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Act 27 INFINITY 1 – Premonition – First Part

First Aired: 4th April 2016

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III - Senshi

While the battles with the Black Moon have come to an end, the peaceful lives of the Sailor Senshi are soon disrupted once more by evil forces. A mysterious figure known as Pharaoh 90 seems aware of the Senshi’s powers, and soon a school girl is “reverted” into a horrific monster. Meanwhile, the Senshi and Mamoru seem to be under the eyes of the strange couple of Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaiou…

So here we are, back in the old Crystal seat. After finishing the Dark Kingdom and Black Moon arcs, I have to confess that was not particularly looking forward to Sailor Moon Crystal Season III. Thus, I avoid as much Season III information as possible, in the hope that when it did launch everything might just be a pleasant surprise. I didn’t hold out too much hope, however.

So I’m delighted to reveal that I thought the first episode of the Infinity Arc was… good. Promising, in fact.

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III - Usagi mad at Chibi-Usa

The new director Chiaki Kon seems to have listened to the criticisms of the previous series and tried to address them. For one: no more horrid CGI transformation sequences. In fact Chiaki Kon reportedly refused to take the job unless they were removed. The new 2D sequences are far more fitting into the aesthetic, and allows me to actually look at the screen without my eyes bleeding.

In fact everything looks a teensy bit better. There’s still not a massive budget – a short scene set at a racetrack looks a bit woebegone, for instance – but they’ve put much more care into the character designs. The lips are gone for one thing, and the characters given far more life than they were before, where most characters just stood around vacantly smiling if they weren’t talking.

There’s definitely an attempt here to inject energy back into the proceedings. Characters joke and laugh and prod, accompanied by a more joyful score than the mystic chanting. When there’s a joke made that changes the artistic style, it feels natural to the mood. The Senshi are also much more businesslike and capable in their brief fight scene here, it gets you interested in outcomes. The body horror present in the manga chapter admittedly is a bit lame in the anime, but hey I’m totally willing to forgive that with the goodwill the episode generates.

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III - Mercury

What I liked most about this episode is the sense of camaraderie, of unity and friendship that the Senshi have between each other. The times in the original anime that were the most endearing was simply the Senshi hanging out, chatting shit, and we’re getting it here. Their personalities are actually visible – Rei is once more snarky and haughty. Ami is genial and just a bit stuffy. Makoto and Minako get to be silly teenage girls, which my word I’ve missed out on in Crystal.

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III - Minako and Makoto in love

Haruka and Michiru’s presence in the show has really added something, too. Their performances are excellent, and while they haven’t had much to do, their introductions are purposefully limited and strange. I’m anticipating a good pay-off for their subtlety. The ending credits leads me to believe that they’re embracing the legacy set by the Sailor Moon S director Ikuhara – both woman appear strong, feminine and very much in love, which is something I’m obviously very happy about.

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III - Michiru

And gosh, an entire musical sequence set to two characters who aren’t Usagi and Mamoru. There’s something special. I even like the song, which is weird for me.

The opening credits… I like aspects of it. The tune is nice, I like the brass, but certainly it feels flatter than Moon Pride. It’s the performance of the singer I really have a problem with. It’s perfectly fine, but it feels like it’s been mixed by an amateur on YouTube. A few more hours in Adobe Audition could have livened it up, perhaps. As far as the animation goes, it’s all perfectly adequate, even if it doesn’t take my breath away. Seeing Sailor Moon without any boots on is a novel experience which I like… but why oh WHY did they have to make her run like that? I miss the animation from the Sailor Moon R ending of Otome no Policy where Usagi ran like a real human being.

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III - Sailor Moon running weird

As far as criticisms of the episode go, there’s nothing major. In fact, I’ll give it a by-week and not even bring them up. This episode left me in that good a mood. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an amazing opener, but as an adaptation of the  source material it’s excellently done. I won’t say that I’m chomping at the bit for the rest of the series (this was the easiest chapter to adapt after all), but if they keep to this quality, if Chiaki Kon continues to display exemplary control and love of this property, then I reckon I might actually enjoy myself.

Best of all, Sailor Moon Season III is only 13 episodes long, so even if it is rubbish there won’t be too much of it.


 

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.

So it looks as though they’re sticking to the manga as much as they can here. As opposed to the first two arcs, however, this is actually a good thing, since this is the strongest story arc. Throughout the episode they’ve had enough courage to add their own flair, however, since this team seems to understand that an adaptation needs more than simply recreation of the source material.

We get bam-bam-bam Pharaoh 90 and Kaorinite right off bat, along with vague threats and mentions of the Tairon Crystal. Never really got what that crystal was about in the manga, but hey. This opening is… fine I guess. It’s actually pretty boring taken by itself, but I suppose for anyone who has read the manga they’ll know where this is going. Coming in completely dry, however? Not sure there’s much to sink your teeth into.

"Soon our plans- ow shit I stepped on a Lego, where's the goddamn lightswitch?"

“Soon our plans- ow shit I stepped on a Lego, where’s the goddamn lightswitch?”

It’s also good that they’re holding their cards close to their chest at this point. Didn’t want to blow the load on Kaorinite cackling and scheming with her Witches 5. Let it build slowly.

Noooo where's my vacant goat-eyed Kaoriniteeeee

Noooo where’s my vacant goat-eyed Kaoriniteeeee?

The Usagi-wakes-up-scene is a standard in Sailor Moon. It’s used throughout as a sort of reset button, a return to zero. We know what mood we’re starting off in, everything feels familiar, everything looks good. I feel like we’re in safe hands… for now. Constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Chibi-Usa already looks older than last season. Her emergence as a Sailor Senshi is an allegory for puberty after all

Chibi-Usa already looks older than last season. Her emergence as a Sailor Senshi is an allegory for puberty after all

This is straight from the manga, but the news report on monsters in the city is completely cack-handed. Very clumsy foreshadowing. I suppose they had to fit it in somewhere so that the fight later isn’t totally out of the blue, but I can’t help think there wasn’t a better way than a weird perfunctory chat on “REVERSION” and how it’s the opposite of “EVOLUTION”. Pretty sure this whole thing didn’t really go anywhere in the manga.

"This just in. turns out there are monsters in the world and the supernatural is real so there goes my world view. And now for the weather."

“This just in. turns out there are monsters in the world and the supernatural is real so there goes my world view. Also we’re descended from purple turd creatures or something. And now for the weather.”

Usagi and Mamoru scene. I liked it. True, same old jokes, same old rivalry, don’t care, like it. It makes such a change from the nasty funk Usagi was in the last series. However, Mamoru is suddenly super boring in this series… just like in the original anime, eh? Also note that this doesn’t feel flat and dead like the last series! It has energy! I’m interested!?

The funny stuff actually WORKS here, it's a MIRACLE

The funny stuff actually WORKS here, it’s a MIRACLE

Also, look how much better the character designs are! DOWN WITH LIPS!

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III - Usagi smiling

There wasn’t much to the introduction of Michiru, honestly. This is exactly as it was in the manga, although her body was drawn in oddly-loving detail as she emerged from the water. I get the mystery, I get the sense of omniscience, I get the coolness and the wealth, so in that regards it’s perfect, buuuut it still felt a little dull I suppose. Throw some SHARKS into that pool or something.

Ok this bae can sell me anything at this point

Ok this bae can sell me anything at this point

As said before, the racetrack environment wasn’t particularly drawn well. You can tell these designers are much more into their people and special effects than action, locations or vehicles. I get less than what I got from Michiru here – taken at face value, Haruka is simply a person other people admire, which tells me nothing. I have to bring my own history with the character to this scene to get anything out of it.

"Definitely a boy. DEFINITELY a boy. I have SO much penis I don't know to do with it all. Seriously, not a girl."

In that outfit, with the shoulders, Haruka looks rather like Jaedite from last season…

The character recaps are clumsy, sure, but screw it I’m happy to see any attention paid to the other Senshi at this point. And all of them are designed quite nicely here. Bravo on that point at least!

"TOO... MANY... BISHY SPARKLES... CAN'T TAKE IT"

“TOO… MANY… BISHY SPARKLES… CAN’T TAKE IT”

The whole car racing scene can take a hike though, it was dull and could have been changed from the source material into something far more interesting for what is the first encounter between Usagi and Haruka. Most of the time I was just thinking how unlikely it would be for anyone to show interest in someone playing a racing game really well in an arcade in 2016. I did like the pat on the head from Haruka and the old “Odango-atama” jibe.

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III - Usagi playing a racing game

“…why are there helmets for a shitty arcade racing game?” “Oh these? I just carry them around everywhere just in case.”

The interaction between Michiru and Mamoru outside was equally ponderous. Again I couldn’t help imagine that there was some more interesting way to have these characters have this moment than what was in the manga. That being said, I like the subtlety here, and Michiru is a captivating character to watch as she drops hints about Mamoru’s true identity.

"Oh yeah I know you're Prince what's-his-face or whatever but more importantly LOOK HOW COY I AM"

“Oh yeah I know you’re Prince what’s-his-face or whatever but more importantly LOOK HOW COY I AM”

MY FAVOURITE MOMENT IN THE EPISODE! Makoto and Minako being interested in something and acting like actual teenagers. I missed this so much. I actually get the impression that they’re friends and talk to each other and like each other. Weird, right?

What's best is that the humorous design is nothing like what they would have had in the original series. This is new!

What’s best is that the humorous design is nothing like what they would have had in the original series. This is new!

Also, how good are those mid-episode break designs!

"Just call me Prince Utena"

“Just call me Prince Utena”

After more rather good comedic moments, which includes a jibe by Rei and an unintended jibe by Ami, we get the action of the episode. A girl gets a black energy ball from the sky in the back and “REVERSION” occurs… All that stuff was pretty stupid in the manga, shame they carried it across. Also, I was really looking forward to this creature being as ugly and horrifying as it was in the one episode of Sailor Moon S but, alas, they’ve toned it down to a fuzzy purple mess.

I miss the days when we used to try and scare the FUCK out of kids.

"What? What's wrong with me? Do I have something on my face or...?"

“What? What’s wrong with me? Do I have something on my face or…?”

And the transformation sequences are gooooood man. No more CG, no more weird poses by Mars… It’s all good… except that I don’t like how Sailor Moon moves in her sequence. She seems weirdly jittery. Creeps me out a little. I will say that these sequences are looking closer than ever to the original 90s anime versions, but they were unbeatable so why not go ahead and emulate.

I'M FEELIN' IT, JUPITER

I’M FEELIN’ IT, JUPITER

We get good time with every Senshi here, which takes up a lot of time to be sure, but I think it’s necessary for the first episode because it’s establishing routine, ritual, which takes on significance for the watcher in its repetition. I doubt if we’ll get all 5 Senshi transforming and giving an opening speech until late in the series.

The best bit about this episode, though, is how short this makes the action. Sailor Moon Crystal does not do action well, which is sad because there’s been so much of it. Here, it’s short, it’s sweet, the Senshi are actually effective and it looks cool. We even get some high-energy new attacks that give more of a sense of power than the usual “pretty sparkles” we’ve gotten before, attacks that weren’t in the original anime.

It's an actual combo attack that looks awesome. I'm sitting here in shock.

It’s an actual combo attack that looks awesome. I’m sitting here in shock.

And that’s pretty much the episode, except for some Luna and Artemis talk at the console. They look much better here, the shape of their heads being much more… cat like.

"I wonder if we'll have anything to do this season..." "I already checked the screenplay, this is the longest scene we're in."

“I wonder if we’ll have anything to do this season…”
“I already checked the screenplay, this is the longest scene we’re in.”

Whenever I see them using computers it reminds me of something… but what…?

giphy (1)

And that’s it! There’s the implication that Haruka and Michiru watched this entire incident, but the whole thing is left in mystery, which is good. No expository madness that we could skip. The only thing left is the end credits, which I adored as much as I was ambivalent of the opening.

Decent song (I won’t be downloading it or anything but still), and amazing visuals. Very strange and forward thinking to have dedicated the entire ending to just Haruka and Michiru, as well as their relationship with one another. They realise how important these two are, and how good they were together. No subtle hints here, these ladies are bangin’ and the animators are proud of it. There’s perhaps even a direct nod to the amazing scene in Sailor Moon S of the two intertwining hands…

Ohhhh they're just goof friends, there's nothing sexual betwee- Huh, wow she's really blushing there...

Ohhhh they’re just goof friends, there’s nothing sexual betwee-
Huh, wow she’s really blushing there…

And to leave you in no doubt…

Someone at Toei has done their homework because this is FULL OF CLASS etc etc

Someone at Toei has done their homework because this is FULL OF CLASS etc etc

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6 Comments »

  1. I see the ending and think “How did Cloverway ever think they were going to get away with making them cousins?” Thank God the original S/Geneon DVDs had a subtitled Japanese version. Or current North American fans would be thrown out of a loop.

    Also, the new version is vast improvement over the first two seasons. I have seen some complaints that it is too much like he original 90’s anime, and they liked the more “mature” first two seasons (actually, I just thought they were going for Shakespearian histrionics and failing badly), but anybody who thinks the manga didn’t have super deformed art, and was all grim and dour, hasn’t actually read the manga.

    The Infinity arc actually marks a bit of a turning point for me with respect to the manga and original anime. I think the Infinity Arc was around where roughly both the manga and the anime were equally enjoyable (though I slightly prefer the 90’s anime’s “Sailor Moon S”), and the manga went on to improve from there whereas the anime started to go downhill with SuperS and Sailor Stars. Prior to Infinity/S, I strongly prefer the 90’s anime. From SuperS/Dream onward, I strongly preferred the manga.

    Did I mention “cousins”?

  2. Strange that you did not mention that the senshi actually transformed in the middle of street, where dozens of people saw them and now know their identity. Sailor Jupiter even asked someone after the fight to call an ambulance. That was illogical, and I expected better handling of their identities.

    However, I admit I liked this episode. Still not as good as the original anime, but it is getting better.

  3. I kind of liked the episode… but I’m still not convinced that this is a good gateway to the series. It felt like an excessive amount of introduction as though it were to hook a new viewer… and it was just hard to really be drawn in. Monster battle was beautiful but it just kind of stood there like “grr I’m a giant demon worm grr”

  4. Speaking as someone who up to this point has preferred to keep opinions regarding Crystal private, so as to avoid being ostracised as a whiny hater blinded by nostalgia (I’m actually fairly new to the franchise). I have to say I rather enjoyed this revamp of a revamp.
    It feels like everyone working on this show are actually enjoying themselves at last. Although I am somewhat amused by how casually people seemingly accept monster attacks now. I almost expected the Guardians to get bombarded for autographs.

    The dark and edgy crowd will undoubtedly sneer at the cuter designs and the toning down of the more graphic elements of the manga. But for me, after twenty-six episodes of static po-facedness and fanfic quality drama, this more colourful approach is very welcome. But then again I personally prefer happy optimistic Sailor Moon to angst and gloom, if I wanted that sort of thing I’d go out into the real world.
    It’s also nice to see snippy Rei back. I still prefer Michie Tomizawa’s version a lot more, despite how polarising it was. But it’s a step up from not having any personality.

    On the downside, if this is still going for a dozen or so episodes per arc and adhering too closely to the manga (which I don’t really have a high opinion of either) I fear it’s going to suffer like before, namely Tomoe and the Witches Five etc. having bland interchangeable personalties.
    I for one am not looking forward to Stars, as for me that arc was pure arse-gravy. It was so bad I gave up reading it halfway though. I didn’t care much for the original anime’s take on it either, but I consider it the lesser of two evils.

    Still, perhaps Chiaki Kon can salvage it for me. Hopefully she has a better grasp on what made the old show work, and plays to its strengths. Or even better, be allowed to finally create a brand new sixth arc that does a better job tidying up all the loose ends, and providing a more satisfying finale to the series.

    Well, that’s my my two pennies worth…

    • All excellently put! I definitely agree that the makers feel like they’re having fun this series. I’m also really hoping that, if they do ever get to Stars, they go a different route than the manga… or the original anime come to that.

  5. Sailor Moon is BACK. I haven’t felt this way since the early days of Crystal that got me into the whole franchise in the first place.

    I didn’t hate the 3D transformations…until I saw and fell in love with these. Mars and Jupiter are kind of the benchmark for how much I’ll like transformation sequences in Sailor Moon, and they NAILED them here.

    The individuality in each characters is back, and I’m so SO happy! Ami hasn’t changed that much, but Rei is snarky and snide again (YAY!), Makoto and Minako are boy-crazy, Minako is as good at games as Usagi (or at least as enthusiastic as she is), and when the chips are down they all get into Get Shit Done mode.

    Also also, Sailor Moon does NOT beat the monster-of-the-week this time! Jupiter and Venus combine their AMAZING new powers (even if Coconut Cyclone is still the most ridiculous name I’ve ever heard for an attack this side of Star Gentle Uterus), and the double tech (Chrono Trigger reference! ^_^) proves as powerful as Halation ever did. THIS EXCITES THE BEJEEZUS out of me, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW…

    The cast of Senshi is almost complete from the get-go. We meet Hotaru, we meet Haruka and Michiru, even if we don’t know they’re all Senshi yet (well, we do, since it’s spoiled by the opening and closing :p), and the cast feels almost complete. Just need Pluto back and we’ll be golden. I MISS PLUTO.

    (Unrelated note: it seems like Pluto’s earrings are a less horrendous color. Just me?)

    Now that I’ve seen everything of the classic series (well, almost, I admit to skipping lots of the second arc of Stars), I can honestly say that Sailor Moon S was far and away the best season of the bunch. But if the trajectory of this show keeps going as it seems to be, this might, MIGHT edge it out.

    And that’s something I NEVER thought I’d say about Sailor Moon Crystal.

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