[REVIEW] SAILOR MOON CRYSTAL – Act 2: Ami – Sailor Mercury –

sailor moon 2

People out there who thought Sailor Moon Crystal would be nothing but a better looking re-hash of the original series: I’m sad to inform you were wrong. This series is far from being “good looking”, let alone “better looking”. But a re-hash it is.

Second episode in and I’m already losing what little faith I had invested in this series. Great forebodings. Great forebodings, indeed.

Sailor Moon Crystal’s Act 2 was billed as the ‘turning point’ where the original 1992 series and this new reversion would start to show their dissimilarities. This is the point where the audience will finally realize they’re watching a completely new and different retelling of the classical magical girl story. This is where the comparisons are to be laid to rest and we understand how each version is its own thing, independent from anything else – save the original manga series, of course. Originality has its limits, you know.

If so, then would someone mind to explain me why does it feel like the exact same thing we’ve all seen before… but crappy?

This episode is focused entirely on introducing us to Ami “I am Sailor Mercury” Mizuno who…se actual name translates to Water Friend. Gee, I wonder what her function within the team will be. So hard to decipher, so much mystery. Is it too late to stop learning Japanese in order to not ruin my enjoyment of foreign media?

So far I’ve learned that the telltale sign that an anime is aimed at kids is not the style, nor the story, nor the themes, it’s their utter adoration of puns. I am truly tempted to refer to all Sailor Moon’s characters from here on out by their translated English name just so we can all appreciate how ridiculous this whole thing is. Then again, there is a show on TV called Kick Buttowski, so it’s not like the anime industry has the upper hand on us.

Back to the pretty guardians business, Ami has been forever known as “the intelligent one of the group” or “she who has the least useful power of all the Sailor Scouts” thanks to her ability to spray bubbles all around the enemy. Do they hurt? No. They aren’t even made out of soap, so not even the villain’s eyes are in danger here. They are but a minor nuisance which inexplicably works.

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Way back in the dark ages of 1992, she was introduced to us as an outcast student with no friends, also attending Usagi’s school (because plot contrivances). In a society such as Japan, where scholars all over the country are known to commit mass suicide due to not being accepted in prestigious universities because their grades are not as perfect as they could’ve been, a country where elementary schools shun kids because they weren’t genius kindergartens, there is a school where people actively avoid a cute girl just because she is very smart. The thought of at least using her brains in some form or other to pass exams is completely missed by the imagination of a whole school. After establishing how utterly unpleasant her existence is for everyone around her, we get to know how she devotes her entire time to studying (because, again, Japan), even going to the extremes of attending a special academy all afternoon in order to study still more of her life away.

In this new outing, she was introduced to us as an outcast student with no friends, also attending Usagi’s school (because plot contrivances), just because she is very smart. Soon, we get to know how she devotes her entire time to studying, even going to the extremes of attending a special academy all afternoon in order to study still more of her life away.

It’s like we are watching two completely different shows!

And, to be fair, this “we are definitely not remaking a show that had no purpose at all to be remade” re-hashing thing would be completely fine if not for the fact that it looks absolutely terrible. The story is fine. It’s not like we could expect a 180° plot turnover on a show aimed straight to nostalgic adult-children but, since this is 2014, could we not get such awful animation?

I understand the budget might not be gigantic, but could the people behind the show be bothered to attempt to try a bit harder? Because, with the amount of “work” you’re investing in this so-called flagship series to commemorate the anniversary of one of your most beloved money-printing machines, it looks like the whole staff is composed of junior high students who just discovered anime and are filling their notebooks with the dullest, stiffest characters possible. Having great character design means nothing if you cannot make those lines look alive, people!

How do noses work? Do they line up to the mouth or are they free spirits on people’s faces?

Emoting? Anatomy? Who needs that when we have huge bright eyes (that are, sometimes, not correctly aligned inside a jarringly cheap drawing of our main characters)?

Toei's seal of quality shines through.

Toei’s seal of quality shines through.

On the other hand, this lack of artistic abilities does give aspiring animators a big package of hope delivered directly to their hearts. If one of the most anticipated animations of the year is this subpar on the “animation” front, why should they strive to be better? The jobs for mediocrity are ripe and in demand.

Now, despite the fact that this “we do not care to draw well” attitude subtracts importance from the more dramatic moments of the episode, I do commend the production team on their improvement in the pacing department on this second venture. Stuff does feel like happening, and characters do seem like existing. They’re not quite developed or interesting, but it is a step up. Baby steps have not been any more baby-ish than here.

This is, by the way, completely the opposite situation going on with the music. Last episode it was one of the best features of the whole experience, and I remember raving all about it when discussing the series with my imaginary friends. Act 2’s music, on the other hand, is as ghastly as it is out of place. The sounds the staff calls music add nothing to the experience whatsoever. So much so, that I am unable to recall a single scene with its actual music.

Is the idea behind this episode to tell us it’s all downhill from here?

Sailor Moon, since its conception, has always been a monster-of-the-week kind of affair; we can instantly predict that the evil monster lies inside the special academy Ami attends. How else would we connect the “plot” with Ami discovering she can become Sailor Mercury if not for this telegraphed contrivance? But, once again, something weird happens. Luna doesn’t give her a magical item that came from Anubis-knows-where when she’s certain Ami is the real Sailor Mercury. Instead, she “imbues” magical properties on a cheap plastic pen Ami won on the arcade. No longer does Sailor Mercury transform via a special wand-looking object, she becomes Sailor Mercury by waving a piece of plastic above her head. Same goes for Usagi’s mythical “transformation” pen (whose only “power” is that of creating clothes out of thin air). It is but a pen. Not that the weak “threats” they have faced so far deserve anything better, but still…

Am I the only one that feels this lack of mysticism detracts from the experience? I can’t be the only one. And, no, the fact that Luna seems to inexplicably be able to jump inside Usagi’s dream’s set design does not count as “mystic”.

But Ami becomes Sailor Mercury and, via her pose, indicates us that, if we liked it, we should’ve put a ring on it. Of course, once both girls are transformed, they beat the totally-not-a-real-threat monster of the week in two simple motions, Tuxedo Mask appears out of nowhere mid-fight to do what he does better: nothing, and Usagi and Ami become BFFs. The usual, the expected.

Again. Totally NOT re-hashing, you guys!

At least Ami’s power got upgraded from bubbles to an actual mist, which is a somewhat better way of achieving the exact same results as before.

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Apparently, Beyoncé is a thing in this universe…

However, since we are dealing with a more serious rendition of the series (so serious, in fact, it does not shy away from deducting any humor out of the many ‘slapstick’ situations they insist on adding), the mere existence of this follow-up does raise a couple of questions. Questions that I’m sure the show will never ever dare answer. For example:

–       What, exactly, is the point of transforming into a Sailor Scout? On the two occasions when Usagi has transformed so far, she hasn’t seemed to gain superhuman strength, intelligence, endurance, or anything. In fact, she appears to be least useful when becoming Sailor Moon. At least when being Usagi she has the power of empathy and friendship (sort of). As Sailor Moon, she has the power of skirts. Granted the suit somehow amplifies her constant crying into an attack but, is that really it? That is the extent of her abilities.

–       Can someone explain to me how did the villains of the show, who we have established live in some sort of alternate dimension specifically tailored for evil beings, created a building filled with 90’s-styled computers in the middle of Tokyo? Do they have an evil real-stator working for them in the real world? Or do they have their own stash of money to further advance their plots? Last episode they had a monster that took the place of a real human being with a real business, but this time around everything seems to be their own doing. HOW DO THEY DO THIS?

–       Does Ami need glasses or not? Will the animators ever decide on this or will she keep randomly appearing with glasses every other scene?

I did not like this episode very much (said he fearing he hadn’t been clear enough by this point in time). The only thing it managed to do to me is imbue me with dread for the next outing, since Sailor Mars has long been my favorite character in the franchise and, judging by how they have been developing the series so far, I am not looking forward to her introduction on episode 3.

EPISODE RATING: ★★½

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2 thoughts on “[REVIEW] SAILOR MOON CRYSTAL – Act 2: Ami – Sailor Mercury –

  1. As a manga fan of Sailor Moon, I can say they’ve succesfully ripped out every tiny notch of humor the manga has and replace it with lots of “creative freedom” than it’s not even insinutated in the original story. I have seen important little things completely vanished from Crystal that the manga had established to sustain with more credibility the general plot, and being replaced with nonsense things . Add that to the fact thay they had over two years of hiatus from the original release…for what? To have one episode every two weeks, one of the worst animation I’ve laid eyes on, a lame music (both incidental & op/ending), and an art design that it’s no way in the league of the new animation standards, being defended with lame excuses like: “this is shojo, Naoko draw it like that…”

    We could’ve had a very beatiful and sleek design without leving Naoko creation behind, if the project would’ve been handled by terrific art designers but mostly, people who know exactly what the story of the manga is about, not some bunch of hypsters wannabe’s whom don’t even know the term “adaptation”

    I was hoping against hope to see a deserving and fitting design for this proyect, due that we would see the manga story without censorship. But regretfully, this is not the case. And it makes my fangirl eyes burst into tears

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