Sailor Moon is one of the most well-known anime from the last 30 years. Based on a manga that first launched in 1991, the series has been adapted into a beloved 200-episode anime, several films, a live-action drama, and more recently, an anime reboot called Sailor Moon Crystal. And if that legacy weren’t enough, we can now add another film to the franchise: Sailor Moon Eternal.
As previously mentioned, Sailor Moon Eternal is the latest addition to the Sailor Moon franchise. It’s a two-part anime film based on the Dream arc of the original manga. Despite this, the production has officially dubbed this portion of the Sailor Moon saga the Dead Moon arc, named after the antagonists the Sailor Guardians face.
The film was first announced in 2017 as part of the franchise’s 25th anniversary. It’s meant to be a direct continuation of Sailor Moon Crystal, the anime reboot that concluded its third season in 2016. After some pandemic-related delays, Sailor Moon Eternal hit Japanese theaters in early 2021 before Netflix picked up the films for streaming release a few months later.
Sailor Moon Crystal is the anime reboot that commemorates the manga’s 20th anniversary. The anime industry loves celebrating anniversaries of its most famous and enduring properties, in case you haven’t noticed. Typically by releasing more anime.
While the original 1990s anime took some liberties with plot and characterization, Sailor Moon Crystal stays true to the original manga. It consists of three seasons totaling 38 episodes, with each season covering a different story arc: Dark Kingdom, Black Moon, and Death Busters. While Season 3—aka the Death Busters arc—ended on a satisfactory note, it set the stage for the film with a solar eclipse that presages the arrival of a major character from the Dead Moon arc.
Think of Sailor Moon Eternal as Sailor Moon Crystal Season 4, if you like.
It would probably help. There are many characters, so if you have no familiarity with Sailor Moon at all, you might have a rough time. On top of a sizable main cast, this series loves reincarnation, time travel, and multiple dimensions. Things might get confusing if you’re coming at this franchise as a brand-new viewer.
That said, if you’ve read the original manga, you should be fine.
If you’ve only watched the 1990s anime, you’ll generally be okay. The big caveat here is that some of the characterizations and relationship dynamics are different in Sailor Moon Crystal. For example, Rei Hino, aka Sailor Mars, is more aloof and serious in the manga and Sailor Moon Crystal versus the original anime where she loves chasing boys and constantly fights with Sailor Moon’s heroine, Usagi. But as long as you’re aware of those differences, fans of the first anime series can skip watching Sailor Moon Crystal if they’re short on time.
How brave! The biggest thing to know is that the entire series revolves around the concept of Sailor Guardians. Sailor Guardians are teenage girls who are given special powers connected to planets throughout the universe. For the Sailor Guardians protected by planets from our solar system, sometimes the powers are elemental in nature. Other times, the powers are related to classical mythology.
The other major thing to know is that our heroine, Usagi Tsukino, is royalty. She’s the reincarnation of a princess from the Moon Kingdom. That’s right. Sometime in the past, there existed a kingdom on the moon. In the future, she becomes the guardian queen of Earth that ushers it into a sort of golden age. These past and future identities serve as focal points for plotlines throughout the entire series.
As mentioned earlier, Sailor Moon Crystal is divided into three seasons.
Season 1 covers the Dark Kingdom storyline. This arc introduces us to Usagi Tsukino, who discovers she’s both Sailor Moon and the reincarnation of Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom. It also introduces us to the inner Sailor Guardians—Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Venus—who are Sailor Moon’s closest allies. In addition, we meet Usagi’s love interest, Mamoru Chiba, who happens to be the reincarnation of Prince Endymion. Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion had a tragic, star-crossed romance and you better believe that influences their present incarnations. Together, they all fight the Dark Kingdom, which was responsible for the destruction of the Moon Kingdom in the past and wants to take over the Earth in the present.
If Season 1 focuses on preventing a repetition of past tragedies, Season 2 is about averting future annihilation. After the events of the Dark Kingdom arc, Usagi and her friends are living their best, peaceful lives. That changes when Chibi-usa, Usagi and Mamoru’s daughter from the future, appears. She’s traveled back in time to find the means to save her mother. Hot on her heels is the Black Moon clan, who destroyed the future Earth that Chibi-usa came from. The Black Moon arc also introduces us to Sailor Pluto, a Sailor Guardian with the ability to control time.
The Death Busters arc, or Season 3, adapts the Infinity storyline of the manga. Chibi-usa has stayed in the present day to train to be a Sailor Guardian. Here we meet more Sailor Guardians from our solar system: Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. After sacrificing her life in the previous story arc, Sailor Pluto has also incarnated in the present timeline. Along with Sailor Moon and the inner Sailor Guardians, they fight the Death Busters, alien invaders from another dimension. Central to the plot is Hotaru Tomoe, who is the key to the Death Busters’ invasion plans but also happens to be the incarnation of Sailor Saturn, who has the ability to destroy the world.
After using her abilities, Hotaru has been reincarnated as a baby. Sailors Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto leave to raise her as the coolest queer family unit ever. Having completed her Sailor Guardian training, Chibi-usa is ready to return to the future. But before she goes, she accompanies Usagi and Mamoru to watch the solar eclipse. As the moon begins to cover the sun, however, both Usagi and Chibi-usa hear a mysterious bell, setting the stage for Sailor Moon Eternal.
Expect to see all these characters return for Sailor Moon Eternal, along with a whole new set of villains plus one notable ally.
Sailor Moon Eternal streams on Netflix on June 3rd. All 3 seasons of Sailor Moon Crystal are currently streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.