Act 27 INFINITY 1 – Premonition – First Part
First Aired: 4th April 2016
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!?
Also, look how much better the character designs are! DOWN WITH LIPS!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
Also, how good are those mid-episode break designs!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whenever I see them using computers it reminds me of something… but what…?
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…
And to leave you in no doubt…