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Act.15 – INFILTRATION – SAILOR MARS

First Aired: 7th February 2015

Sailor Moon Crystal - Crystal Tokyo

The mysterious girl who fell from the sky causes trouble for Usagi. but doesn’t appear actively hostile other than demanding the Silver Crystal. She’s not the only one, however, as mysterious new enemies appear. Koan, wearing a black crescent moon on her forehead, targets Sailor Mars, as the Black Moon clan begins their invasion.

The first part of this review is spoiler-free.

This episode was all around satisfactory. It’s probably the best episode in a number of weeks, actually, with the strength of the series waning at the climax of the Dark Kingdom arc. We get new characters, new artwork and an exciting new plot, not to mention a certain darkness to proceedings that is already giving the Black Moon arc a real edge to it.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Koan gives predictions!

That’s not to say it’s perfect. The problems of the episode, as usual, are its adherence to the manga. As admirable as it is to perform a straight adaptation, the viewer’s relationship with Chibi-Usa is advanced maybe 3 or 4 times in this episode alone. It’s all a little heavy-handed in the plot points its foreshadowing.

There were several moments, typically in Usagi’s behaviour towards Chibi-Usa, that feel so tied to the type of humour of the original adaptation that it did feel nicely nostalgic. This is a little at odds with the style at times – the artwork for Sailor Moon Crystal does not lend itself well to the zany humour we’ve come to associate with Usagi. That being said, I still chuckled, even if the scenes were remarkably unchanged from the original adaptation.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Usagi angry at Chibi-Usa

Aside from the moments of humour, there is a new sense of nastiness from the Black Moon that we didn’t really get with the Dark Kingdom. Prince Dimande is introduced in this episode alongside Saphir, Esmeraude, Rubeus, The Spectre Sisters and, of course, Wiseman, in a scene that displays this horrendous arrogance and hubris. Koan takes the stage as the enemy of the week, and it’s fair to say that she’s the most vicious character we’ve actually met in Sailor Moon Crystal thus far.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Dimande

And this all works, especially because the original adaptation did not go this route. There’s a real sense of danger here. They have done a good job upping the stakes after Metalia’s demise.

There is this sense that Naoko had some kind of sudden fascination with paranormal malarkey sometime in the early 90s. There’s a long discussion on spontaneous human combustion that really doesn’t go anywhere, talk on fortune-telling and UFOs that feel like an X-Files episode, and by that I mean strangely dated. This stuff feels incredibly kitsch from the cynical and bitter year of 2015.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Droids attacked by Supreme Thunder

Aside from the regular hand-holding, where the unfolding plot is painfully made obvious, this was a solid episode, and gives me hope for the 2nd arc. The Black Moon are interesting, horrible people that really feel more engaging than any of the Four Kings or Queen Beryl. They look the part too, I really like their Crystal designs.

Things are looking up. I just hope that this level of energy keeps up in the coming episodes.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Chibi-Usa taunts Usagi


 

The spoiler section begins here.

Don’t scroll down if you don’t want to get a blow-by-blow analysis!

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Still here? Glad you could join me.

The episode opens with the follow-up of Chibi-Usa holding a gun to Usagi’s head. I’m not sure her voice actress is as threatening as she could have been here. This moment is still a bit weird after all this time, especially considering we find out later that Chibi-Usa knows this is her mother in the manga. Still, I grinned

Not sure this would play well in a US cartoon considering recent questionable & high-profile decision by armed police...

Not sure this would play well in a US cartoon considering recent questionable & high-profile decision by armed police…

I like that there’s no messing around, we move straight to Nemesis and see Prince Dimande chugging wine with his generals. Since the series will be much shorter, we have all the characters introduced at once. A bit overwhelming, maybe, no one really stands out here except for Dimande, but I think their designs are great.

"This was BYOB by the way. I'm not letting you freeloaders drink all my wine."

“This was BYOB by the way. I’m not letting you freeloaders drink all my wine.”

Tremendously underwhelmed by Wiseman’s voice actor. He just sounds like a wobbly old man, there’s a definite lack of presence when I compare his voice to the original series. That aside, of course, he’s as creepy as ever. Looking forward to seeing more of his backstory in Crystal.

"I'm a completely trustworthy and committed member of this team. Promise."

“I’m a completely trustworthy and committed member of this team. Promise.”

The people that really take prominence in this scene is Rubeus…

He looks like he has a communicable disease.

He looks like he has a communicable disease.

…and Koan. The Spectre Sisters (I still want to call them the Phantom Sisters) all look fantastic. We won’t see nearly as much of them, they’re essentially monsters-of-the-week in the manga, but their vibrant colour scheme and how fucking insanely evil they will be makes them really stand out, more so than their superiors.

No redemptive arc for you ladies THIS time.

No redemptive arc for you ladies THIS time.

Not sure why this scene exists after they've shown what the other sisters look like, but I still think it looks great. Hit that neon filter!

Not sure why this scene exists after they’ve shown what the other sisters look like, but I still think it looks great. Hit that neon filter!

We get the scene of Chibi-Usa sitting sadly in the park by herself. This pacing feels off. Such is the peril of sticking too close to the manga, the original adaptation realised that you had to maintain a certain level of suspicion over Chibi-Usa before introducing this pitiable sad streak of her character. This happens immediately after she threatens Usagi with a gun. Just feels like it’s an episode too early.

I like how Luna-P looks exactly the same, except that they gave her blue eyes. I love this weird thing.

I like how Luna-P looks exactly the same, except that they gave her blue eyes. I love this weird thing.

Mamoru gets a vision of the future when he holds Chibi-Usa’s hand. Crystal Tokyo! It’s… not as mysteriously cold and beautiful as I would have hoped, but the architecture remains alluringly interesting. This prophecy stuff for Mamoru ends up not meaning much at all in the manga. We’ll see what they do with this.

"Oh god I shouldn't have eaten those mushrooms. I'm tripping out in a kid's park. Again"

“Oh god I shouldn’t have eaten those mushrooms. I’m tripping out in a kid’s park. Again”

Chibi-Usa hypnotises the Tsukino household. I did like all this, but since they’ve introduced this sympathetic side to Chibi-Usa too early this comes off in a totally different tone. The humour was ok, but the style of the show doesn’t really allow for the zany moments, so still feels unusual.

"Wow those mushrooms Mamoru gave us are really kicking in."

“Wow those mushrooms Mamoru gave us are really kicking in.”

Just to hammer home the plot twist, the show takes massive effort to show that Chibi-Usa has a Silver Crystal of her own. There’s not going to be much of a slow investigation here. It’s also in a scene where Chibi-Usa is made incredibly morose and unfortunate, with Usagi just yelling at her. If we follow the manga, I’m not going to like Usagi in a few weeks’ time.

HELLO? MCFLY? SILVER CRYSAL.

HELLO? MCFLY? SILVER CRYSAL.

Enjoyed this parfait scene. Can I please get more scenes of the Senshi just hanging out? Moments like these massively serve to reinforce connections and develop characters. The lines here flesh out these guys massively, but it’s never enough.

She's still the best, even after 23 years

She’s still the best, even after 23 years

HEY. KIDS. NEW STUFF TO BUY.

"I got you new Transformation Pens and Communicators. They're from Bandai."

“I got you new Transformation Pens and Communicators. They’re from Bandai.”

I knew this was coming, but nothing can quite prepare you for Asanuma. I fucking hate this kid in the manga… and here too. He’s absolutely cack here, going on about how much he loves Mamoru, how smart he is, how great he is, how he wants to become him and wear his skin like a rain-jacket. It’s so creepy. I’m guessing that he won’t improve on me if the manga’s anything to go by.

They call him out as a pathetic Kohai and he's totally fine with that. At least Makoto solidly demeans him.

They call him out as a pathetic Kohai and he’s totally fine with that. At least Makoto solidly demeans him.

And at Rei’s school we’re given a new character, who literally appears on screen by announcing her name: “I’M KOTONO.” I wonder if Takeuchi named her after Usagi’s voice actor Kotono Mitsuishi? Regardless, she’s awful. Obsessed with the paranormal and worships Rei. We get a lot of this, characters turn up to impress on us how amazing other characters are. Bit creepy. So many stalkers.

"HI I'M A NEW CHARACTER THAT DOES NOTHING BYE."

“HI I’M A NEW CHARACTER THAT DOES NOTHING BYE.”

Really liked when Rei blurted out “Bleurgh!” when reading the UFO rags. Her shock at having spoken like Usagi was fantastic. We haven’t seen enough of her fire, so to speak, she’s just been so bland in Crystal thus far, so this was a welcome moment.

This would have been more effective if we would have seen her haughtiness and antagonism with Usagi that was in the manga.

“Bleugh” is not strong enough a word for Kotono’s paranormal obsession. It’s so quaint, feels like such a 90s relic. Her speech on spontaneous combustion feels especially odd

We then get a scene of Koan looking alien as heck (the theme of the series), burning some dude alive in the park. Definitely no redemptive arc for her in this version. I have to ask… why though? What did this achieve? It looked cool, the Droids are terrifying, but why would Koan do this…? To mess with Rei’s prophecy?

Also, in the manga she totally murdered a kid. Writers totally chickened out and killed a businessman instead, which I think we can all agree was probably a smart move.

This was my favourite shot in the episode. Rare that we see genuinely awesome and original art from Crystal

This was my favourite shot in the episode. Rare that we see genuinely awesome and original art from Crystal

Rei then meets Koan at the TA Girl’s School festival telling people they’re going to die. Once again, none of her motives make any sense… unless you remember that Takeuchi wrote the Black Moon arc at the last minute after getting pressured to continue the series. Koan is pretty damn cool so far though, really really aggressive.

"I see your future... you will spend years of your life adding TV shows to your Netflix queue and never get around to watching any of them, woooooooh. 50 bucks please."

“I see your future… you will meet a tall man. That’ll be 200 bucks pelase.”

Pretty impressed that the show followed through and actually BURNT A NUN TO DEATH. Wow. Why though? What purpose did this serve? What the fuck is Koan doing None of this makes any sense. Still, I’m enjoying how suddenly dark this series is getting.

"Oh don't worry, nuns are always exploding around here. Completely normal."

“Oh don’t worry, nuns are always exploding around here. Completely normal.”

Updated transformation sequences. Or so I’m told. I couldn’t really tell because my eyes vomit every time I see this weird cel-shaded CGI mess.

Best thing I can say about this sequence is that it's short. Except it wasn't short. With all 5 Senshi it look about 20% of the entire episode.

Best thing I can say about this sequence is that it’s short. Except it wasn’t short. With all 5 Senshi it look about 20% of the entire episode.

Enjoyed the battle. We get Shine Aqua Illusion, Supreme Thunder, Love-Me Chain, Mercury Aqua Mist, Burning Mandala, Moon Tiara Boomerang and Moon Princess Halation today, and I really appreciated it.

This did look awesome. Too bad it did NOTHING. The Senshi actually end up looking really rather rubbish by the end of this episode.

This did look awesome. Too bad it did NOTHING. The Senshi actually end up looking really rather rubbish by the end of this episode.

Here’s where it drops a bit… Mars is engulfed in Dark Fire, and no one can get her out. We then have a static battlefield here, with Mars just floating about while the others try attacking for a bit. Just felt… not dynamic.

Pretty sad to see Mars get a new attack and then immediately get overwhelmed. No sense of triumph or victory for her at all.

Pretty sad to see Mars get a new attack and then immediately get overwhelmed. No sense of triumph or victory for her at all.

This next part was the worst. Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen randomly form the Moon Rod. In the original anime adaptation, Usagi had to earn this rod in a tough battle that saw her on the verge of death. Here, boom, new stick. Which she can’t even use to save Mars. Just feels… barely adequate and uninteresting.

I could make jokes here... but they're just too easy.

I could make jokes here… but they’re just too easy.

And then BAM Sailor Moon kills Koan. This is the first time she’s actually killed someone directly. Beryl died after having her stupid necklace broken, Metalia was a giant evil fart cloud. Here, Sailor Moon straight up eliminates Koan. It seems a bit ungracious of her if I’m honest. I like the Sailor Moon that refuses to take a life and always believes in redemption.

"WHAT I'M ONLY IN ONE EPISOOOOODE!?"

“WHAT I’M ONLY IN ONE EPISOOOOODE!?”

So Rubeus makes off with Sailor Mars in the belief that she knows where the Silver Crystal is… bit weird. This actually made the manga suffer a bit, since we actually have half the main characters abducted and absent for a while. Which means that we won’t be seeing Sailor Mars again for… gosh, 8 weeks I think? Maybe more? Blimey. Wonder what that is going to do for the show…

"Oh well. I call shotgun on her laptop."

“Oh well. I call shotgun on her laptop.”


 

As I said before, definite problems that come directly from the manga, but I am impressed at how much I was drawn back into he show here. Genuinely exciting moments, decent action and real malice made for an entertaining watch.

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14 Comments »

  1. Taking out an army of droids singlehandedly does not, to me, say ‘nothing’. I LOVE Burning Mandala’s new look and how effective and well-rounded Rei became as a character in this, her final episode for a month or two.

    Episode 15 is doing what Episodes 11-13 of the first arc could not; it’s managing to make me care again. The humor is back, the characterizations are back, and the stakes are raised, and FEEL like they’re raised.

    Koan is a murderous, unrepentant bitch and I was glad to see her go. A sharp contrast from the caring-beneath-the-surface ditzes the Spectre Sisters were in the 90s anime. I really liked them there, but it was great to see what they were like here as a contrast.

    I agree, Chibi-Usa is all over the place this episode, but I’m OK with that. Her story is deep and complicated. I’m grateful that they’re playing her off as so much more than the bratty half-pint she was in the 90s, though. It feels more authentic that she’d be all over the map like she is. She’s a kid; kids can literally change their behavior and how you feel about them in a matter of moments.

    I think Wiseman’s DESIGN is terrific. Creepy as shit and nicely enigmatic. I agree, his voice actor could be miles better. Hopefully when *GIANT SPOILERIFFIC SPOILERY THING* happens, he’ll improve.

    • Mars did not take our a massive army of droids, the others did. She gave a 2 minute introduction, used a new attack (which looks very cool) and got completely destroyed by Koan ;)

      Maybe I was a little harsh, however.

  2. I was kinda disappointed Koan didn’t straight up murder a little kid. It makes them searching for Chibiusa look more threatening that way even if it is horrible. I honestly wish they kept it because it at least makes the motivation better, in the episode Koan is just carrying out murders and reading fortunes and I had no clue why. Especially killing the nun and random guy? Why kill them what importance does that serve at all?

    And I was really hoping that this whole thing where Naoko wrote out the inner senshi would be fixed her, in the manga it felt like a ridiculous cop-out and weak poor writing. Not lovin’ it still after all these years. Plus here it only serves to make Rei look pathetic and ineffectual. Something Rei should never be reduced to being.

    • I do agree, but a glass of muddy water looks appealing after coming in from the desert. This is by no means brilliant, but it’s back to being mediocre, which is sad in itself. All your points are salient as always ;)

  3. The only real reason I can think of behind the black moon attacking random people is that they know that the senshi wouldn’t stay hidden and come out to stop them, which would allow the black moon to take them away.

    • But some random guy in the park? All Koan needed to do was turn up at the school. She knew that Rei was Sailor Mars, I presume, otherwise why would she be there giving terrible readings? I prefer to consider the motivations of the writer Naoko Takeuchi, which is she wanted to make Koan seem reprehensibly evil. And in that respect it worked, despite the plot holes. I’m willing to give a by on that on ;)

      • My belief, after watching episode 16, is that it was just Koan being a bloodthirsty, crazy bitch. She wasn’t really furthering the Black Moon Clan’s agenda so much as just “having fun”, by being predatory and cruel.

        Each of the Spectre Sisters seems to have a different tactic they like to use. Koan is the youngest and most vicious, Berthier is more careful, more focused and a psychological bully (as we see during her chess match with Ami). I can only assume Calaveras and Petz also have their own quirks of personalities.

  4. Ugh. Man Up Koan, kill a child.

    Definitely a better episode, but so much of it reeks of “because manga”

    Still, it has renewed my interest and it was more dynamic than the GIF animation of staff “twirling” in the Dark Kingdom arc. Also was anyone else kind of thinking “shit Mars is on fire.. WHY AREN’T YOU CONCERNED??!”

    Plus points – Exploding Nun, Sound of Music missed a trick there.

    Great review as always ;)

    • Damn! Sound of Music. Why didn’t I think of that? Yeah everyone just stood around while Mars BURNED TO DEATH pulling magic love rods out of nowhere.

      :)

    • I don’t think Sailor Moon Crystal can kill a child onscreen and have it be taken seriously.

      Granted, the Black Moon Clan is the darkest we’ve ever seen this show go so far, but Sailor Moon in anime form is not a show where children can just be casually murdered. There are lots of other, darker anime out there for that; Puella Magi Madoka Magica comes to mind, but I’m kind of obsessed with that show right now.

      I think they made the right choice by chickening out. Sailor Moon Crystal isn’t dark enough to go into civilian child murder. Not even Shingo (sorry VK, I’m as sad about it as you are)

  5. It’s the pulling of magic love rods that’s precisely the reason all this horror is happening! Yes, Chibi-Usa! this Guilty by association you-ruin-everything glare is for YOU.

    I also wish someone programmed Luna-P with Stephen Hawkings voice.

  6. Darn people, kept the general king dudes alive for no apparent reason then totally wiped out my fav characters with one ep each. Poop! For all its faults, i am still immensely enjoying Crystal, new SM material is great whatever it is. And i do like seeing the Black Moon be a little less ineffectual than the orig series. I’m going to go rewatch SMR now to see my beloved sisters get redeemed and not die, Bye. ^-^

    • As corny as the redemption arc was in Sailor Moon R, I think it was important in humanising the Black Moon. In the manga the clan are all psychopaths with zero in them to empathise with, and Usagi even says so, which is interesting, but not nearly as engaging as seeing flawed, angry humans genuinely coming to terms with their limited life chances.

      Go say hello to Petz, she was always my favourite.

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