Sailor Moon Crystal and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Toei Animation and licensed by Viz Media
We’re back with another episode of Sailor Moon Crystal: The Please Forgive Us Season! Last week we got an episode that was about as good as we could expect from as show that has been as heavily retooled between seasons as this one was, but now it’s time to see if that was just a fluke or if we’re really gonna be getting a more than decent show now. Can the hot streak continue, or is this show about to go bust on the second round? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins as most evenings in the Tsukino household do; with Chibi-Usa needling her future mother and Usagi falling for it hook line and sinker. In this case, Chibi-Usa was on the phone with Mamoru. Take it away Usagi!
Mama Tsukino has had a long day and gets tired of their shit very quickly, so she separates the two while explaining that the reason for the phone call was to get Mamoru to be a chaperone for a trip Chibi-Usa and her elementary school friends are taking to a new amusement park. I’m curious why she’s okay with a teenager taking care of her… adopted daughter I guess? The teenager who’s also dating her older yet still under aged daughter. Seriously, what is the living situation here? I’m pretty sure Chib-Usa used her future magic to hypnotize the family into letting her stay with them, but did she also make it so they don’t care who Usagi dates? Maybe this is one of those cultural things, but I’d figure Mama Tsukino would put up a bit more resistance to her fourteen year old dating a high school senior! The park in question by the way is a new amusement park that’s connected to the Mugen Academy which means that it must be filled with PURE EVIL! In fact, the show takes the time right here to explain what exactly the Mugen Academy is (the Scouts are planning to investigate it the next day which is why Usagi can’t join Mamoru and Chibi-Usa at the park), though all this does is raise more questions. So apparently the Academy is part of what is known as the Sankakusu Delta. What is that? Well apparently it was part of Tokyo Bay Land Reclamation project (something that actually exists and is ongoing) where the government adds sand and dirt to very shallow areas of Tokyo Bay so that small land masses can be created to place new buildings and stuff on. So the Sankakusu Delta is one of these reclaimed sites that primarily consist of three major areas; Tenohzu, Kaiohzu, and Meiohzu.
Right in the middle of it the triangle is a district known as Mugenzu where the Mugen Academy sits. Clearly there’s something very sinister about this place considering we cut directly to the Zod Gang who are planning their next move. The second in command (Kalonite, though I prefer to call her Ursa) has summoned their top five commands to deal with the Sailor Scout problem. She’s offering them a promotion to Magus rank if they can succeed which will get them closer to General Zod (real name Master Pharaoh 90, though I HIGHLY doubt that’s their real name). So… this is a cult? They’ve got ranks, rules, and a charismatic leader who everyone wants to get close to. All they need is a stack of pamphlets and donations drives and they’d be all set!
The commanders before her (calling themselves Witches 5, though I’m gonna go with The Spice Girls) agree to Ursa’s challenge which means we’ve got the set up for at least the next five episodes as this is very similar to what the Danny Elfman looking mother fucker was doing at the beginning of the Black Moon arc, back in what I guess is now considered season two. This is actually not a bad idea considering we can now find out just how much the series intends to reinvent itself by seeing if this kind of story can be told any better than it was back then. True, those episodes were actually pretty solid considering they were some of the few opportunities we had to focus on Scouts that don’t rhyme with spoon, but they also had wonky animation and an unbearably swift pace. From there, we go back to Earth (presumably the Zod Gang is in outer space) where the Scouts are standing in the middle of Mugenzu and each of them are getting their own special variation on a “bad feeling” (I sense a disturbance! The wind is all wrong! My science numbers are off the charts!!). Actually, I’m getting the same feeling because not only are they standing in the middle of ghost town; we also get to see the amusement park and that place is all but empty too!
I can’t tell if this is supposed to be intentional or if it’s simply due to budget cuts, but it is effective in making them feel like they shouldn’t be there. This school they’re going to investigate supposedly has EVERY GRADE IMMAGINABLE (kindergarten through graduate), and yet no one is there today!? Even if it’s a weekend, there’d be PLENTY of students there doing homework or using the school’s facilities! Oh wait, there ARE people there! Apparently they have two security guards standing watch to prevent anyone from going in (because that’s how school’s work) which gives Usagi an excuse to use her transformation pen to turn herself into a Mugen student. So the school hires security guards to keep anyone out, but the guards don’t bother checking IDs to make sure the ones going in are ACTUALLY students? Also, it seems like a bad idea to put an amusement park RIGHT NEXT TO A PRIVATE SCHOOL that is so worried about intruders that they hire weekend security teams.
The investigation doesn’t yield much other than finding out that this school is FREAKIGN AMAZING (sixty stories tall!?) and completely empty. Wait a minute! Someone’s playing a violin! Either Gene Wilder is trying to coax his monster back to the laboratory, or someone is trying to get Usagi’s attention! It turns out to be the latter (I think) as Michiru (Sailor Neptune) is playing behind the school. Here’s where things get kind of weird though and it’s something that I’ve now noticed in both episodes of season three. When Usagi enters the school, it’s still pretty bright outside (late-afternoon). When she leaves the building to search for the source of the music, its dusk! Either she’s been wandering the halls for an hour or two (with the other Scouts just standing on the steps of the school this whole time) or this is yet another example of the show having trouble with transitions. In the previous episode, we cut from before school to after school with zero indication that this had happened. Now in this episode we go from day to night with nary a clue that any significant time has passed. Something like a fading transition instead of the hard cuts (or maybe even a mini montage) could fix this and make these changes in scenery much less jarring. Anyway, while Usagi was wandering the halls of the academy, Chibi-Usa ran off from the amusement park in search of her hat which flew off during the roller coaster. Naturally, she doesn’t tell Mamoru about this, so now he’s searching for Chibi-Usa all over the district. All three of them can hear the music coming from the school by the way (significant?), though it isn’t entirely clear if Chibi-Usa or Mamoru are even remotely close to it. Usagi is the first one to find Michiru and at the same time Haruka (Sailor Uranus) finds the Scouts. Haruka by the way is seen jumping down from someplace high to get to the stairs the Scouts are waiting on, but we have no idea from where she jumped. Hopefully she isn’t landing from the top of the damn school; impressive as that would be.
Unfortunately, the first things out of Haruka’s Michiru’s mouths are vague warnings and idle threats, so it looks like they’re gonna all in on the “mystery” as it were, as to whether these two are villains. They’re not. I don’t even know for certain because I have no idea what happens in this arc, but I don’t buy it. This is one of the many problems you run into with remakes; that everyone knows where the story is going and misdirection like this can fall flat. Maybe if the series was trying to differentiate itself from the source material instead of slavishly devoting itself to it, the mystery could hold some tension (is THIS version going to be different!?) but so far the only way they’ve wanted to stretch themselves was with the Kings of Dark Kingdom and the Scouts being former items. It also doesn’t help that the opening, the closing, and even the mid episode “we’ll be right back” cards ALL prominently feature these two in their Scout uniforms. On top of that, even if I had no idea about who they were (and if the show didn’t tell me), I get annoyed by this trope very easily. You want them to stay away, but don’t bother to tell them why. You’re on the same side for the most part, but spend most of your time giving them the stink eye because reasons. It’s stupid! USE YOUR WORDS OR DON’T GET IN THEIR WAY!! If Sailor Moon Crystal can use its dark powers of terrible pacing for ONE GOOD THING, it would be to get past this as soon as possible. Oh look! A distraction!
Usagi manages to get chased away by the only other student on campus which means we don’t get anything useful out of Michiru, but it does mean we can cut to Chibi-Usa who’s found her hat… and something else!
Presumably this is Sailor Pluto whom I know less about than Neptune and Uranus, other than I guess she and Chibi-Usa become best friends or something. Their first meeting doesn’t appear to be under ideal circumstances though as Pluto can barely breathe… for some reason. I’m sure we’ll get to that eventually but for now, it goes unexplained. Usagi has managed to find Chibi-Usa (somehow eluding the hall monitor in the process) and it JUST SO HAPPENS that the Spice Girls chose NOW to unleash their latest scheme which is a lot like their previous one. They infect something (this time a cat) with pure evil and then unleash it on Usagi and Chibi-Usa, both of whom are well prepared for such an event has the perfect tactic already planned out.
Unfortunately for those two, this monster is gifted with cat like reflexes, so the Benny Hill tactic only takes them so far. Fortunately it’s far enough to find the rest of the Moon Crew who are ready to transform and kick some ass! The commotion hasn’t escaped the watchful eyes of Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus by the way who have arrived on the scene, but they’ve decided it would be better to just hide in the shadows and watch from a distance. Really? Weren’t those two the ones saying shit was too dangerous for these lame-o Scouts? Now they’re all “oh let’s see what they can do” after telling them they can’t do shit? I’m getting some mixed messages here! Anyway, the Scouts begin to transform and… it takes too damn long. Now I know they went through each of their transformation sequences in full in the LAST episode, but I was fine with that considering that they were showing us the new 2D transformations. Now though? We have SIX transformations to get through (Chibi-Usa’s is new here) so it takes a whopping four and a half minutes to go through ALL the transformations. Four and a half minutes that could have been used to iron out some of the kinks in the story progression (establishing the passage of time for instance). At least one of them is new which takes away some of the sting here, and there’s even an awesome moment where Usagi and Chibi-Usa do their tag lines in unison.
And so the fight begins! Ami tells them to watch out for the monster’s claws (cuz she’s the smart one), and everyone else starts to fire their own attacks. Well, except Usagi and Chibi-Usa who are both still running their asses off from the monster; admittedly making good distractions for everyone else. Well… that is until the monster sets its eyes on the girl soon to be known as Pluto which cause Chibi-Usa to spring into action and knock her out of the way before the monster can grind them to bits in its teeth. But wait! What are Neptune and Uranus up to!?
Keep up the good work guys! The attacks from the Scouts who are ACTUALLY doing something seem to be weakening the monster substantially which give Sailor Moon the opportunity to grab her super rod and destroy the monster with the power of love!
They manage to destroy the monster without hurting the cat inside (how fortunate) and the Spice Girls (who were observing from a distance like Uranus and Neptune) now know they’ll actually have to TRY to defeat the Scouts. Seriously, first it’s the NEW Scouts and now it’s these five! WHY DOES EVERYONE UNDERESTIMATE THEM!? Raise your hand if you saved the damn future from a cataclysmic genocide! THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT!! Chibi-Usa manages to be the only one to suffer any sort of injury (however minor) but this gives Pluto a chance to show us what her powers are which include healing spells.
And with that, we finally reach the end of the episode! The monster is dead, the bad guys are gone, and the new girl has some powers that will probably get explained soon enough! As the Scouts regroup after their hard fought victory, they finally notice the two other Scouts standing on a balcony above them who look suspiciously like two people they’ve seen recently. Oh, so NOW people can tell who someone is when they’re in a Scout uniform? Well we’ll have to see just how much they were able to piece together as the episode closes on those two making their valiant escape… right into Tokyo Bay it looks like.
It’s probably unrealistic of me to expect that issues I had with the FIRST episode of season three would be fixed by the SECOND episode (or I guess part two of the first episode), but it’s only becoming more apparent what the show still needs to work on to get this right. Pacing still feels a bit of, though not NEARLY as bad as it was in the first two seasons, and while the animation is much better, there are still moments of laziness and wonkiness. We’ll probably have to deal with those issues for the time being, but hopefully we can expect improvements as the arc gets started in earnest. I definitely do want to know where the story is going, but I’m a bit annoyed that Uranus and Neptune are being so standoffish here for what I’m gonna take a wild guess is gonna end up being a not particularly good reason. I mean, unless you’re doing a full on deconstruction of the genre like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, this trope of them not being direct with the Scouts just to remain mysterious falls really flat. Still, it probably won’t stay that way for long (hopefully) and we’ll get some genuine interactions between them and our main cast soon enough. Speaking of which, the biggest improvement so far has been the inclusion of the other Scouts when the first two seasons seemed almost embarrassed to have them around. HOPEFULLY we aren’t look at another kidnapping story which means they’ll stick around for the entire story arc, and that they’ll have plenty of moments to shine (cutting down on the transformations would give them more chances to flesh out the characters). The third season is still off to a good start and is leaps and bounds better than most of the first two seasons, but it’s still a bit early to tell if they can keep this up for the whole series. For me, season one really didn’t get TOO bad until after the five Scouts got together, so there’s still plenty of opportunities for season three to mess up once Neptune and Uranus (and I guess Pluto as well) become full-fledged members of Team Moon. Still optimistic about this show, but my expectations are starting to get more realistic.
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Sailor Moon “Crystal” Set 1 Standard (BD/DVD combo pack) [Blu-ray]