That was a well paced finale for Sailor Moon Crystal, and a much better conclusion than the end of the first story arc… but…
Oh, Sailor Moon Crystal, where to begin.
There were grumblings back when this adaptation was announced, the barest hints that something was wrong with the production of this series. The large gap between the announcement and the premiere, and the reveal it would be a web simulcast, was the first signs that all was suspect about this revival.
No one sets out to make a bad product. However there’s a difference between a passion project that someone cares deeply about and one that is just another pay check. It’s clear that TOEI saw this as the latter. I’m not sure if it was a contract obligation signed off on by parties that had to honor something written long ago, or if a toy company executive was the catalyst, and I’m sure we’ll never know the details of why this show was made. All we can do is look at the final product and point out why this doesn’t shine the way it should.
When creating an adaptation the best directors typically take the original product and try to improve on it. The original Sailor Moon manga was far from perfect. Even Takeuchi lamented the fact that the Generals in the first arc had no character development and sought to fix that in the musicals and live action adaptation. In fact it suffers a lack of character development all around in those early chapters. This series attempted to fix the Generals, but was also trying so hard to stick to the source material that something had to give. The rest of the guardians are given introductions and their development halts there. We don’t get their side stories this early on and they remain two dimensional archetypes who accomplish very little beyond being Usagi’s cheer squad.
Manga can’t show every movement of every action, and magical girl manga typically eschews backgrounds in favor of ethereal scenery. The unseasoned crew assigned to this adaptation clearly didn’t know how to translate that to screen without making it appear the characters were teleporting all over the known world even when they weren’t. It makes the few action scenes embarrassingly flat, and while there were few stock battle animations the magical attacks lacked weight, power, and impact.
To be completely fair, this isn’t a total disaster. Sometimes the updates in animation look nice, bright and colorful. I actually like the way the character designs attempted to replicate the look of the manga and in better hands they probably would have animated lovely. Mamoru is given his due here after being portrayed terribly in the original adaptation, you can understand why Usagi fell in love with him now.
Sailor Moon Crystal is decent at best but boring and ugly at the worst. It’s not bad enough to be laughably bad, it’s just there. Which is perhaps even worse than being terrible because it’s simply a let down for a classic property like this to be done so, so cheaply. Takeuchi may never have liked the changes made to her story in the first adaptation, but there was at least a sense of fun and adventure there that was thoroughly stripped out of this one. There is a balance between slavishly adhering to the source and bringing something new to the table, maybe someday in the future Sailor Moon will be revisited once again and someone will get it right. Third time’s the charm, right?
TOEI is threatening an announcement and the final message of this episode was “See you soon.” I can only hope that if they decide to continue this thing out for another 26 episodes that they employ a director who cares with a budget to impress, but I know that’s not likely to be the case. The cynic in me says TOEI thinks this was good enough, and they have their own fully owned magical girl series to make a mint off of. If there is more I expect it to look much like these episodes did, with their stilted animation and questionable pacing. I hope I’m wrong, Sailor Moon deserves better.
Streamed by: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Etc.
Review Equipment: 27” iMac running OS 10.10.3, via Safari 8.0.6, FIOS 15/5 Mbps connection. Your milage may vary.