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Sailor Moon Crystal: A Lifelong Fan’s Perspective
June 20, 20161332Views2Comments

Sailor Moon Crystal: A Lifelong Fan’s Perspective

If you’re anything like me, a significant part of your childhood in the 1990s and early 2000s was shaped by rushing home to the television after school, turning on Cartoon Network, and getting lost in Toonami before homework time. Cartoon Network strategically aired their dubbed anime series starting at around 3pm everyday, and in the midst of it I found my first fandom: Sailor Moon.

Sailor Moon changed “magical girl” anime—and anime in general—in unprecedented ways. It soared beyond its original successful air in Japan from 1992 to 1997 to be translated into dozens of languages including English, where it made its mark in America and Canada. As a young girl growing up surrounded by Dragonball Z and Cowboy Bebop, my adolescence was shaped by the knowledge that women could be powerful, too—and most importantly, that compassion, integrity, and determination were superpowers all of their own.

Needless to say, I was very excited to find out about the reboot, Sailor Moon Crystal, which began airing in July 2014.
Some fans were less than enthusiastic, afraid that a reboot would ruin what was sacred about their precious manga and anime. When the episodes started, criticism poured from all fronts about the animation, any diversion from (or even adherence to) the original manga, and essentially anything “new” about the show that rubbed fans the wrong way. Though the animation for seasons 1 and 2 was quite the improvement from the 90s animation we know and sometimes begrudgingly love, the effort didn’t seem to be there, and for a lot of fans, ruined the experience—some haven’t even bothered to return to this season for that reason.

But here’s what’s always been my spiel: the heart of Sailor Moon is still there. It always will be if animators and creators do it right. The most recent episode, Act 36 (“Infinity 10”), is no exception. In this episode, Hotaru openly sacrifices herself and her power for Chibi-Usa and the people who have grown to love and accept her regardless of how Mistress 9 may have tried to control and define her. Crystal‘s current season takes on my favorite story arc (Infinity), and it’s gone above and beyond expectations with new, precise animation and a dedication to the original story. I’m extremely impressed by Season 3 of Crystal, and I think my fellow Moonies should be, too.

If you haven’t been watching this season, take a look. It’s exactly what Sailor Moon is all about, and if that’s what you’re looking for—Season 3 is worth your time.

Firstly, fans who were disappointed with last season’s animation should rejoice (or at the very least nod in approval). Take a look at the expressions of the characters this shot

in comparison to this one from an early episode:

The difference, though it might be hard to notice without the direct comparison, is significant. The new animation direction has abandoned the overuse of pastel colors and sloppy eye coloration in favor of dynamic expressions, detailed shadowing, and variation in face shape from character to character.

But for me, animation was never a make-or-break deal. Sailor Moon has always put an emphasis on the power of friendship, and that’s what I continuously look for in this new anime. This season of Crystal not only adheres to the Infinity arc’s moving themes of self-control, trust, and the ever-teetering balance of good and evil in humanity—it commits to them in each episode from start to finish. The great thing about Crystal is its plot is ripped from the manga with barely any filler episodes. So in each 20-minute segment, we get to the heart of the characters and their motivations.

Over the course of this season, we’ve watched Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna grow into characters that learn to put their distrust aside for the greater good. And we’ve seen Usagi, our main protagonist, display the maturity, empathy, and love that helped them gain that trust in her. We’ve watched Hotaru find out what real love is through meeting Chibi-Usa, and in the process, find herself. Sailor Moon has never been just about a group of girls flitting around in short skirts fighting bad guys. It’s about how these women, despite their different personalities, perspectives, and backgrounds, can come together and generate more power than any of them could alone. In light of recent world events, perhaps we should think more like the sailor senshi and band together against adversity. If anything, Crystal brings to a modern audience this positive mindset that sometimes gets lost in the negativity around us.

The last episode in the 90s anime’s final season, Sailor Moon StarS, features a powerful scene between Sailor Moon and her adversary, Galaxia:

Sailor Moon: Even though there are lots of sad and difficult things [in the world]…I know you know how wonderful this world is.

Sailor Galaxia: Stop joking! This world can not be protected by someone who won’t fight! It’s because of your weakness that all your friends are gone!

Sailor Moon: They’re not gone.

Sailor Galaxia: What?

Sailor Moon: The Starlights told me…that if I don’t give up, they’re always with me! It is possible that everyone is really gone when I give up! So I won’t give up! Never!

Usagi’s stalwart faith in people has captivated me from day one. In a pretty cynical world, her attitude probably seems cheesie or unrealistic. But it’s what I needed when I was a kid, and it’s what I think we need now. That poignant scene reminds me a lot of this moment from the most recent Crystal episode, in which Sailor Moon calls upon the power of her friends and family.

To me, a hair out of place or an unnaturally-twisted arm never outweighs the powerful character arcs and storytelling Crystal consistently provides. No, it isn’t perfect, and perhaps it is an interpretation of the manga that fans weren’t expecting or accustomed to.

But at the end of every episode, I know that I walk away feeling inspired by the loyalty and friendship each sailor senshi displays. And that is the Sailor Moon I’ve always loved.

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