Act 29 INFINITY 2 – Ripples
First Aired: 18th April 2016
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
First of all… why are you tying a bandage onto her arm when you’ve just completely healed the wound…?
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.
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.
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.
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.
And this scene… I mean… wowzers.
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.
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.
When getting screen-grabs I was also playing Yo-Kai Watch, the goofy pseudo-horror soundtrack going humorously well with the Kaorinite scenes.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.