This Saturday saw the series finale of Sailor Moon Crystal. For better or worse, this 26-episode rehash of the manga’s first two arcs, Dark Kingdom and Black Moon, has left an indelible mark on the franchise and will be the subject of controversy for years to come. However, with the airing of “Act 26: Replay/Never Ending,” this oft maligned but never invisible anime experiment has finally come to its conclusion.
Or has it?
There has been no public word of adapting the remaining arcs of the Sailor Moon manga, Infinity, Dream, and Stars. No episodes have been announced on the schedule, no voice talent named, not even the slightest hint. And considering we just passed several events (Usagi’s birthday, Anime Expo, Comic Con, and the anniversary of Crystal’s premiere) that were perfect opportunities for an announcement of a second season, there has been little doubt in the minds of fans that it is indeed inevitable.
For one, Sailor Moon Crystal accomplished exactly what it set out to do, namely be a merchandising powerhouse that would inspire the most faithful otaku to part with their money. Sailor Moon as a franchise is a known quantity. It’s a sure thing. Even if Crystal hadn’t been announced at the 20th anniversary of its debut, this was a built-in fanbase whose devotion was ripe for Toei to exploit. And they did. And it worked. I say this without judgment. All parties involved got what they wanted. Kinda.
While Sailor Moon Crystal was certainly a letdown in the area of production values, those who were going to love it did for the most part despite its flaws, money changed hands for the merchandising tie-ins, and Toei made a profit. It’s highly unlikely that with such a successful business model, they’d pass up the opportunity to rinse and repeat, so the motivation was already there.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that despite there being no preview for another episode at the end of “Replay/Never Ending,” in lieu of the standard “To Be Continued…” title card was the cryptic message, “See you soon!” Could this merely be colloquial, a way for the production team to shake the hands of the viewers? It’s possible, sure, but I don’t find it likely, especially in light of the tweet from the official Sailor Moon account instructing fans to keep an eye on the official website for any future developments. They very well could be waiting for the episodes to finish airing on Japanese TV before announcing the next phase of the anime and when we can expect it.
If, in fact, we’re in for a second season of Sailor Moon Crystal, beginning with Infinity, which features the debut of the fan-favorite Outer Senshi and is where many fans argue the manga really starts cooking, the matter of how strict an adaptation we’ll be dealing with comes back into question. It’s entirely possible that Crystal’s prime directive will remain in play: an act-for-act adaptation of the manga. This, however, would be problematic for one very big reason.
The chapters of Dark Kingdom and Black Moon averaged at about 45 pages, and Crystal was already stuffed to the gills with content, much of it empty-calorie, but airtime is airtime. With Infinity chapters getting as long as 70 pages, a direct adaptation would be twice as rushed or completely piecemeal, leaving out either vital plot information or what little character development the manga actually provides. Honestly, as frustrating as the first season of Crystal got for those who were hoping for a little more character and substance, this adaptation scenario for a possible Season 2 would be a complete disaster.
The smarter but less likely scenario would be for Crystal to finally abandon the act-for-act adaptation model and either keep the adaptation of the content literal with different breaks in the action (which would likely be even more of a clusterfuck than some of the act breaks already built into the story) or to do what fans like myself were hoping for from the beginning, to remain true to the basic plot points of the manga, but massage the narrative just enough so that it breathes better from episode to episode. After all, we’ve got 34 chapters to go, and an order of that exact length would be the exception to anime production, rather than the rule.
Anime episodes are generally ordered in multiples of 13, with 26 being a fairly standard length for a series and the initial order for Crystal, which just happened to coincide with the sum of Dark Kingdom and Black Moon’s chapters. Infinity has 12 chapters, and Dream and Stars, 11 each. So… how would they do this?
Would we get a 23-episode season to faithfully adapt Infinity and Dream? Maybe the full 26 to allow for a little wiggle room to accommodate the page count? Would it be a 39-episode second season to include Stars as well? Then, of course, there’s the least likely scenario, that two 26-episode seasons would be ordered, fleshing out the story to necessity and splitting Dream somewhere in the middle. Even for a development junkie like myself, that’s not a particularly smart idea. I suppose you could split the action following the return of the Outers, at which point the full team would be upgraded to Crystal Power, but I don’t know. It would be a really risky move that could fall unforgivably flat if botched.
Much as these hypotheses are fun, the most likely scenario for a second season of Crystal would be another 26-episode season to cover Infinity and Dream, sticking with the act to act adaptation and shaving off content wherever they can, rendering episodes even thinner than they were in the first season. And the three extra episodes’ worth of screentime? Most likely used to break up the premiere of Infinity, the transition between arcs, and the finale of Dream. And if all goes well, they’ll let us twist in the wind on the edge of our seats until they announce a 13-episode run for Stars.
Seriously. Watch it happen.
But this is, of course, all speculation. Informed, but speculation nonetheless. For any confirmation on these theories or the reveal of an as-yet unconsidered option, check back here with Den of Geek for all your Sailor Moon news.