by Elly, August 4th, 2014
Whether they love it or hate it, fans have been extremely vocal about their opinions of Sailor Moon Crystal. Although everyone probably falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, there are two camps of thought. There are people who dislike Sailor Moon Crystal because they are critical of the art style or some other technical aspect. And then there are people who love it because it appeals to their nostalgia, and/or simply because it is yet another incarnation of Sailor Moon. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I have close friends who love Sailor Moon Crystal, and close friends who hate it. Everyone I talk to has a valid opinion, and I can understand their points of view. But let’s recap what folks are saying, just to paint a picture of what the discussion is like these days:
Art Problems with Sailor Moon Crystal
The most vocal critics of Sailor Moon Crystal are people who are upset by the technical aspects of its production. They are upset that a franchise which has grossed billions in sales1 has faced significant release delays only for the art work and animation techniques to be shoddy.
from tumblr user tokomon
More often than not these critics are professional artists and animators. I could sit here and link tons and tons and tons of blogs who are pointing out all of the art style and animation flaws of Sailor Moon Crystal, but you get the point.
I’m no artist, but even I can’t ignore some of the mangled-looking stills from Sailor Moon Crystal. I would imagine that anyone watching the show who is a professional artist or animator cringes every time they see the same flaws. At least part of that frustration is coming from the fact that they are watching their peers get away with being lazy. Many of the professional artists commenting on Sailor Moon Crystal are likely to have worked under stricter deadlines with less budget. And they’re familiar with the ever-looming threat an artist faces for producing shoddy work; in other words, being fired. Seeing your peers produce shoddy work for such an iconic series – one that you love – must be very difficult to handle. I think it is natural under those circumstances to be outraged.
Translation Problems with Sailor Moon Crystal
I’ve been gritting my teeth through the episodes of Crystal but for an entirely different reason. I usually watch the show on Nico Nico Douga along with my buddy @marioknight who doesn’t speak any Japanese. So as I’m watching the show, I’m following along with Toei Animation’s Engish translations. I’m not the only one who has noticed the problems in Toei’s translation, and I’ve contemplated writing up detailed translation reviews for each episode. But due to my lack of enthusiasm and time constraints, I don’t think it’ll happen. Perhaps after Crystal’s first season has finished airing (and if it gets a second season) I’ll go back and release fansubs of the whole thing. It would take less time to simply re-translate the episodes than to point out all the mistakes.
Many fans have informed me that Toei is notoriously bad at producing English translations. That certainly matches my experience. But just because it is a known-fact does not mean that their lack of professionalism is acceptable. As someone who does translations between Japanese and English professionally, I am aware of the difficulties involved in the craft. I’m familiar with working under tight deadlines for customers who are not always super kind or appreciative of the hard work it takes to make an intuitive translation. I think I can speak for all translators when I say that we’re all constantly overworked and underpaid. And there’s no such thing as a perfect translation. But boy, it could be better.
The team at Toei certainly has room for improvement in their translation department, and not just with English. Fans have been reporting that the Sailor Moon Crystal translations in Spanish, German, and French are as badly stilted and incorrect. This is not a problem limited to only one aspect of the series translation; it’s rampant in all of their localization departments. To see the problem so widespread at Toei points to a lack of leadership in translation project management. This is really sad to see, especially given the enormous profits Toei has made from Sailor Moon. You’d think they’d treat this iconic franchise with more care.
The Death of Expertise
Not every critic of Sailor Moon Crystal is a professional artist or translator, of course. But what I am seeing over and over again in the fan dialogue about Sailor Moon Crystal’s problems is the death of expertise phenomenon. In short, what I see are fans becoming egregiously hostile when anyone dares to criticize Sailor Moon Crystal. There seems to be no concern about the credentials of the critic in question. Who cares about someone’s professional degree or their years of industry experience? When it comes to discussing something as sacred as Sailor Moon, none of those things make a difference. In fact, it’s better not to mention if you’re a professional artist when you critique Sailor Moon Crystal’s art style. Because then you’re being an “elitist” and surely, there is nothing worse in civilized discourse than the oft-dreaded intellectual.
As Tom Nichols so elegantly put it, “To disagree is to insult. To correct another is to be a hater.” I keep reading about how everyone is tired to death of “haters” complaining about Sailor Moon Crystal as I read through the multitude of Sailor Moon social media spaces and blogs. But I don’t see any haters. What I see are people who love Sailor Moon so much that they are bothered by watching it being done a disservice by so-called professional companies. What I see are professionals who work in art and animation whose opinions are being tossed in the trash merely because what they have to say about Sailor Moon Crystal isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. What I see in the Sailor Moon fandom is a culture that entirely rejects the notion that you can love something while acknowledging its faults.
I am a Sailor Moon fan. I’ve loved the series since I was about 12 years old; for more than half of my life. I’ve spent years translating every incarnation of the story. I’ve invested countless hours and more money than I care to think about to share my love of Sailor Moon with folks on the internet. The very idea that I’m “just a hater” because I do not blindly ignore all of the flaws that exist in the various incarnations of Sailor Moon is frankly, insulting. Especially as I’m reading it come from people whose blogs are composed primarily of materials they’ve lifted from Miss Dream.
Despite its flaws, I still love Sailor Moon Crystal. And I’m sure that the vast majority of people who document the flaws in its technical production are fans of the series; else why would they care? The bottom line is, we should be concerned less about labelling someone a “hater” and more interested in learning why professionals in the arts aren’t thrilled with some of the more technical aspects. Do I like that Sailor Moon Crystal is less than perfect? Of course not. But I see no reason to come after a professional artist with a pitch fork for the crime of saying, “Hey, these proportions are really messed up, even for this medium. Here’s why. Let me share with you something I learned while studying / working in this same industry.”
I think it is more valuable to learn from one another rather than fling insults when we disagree. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been learning a heck of a lot about animation techniques and human proportions by reading the blogs of folks who are critical of Sailor Moon Crystal. And that’s information I likely would have never come across; so I look at it as an educational opportunity and a good experience.
What Do You Think?
Are you someone who is critical of Sailor Moon Crystal? If so, what are your gripes?
Are you someone who thinks the criticisms of Crystal are flawed? If so, tell us why. I’d like to read an argument as to why the current criticisms are invalid that doesn’t begin with, “This isn’t what Sailor Moon taught us!” or “I’m tired of haters.” I’d love to read some counter-arguments about Sailor Moon Crystal’s art style or translation quality. Comment below!