Back in junior high, I absolutely loved the Sailor Moon anime. It was a show I really got into. I ended up seeing all of the original Japanese versions (sub-titled) of course, as the dub version always felt lacking to me – and it was. Many have harped on the show, complaining that it felt too formulaic and was too focused on pretty girls in sailor suits. It sort of was, when the original point of the manga it was based on was meant to be a story about girl empowerment. In any case, I forgave the show’s shortcomings, as it was fun to watch the Sailor Senshi (known in the dub as the Sailor Scouts) kick some serious Nega-verse butt!
So when I heard that this July there would be a new Sailor Moon series for the first time in well over a decade, I was obviously pretty excited. I was actually quite happy with the first episode, as were many other viewers. The new anime, Sailor Moon Crystal, is meant to be more faithful to the original manga than the old anime from 22 years ago was. I liked the introduction and how it didn’t spoon-feed you a bunch of information like the original anime did. It created more of a realistic feel and the first episode, in my opinion, was pretty strong for the first Sailor Moon episode in so long.
Other people weren’t quite as impressed. Some had issues with the animation and that Usagi’s (also known in the dub as Serena) voice sounded forced. I do agree that animation style is different, but I think it’s fine and the CGI is beautiful. Usagi’s voice does sound a little forced, but I’m forgiving it for now. It was exciting to me that this re-envisioning was happening, and I could expect there to be some changes to the newer version that might irk some people. I was excited for the prospect that this show might have more depth than the original.
Two Weeks for a Half-Hour Episode?
However, there is a major problem about this show’s airing that I want to discuss. The show started off only being aired in Japan every first and third Saturday of the month. That’s every two weeks. You might think at first, oh wait, that’s great, isn’t it? That way they can come out with high-quality episodes every two weeks instead of rushing things out every week. At least, that’s what you’d think. When the second episode aired, two weeks after the glorious premiere, there were a lot of mixed reviews. For my part, I loved the second episode. It reintroduced Ami, better known as Sailor Mercury, who is a character I always had a soft spot for: the lonely genius. I liked how Usagi and Ami became such fast friends, but I admit, from a storytelling point of view, it felt pretty forced. But I didn’t care because it’s a new Sailor Moon episode! Let’s just get everyone introduced, so we can move on with the story, right?
From some quick browsing about online, it’s clear that a lot of people were not exactly impressed with the second episode. The plot does seem to be conveniently rushed along. Let’s be honest, though. They just want to make sure that they get the five main characters - Usagi, Ami, Rei, Makoto, and Minako - all introduced as swiftly as possible. (For those that only ever saw the dub, that would be Serena, Amy, Raye, Lita, and Mina, respectively.) But is this the right way to do it? I’m not certain that it is.
When you’re launching any sort of new series, you need to create good expectations for your audience. I’m not sure they’re doing that too well. By spacing out the episodes so much, yes, you do create anticipation. But then you create a sort of stress for your audience, and you also create an opportunity to disappoint them far more greatly. By giving your audience more time to sit there and create broader expectations, the delivery then has to be perfect. Yes, there will be the sub-set of those like me that will not be so picky and just like it for what it is – a trip down memory lane. But if you create the anticipation that two weeks of waiting will cause, you’re going to create very, very lofty expectations. If you don’t meet those expectations, you’re going to lose people.
Obviously, two episodes was too soon to tell, but I saw a concerning pattern emerging here that bothered me. Others online have already brought it up, as well: they seemed to be forcing things together awfully fast. The third episodes rushed in Rei. But when the fourth episode came around, things slowed down a bit. Makoto (Sailor Jupiter) wasn’t introduced until Episode 5. Then we had to wait an additional week for Episode 6, which turned out to be a very good one, but three weeks for an episode?
Building Anticipation and Creating High Expectations
As someone who’s worked in content marketing, it seems really dumb to me to space them out this much. Many content experts will tell you to post content early and often, and there is a good reason for this. It’s not only about keeping yourself top of mind – although that is certainly important. It’s about creating expectations. If you consistently pump out small bits of quality content, it’s better at creating more realistic expectations than posting something every two weeks. If you have a good solid audience already, as is the case with Sailor Moon Crystal, a fan-base that has been starved of new content for over fifteen years, you have to deliver when you release new content. Fortunately, after the first three episodes, they’ve been delivering a lot more solidly.
A half-hour episode that seems like it was rushed out just to make people happy is not going to work for die-hard fans of a show. When you’re doing a re-launch, you’re trying to attract a new generation of fans, as well, and people are seemingly a bit under-whelmed so far. I’m not saying the second episode was terrible – it wasn’t. There were some really cute parts, but the whole sequence of events did seem awfully rushed. I have to say the original anime did a better job with Ami’s introduction overall, although I love the way that they did the job here. For someone who’s just happy to see it, it’s fine; lots of old-time Sailor Moon fans will be like that. But in attracting a new audience, it’s going to seem a bit half-assed. And in waiting two weeks for a new episode, that’s going to lose a lot of people who will simply just forget about it and have something else grab their attention in the meantime.
Content marketing is exactly the same way. Whether it’s online or not, you have to be consistent in your delivery, but also live up to your audience’s expectations. Two weeks is a long time to wait for new content. Patient fans of the original series that are happy just to have something new to enjoy and wax nostalgic about will mainly be satisfied just seeing their old friends brought back to life. But the whole point in doing a new show should be to attract new fans. I don’t think people new to Sailor Moon are given the proper opportunity to get to know the characters than old-time fans like myself got to know and love. I love that they’re giving the show a new treatment, but I’d rather have an episode every week, with a new character every two. I could live with that. The anticipation won’t build quite as much and you don’t have to deliver super special awesome content every two weeks. You can relax a bit and let people get into the weekly habit of watching a new show.
Show Viewers are Creatures of Habit
That’s the other major problem with having a new episode every two weeks. Human beings are creatures of habit. It’s a lot harder to get people to make a bi-weekly habit than a weekly habit. If they were to do, say, a weekly sort of teaser video, like a short “vignette” episode, that might help keep people’s attention better. It’s not that people won’t create a bi-weekly habit. But it takes far more for people to be invested in it. I feel like Sailor Moon Crystal isn’t going to do that for anyone except the die-hard fans of the original show and dedicated otakus.
If you’re producing content on a bi-weekly basis, it needs to be absolutely phenomenal. If you have other content that keeps your audience primed for what’s to come, it definitely helps. Sailor Moon Crystal obviously isn’t doing that, at least not as far as I know, and that’s a big marketing fail in my opinion. It’s as if they’re only doing it simply for nostalgic reasons. That’s fine for me, but I felt they could potentially throw away a big opportunity here.
Fortunately, once they introduced Rei and Makoto (they haven’t brought in Minako – also known as Sailor V full time yet) they did slow things down and really let the newer viewers get to know the story and the characters better. An anime based off of a manga should be much more smoothly paced and not rushed along like in the way they started off. Sure, I have no trouble following it, but I know the source material. Most of today’s audience wasn’t alive yet when the original Sailor Moon aired. Fortunately, Toei Animation got their act together and fortunately aren’t wasting this opportunity to create a brand new era for Sailor Moon and her buddies.
If anything, Sailor Moon Crystal has been huge for Crunchyroll. It’s one of the shows they deliver for free and it is in fact gaining a lot of steam, especially since Sailor Jupiter, one of the show’s most popular character, has been introduced (she’s my favorite of the original Senshi!) So they didn’t blow it, but wow, it’s a long two weeks between episodes, and pray they never have another three week gap!
Today’s takeaway is this: if you’re going to make your audience wait, then deliver something special and awesome that they’ll be talking about for the next two weeks. If you can’t do that, then you’re going to need to come up with other content to keep your audience amused in the meantime. Or, just do something weekly that can lead into next week without trying to do everything in one shot bi-weekly. The idea is to give your audience just enough content that they are invested in it, without giving them too much at once, and making them have to wait for blasts every two weeks. Sailor Moon Crystal may have gotten away with it, but it’s a one-in-a-million show as it is.
Photo credit: http://www.crunchyroll.com/sailor-moon-crystal - Fair Use