While not-so-patiently waiting for the first and third Saturdays of the month to bring “new” episodes of Sailor Moon Crystal, a moment of clarity struck. As much as I love Sailor Moon Crystal, it should not exist. Before you summon Sailor Saturn to bring down her Silence Glaive, hear me out. (If you don’t know who that is, pick up the manga or watch the third series of the original series.) There was not a Moonie alive more excited than me when it was announced that we would be getting a revamped Sailor Moon. This Deadly Diva has a binder full of VCDs containing the entire original series, including Sailor Stars, and the movies.
Sailor Moon Crystal is a revision of the classic 1992 Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon series. The selling points are character designs more in line with Takeuchi Naoko’s manga, refreshed animation, and a plot that actually follows the manga. Those in the know can read between those lines. What they really meant to say is “we got rid of the filler.”
If an anime is done right the first time, a revised series would not be necessary. Sailor Moon is not the only transgressor; it is just one of the more recent. Dragon Ball Z and Full Metal Alchemist have fallen victim as well. All fans begin watching revisions with wide-eyed optimism. They think of all the technological advances between the original series and the revision. It’s the feeling that every Star Wars fan had before Episode I. Better tech does not always make for a better product. Jar Jar Binks taught us that.
In a perfect world, the mangaka will produce new chapters at a steady rate. The animators will take the manga and create magnificent, true to source anime. However, the world is far from perfect. People get sick, go on vacation, or simply need a breather. The result is those lovely animated pieces of fluff called filler. Filler is an episode, or more likely a string of episodes, that are not based on the source material. It often exists because the animators are trying to give the mangaka time to write.
Not all filler is bad television. Sometimes it comes as retrospectives recounting all the season’s action. Sometimes it’s a glimpse into the mind of a misunderstood character. Sometimes it is a diversion that the viewer believes should have been canon. Confession time – one of my favorite arcs from Bleach, the Zanpakutō Rebellion, is pure filler. It was so well done that this Deadly Diva did not mind. I can feel your judgment and I accept it. This Deadly Diva is partial to swords and magic, so anthropomorphized blades gave me life. I do not apologize.
So how do we avoid the filler trap? The easy answer is to wait until a manga is complete, or nearly complete, before beginning animation. This Deadly Diva knows that is easier said than done. When a manga becomes popular, often the next step is to create a corresponding anime. There is money to be made and gosh darn it; they will make all of it.
With filler episodes, viewers expect to endure non-canon material. In the pantheon of transgressions, this is one of the lessers. When the episode starts, manga readers know early on that filler is gracing their presence once again. At that point, there is a choice to watch the filler or move on until canon material returns. Non-manga readers, unfortunately, can’t make that distinction. So the moral of the story is read the source material; it helps you to avoid filler.
However, there is a more sinister deviation from source material that needs to be brought to the light – the character warp. What’s the character warp? A character warp is when the basic and canon personality traits are disregarded, sometimes completely flipped, for no good reason. It does not advance plot. It does not provide additional insights. It is simply change for the sake of change.
Consider Hino Rei from Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon. In the manga, Rei does not trust men, at all. She believes them to be unreliable and unworthy because of her absentee father. The original series portrayed Hino Rei has a stereotypical boy-crazy teenaged girl who was Tsukino Usagi’s rival for Chiba Mamoru. Another change is the “tough love,” bordering on abuse, Rei heaps on Usagi. It makes her seem petty and jealous. Manga Rei is sophisticated beyond her years, with a cool aloofness that Usagi admires. The differences between the portrayals is enough to make a Deadly Diva wonder if the team at Toei Animation just did not like Hino Rei.
Before you pack your bags and abandon hope, revisions are not all bad. Let’s take a look at Full Metal Alchemist and its revision, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Full Metal Alchemist was a lean series, with only 51 episodes and very little filler to extract. In fact, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is longer than its predecessor. However, the original series was fraught with inconsistencies – from Pride, Wrath, Sloth, and Envy to that off the rails ending – that made it uncomfortable for some manga readers to watch. If you are wondering how Full Metal Alchemist went so wrong, it’s simple. Animation started when the manga was only halfway through its run. Fortunately, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood rectified most of those inconsistencies by staying true to the manga through the ending.
Now, all that is left to endure is the revisions of Bleach and Naruto. Do not doubt; they are coming. Actually, this Deadly Diva would prefer if Bleach got the Inuyasha treatment. Just give us the final (filler-free) arc when the manga is complete and all will be forgiven.
This Deadly Diva acknowledges that revisions are somewhat of an unavoidable evil these days. What series would you like to see brought back?