Saban Moon vs Sailor Moon

You know what’s the best cure for paralyzing anxiety? Shenanigans! Because we live in the strangest timeline, something miraculous has been unearthed: the pilot video for the American adaptation of Sailor Moon. Oh, yes!

Before the original anime was dubbed, the powers that be (American television executives) first attempted to adapt the series for an American audience. Now look, I grew up watching Sailor Moon in the ‘90s, both weekday afternoons on Toonami and 6 am some mornings (I still have the original VHS). Point is: I’ve seen the “localization” of the original anime (we’ll call that SM1995), I’ve seen the redubbed version that’s more faithful to the original Japanese (SM2014), I’ve seen the Crystal remake, and I’ve read most of the manga (ADHD is tough, you guys). I feel pretty confident that I can explain how they are similar or different. Now, I’m gonna apply that knowledge to what has been dubbed, “Saban Moon”.

(Quick note: there also exists a Japanese live action series, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (2003), which the original manga creator, Naoko Takeuchi, actually worked on. It has not been officially released commercially in the US, but you can find clips online. As a live action Japanese series, it really cannot be compared to Saban Moon, which is the most Americanized, which is why I am leaving it out of this conversation. Let’s hope the discovery of Saban Moon leads to more interest in Pretty Guardian.)

First, let’s look at what each of these adaptations is. The original work is Sailor Moon, the manga, which ran from 1991-1997 with over 60 chapters and side stories. In the early 1990s, the manga was adapted into an anime. This was the first adaptation, which extends the story by adding in additional narrative elements, such as a monster-of-the-week format, forbidden romances, and an entire plot arc. I’ve neither read nor seen the last chapters, but my understanding is that this is where they differ. For our purposes, I’m going to only look at the first two plot arcs: “Dark Kingdom” and “Black Moon”. In the original anime, these two arcs represent seasons 1/Sailor Moon and 2/Sailor Moon: R (although season 2 begins with the anime-only arc). Sailor Moon: Crystal is an anime remake that was announced for the 20th anniversary of the franchise in 2012. It is a more faithful adaptation of the original manga, with each episode almost directly corresponding to a chapter (although later seasons have been made into movies). This new production was dubbed almost simultaneously for worldwide release (first with Hulu, now with Netflix). The renewed interest also led to the original anime and its 3 movies to be redubbed to be more faithful.

The english dub of the original anime began airing in 1995 (hence, SM1995). So how far off could the 90’s dub actually be? Well, I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about it, but in season 3/Sailor Moon S there is a lesbian couple, who are very deliberately labeled as “cousins” in the 90’s dub. That’s just the most blatant example, however. Episodes were also edited, and in some cases combined or cut, for content. Spoiler alert: everyone dies in the first arc, but DiC (a now defunct production company) removed that since it was supposed to be a cartoon aimed at ‘children’. Another really obvious change is the names, which were all westernized. Sailor Moon/Usagi became Serena, Tuxedo Mask/Mamoru became Darien, Sailor Jupiter/Makoto became Lita, and Sailor Venus/Minako became Mina. Sailor Mercury/Ami and Sailor Mars/Rei were simply westernized to Amy and Raye respectively.  They also aged up the animal sidekick. Luna is a black short-haired cat with a crescent moon mark on her forehead and is supposed to be not much older than the girls, but in the American “localization” becomes a chaperone-esque, fairy godmother character, with a grandmotherly voice (this continues to throw me off even now). With that more or less summarized, we can now move onto the main event: Saban Moon vs Sailor Moon (1995). 

Similarities and Differences

Contrary to the original manga and anime, both English versions, SM1995 and Saban Moon, begin by telling the story of the distant past, so the audience knows right away that Sailor Moon is also the princess. This was apparently meant to be a surprise, but SM1995 actually uses footage from later episodes as a sort-of prologue, thus spoiling the whole thing. Saban Moon similarly begins with a story of the distant past. Although this was not revealed in the early seasons of SM1995, Saban Moon explains that Sailors Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus are princesses of their respective planets. In both, The Queen of the Moon is Serenity, Sailor Moon’s mother, and Sailor Moon is in love with Darien, Prince of the Earth, who is represented by a rose and gives Moon a star necklace. In both versions, Queen Beryl, who represents some kind of dark force, comes and destroys the peace in her quest for power. For their own safety, Queen Serenity sends Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus to Earth. On Earth, the girls now must balance a normal life with fighting Queen Beryl.

The differences are obvious from the beginning, of course. Just the animation alone is a stark contrast, although they use some of the same backgrounds for attacks and transformation scenes. Most notably, Sailor Moon’s meatballs are nowhere to be seen in Saban Moon! Her iconic “meatball head” includes two buns on either side of her head with long pigtails coming out. Saban Moon just has normal shoulder-length hair– not even proper floor-length anime hair! The Moon Kingdom is also very spacey and futuristic– think original She-Ra– which is a stark contrast to the western (like the EU and the US, not the cowboys) fairy tale castle in SM1995. The uniforms the “Sailor Scouts” wear bear slight differences, but keep the same color scheme. Actually, what’s most notable is Saban Moon’s attempts at multiculturalism and inclusivity. In SM1995, the characters are all Japanese anime characters, so they all have white-ish skin, big eyes, and hair that comes in a variety of colors. In Saban Moon, Sailor Moon is a white blue-eyed blonde, while Sailor Sailor Mars is asian, Sailor Mercury is a white girl in a wheelchair, Sailor Venus is a white brunette, and Sailor Jupiter is black. Another key visual difference is that when the girls are living their “normal lives” it is all done in live action. The transformation sequence is computer generated (a foreshadowing of Crystal or just new tech to play with?) for Sailor Moon, while the others just get a flash of color and their element (ie fire for Mars) that turns them from live action girls into cartoon superheroes. In contrast, every other version provides full transformation and attack sequences for all the major characters at least once (this does include Pretty Guardian, which I mentioned above).

The Plot

In Saban Moon, Queen Beryl needs to defeat the warrior princesses in order to take the magic crystals belonging to their respective planets. After she conquered the outer planets of our solar system, the inner planets and Earth’s moon formed an alliance with the moon at its center. They plan to solidify the alliance through the marriage of Prince Darien of Earth and Sailor Moon– yes, Sailor Moon, not Usagi, Serena, or Serenity, she really isn’t given another name as a princess. Queen Beryl arrives to interrupt the festivities, now with blue skin and standing atop a horned spaceship. The princesses/Sailor Scouts rush to their “sky fliers” (which resemble windsurfing boards) to fight Beryl’s minions. Queen Serenity orders Darien and the princess warriors to escape to another dimension with a long-haired white cat with a crescent mark on its forehead. After Darien and his spaceship are seemingly blown up, the girls use their sky fliers to escape through a vortex to a parallel dimension’s Earth.

For reference, the original Sailor Moon story also depicts Queen Beryl coming to attack the moon. To save them, Queen Serenity, who also has “meatball” hair (“bun head” in the more accurate translations) uses her Crescent Moon Wand and Silver Crystal to transport Princess Serena/Serenity (American/Japanese versions), the prince, and the Sailor Scouts/Guardians to the future. They are reincarnated many centuries later as normal humans on Earth, specifically in Japan. In the past, the Princess is not Sailor Moon, but the other girls are her friends and protectors.

For reference, the original Sailor Moon story also depicts Queen Beryl coming to attack the moon. To save them, Queen Serenity, who also has “meatball” hair (“bun head” in the more accurate translations) uses her Crescent Moon Wand and Silver Crystal to transport Princess Serena/Serenity (American/Japanese versions), the prince, and the Sailor Scouts/Guardians to the future. They are reincarnated many centuries later as normal humans on Earth, specifically in Japan. In the past, the Princess is not Sailor Moon, but the other girls are her friends and protectors.

In Saban Moon, following the escape, we transition into live action scenes for the “normal girl” portion of the story. While a blond girl, presumably Sailor Moon, staring out the window, normal!Venus reveals that normal!Moon’s name is Victoria. The girls have a dance that night, so normal!Venus needs to borrow lipstick. Remembering the dance, Victoria gets excited and thus begins a dance break featuring the girls being ‘normal’ and getting ready for the dance while the theme song plays in the background. (Yes, it is very cringy.) Here we also get some hints at each girl’s personality. Normal!Mars is a sporty asian tomboy and normal!Mercury is implied to be a soft-spoken girly-girl in a wheelchair, while normal!Jupiter is a black nerdy mathlete and normal!Venus is a boy-crazed brunette.  Luna, who speaks telepathically and cracks jokes, interrupts the fun because Queen Beryl is attacking Jupiter, so they need to go take care of that. In Sailor Moon the civilizations on other planets no longer exist when they begin fighting again.

One thing that does stay the same between Saban Moon and SM1995, is the condescending idea of what it means to be a teenage girl. In Saban Moon’s dance break, the girls talk about boys and dating and how they have nothing to wear in front of a closet stuffed with clothes. SM1995 adds a little segment at the end of each episode called “Sailor Moon Says” that addresses “girl issues” such as weight gain/loss, friendship, doing the right thing, etc. There is also plenty of vapid dialogue in the actual episodes.

Now to nitpick: 

In all Sailor Moon media, transformations (and often attacks) typically occur in order of when they entered the series: Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Venus. In Saban Moon, the order is Moon, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Venus. Saban Moon’s transformation item is also an item that Sailor Moon doesn’t gain until Season 2/the end of the first plot arc. When they attack in Saban Moon, there are no special attack names, although Sailor Moon does get some of the poses from the original anime (specifically, she has her “Moon Tiara” attack and Venus’s “Love-Me Chain” although it’s just a beam.

Another key difference in how the girls are depicted is that the Saban Moon characters know who they are, where they came from, and exactly why they need to fight. In all other Sailor Moon media, the girls do not remember their past lives until they all start to come together. The Sailor Moon girls have been living lives on earth since they were born, while the Saban Moon girls are literally aliens. As a result, the Saban Moon team is a little more responsible because the stakes are more real to them. Of course, in both Amerianizations, the girls are made more shallow, but, at least in the pilot video, no one is trying to dodge their responsibility.

The girls are also of different ages. In the original manga and Crystal, the girls begin as junior high students while Sailor Moon/Usagi/Serena’s love interest, Tuxedo Mask/Mamoru/Darien, is in high school. In the first anime adaptation, the girls are still middle school students, but Tuxedo Mask/Mamoru/Darien is in college. When I realized this as a teenager, and even now as an adult person, my response is “ick”, but cultural differences and it was the early 1990s and I think we all just sorta handwave that away. Age of consent is also very different in Japan than in the US and that’s all that I think needs to be said about that.

Saban Moon ages up the girls, however. At the very beginning of the manga, Sailor Moon/Usagi/Serena tells the audience that she is 14 years old. You can take that at face value, or, if you want to nitpick, recognize that in Japan a child is counted as one year old at birth. I do not believe this is something the American television executives ever took into account, but it’s an interesting and nitpicky thing to know. So, if you wanna be really technical, the girls would be 13 years old in the US. Saban Moon has the girls aged up to 16 years old (it says so in the lyrics) and presumably in high school (the actresses all look super young, so like actual high schoolers, but by our standards they’d be cast as middle schoolers). 

I’ve already addressed how the characters are physically changed, but their personalities are also changed as well. In Sailor Moon, Mercury is the first ‘Sailor Scout’ Sailor Moon connects with. She has short blue-black hair and is considered a genius, but very shy. Before meeting Moon, she was an outcast because people thought she was cold. (Before I forget, Sailor Moon’s ultimate power in Sailor Moon is friendship.) Her powers are water-based but she also has some high tech accessories, which are less impressive in 2022 than they were in 1991. Saban Moon’s Mercury is a red-head wheelchair user. Other than the physical differences, her short appearance doesn’t seem to be such a departure from the original, other than not being the genius of the group. Her transformation image suggests her element is water (even if her attacks do not) and she uses high tech devices (mainly her chair) to both move around and attack.

In the original, Moon and Mercury next meet Mars. In the original, Mars has long black hair and spiritual powers. She works at her family’s shrine as a shrine maiden, or miko, so she has additional powers of foresight and intuition. Some of her attacks even utilize Japanese talismans. The manga and Crystal portray her as a graceful character, while the first anime gives her more of a temper, so she acts as almost a social rival to Moon. She was also an outcast– considered creepy because of her psychic powers– before Moon came into her life. Saban Moon’s Mars is very obviously a tomboy. She has short hair (like a pixie cut) and when she is preparing for the dance she is trying to choose between sports jerseys. This is a huge departure from the original, although her element remains fire.

Next comes Jupiter, who transfers to Moon and Mercury’s middle school. She stands out immediately because she is significantly taller and more buxom than her peers. With her brown hair in a ponytail, she would be considered the tomboy character of the anime. She is actually a martial arts expert, however, she also dreams of being a housewife one day; in addition to wearing rose earrings that stay during her transformation, Jupiter also enjoys and is quite good at cooking and sewing. Her element is thunder/lightning. Saban Moon’s Jupiter is a black girl with chin-length black hair and is depicted as the brainiac of the group. Although she maintains the same element, her appearance and personality, like Mars, are a much larger departure than the others.

Venus is a complicated character, who was also a bit of an outcast in her normal life. She began fighting as ‘Sailor V’ long before she met the others. She even has her own cat companion, a white tomcat named Artemis (and yes, this confused the hell out of me when I started learning about Greek and Roman gods in school), who is eventually Luna’s love interest. If you haven’t noticed by now, there is some correlation between the powers the girls have and their planet, which is also the name of a Roman god. More people are familiar with the Greek names: Mercury is Hermes, Mars is Ares, Jupiter is Zeus, and Venus is Aphrodite. Mars is often represented as a fiery character, while Zeus is known for his thunderbolts. Similarly, Venus has love-based attacks. However, because she was also Sailor V (and therefore created before all of the others– she had her own manga series and everything), she also has some moon-related powers. For example, her first primary attack is the ‘crescent beam’. Saban Moon amped up the Venus-Aphrodite connection. Saban Moon’s Venus is clearly boy crazy and depicted as the most upset about missing the dance. In the anime and manga, Venus is actually very similar to Moon. She has long blonde hair and big blue eyes and she’s a little disorganized in her normal life. She is also, however, the most responsible of the group and the original leader. In the 90s anime, none of the girls is particularly more boy crazy than the other, typically for comedic effect. 

We get very little on Prince Darien in Saban Moon. Mainly, that he is in love with Sailor Moon and apparently dies escaping the attack from Beryl. Some really interesting choices are made here, however. During the engagement ceremony, Prince Darien gives Sailor Moon a star necklace and a white rose. In Sailor Moon, he also gives her a star locket, which is later important to the plot. Tuxedo Mask is also always represented by a rose. In Sailor Moon, Tuxedo Mask throws a red rose when Sailor Moon is in trouble. His costume consists of a tuxedo with a cape, cane, and top hat. Saban Moon ditches the top hat and switches to a white rose (which is actually used in the extra plot arc of the original anime). The white rose in Saban Moon seems to give Sailor Moon additional power. Although the original anime does not convey this as well as the manga or Crystal, Tuxedo Mask and the love between them becomes a major source of power for Sailor Moon as time goes on. Although the original anime has Princess Serena/Serenity (Sailor Moon/Usagi’s alter ego) defeating Queen Beryl alone/added by her friends’ spirits, Crystal and the manga show Tuxedo Mask by Sailor Moon’s side (while her friends provide her with additional strength in other ways).

Theme Music

The last thing I want to look at are the theme songs and logos for Saban Moon and SM1995. Notably, they share the same logo:

For comparison, here is the logo for the redub:

Now, the theme song. The original Sailor Moon anime uses a song called “Moonlight Densetsu” for seasons 1-4. For the Americanized anime, the song’s tune remains the same, but the lyrics are changed. Saban Moon uses a different theme song altogether. Both American versions give you an idea of what the show is about:

Note: I typed these out from memory/listening to the theme songs

Sailor Moon (1995)

Fighting evil by moonlight, 
winning love by daylight.
Never running from a real fight,
She is the one named Sailor Moon!

She will never turn her back on a friend.
She is always there to defend.
She is the one on whom we can depend,
She’s the one named Sailor…..


Her secret powers are so new to her,
She is the one named Sailor Moon.
[guitar solo]

Fighting evil by moonlight, 
winning love by daylight.
With her Sailor Scouts to help fight,

[She is the one named Sailor Moon.] x2

She’s the one… SAILOR MOON [echos]

The opening for Sailor Moon (1995) includes images from the original Japanese opening theme along with clips from various episodes.

The lyrics explain that Sailor Moon works with her friends, Venus, Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter to fight evil, while balancing a daily life. She is super powerful even if she isn’t used to her powers yet and she prioritizes the safety of others.

Saban Moon

The opening for Saban Moon plays over images from the pilot video, which seems to include a slumber party and a hallway dance party.

The lyrics say essentially the same thing and yet… Perhaps it is nostalgia goggles, but the second one is so cringe. It really highlights that she is a crime fighting superhero but also a typical teenage girl. 

Saban: Looks like an angel flying higher than a bird
She’s got a life and another here on Earth
Her talking cat Luna gives her advice
Princess fighters stand by her side.


Sometimes she’s a fun-loving 16 year old girl
Other times she’s a superhero for the world
She can get dressed up and look so sweet
Then morph into a force that can’t be beat


She’s ready to fight for all that she believes in
She’s gonna stop evil forces and save the galaxy
She and her four princess fighter friends
Gonna crush crime time and again


For additional comparison, I’ll copy-paste translated Japanese lyrics of “Moonlight Densetsu”, the theme from the original anime, and “Moon Pride”, which is the theme for the first two seasons of Crystal (and, incidentally, my ringtone). I have found that Japanese lyrics are often more about describing a key emotion or theme. “Moonlight Densetsu” is one example. “Moon Pride”, however, directly references what they say to transform from normal girls into Sailor Guardians: “Make-up” as in “Moon Power Make-Up!” or “Mercury Power Make-Up!”, etc. Perhaps because this was also released as a response to the 20th anniversary of the franchise, there are more direct references/implications towards the plot and the story.

For these songs, I just looked up the lyrics on WikiMoon because these are translated into English from Japanese.

Moonlight Densetsu

Lyrics Source

I’m sorry I’m not honest,
I can say it while I’m dreaming,
My thoughts are on the verge of overloading,
I want to see you right now
Moonlight makes me want to cry,
At midnight I can’t call you,
But I’m so devoted, what should I do
My heart is a kaleidoscope

Ushered by the light of the moon
We meet again over and over
The sparkling lights of the constellations predict the whereabouts of love
Born on this same planet, a miracle romance.

Once again, on a weekend, we’re together,
A happy ending granted by the gods,
The present, past, and future,
I’m completely devoted to you

That time when we met, that dear
Look I’ll never forget
Among millions of stars I’ll find you,
Coincidences becoming chances, I like this way of life

A strange miracle crosses over,
We meet again over and over
The sparkling lights of the constellations predict the whereabouts of love
Born on this same planet, a miracle romance.
Do you believe in it? A miracle romance.

Moon Pride

Lyric Source

Moon Pride
I want to become your strength

Tears running down cheeks; eyes burning crimson
As fiercely as lightning; someone is yelling love out loud

No matter how dark it is I won’t be alone, right?
Moonlight shines upon us

Ah, there is a saying taught to girls for not giving up
It is “don’t leave your fate to the prince, fight with your own strong will”

Shiny Make-up, we’ll shine together under the starry sky
We’re not frail girls who need to be protected

Rocked by the waves of sorrow; scorched by the flames of wrath
As dazzingly as lightning; I swear this love is eternal

Even if we’re apart right now I’m not alone, right?
The moonlight connects us

Ah, all girls have an invincible weapon
It is the strength to gaze closely at one’s weakness and accept it all

Shiny Make-up, we’ll glitter together under the starry sky
Our bond that transcends time and space gives me strength

My feelings of longing are so painful that bring tears to my eyes
My fledgling heart is lonely and I want to meet you

No matter how many times we are reborn in this wide universe,
I’ll fall in love with you

Shiny Make-up, we’ll soar beyond the starry sky
Sin makes the world go round, but I’ll believe in the future


Shiny Make-up, we’ll end this under the starry sky
A new legend will begin here and now
La La Pretty Guardian SAILOR MOON


The unearthing of Saban Moon has really taken me for a walk down memory lane. Honestly, I’d lately been watching Digimon Adventure 01 and Adventure 02 for the first time in 20 years, so I’d already been thinking about what it felt like to watch these programs when they first aired. Sailor Moon has always had special meaning for me, however. It really influenced me quite a bit growing up. Seeing what could have been, especially as someone who has now studied television and fandom, I am so grateful they just dubbed the damn thing. I love being able to compare so many different versions of the same property, but ohmygod, the American production is a MESS. There are just some really awful 90s tropes happening that got toned down when they dubbed the anime. That being said, if someone wants to revive Saban Moon, I would very gladly watch, but only if it takes place in the 90s. I want the Stranger Things treatment for Sailor Moon (because that’s really what it would be).

So, overall, I am grateful to Saban Moon because it gives us a glimpse into the past, what might have been, and also helped get me writing again. Thank you, Saban. You gave us Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and now we have this.


Now, just because I love it, here is a link to the official music video for Moon Pride: Moon Pride Music Video. If you turn on Closed Captioning (CC), it will give you English subtitles. Also, here’s a collection of Toonami Promos so bask in the nostalgia or just experience a major part of my childhood. Below, I also have a collection of images comparing Saban Moon and Sailor Moon.

“It is returning and he is returning and they are returning…”

Doctor Who, “The End of Time, Pt. 1”

I will be the first to admit that this post is long overdue. Russell T Davies was announced as the new Doctor Who showrunner months ago, but, since receiving my Masters in Film and Television Studies last May, my brain has been on a bit of a vacation. (I can tell you, however, that crocheting elephants should not be as difficult as the patterns make it.)

I also want to take a quick second to acknowledge and speak about my mental health (because I started writing this blog post in October and am only now finishing it). I love writing, but depression, anxiety, and ADHD sometimes make it difficult to engage in some of the activities I enjoy (we’ve all seen those commercials, right?). The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on everyone’s mental and physical health. Now is the time to be both open about our own issues and supportive of others. You are not alone and neither am I. 

A quick summary of the last two years: I had the privilege of studying film, television, and fandom with some amazing professors. It was amazing. I also got married, which was nice too. My Master’s Thesis was on Doctor Who, the very show that first got me interested in television studies way back in 2008 (almost a full decade before I knew what television studies is). One of the chapters in my thesis actually examines the revival’s showrunners, Davies, Steven Moffat, and Chris Chibnall. On September 24 it was announced that when Chris Chibnall steps down as showrunner, RTD will be returning and I have many thoughts on this. (This is my first blog post in 2 years and I have ADHD, so please bear with me.)

First, one thing I recognize is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still very much part of our lives. (I feel confident generalizing since this has literally impacted the entire world.) Specifically, it has had a large impact on media production. In the case of Doctor Who, the most recent season was delayed and also shortened from 10 episodes to 8, and now 6. Following the pattern, 13th Doctor Jodie Whittaker will be leaving after 3 seasons (and 2 specials airing this year in addition to the most recent New Years Day special). This means that Davies and his new Doctor will be making their return/debut in 2023, just in time for the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who.

In the 50th Anniversary Special of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat reversed what Davies did from his first episode: he saved the time lords. He also had a huge budget and a global simulcast. When Davies was showrunner, the budget was significantly smaller and no one expected Who to become the global property it is now. While Davies was acknowledged as a fan of the series, this was not a central feature of the marketing, however, it is difficult to ignore as he makes his return. One specific quote regarding his return notes that there is content for him to enjoy as a viewer before he makes his return. Davies has always demonstrated appreciation and respect for the work of previous Doctor Who creatives. When he originally revived the series, he deliberately built on what was already there rather than trying to retcon and I think this is another opportunity for him to do that. I believe that it is because he is a fan that he is making his return.

There is also so much more money to work with. The 50th Anniversary, which occurred 3 years after Davies’s departure, was given blockbuster treatment both in terms of marketing and production values. Since then, the quality has only continued to improve. I would think that it was frustrating to miss out on working on such an exciting anniversary, which is why he will be back just in time for the 60th. There’s also so many more resources to play with. Although Doctor Who was historically a show that works with a limited budget– and Davies can obviously work within those constraints (did you know he invented the psychic paper?!) – a larger budget obviously increases the narrative possibilities.

The show is also no longer just a British staple, but has worldwide relevance now and these anniversaries receive far more attention and build up than they did when Davies first revived the series in 2005 (when there were supposedly only 8000 dedicated Doctor Who fans). Davies is responsible not only for the successful revival, but for one of the best eras of the series (Tenth Doctor David Tennant is still voted favorite Doctor over a decade after his departure). He is also the only showrunner to create a Doctor Who spin-off that lasts more than one season (The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood). To the BBC, Davies has already proven to be a profitable entity. Therefore it makes sense that he would jump at the chance to return and that the BBC would be eager to have him.

Tl;dr: Davies loves Doctor Who and is good at making Doctor Who content, so it makes sense that Davies and the BBC would both welcome this return. 

In the weeks following the Davies announcement, I had a lot of thoughts as to what this era would look like, along with many questions. For example, I was certain that David Tennant would not be the Fourteenth Doctor, but that is now rumored to be the case. (Apparently, there is precedence as the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton almost returned as the Seventh Doctor.) I’ve also learned recently that this year is the BBC’s 100th birthday, which has added an additional element of pomp and circumstance. So I have to wonder how long Davies will be at the helm this time. Will he only be around for the 60th anniversary or will he have another multi-season tenure? The announcement suggests that the latter will be the case, but for some reason, I cannot help having doubts, especially now that David Tennant is rumored to return as the official Fourteenth Doctor.

Regardless of whether or not he is the Fourteenth Doctor, I do believe that Tennant will be part of the 60th Anniversary Special. Actually, I think Davies is going to get as many Doctors as he can. During the 50th Anniversary, Davies had a brief cameo in the short film, “The Five(ish) Doctors,” which was made by Fifth Doctor Peter Davison and depicts his attempts to be part of the 50th Anniversary Special, along with Sixth Doctor Colin Baker and Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy. So, I have to wonder if the joke will be on everyone else when they do appear in the next anniversary special. Although, these Doctors could be recast, as was the case with First Doctor William Hartnell.

As part of the 50th Anniversary, the BBC produced a biopic depicting Doctor Who’s creation and starring David Bradley as Hartnell. Later, Bradley went on to play the First Doctor in the Christmas Special “Twice Upon a Time.” So there is precedence– although the First Doctor was also recast in the 20th Anniversary Special, following Hartnell’s death. I don’t think it would be surprising if the only recast Doctors were those whose actors have died. With The Sarah Jane Adventures, Davies demonstrated his fondness for the Classic Era, so I can totally see him indulging once again in bringing back all available Doctors (as was also the case during the Classic Era Anniversaries).

I don’t know if this is something we can expect, but I, personally, am hoping for the return of Mark Gatiss both as a writer and as an actor. His most recent Doctor Who performance was in “Twice Upon a Time” as the implied ancestor of Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, a recurring Classic Era character, who also appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures and has been referenced multiple times in the Revived Series. Gatiss is also known to be a huge Doctor Who fan, and has written Doctor Who novels. The episodes he’s written (although they are really hit or miss) include “The Idiot’s Lantern,” “The Crimson Horror,” “Sleep No More,” and “Empress of Mars.” I’m not going to lie, I deeply enjoy Gatiss’s chaotic energy and wondered if he would be the one to take over for Chris Chibnall (although it seems unlikely as he seems to flit around a lot; he also played Mycroft in Sherlock and served as a writer and producer).

I’d also like to see the return of Toby Whithouse (“School Reunion” and “Under the Lake” / “Before the Flood” are two of his) and the more recent addition, Maxine Alderton (“The Haunting of Villa Diodati” and “Village of the Angels”). If I’m going to speculate on writers, I have to wonder if Steven Moffat will contribute. In addition to being showrunner he wrote “The Girl in the Fireplace,” “Blink,” and “Silence in the Library” / “Forest of the Dead” under Davies, which are still considered some of the best. Chibnall also wrote for both Davies and Moffat before becoming showrunner, although I suspect he will likely take a break from Doctor Who for a while (“42” and Torchwood with Davies and “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” under Moffat).

I am far from the only person speculating on what Davies’s return will bring. From what I’ve read, the BBC will be handing control of Doctor Who over to Bad Wolf, a production company founded by Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter who served as producers in 2005. If that’s the case, I wonder how the budget will be affected. How will Davies’s next era compare to his first, before the pop culture explosion that Moffat played up during his era?  Or, to the more subdued, but visually stunning Chibnall era? It’s clear that the showrunner has a huge impact on how Doctor Who is perceived worldwide, and it seems many are looking forward to the next Davies Era.

Supernatural, Slice-of-life, Comedy Anime

This blog entry is about what I’ve been watching lately: Supernatural, Slice-of-life, Comedy Anime. They have been my escape from the stress of the world, my home life, and my MFA program (anime is not my focus). So, I am going to share these gems with you, because I’ve really enjoyed them. They are comedy, so they are light-hearted; slice-of-life, so there’s no big conflicts; supernatural, so they’re more interesting (to me at least)

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K (Netflix)

All three seasons are available subbed, but season 1 is also dubbed with solid voice casting. Netflix produced Reawakened, a six-episode follow up that covers the remainder of the manga, which is available subbed and dubbed. Seasons 1 and 2 are 24 episodes each, while season 3 is only 2 episodes (I believe it was aired as a holiday special).

Kusuo Saiki is a teenage psychic with near limitless power, whose greatest desire is for an anonymous normal life. This is challenged not only by his insane powers (that he strives to keep secret) but by the people in his life. While his family is full of dramatic and immature individuals, his friends are just odd– at the beginning this includes a self-proclaimed best friend who is literally too dumb for telepathy and a teenager with a hero complex and a rich fantasy life. Kusuo just attracts these odd people, despite his monotone demeanor. Over time it becomes clear that his sarcastic attitude and dry sense of humor hide a person capable of true kindness and of being fond of others.

Episodes are set up as segments, 4-5 per episode, that may or may not connect to each other. All but a couple of episodes take place during Kusuo’s second year of high school, and this is something that gets addressed as they seem to celebrate the same holiday or vacation period multiple times per season. Kusuo often speaks directly to the audience, offering explanations for his world, a lot of which is his fault.

The first season is the best place to start and the dub can make for solid background noise (although you may miss some key details or visual gags). If you like season 1, you’ll like seasons 2-3, but they will require more attention since there is no dub available. Reawakened is dubbed (by a different voice cast) but some things may be confusing without seasons 2-3 as reference– particularly the last episode, which is a direct follow up to season 3.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san (Crunchyroll; previously on Hulu)

The single-season anime is made up of 12 episodes and only available subbed. It is available on Crunchyroll and was on Hulu for a little while before rotating out.

Kohina Ichimatsu is an elementary school girl living alone in a big house. One night she plays “the Kokkuri game”, which is reminiscent of a ouji board, but played with a ¥10 coin and a piece of paper, acting as the pointer and board respectively. There is a warning not to play this game alone because otherwise a spirit will come and haunt/possess you (depending on the translation). Kohina summons Kokkuri, a fox spirit and former deity. To his surprise, Kohina is not afraid because she is a doll and therefore incapable of emotion. Upon discovering this poor girl living all alone and pretending to be a doll, Kokkuri takes on the role of a responsible adult and decides to move in and take care of her. This opens the door for other supernatural creatures to come into Kohina’s life. 

This show is absolute shenanigans. Although it is clear that Kohina’s determination to be a doll is a result of trauma, it is used to comedic effect as Kokkuri tries to help her become a real girl again. Additionally, Kohina’s greatest love is cup noodles. They are perhaps the only thing she will openly admit to having an attachment to and refers to them as “fuel for dolls” in the first episode. Later, we learn that Kohina is being bullied with a vase of flowers on her desk (a vase of flowers is typically placed on the desk of a student who has died) in part because her mind is almost always focused on cup noodles and begins the show caring little for anything else.

There is one element I am not so fond of. Eventually a dog spirit and a tanuki spirit move in as well. The tanuki is a trickster and a layabout, mostly interested in girls and gambling, but proves to be secretly kind and becomes a protective uncle to Kohina. The dog spirit has a much more complicated role. The manga explains it a little better: dog spirits are curses created by torturing a dog to death. This dog spirit is said to have died cold and alone, resulting in a curse. The only person kind to this dog when they were alive was Kohina and as a result this dog spirit is obsessed with her. Claiming that Kohina is the only thing they like (including themself), this dog spirit wants to marry Kohina and desires nothing but her love, but it’s in a very sexual way. The dog spirit is recognized by the cast as a pervert, but still lives with Kohina. It is so much ick, no matter how much justification is given. The situation is meant to be comedic, but it is just uncomfortable. I feel, however, that the rest of the show makes up for this comic misstep.

Like Saiki K, Gugure! is set up in segments, though they are more interrelated and follow some kind of chronology. Kokkuri proves to be an admirable stay-at-home father and a father-daughter bond definitely forms between himself and Kohina. Aside from some truly problematic instances of sexual humor, the focus is really more on how this little girl’s life improves with these supernatural creatures. There is no explanation for why Kohina decided to be a doll, but it is clear that their presence is healing some serious trauma. 

Special Mention: Ghost Stories (Crunchyroll)

Not exactly slice-of-life, but shenanigans galore. Available subbed and dubbed on Crunchyroll, but you’re going to want to watch the dub.

The story behind the production of Ghost Stories is shenanigans. So, Ghost Stories was a show that aired in Japan before making its way to the US. With less than stellar success, the team behind the dub was given very little direction on the translation (no one had high hopes for the property and no one cared), so the dub deviates in a number of areas from the original, with much of the dialogue ad-libbed by the voice actors. If you are familiar with “abridged” series on YouTube, you’ll get an idea, but basically include American cultural references and mature humor not originally found in this Japanese Childrens’ Program. (And all the political incorrectness. Do not take anything seriously.

This show does follow a plot. An elementary school girl named Satsuki, her younger brother, and her father move back to the town where her late mother grew up. As a youngster, the mother sealed away a number of spirits that are now being released. Satsuki now has to seal them away again. She is helped by her neighbor, their classmate, a girl from the grade above, and a previously sealed away ghost. 

Like Saiki K and Gugure!, Ghost Stories are half-hour episodes (so anywhere between 22-25 minutes). Unlike these other shows, each episode follows one ghost and sealing it away again. Some of the episodes are truly spooky, but balanced well with the juvenile humor. Overall, it’s shenanigans all around, but a little more plot and a little less slice-of-life. One important note: the opening song is cute and sweet, but you want to stay for the closing song, which, surprisingly, is original to the version originally aired in Japan.

Other light anime:

Fruits Basket (a 2019 remake based on a manga, available on Hulu and Crunchyroll)
A family is cursed to turn into animals based around the Chinese zodiac (plus the cat) when hugged by a non-family member of the opposite sex. A high school girl comes to live with them after the death of her mother and romantic comedy ensues. Believe it or not, more of a realistic show than a supernatural one, aside from the ever-present curse. The main focus is on the relationships between the characters.

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (available on Crunchyroll)
A teenage girl gets reincarnated as the villain of an otome game (a romance video game where the lead follows a path to end up with one of a number of suitors). She realizes this as a child and does her best to avoid “doom endings”, which are those in which the villainess gets exiled or killed.

Ouran High School Host Club (available on Netflix)
A teenager is attending an over-the-top wealthy private school on scholarship when they accidently break a multi-million dollar vase belonging to the school’s host club (a club where people go to be romanced or kept company– not sexually) and therefore has to become a member of the club– one of the hosts– in order to pay off their debt. However, this student turns out to be biologically female, leading to shenanigans surrounding keeping her secret as well as romance between herself and the other members.

Note: Crunchyroll is an anime streaming service similar to Hulu. A lot of what is on Hulu is on Crunchyroll, plus a LOT more– including a few Japanese dramas.

Other News…

Right now, a lot of what I’m doing is trying to relax. I’m currently on an anime kick, and have been watching other things, but it is the sort of light-hearted silliness I talk about above that I’ve really been drawn to and enjoying. I’ll note some of the other light programs I’ve been watching at the end of this post– heavier stuff can wait for another time. Although next week, I begin working with the same Superheroes in Film class I took two years ago. I’ve spent so much of this blog discussing the Marvel Cinematic Universe… so… that might come back.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend

Originally written June 6, 2020…

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt began during a more hopeful era. It tells a story that is outrageous but ultimately optimistic. Created by Tina Fey, the series follows Kimmy Schmidt, who was recently found after being held captive in a doomsday bunker. Lacking the knowledge that comes with growing up and experiencing the outside world, Kimmy experiences a series of misadventures as she tries to figure out adulthood in New York. Although the series ended with some loose ends, in the end, Kimmy became an independent adult both capable of supporting herself and happy. The show made pointed commentary on a number of aspects of society, including the role women occupy in society– thanks in part to her friend, Jacqueline, who starts as an upper east side trophy wife. In this “choose your journey” follow up, released about a year after the series ended, Kimmy is preparing to get married when she learns that there might be another bunker. Daniel Radcliffe is delightful as her fiancé, Frederick Windsor, twelfth in line for the British throne.

I only just watched this special today, but since the original series ended I have watched 30 Rock, which was not only created by Tina Fey, but starred her. This has provided me with a better sense of Tina Fey’s style as a creator, and enabled me to catch the references to the previous series. The “choose your path” style is well done, and considerably lighter than Netflix’s previous highly publicized attempt, Bandersnatch. For one, in this episode, you don’t have to watch on a computer to make the choices. For another, because Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is considerably lighter than Black Mirror, the episode does its best to help the audience meet the correct ending. Some choices will reverberate through the episode, while others will end with a member of the cast pointing out that the ending is the wrong one. Some choices provide additional scenes or change the jokes. Overall, it’s a lot of fun. *coaxes toward a happy ending

Although I enjoyed it, it feels very out of place right now. This is a time of fear not only in the United States, but globally. Kimmy’s adventures take her not only out of New York, but into an Indiana State Penitentiary and the middle-of-nowhere West Virginia. Some of the jokes– the worst-case scenarios– feel all too real (so far I’ve encountered an anti-metoo movement and a robot apocalypse) in 2020. So, on the one hand, I appreciate Kimmy’s hopeful nature and how she ties up the remaining loose ends with a happy ending, but on the other it feels like content from another time (which makes sense, since I’m sure it was made last year). After watching shows like Rupaul’s Drag Race, Saturday Night Live, and The Masked Singer include socially distant quarantined episodes, it feels very strange to watch something that was released less than a month ago depict a world that is not only kinder and more hopeful, but alive and active.

Last fall I began my Master’s Program, in which I study television. I’ve learned a lot of things about the industry and content– the increasing number of streaming platforms (Disney+, Peacock, HBOMax) has been particularly interesting and provided fascinating discussion. In our last few weeks of the spring semester, however, our speculation turned towards what COVID means for TV/film production. So, I couldn’t help but imagine how dark and sad Kimmy’s world would be if it were anything like this one. We already knew that Kimmy’s world was a brighter one, but never has it been clearer. Content production is starting up again; what will storylines look like? What do I/we/audiences WANT them to look like? While it has long been in my nature to try to avoid terrible news and do my best to forget about it, the remote episodes have been strangely comforting. It is a reminder of the fact that COVID, at least, is a global pandemic, something connecting all of humanity right now. More and more often when I look outside I see beautiful summer weather and it feels weird to be inside (even though that is generally most of my summers because heat and sun), but the reminders of our shared experience make staying inside feel less like a personal fault. Are these reminders important/needed/wanted?

It leads me to my larger question: what responsibility do content creators have, if any? Should content be in production right now? This fall what will we want to see? Last semester I began researching binge-watching and re-watching (and binge re-watching). There are probably millions of hours of content that already exist. Netflix and Friends are a perfect example. Would legacy TV (not streaming/On Demand) benefit from re-airing old content, or would that be a step closer towards the end of legacy? I have many questions about the implications of industry choices. This is my way of coping (also crochet dolls, which I WILL be posting pictures of eventually), I suppose. It is not the biggest issue right now by any means, but it is relevant. Things will never be the way they were before this year. Currently, first amendment rights are being threatened, which may have a large impact on what content gets made and what messages are spread about this year. COVID and the production issues surrounding it have almost taken a backseat to the many protests, riots, and calls for action/change. Many episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit have been advertised as ripped from the headlines; before this year, I would have expected our current situation to be covered, but now I’m not sure even how you would do that, let alone if it will be possible.

This turned very depressing very quickly. My general point is that with all the post apocalyptic media produced (original Twilight Zone and Hunger Games come to mind), you would think that efforts would be made to fight back and try to create a world that doesn’t look like a terrifying dictatorship created thanks to a zombie virus (so many post-apocalyptic zombies viruses…). So, do programs like this Kimmy Schmidt special help or hurt? The special is satirical but is ultimately optimistic. These fictional worlds were something to strive for (Friends depicts a waitress living with only two roommates in Manhattan), but these protests are a huge reminder that these worlds were not so optimistic for everyone. Going back to how things were isn’t a good thing and growth only comes through pain. So, while I appreciate this light hearted special and the choices it makes, I am still left feeling uncomfortable. I can imagine, however, that I would’ve enjoyed it more had I watched it right when it was released.

August Update

This summer has flown by! I still have the list of planned posts I made back in June, but I hope to get them out sooner rather than later. Since then here’s a little bit about what I’ve been up to…

Recent Release: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3

Season 3 released on August 2 on Netflix with a whopping SIX episodes– down one from season 2’s SEVEN. I have a lot of thoughts about this. In one of my earliest posts, I expressed my frustrations with Miraculous Ladybug’s release schedule, and it’s no secret that Steven Universe dragged its feet, so I’ve actually found this rather refreshing. Since releasing season 1’s thirteen episodes November 18, 2018, season 2 dropped seven episodes on April 26. Although the episode count is still low, She-Ra has kept my interest piqued.

The problem with long wait times between new content is that it’s easy to get caught up in something else. Doctor Who is perhaps my favorite franchise, but these days I’m much more interested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its fairly constant stream of content and announcements, but even now that those have slowed and become increasingly unclear or ambiguous, I am looking for new content to keep me occupied.

Marathoning: RuPaul’s Drag Race

I may have done some marathoning while cleaning out my house and crafting like crazy and most recently I’ve been catching up with RuPaul and the several seasons I’ve missed over the last few years. The thing I like about this particular competitive reality television program is RuPaul’s commitment to promoting loving oneself and one’s weirdness.

The show routinely depicts contestants overcoming their own personal demons or how the show lead to family reconciliations. Regardless of the veracity of reality TV, these heartwarming messages are the kind of thing that we should see more of. With so much hate-speak and anger, promoting love and acceptance is hugely important.

Also, I just love drag queens and have a lot of connections to the LGBTQ+ community. While Drag Race was originally more concerned with poking fun at the question of gender, it has since become a safe space for all forms of gender expression. In recent years, former contestants have come out as transgender and there have even been openly trans contestants. At the start of season 9 (which is what I’m currently on) Lady Gaga makes an appearance and explains how drag has affected her life, elevating it as an art form and an important form of self-expression.

Personal Note

Next week I start grad school (again!) and begin working towards an MFA in Film & TV Studies (hopefully with more emphasis on the TV). I’m very excited, but also nervous. I still have a long list of blog entries to write and publish but have no idea how much time I’ll actually have. To those who keep reading, I deeply appreciate it. I don’t know if I can quite explain what it means to me.

This blog has been a way for me to find my voice and put it out there. Confidence is something I’ve struggled with for a long time and having this platform has been a way for me to work on raising my voice. Learning people are actually reading has been even more exciting. Hopefully, my next post will be a proper review rather than another update!