It’s been a while since my initial review of Sailor Moon Crystal, but yesterday was the 13th episode of the series, meaning we’re officially halfway through, and we need to take another look at this revamped series. This is a tough one, because there’s so much nostalgia here. Sailor Moon defined the magical girl genre and was—and still is, as evidenced by all the hype surrounding Crystal‘s release—wildly popular. But I’m sorry to say Crystal just isn’t doing it for me.
Here’s the thing about Sailor Moon—it’s ridiculously campy. The magical make-up transformations, the Tyra Banks poses during fight sequences, the unbeatable power of love—c’mon, you can’t really take that seriously. Still, it’s like the original Batman—one of a kind. It’s meant to be campy, and it has a sense of humor about it. That’s what we had in the original. A sense of humor. Crystal keeps the ridiculousness of the original but forgets all about the laughs, so all we’re left with is the shallow glitz of the 3D, CGI animation that makes everyone look overly glossed and a bit too skinny. I recently watched an episode of the original from about the same part we’re in now, near the end of the Dark Kingdom arc. The first time Usagi encounters Princess Serenity, she says, “someone needs to call the fashion police because this chick walks around in public in a nightgown”. That Usagi was so much funnier—and not just in terms of her wit, because there was a lot more slapstick in the original as well.
Before I go on forever ranting about apples versus malnourished, CGI-animated oranges, let’s go into what’s happened in Crystal so far:
- Surprise! Usagi is Sailor Moon
- Usagi fights and cries a lot. Sometimes at the same time. This somehow works.
- Mamoru does the worst detective work ever. But Usagi still falls in love with him disturbingly quickly.
- Usagi and Luna find the other Sailor Scouts and Artemis.
- Surprise! Usagi is the reincarnated Princess Serenity (which they’re surprised about despite the fact that they look exactly the same and rock the meatball hairdo. Do we really think Minako could rock that? … Bitch, please.)!
- The Sailor Scouts fight the Four Dark Kings (who perfectly match up with the other Sailor Scouts. Quadruple surprise! Everyone is matched up with significant others! You know what that means? Quadruple dates!)
- Mamoru is kidnapped and possessed by evil, which causes more fighting and crying—but mostly crying—from Usagi.
- The four Dark Kings die tragically (except not really, because they later become magical spirit-stones that somehow protect Mamoru from the holy sword of love?).
- Usagi defeats Queen Beryl (who we find out only wanted some Endymion-loving too).
- In some seriously fucked-up reverse logic, Usagi uses the holy Excalibur of love/moonlight/magic to save Mamoru by killing him.
- In a repeat of all the problems that got us here in the first place before the reincarnation, Usagi stabs herself, Romeo and Juliet-style.
- More surprises! This really bad plan of I’m-going-to-stab-my-lover-and-then-stab-myself-and-hope-the-power-of-love-saves-us actually worked and triggered the Legendary Silver Crystal.
[Sidenote: What the hell does this crystal actually do? To be more exact, what doesn’t it do? It can turn the world totally evil, it can resurrect people, it can be used for world domination … seriously, this thing is like the One Ring, Elder Wand and Jesus all rolled into one]
- Usagi and Mamoru are somehow saved by ridiculous plot twists that don’t make any sense but are then swallowed up by Queen Metalia, who has become drunk with power after realizing she is just two consonants away from being the queen of American heavy metal.
- The Sailor Scouts give their lives to save Usagi from Queen Metalia, because apparently everyone in this series needs to commit suicide in order for us to get anything done.
- Usagi gets the magical crystal and must try to seal Metalia on her own. But of course she can’t really do anything on her own, so Mamoru reminds her that he’s always there to help (translation: stand there and be her cheerleader, because he’s incapable of doing anything useful except throw roses like a vaguely frustrated florist.
So that’s where we left off. I know I’m sounding bitter here, but this Usagi really isn’t doing it for me. She’s weaker, whinier and less confident, and as I said earlier, we’re missing out on the humor. A large part of the reason for that is the speed at which this series progressed. People always complain about filler episodes in anime, and true, they can be frustrating, but they also give the series time to breathe. In the original series, we had episodes upon episodes of filler and the same cookie-cutter plot structure to every episode (with the exception of the finales, of course). But we also had a longer amount of time to get to know Usagi and the rest of the Scouts. We get to learn a little bit about each Scout during their introduction episode, but beyond that, we don’t know shit about them.
For example, what happened to the funny banter between Usagi and Rei? Jupiter used to be my favorite of the inner planets, because Makoto was the strongest but was also incredibly loving and a fan of cooking. We got a bit of that in episode five, but after that, she faded into the background like the others. Even Usagi lacks personality. Most of the time we only see her talking about Mamoru. And their relationship in Crystal is dull, because we lost a lot of the antagonistic flirting we saw in the original as well. They’re like that one couple who sit in each other’s laps and call each other pet names and feed each other chocolates while giggling and staring lovingly into each other’s eyes—while in the middle of a party. Throw some cold water on that shit, because nobody wants to see that.
[Sidenote: Remember episode four, “Masquerade Dance Party,” when Tuxedo Mask gets super sketchy and is creeping on Usagi when she’s sleeping? And then randomly kisses her??? Dude, totally not cool. That wasn’t consensual! What if some random guy came up to you and kissed you while you were sleeping, Mamoru? … That’s a bad look for you, Mamoru.]
Overall, the series is also much darker, with all the deaths and suicides. I have to say that I’m surprised that they killed the Dark Kings after establishing them as the significant others of the Scouts. And then there’s the whole suicide thing that Usagi keeps doing—not just once, but twice, for good measure. None of that would have fit in the original version—not just because the it was aimed toward young kids in America, but also because it would’ve been way off tonally. The irony of Crystal is that even though we don’t get much personality from the Scouts, the series still manages to carve out time to round out its antagonists. The Dark Kings and Queen Beryl are made into sympathetic characters—after all, they were just possessed and manipulated by Metalia. If only we could get just a little more from the other characters as well.
Despite my gripes, I’m a faithful Sailor Moon lover, so I’m going to stick with it through the end. Check back at the end of the season for my full Sailor Moon Crystal review. I’ll see you on the other side, folks.