Sailor Moon changed the way anime was done, and like many great successes, had no idea what it was about to do to the industry as it was doing it. Twenty-five years later, we remember why Sailor Moon is so iconic with the new adaptation of Sailor Moon Crystal.
Sailor Moon Crystal Act 5: Makoto – Sailor Jupiter
Director: Takahide Ogata
Writer: Mutsumi Itō
Storyboards: Takahide Ogata
Animation Director: Naoko Kuwabara
Publisher: Toei Animation, Viz Media
Price: Free on Hulu, included in subscription to CrunchyRoll
Previously on Sailor Moon Crystal: Evil is trying to get a foothold in our world as the Dark Kingdom seeks to gather energy from humans and find the Legendary Silver Crystal. Standing in their way is Sailor Moon, the warrior of love and justice, also known as Usagi Tsuskino. She is tasked by the talking cat, Luna, to thwart evil, find her other allies, and find the mysterious princess and the Silver Crystal.
By this point, she has found the brilliant Ami Mizuno, Sailor Mercury, and supernaturally powerful Rei Hino, Sailor Mars. There is also the enigmatic Tuxedo Mask that Usagi feels drawn to, and that Luna is suspicious of. We’ve also had a chance to meet the main players of the Dark Kingdom. Leads by Queen Beryl are the Four Kings: Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, and Kunzite. So far, Jadeite and Nephrite have been the ones leading the attacks in our world.
English-speaking anime fans truly live in an amazing time right now. I never even considered the possibility of being able to watch officially-licensed anime the same day it hits Japan. But it doesn’t surprise me that, with the technology existing to do so, that Sailor Moon Crystal took full advantage of it.
The story is straightforward for anyone familiar with the magical girl genre, and for those who have read the manga before. This is the episode where Makoto, Sailor Jupiter, discovers her power and joins the group. It is a very close adaptation to the manga version and in the process shares what I loved about Makoto’s introduction. Makoto, or Mako-chan as Usagi calls her, is described as supernaturally strong and uses that strength to help others. This is even how she meets Usagi at the beginning of the episode, when she saves her from being hit by a car. But her strength also is a barrier for many people in getting to know her, coupled by her being tall for her age. (Tall women and short men in Japan often express frustration at the culture idea of it being desirable for the woman to be shorter than the man. Keiichi from Oh! My Goddess! immediately comes to mind.)
Rumors and cultural ideas don’t stop Usagi in her desire to become friends with Makoto, and seeing the ways Makoto embraces her femininity. On their journey throughout the episode to get to know each other and become better friends, the larger plot comes into play when they hear rumors about grooms-to-be going missing when they visit a certain bridal shop.
The rumors are true, as many seem to be these days about when people go missing, and the Dark Kingdom is behind it. Makoto quickly becomes a target, something else that is common when a new team member is introduced, and it will take the combined skills of Sailor Moon and her allies, Tuxedo Mask, and Makoto herself to stop it.
LOVE IS NOT A WEAKNESS
Naoko Takeuchi has said that this adaptation is meant to be for the fans who grew up with the manga and anime, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t an excellent jumping-on point for new fans. The core ideals of the power of friendship, love, and different kinds of strength are all here.
Sailor Moon, when it was originally released, suffered the same fate as many series both before and after it: the anime rapidly caught up to the manga, and then there was filler, filler, filler. The advantage of doing an anime adaptation now is that the source material is complete. So, while there is new content expected, it comes to the table as revising and fleshing out instead of vamping for time.
Before sitting down to watch it, I had seen various screenshots, and didn’t know what to feel exactly about the art. It pulls some cues from Naoko Takeuchi’s art style, but still is far from that, and also incredibly different from the 90’s-tastic anime I grew up with. Having watched all five episodes that are currently out, I’m feeling much more comfortable with the art style, and I wonder if some of the screencaps were a result of pausing at awkward moments.
That isn’t to say there aren’t a few moments that felt off, but they are very few and the moments that bothered me (as minute as they were) weren’t in this episode. This episode is simply beautiful from start to finish. I am enthralled by their transformation sequences, and how well they were able to blend concepts from the original anime with new elements and animation that make Sailor Moon Crystal its own thing.
There is a distinct lack of super-deformity, large sweatdrops, and facefaults in this episode, and in the series in general. This is significant in helping maintain the more serious mood that the manga had. Usagi’s immaturity was magnified exponentially in the original anime, even as she slowly became more mature. In the manga, and Sailor Moon Crystal, she still starts out immature, but feels much more organic and less like it borders on caricature or trope.
BOTTOM LINE: A MUST WATCH FOR ALL FANS
This episode is the best one so far, and is required watching for any Sailor Moon fan. I also highly recommend it for people who may have been put off by Sailor Moon’s sheer size of continuity, as this series has only been slated for 26 episodes (so far). If you want to get the gist of Sailor Moon, this episode has an excellent summary of what most fans love about the series, and what Usagi, the heart of the show, is all about. All in all, I give this episode of Sailor Moon Crystal 3.5 out of 5 stars.