Sailor Moon Crystal: Act 31 – Infinity 5 – Meioh Setsuna/Sailor Pluto review
The Witches 5 back the Senshi into a corner when an old friend comes to their aid. Read our review!
This Sailor Moon Crystal review contains spoilers.
Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3 Episode 6
A new, low-maintenance house plant is all the rage. Even Mako-chan takes one home to see what all the fuss is about. Of course, it turns out to be a scheme laid out by Tellu, the latest member of the Witches 5 to stir up trouble in Tokyo. Sailor Jupiter and the others trace everything back to Tellu’s greenhouse at Mugen Academy and take her on, only to find that her ability to absorb their attacks could mean their end. Things look grim until an old (and new) ally comes to their aid. Sailor Pluto, it appears, is back!
As with the previous two episodes, the character at the center of the conflict (in this case, Mako-chan), doesn’t really get developed in any way, unless you count the audience finally getting the name of her now legendary senpai. It’s Nichougi, by the way. Still, the plot is at least specific to our girl Makoto, being built around her interest in gardening and botany.
Tellu’s story played out very well despite Tellu herself not being terribly interesting, which sadly was not unexpected. She did have the cool angle of being able to absorb the Senshi’s powers, but is that because her Witch level is higher than the others? Was there some other facet to her that accounted for that? I’m curious but I don’t really care all that much. It’s pretty clear that the only villain we’re really going to give a shit about this season are Hotaru and maybe… maybe her dad for no other reason than Hotaru cares what happens to him.
Pharoah 90, like Metalia, isn’t so much a character as sort of a nebulous threat. And Koalinite, who is in all functional aspects the Beryl of this season, is just kinda there. Evil? Check. Bitch? Check. Cleavage, long red hair, slinky ankle length dress? Check, check, and check. Grossly incompetent minions? Double-check. Like I said, it’s clear that the belle of this ball is Hotaru Tomoe, so let’s talk about her, shall we?
More depth and dimension has been given to Hotaru than any of the non-Moon Senshi, and in a fraction of the time they’ve received. We’ve seen the full range of her personality, how she interacts with people she likes as opposed to people she doesn’t. We know about her social life, or more accurately her lack thereof, where she falls in the social hierarchy at Mugen Academy. We know she has some kind of affliction that has compromised her health. We know her family situation, that her mother is dead and her father has been weird and distant ever since. And that’s not even getting into all the supernatural stuff surrounding her.
Hotaru is better developed as both a protagonist and antagonist than nearly any other character we’ve seen thus far, and it’s a bittersweet victory. I’ve heard the argument time and again that the manga is *supposed* to be all about Usagi, Mamoru, and sometimes Chibi-Usa (all of whom I’d argue are better developed than Hotaru only due to quantity, rather than quality, of page/screen time they’ve received), and that the other Sailor Senshi are equal parts window-dressing and merchandising opportunity. And I’m not going to deny that there is a heavy merchandising influence on the creative process of the manga and anime. But here’s the thing.
With even the most basic storytelling skills, one can find a way to utilize and develop their ensemble without devoting loads of time to each character. It’s not about how much page or screen time you give them. It’s about how it’s used. Now, if the story were only supposed to be about Sailor Moon… that would be fine. Lots of heroes go solo. Whatever. But to introduce an extensive supporting cast only to squander their potential value is just wasteful and sloppy. It is bad economy of story. And I was willing to accept that maybe Naoko just didn’t have the chops to develop anyone but her main three characters, but then we get Hotaru, and she’s handled with such skill and care! Her character is explored and developed so organically and on so many different levels that it only serves to point out how well Naoko could have developed her ensemble and simply chose not to. Lazy.
But yes, Hotaru really shone in this one, both on her own and… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love how well Chibi-Usa and Hotaru’s friendship is being developed across this season. If every relationship in this show were handled with the same depth and care, it would knock my socks off.
As for the other Tomoe in question, I do appreciate the little visual reference to Sailor Moon S with the not-so-good professor. While there are certain panels in the manga where the clear lens in his glasses doesn’t reveal his eye, it’s never quite reflecting light while he’s in shadow. That was pretty much a visual developed Sailor Moon S. Its use here is a subtle nod, but very much appreciated.
Usagi’s desire to recruit Uranus and Neptune as proper teammates is rather sweet, as it speaks to both her belief that they should cooperate and pool their resources to fight together as well as her simple desire to be near her new friends. And we can see in Haruka and Michiru’s reactions that they’re conflicted too. They have a very strong sense of duty and honor, and their pragmatic philosophy directly conflicts with Sailor Moon’s idealism. And yet… we can see in Haruka’s face, even as she ignores Usagi at her door, she doesn’t entirely want to shut the Inners out. They’re starting to question their approach, not yet willing to abandon it completely, but at least allowing Usagi’s words to sink in a little.
Something else that caught my attention, and it really has nothing to do with this episode specifically but rather is something I’m only really noticing now, is the use of the Senshi’s command center, which in the manga was destroyed toward the end of the Dark Kingdom arc and never rebuilt. After that, it seems that whenever the group is meeting there to analyze their missions, they do it on standard video game machines at Crown Fame Center that they’ve commandeered for their own purposes.
Crystal never explains how the command center is rebuilt following Beryl and Evil Endymion’s attack on it, but I don’t really care. I’m just happy it’s there. I really have come to love their little pocket dimension beneath the arcade not just because it looks cool, but for how it services two characters I don’t often mention.
One complaint I always had about the 90’s anime was that beyond the first season, Luna and Artemis were more or less baggage and didn’t do much aside from occasionally remembering crucial information long past when it would have been convenient for them to do so. While the cats don’t have a lot of screen time, having the Senshi’s command center around gives them something to do. They’re clearly investigating the situation and analyzing the information they acquire. It’s not the most proactive role in the story, but at least they have one, and it’s great how it keeps them somewhat relevant now that the girls are pretty much trained and fully-formed superheroes and have outgrown the need for mentors.
Also great about this episode… the score. It is ON POINT. That piano solo during the whole Haruka/Michiru interlude was such great mood music, especially at the end where Usagi is sitting by herself with the sunset in the background. That was just really well put together and helped to establish tone and evoke the right emotions for the scene. This episode’s presentation was also strong in the animation department. Season 3 on the whole has taken a massive leap in quality, but this episode in particular seemed to have very strong animation, I’d say the best since the premiere.
Lastly, I’ll say that for an episode named for Setsuna, she’s not in much of it. Her scenes are quite good. That’s not in question. It’s just that her story in this episode isn’t very prominent and doesn’t feel complete. It’s almost complete, but not quite, and it comes down to the 1:1 adaptation problem.
The ending was so incredibly abrupt and overly tease-y. This episode would have benefitted from emulating this season’s earlier episodes and carrying over into the first few pages of Act 32. Having Sailor Pluto actually introducing herself as Sailor Pluto, reuniting with Chibi-Usa, and taking her place with the Outers would have completely paid off all her scenes from this episode, making for a much stronger ending. The could then open the next episode with the three Outers reintroducing themselves and kneeling before Princess Serenity. Fudging the breaks between episodes has been done successfully in this show multiple times, so it boggles my mind as to why they seem to have left that practice by the wayside since it’s obviously helped smooth the transition between media.
Overall, though, this episode was pretty strong. It was kind of all over the place in terms of focus, never really becoming more than the sum of its parts, but each of those parts worked really well, so ultimately it gets a thumbs up from me.