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Act 29 INFINITY 2 – Ripples

First Aired: 18th April 2016

Sailor Moon Crystal - Eugeal

The suspicion over the mysterious Senshi seen running away from the latest Daimohn attack falls onto local wunderkinds Haruka and Michiru, and while Usagi seems drawn to Haruka, the Senshi are resolutely defensive. When Rei absconds to the mountains for spiritual training, Eugeal of the Witches 5 enacts her plan to enslave a large number of students as vassals to Pharaoh 90.

The first part of the review is spoiler-free!

Sailor Moon Crystal continues its upswing from Series 1 and 2 with an energetic debut from the Witches 5. While certainly entertaining and watchable, the episode is most notable for meeting the source material’s homosexual undertones, then overtones. I can’t say that I wait with baited breath every week to watch each new episode of Sailor Moon Crystal: Season III, but thus far the direct adaptation has been certainly more engaging and charming.

So let’s get the negatives out the way first, since, hey, I’m a grumpy bastard at the best of times.

I’ve never particularly likes Naoko Takeuchi as a story-teller. I love her art, her character designs, her concepts, her allusions, her feminism, her relationships both straight and gay, her over-all arcs, but individually I’ve always found Acts to be a bit weak. This episode of Crystal certainly follows this. Analysing this episode in a vacuum, away from the glowing standard of the original adaptation of Sailor Moon S, there is a definite narrative weakness.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Crown Parlour

On the other hand, none of that feels particularly important when the show is selling itself as a fun kitschy romp, which is precisely what it does best. The showing is having fun, and wants you to have fun too. It’s not leaden down with the ponderance it could have been filled with. In fact, this is the closest I’ve ever seen Sailor Moon Crystal to being Sailor Moon S, and I mean that as a compliment.

Chibi-Usa’s burgeoning fascination with Hotaru is the most intriguing thing thus far about Sailor Moon Crystal: Season III. While there is a homoerotic storyline involving Sailor Moon, knowing where it goes in the manga (i.e. nowhere), the unexpectedly sweet crush of Chibi-Usa for Hotaru creates much more of a discussion topic. Primarily whether or not to view it as a crush, which I am inclined towards. Aside from copious blushing, there’s also the opening sequence which features the two of them… rather close, shall we say.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Chibi-Moon blushing

This also tells me that this is all entirely intentional from on show makers’ part. These scenes are well done, not too subtle, not too overt, and normalising. It also doesn’t feel exploitative, as anime so often falls towards with gay emotions and children. Seeing Chibi-Usa blush around a girl she finds pretty is normalised as opposed to eroticised.

It says something about anime culture that I feel obliged to even make that distinction. Yuck.

Anyway, the other homosexual allusion is… much more overt towards the end of the episode. I’ve never liked this since reading the manga of the Infinity Arc, not the act of the kiss between two women, rather that it’s a stolen kiss. Whether or not they are both “into it”, consent is an issue we’ve been across before with Usagi, and I would have been happier if it wasn’t animated as such an “attack”.

I don’t think I’m being too sensitive over this, but hey let me know where you stand on this issue.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Usagi peeking

Otherwise, the portrayal of Haruka is accurate to the manga, but it’s not overly enjoyable. To briefly bring up Sailor Moon S again, Haruka’s character was more respectful, considerate, conscientious, careful and guilt-ridden, while thus far in Crystal she’s been… a smug tool. I’d really like Crystal to bring in more pathos with her character, with that sense of duty and inner-conflict.

I was a bit negative previously on the Witches 5 for having a lack of individuality and character. I stand by those observations, but they have been tempered by Eugeal in this episode. I rather enjoyed her hammy performance, even if it felt like I had seen it all before. Her just being a fire-bender was dull, and I would have liked to have had her as much more of a presence throughout the episode, but what little time we had with her was rather good.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Eugeal

What really made me smile, however, was what we got out of Makoto and Rei, who had a couple great scenes each, both in character development and action. We even got a new attack out of Sailor Mars, and she looked damn cool while doing it too.

Overall, plenty to enjoy in this episode. So far I’m on a solid “like” for Sailor Moon Crystal: Season III. Let’s see if they can keep bumping that applause-o-meter up.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Sailor Uranus in shadow


 

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.

First of all… why are you tying a bandage onto her arm when you’ve just completely healed the wound…?

"There, now everyone will know you're in my street gang, The Moody Little Girls"

“There, now everyone will know you’re in my street gang, The Moody Little Girls”

So I’m totally getting a vibe more than just feelings of friendship from Chibi-Usa here. I’m not sure this subtext was as present in the manga, maybe I’m just dense, but I’m cool with this. Kids are gay too, as comedian Cameron Esposito points out. And, if there was any series in which to address the topic, the Infinity Arc would be the one to do it.

Chibi-Moon here realising that her "boys are icky" policy might just be a life-long enforement

Chibi-Moon here realising that her “boys are icky” policy might just be a life-long enforement

The Hotaru-Kaorinite-Tomoe scene was just as clumsily written as it was in the manga, but I like how this scene looks and feels. The creepy atmosphere is done well, as is the robotic malevolence of Professor Tomoe. I do miss my cackling madman and his implacable assistant, but I’m interested to see how they handle his character in Crystal. I especially appreciated the “classic” Kaorinite look, with her red dress and lab coat.

"Ever since her mother died I've been spoiling her. Because her mother died. Like 5 years ago. She's dead you see. No longer breathing. An ex-mother you might say, because she's definitely dead."

“Ever since her mother died I’ve been spoiling her. Because her mother died. Like 5 years ago. She’s dead you see. No longer breathing. An ex-mother you might say, because she’s definitely dead.”

Again, I think the whole plot of the Infinity Arc would work fine without ever mentioning the MacGuffin of the Tairon Crystal, but it does look the part at least. The sense of doom around Hotaru is foreboding, if a little thickly laid on here. A lot of expediency to fit this all into 13 episodes.

"Sorry Dad I'm not into pseudo-scientific crystal mysticism bulllshit, could we call a doctor or something?"

“Sorry Dad I’m not into pseudo-scientific crystal mysticism bulllshit, could we call a doctor or something?”

It’s great seeing Usagi take on more of a maternal role, even if this is pretty much the first time we’ve seen it, to my recollection. Her character maturing is important to this arc, and we’re getting it in patches.

This is so refreshing, seeing her talk to Chibi-Usa as though she actually wants to, and not like she's going to accuse her of being the Becky with the good hair

This is so refreshing, seeing her talk to Chibi-Usa as though she actually wants to, and not like she’s going to accuse her of being the Becky with the good hair

And this scene… I mean… wowzers.

"Huh. Haruka, you know you have chocolate in your eyebrow?"

“Huh. Haruka, you know you have chocolate in your eyebrow?”

As much as I found the weird suggested love-square jealousy between Usagi, Mamoru, Haruka and Michiru pointless in the manga, I did at least find it an interesting melodrama, a development of their relationships that felt real, if inconsequential. Here I suspect it’ll turn out to be just the same, but gosh I enjoyed Usagi spying on Mamoru and Michiru. Her insecurities when put up against an older, wiser and more talented girl are clear, and the seriousness in Usagi’s gaze is really well animated.

You'd think knowing that you become Queen of the Earth, that you marry and reproduce with your boyfriend, would invoke a bit of trust. Sadly, Usagi knows the patriarchy

You’d think knowing that you become Queen of the Earth, that you marry and reproduce with your boyfriend, would invoke a bit of trust. Sadly, Usagi knows the patriarchy

I also really liked Usagi just flat-out asking Haruka if she’s a Sailor Senshi. Much more direct than the 20-episode dance around the subject in Sailor Moon S. Still, I really don’t like Haruka here, with her pulling on Usagi’s hair and insistence that she’s owed the time of day from her. While I get annoyed at the Senshi’s defensiveness over poor widdle princess Usagi, I totally get their rebuffing of Haruka. Also they think she’s a dude still.

Ughnnnn I really want to like you but you're a diiiiiick

Ughnnnn I really want to like you but you’re a diiiiiick

When getting screen-grabs I was also playing Yo-Kai Watch, the goofy pseudo-horror soundtrack going humorously well with the Kaorinite scenes.

"My boobs are cold."

“My boobs are cold.”

I loved Rei and Makoto taking focus in the latter half of the episode. I suspect this would have played out better if they went up to the mountains from the start, wouldn’t have felt so rushed, but the manga acts aren’t set-up that way soooooo… I kinda wish Makoto had at least kicked Haruka’s ass just a little bit, though.

Makoto is finally getting a little more characterisation, distinct from the original series too. I like it!

Makoto is finally getting a little more characterisation, distinct from the original series too. I like it!

I loved the quick gender politics Haruka gives here, although it stings a bit coming as kind of a douchey condescending line. I absolutely loved the reaction when Eugeal turned up to yell at them all, the sudden panic and scamper off-screen for all the Senshi.

Ami's face really got me in particular here

Ami’s face really got me in particular here

Eugeal was pretty damn cool as a weird fire-loving cult leader. I just wish that her powers here weren’t just fire-bending. Remember how cool Witchy Eugeal Fire-Buster was?

Well lady, you're not nearly as cool as Sailor Moon S Eugeal but you'll do as a monster-of-the-week

Well lady, you’re not nearly as cool as Sailor Moon S Eugeal but you’ll do as a monster-of-the-week

How cool was Mars Fire Snake? I loved everything about it. This is what I came to Crystal for, interesting cool new stuff featuring Mars killing the shit out stuff with pyrotechnics.

So cool!

So cool! This shot was brief but noticeable!

And the end… well it looked cool in terms of the colouring, and I’m definitely interested to see more of Usagi’s bicuriosity that was present in the manga, buuuuut where’s the consent? On top of that, we got a rather lovely and touching scene between Haruka and Michiru earlier too. So yeah, this makes me really not like Haruka all… which is irksome, because of all the love I have for her character from Sailor Moon S. That damned series has spoiled me rotten I think.

"Huh. Did you know you have chocolate in your eyebrow?"

“Huh. Did you know you have chocolate in your eyebrow?”

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8 Comments »

  1. Hmmm…

    I don’t like being negative, but I feel Crystal was slipping a bit back into it’s old ways here.

    Although it’s still a huge step up from the previous season, the pacing is still working against it. As a result the second half felt rushed. These Arcs would really benefit from being 20-26 episodes long.

    Rei’s birthday scene was nice, but far too short. Likewise the whole cult thing could have made for a more interesting storyline.

    It’s a pity Makoto never got a rematch. Haruka is reminding me a bit of Seiya…Unfortunately.

    I actually found ‘Snake Fire’ a bit underwhelming. I liked how it looked in the S intro, and I was expecting something more ferocious. Here it looked more like a wimpier version of ‘Thunder Dragon’. It should have at least done more damage.

    Despite how I don’t care for way the antagonists are being handled. Mars/Jupiter should have got the kill. I know better then to expect epic fight scenes, but it turned one sided pretty quick. I like the pairing, but I think they got rather shafted here.

    On the whole consent business, all I can say is that it does irk me somewhat the way people bang on about the likes of Act 4 (by the way Usagi, Mamoru is not the only person you’ve ever kissed) yet Haruka tends to get a free pass in this area. Not to mention all the feeble excuses they come up with to try and justify it. I have a very low opinion of fan-bases…

    Likewise, if you want to have two girls kissing, then why not have it between the officially recognized couple. It’s not like they’re being subtle about it.
    Of course that never happens in the manga, and we mustn’t deviate from the holy text. As that would be disrespecting Naoko’s ‘true vision’. End of ‘self righteous purist’ contempt sarcasm…

    All in all an okay episode, but it would have lent itself better as a two parter.

    • I completely agree. They’re hindering themselves by following a narrative structure that wasn’t even that smooth as a manga. Your other points are valid too

  2. Sigh, Eudial didn’t turn into an icky Medusa Daimon thing. That’s a part of the manga lore I actually would have wanted to see them expand upon. It’s disheartening to see them sanitize things for “Sailor Moon Crystal”, especially when things in the manga were hardly racy or somehow inappropriate. Even the 90’s anime managed to fit in a human being turned into a horrific daimon, complete with bone crunching sounds and monstrous wailing.

  3. You’re still spelling it “Eugeal”? I’m fairly certain that was just a bad old transliteration of a name derived from eudialyte, the same as with kaolinite, viluite, and ptilolite.

  4. Funny to find out that Rei is actually the oldest one of the five.

    And yeah, she and Makoto should have won. Or at least held their own for longer. I hate how Crystal keeps on making those four look lame just to make other characters/opponents appear better/stronger. It’s lazy writing as far as I’m concerned.

    Sadly, the quality of this season starts to go steadily downhill from here on.

    Any more reviews on the way?

    • This is a problem in ALL adaptations of Sailor Moon that feature the Outers. Their powers are just so much stronger, and the characters so much more mature and darker, that people seem to naturally gravitate to them over the Inners, creators and fans alike. Plus, you know, the Outers are the team with the lesbians, so there’s that.

      Me personally, my favorite characters are pretty evenly split between the two. I LOVE me some Mako and Rei, but I also really adore Pluto, and Hotaru literally cannot be onscreen for more than a minute without breaking my heart somehow.

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