Trying to list only the essential episodes of the 90s anime / the question of what constitutes "filler"

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Mitsukara

Luna Crescens
Apr 1, 2017
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D-Point
#1
I absolutely love the '90s anime version of Sailor Moon, but it is very, very long. Perhaps too long for casual viewing, for those who don't want to spend quite that much time and attention.

So if you want to save time by only watching the important parts, then which episodes make the cut and which ones don't?

Many people use the word "filler", but, there are multiple interpretations of that term. Some may consider any episode which doesn't advance the overall storyline to be filler, but what counts as plot advancement is up for debate, so it's a confusing line to draw without getting more specific.

Moreover, in the Sailor Moon fandom many people also refer to any new plot element exclusive to the anime, which is not directly based upon the manga, as "filler"; but to me that seems dismissive of the new elements having any sort of merit or importance to their own story (as though these enjoyable new stories are only a waste of time), and thus that can be a bit argumentative; for that reason, I'd rather not casually use the term "filler" myself.

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Instead, I'll try some specific criteria for what I think makes an episode essential, such as:

Recurring cast shakeups:
  • A recurring character appears for the first time (a recurring character being anyone who appears in more than one episode and for a total screentime higher than, let's call it 10 minutes? So Ryo Urawa would count, but Usagi's unnamed classmates wouldn't)
  • A recurring character appears for the last time
  • A recurring character has their first focus episode (for example, Nephrite briefly appears in episode 13, but is not developed in depth until episode 14)
  • A recurring character dies (in certain cases this might not be their last appearance); this can include having an item taken from their person that totally prevents them from acting as a living being, such as the theft of a star seed

Major character development:
  • A recurring character learns something that changes their ongoing behavior or long term decisions
  • A recurring character forms a new relationship
  • The audience is introduced to a character of major importance to a recurring character who impacts their life, even if this new character is not recurring (such as Thetis)
  • A recurring character makes or breaks alliances
  • A recurring character learns another recurring character's secret identity
  • A recurring character's previously unknown backstory is revealed
  • A recurring character significantly changes their outlook or personality, such as becoming more worried, more desperate, more trusting, less trusting, etc.

Episodes of unusually high quality or popularity, though this may be subjective. For example:

In short, the episodes with events impacting later episodes or developing or concluding events first established in earlier episodes; or which are of such high quality that the show definitely loses something without them.

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So here's my idea of the essential Season 1!

- ? - marks indicate a semi-skippable episode, that I'd be sad to skip.
- ?? - marks a noteworthy but somewhat more skippable episode that I don't mind losing.

1. Crybaby Usagi's Magnificent Transformation
- ? - 2. Punish Them! The House of Fortune is the Youma Mansion (briefly introduces Motoki and Kenji; development for Umino)
- ? -5. A Youma's Scent! Chanelas Steal Love (development for Usagi)
8. Is the Genius Girl a Youma? Brainwashing School of Terror
10. Cursed Buses! Fire Senshi Mars Appears
- ?? -11. Usagi vs Rei? A Nightmare in Dreamland (small development for Rei and for Mamoru)
12. I Want a Boyfriend Too! A Trap on a Luxury Cruise Ship (development for Jadeite; noteworthy minor character Thetis; high quality)
13. Girl Power! The End of Jadeite
14. A Powerful New Enemy! Nephrite's Evil Crest
15. Usagi is Frantic! Rei's First Date
- ?? -18. Shingo's Innocent Love! A Sorrowful French Doll (development for Shingo and Mika... ehhh)
19. Usagi is Thrilled! Tuxedo Mask's Love Letter
21. Protect the Children's Dreams! Friendship Linked by Anime (high quality; development for Ami)
22. Romance Under the Moon! Usagi's First Kiss
23. Wish Upon a Shooting Star! Naru's Pure Love
24. Naru's Cry! (Spoiler Spoilers) for (Spoiler)
25. Jupiter, the Brawny Girl in Love
26. Bring a Smile to Naru's Face! Usagi's Friendship (development for Umino, Naru, Usagi, and Mamoru; introduction of the Orgel locket)
27. Love for Ami? A Boy Who Can Predict the Future
- ? -28. Illustrations of Love! Are Usagi and Mamoru Getting Closer? (debatably high quality)
29. Total Chaos! The Messy Square Relationship (major development for Motoki and Makoto)
30. Grandpa Goes Crazy! Rei's in Jeopardy
31. Loved and Chased! Luna's Worst Day Ever (on the basis of high quality)
32. Umino's Resolve! I'll Protect Naru
33. The Last Sailor Senshi! Sailor Venus Appears
34. The Sparkling Silver Crystal! The Moon Princess Appears
35. Memories Return! Usagi and Mamoru's Past
- ?? -36. Usagi is Confused! Is Tuxedo Mask Evil? (development for Usagi and Mamoru, but it makes less impact than it sounds like)
- ? -37. Aim to be a Princess? Usagi's Weird Training (Small development for Artemis, Luna, Endymion, and Kunzite)
- ? - 38. The Snow! The Mountains! Our Friendship! And of Course, a Youma Too (development for Rei and Usagi)
40. The Legendary Lake Monster! Usagi's Family Ties
41. I Won't Run Away From Love Anymore! Ami and Mamoru's Showdown
42. Sailor Venus' Past! Minako's Tragic Love
- ?? - 43. Is Usagi Going it Alone? The Sailor Senshi Get Into a Big Fight (development for Usagi and Rei)
44. Usagi's Awakening! A Message From the Distant Past
45. The (Spoilers Spoiler)! The (Spoiler) Final Battle
46. Usagi's Everlasting Wish! A New (Spoiler)

Out of a total of 46 episodes, that's:
  • 37 I consider somewhat important,
  • 33 if I only skip ones I'd be okay with skipping, and
  • 28 episodes I consider truly unskippable.

That's a little bit more manageable, right? If you only watch 28 episodes, you save 6 hours compared to the full season (and that's assuming you don't also skip some of the end credits sequences, or take a quick swig of water every time the same transformation sequence starts playing again).

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Here's my "anti-list" of episodes which, while having some merit, that didn't quite make the cut:

3. Mysterious Sleeping Illness! Protect the Girls' Hearts in Love
While this is the first meeting of Jadeite and Sailor Moon, as well as Jadeite and Tuxedo Mask, it changes basically nothing about their dynamic (although Usagi does have her first experience with a foe she can't immediately defeat with the Moon Tiara, so that's something?). It introduces the Disguise Pen device, but this device doesn't need an introduction to be understood when it reappears later; though maybe this one should've just barely made the list?

4. Usagi Will Teach You! How to Lose Weight
Luna is somewhat more strict with Usagi than before in this episode, and Usagi mulls over her interest in Motoki and Tuxedo Mask, Umino gets a hilarious awkward scene, and it establishes Jadeite as more cruel than previous episodes, but none of this really has much impact on any further events.

6. Protect the Melody of Love! Usagi is a Cupid
This episode has great imagery and is fun, bu it has no major impact on anything else. It's quality is high, but not quite high enough to consider it truly unskippable to me.

7. Usagi Learns a Lesson! The Road to Stardom is Tough
An amusing and odd episode, and it technically introduces a character, Mikan Shiratori, who has two appearances (returning in the Makaiju arc) but this character has, I think, less than 10 minutes of total screentime. Basically this one isn't important.

9. Usagi's Misfortune! Watch Out for the Rushing Clocks
Usagi and Ami have a brief episode of working together with no other teammates, but it doesn't tell us anything new about them. A funny but unimportant episode.

16. Dream of a White Dress! Usagi Becomes a Bride
I kind of like the side characters in this one but it has very little impact on anything.

17. Is Usagi a Model? The Focus of the Youma Camera
This is the first time Sailor Moon's teammates have been incapacitated and it falls entirely to her to save them, plus Nephrite does something interesting- debatably heroic?- during his first scene in the episode, but while this is somewhat interesting, it's really not vital.

20. The Summer! The Ocean! Our Youth! And a Ghost Too
This is a good episode but it doesn't connect to the season's story arc at all, with a standalone plot. This might make some peoples recommendations for high quality- they even make an oblique, subtle reference to it in the Sailor Moon R film during one of Ami's flashbacks- but I regard it somewhere in the middle.

39. Paired With a Youma? Ice Queen Mako
This sounds like an important character development episode for Makoto, but really nothing new happens for her in this episode; she's had a disappointing unrequited crush in a previous episode. We learn a little bit more about Tuxedo Mask and Kunzite's working dynamic or lack thereof, but it's no big deal when we already learned that in episode 37. Basically, this is a nice supplementary episode but it's skippable.

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In conclusion:

Whether you're a fan of the '90s anime or not, most people seem to agree that it's at least a little longer than it strictly needed to be, if not way too long; I personally don't regret watching all 200 episodes, but it can definitely be a bit overwhelming, so sometimes it helps to know what to cut.

Maybe you've tried talking someone into watching the show, but they didn't want to commit to 46 episodes of season 1 (much less 200 for the whole series), and you're scared of boring them off with the episodic parts of the Jadeite arc before they get into the really dramatic, continuity-heavy parts. Or, more likely, maybe you or someone you know saw the '90s anime, like, 20 years ago, and don't remember it all that well; or maybe you've watched it a bunch of times, but are torn on giving it another go due to the sheer length. For people in those situations, I hope this kind of list- or at least this kind of approach- might help someone.

I'd be interested in hearing about other people's idea of "essential" episodes, since I know this is all very subjective (for example, I wouldn't be surprised if people want to skip episode 12 or 28, and put episode 3 back in). It's a shame Toei didn't make condensed "movie" recuts combining key events from the series into a shorter miniseries, the way some other anime such as Gundam did. Maybe some other people you know of have already made lists like this?

It'd also be neat to see lists (and "anti-lists") for other seasons, though I don't feel confident writing my own yet (I've spent a bit more time thinking about season 1, since it was my favorite; I suspect my "Essential SuperS" list would be much shorter due to the minimal character development in the first arc of that season; but when it comes to R, I think I'd keep in quite a bit of the Makaiju arc. I would also consider any clipshow, like the final episode of R which was a preview for S, to be skippable, even though they can be entertaining; but I would consider "Ami's First Love" essential on the basis of high quality).

And of course, I know some people will probably say that none of it essential, and/or that the '90s anime is a bad or inferior version or whatever (though I personally really love the unique elements it adds that are absent from the original manga, and find the two versions are stronger together); and perhaps at least one person thinks the entire franchise is pointless (yet comes to this forum and looks at stuff like this post anyway??); but that's fine. I do invite everyone to share their opinions, and I'd be interested to see what other people think about this subject!

Personally, I've gotten a lot of joy out of the anime, but I can also see advantages to paring it down a little, and focusing on it's strengths. What do you think are the important episodes?
 
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rgveda99

Lumen Cinereum
Jul 5, 2009
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#2
and perhaps at least one person thinks the entire franchise is pointless (yet comes to this forum and looks at stuff like this post anyway??); but that's fine.
Can you call him/her out? Please, please, please. :wow:
 
Sep 6, 2014
1,648
647
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#3
I think filler gets a bad rep. The negative connotations of filler is really more of an issue with shonen animes like DBZ and Bleach and Naruto. Anyways an essential list for “series one”

1. Usagi’s Beautiful transformation-For obvious reasons

3.The mysterious sleeping sickness- First disguise pen

8. The genius girl a youma?- First Mercury

10. Cursed Bus- First Mars

13. End of Jadeite- Jadeite dies

14. Nephrite’s Evil Crest- First Nephrite (offically) and first Zoicite

15. Rei’s first date- Rei starts “dating” Mamoru which crucial to the development of her and Usagi’s friendship

19. A love letter from Tuxedo Mask- sets up Naru’s crush on Nephrite

22. Usagi’s first kiss- The search for the princess and silver crystal becomes main conflict

23/24. Wish upon a shooting star/Nephrite dies for love- Two episode arc that ends in Nephrite’s demise

Episode 25-35 are all essential as its about the hunt for the rainbow crystals that leads to the reveal of the silver crystal and Moon Princess. Plus introduce Jupiter, Venus, Artemis and all the other stuff

36. Is Tuxedo Mask evil?- First evil Tuxedo Mask

38. The snow , our friendship, and a monster-
Usagi and Rei make up

41. Ami vs Mamoru: Usagi healing Mamoru and him being taken is the incentive to start looking for the Dark Kingdom base

Episode 44-46: three part finale
 

blondibear_17

Luna Crescens
Mar 3, 2017
280
158
165
#4
If somebody wants a quick and dirty watch just to dip their toes in the water then why not just recommend Crystal and if they like that they can watch the 90's show? I mean in my opinion if somebody were to just watch the first few episodes of the series and get bored with it then they wouldn't really like the series any way. I don't think you can really define very many episodes as not filler.
 
Sep 6, 2014
1,648
647
665
#5
If somebody wants a quick and dirty watch just to dip their toes in the water then why not just recommend Crystal and if they like that they can watch the 90's show? I mean in my opinion if somebody were to just watch the first few episodes of the series and get bored with it then they wouldn't really like the series any way. I don't think you can really define very many episodes as not filler.
Because Crystal is terrible.
 
Sep 6, 2014
1,648
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#7
The warm fluffy filler is what sets the 90s version of the show apart from the no nonsense crystal though in my opinion. I feel like stripping the show of the delicious fat just leaves you with a picked apart carcass that doesn’t really represent the show fairly.

I pretty much agree with this.

I can understand if one wants to skip some “filler” but to skip it all or as much as possible is silly.
 
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Mitsukara

Luna Crescens
Apr 1, 2017
484
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D-Point
#8
I feel like stripping the show of the delicious fat just leaves you with a picked apart carcass that doesn’t really represent the show fairly.
That's definitely fair, yeah. I have often thought that part of what made Sailor Moon work quite so well for me is that it balanced ridiculous comedy with serious drama really well, so if you lose too much of the comedy, it sort of deflates the spirit of the thing. That's why I would hate to skip things like episode 2, which helps set up the goofy tone, or episode 5, which is one of the first experiments with sliding into heavier drama (when Usagi realizes that her own home and immediate family can be threatened, she seems to realize this is more serious than she's been thinking... it's an important early step in her realization of what she's really up against).

That said, I do think most arcs started with kind of a bigger pile than necessary of non-vital episodes before working it's way around to more of the plot (most of Jadeite's arc; a few episodes of the Phantom Sisters' arc; a bunch of Kaolinite episodes; a bunch of Amazon Trio episodes before we learn about what's really going on and it gets good at the end; and a lot of of Iron Mouse's arc). I may love these episodes as an obsessed fan, but they're not what I'd want to lead with for trying to get a new person into the show- it's a bit overwhelming to try to take all that in at once.

As far as showing them Crystal, I feel like that might misrepresent the series too. Crystal can be good in it's own way but it's a whole separate series, and if you try to hook someone on Sailor Moon with it, they might just watch that iteration, say "Sure, that was okay" and walk away entirely, feeling like they already watched Sailor Moon and are done now. And then you can wind up spending years being like "oh man that thing with Rhett Butler and Zoisite is so great!" and they have no clue what you're talking about but aren't really interested and it's all awkward. So unless the goal is to show them primarily Crystal with the intentional possibility that they might not watch anything else, I wouldn't lead with Crystal.

Basically, it's all about trying to find a compromise that keeps the spirit of the show and it's most important moments intact, while still trying to make it a little more succinct.

Also, yeah, I was torn on having left episode 3 out of my list, because it does kinda make sense for the plot. It's certainly not a bad one. Honestly, I feel like '90s Sailor Moon had almost no bad episodes, and even the dodgiest ones (like the oddly child-like plesiosaur episode, which I always thought played like Chibi-Usa was writing fanfiction about her own life) were still fun. If you really get into the show, watching them ALL is worthwhile.... but I can see why new people might look at that and flee.
 
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blondibear_17

Luna Crescens
Mar 3, 2017
280
158
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#9
If it was a tough sell I would recommend the R movie even without context in my opinion it would still be a good entry way for the series. There are definitely throw away episodes in season 1 in my opinion but which ones are which would definitely be subjective in my opinion. I imagine it would be a lot easier to pick apart other seasons than Classic. It might be that I just have too much time on my hands but 46 episodes doesn't seem like so much in my opinion if your enjoying it . It's a lot easier than other shows are I mean I couldn't imagine just now starting on shows such as One Piece or Naruto.
 

rgveda99

Lumen Cinereum
Jul 5, 2009
7,942
450
165
Philippines
#10
If you really get into the show, watching them ALL is worthwhile.... but I can see why new people might look at that and flee.
It's also competing with more than a dozen anime. Right now My Hero Academia is what's keeping me entertained besides my :usagi: sprite work.

Those flashback fillers were terrible. How many times they had to show stock footage of the Uchiha massacre?

I'd only rewatch very few filler episodes of Naruto.
 
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onesurvive

Luna Crescens
Mar 25, 2008
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Toronto, Canada
rickperryart.tumblr.com
#11
I think filler gets a bad rep. The negative connotations of filler is really more of an issue with shonen animes like DBZ and Bleach and Naruto. Anyways an essential list for “series one”

1. Usagi’s Beautiful transformation-For obvious reasons

3.The mysterious sleeping sickness- First disguise pen

8. The genius girl a youma?- First Mercury

10. Cursed Bus- First Mars

13. End of Jadeite- Jadeite dies

14. Nephrite’s Evil Crest- First Nephrite (offically) and first Zoicite

15. Rei’s first date- Rei starts “dating” Mamoru which crucial to the development of her and Usagi’s friendship

19. A love letter from Tuxedo Mask- sets up Naru’s crush on Nephrite

22. Usagi’s first kiss- The search for the princess and silver crystal becomes main conflict

23/24. Wish upon a shooting star/Nephrite dies for love- Two episode arc that ends in Nephrite’s demise

Episode 25-35 are all essential as its about the hunt for the rainbow crystals that leads to the reveal of the silver crystal and Moon Princess. Plus introduce Jupiter, Venus, Artemis and all the other stuff

36. Is Tuxedo Mask evil?- First evil Tuxedo Mask

38. The snow , our friendship, and a monster-
Usagi and Rei make up

41. Ami vs Mamoru: Usagi healing Mamoru and him being taken is the incentive to start looking for the Dark Kingdom base

Episode 44-46: three part finale
Basically 18 episodes for season 1.
 

Sabrblade

Luna Crescens
Sep 13, 2009
10,647
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Tampa, FL
#12
A few years ago, there was a similar thread titled something like "Opinions on "filler" in the anime", in which I made a post in which I attempted to list every episode that wasn't filler, along with those that were filler but contained at least one thing important to the larger ongoing plot in them (even if the rest of each episode wasn't as important), and those that were filler but were genuinely good and worth watching.

Alas, however, in my efforts to find that old thread, I've come up short, as though it no longer exists anymore for some reason. 'Tis a shame, as I had even color-coded the list to distinguish the non-filler from the important filler and the good filler.
 
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Aug 11, 2010
1,146
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Germany
#13
The so-called 'Filler' Episodes are still essential in a certain way as they allow both sides (the characters and us - at some point - eyesore viewers to take a step down and breath once in a while and they show that these are still somewhat Human Beings who actually have a life apart from their duties as Senshi and who struggle with their own dreams and problems* and not just some kind of Ubermen like e. g. Naruto who can crush entire mountains or landscapes with a single scream/ki-blast.

*I've been asking myself for years now if they ever got taken in legal responsibility for all the Collateral Damage which ensued during their daily fights against these numerous MOTDs. Paid/compensated with Royalties for the Merchandise based on their Likenesses (Remember the Plushies the Crane King fished out the Pachinko Machine!), maybe? :)
 
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