Sailor Moon Crystal: Episode 01 Review

sailor moon crystal posterTitle: Sailor Moon Crystal
Streaming Allegiance: Crunchyroll/Hulu/Neon Alley
Reconnaissance Report by:  Katie Cunico
Episode Progress: 01

Like many anime fans of my generation, Sailor Moon was my gateway anime. Every morning at 7, with DragonBall preceding it at 6:30, Sailor Moon would give me a reason to wake up other than rushing out the door for school; then, thanks to Toonami, Sailor Moon (and Tenchi Muyo) would be there to help me unwind in the afternoon. My friends and I loved the series—we would pick our favorite sailor guardians and make up our own adventures at recess—and still do to this day—we recently got our cosplaying friends together and assembled a full group, complete with Chibi Moon and Helios. So it’s no surprise that I’ve been eagerly awaiting Sailor Moon Crystal.

During my preparation for our Sailor Moon group at Fanime, I ended up rewatching a lot of the original series. Viz has recently been releasing episodes—re-mastered to HD quality and subtitled—on Hulu and Neon Alley every Monday, and thanks to some old box sets, I was able to rewatch the the series as well as refresh my memory, which had admittedly been dimmed by nostalgia.

One of the things that really struck me upon rewatching the original anime was how much filler went in and how much the characters’ personalities shifted as a result. Naoko Takeuchi’s original manga was incredibly streamlined, comparatively, with a new discovery being made every chapter, rather than the monster-of-the-week routine that the original anime fell into. It resulted in an almost-sluggish pace, and while it did give the series a chance to develop the characters further, it did so in a way that didn’t quite line up with the manga. It exaggerated all the characters and, as with most shoujo series of the 90s, put a heavy emphasis on dating and finding a boyfriend/husband. It wasn’t something that really caught my attention until my recent rewatch, but—especially compared to a reread of the manga (which has been re-released by Kodansha)—it’s almost too heavy-handed, as all of the characters jump on this train, often solely to create the necessary tension for an episode.

The manga is definitely still about love, both romantic and platonic, and its power in our lives—the first storyline is a Romeo and Juliet-esque reincarnation plot taken to epic proportions, after all—but it’s subtler about it. The intent of Crystal is to follow the manga and its pace more closely, which hopefully will also mean that the characterizations will stick more closely to those in the manga as a result.

Upon its announcement, the only other thing we knew about Crystal was that it would, of course, have an updated animation style. As a mahou shoujo series in the 2010s, this means the use of 3DCG in some form or another. In Crystal, the 3DCG is being utilized in the guardians’ transformation sequences, which sparked a lot of early debate among fans as stills and trailers were slowly released. After watching the first episode, my own reservations about the animation style and the 3DCG were dispelled: the backgrounds are lovely watercolors, and there are a lot of Mucha-esque details and backdrops that help set the tone. It’s a lovely effect, and while I will admit that the transformation sequence threw me just a bit, the elongation and stylization that fans were in contention about seemed to be intentional, rather than the animators getting used to utilizing 3DCG.

Overall, the first episode was extremely successful; I watched it with a group of friends, and we were all screaming almost the entire way through. The episode follows the first chapter of the manga scene for panel, down to Mamoru wearing a tuxedo in the middle of the day and checking himself out in a jewelry shop window (accompanied by our screams of “what a nerd!”). The eyecatches and title cards are breathtakingly gorgeous, and everything, from the ending theme to the backgrounds and eyecatches, to Usagi and Mamoru’s first interactions, to Usagi’s dream at the beginning of the episode, already sets a tone that was absent in the original series. It’s a love story, but it’s also about Usagi finding strength in her friends and her past, and the first episode gives me hope that the rest of the season will keep the same tone.

Score: 9.50/10.00