Penny is Johnny’s girlfriend, only to find out they are just childhood friends. In any other movie, a predicable plot would develop into jealousy from Baby towards Penny, probably breaking Johnny’s friendship with her. But, in Dirty Dancing, Baby automatically is willing to help Penny with her "situation", takes her place at the hotel performance to help her not lose the gig, never shows a hint of jealousy towards Penny, and clearly respects her as a woman throughout the movie. She admires her without competing with her. It is the type of female friendship and female/female interaction we desperately need more of in movies nowadays.

Work it girls.

b. Baby and Lisa – From the beginning of the movie, you can see Baby and her sister are complete opposites. While Baby is the care-free book nerd, Lisa is the self-obsessed insecure teen girl that only cares about what others think. Their relationship is clearly rocky from the start; they obviously have nothing in common. But, towards the end, we see Lisa change her attitude towards her sister and her jealousy turns into respect and admiration. We see this clearly when Lisa tells Baby she’ll do her hair for the last event and after reflecting a bit she goes on and says: “You’re prettier your way”.

The feels...

3. Women can take control: In the movie, we all see that the first time Baby lays eyes on Johnny she is interested in him. When she sees him dancing, oh, it’s ON like Donkey Kong. She is instantly willing to try this sexy dancing and who wouldn’t? It is the first time she is able to let loose and not worry what other people are saying. She is discovering her own sexuality and the fact that we are able to see that unravel in the movie, is unique and something you don’t see that often. Women’s sexuality is unfortunately still considered taboo and often not properly portrayed in movies. Once Baby gets to know Johnny, her crush grows. Now, what is interesting and great about Dirty Dancing is that she is the one that makes the first move. We all know the line: “I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you!”  Right? I mean… that takes a lot of guts. A LOT. And she does it, she takes charge. She likes him, she wants to be with him, and she lets him know.

She's got some serious cojones....

4. Johnny: *sigh* Johnny, Johnny, Johnny… This guy.  Yes, he is sexy and has great moves. But Johnny’s character is much more than that. At the beginning when it is suggested that Baby should take Penny’s place at the hotel performance, Johnny is 100% against it and says twice: “She can’t do it!”  But, he gets to know Baby and realizes the type of woman she is. During the time they rehearse together, he NEVER takes advantage of her or touches her inappropriately. He admires her personality more than her appearance. He wants to become a better man thanks to her. He acknowledges her efforts and even praises her when he thinks she is being brave. He defends her honor against that douche-bag Roby. He doesn’t cheat on her, even when he has more than one opportunity to do so. He motivates her to follow her dreams. He stops calling her “Baby” and starts calling her by her real name, Frances. Even though he says “she can’t do it” at the beginning, when she starts doubting herself at the end of the movie he tells her: “I don’t want to hear that from you! YOU CAN!” And of course, we all know the line “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” Still gives me chills every time I hear it. But, for me, that line is nothing next to his monologue after that: I’m going to do my kind of dancing with a great partner; who’s not only a terrific dancer but somebody who’s taught me that there are people willing to stand up for other people, no matter what it costs them. Somebody who’s taught me about the kind of person I want to be. Miss Frances Houseman”. He wants to be like HER. He looks up to HER. He acknowledges how amazing she is, by just being HERSELF.

And come on... THAT look? Seriously... this guy.

5. Men and women can be friends: Johnny and Penny’s relationship is something that is very rarely seen in movies. A man and a woman being JUST friends? *gasp* As we have learned from countless movies, tv shows, and books, if a man and woman are friends, they will eventually become romantically involved. But, in real life, as shocking as it may sound, men and women CAN be just friends. It is true! And it is refreshing to see in Dirty Dancing. And it’s not a casual friendship either. They are childhood friends, they grew up together, and they love each other. He protects her against Roby and takes responsibility for her even when that means Baby’s dad will judge him. He supports her choice to get an abortion. You never see him questioning her or judging her about her decisions. She gives him advice about his interest in Baby, but it doesn’t come from a place of jealousy at all. She is just concerned about her friend. When he has a disagreement with Baby, he goes to her not to cheat, but to seek her support. They dance together, like dancers do, not lovers. They respect each other and it is lovely.


6. Objectification of men: Sure, the 12 year old in me still falls in love with Patrick Swayze every time I see Dirty Dancing. Johnny is hot. But, the movie touches a very interesting theme. After Baby asks him if he’s had many women, he gets really upset. In a surprising twist, he explains how he feels used by women. All these women, that want to sleep with him, are just using him; they don’t really care about him at all. We see how men are also objectified and they can be seen only as sexual objects too. Again, one of the few movies that features this important issue.

There are many other things I could talk about. How everybody respects Penny’s choice to have an abortion. How Baby puts Roby in his place. How concerned Johnny is when the abortion goes wrong for Penny. How the movie promotes consensual sex, outside of marriage, and without any of the consequences religion and horror movies have taught us. How Baby is named after the first woman in the Cabinet... Again, there are many things, but most importantly is Baby, Frances. She is one of the first female characters I admired and wanted to be like. Many people see Dirty Dancing as a movie about cheesy music and dance moves, but I see it as an example of how movies can actually make an impact. When you look past the “Dirty Dancing” and see the actual plot of the movie, is like discovering a hidden treasure. It is not surprising that many women consider it their favorite movie. Some of them may like it just for the romance, others may like it just for the sexy dances, but others, like me, see it as the movie that made us realize we could be strong, smart, and sexual at the same time. Going back to that first line: “when everybody called me Baby and it didn’t occur to me to mind” Yes, and at the end of the movie, she is no longer Baby, she is Frances. The strong, smart, and sexy female hero I want to be.