Friday, 23 July 2021

By the Power of Netflix, He-Man returns to Grayskull!

 


Mattel's fantastical sword & sorcery MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE  franchise powers up today with release of a new animated series on Netflix. The inaugural HE-MAN and THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE animated series debuted nearly 40 years ago in 1983 based on Mattel's toy line released the year prior. 


The story takes place on the world of Eternia, where young Prince Adam uses the Sword of Power to transform into He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe. Together with his trusty Battle Cat and allies such as Teela & Man-at-Arms, He-Man defends the mysterious Castle Grayskull against the evil forces of Skeletor from learning its secrets for ultimate power to rule the universe.

Opening title sequence of the 1980s cartoon.
Full episodes available on YouTube.

Thinly disguised as a “cartoon commercial”, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe certainly catapulted toy sales skyrocketing for a number of years and over 130 episodes emblazoned He-Man in minds of Gen-X boys across the world. Now those boys have grown to be middle-aged men and get to relive their childhood with Netflix's MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION, an official sequel for the original 1980s series and now updated to current audience expectations.


Official Synopsis

After a calamitous battle fractures Eternia, Teela and an unlikely alliance must prevent the end of the Universe in this sequel to the '80s classic.



Masters of the Universe: Revelation is set to release in two parts, with the five-episode releasing today July 23, 2021 on Netflix. Here is list of episodes:


Total run time adds up to about 2 hours which is quite binge-watchable as a full-length animated movie. It is Rated 13+.

This new animated streaming series is developed by Kevin Smith and produced by Powerhouse Animation Studios. Kevin Smith is well-known in the American geek pop culture fraternity as filmmaker, actor, comedian, comic book writer, author and podcaster, often best known for his role as part of the duo Jay and Silent Bob in a series of low-budget comedy films from the mid-90s. Smith himself is a big fan of 1980s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and gleefully excited to take on the reins of this beloved franchise as showrunner for this sequel series. Hear what he has to say about Revelations:


Read more about what Kevin Smith has shared in this in article by Den of Geek. Follow Kevin Smith on Twitter for latest reveals on Masters of the Universe: Revelation.

Now check out the voice cast for Masters of the Universe: Revelation:
  • Chris Wood (The Vampire Diaries, Supergirl) as Prince Adam / He-Man
  • Mark "Luke Skywalker" Hamill (Star Wars, Batman animated) as Skeletor
  • Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) as Man-At-Arms
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Teela
  • Lena "Cersei Lannister" Headey (Game of Thrones) as Evil-Lyn
  • Diedrich Bader as King Randor and Trap Jaw
  • Alicia Silverstone as Queen Marlena
  • Stephen Root as Cringer
  • Griffin Newman as Orko
  • Susan Eisenberg as Sorceress of Castle Grayskull
  • Kevin Michael Richardson as Beast Man
  • Kevin Conroy (Batman animated) as Mer-Man
  • Henry Rollins as Tri-Klops
  • Jason Mewes as Stinkor
  • Alan Oppenheimer as Moss-Man (voice of original Skeletor... and Mer-Man)
  • Justin Long as Roboto
  • Tony Todd (Candyman) as Scare Glow
  • Phil LaMarr as He-Ro
  • Cree Summer as Priestess
  • Harley Quinn Smith as Illena
  • Tiffany Smith as Andra
  • Dennis Haysbert as King Grayskull
  • Adam Gifford as Vikor
  • Jay Tavare as Wundar
Top left clockwise: Kevin Conray as Mer-Man, Liam Cunningham as Man-At-Arms,
Mark Hamill as Skeletor, Justin Long as Roboto, Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn,
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela. Source: Whats-on-Netflix.com

Perhaps not by coincidence, San Diego Comic Con 2021 takes place this week, albeit virtually streamed across the world as Comic Con @ Home. Scheduled under Netflix Geeked panel line-up is the Masters of the Universe: Revelation panel with the cast and creators now available to watch on YouTube official channels for Comic Con International.


Tying in with this new animated series is an official comic book Prequel mini-series from Dark Horse Comics written by the show's Executive Producers Kevin Smith and Rob David and episode writer Tim Sheridan and featuring art by Mindy Lee. The first issue of the 4-issue mini-series is already out earlier this month with subsequent issues releasing monthly to fill in events between the 1980s animated series and Revelation



Find out more at the official Dark Horse website with preview pages. Then if  motivated to read this prequel story, consider purchasing the digital edition (available from Amazon) since comics books are not so commonly found locally in Malaysia nowadays. There are also other official Masters of the Universe publications by Dark Horse Comic to check out. 


Of course Masters of the Universe (MOTU) being a franchise owned by toy company Mattel, there are new toys to complement Revelation. Last year Mattel released the Masters of the Universe Origins line reintroducing the 5.5 inch tall action figures in their vintage 1980s forms and packaging inclusive of mini comic book. Fortunately these are not reissues of the original figures but updated with additional articulation by 16 joints yet keeping to the vintage body proportions. Thankfully Mattel chose not to use the rubber band hip joints this time around as surely those MOTU figures nearly 4 decades old have had their legs drop off! The classic retro-packaging also encourages today's big boys to revisit their youth and “play” again.


Now for MOTU Revelation, Mattel has released the first wave of characters under the Masterverse line. You can now collect He-Man, Skeletor, Evil-Lyn and Moss-Man as seen in the new animated series in more realistic body proportions of bulging muscles with 30 points of articulation enabling great poseability as demanded by today's standards. Check out the amount of playability for these figures in these great stop-motion videos by Mattel:



 


It's somewhat surprising Moss-Man was included in this first set instead of Teela which is expected to play a major role in Revelation. But there's no shortage of “shoes” to fill with such a huge cast of colourful MOTU heroes & villains from the new series to be realised in plastic . Already out are He-Man's loyal Battle Cat and a deluxe version of Skeletor, which may be a bit spoilery.

There's even brick building toys for MOTU under Mattel's Mega Construx line that allows fanboys to build Castle Grayskull itself from over 3500 pieces for a price of USD 250 (RM1056). WoW!

Oogle more on these MOTU toys from the official Mattel Toys website. 

Whilst Mattel toys are distributed in Malaysia, they may be a bit hard to find on shelves not because of MCO but due to hot demand from many middle-aged fanboy collectors! Instead of trying luck at Toys R Us in-store or online, consider following Mattel's official shops on Lazada and Shopee for hassle free delivery to your doorstep.

For more context to the younger generation as well as nostalgia for matured fans, let's briefly step back into the good ole early-80s and the impact of morning cartoons into modern pop culture. Remember that Mattel created the toys first in 1982 with design of He-Man inspired from Conan the Barbarian  blending into a fantasy world of sword and sorcery in hopes to capture the success of Kenner with Star Wars in the toys for boys market. As Star Wars had movies to captivate young boys in space adventures, MOTU needed similar media to enthrall young boys into the fantastical world of Eternia. Hence, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series was produced by Filmation to air the following year until 1985 and beyond through syndication.

The original cartoon quality certainly does look tacky by today's standard, and often times even felt that way in the day. This was an era before computer animation, when quantity took precedence over quality and even today no animation studio would probably dare attempt to produce 130 episodes within a span of 3 years. Filmation animation studios indeed managed this and more for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe as well as a multitude of cartoons such as Star Trek The Animated Series (1973-74) and Bravestar (1987-89). The trade-off was frequent re-use of animated sequences (stock footage) and frame rates lower than the standard 24 frames per second, saving time and money. But kids in those days were undeterred and flocked after / before school to catch the latest adventures of He-Man and then pestered their parents to buy them the toys. Toys that often looked ridiculous and sounded similar with character names like Buzz-Off, Extender, Fisto, Clawful, Faker, etc. (just Google these to “facepalm”). 

For more in-depth entertaining look into the MOTU toys, watch the documentary series The Toys That Made Us currently streaming on Netflix as well. Here's the synopsis of episode 3 of Season 1 (47 minutes) featuring He-Man:

“Searching for a new toy line for boys to compete with Star Wars after their toy lines for Clash of the Titans and Flash Gordon flopped, designers at Mattel saw inspiration from Frank Frazetta's artworks, as well as their creative imagination, and launched the Masters of the Universe action figures. The toy line dominated in sales from US$38.2 million in 1982 to US$400 million in 1986 before its demise in 1987 as a result of sales dropping to US$7 million and the critical and financial failure of the live-action film adaptation.”

The success of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe led to a spin-off series SHE-RA: PRINCESS OF POWER. In this series complimenting Mattel's new toy line for young girls, Prince Adam's twin sister Adora leads a rebellion against the tyrannical rule of Hordak on the planet Etheria. Like Adam, Adora uses a magical Sword of Protection to transform into She-Ra. This new female version of He-Man was first introduced in the animated movie HE-MAN AND SHE-RA: THE SECRET OF THE SWORD released in 1985 before airing on television over 93 episodes. He-Man often appears in this episodes, possibly kicking off the first “shared universe” franchise now common place under the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC on CW. This spin-off was recently rebooted by Netflix in 2018 as a new animated series titled SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER.

As for He-Man himself, he has reappeared in different incarnations prior to Revelations, including a live-action movie in 1987 also titled MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. The titular role of He-Man went to Swedish hunk Dolph Lundgren, following his rising stardom from Rocky IV (1985) as Ivan Drago plus stints in James Bond A View to a Kill (1985) and Red Scorpion (1986). Veteran actor Frank Langella donned the skull of Skeletor and new characters were introduced casting young Courtney Cox (Monica of sitcom Friends infamy) and Robert Duncan McNeill (best known as Tom Paris on Star Trek Voyager) as teenagers on Earth.

(Off-topic) Trivia about Dolph Lundgren: He has a Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Sydney and declined scholarship to study at the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT to pursue acting. He began studying martial arts during his military service and became a world class competitor in Japanese karate. During his early acting career after He-Man he played Frank Castle in Marvel Comics' The Punisher (1987). His more recent theaterical role teams him up with other action stars of yesteryears like Sylvestor Stallone, Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Bruce Willis in The Expendables movies as Gunner.


The movie flopped at the cinema for a variety of factors, the obvious one wrapping its plot around He-Man coming to our Earth. If even young less discerning kids wanted more action on Eternia but was served a much too familiar suburban America. And there wasn't even a proper MOTU toy line for the movie!

Well, if the 1980's animated series were to transition to live-action, these 2 recent parody videos by Moneysupermarket.com might just well satisfy long time fanboys:

Dancing to the tune of “(I've Had) The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes from Dirty Dancing (1987)


#EpicSkeletor prancing to “Fame”  by Irene Cara of the namesake 1980 movie.

Other than providing great laughs, these YouTube videos show He-Man and Skeletor still resonate in modern pop culture today injected with resurgence of pop music of that era. That's not just in US but across the world when the 80s cartoon series was broadcast and translated to multiple languages. And in Malaysia MOTU fans at Fusion Wayang Kulit recently designed shadow puppets named Per-Kasa and Tengkorar inspired from He-Man & Skeletor; check their Facebook Page for more details.




Want to know even more about the Masters of the Universe? Again head over to Netflix for the feature length documentary (1.5 hours) titled POWER OF GRAYSKULL: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, especially on its impact on modern pop culture beyond the toy line and children's cartoon.



Ready to start Masters of the Universe: Revelation? Consider this Looper video on “Top 10 Things to Remember” which kind of summarises this feature article.


Reviews of Masters of the Universe: Revelation has been positive THUMBS UP. Read what Gizmodo has to say or watch IGN's review here: 


Now for you MOTU fans, mark time in your calendar to binge watch Revelation on Netflix and relish in the best He-Man fan service experience you will be getting this year. This action packed teaser trailer perfectly sync'd to the tune of Bonnie Tyler's “Holding Out for A Hero” simply shows it all... 


“I HAVE THE POWER!”

Disclaimer: Masters of the Universe, He-Man, and associated characters are registered trademarks to Mattel Inc, reference here for fan service only without intent to infringe.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

In the Name of the Moon, Sailor Moon magically debuts on Netflix worldwide!

 Written by Pony Princess.

“Moon Prism Power, MAKE UP! ” Sailor Moon fans across the world, all hail the undisputed queen of magical princesses, as she makes her grand and stunning streaming debut into Netflix.

 
Sailor Moon Eternal The Movie Official Trailer from Netflix

Timing is just right to have a movie about fighting for hope, love and justice during Earth's darkest hour battling the COVID-19 pandemic. For most of us forced to stay home, the announcement of Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie is not just a miracle but a reminder of hope, determination and that strength will prevail during challenging times.

For those unfamiliar with Sailor Moon, it is a global hit media franchise based on the manga written by Naoko Takeuchi. The franchise spawned a business empire of licensing and merchandising spanning from toys, cafes, musicals, live action drama series, make up, jewellery line, feminine products and heck, you can even get a Sailor Moon themed marriage registration form in Japan!  

Make your miracle romance permanent with a
Sailor Moon marriage registration form comes bundled in the "With" magazine published by Kodansha. 
Source: Soranews 


Gorgeous-looking posters for Part 1 and Part 2 for the Japanese release.
Yes, the Japanese get all the good stuff!
Source: Moonsticks

After many months of waiting, Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie is making its grand debut outside of Japan on Netflix. Set to release on June the 3rd, Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie is the continuation of Season 4 from the Sailor Moon Crystal animated TV series released in 2014.  In Japan, the film is known as Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Eternal and is a 2 part theatrical release. Due to the global pandemic of 2020, Part 1's release in Japan was postponed from September 11 2020 to January the 8th 2021. Part 2 was released on the following month on February 11, 2021. 


The first official teaser unveiled to the Japanese audience.
Moonies or ardent Sailor Moon fans will tear up in the first 5 seconds of the teaser.
I know because I did.
Source: 東映映画チャンネル

 
Part 1 of the Japanese Sailor Moon Eternal The Movie trailer
Source: Sailormoon-official 

Part 2 of the Japanese Sailor Moon Eternal The Movie trailer.
For fans, stay till the end for a special fan service!
Source: Sailormoon-official 

The good news is, international fans and viewers outside of Japan get to see both parts released on Netflix worldwide on June the 3rd. 

The Netflix release doesn't get an official poster but at least we get to see this. Cool, Netflix.
Source: Netflix

Here are more posters for the Japanese release.
After the pandemic, I am moving to Japan.
Source: Moonsticks 

Here is a quick rundown about the upcoming Sailor Moon Eternal movie.

For those who follow the Sailor Moon Crystal series, the story continues from a cliffhanger at the end of Season 3 when Usagi and Chibi Usagi hears a mysterious sound of a bell. The film will be a stunning rendition and retelling of the fourth story arc or Dream arc from the original Sailor Moon manga series written by Naoko Takeuchi.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal is a reboot version of the 90s series.
It was released in 2014 and now running in its 3rd season.
Source: Den of Geek

Plot

It is April, the beginning of spring. The Sailor Scouts are celebrating their entrance into Jyuban high school when a mysterious pegasus came to Chibi Usa for help. Things become stranger when a sudden eclipse brought the arrival of the Dead Moon Circus troop which sets foot in Azabu Juban town where Usagi and her friends lives. The townsfolk are enthralled by the circus in town which unbeknownst to them is led by the evil Queen Nehelenia who is out to conquer Earth. It is up to Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts to put a stop to her nefarious plans. 

One of the major plus points about Sailor Moon Crystal is its faithful adaptation to the original manga, right down to the individual panels and sequence. Above is the anime while below is the manga as shown on the right panel.
Source: Toei Animation (2014)

Sailor Moon Manga Act 38 - Beginning of a new journey.
Source: Naoko Takeuchi, Kodansha

Returning creative staff includes Chiaki Kon who directed Season 3 of Sailor Moon Crystal and Kazuko Tadano who handled the character design for the original 90s anime series. 

Kotono Mitsuishi is the voice of Sailor Moon since the first anime series was released in the 1990s.

Japanese Dub Voice Talents 
  • Kotono Mitsuishi as Usagi Tsukino / Sailor Moon
  • Hisako Kanemoto as Ami Mizuno / Sailor Mercury
  • Rina Satou as Rei Hino / Sailor Mars
  • Ami Koshimizu as Makoto Kino / Sailor Jupiter
  • Shizuka Itou as Minako Aino / Sailor Venus
  • Misato Fukuen as Chibi Usagi / Sailor Chibi Moon
  • Kenji Nojima / Tuxedo Mask
  • Junko Minagawa as Haruka Tenou / Super Sailor Uranus
  • Sayaka Ohara as Michiru Kaioh / Super Sailor Neptune
  • Ai Maeda as Setsuna Meioh / Super Sailor Pluto
  • Yukiyo Fujii as Hotaru Tomoe / Super Sailor Saturn
  • Ryo Hirohashi as Luna
  • Taishi Murata as Artemis
  • Shoko Nakagawa as Diana
  • Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Helios / Pegasus
  • Nanao as Queen Nehelenia
  • Naomi Watanabe as Zirconia
  • Yuko Hara as JunJun
  • Reina Ueda as CereCere
  • Sumire Morohoshi as PallaPalla
  • Rie Takahashi as VesVes
  • Shota Aoi as Fish Eye
  • Satoshi  Hino as Tiger's Eye
  • Toshiyuki Toyonaga as Hawk's Eye
Source: Moonsticks

Convention panel with the English dub voice talents for the upcoming Sailor Moon Eternal Movie at Anime NYC 2017
Source: Vizmedia

English Dub Voice Talents 
  • Stephanie Sheh as Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon
  • Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury
  • Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars
  • Amanda C. Miller as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter
  • Cherami Leigh as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus
  • Sandy Fox as Chibi-Usa / Sailor Chibi Moon
  • Veronica Taylor as Setsuna Meioh/Sailor Pluto
  • Erica Mendez as Haruka Tenoh/Sailor Uranus
  • Lauren Landa as Michiru Kaioh/Sailor Neptune
  • Christine Marie Cabanos as Hotaru Tomoe/Sailor Saturn
  • Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask
  • Michelle Ruff as Luna
  • Johnny Yong Bosch as Artemis
  • Deby Dayberry as Diana
Source: Comicbook.com

So for viewers who are new to Sailor Moon, will it be worth adding Eternal to your must-watch list?  Well, I have taken the liberty to include a little bit of trivia to help you gain more context and hopefully pique your curiosity to give Eternal a shot.  I will use visual references from the 90s Sailor Moon since I personally grew up with the series during that era. 


Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon 1991 - 1997 series

The manga of Sailor Moon illustrated and written by Naoko Takeuchi. In Malaysia, the manga was translated into Bahasa Malaysia. The Chinese version is also available.
Source: Naoko Takeuchi, Nakayoshi

Readers of the manga are often treated to mini-poster pullouts featuring original illustrations.  
Source: Naoko Takeuchi, Nakayoshi

Sailor Moon or Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon is a manga series created by Naoko Takeuchi. The animated series is produced by Toei Animation and ran from 1991 – 1997 with 200 episodes.  Back in the late 90s, I remembered fondly sitting in front of the television set, religiously watching Sailor Moon the series on schedule on the now-defunct TV channel, Metro Vision (now known as Didik TV).

It was dubbed in Cantonese for the Malaysian audience (except for the opening and ending credits which retained the original Japanese songs) but it was by all means a decent dub and minimal compromise in overall quality. The humour, gags and jokes were intact and just as enjoyable.

The main plot revolves around Usagi Tsukino whose alter ego is Sailor Moon and her Sailor Scout friends who work together to protect and defend Earth from being attacked by various outlandish enemies that pop up in every episode. 

Fast-forward to 2014, a new reboot version of the anime was created to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the original 90s series. Known as the Sailor Moon Crystal series, it follows the story arcs from the manga much more closely. The upcoming Sailor Moon Eternal film continues from Season 3 into the fourth arc of the series.

The Characters

Usage Tsukino / Sailor Moon

Usagi Tsukino as Sailor Moon and her regular self on a date.
Source: Toei Animation (1991 - 1997)

Our plucky heroine is none other than the ordinary and very average junior high school girl named Usagi Tsukino. She is also known as Serena in the North American dub. Her name is roughly translated as Rabbit on the Moon based on the Japanese folklore of a rabbit living on the moon pounding rice cakes. With the help of Luna, a talking cat, she discovered that she is the warrior Sailor Moon whose mission is to find a crystal and protect the princess of the moon. 

One would describe Usagi as a glaringly flawed hero. As a normal school student, she hates math, is inept in sports, clumsy, lazy and perpetually late for school. Her friends even expressed disbelief that she was able to pass the entrance examination into high school. In spite of her flaws, she is fun-loving and an active member of the school's manga club. She is pure-hearted and puts friendship and love above anything else. Her dream is to be a bride. But of course, doesn't every young girl? Flaws aside, Usagi does eventually grow more mature in the series.


Picture above (L-R) Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Mars, Sailor Moon, Sailor Venus and Sailor Mercury
Below (L-R) Ami Mizuno, Rei Hino, Makoto Kino and Minako Aino
Source: Toei Animation (1991 - 1997)

The Sailor Scouts

The Sailor Scouts are Usagi's closest friends who fought alongside her as well as protect her. They comprised of the four inner plants Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter. They all played the role of guardians in protecting Sailor Moon who is later revealed as the reincarnation of Princess Serenity and the future Neo Queen Serenity of Crystal Tokyo in the 30th century.  Each has their own unique power and an element that corresponds to their planet. Water for Mercury, Fire for Mars, lightning for Jupiter and er... love for Venus. Like normal school girls, they hang out, shop and talk about boys with the exception of Ami Mizuno (obviously the brains of the team) who constantly nags her friends to study. Later in the series, the outer planets that comprise of Sailor Pluto,  Sailor Uranus and Sailor Saturn will join the group. 

Chibi Usagi as Sailor Chibi Moon.
She shares the same birthday as Usagi.
Source: Toei Animation


Chibiusa / Sailor Chibi Moon

Sailor Chibi Moon is Sailor Moon's daughter with Mamoru Chiba from the future who first appeared in the second story arc of the manga. She is a spoilt and precocious brat girl who gradually gained more confidence in herself and her Sailor abilities.  She gets along well with the rest of the Sailor Scouts but constantly bicker with Usagi especially over their jealous rivalry for Mamoru. She lives with Usagi and shares a dysfunctional sisterly relationship with her. Her goal is to be a beautiful lady and deeply admires Usagi for her beauty. 


Mamoru Chiba as Tuxedo Mask
Source: Toei Animation (1991 - 1997)

Mamoru Chiba / Tuxedo Mask

Mamoru Chiba is Usagi's boyfriend and future husband although he enjoys teasing her during their early encounters. His alter ego is Tuxedo Mask and later revealed to be the reincarnation of Prince Endymion and the future King Endymion of Crystal Tokyo of the 30th Century. He is the most mature in the group and the object of affection for both Usagi and Chibiusa.  Although at first glance, he appears to be the token male character of an all-female cast, his roles in the story are just as prominent since he gets captured and brainwashed a lot throughout the series.

Fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight.

Miss Universe Japan Yuumi Kato chose Sailor Moon as her national costume for the 2018 pageant.
Source: Japan Today
.
What made Sailor Moon a mass universal appeal in both Japan and the West is that it featured ordinary girls with stereotypical "girly" interests like fashion, boys, and shopping. Yes, you can be a bad guys butt-kicking superhero and still shamelessly obsess over which lipstick shade matches your shoes to help catch your crush's eye. In the Sailor Moon manga and anime of the 90s, there are mini-stories that dive into the daily teenage lives the girls lead. 

One of the sub plots from the manga titled Rei and Minako's School Battle featuring the girls studying for their high school entrance examination.
Source: Naoko Takeuchi, Nakayoshi

The girls, by all means, are not perfect and have common fears, worries, and anxieties that any regular teenager undergoes i.e. exam anxiety, fear of the dentist, or yearning to be popular in school. 

At the core of it, Sailor Moon herself is a relatable character to ordinary people like us who want to make a difference in a big way but hampered by our flaws. Rather than letting her flaws stop her,  Sailor Moon is not ashamed of them.

Winning love by daylight is part of the mission.
Source: Toei Animation 


Final Say

I do not think it is necessary to binge all 3 seasons of Sailor Moon Crystal in order to appreciate the movie. It makes perfect sense why the producers chose this particular arc to be in film format instead of a 13 episode series. Since it is a brand new arc with new villains and characters, it can be enjoyed as a standalone movie without the need to reference the previous seasons' episodes. Other than perhaps background on Chibi Usagi coming from the future or origins of the outer Sailor Scouts but really IMHO it doesn't matter.

The Dream arc is also by far, one of my favorite story arcs in the manga with new characters and a good balance of lighthearted and dark moments. So if you are new to the franchise this may as well be THE gateway to explore the richer worlds of Sailor Moon and the characters.  Underneath all the glitter, sparkles and ribbons is a deep story that explores themes of romance, tragedy, reincarnation, space, and time travel. 

I highly recommend you to spend the rest of your days at home reading the manga or if the stylized illustrations are not your cup of tea, then you can always opt for the Sailor Moon Crystal series which is as faithful as it gets to the original plot.

Bonus trivia!

The story setting of Sailor Moon is at Azabu Jyuban which is a real place in Tokyo. If you watch the Sailor Moon Crystal series closely, many locations in the anime are based on real places here.
Image Source: Real Estate Japan


Above: The anime 
Below: The real site
Source: Unborderedlife

Kaleidoscope Mukashikan, a shop specializing in kaleidoscopes may be one of the many inspirations for the Dream arc in Sailor Moon although it is not officially stated.
Source: Hayashiforest


Merchandise

Official figurines of Sailor Moon and friends from Eternal movie are now available in Malaysia. Produced by Bandai Banpresto, there are pretty figures of Sailor Moon herself as well as cutesy chibi versions of the Sailor Scouts under the  Q Posket line. Order them now from Big Boys Cave for the best prices and Free Shippping.

Glitter & Glamours Super Sailor Moon figurine from Banpresto.

Collect Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts today!




Friday, 15 January 2021

Carmen Sandiego Returns For Her Latest Caper in the Season 4 Finale

 

Carmen Sandiego (2019 Series) Title Card

Fans could not be more excited when Netflix officially announced the final season of Carmen Sandiego set to premiere on the 15th January 2021.  Previously in Season 3, although the series for the season was too short (there are only 5 episodes) it left fans with a burning curiosity about the myriad of possibilities the series may take thereafter.

Carmen Sandiego Season 4 Official Trailer

If you are new to Carmen Sandiego, it is a 2019 Netflix animated adaptation to the highly successful media franchise of the same name. Otherwise known as, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.”  

To get you up to speed, here is the gist of it.

Toddler Carmen Sandiego, formerly known as "Black Sheep"

Synopsis
An orphan girl, known only as “Black Sheep” is raised on a secluded island in an academy for criminals called V.I.L.E. (the E stands for Evil) When she eventually learns about the sinister intentions of the people who raised her, she was repulsed by the truth. With the help of a white-hat hacker named Player, she escaped the island and took on the name Carmen Sandiego. Now, Carmen and her sidekicks Zack, Ivy and Player travel around the world masterminding spectacular heists in the attempt to foil V.I.L.E.'s diabolical plans. However, hot on their trail is the ACME Detective Agency who are hellbent on putting V.I.L.E. under arrest for their evil deeds. Yet they also suspect Carmen as the key to their investigations and pursues her to wherever she is around the world. 

The characters in Carmen Sandiego 2019 Netflix series

The series follows Carmen Sandiego as the protagonist with a mission to thwart V.I.L.E. (Villains International League of Evil) from stealing the world's treasures. She is somewhat a modern-day version of Robin Hood where she steals from V.I.L.E. first to thwart them from carrying out their wicked plans. The series features Jane the Virgin, Gina Rodriguez as Carmen, Stranger Thing's  Finn Wolfhard as Player and experienced voice acress Kari Wahlgren as Sheena aka Tigress.  
Source: Insider 

Rina Rodriguez as Carmen Sandiego. She is best known for her role in "Jane The Virgin"

Finn Wolfhard as Player, Carmen's secret weapon.
Wolfhard is famous for his role as Mike Wheeler in the Netflick smash hit, "Stranger Things"

Rita Moreno as Cookie Booker.  
Rita is best known as Anita in West Side Story (1961) 
She is also well known as the voice of Carmen Sandiego herself in the 1998 animated series, "Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego"

Michael Hawley as Zack, Ivy's brother and ally to Carmen.
Hawley does voice work for several video games including "Mad Max" and "Batman: Arkham Knight."
 

Abby Trott as Ivy, Zack's big sister and ally to Carmen.
Trott has done numerous voiceovers for many animes and video games.

Kari Wahlgren as Sheena or Tigress, a V.I.L.E. operative.
She has voiced over a hundred animes, video games and anime.

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Coach Brunt, a V.I.L.E. faculty staff.
McGlynn has done voice overs for animes like Naruto and Sailormoon Crystal.


Charlet Chung as Interpol turned ACME Agent Julia Argent.

Rafael Pertardi as Interpol turned ACME Agent Chase Devineux. 
He appears alongside Keanu Reeves in the movie "Siberia"

Over three seasons, fans followed the super thief across the globe pulling off spectacular capers in an action-packed drama. Wherever our protagonist sets foot, she will rattle off bits of trivia about the country and culture.

In Season 1, episode 3, Carmen introduces Indonesia to the audience.

The series is highly engaging and takes on an original plot never heard or explored before in the previous media formats of the franchise.  Rotten Tomatoes rated the series a 4.5/5 and describing as appealing to both long time fans and audience that are completely new Carmen.

The iconic red, geographic theme, characters and educational snippets, much of Netflix's rebooted version is a  tribute to the legacy of a 30 year old franchise in various media forms. 

Yes, you heard it right. Carmen Sandiego has been around far longer than you think! As a fan who grew up with the Carmen Sandiego games, I will dive into the evolution of the franchise that made Carmen into a pop culture icon even before her debut on Neflix.

How on Earth Did Carmen Sandiego Begin?
Source: The Avocado

The first Carmen Sandiego leaped to life all the way back in 1985 as a computer game created by Broderbund called Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. The game was conceived by an ex-Disney employee and some talented people who were experimenting to include more graphics into text-base adventure games that were common at the time. 

The first computer game in 1985 started it all.

Carmen's in-game dossier back in the 1980s. Her characteristics will evolve over time.

The game concept centered on tracking and chasing down criminals through clues and deductive reasoning. It was not until the founders of Broderbund, Gary Carlston suggested to include a geographical theme to the game. The game's appointed writer, David Siefkin was tasked to include The World Almanac and Book of Facts into the game's narrative and packaging.

The game packaging includes a 1991 version of the World Almanac, making it one of the heaviest games sold in stores. 

However, on top of its robbers and cops themed adventure game, what made it especially compelling was its leading character, Miss Carmen Sandiego herself. Inspired by the Portugese-Brazillian singer Carmen Miranda, the lead antagonist was bestowed with a name that sounded exotic and mysterious. Her last name Sandiego was derived from San Diego city, California. Though no one really knows her descent, her name seems to suggest that she is of Hispanic origins.

Carmen Sandiego on the box art of the 1995 CD-ROM game.

In the game manual, she is described as a clever and quick-witted woman who steals only for the intellectual challenge. A former talented Acme detective, she turned to a life of crime after realizing that her cases do not satisfy her intellectually. She is the founder and ringleader of V.I.L.E. (Short for Villains International League of Evil. ) She prefers to mastermind her heists and let her henchmen carry out the operations. Physically she is consistently depicted as having long wavy brown hair and dons an iconic red fedora and matching red trenchcoat.  In other versions, she also owns a cat named Carmine and drives a red convertible. Both her eyes or one of them are usually hidden by the shadow of her red fedora which gives her the impression of mystery. 

Other than that, the rest of Carmen's back story is never truly defined and shrouded in mystery, leaving it open to interpretation.

As for the game mechanics, the players take on the role of ACME detective agents whose goal is to pursue and nab V.I.L.E. henchmen stealing the world's treasures through clues provided by witnesses in various locations. The scoring system is based on the number of cases the player solves. By rising up the ranks, the player will arrive at a point where the ultimate goal is to catch Carmen herself. 

The interface from Where in The World Is Carmen Sandiego (1991)
where the player interacts with the game.

Where in Space is Carmen Sandiego. (1993)
Notice that the interface remains consistent in design.

Ironically, the game was never intended to be an educational game. For the record, any game that is labelled “educational” usually means dull and boring. Yet, Carmen Sandiego found its way into schools when teachers begin recommending them to classrooms as a means of learning geography. 

The unexpected popularity compelled Broderbund to capitalise on the potential and begin expanding the games with sequels. Carmen got so popular that on March the 4th, 1988, the first Carmen Day was organised in Bluffton, Indiana! Since then, across the United States, Carmen Day was held in schools inspired by the franchise. A week-long of Carmen themed activities were held and supported by Broderbund and later, The Learning Company after Broderbund was acquired in 1998. (Source: Wikipedia)  

The 30th Anniversary of Carmen Day was held on the 8th of March 2019 where an interview with Gina Rodriguez was broadcasted live along with the trailer from the upcoming Netflix series.

Carmen Sandiego Day with Gina Rodriguez

Yet, the ever-growing popularity of Carmen did not stop there.  In 1991, PBS adapted the game into a children's television game show called, "Where in The World is Carmen Sandiego." The show was created partly in response to a National Geographic survey that indicated that Americans had dreadful knowledge in geography where one in four were not able to identify the pacific ocean or the soviet union.


Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego children's game show
The show ran from Sept, 30 1991 until 1995. 
A total of 295 episodes were aired for five seasons.

The show introduced Lynne Thigpen as The ACME Chief. Her compelling acting and booming voice literally stole the show.

Subsequent CD-ROM remakes of the games released after the TV show had Thigpen as a retcon providing videos and voiceover for the games.

In 1994, the cartoon series Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego by DIC Productions L.P. is released and aired on Saturdays on FOX's Fox Kids Network.


The animated series was a real attempt to flush out Carmen's back story

The series introduced us to characters like Zack and Ivy. 
Many characters from different franchises, not just the animated series were rebooted in the Netflix 2019 version much to the delight of fans. 

The Carmen franchise did experience a slow down after the game show was discontinued by the network. Although two new spin-offs of the game show was produced, notably Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego, it only lasted for 2 seasons.  In 1998, the creator company Broderbund was acquired by The Learning Company. Many attempts were made to reboot the franchise with an injection of new games but none had the same spark or magic of the previous games.

Chase Devineux was originally from Carmen Sandiego Maths Detective

Although the games created by The Learning Company failed to achieve the success of its predecessors, it did introduce the characters Agent Chase Devineux and Agent Julia Argent which are rebooted in the 2019 Netflix series.

Sadly, the franchise gradually slipped to oblivion until Netflix step in to revive the series in 2019. The rest as they say is history.

Having grown up with the Carmen Sandiego games in the 90s era, to state how psyched I am about Season 4 is truly an understatement. My “pursuit” of her took me around the world, across the United States, the Solar System, and through the time-space continuum.


My introduction to Carmen Sandiego ironically was not on Earth but in SPACE.
 "Where in Space is Carmen Sandiego"

As a child, I was always intrigued by her character. What is she like?  In spite of the big E that stands for EVIL in V.I.L.E. Carmen never appears as truly evil to me. She was a villain with a heart, extremely intelligent, and bear qualities that I looked up to as a capable woman. 

The 1998 cartoon series was the first real glimpse of what Carmen is as a character with depth, showing audiences the first time an individual with emotions, intentions, and a strong moral complexity that is interwoven into her personality. I can only imagine what Carmen is really like and will satiate my curiosity through the fanfictions that existed online.

For fans of the franchise, this is THE season you do not want to miss. Undoubtedly, as the season finale, perhaps we will finally learn the answer to the big question, "Who on earth REALLY is Carmen Sandiego and what in the world does she truly want? We seen her growing up in search of her place at the faculty and left in search of her true origins. Through her adventures and missions, we learn that family plays a huge part in her and so are the values like trust and friendship.

For a series aimed at the younger audience, it is refreshingly not as straightforward as one expects, where good triumphs over evil. There are different sides to the conflict as quoted by a character, "We live in a world where villains don't look like villains and heroes don't look like heroes."

It is a series with characters who are not what they seem that sends a powerful message to audiences about how the world works in reality and is just as important as an educational info dump about geography.

If you are new to the Carmen Sandiego series, I highly recommend to watch it with an open mind. The animation is especially stunning and fluid. There is plenty of ass-kicking action in every episode to keep you engage and intrigue. As for returning fans, the Netflix 2019 adaptation of Carmen Sandiego is a dream come true to some especially to those originally drawn by her mysterious facade and intellectual prowess.

Still, the series dares to take on an angle that portrayed Carmen as a de-facto of V.I.L.E. rather than the founder or leader. Yet, who knows what the future may hold for our sassy protagonist as she continues to search for a purpose that is true to what she believes in. 

No media franchise in the history of Carmen has ever explored her as deeply and passionately as this one.  For that, I looked forward to what will be revealed in the episodes of Season 4. 

Until then, arrivederci!