Sailor Moon S Series Review

She’s defended the world, saved the future, and is ready to just get on with her life, but there are certainly new dangers afoot that will ensure things are not peaceful for long.

  • Season 1 review: here.
  • Season 2 review: here.

Review (Spoiler Warning):

Things are going to get tricky here because seasons 1 and 2 were the only ones playing on TV with their fun English dub when I was growing up. It wasn’t until much later that I was able to watch S, Super S and finally Stars and then I had to switch to subs so all the character names changed. One of those fun parts of my early anime journey in the 90’s really. That isn’t to say there wasn’t some benefit to this given a few of the characters weren’t quite as squeaky in Japanese, but some characters actually sounded even more over the top. And I’m not sure how, but Usagi/Serena crying certainly seems even more ear-splitting in the original soundtrack. For the sake of review consistency, I’m going to try to stick to the English names for characters.

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Sailor Moon S is kind of where Sailor Moon peaked for me. Outside of the first season, it was always my favourite and the reason for that lies squarely at the feet of the newly introduced Sailor Scouts and Rini’s new friend, Hotaru.

We’d previously met Pluto, but not like this, and Uranus and Neptune are a fantastic pair for so many reasons. Okay, we’ll overlook the fact that the pronunciation of some of the attacks is so poor that my friend and I had to look up what Uranus’ attack actually was because the version we managed to find didn’t put subs in for when they said English words and no matter how many times we listened to it we were convinced the word ‘chicken’ featured somewhere in there and that didn’t make a lot of sense. Turns out it is ‘world shaking’ and not ‘chicken’ and really that sounds like a much better attack, but all of that just added to our ongoing obsession with this show.

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It is odd that Uranus and Neptune work so well, given they are essentially taking on much the same role Tuxedo Mask had in season 1. They aren’t necessarily the scout’s allies, tell them that they are not and that they have their own agenda, and yet the almost never allow real harm to befall the scouts. Their actions are motivated by a goal they have to achieve but they don’t actually just tell the other scouts what it is. The parallel between their role and Tuxedo Mask in season 1 is further emphasises by Uranus’ not so subtle advances on Serena. Now, we kind of know she’s just teasing given Haruka (Uranus) is totally devoted to Michiru (Neptune). Which is where the English dub becomes a little dubious (I saw it much later when it was finally available on DVD), and realised that they changed these two into cousins. It seems kind of ludicrous given how close these two are and how important their relationship is to the entire narrative being constructed here, but I guess they really wanted to keep pretending that only kids were watching and that somehow seeing two female character in love would somehow be harmful. Because, watching them have their hearts ripped out apparently wasn’t.

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I will never understand censorship.

What I think makes Uranus and Neptune work so well in the role, as compared with Tuxedo Mask who became more of a running joke, is that you could actually believe that these two would burn Sailor Moon if they had to. They were cold enough and desperate enough that they might just have let her die. Whereas, there was never any doubt that Tuxedo Mask was a goody-two-shoes. Even when brainwashed he couldn’t bring himself to actually hurt Serena.

This kind of character, still technically a good guy, and yet ruthless in their devotion to their cause, was thrilling and added an edge to a show that might otherwise have just given us yet another iteration of the same old story.

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When we throw Hotaru’s character and plight in as well, we see that Sailor Moon S really was trying to step things up. This isn’t just monsters or fights or magical powers. This was a real human drama and an ongoing one. Previously characters with issues had been introduced, some magical menace would pray on them and Serena would zap it with her wand and all would be well. Hotaru’s loneliness and isolation was an ongoing theme and there was no magical and quick fix. Without spoiling the season finale, while there is an ultimately magical fix, it doesn’t exactly just make everything all better. There’s a lot of pain here and it is real human emotion that is being explored.

Which of course brings the conversation around to the villains of the piece, the Death Busters. And yes, they look every bit as ridiculous as Beryl and her minions and Prince Diamond and his. Actually, the fashion probably got worse. However, the viciousness of the monster of the week was certainly stepped up in this season. While the same sorts of patterns were followed, the stakes always felt higher and only one or two of the passing villains were so absurd that they drew out laughter rather than a desire to see them vanquished (the car one is memorably terrible).

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However, the Death Busters have a plan that seems a lot more together than either Beryl or Diamond and even though ultimately it amounts to once again destroying the world, these characters seem like they have so much more chance at success. Maybe it is because instead of living in some cave under the ice, or being a thousand years in the future, these characters are working in a laboratory and seem to be taking the whole evil plot thing far more seriously. Doesn’t assist their general poor sense of fashion or the fact that the professor’s glasses do that weird thing evil anime character glasses do where they glint in total darkness.

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If I was to throw any complaint at this season, it would be directed at Sailor Moon herself. Early on she fails against the villains and then for reasons she just gets a new compact and rod. Previously it made sense that Serenity had sent weapons back in time, but if there was a more powerful version of the basic tools, I have to wonder why she didn’t get them initially or why they weren’t ever mentioned. It is very much plot convenience, or a desire to sell new accessories. Plus, the heart rod always drove me crazy because if we thought Serena’s attacks took a long time to power up before, be prepared for the new dancing and spinning Sailor Moon. Also, Serena is such a klutz, I always wondered how she didn’t trip over her own pig-tails while powering it up.

But, I’m not just mocking the convenient power jump. The biggest issue is that Serena lost a lot of her bite in this season, and that is a trend that would continue to plague the next two seasons as well. She’s growing up, but that means she’s becoming less interesting. Less wailing and whining and ditching and more responsibility and wise, kind words of calm. It might make her a better person but it doesn’t make her as fun to watch in action. The other scouts also get seriously side lined and while they each get a story line devoted to them, ultimately they could have been ditched from this altogether and we could have just had Serena, Rini, and the new Sailor Scouts without much adjustment of the narrative.

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Still, this is definitely a solid season of Sailor Moon and for those working their way through the 90’s version of the series for the first time, this season is one to look forward to.

If you are still with me in reliving the classic Sailor Moon seasons, I’d love to know what you thought of this one so leave me a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Sailor Moon R Series Review

Our favourite pig-tailed transforming heroine returns in season 2 of the classic Sailor Moon anime and this time we have aliens, time travel, and once again the potential end of the world. If you missed my review of season 1 it can be found here.

Review (Spoiler Warning):

There are fewer things more satisfying than a sequel to something you are desperately in love with, and as a young teen, I was very in love with Sailor Moon. Unfortunately, Foxtel (or it might have even been a Galaxy pay-TV service at the time), simply replayed season one over and over again. So when they finally aired season 2 and there were episodes of Sailor Moon available that I didn’t already know word for word, I was ecstatic. You know what they say though about high expectations.

As a result, Sailor Moon R became one of my least favourite in the franchise (though it would be a considerable time before I’d finally get to see future seasons). It wasn’t until I became an adult anime watcher and rewatched Sailor Moon through, that a lot of the charm of season 2 became really apparent. I’ve now rewatched it many, many times, and I’ll admit some of my favourite moments from Sailor Moon in general come from season 2. But equally, some of my least favourite moments come from this season.

So what is season 2 about?

That’s hard to say straight up because there are two quite distinct arcs in season 2. The first has two aliens coming to Earth to harvest energy for a tree that keeps them alive. That sounds kind of cool but as a kid I mostly just wanted these two characters to go away. Alan and Ann have a weird dynamic where you can never tell if they are siblings, lovers, or just co-dependent. They also both developed crushes on the Serena and Darien leading to a really weird temper tantrum fuelled by jealousy.

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Great fashion sense.

When you throw in the fact that these two don’t really do anything for the majority of their arc other than sit around and have Alan play a flute before some weird monster shows up, rinse and repeat, it doesn’t make for compelling viewing. On top of that, the story is trying to get us back to the status quo that was kind of destroyed at the end of season 1.

The scouts and Darien have all lost their memories. They don’t remember being scouts or anything that they did. So a large part of the Alan and Ann story has Luna waking Serena up and then the other scouts. But Darien doesn’t awaken. Serena, with all her past life knowledge plus the memory of their most recent shared experience, pursues him fairly relentlessly and tries to force her emotions onto him, but he doesn’t remember her at all. It’s a bit awkward and uncomfortable and that’s even before the Moonlight Knight appears.

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This guy is potentially even lamer than Tuxedo Mask.

Don’t even get me started on how lame that guy is. Even in my early teens I didn’t have any patience for his particular brand of bull.

However, this is one of the parts I did appreciate more watching as an adult. Alan and Ann still come off a bit creepy and possessive, but their overall motives made a lot more sense to me and I almost felt some genuine empathy for them, which made swallowing their arc a lot easier. Even if a lot of other things about this series of episodes makes for some cringe worthy viewing.

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Once that arc wraps up though, we get into the real meat of the series when Rini, Serena and Darien’s child from the future literally drops in and is there to steal Serena’s crystal so that she can go back and rescue her mum (who of course she doesn’t know is Serena because we’re still going with the ridiculous line that they look different when they are transformed even though that is clearly not the case). Rini however doesn’t come alone. She’s pursued by members of the Black Moon Clan who for various reasons have declared war against the earth. And hey, while they are in the past they may as well take steps to make winning the war in the future easier.

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While the villains by and large suffer similar issues to Beryl’s minions in season 1, I couldn’t help but feel that most of the characters were a bit more fleshed out in terms of their personal motives. The relationships they had with the rest of the members of their clan also seemed more established. So while they still served the villain of the week role, they were quite a bit of fun to get to know over the course of the series, and some of them even lived through it.

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And this brings us to my very second anime crush, Sapphire. As the younger brother of Prince Diamond he realises something is wrong with what they are doing in terms of actually meeting their original objective. Unfortunately, someone tries to kill him before he manages to tell his brother what he knows and he is forced to flee. This sequence was fantastic and while Sapphire had a pretty limited screen time, he left a lasting impression on me. Even more so than Nephrite back in season 1. He may have betrayed Beryl when he fell in love with Molly, but he was still a bad guy. His death was heart-breaking more because it left Molly in tears than because I felt bad for him. Sapphire is very different. And Sapphire’s death is truly tragic.

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I think my heart broke just a little bit right here.

However, we can’t discuss Sailor Moon R without discussing Rini’s presence. She was so incredibly annoying. I loved that she could use hypnotism and that was how she got into Serena’s house as her ‘cousin’ and I loved Luna P. But Rini’s character kind of irritated me at every scene. The number of times she’s lose her temper or have an argument with Serena and run off alone, only to get attacked again, was just ridiculous. More importantly, by the time she decided to tell Serena and Darien the truth, you were kind of wanting the bad guys to squish her flat.

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Which is possibly why Rini’s transformation to the dark side as Wicked Lady worked so well. Again we see events very much mirroring season one when Darien was taken in by Beryl. Only this time we see Rini step up and she actually plays the role of the villain so incredibly well. Admittedly this did lead to the awkward sequence of the grown up child trying to cling on to her future father and even as a teen that made me do a double take, but I think most people will admit Wicked Lady was a great addition to this story.

We also get to meet Sailor Pluto, the first of the outer scouts that we meet as the guardian of time. Again, her presence in this season is pretty small but the impression she leaves is quite favourable which serves her well in future seasons when she, and the other outer scouts, will have a much larger role to play.

But what really captured me about season 2, even when I wasn’t such a huge fan of it way back when, was the vision of the future it presented. It was so incredibly bleak and I couldn’t help but wonder about the sequence of events that will lead the world there. For a young mind, there are so many possibilities for imagining opened up by this series as it plays with time and space.

Still, the beating heart of any Sailor Moon story is Serena and season 2 Serena has a few issues. The first is that she spends the entire first arc pining after her boyfriend. The second is that even after Rini drops in from the future, Serena continues to be a bit of a brat and really, two brats are too many. Thirdly, she’s unreasonably dense at a number of moments in the series, failing to pick up critical clues. And finally, after accepting things she suddenly becomes this amazing, forgiving and nurturing person in the space of about five minutes. I’m all for Serena growing up but they could have eased us into that a bit.

That isn’t to say that Serena doesn’t have a few shining moments. Her fight against Rubius is brutal, it is really quite horrific (particularly for a teen viewer) when she’s kidnapped by Diamond, and she actually does accept her role as a scout and the Moon Princess so much more readily in this season.

The other scouts start getting pushed to the periphery of the story where at times they seem important and at others they seem to just fill up space on the screen, and this is a trend that tragically continues into future seasons, but with so many other characters getting screen time it would have been hard from them. They do all get at least one moment just for them throughout the season, but at times they do start to feel unnecessary.

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Overall, season 2 is riddled with issues, and yet it retains a lot of the fun of season one. It improves upon the villains, the settings are cool, and there are some great fights. While we will have to wait for season 3 to get something that surpassed the original series, season 2 still hits a spot for Sailor Moon fans, new and old alike. And if nothing else, you can always turn it into a really cool game of eat a malteaser when…

I’d love to know your thoughts about Sailor Moon R.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Sailor Moon Season 1 Series Review

How has it taken me this long to review Sailor Moon? Well I guess I did already review Crystal, but it is time to take on the original anime series and the one that won over my heart as a child (and more than likely planted the seed for me becoming the anime fan I am today – thanks Sailor Moon).

Review:

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Welcome to the world of Serena (Usagi – though given I originally watched this dubbed on TV I’m just sticking with the English names). In her world getting up late is the norm, blaming others for being late, crying over scraped knees, and being ecstatic at the sight of food. She’s your typical middle-school girl (at least as anime proclaims typical) and while she is subjected to fairly awful 90’s fashion and colouring through the duration of the series, she’s an instantly recognisable character. A little extreme but we all know the person who is always eating, wants to sleep, and has big dreams and no drive.

If that were all there was to Serena, they probably still could have pulled out an alright series around it. I’ve certainly seen worse characters have a show built around them. But Sailor Moon is a magical girl series. For some of us, it is ‘the’ magical girl series. While it wasn’t the first, and it objectively isn’t the best, Sailor Moon was a gateway into anime back in the 90’s and there are more than a few anime fans I know who look back fondly on days of watching this series.

But that isn’t really reviewing the show so much as nostalgia tripping over it. I will admit, I have a lot of love for the klutzy heroine, even if part of me wishes they’d used her crying as a weapon in more than just the first episode. Wow, that sound is hard on the ears. I can fully understand the villains faltering in the face of that sound.

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Despite that, I’m not blind to the shows many flaws. The overly bloated episode count of season 1, the extreme repetition of some of the early sequences, and the fact that the anime doesn’t get over the idea of repetition. First we have the villains collecting energy. Introduce villain, see 4 – 5 episodes of said villain failing miserably at the hands of the clearly nefarious Sailor Moon (why are these villains a threat if sleepy-head can beat them), Beryl loses her temper and villain is usually offed by his own Queen before the next one gets introduced. Rinse and repeat.

Though somewhere along the line they introduce the idea of needing to collect crystals and then we get seven nearly identical episodes of Serena or one of the other scouts bumping into someone who of course turns out to be a carrier but of course they don’t realise. Said person gets attacked, a fight breaks out, and then either the scouts, the villains, or occasionally Tuxedo Mask pick up the crystal.

Even in the latter half of the season where it feels like the show should have better things to do we have another round of repetition as Beryl’s minions set up plot after plot to ‘identify’ the mysterious Princess. And the throw-away line that they look different in real life is no excuse for not recognising Serena as Sailor Moon. Seriously, how dumb are these villains?

And yet, despite so many obvious narrative flaws and questionable execution, as well as the fact that visually this anime has definitely not aged well, there are a lot of reasons to love it.

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First and foremost, Serena might be lazy, uncoordinated and downright silly at times, but she’s still an incredible female character from the 90’s. A girl who loves being a girl but also kicks butt when the occasion calls for it. Okay, she might whine a bit in the process but the sheer body count in Sailor Moon’s wake (or dust count) speaks for itself. You don’t mess with Sailor Moon. She kind of likes her sleepy and lazy life, her random crushes, her lunches with friends, and shopping. She really likes shopping. Curse the villain who gets in the way of her doing any one of these or stops any of her friends from experiencing their life.

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Secondly, the rest of the scouts are amazing. Ami shows us girls with brains. Rei has grace and focus. Jupiter is the tough girl with the heart of gold (my personal favourite). And while I don’t have as much love for Venus, she certainly provides a lot of heart in the show. Their interactions are silly and trivial sometimes, deadly serious at others. At one point early on, Rei and Ami actually quit because they don’t like Serena’s leadership, but ultimately the message of the show is one of teamwork and so the Scout’s eventually come together.

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Thirdly, they actually destroy their enemies. Not so impressive when compared to a lot of shounen, although if we look at Bleach, most of the people Ichigo has crossed blades with are still alive and kicking. Serena turns her enemies into Moon Dust and she does it with a fanfare of pop music and usually a floral decorated crescent moon in the background. That’s almost insulting and yet it is brilliant. She spends more time transforming and posing, her attacks take forever to power up, her weapons are absurd, and yet somehow the entire thing works beautifully.

Also, did I mention the scope of this story. I mean really. Starting from ordinary school girl we introduce magical talking cats, transforming students, magic crystals, reincarnation of an alien Princess on earth, global destruction, true love, and pretty much anything else you can think of. There’s a lot to this seemingly simple story and while at times it becomes fairly overblown, there’s something genuine about the drama here.

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I guess I should probably mention Tuxedo Mask. He appears. He makes speeches. I’m going to be honest, while I quite like Darien as a character (okay, I admit he was my first anime crush), the only episode Tuxedo Mask is cool in is the one where he makes the Scouts think he just flew when instead he’s crouched just below them on a ledge.

And basically that is Sailor Moon. There are some incredibly flashy fight sequences, lots of stuff about love and friendship, some very cool lines and poses if you are into that kind of thing, and an entire cast of characters to choose from when it comes to Cosplay. Sailor Moon is a classic for a reason. And while I understand that visually it is underwhelming, and that the sound track is definitely infused with 90’s pop-rock, there’s still a real appeal here.

This is one that is well worth checking out if you missed this era. The English dubbed version (original) has a few episodes cut from it and some fairly significant edits in places, but works well enough.

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Sailor Moon is where my journey into anime began and I really am thankful to it. I’m sure everyone else blogging about anime has that one show that really started them on their path to where they are now and I’d love to know what it is for you. But also, what do you think of Sailor Moon? Share your thoughts below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3 Series Review

Overview:

Chibi-Usa is training as a sailor scout and a whole new threat has appeared before the scouts. That and the mysterious figures that may or may not be allies has Usagi all confused. Between fighting the forces of darkness, visions of the end of the world, and end of year exams, the scouts have their hands full.

I reviewed this show week to week and if you are interested in thoughts on individual episodes click here.

Review:

As always when writing about Sailor Moon anything, I’m going to preface this review by pointing out I am a fan of Sailor Moon. By default, I kind of love it and that means even when seeing the flaws in this show, I’m still going to love it. That and season 3 of Sailor Moon Crystal brings us the outer scouts and that can only be a good thing.

So let’s go with the simple plus/minus format.

Plus +

As I said, season 3 brings us Sailor Uranus and Neptune and also returns Pluto before we finally get to meet Sailor Saturn (and whether you are a fan or not, Sailor Saturn is fantastic). Early in the season Uranus and Neptune are really interesting however they slowly become generic background scouts with slightly stronger powers, however Pluto and Saturn manage to shine right through the final battle.

Minus –

The introduction of more scouts didn’t help the poor characterisation of the inner scouts. Jupiter has always been my favourite of the Sailor Scouts because of her tough exterior but sweet and caring side (as well as her super cool power). Jupiter in Crystal is nothing. As are all the scouts. They are background noise. They exist only to have their attacks fail in this series and for Usagi to endlessly reiterate their names in poignant moments as if that will somehow help. (I’m being a bit mean to Ami who actually does get one cool moment when she transforms while flying out a window.) Honestly, the entire inner scout squad could have been removed from the series without any discernible impact on the plot or the development of our central characters.

Plus +

Usagi and Mamoru are adorable. For those who watched the original 90’s version of Sailor Moon, Serena and Darian just never clicked. They had these sweet and touching moments and then a whole bunch of ignore the other one or be rude to them and their entire relationship was more stated than felt. Crystal has definitely fixed that flaw and you now see the couple they should be and the way they hold each other up is fantastic (even if Mamoru is still getting sidelined during the final fights and occasionally comes off a bit arrogant).

Minus –

The villains. Let’s be honest, at no point did we feel anything for any of the villains. The minions were flavour of the week and destroyed (few of them left any kind of impact visually or otherwise) and the mid-level henchmen sounded bad and then just kind of got brushed aside. Even the big bads were talked up more than feeling like they were evil. Possibly the only real conflict that had any emotional punch in this episode was Hotaru’s fight to save Chibi-Usa’s soul.

Plus +

Chibi-Usa and Hotaru. If Crystal does nothing else, it has certainly made up for the appalling characterisation of Chibi-Usa from the original series. No longer the brat of the moment she now actually has a personality (and sometimes she is a brat but that is more in-tune with her being a kid rather than her only personality trait). The combination of Chibi-Usa finding her way as a scout and Hotaru’s quiet determination against all odds is fantastic and if more of the series had focussed on this it could have been an extraordinary story (though it wouldn’t be Sailor Moon anymore).

Minus –

What is with all the purple? I get that it’s anime and aimed at a younger audience but why is everything evil purple? It isn’t scary or particularly effective and by the end of the series there is just a little too much purple. Although, you could possibly say that about the entirety of the series. Colours are chosen to reflect the moment rather than any kind of visual appeal and at times what you end up with is a mess of colours whereas at other times you end up with washed out backgrounds lacking in detail.

Plus +

It’s Sailor Moon. It’s the good guys (girls) fighting evil despite insurmountable odds and combining their feelings to save the day. It is everything Sailor Moon should be even if that doesn’t make it particularly new or outstanding.

Other thoughts?

I don’t like the new theme song. Okay, I haven’t liked any of the Crystal themes yet because nothing is going to beat the original sound track, but the season 3 theme is kind of nothing. It doesn’t inspire or get you particularly ready for the show. It just kind of bops along. Visually it is quite pretty though.

Where are Usagi’s parents in all this? I do believe there were several nights where she stayed with Mamoru and isn’t she in Junior High? He might not have parents around and Chibi-Usa might be from the future but Usagi has a family unit that would probably be concerned by their daughter hanging out with a high school guy.

Who is guarding the doorway through time is Pluto is running around on Earth? Just wondering.

If you haven’t watched it yet Sailor Moon Crystal is available on Crunchyroll and AnimeLab.

Words of Wisdom

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Sailor Moon Crystal Episode 36

Review:

Picking up where we left off, the scouts continue to look for Hotaru and their enemies. The inner scouts go up the building while the outer scouts go down to the basement with Sailor Moon. You just know this is going to end badly for the inner scouts but you won’t see much of them this episode anyway. Instead we get to see Usagi’s inner fears and then her contradictory actions as she first doesn’t want to attack Hotaru’s father and then feels she has to in order to protect Sailor Uranus. It’s not particularly compelling viewing from a characterisation point of view with a lot of things happenings because it’s Sailor Moon. Fans won’t be too disappointed but it is a good representation of why some people find it just a little predictable.

Oh, and there’s a whole spirit of Chibi-Usa thing early in the episode. Don’t let being dead stop you from getting screen time.

Sailor Moon Crystal is available on Crunchyroll and now AnimeLab has caught up to episode 35.

By the way, if I’m seeming a little negative, I take it back. I really love this series.

Sailor Moon Crystal Episode 35

Review:

They Sailor Scouts have begun their assault to retrieve the silver crystal and Chibi-Usa’s soul which was somehow taken with it (even though they won’t explain how or why that occurred). And of course Mamoru is left holding Chibi-Usa’s hand (he’s acting as her life support), leaving him out of the main battle except for moral support via telepathy which is certainly convenient for Usagi given her sudden round of extreme self-doubts. Possibly this is why I shouldn’t watch Sailor Moon when I’m overly tired but I found myself being reasonably critical this week:

  • Return of previously defeated villains.
  • Yet another round of we should all fight together.
  • Only male character in the entire show sidelined for very little reason.
  • The scout powers are still pretty useless.

I’m still really hyped to see how this season of Sailor Moon will end but this episode was kind of a by the Sailor numbers so didn’t offer anything particularly new or interesting. The only progress made was that all the scouts are now working together (something they could have just agreed to after the last fight) and crazy villain girl swallowed the silver crystal (which she could have done immediately after transforming). So, no progress.

I’ve totally blown my 100 words for an episode review so I’ll leave it there.

Sailor Moon Crystal is available on Crunchyroll.