Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Crystal, Episode 29, “Ripples,” and Episode 30, “Two New Soldiers.” Toei Animation, April 2016. Approx. 48 minutes. Available on Crunchyroll.
I’m going to discuss what is arguably a plot twist, though if you know Sailor Moon at all, or even if you don’t, you’ll easily see it coming. I’m also going to discuss a scene that’s presented as if it’s supposed to be a shocker. So for courtesy’s sake, I’ll give a spoiler warning on this review, though I don’t think I’m actually giving much away.
These two episodes are weak, though that’s not really the fault of the people producing Sailor Moon: Crystal. The story at this point, which still hews closely to the original manga, focuses heavily on the character of Sailor Uranus, and I’m just going to go ahead and say it: the reason she’s called “Your Anus” is because she’s an asshole.
The last few episodes have presented us with two new sailor guardians, Neptune and Uranus, who act mysterious for three episodes and finally reveal themselves in the fourth. They are ridiculous even by Sailor Moon’s standards. In their alter egos, Sailor Neptune is a world-famous violinist and Uranus is a bifauxnen racecar driver. To make it even more ludicrous, they’re filthy rich and have their own helicopters, which they can apparently fly around anywhere they want.
There’s not a lot plot development over these two episodes. Chibi-Usa draws closer to the mysterious girl Hotaru, daughter of the mad scientist Doctor Tomoe. Hotaru suffers a mysterious illness, but she can relieve the pain with an amulet that is attached in some way to the Taioron Crystal, a magical MacGuffin in possession of the Death Busters.
Doctor Tomoe himself, if perhaps not the most memorable villain in this version, is at least sufficiently menacing as a calm, cool, and apparently amoral fellow. He has an iconic mad scientist look, and I dig the watchful poker chip he has in place of a right eye.
These two episodes stick with a monster-of-the-week format. Each one climaxes with one of the Witches 5, the level bosses of the Death Busters, trying to suck the souls (“Hostes”) out of hapless schoolchildren, only to have the sailor guardians intervene and save the day. Although a lot of work went into the battle sequence of episode 2, which I earlier praised, the battles of episodes 3 and 4 show more animation shortcuts and employ less slapstick humor. The show is returning to its lack of jokes and plodding pace.
While this is going on, the show also reveals the true natures of Uranus and Neptune in such a way that the audience can easily see every punch coming. Uranus works overtime to make herself dislikeable. In episode 3, she pulls two of her four biggest jerk moves. Her next two biggest jerk moves will be in episode 5; fortunately, it’s uphill after that.
So let’s talk about why she’s a jerk.
In this scene, Uranus, in the person of her fake-male alter-ego Haruka, is slamming Makoto, the alter ego of Sailor Jupiter, into the floor during a judo match.
There are four things wrong here. First, it’s ridiculous that Haruka, who’s trying to keep up a male identity, would play a contact sport where the probability of somebody grabbing her groin or chest and finding out she’s a girl approaches 100%.
Second, she’s manhandling Best Girl, and you don’t do that.
Third, Makoto is supposed to have super strength. In the old anime, she studied Kung fu. Even in this version she can in her regular human form lift a monster over her head and throw it through a window. So Haruka tossing her around like it ain’t no thing only confirms that Haruka is a Mary Sue. Haruka does everything better than everyone else, and she’s obnoxious about it: in fact, while Makoto is still flat on her back, Haruka delivers a condescending lecture that should have at least earned her a slap to the face.
Fourth, she’s pretending to be a man here, so challenging a girl to a judo match and then lecturing her after throwing her just makes her look like the world’s biggest creep.
Not long after comes this:
Yes, it’s straight out of the comic, but there is no point to this scene. It does not advance the plot. It exists for its shock value. Uranus lays one on Sailor Moon simply because she’s a jerk.
Whenever Uranus is on the page, or on the screen, I can’t help but get the impression that Naoko Takeuchi is trying to shove some political message at me, though I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is. That transvestite lesbians are arrogant and insufferable, maybe. I have the dismayed feeling that this is actually what Takeuchi thinks a strong woman acts like, like a man who’s a complete bastard.
What bugs me most about Sailors Uranus and Neptune is how much trouble they could have avoided if they’d simply reported to the other sailor scouts instead of sneaking around and acting mysterious. Most everything that goes wrong in this arc goes wrong because these two work against, rather than with, our central heroines. The plot is largely driven by Uranus and Neptune carrying an idiot ball.
Making it worse, these characters are all allegedly soldiers of some sort. Sailor Moon is supposed to be their sovereign, and Sailor Venus is supposed to be their commander. Being “outer scouts” from the outer Solar System, Uranus and Neptune apparently have a different jurisdiction, but since they’re in the inner scouts’ territory, they ought to report in and explain what they’re doing. A simple, “We’re Sailors Uranus and Neptune here on a covert mission. Please don’t interfere, sir,” would have solved most of their problems.
Besides that, in spite of Uranus’s posturing, she apparently sucks at her job. Supposedly, Uranus and Neptune held lonely posts on the edge of the Solar System where they were supposed to prevent invasions … so how exactly did the Death Busters get to Earth in the first place? For that matter, where were these two during the previous arc when the Black Moon Clan was roasting people alive and replacing them with pod people?
They were probably too busy cuddling to notice that the Solar System was going to hell.
If Sailor Moon: Crystal is going to include any significant deviations from the manga version, I want to see a scene where Sailor Venus dresses Sailor Uranus down.
“Uranus, you’re a disgrace to your bowtie.”