Anime Spotlight: Sailor Moon Crystal

Sailor Moon Crystal is a remake of the original Sailor Moon television anime series that began airing in Japan in 1992. The remake series is produced by Toei Animation, and is directed by Munehisa Sakai. The series started out by streaming twice a month on the Niconico service starting on July 5, 2014. On April 6, 2015, Sailor Moon Crystal began airing on Japanese television. The Niconico streams concluded with Episode 26 on July 18, 2015. There is another season that aired from April 4-June 27, 2016. As of this writing, VIZ Media holds the North American distribution license for Sailor Moon Crystal.

The main character of Sailor Moon Crystal is Usagi Tsukino, a 14-year-old schoolgirl who is clumsy and a bit of a crybaby. One day, as she’s running to school because she’s late, she steps on a black cat and trips. Usagi discovers there are band-aids on the cat’s forehead, and she removes them. After Usagi does this, the cat jumps on her head and then onto the top of a wall. Before Usagi can do anything else, she hears the bell ring and realizes she’s late for school.

At lunch, Usagi’s friend Naru mentions that the jewelry store her family owns is offering major discounts on their merchandise. Usagi and her other friends decide they need to go. When they go to the store after school, they see chaos and mayhem. Usagi ends up leaving shortly after getting there; she realizes that with how poorly she did on her English test that there’s no way her mom would buy her anything. She crumples up the test in disgust and throws it behind her, and it ends up hitting a young man wearing a tuxedo in the face. The young man scolds her for hitting him with the test and for her score, and she is insulted. However, she also finds her heart pounding as she looks at him.

That night, the black cat visits Usagi at home and starts talking to her. The cat introduces herself as Luna and starts telling Usagi about what’s going on. Usagi believes it’s a dream at first, until Luna hands her a brooch. After Luna tells her to repeat some words, Usagi suddenly transforms into a magical girl. At that time, she hears Naru calling for help; Naru has discovered that her mother has been replaced by someone else. Usagi becomes Sailor Moon and goes to save Naru. She’s joined by an unexpected ally named Tuxedo Mask.

As the series progresses, Usagi finds other Sailor Guardians to help her in a quest to find the princess and the Legendary Silver Crystal: Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury), Rei Hino (Sailor Mars), Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter), and Minako Aino (Sailor Venus). The first arc sees Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians fighting against Queen Beryl and her minions as they try to complete their quest. But when the Sailor Guardians succeed, Usagi discovers some shocking truths.

The second arc, which focuses on Black Moon, introduces the characters of Chibi-Usa, Sailor Pluto, Diana, and a bunch of new enemies who are after the Legendary Silver Crystal. The arc also includes time travel to the 30th century.

After watching the first episode, I thought Sailor Moon Crystal was following the story of the manga rather closely. While the humor from the manga remained, it wasn’t done in quite the same way that it was done in the original Sailor Moon anime. To me, it felt like that for Sailor Moon Crystal, it was decided to skew the balance of the drama and humor more toward the drama side. There’s still humor, but it’s not quite the same as what I saw in the first episode of the original Sailor Moon anime.

When it comes to the animation, newer animation techniques were used, but an effort was made to try to retain as much of the early 1990’s character design as possible. I liked the colors and the sharpness of the animation, although there were some things that just didn’t feel quite right. There were times that the characters looked almost plastic and the movement looked awkward. The animation did improve in quality over the course of the first 26 episodes, but in the end, the animation wasn’t one of Sailor Moon Crystal’s strong points.

Even though Sailor Moon Crystal has its issues, I still find it to be a stronger product storytelling wise than the original Sailor Moon anime. We got a straightforward series that, while making some alterations along the way, didn’t totally change the direction the story went in or the feel of the original manga. Also, character traits weren’t changed, like with Rei in the original Sailor Moon anime. But there’s one weakness in the storytelling, though, which is that the character development wasn’t quite as strong as it could have been.

Unfortunately, I am unable to comment on the additional 13 episodes that aired later, since I haven’t had a chance to watch them at this point. I hope at some point to rectify this.

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