This Sailor Moon Crystal review contains spoilers.
Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3 Episode 13
Sailor Saturn lays the smackdown on Pharaoh 90, but all is not lost. It turns out she and Sailor Moon really are two sides of the same coin, and Sailor Saturn’s powers of destruction are complemented by Sailor Moon’s powers of creation. With death comes rebirth, in this case literally as a little baby Hotaru appears in the wreckage, given a chance at a new life. It’s new beginnings all around, really, as the girls enter their first year of high school and Chibi-Usa gets ready to head back to her own time… until she and Usagi hear the chime of a bell.
Now that’s a finale! Talk about going through the wringer emotionally. Sailor Saturn has only been around for about an episode of screen time, and she already feels like an old friend, one of the crew. I appreciate that she is in the ending team shot of the opening sequence in this final episode and in the eyecatcher. She’s earned it.
The crux of this episode really is the Yin and Yang of Moon and Saturn’s powers, and it’s one of Takeuchi’s best moves, the way she pays of the promise of Saturn while adding a last minute touch of context that could have been very Deus Ex Machina had it not been set up in earlier arcs. We know from earlier in the series that Sailor Moon has an incredible power of creation. It’s been depicted on a few different occasions. So, we sit on that, let it fade into the woodwork a little while we play up this story about this ominous character whose powers are rooted in destruction. At best, they seem to be shaping up as nemeses, but instead we get something so much more interesting.
The destructive force of the Silence Glaive was always meant to work in conjunction with the creative powers of the Silver Crystal. Last time, Saturn was summoned after the Silver Millennium had fallen, so it’s no wonder her destruction-based powers looked grim to the Outers. There was no Queen Serenity to harness the power of the Silver Crystal and thus no rebirth to follow up Saturn’s destruction. All the Outers saw was destruction and death and probably weren’t aware any kind of balance existed at all. This time, however, Sailor Moon is here to complete the cycle begun by Saturn, so things aren’t looking so bad.
This, of course, leaves us with the rather curious notion that this is really the one arc where Sailor Moon doesn’t face down with the big bad herself. It’s Saturn that’s doing the heavy lifting. While Sailor Moon may have rendered Pharaoh 90 a little more vulnerable or opened a door for Saturn, it’s still Saturn who does the deed. Sailor Moon’s role in this go around is to offer not death, even to her foes, but rebirth.
Speaking of people’s powers, I love me the gale force winds of Dead Scream, but god do I love how the manga/Crystal actually utilizes Pluto’s purview toward the application of her powers in very useful, logical ways. Dark Dome Close is exactly the kind of solution one would need for a threat made possible by way of a space-time warp. Go, girl!
As for Pharaoh 90, he is begging like a bitch, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before in a big bad on this show. We’ve seen rage, denial, despair, but never begging. I’m not sure if that makes Pharaoh 90 pathetic or Pluto and Saturn just that much cooler. Perhaps both?
In any event, this climactic showdown was fantastic, and despite Saturn taking the lead and Sailor Moon being implied in the manga to have played a part in taking Pharaoh 90 down, it’s nice that our titular heroine’s involvement is a little more visible in the adaptation. But also, this fight (in fact, the entire episode) is just gorgeous to look at from the fluidity of the animation to the storyboarding to the prismatic SFX. I mean damn!
The music can’t be ignored either, especially the unexpected but not unprecedented choice to use the full version of the opening theme. It works very well here, and I don’t know if some of the changes I’m noticing are just part of the full version that we don’t hear in the opening (get on that Season 3 soundtrack, Toei!), but hot damn is that a rockin’, pimped out version of the song that is.
On the subject of the opening theme, using the original version of it as well as the first ending theme was a really nice way to bookend the season, evoking the early episodes of the season while contrasting with the end of the journey they started. I still think “Eternal Eternity” was the best ending theme, so it worked for me on a purely selfish level too.
This episode also saw to the “supering” of all the Inners and Outers (well, except Saturn, of course). This is one area in which I definitely prefer the original anime. The manga’s almost obligatory eleventh hour power ups always felt out of place to me. Like, girls… come on. You just saved the freaking planet and all future versions of it that technically don’t exist yet. You’ve accomplished enough for one day. That being said, the supering sequence looked good. It featured everyone without getting redundant. It was tight. It was like the Sailor Senshi were in Oprahs audience. “And you get a power-up! And you get a power-up!” Aw, poor Tuxedo Mask. Hold out, buddy. Things are finally about to get interesting for you again.
It’s so damn awesome that the manga/Crystal acknowledges where the fuck the Outers actually went, as opposed to their declaration of fealty to Usagi, followed immediately by a 40-episode absence. Nice extended departure for the Outers. And woo hoo for alternative families!
The break was perfectly placed, and I don’t mind that it comes about two-third of the way through the episode. I’m not a huge fan of how open-ended the manga arcs are, but if you’re going to do that sort of thing, I like that what is essentially the prologue to the Dream arc is separated from the rest of the episode. This segment was, like the rest of the episode, freaking beautiful. The dimming effect of the eclipse was nice, and even the deliberately choppy cut-away animation of Usagi’s festive mood getting slowly murdered is just fantastic. And props to the team for cutting off before where the manga does and not actually showing us Pegasus!
The only misstep I can spot in this finale is the moment when Usagi restores all the buildings, especially in light of how strong the animation is in this episode. I found the instantaneous wave of reconstruction to be lazy. I’m fine with Sailor Moon having some kind of nebulous powers of creation and rebirth that somehow govern healing, reincarnation, resurrection, and do-it-yourself contracting, but give me some process. Show me rubble floating back into place, walls resetting themselves, cracks vanishing. Show me that Usagi can restore what’s been broken through the force of her will and her heart.
I’m not saying she has to consciously direct everything back into place, but this is a miracle we’re dealing with here. It shouldn’t be so… I don’t know… one and done. I mean, you could have blinked and missed it. And there’s really no excuse. This was not a dense episode, as made evident by the fact that the entire teaser was just a recap of the previous one. There was plenty of screen time for something like that. Plenty.
But honestly, that’s my only gripe in an otherwise flawless finale. Everything came together, it all made sense, it hit all the right notes in terms of story, character, and emotion, and it managed to deliver the ending we were promised, while adding a wrinkle that gives it to us in a way that completely subverts our expectations. Beautiful.
And with that, we close out the third season of Sailor Moon Crystal. So… when does next season start? Because you know there’s going to be a next season. Otherwise my Silence Glaive is coming down. Until next time, fellow moonies!