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Sailor Moon Crystal: First 10 Episodes
Sailor Moon Crystal started in the fall of 2014. Sailor Moon Crystal is a retelling of the original story of the popular girl's anime from the 90's, Sailor Moon.
The basic story and characters are the same, but the way in which the story is told is sometimes radically different.
The main differences are that Sailor Moon Crystal has an all-new look for the character designs, technology used in the show has been updated, and humorous distortion of the figure is taken out, heightening the seriousness and the drama of the story.
This makes Sailor Moon Crystal a deeper, more refined work of art, while keeping in everything that made us original fans fall in love with the characters.
According to the news portion of popular anime streaming site Crunchyroll, the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal was viewed over a million times in the first two days of its premiere. Sailor Moon remains one of the biggest and most influential hit anime series of all time.
To this day, Sailor Moon is also a hit cosplay choice, and you're bound to see people dressed up as various Sailor Scouts at most conventions.
What makes this show so fascinating and compelling to so many people?
I didn't want to wait until the series was done to critique it, and who knows how long it might keep going, I thought that what I might do instead is to critique it as it goes by discussing blocks of episodes at a time.
So, let's start off by looking at the first 10 episodes.
Episode 1. Act 1 - Usagi - Sailor Moon
Sailor Moon Crystal starts off redoing the old anime right from the start, but that doesn't mean it's exactly the same.
High school student Usagi Tsukino is having a beautiful dream about a princess and prince, when she suddenly, comically wakes up, freaks out because she's late, and crashes down the stairs.
As she panics and rushes off to school (not with toast in her mouth now, sadly), the credits reveal a fairly cool new theme song, and show animation of various characters that haven't been introduced yet, the five inner senshi; Sailor Mars, Mercury, Venus, Moon, and Jupiter.
On the way to school, she bumps into everyone's favorite kitty, Luna, a black cat with bandages on her forehead. When Usagi (kind of stupidly) pulls them off, she reveals Luna's secret: a gold crescent moon mark underneath the bandages.
When Usagi gets to school, she's punished for being late by having to stand outside the classroom, and it's revealed that she's not exactly such a great student.
We then meet Naru, Usagi's friend, who fans of the English dub know as Molly.
At lunch, the kids at Usagi's school are talking about Sailor V, a masked superhero. Interestingly, this is because Naoko Takeuchi, the creator of Sailor Moon, actually created Sailor V as an earlier character, and later incorporated her into the character of Sailor Venus. As we'll see later, when Sailor Venus is first introduced, there is confusion about whether she or Usagi should be the team's leader, and over which of them is the real re-incarnation of Princess Serenity.
Then, we hear that Naru's family owns a jewelry store. Since they're going to offer some kind of sale making normally expensive jewelry more affordable, Usagi is dying to go check it out.
At the store, there is quite the mob of women gathered, also after discounts on fine jewelry. But things quickly take a turn for the worse, when it turns out Naru's mom, who is running the store, is actually possessed by an evil being from another dimension who is using the sale and the store to lure in victims in order to feed off of and drain their spiritual energy.
I hate Mondays...
It ends with Usagi discovering her powers and using them as Sailor Moon to save the women. This is accomplished with the help of Luna, the talking cat she ran into earlier, and a mysterious cape-and-mask-wearing stranger who calls himself Tuxedo Mask.
Unbeknownst to Usagi, she actually bumped into this boy earlier on the sidewalk, and made the OBVIOUS LOVE INTEREST FACE:
So you know, this sets the stage for what's going to happen in the next episodes, which bring out one new Sailor Scout per episode, with a general pattern of:
- A bad guy shows up trying to get energy and/or information about the Legendary Crystal.
- A new friend is introduced as a character.
- That new friend is actually a new Sailor Scout.
- Luna and Usagi help that person understand their powers.
- That new character is essential to fighting the bad guys this time.
What bummed me out before, as well as now, was that Naru is never a Sailor Scout. Although in the original anime, she does show up in a minimal role in later episodes, in Sailor Moon Crystal it feels like she gets dropped like a hot rock as soon as Usagi starts hanging out with her new Sailor Scout friends.
However, in this episode, it's pretty cool to see the new incarnation of Sailor Moon use her signature attack, Moon Tiara Boomerang, to beat the bad guys for the first time.
I loved this episode, and would give it 5/5 stars, despite it not being all that different from what I remember in the original show.
Episode 2. Act 2 - Ami - Sailor Mercury
Of course, this episode introduces Ami Mizuno, who is revealed to be capable of becoming the first Sailor Scout to join Usagi/Sailor Moon's team, Sailor Mercury. Mercury in Japan is astrologically aligned with the element of water. Hence, Ami gets water-based attacks.
Ami is a girl in Usagi's school with a genius-level IQ (they say her IQ is 300), who even studies during breaks. However, she doesn't seem to have much time for friendship with all that studying, and people tend to think of her as aloof. Usagi is still pleasant, sunny, and nice to her, and so Ami warms up quickly to her and Luna.
Things go south when it turns out that Ami is being captivated by a brainwashing computer program. Usagi and Luna show up to investigate and have to fight a monster sent by Jadeite, a servant of Queen Beryl. When Usagi is caught and can't move, Ami has to awaken her inner ability to become Sailor Mercury to save her.
Tuxedo Mask, still a mysterious character at this point, shows up and also helps during the fight, but vanishes afterwards. The two girls leave together, and a new friendship is born.
The teaser at the end is that the next episode will be about Rei Hino, the girl who will become Sailor Mars.
It's a good episode. It's basically like the old Sailor Moon, but I still liked it fine.
Episode 3. Act 3 - Rei - Sailor Mars
This episode follows the pattern established by the last one. Rei Hino is a local shrine maiden, who goes to an all-girls academy, a different school from Ami and Usagi.
As Ami and Usagi are gathering information about their new roles as Sailor Guardians, they hear rumors about a demonic bus that's supposedly been abducting children punctually at 6pm every evening. Since the local shrine where Rei Hino works as a miko is the last stop before the evil bus takes a detour into hell, some worried mothers blame Rei for their children's disappearances.
Rei is frustrated, and doesn't know what to do. Luckily, Usagi, who shows an obvious girl-crush on Rei at first sight, is willing to help. Of course, it's Jadeite, the villain from the previous episode, driving the bus. His plan was to lure Sailor Moon and Sailor Mercury to his lair to trap them in another dimension. When they go, they're no match for his formidable ice powers, until Rei realizes her ability to transform into Sailor Mars, and well, you know the rest.
Again, this is similar to the previous series' treatment of the same episode. The only difference here is that in Crystal, Rei is introduced immediately following the introduction of Ami. This is...OK?
I kind of like that they're shortening and condensing the show's story arcs by cutting out uninteresting filler events. However, they might have cut out too much, because I feel like there should be more episodes with just Ami and Usagi bonding and learning how to be sailor scouts together, before their team needed to grow.
Because I like Ami, I don't want to see her get overshadowed by the introduction of too many new characters too quickly. This episode also kind of throws too much information at the viewer at once, which seems like it was hastily plucked out of what should have been a few more Ami-Usagi episodes and inserted clumsily into this one.
I generally like the way they handled this beginning/introductory arc, but in this episode in particular it all seemed forcibly rushed compared to the previous Sailor Moon series.
Episode 4. Act 4 - Masquerade Dance Party
This episode breaks the pattern, since there is an adventure that doesn't revolve around the meeting of a new Sailor Scout character.
Instead, this one centers around Tuxedo Mask/ Mamoru. Who is he, and can the Sailor Scouts really trust him? That is going to be a major focus of the tension in this part of the series.
At this point, the Sailor Scouts also don't know who their Princess is, the person they're the Guardians of. You would think Luna would know that, since she's from the Moon Kingdom and all but she might just not remember that. It also seems kind of obvious that Princess of the Moon Kingdom = Sailor Moon. Whatever.
When the girls hear of a party for a Princess D, they wonder if she might be the Princess who possesses the Legendary Silver Crystal the bad guys are searching for.
Usagi just sees it as an excuse to dress prettily and go to a fancy party, but Ami and Rei are a bit more cautious. Usagi dances with Tuxedo Mask, who ends up saving her later, but she also ends up saving him by using her "disguise pen" magic to produce a parasol to slow both of them falling.
When the baddies are fought and the day is saved, Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon have a romantic moment. But Luna, suspicious of his motives, interrogates Tuxedo Mask. He admits that, since he is also looking for the Legendary Silver Crystal, the same thing the Sailor Scouts and their enemies are after, he may be their enemy.
The mystery thickens. A teaser briefly shows Makoto, the girl who will soon become Sailor Jupiter.
I liked this episode. It made up for many of the problems of the last one. I liked the dancing and the romance, and how it left in some of the comedic quirks of the original series while maintaining the elegance and class of Crystal and the manga of Sailor Moon. I tend to like episodes where the characters are shown in wholly new outfits too, because creating such an episode takes more work than simply showing the characters in their usual uniforms. And these ballroom gowns look pretty damn good, so props to the artists there.
Episode 5 - Act 5 Makoto - Sailor Jupiter
This episode follows the familiar pattern of the other "Introducing a Sailor Scout" episodes.
In this one, tall transfer student Makoto Kino is having trouble fitting in at Usagi's school. People make fun of her due to her physical strength.
Perhaps this wouldn't be such a big deal here as it is in Japan... I guess that might be why I'm not super wowed by this episode. It seems like a big cultural difference; here, if a girl is strong, that's considered a good thing, especially if she's good at sports. But in Japan, they seem to kind of look down on girls who are more aggressive or physical.
Makoto compensates for this unfortunate cultural prejudice against her by being super feminine. I don't know, it doesn't sit comfortably with me that they would need to write her this way. What's so bad about having a girl be tall and aggressive and even a bit masculine?
Ah well, it turns out anyway that Makoto is actually a whiz in the domestic sphere. She tells Usagi that she lives alone, but it's not probed into further (what happened to her parents and with her old school and all that), but Usagi is impressed by Makoto's mad bento-making skills.
So then, following the formula, the Sailor Scouts get caught up in a demonic bridal shop, and of course, Makoto has to awaken to her powers, become Sailor Jupiter, and defeat the evil.
I like Makoto as a character. She's clearly faced some bad hardships with poverty and bullying, and Usagi's friendship is necessary to her as a way of making her feel comfortable at her new school. This is probably the only episode so far that made my eyes well up, so there's that.
Otherwise, this episode really just follows the expected formula established by previous Sailor Scouts' awakenings, so it wasn't all that climactic.
But, even as an average episode, it was still pretty good.
Episode 6 - Act 6 - Tuxedo Mask
This episode deals with Luna, the talking kitty in charge, and all the Sailor Scouts, being unsure whether or not they can trust this "Tuxedo Mask" guy. He tends to show up at all the Sailor Scouts' fights, and sometimes saves the girls, particularly Usagi. But afterwards, he usually vanishes mysteriously, and doesn't even text the next day!
It turns out, Mamoru Chiba, the boy whose secret identity is Tuxedo Mask, is after the Legendary Silver Crystal that the enemies of the Sailor Scouts are also looking for. This may signal that he's not to be trusted, but Usagi feels like she can trust him and follows her heart, against the wishes of the others. It turns out, that was the right thing to do.
Episode 7 - Act 7 - Mamoru Chiba - Tuxedo Mask
Sailor Moon passed out at the end of the last episode from the energy it took to use her new attack, and Tuxedo Mask took her to his house.
This is how she finds out that Tuxedo Mask is actually Mamoru. This episode explores their relationship starting to form, as they're both beginning to realize that they were together in another life.
This episode gives Mamoru's back story, explaining why he is after the Legendary Silver Crystal.
When he was a boy, he was in a car accident and hit his head, forgetting who he was and losing his parents. Since then, he's wondered who he really was. His dreams, featuring the yet unrevealed Princess Serenity/Usagi, only taunted him, but they gave him the name, Legendary Silver Crystal.
So he became Tuxedo Mask, wandering the streets at night in disguise to try to hunt down information about the Crystal.
Then, it's revealed that Luna is communicating with Sailor V through the computer-diddle she talks to.
Meanwhile, Queen Beryl visits her superior, Queen Metalia, an amorphous flame-like being of evil energy. Their conversation clues the audience in on the fact that Tuxedo Mask, Sailor Moon, and the other Sailor Scouts are the heirs who are destined to re-awaken a one-defeated Moon Kingdom.
Beryl tells Zoisite that Sailor Moon must be found, because she might have the Legendary Silver Crystal, and he gets the whole town brainwashed into searching for her. (Because it worked so well in the last episode when he brainwashed everyone into searching for the crystal itself?)
When the girls find the enemy's brainwashing DVD, it's Sailor V from the arcade game that warns them about how stupid it was to try playing it.
Sailor Moon is able to use her new attack, Moon Healing Escalation, to un-brainwash people.
However, Zoisite is able to grab her, repel all the other Sailor Scouts' attacks, and threatens to strangle Usagi unless she tells him where the Legendary Silver Crystal is. (She doesn't actually know that at this point.) Tuxedo Mask has to be the one to save her.
But he is also no match for Zoisite (well no duh, he doesn't actually have any powers). So who actually saves Sailor Moon? Sailor V/Venus. Bam!
I loved this episode. It's not formulaic like others (although the brainwashing thing is getting a bit old at this point), and it really takes its time in developing Mamoru's back story.
Episode 8 - Act 8 - Minako - Sailor V
White, male talking kitty Artemis thinks that not only is Sailor V a Guardian, a Sailor Scout, but that she's also the princess of the Moon Kingdom, Princess Serenity. (Sailor Moon is, obviously, because moon... but they don't get to this for a while.)
Sailor V had become a Sailor Guardian before any other Scout, and she went around with Artemis as Sailor V solving mysteries.
Eventually, she realized the Dark Kingdom, the enemies the Scouts have been fighting, were responsible for every mysterious crime she'd been tracking.
Kunzite, one of the bad guys, tells Sailor V she must come to Tokyo Tower alone with the Plot Crystal, or everyone in Tokyo will die.
The main inner conflict here is that Sailor V wanted to fight the bad guy herself, but the others show up in time to beat him, reminding her that she no longer has to do everything alone.
It also deals with Mamoru and Usagi's relationship. They've been dreaming about each other, getting ever closer to remembering their past lives as Prince Endymion and Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom, before evil destroyed it. (They finally kiss in this episode! Fangirl squee!)
But, the episode ends on a cliff hanger, when Mamoru leaps in front of an enemy's attack to protect Usagi.
Episode 9 - Act 9 - Serenity - Princess
After jumping in front of Zoisite's attack, Tuxedo Mask was knocked unconscious. Sailor Moon let's out a big "No!" and transforms into Princess Serenity, regaining her lost memories of her past, with Tuxedo Mask having been her lover, Endymion, who had been the Prince of Earth while she was the Princess of the Moon.
It was originally forbidden to her to see him, but just like with Romeo and Juliet, teenagers don't listen to their adults when it comes to such things. A war erupts when jealous Earth people want to rise up against the Moon Kingdom to take for themselves the power of the Legendary Silver Crystal. The warring Earth faction was led by Beryl, and it's implied that she had a thing for Endymion, and was jealous of Serenity. Endymion was killed defending Serenity at that time.
Remembering all this makes modern-day Usagi cry, and her tear becomes the Legendary Silver Crystal. But, what this does is attract Beryl and Metalia to the scene, who kidnap still-unconscious Tuxedo Mask. All the Sailor Scouts try to fight, but can't prevent this.
It's revealed that the true reason the Scouts were led to think Sailor V/Venus was the Princess and not Usagi was to protect Usagi, a lie thought up by Artemis.
Anyway, when the other girls find Usagi distressed and unsure what to do, Luna suggests that they all hop the next charter bus to the Moon to seek out answers: about the Dark Kingdom, and how to save Tuxedo Mask and defeat the evil that once destroyed the Moon Kingdom and which currently threatens to subdue or destroy the Earth.
Episode 10 - Act 10 - Moon
So the girls hop a bullet train to the Moon (well, a magic green bubble), where a handy tour guide shows up in the form of the voice and a holographic image of Princess Serenity's mama, Queen Serenity.
Mommy completes the story of Princess Serenity; after Prince Endymion was killed trying to protect her, just like in Romeo and Juliet, Princess Serenity killed herself.
Queen Serenity was able to seal away the power of the evil being that had overtaken Earth and brainwashed everyone into warring against the Moon Kingdom. But sadly, doing that turned the remains of the Silver Millenium Moon Kingdom to stone, while the Kingdom of Earth was also destroyed, causing the history of Earth to have to start all over again.
The latter half of the episode deals with the past lives of the Sailor Guardians, who had been Princess Serenity's body guards as well as her best friends, and their past romantic interaction with the Four. Zoisite, Kunzite, Nephrite, and Jadeite were all once knights in the service of Prince Endymion. The Sailor Scouts combine their powers into a Sailor Planet Attack, making the dudes remember their original love for them. It doesn't exactly work, but they go away.
Meanwhile, Queen Beryl is controlling Endymion/Mamoru. She has him in an underground chamber, but when he wakes up, she is controlling his mind and orders him to go kill Sailor Moon and take the Legendary Silver Crystal. The episode ends there.
Sailor Moon Crystal has an interesting beginning. The show is visually stunning, has good music and sound effects, and all-around improvements were made on the 1990's cartoon we all cherish.
However, it's safe to say it gets better later, and starts out a little clunky. Establishing new characters is difficult, and this show's creators definitely had their hands full when it came to the challenge of wanting to introduce the cast of Sailor Scout characters, and the main bad guys, much more quickly than in the original 90's anime. I think they did... an OK job.
Sometimes, it felt like an info dump, and sometimes it felt like not enough time was given to explore the personal back stories of each girl or to showcase their individual talents and personalities. But, these episodes were all still memorable and worth watching.
One criticism I heard about this arc in Crystal compared to either the manga or the original 90's anime of Sailor Moon is the way the romances, especially that between the four bad dudes and the Sailor Scouts, feels a little too rushed. And I agree that there isn't enough time given to building up their relationships with more interactions the way there was with Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask.
But, the original anime didn't really do this that well either. It just included too many bland, formula-driven episodes with them to try to get this Sailor Scouts - Four Kings interaction time taking place.
I'm kind of happier with this shorter version, even if it may have cut out some of the characterization of those guys, it still leaves in their most important aspects and scenes. Also, in this version, Queen Beryl doesn't kill any of them for failure. I kind of like this more, because it gives each of the Four Kings a chance to rediscover their true self.
There are a few minor flaws here, but I enjoy this story, in any form.
Crystal is cutting unnecessary speed bumps that slowed down the plot development of the previous anime, and I think that's a good thing.
However, there might be something to be said for taking things slower. I think this series is emotionally gripping and has a likeable cast. But, that cast could use a bit more interaction building up their relationships with one another, so you don't look at it, quirk your head, and ask, "Okay, but, why are these people friends?"
On the other hand, if you're already familiar with the story, it is nicer to skip to the major, more climactic battles of the narrative. The slow buildup of the original Sailor Moon series might have put some people off, making them less likely to stick it out until the story really picks up steam.