Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal Season III
美少女戦士セーラームーンＣｒｙｓｔａｌ 第３期＜デス・バスターズ編＞ (Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal Dai 3-ki <Death Busters Hen>)
Shoujo – Action, drama, magical girl, romance
12 Episodes (complete)
Crunchyroll / Hulu / Viz Media
Usagi and her friends are enjoying their lives, but strange things start happening once again. People are reverting to monsters, and the mysteries seem to center around the highly exclusive school Mugen Academy. Two of the school’s students, Haruka and Michiru, may be involved in this new battle…
Season III is a much needed improvement over the first two seasons of Sailor Moon Crystal, but it still falls short of being the ideal version of the story.
For years, we will remember the Great Moonie War of 2014. That was the debut of the much ballyhooed reboot of (arguably) the world’s most popular magical girl franchise. Released originally as an Internet show, reactions to Sailor Moon Crystal were mixed. Some praised the show for being closer to the manga in character design and story, but others felt it was an ugly mess. Act 26, the final episode of the initial run, hinted at a continuation; months later, Season III was announced.
You may remember I was not too pleased with the first two seasons of Crystal. A lot of Crystal‘s defenders say viewers are blinded by nostalgia for the original anime, but Crystal also failed the manga on multiple levels. We all know the 90s anime has its faults, but do you know who obviously is a fan of it? The new director.
First, though, I’ll start with the character designs. There’s no doubt first season character designer Sako’s drawings are closer to the manga’s. (When I say manga, I mean the style author Takeuchi eventually formed. A lot of people dislike the original designs for the 90s anime, but you also have to remember Takeuchi’s Act 1 Usagi is not nearly as pretty as she would become in later chapters.) Unfortunately, character design is more than just copying the original art. Official art is plagued with issues like awkward poses and bad anatomy, and the animators often…shall I say, had difficulty in staying on model. Combined with the fact Crystal eliminated much of the more exaggerated humor, Crystal faced a lot of criticism for looking flat (and taking the “pretty” out of the title).
The new character designer, Takahashi, went in a different direction, taking many cues from the original anime series. Compared to the first two seasons, the girls’ faces are fuller (and they’ve lost their permanent lipgloss), limbs are less dangly, and the girls also lost weight in their upper bodies. Even he coloring is closer to the original anime’s rather than the manga’s. More surprisingly, Neo-Queen Serenity’s silver hair has even been retconned to Usagi’s regular yellow/gold. These changes once again divide fans. Those who loved Sako’s more mature look feel like Toei pandered to the 90s lovers. I admit the style takes some getting used to. I love the fact that the proportions suit an anime much better than Sako’s style, but the faces look like something that would be found in the Vol. Infinity artbook. (For those who don’t know, it’s full of art and submissions from various staff members of the original Sailor Moon anime and other manga artists.) Official art can still be quite wonky (Chibi-Usa doubles as a bobblehead sometimes). What is more important is that the new designs are much less stylized, thus generally making it for the animators to emulate. This is important for the actual animation and not just art to plaster on Blu-ray covers or on shirts. (More on that in a minute.) Unfortunately, after watching all 12 episodes of Season III, I am not convinced anyone on the staff knows the visual differences between Princess Serenity and Neo-Queen Serenity. Sigh. In the end, I still prefer the character designs of Sailor Moon S because of the eyes not being so moe-ish. I still think Marco Albiero surely could have also found a good balance between anime and manga art.
So the character designs changed, but what about the animation? Well, regardless of whose designs you like best, the animation has also seen a much-needed boost compared to the first two seasons. Characters move! Full body shots! Wands that actually twirl! Stock attacks! The 2D transformations! As I mentioned, Kon is obviously a fan of the original anime series. Heck, according to this interview, Kon wouldn’t agree to direct Crystal without ditching the CG transformations sequences. Her personal touch can also be felt in the comedy scenes with super-deformed characters. Usagi gets emotionally shocked into turning monochrome. Another time, she shakes her suddenly-appearing maracas in happiness. The world just feels more alive instead of being performed by paper dolls. There’s even some interesting imagery like Hotaru being trapped by a tree and Mistress 9 having bug-eyes. The crew even threw in a few bones for fans to chew on.
Unfortunately, Toei still tries to cut corners. There’s still some derpy shots and lazy animation, especially in the beginning of the second half of the season. “I’m so happy everyone’s okay! So I’ll just sit here with my back to the audience and do nothing.” It just feels like the animation teams decided to go on break for a few weeks. However, despite its obvious flaws I wasn’t wincing nearly as much. There’s just much less meme-worthy laughs in regards to the animation.
But while off-model shots are one thing, the actual episode progression is another. I wanted to see some of the beautiful stock attacks, but I didn’t want to see the same full sequence twice in a row! I was incredibly bored at the beginning of several episodes when they literally copy-pasted the last few minutes of the previous episode into the next. I’m sure this will be especially annoying on the home video release when people just start the next episode. “Uh, didn’t I just see that?” Yes. you did. Most of the Infinity chapters of the manga are 50+ pages. Find better ways to fill the time! If you want to save money, why have three completely different ending sequences? Trust me, no one would have complained about hearing “eternal eternity” for 12 episodes. (Okay, except you, you troll. I know you’re there.) The opening song also is covered by three different artists.
Moving on to the story.
While I am not surprised, I am still disappointed by the fact the anime is still mostly a 1:1 adaptation. The first Act of the Infinity chapters, Act 27, is divided into two episodes. I did not like the head writer for Crystal, but, fortunately, the Death Busters arc is also one of the manga’s strongest, so his influence is not needed as much. (Thank goodness because no one wants a repeat of his added “love” story of the first season.) Season III doesn’t even attempt to hide the fact new Guardians arrive, and with the manga’s straightforward approach, it means we don’t have to wait long to see Uranus and the others. As they are fan-favorite characters, it’s good that viewers don’t have to wait for weeks — or even months — for them to receive a proper introduction. In this way, a mostly-direct adaptation helps. However,, Season III still feels constrained by its source material. We know the girls are exam students, but we never get to see them really study. The manga at least has the exam battle and other side stories (most notably The Lover of Princess Kaguya) to elaborate on what the girls are up to. In both Crystal and the manga, the Witches 5, like the Spectre Sisters from before, really don’t get to play up on how they are the Guardians’ opposites since they are defeated so quickly. Artemis and Diana barely speak. On the bright side, a continuation is even pretty much confirmed.
While not too important, I wish Season III had started episode names over with just “Infinity One”, “Infinity Two”, etc. The 28th episode of the series is named “Act 27 Infinity 2 Premonition – Second Part”. Yeah, that isn’t long or confusing. Every episode after the first is one off between the episode number and title. “Infinity 1”, “Infinity 2”, etc. just would have been simpler. What is more significant is the fact Crystal changes some key terms. These are different from even the third edition of the manga, so I have no idea if these were as a) changes Takeuchi wanted, b) an error, or c) a way to differentiate from Sailor Moon S (and its merchandise) and prepare for the upcoming seasons. The Holy Grail is generally called the “Moon Chalice”, a term usually reserved for the merchandise. Sailor Moon cries out “Moon Crisis Make Up” (used originally in the Dream arc/SuperS) to power up instead of “Crisis Make Up”. I would love to know why. Very strange.
Like the previous seasons, the voices for the new Guardians sound pretty similar to their original voice actors. For Uranus, I was positive would come down to Minagawa (who was cast) or Park (of Fullmetal Alchemist and NANA), and I would have put money on Park. Minagawa certainly shows off both her acting and singing chops with Neptune’s Ohara (of Fairy Tail and xxxHolic) in the beautiful first ending song. I love Minagawa’s voice, but I don’t think Crystal could have gone wrong with either her or Park. They’re both just that talented. Hotaru’s new seiyuu does a fine job of showing off all sides of Hotaru, but the rest of the Death Busters are pretty unremarkable. Professor Tomoe isn’t as eccentric as his 90s counterpart, so I miss his hearty laugh. The background music tracks, for those who pay closer attention than I do, are not just ones reused from the first two seasons. Chibi-Usa’s seiyuu does the second ending, and it sounds like a rejected character song from the second season. The male chorus reminds me of Usagi’s image song from the Crystal character song CD. Tuxedo Mask’s ending, meanwhile, sounds too much like his image song from that album. I guess that’s why they threw in some fanservice. Nojima has the singing chops, so his song was a disappointment.
Things I never thought would happen: A Sailor Moon reboot.
Things I never thought I would read in an official Sailor Moon project: “We aroused Super Sailor Moon.”
THREE FRICKIN’ TIMES.
Eeeks. Yeesh. Urgh. Yikes. WTF.
Also, please excuse me for a moment: REBORN. REBORN. REBORN. REBORN. REBORN. REBORN. REBORN. REBORN. REBORN. REBORN. REBORN. REBORN. リボン。 リボーン。Notice the difference?!?!
Yes, the subtitles leave a lot to be desired. That’s putting it mildly.
Honorifics are used. Both the openings and all the endings are subtitled on Crunchyroll. “Motoki-onii-san” is transcribed as “Motoki-san”. Hotaru calls her father “Dad” instead of “Papa”. Some people might wonder about Michiru’s line about “picking him up” in the first episode. She uses “kare”, a masculine pronoun. I guess it’s because she’s talking over the radio to the pilots. Haruka’s, Michiru’s, and Setsuna’s surnames are romanized with an h, as in “Tenoh”. The areas that share their name are written in English in Act 31 with a u, e.g. “Tenouzu”. The savior is kept as “Messiah”, and her opposite is the “Deity of Destruction”.
Now moving on to actual sentences. Sailor Mars points to a bunch of people on the ground: “Look, everyone goes down.” They’ve just had their energy sapped. It’s a life-or-death situation. Um, how about, “Everyone has collapsed!”? (What’s with all these perverted-sounding lines?)
Some other winners:
“My first preys”
“I’m in such a pain”
“She was taken her soul, I guess.”
And they also make Haruka sound like she’s an intersexual instead of just spiritually having the strengths of both genders. Plus, this gem tied to the the opening of this section:
“And then, we aroused Moon Chalice and Super Sailor Moon.
We can become one this tight.
Because we’re all the same Sailor Guardians.”
In short, the series needs, at the very least, an English-main editor to clean up the dialogue. It’s readable, but some of the text is just cringe-worthy. At many points, it doesn’t need to be touched up; it needs to be scrubbed clean. If I wanted to know about arousing Sailor Moon or anyone else, there’s almost 25 years of hentai stuff out there, mm’kay?
I really have no desire to rewatch the first two seasons of Crystal, but I actually would for Season III. Enough said.
Kodansha Comics USA has released the manga in the U.S. while Viz Media distributes both anime series.