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Sailor Moon S - Heart Collection II DVD Review

Review By: Matthew Belanger. First written 05.25.01. Last modified 01.29.03

DVD Region: 1 - United States of America and Canada

Video: Standard/Open Matte 1.33:1

Audio: Japanese Track - Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, English Track - Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Menus - Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Released By: Pioneer Entertainment (USA) L.P.

Episodes:
Episode 97: "Mizu no labyrinth! Neraareta Ami"
Episode 98: "Tomodachi wo sukue! Moon Uranus rengou"
Episode 99: "Otokono yasahisa! Yuuichirou Rei ni Shitsuren?"
Episode 100: "Sailor Senshi wo yametai?! Minako no nayami"
Episode 101: "Usagi namida. Tanjoubi ni glass no kutsu wo"
Episode 102: "Ubaareta pure na kokoro. Usagi zettai zetsumei"

Extras: Sailor Gallery featuring Sailor Jupiter, Textless / Kareoke Second Ending

Review Equipment:
A) Intel Pentium III 533 MHz PC with 128 MB RAM, WinDVD 2000 Multichannel 2.3, Pioneer 10x DVD-ROM Drive, TTX 1556 15" Digital Monitor on Voodoo3 2000 AGP video card, Labtec LCS-2514 4.1 Surround Sound speaker system on CREATIVE Sound Blaster Live! Value sound card
B) JVC XV-D2000 DVD Player, Sony Dolby Digital AC3-Ready STR-DE425 FM Stereo / FM-AM Receiver, 5 Sony surround sound speakers, 27" GE Television

Grades:

Packaging ... B
Menus ... A
Audio ... A-
Video ... B+
Titling ... B+
Extra ... B+
Content ... A-
SMS TV DVD II Disc

Here is the next disc in the series of who-knows-how-many (my guess is 6) from Pioneer for the S season. The first disc was pretty good, so things can only improve... right?

Sometimes, that isn't always the case.


Packaging:

SMS TV DVD II Side A

The reversible cover for this disc is as beautiful as the last disc's, but unfortunately this time it brings some annoying problems. The first of these problems is the side Pioneer chose to be the main side, i.e. the side that receives the red and gold shiny foiling. On the first disc the Sailormoon side was chosen, but for this disc the non-Sailormoon side was picked. This is really annoying for those people (e.g. ME) who are arranging all of their disc covers to match and be of either Sailor Moon or of the other Sailor Senshi (it is assumed that the covers, if done properly, will have all of the special foiling showing or all of it flipped to the other side). With Pioneer's latest decision, foiling and non-foiling is mixed now XP This is plain laziness and carelessness on their part, I want to boo and hiss at them but nothing good will come of it. Can't have it all, can we?

 

SMS TV DVD II Side B

The second problem with the cover is the second side with the beautiful picture of Sailor Moon... which, if you look closely, shows her wearing her SM & SMR tiara >_< (shown to the left). This is pretty careless as well, although I guess one could argue that it might have been difficult for the artist (whose name I can't find anywhere on the TV DVD packagings) to draw her tiara with the moonshape in it while she's turned sideways. My question is, did they at least ATTEMPT to draw it? I think it could have been achieved after a few tries, which is why I don't believe the argument to be valid. I honestly think the red jewel wasn't intentionally drawn in and that no one recognized it as a mistake. It is such a great picture, though, that I wouldn't be surprised if many people didn't care. :)

Despite these problems, the main cover features a picture of Sailors Mars and Venus with Sailormercury on the back performing her Shine Aqua Illusion attack (shown above), and as it was previously said, Sailormoon is on the reversible cover with blown-up pictures of Minako and Sailors Uranus & Neptune on its back. There really isn't anything else that I can say here that wouldn't be me repeating myself in regards to the first disc, so I'll end the cover talk here.

 

SMS TV DVD II Insert Flap

The insert flap, which is to the right, is single-sided and shows the same Sailormercury picture that is on the back of the first cover, again with episode titles, chapter stops, and the NA logo in the top-left corner. It too has a problem, a small typo, of "prolong" instead of "prologue" (thanks Goddess Eternal). Okay, with all of the packaging's problems, is it just me or has Pioneer become REALLY sloppy all of a sudden?

If this disc's packaging hadn't included such preventable mistakes, it would have received an A like the first disc did, but since it does have three very stupid and disappointing mistakes, the packaging doesn't get as good of a mark as before.


Menus:

SMS DVD II Main Menu Screen

Once again, the menus are interesting, but aren't as creative or as imaginative as the first disc's. The DVD opens up during the end of Sailorjupiter's henshin, where the camera pans up her body as she spins around in her fuku. Right before her final pose, the scene freezes (pictured to the left) and the access buttons display on the right side of the screen, a tilted heart is shown on the left side with Makoto transforming repeatedly inside of it, and the NA logo is in the top-right corner (it appears on every menu). Also visible are semitransparent stars that fly towards the screen, Windows' "Stars" screensaver style (except that they look prettier and not like white dots).

 

SMS DVD II Setup Menu Screen

Accessing the Setup menu brings up an animation of Sailormoon doing her attack again (to the left), but starting from her pose at the main menu. It freezes during one of her spins while she is still standing, and all of the options come onscreen.

 

SMS DVD II Access Menu Screen

Accessing the Setup menu brings up an animation of part of Makoto's henshin where her hand grabs ahold of her spinning henshin pen and the symbol of Jupiter flies toward the screen. Right after, a picture of Jupiter performing her Supreme Thunder attack from the R Movie (and episode 102) appears onscreen with all of the setup options (pictured on the left).

 

SMS DVD II Extra Stuff Menu Screen

After clicking on Extra Stuff, the same exact henshin sequence for Setup happens again, with a different frame from that particular Supreme Thunder pictured afterwards with different options to choose from (to the left and far down).

 

The menus' audio is, shockingly, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, with some mono music and sound effects coming from the anime, but mostly discrete surround music and sound effects made by Pioneer. The main menu's audio, however, is the same as the first disc's, which is Sailormoon performing her Moon Spiral Heart Attack. It seems weird at first, but you get used to the singers doo-ing and the sound effect for the Spiral Heart Moon Rod spinning. Pioneer's audio fits nicely with the menus' transition animations, and it sounds really cool when it's put together with Jupiter-sama ^.^ It is also nice that Pioneer took the extra step to encode the menus in 5.1 surround, which really makes use of the surround channels this time.

The menus are really neat, but again, just don't have the same "flair" or something that the last disc had... (I'm trying not to bring my love-for-Jupiter bias into this review, REALLY, I am ._.) The menus are quick and don't take too long, so they get a pretty good score.


Audio:

The audio on the disc is, for the most part, clean and easy to listen to, but once again, doesn't sound 100% perfect. The Japanese and English audio tracks are encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and 2.0 Stereo respectively for the episodes themselves, so there is no directionality or fantastic effects to be in awe of (only the NA Theme on the English audio track is in stereo; voices, music, and sound effects are in mono). For fans of the original Sailormoon, however, there is some comfort in knowing that Pioneer couldn't possibly downgrade the audio from stereo to mono like they did with the movie releases, since the TV episodes were created in mono originally (;_;). Out of the two tracks on the disc, the Japanese wins over the English again, as the music, sound effects, and speech levels consistently mix well together, creating nice audio, and a low bass sound for a subwoofer to make use of during those mysterious, darkened, eerie moments. The English track isn't the same story, however, as for many episodes the music is still way too low, the speech a little too loud, and the sound effects somewhere in between. I don't think I need to touch on the quality of the dub, as most people already know how it is by now. I'm actually unable to let myself sit through every dubbed episode and put myself through that kind of torture, but from what I have read by those people who have, the scenes that were cut out for Cartoon Network have been dubbed regularly with nothing monumentally changed. Amara and Michelle are just really, really, really really really close cousins. x.X The audio is given a good mark, since there isn't really any way for Pioneer to make improvements on the source material.


Video:

The Sailormoon anime, throughout its 5 seasons, has had different art styles which triumph over each other during different moments. The visuals in S are well-presented on this disc, but could have been slightly better. There was no rainbowing evident, but even with the disc being dual layered to fit all 6 episodes on one side, artifacting was sometimes noticeable, probably moreso on digital visual equipment. On the bright side, colours are presented well, and compared with master fansubs, they are fuller and livelier, with brightness and contrast appropriately set (Note: this is only compared in the first comparison picture below, not the second).

One unfortunate aspect of the video on this disc is that there is some cropping evident on the first 2 episodes when compared to those episodes' Japanese laserdisc releases. Pioneer has denied accusations of purposely cropping the video (their claim supported by the overscan present on the left and right of the screen on the basic video of those episodes) and has said that they received the TV masters from Japan to make their DVD, instead of the laserdisc masters. The comparison picture below shows two images taken from episode 97, the first image being from a fansub made from a laserdisc, and the second image taken from the DVD (the area in black and white depicts what is missing on the DVD and is on the Japanese laserdiscs).

A comparison between a frame taken from both a master fansub and the DVD release, showing the area missing from the DVD

The last 4 episodes on this disc, however, truly do show more information on the left and right sides of the screen when compared to the Japanese laserdisc releases, and some parts are even zoomed OUT to make more information on all sides of the screen, such as all of episode 100, shown below (only the coloured part on the right is what the laserdisc has, the part in black and white is what was missing and is included on the DVD).

A comparison between a frame taken from both the DVD release and a master fansub, depicting the area that was missing from the laserdisc

Another annoying feature of this disc is that Pioneer put the last S opening, the third, on for all of the episodes, when it is only meant to be seen after certain events take place later in the season. It would make sense that they did this purposely since the third opening is probably the only one available without Japanese characters embedded on it, it is in this way that Pioneer can embed their English credits onto it. Still, this is unfortunate.

Sailormoon has never looked this good in North America, and with the extra information on the sides and the zooming out for 2/3 of the disc, perhaps it hasn't been able to look this great in Japan. I would have given the video a better grade if Pioneer had made the disc dual-sided instead of dual-layered to make the artifacting less apparent, and had put the disc on hold and contacted TOEI to get the proper master for the first 2 episodes on the disc. Then again, Pioneer may have not realized the mistake, but North American fans shouldn't have to suffer for it.


Titling:

Example of embedded translation of background wording

 

Example of embedded translation of Japanese sign

The quality of the translation subtitles on the DVD appears to be accurate and better than the subtitles on my VKLL fansubs of SMS. Many new things that were questionable on the VKLL tapes suddenly make sense on the DVD now, and Pioneer even included honourifics a lot of the time (e.g. "Mamo-chan"). There is some odd spelling though, such as "daimohn" (they even wrote on the back of the packaging "daimon", so...?), "Yujial" (Eudial), and the daimons' names especially. The letters for the subtitling has changed for some reason. Instead of being thin and yellow with black outlines, it is bubbly and yellow with black outlines. This isn't a bad thing, it just takes a little getting used to if you were used to the first disc's subtitle font.

 

Example of embedded translation of written characters

Pioneer embedded word translations onto the video for some of the large background wording and signs, among other things, and did it mostly in a non-threatening manner. It actually looks GOOD. Some people would argue that Pioneer should have just left the translating for the subtitling to do, but it probably needed to be done this way for those watching with the English audio track on and the subtitles off. I wish that Pioneer had translated some other important things as well though, such as the study schedule in episode 100, etc.

 

Example of embedded translation of an episode title

Anyway, the annoying text, unfortunately, includes the translation of the episode title at the beginning of every episode, since it is rather large and set over the five hearts at the top of the screen (see the last image to the right), and the end credits text for "Tuxedo Mirage" which was set up so that animation is going on at the left side of the screen with space left at the right side for the credits to go. Pioneer ignored this and put the English credits smack-dab in the centre of the screen, spanning from left to right.

 

The crediting text put on the opening, however, looks pretty good, and I have no complaints there. Titling would have been given a A+ if Pioneer had just used the correct spelling of names, hadn't destroyed the episode title screens and the ending credits animation, and translated everything on screen worthy of being translated.


Extras:

A heap of extras should not be expected from this DVD release, since Pioneer has to span them across however many DVDs they plan to release for S and SuperS to occupy. What is on here, though, is interesting, and until now used to be rare. The "Sailor Gallery" talks about Makoto Kino/Lita, with no new information that I haven't seen before (at least it's all accurate). There are also 5 pictures of Makoto/Jupiter that I've also already seen, but unfortunately they're put on a small portion of the screen.

Also in the extras is the second textless ending, with normal audio and karaoke audio to choose from. The mono karaoke track sounds too muffled to enjoy though, it's unclear to me why Pioneer couldn't obtain a better sounding track or even take the extra step to throw on a stereo karaoke track. Also a part of this extra are subtitles that turn green as the Japanese words are sung. They're a little slow sometimes, and it'd be much better if every syllable/sound lighted up and then returned to yellow again instead, but they don't do that, every syllable/sound/word changes to green and remains that way until the next line appears. It's still a neat extra to have.

You can also choose to view the DVD credits from the Extra Stuff menu, an option that is interesting for only 5 seconds. The extras suit the DVD well, and are given a good mark for that, but the karaoke part could have used improvements. Remember, too many extras would put future discs at risk of becoming bare.


Content:

This disc is pretty much the same as the first disc, with the exception of the demise of Kaolinite (or so it would seem, bwahaha). The good has yet to come. Nothing else has changed with the episodes, meaning no new (important) characters... not too much of anything new really (but us Sailormoon fans don't care anyway, ne?). Just the same set-up for the episodes, character development, stuff like that. The next-episode previews weren't included on the DVD (of course), they were entertaining and usually quite funny, so they will be missed. It's been speculated that they were probably never dubbed, and that Pioneer didn't want to insert silence onto the English audio track during those parts on the DVD, but they could have just thrown the previews into the Extra Stuff section with only the Japanese audio track and had no problems. Hopefully in the future Pioneer will run out of new extras as they make new DVDs, and decide to include the previews on them then.

So, to summarize, this is a great disc when you get 6 entire episodes on it, along with the uncut English dub (for those who care) as well as a few fun extras. And who can resist staring at the cover (again)? Stop reading this and get the DVD already!!



Back to Sailormoon DVD Reviews



Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon S 1994 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. 2000 Naoko Takeuchi / Kodansha / Toei Animation.
Package design by 2000 Pioneer Entertainment (USA) L.P.
DVD produced by Pioneer.

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