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Act.13 – FINAL BATTLE – REINCARNATION

First Aired: 3rd January 2015

Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen’s bodies are absorbed by the Silver Crystal. as Metalia begins her conquest of Earth. The planet is soon engulfed by darkness, and the only one with any chance of fighting back is Sailor Moon. As her friends offers her their powers, Sailor Moon must take full control of the Silver Crystal and ascend to role she was destined for.

The first part of this review is spoiler-free.

Just a heads up, I get kind of negative in this review. Try not to take it personally if you enjoyed the episode, just know that I have awful taste. I apologise profusely and retract every single word of it.

I feel similarly about this episode as the previous one, that is to say that I didn’t wholly enjoy it as much as I would have liked. Believe me, I wanted to, but there are some issues here that hamper a smooth viewing. This is a real shame, because this arguably has some of the most dramatic moments in the series. Uneven art, repetitive and simplistic writing and an unimaginative use of screen time made this episode hover dangerously close to “uninteresting”.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Sailor Senshi

It seem cruel to harp on about this, but several times the art got so bad that it can take you completely out of the episode. One scene in particular had the faces of Sailor Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Venus all looking as though they had been printed on the side of a Pringles tub, I understand budget restrictions, I also understand that the original adaptation was plagued by poor art, the problem is that this is 20 years later, and Sailor Moon really does deserve a higher budget and more careful artists than this studio can provide.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Silver Crystal activates

The last third is where the episode picks up, with Sailor Moon returning to some of that old assertiveness she carried earlier in the series. Before then, however, we’re given some scenes which, while not terrible, are merely boring. The Senshi have now been given such generic, interchangeable lines that it’s impossible to tell the difference between them. Every line appears to be either exposition of things that seem impossible for them to know in the first place, or loud declarations of their internal emotions.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Sailor Mars uses her pen

The lack of character development is really beginning to show here. While Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen are as fleshed out as ever, all four of the other Senshi feel completely wooden, as are the Four Kings. The worst offender is, unexpectedly, Queen Metalia. I found her utterly dull in the manga, and it’s no different here. She’s an amorphous blob with an angry doodle face, something you might scratch into you desk at school during an exam. As the episode goes on she actually exhibits less character traits, defaulting back to “I’M EVIL” and “I REALLY WANT THAT THING YOU HAVE.

I long for the days of Queen Beryl, who had character flaws, and motivations, and an actual face.

That’s not to say that it’s all bad. There are some moments which feel energetic and dramatic. Sailor Moon finally gets a chance to fight back against Metalia here, unlike the last few episodes where she’s played a nervous, passive role. The best moment is, unfortunately, right at the very end of the episode, and gets cut short as a cliff-hanger.

This is a little baffling, actually. The episode ends just as things were finally getting interesting. I can’t help but feel that if they cut a few scenes throughout the episode, they could have easily given us both a dramatic climax and a decent cliff-hanger,

Sailor Moon Crystal - The Moon Stick extends

One rather suspects that this cliff-hanger was chosen because that is how the acts of the Sailor Moon manga are structured. This is further evidence of this adaptation’s over-reliance on verisimilitude when it comes to its source material. Manga does not translate to anime in a 1:1 form. It needs developing, tweaking, accentuating to become a compelling piece of media. While the writers’ ambitions were admirable, they should have been willing to improve upon what is, with the best will in the world, their flawed source material.

This actually marks the end of the Dark Kingdom arc. It’s rather a strange, abrupt ending that flows seamlessly into the Black Moon arc, one presumes from next episode. I hope that the produces have more confidence, more time and more money to put into Sailor Moon Crystal for this arc, because it’s punching a little above its weight at present.


The Spoiler Section is below!

Keep scrolling for the rest of the review!

…Still here? Good.

I talked previously about how negative my reaction was to Sailor Moon trying to stab herself. The reveal here, that she was prevented from doing so by Tuxedo Kamen’s watch, is pretty darn corny, and makes no sense in how it looks. The physicals just look off. I suppose the answer to that is “magic“, as it probably is also to the question of why both of them simply fell unconcious. It all just feels a mite clumsy as it opens.

"That's the last time we drink moonshine until 7 in the morning."

“That’s the last time we drink moonshine until 7 in the morning.”

The crystal that forms around them here is as out of nowhere here as it was in the manga. I never really understood it then, nor now. These things keep happening in Sailor Moon Crystal. People develop new powers out of the blue and don’t seem concerned with them. Strange magic keeps popping up to change Sailor Moon’s tiaras or form giant crystals without any foreshadowing or even meaning behind them. It serves no real purpose.

Randomness, thy name is Sailor Moon Crystal

Randomness, thy name is Sailor Moon Crystal

Speaking of random, Artemis and Luna appear from bloody nowhere, out of a portal which is inexplicably opened and closed just to get the characters in the room. And for what? For Luna to try and attack Queen Metalia. This would have been a lot more affecting if they hadn’t already done it in the previous episode, then had Sailor Moon just reverse all the damage.

"Oh a sweet kitty! Finally a friend to pla-OW the little shit scratched me."

“Oh a sweet kitty! Finally a friend to pla-OW the little shit scratched me.”

What the hell happened to Artemis’ face?

She's just been severely wounded and his expression is "Ehh, it happens."

She’s just been severely wounded and his expression is “What do you mean you’ve run out of artichokes?”

Bless the writers, they try really hard to make the other Senshi seem relevant, but my god their lines are all so cookie cutter. Any one of them could say any other’s line, and it’s all this weird worship and pandering to Usagi and how ruddy lovely she is.

It's just impossible not to compare this to how the original series handled this, and never to Sailor Moon Crystal's advantage

It’s just impossible not to compare this to how the original series handled this, and never to Sailor Moon Crystal’s advantage

Metalia getting strong enough to envelope the entire world seemed like a good chance to get some genuine darkness and pathos into the episode, but the art work, again, was just uninspired. No sense of dread or threat at all. My my I am being a negative Nancy today aren’t I?

Just another Friday night in Soho

Just another Friday night in Soho

The Senshi then think about how much they love Usagi, how awesome she is, how positive, how powerful, how they’d do anything for her, and then we get a prolonged freeze-frame with Usagi laughing like a broken doll in a horror film. Such an eye-rolling moment.

"Hehehehehehehe I'm on the first step, I'm coming to get youuuuu"

“Hehehehehehehe I’m on the first step, I’m coming to get youuuuu”

I’m probably overreacting, though. It’s not like they’re hero-worshipping the central character like a god in a fruitless attempt to convince the audience how brilliant they are.

...OK. Did anyone else get huge Neon Genesis Evangelion vibes from this? And, like, in the horrifying way?

…OK.
Did anyone else get huge Neon Genesis Evangelion vibes from this? And, like, in the horrifying way?

The Senshi sacrifice themselves to throw some power over to Sailor Moon. It’s handled so poorly, without a shred of pathos. There’s a couple of cool looking shots (you’ll notice the only thing moving is their mouths, saves money on animation. When you start noticing things like that it’s really hard to stop), but they don’t really die. There’s no emotion attached to this. I once saw this done in a way that made me cry buckets and cracked my very soul, but it’s not here.

Essentially, the Senshi share one "death" scene, and it's throwing their pens at Metalia's face.

Essentially, the Senshi share one “death” scene, and it’s throwing their pens at Metalia’s face.

We then get a rather long, pointless scene of Sailor Moon realising Tuxedo Kamen isn’t dead, realising that the watch saved her life (HOW THOUGH), and then seeing Metalia taunt her by threatening to “take you inside my body“. Well, quite. I think that 95% of this scene could be cut down, and we could have gotten the climax we deserved before the credits.

"Looks like I've been given a little more TIME. Tuxedo Kamen really does WATCH my back. My BIG HAND is pointing to 6. OTHER CLOCK PUNS."

“Looks like I’ve been given a little more TIME. Tuxedo Kamen really does WATCH my back. My BIG HAND is pointing to 6. AND SOME OTHER CLOCK PUNS.”

Sailor Moon finally begins using the Silver Crystal. This is where things pick up a little. I was quite excited for this, even though the effects of the Crystal itself (more 3D animation) were a little poor, and the actual shots of her attacking with the Crystal were rather unimaginative. At the very least we got our strong motivated Sailor Moon back.

"Ohhhh the On switch is on THIS side... Well that would have prevented quite a number of deaths."

“Ohhhh the On switch is on THIS side… Well that would have prevented quite a number of deaths.”

So the only reason for Sailor Moon’s motivation coming back is Tuxedo Kamen reviving. That’s… not very good character development. Actually, that’s awful. She’s utterly immobilised unless her love is up and about? When the world is at stake? Sorry to compare this to the original anime again, but…

OK, in the original show, Sailor Moon must undergo a change where she realises that she has to put aside her love for Mamoru to honour her dead friends and to save the Earth. Her character isn’t defined by Mamoru, she has to overcome her personal feelings, move on, and finish the job without him. In Sailor Moon Crystal, everything she thinks or does is defined by him. Which is not a good character trait at all.

"You smell like you've been dead for 2 months, Tux."

“You smell like you’ve been dead for 2 months, Tux.”

The battle against Queen Metalia might have looked better if the animators had decided that the manga’s design for her was not quite enough for this anime adaptation. At this point, she’s literally screaming “I WANT IT I WANT IT GIVE IT TO ME.” She’s a gassy needy baby that flies about being kind of a dick to people.

"Metalia HUNGRY. Metalia want BOTTLE."

“Metalia HUNGRY. Metalia want BOTTLE or that crystal of infinite power, whatever is cool with you.”

We then get the reveal that it was four stones, Kunzite, Zoisite, Nephrite and jadeite which popped out of his suit and took the blow from the Holy Sword, thus releasing their spirits. I feel like Sailor Moon Crystal was really relying on these guys to set them apart from the original anime adaptation, but yet again all four of them have no personality. I don’t care that they’re dead, I don’t care that they’re now Force Ghosts.

"Luke, you must go to the Dagobah System..."

“Luke, you must go to the Dagobah System…”

This was kind of a weird condescending shot… I think they were going for “loving” and “supportive” as opposed to “slightly creepy”.

"Back. The hell. Off. I got this."

“Please shield me. I’m ascared of the grumpy cloud.”

Finally things get much cooler when Sailor Moon whips out the Moon Stick and extends it out, using the Silver Crystal on the end. Does it make sense? No, no really. Who knows how or why this happened, but at least it’s new and interesting, and well animated.

Yeah! This episode should get REALLY good now!

Yeah! This episode should get REALLY good now!

Oh it’s over.

"Everyone out. Sailor Moon Crystal is now closed. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."

“Everyone out. Sailor Moon Crystal is now closed. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

Weeeeell hopefully things will be all nice and dramatic next episode. Which is, incidentally, also when we’re meant to be meeting Chibi-Usa… maybe things really will pick up!

…See, I can be optimistic.

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14 Comments »

  1. Usagi laughing like a broken doll comment did make me laugh. I think the manga handles it better since they are chapters and you can easily flip the page to see what happens while here you have to wait 2 weeks. Next episode is mostly the wrap up of the dark kingdom arc and introduction to the black moon arc so probably nothing too astounding is going to happen.

  2. All of this. Something I never thought possible is happening : I’m beginning to feel “meh” about Sailor Moon Crystal :( I really don’t want to either! You’re right the freeze-frame-esque-budget-saving anime style is really off putting in a kind of “once you see it you can’t unsee it” type way.

    I feel that sometimes as you rightly put, it’s far too reliant on the manga – “right this happened in the manga so lets do that” “but it wasn’t really explained why this happened, shall we write in some reasoning for story cohesion?” “pish posh man, it wasn’t explained in the manga so we shan’t explain it here!”

    I remain ever-optimistic as pre episode 12 I was loving this. Great review again Vincent :) I’m still really enjoying your site and I really praise the In Memoriams, they add a great insight into some often overlooked characters.

    Daz

    • Cheers, that means a lot! I was rather enjoying it too. Hopefully the introduction of Chibi-Usa and the Black Moon will revitalise the series… it’s what I’m banking on, at least.

      I should have a couple more In Memoriams on the way soon, in a fit of post-Sailor Moon S retrospectives. Thanks for reading!

      Vincent

  3. If anything you’re being positively merciful to Crystal compared to rest of the Sailor Moon fandom and the general anime community. They’ve been ripping it to shreds over it’s failings. And this point I can’t help but agree with them. Crystal just feels so lifeless and poorly put-together compared to 90s anime.

    • This is true. I haven’t held my punches, though I don’t want to be cruel. If I’m honest though, yes, I think it’s pretty badly put together from the bottom up, but I don’t like bashing something into the dirt. I’m far too good at it for one thing.

      If it weren’t for this blog, I think I would have bailed as a viewer a few episodes back.

  4. There’s no reason to apologize, I think a lot of people found these faults and you highlighted positives and negatives in a good way. That said, your review is pretty much exactly how I felt about it. I hate how Crystal’s potential’s been hampered by trying to stay too close to the manga.

    I really do love the manga for what it is… but it has a lot of –what I call– Naoko-isms. Something happens that’s mostly done for the sake of being grandiose or pretty… (weird things, like Chibiusa being 900 years old or Usagi’s sword proof pocketwatch) but is mostly just a random head-scratcher or an outright deus ex machinas. It still looks fabulous but it doesn’t really put forth for a full narrative.

    Honestly, when I started watching Crystal I felt enthusiastic cause I hoped they’d improve the manga cause Naoko herself said that when she first wrote the manga she’d rushed or scrambled to get ideas out. So when I heard about Crystal I thought, “Fantastic! Now Naoko can put a fully realized version of the manga to screen with some thoughts on how to put the most epic spin on certain underwhelming aspects of the manga.”

    Well… yeah, that didn’t happen so much with the Dark Kingdom arc. I just hope that they realize that people had qualms with the story quality here and want to see something with better story progression to follow. Cause Crystal has a lot going for it, it just needs to actually IMPROVE the source material, I mean for one thing: in Crystal they can make the paternal arc for Usagi and Mamoru with Chibiusa narratively connect throughout the saga better. But after this arc I’m not going to get my hopes too high.

  5. I’m banking that many English language fans read the manga all in one shot, or as each volume was released by Mixx/Kodansha.

    In contrast, Japanese fans in the 90’s had to wait weeks for each new chapter to be serialised in Nakayoshi. Crystal is replicating that experience.

    Reading the manga all in one go is a far more satisfying experience, because just as things get good, you move right onto Act 14. It will be the same once Crystal is fully released. I predict many fans will have a change of heart on Crystal overall when it’s made completely available.

    • It will be interesting to go back, binge-watch episodes and see if opinion improves. I’ll try it myself when all the episodes are available and write a piece on it if the overall experience is noteworthy.

  6. Artichokes. Bahahaha! I really really disliked how they handled this compared to the original anime. Save/kill brainwashed boyfriend, then get real on Beryl, finally admitting she needs the help of her friends to succeed. That was waay more engaging and emotional to me. Also, the song playing in the english dub during that scene was awesome! (Regarding the spotty quality, i actually found myself yelling “Animation Power!” When the inners unleashed their final attack after an episode of posing ^-^

    • There’s something of a problem in Crystal with its adherence not only to every plot twist of the manga, but also the art. They’re lifting still images from a manga and expecting it to look as engaging animated, which it does not. I think they could have captured that pathos with, maybe, triple of whatever budget they’re currently on.

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