This Sailor Moon Crystal review contains spoilers.
Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3 Episode 4
Usagi is still a little stunned by her kiss with Haruka, but not enough to turn down five tickets to Michiru’s concert. Minako, however, is dead set on attending the other concert being held that night at the same venue and she sneaks away to get a peek at her latest idol, who turns out to be Mimete, an artsy member of the Witches 5. The Sailor Senshi confront Mimete, but things get even more interesting when Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune finally join the fray.
This episode was a definite improvement on “Infinity 2: Ripples,” not that last week’s ep was bad – far from it – but it did spend half its running time stumbling through the fallout of the previous episode before actually getting to its own plot, which ended up being rather rushed. While this episode certainly has a few issues which I’ll get to in a bit, overall it was plotted much better, had some fantastic music (both the score and the characters’ performances), and made excellent use of Minako.
The thing with character focus episodes is that they ideally develop the character in some way, but this doesn’t always happen, and that isn’t necessarily a problem. If an episode of this sort doesn’t develop character, it should at least be motivated by character, and that’s what this episode successfully does.
We may not learn anything new about Minako or see her grow in any significant way, but at least the story is very much tailored to her. Chasing down an idol is a very Minako thing to do, and it ends up being what the main conflict of the episode is predicated on. This is not a plot you could believably execute with Ami, Rei, or Makoto. Maybe Usagi if it were the ’90s anime, but in the manga and Crystal, idolatry is very much the domain of Minako Aino.
I like that we get to see Minako be the absolute freak that she is. You know, it’s never really acknowledged in-universe, but Minako is kind of unstable. If I knew her in real life, I would venture to guess bipolar. There’s a reason why in the more dystopian Sailor Moon fanfiction, Venus tends to go completely insane. There’s certainly precedent for it. Here it’s pretty harmless and actually kind of cute. And most of us can relate, because as geeks we’ve known the agony and the ecstasy of fanboy/fangirl squee when in the proximity of our heroes. Plus, we got a shout-out to her Sailor V days. Nice.
I find it somewhat ironic that this is a Venus-centric episode, and yet the character development actually goes to Chibi-Usa and Hotaru. They only have two scenes together, but they build a solid foundation for a deep friendship and reveal more about Hotaru and her father.
This subplot worked very well. I totally get the connection between these two girls, and this is exactly the relationship I expected to see. It seems that the gaybaiting/shipping from the opening theme will probably be confined to it, and I’m honestly relieved. This is a super-sweet friendship that is frankly better developed than the friendships between the Inners. ANY of the Inners. Besides that, the plot just unfolded so well. Everything was motivated and segued beautifully into one another.
Hotaru helped Chibi-Usa previously and lent her a handkerchief, so Chibi goes all the way back to return it. Hotaru is touched Chibi went to the trouble and invites her in. They talk about the concealing nature of Hotaru’s clothing, which leads to some slick exposition on Hotaru’s accident. Then Hotaru has a seizure, we talk amulets, we get a little insight into Hotaru’s view of her father, and Chibi-Usa promises not to betray Hotaru’s confidence. By the end of this sequence, I genuinely believed these girls had become friends. If this kind of care could be taken with all the relationships in the show, and all of them granted this kind of emotional depth, I would be tickled pink.
So, the lion’s share of character development goes to Chibi and Hotaru, but it’s still a solid Venus episode but for one weak link: Mimete. Her story plays out better than Eudial’s, getting the entire episode to unfold, but we still don’t get to see much of her scheme in play. Like Eudial, she has an alias as a student at Mugen Academy, but we never see her interacting with the student body, which would be a great way to see how her alias differs from her true persona and how she sows the seeds of her plan. Hell, if she’s in the performing arts, she and Michiru would bump into each other all the time. Talk about a missed opportunity.
Minako pays some lip service to Mimi Hanyu’s reputation, but as far as the viewer is concerned, she just came out of left field. We don’t see her interact with the students. We don’t see her working her plan. Her concert was at the same time as Michiru’s, which means she sang like one song and then dropped all pretense, going straight for the big Death Buster finish. That’s literally all we see of Mimete before she fights the Senshi. We don’t get any sense of her personality, because she doesn’t really have one.
The Witches 5 in Crystal are just so bland and forgettable. They look great, sure, but if pressed to distinguish them from one another, all I’d really be able to say is, “Uh, she’s the red one. And that’s the orange one. And the green one. There’s two blue ones, but one’s darker and comes with a red twin, so… uh… that?”
Ask me about their personalities? I got nuthin’. And it may seem like a petty gripe, but a hero is only as good as her villains, and if they’re boring, her adventures are boring. Eudial and Mimete of Sailor Moon S were hardly well-rounded characters, but at least they were characters, rather than walking fashion sketches. Eudial was cocky and easily irritated. Mimete was a cute fangirl whose obsession with celebrities could get really scary really fast. These are not detailed, nuanced characterizations, but they’re SOMETHING other than a painfully short bullet list of traits and abilities.
Sure, the Ayakashi Sisters from last season were similarly one-dimensional. They had only the shallowest characterization, but at least we got to see them at work. We saw Kouan burning people alive and fucking with their heads during the school festival for most of the episode before revealing herself and taking the Senshi on. We saw Berthier participate in the chess competition, trying to psych out our heroes. They weren’t the most memorable characters on the block, but at least they earned their climactic battles.
To Mimete’s credit, however, the actual fight between her and the Senshi was pretty good. Over a little quickly, but at least it was dynamic. Maybe we’d have time for more extensive battle sequences or character scenes if we cut out some other stuff. You know, like the thrice-redundant regurgitation of names and information.
I will never shy away from an opportunity to remark upon what an improvement Season 3 is in general, but it seems we’re still not completely free of certain problems. Like, can we stop repeating the same thing that was just said? I don’t need exposition delivered in triplicate. The first few minutes of this episode are just repeating the same shit over and over. We just saw that scene. We just saw it. We don’t need to flashback to something that was said thirty seconds ago.
We’ve also got to slog through even more of Usagi’s foundless jealousy. Girl, I know you’re fourteen and all, but Jesus Christ! Your man pledges his undying love to you on the daily, has saved your life like a dozen times, worships you like the magical space princess you are, and if that’s not enough to convince you, you’ve already met your kid from the future. He’s yours, okay? Him smiling at and conversing with someone who happens to have a vagina is not a sign that his eye is wandering. Get a fucking grip, because this shit is getting tedious.
Is it true to real life that a junior high student might be immature and insecure enough to be consistently jealous over nothing? Sure. And certainly in real life people don’t always learn their lessons. They backslide and repeat mistakes and take a long time to outgrow their flawed behavior. I’ll give you all that, but I’m going to drop a bomb here: stories are not real life. They’re stories. And unless the point of a story, or at least one of its major themes, is people being caught in self-destructive cycles, it is not only frustratingly redundant to watch but a waste of time when there are other things we could be exploring.
Bottom line: I would happily trade out Usagi’s stupid jealousy and the three minutes spent reminding everyone over and over again that Uranus and Neptune can’t be trusted and they have a mission and blah blah blah for some more time following the implementation of Mimete’s plan.
All that said, it was still a good episode, not as good as the premiere but better than last week’s. It held my attention, it had some good moments, and it had one hell of a finish. Holy crap, the official intro of Uranus and Neptune was freaking epic. I got goose bumps. The moment was well played.
This episode ends exactly where the manga act did, which could mean that we’re back to a literal 1:1 depiction of the manga. This could be a problem, but might not. If we’re going one for one, then next week’s episode ends with the arrival of Setsuna, which would be one hell of a cliffhanger. I do worry though about future episodes, but if the first few are any indication, they’ll be tailored accordingly where necessary. I have a surprising amount of faith.
Before leaving you, good readers, I’m going to voice an observation I made a long time ago about something that’s always kind of bugged me.
I’m going to assume that Sailor Uranus kisses Sailor Moon at the start of this episode to throw her off her guard (behold her success), because otherwise it does not make a bit of sense. The two were not flirting, were barely even talking. What kind of cue was Uranus acting on? “Hmm, well, I’ve got to run. What’s a totally valid way to end a three-sentence conversation with someone you just met whose shown no indication of attraction toward you? Of course! Kiss her!”
I know Haruka is a little flirtatious and more than a little presumptuous, but this wasn’t merely forward. It was practically a non-sequitur, not to mention a fairly shitty thing to do to Michiru, don’t you think? Unless they have some kind of open arrangement (and I really don’t think Naoko is that sophisticated in her reckoning of relationships, given how much she romanticizes monogamy), Haruka is cheating on Michiru, especially by teenage standards, and pretty casually at that.
And I just don’t know what Naoko’s intent here was. I’d like to think it was meant to be some kind of diversionary tactic on Uranus’s part, but I don’t get the feeling it was. I think it was just something “bold” and “shocking” that Naoko threw in there to keep readers turning the page, and empty-calorie shock value is something I can do without. Especially now in an era when two girls kissing on TV is anything but a shocking, risky choice.