It’s only episode 2 of „Sailor Moon Crystal”, and already the differences from the first series become more apparent. The older version of the Sailor Moon anime crammed in six episodes of filler between the pilot and the awakening of Sailor Mercury, sending Usagi/Sailor Moon on various silly adventures on her own against the completely useless villain Jedaite (one of them revolves around Usagi thinking she’s too fat), but „Sailor Moon Crystal” sticks to the second chapter of the manga: introducing Ami, also known as Sailor Mercury.
The plot beats are the same as in other incarnations of the story: Queen of the Dark Kingdom, Beryl, accuses her minion Jedaite of being useless and Jedaite makes excuses, as usual- though, let’s be fair, in the new series Jedaite has only been a failure once so far. They are looking for the Legendary Silver Crystal and they must drain energy from human beings to give it to their ruler. Jedaite’s next brilliant idea is to send a demon to collect said energy from gifted school kids at an afterschool seminary.
Mizuno Ami, the girl genius from Usagi’s school, is the demon’s brightest hope, but she loses the CD with the evil brainwashing software (in the old anime, it was a floppy disk, but I’m sure many viewers today don’t even remember that floppy disks ever existed). I never realised, when I was a kid, what a bad idea it would be to have an unencrypted disk with „secret” brainwashing software that explicitly says out loud „Give me your energy for our dark ruler”, but there you go, Jedaite is not very smart. In any case, Usagi finds the disk and the rest is history. Actually, the rest is randomly weird, as she storms into the prep school dressed as a Halloween store version of a sexy nurse, for some reason (Usagi seems to think she’s impersonating „a doctor”). The demon attacks her with flying test papers, and this is all too much disruption for Ami already, who just wanted to study in peace; she therefore awakens as Sailor Mercury, saves the day and all is good with the world.
Just like the pilot, this episode is very faithful to the manga version of Ami’s introduction. The first anime made a big deal out of Ami being suspected of villainous intentions, due to her strange energy, but in „Sailor Moon Crystal” she’s one of the good guys from the beginning. The tone of the new series continues to be more serious, whereas old Sailor Moon kept inserting random comic relief and silliness. I miss some of those moments: the prep school demon yelling a quiz at Sailor Moon while attacking her was incredibly funny, for example, but I get that „Sailor Moon Crystal” is doing things differently. I still haven’t got the grasp of what this new personality is, however: everything feels a bit rushed to me. Both the manga and the first anime dedicated a scene or two to Usagi’s worries about academic failure in this chapter, for example, but „Sailor Moon Crystal” skips it. What it doesn’t skip is Tuxedo Mask’s out of nowhere appearance in the middle of the battle, just enough for him to carry Sailor Moon in his arms for a second, make her swoon and disappear again. It seems that the romance aspect of the series will be more important in this new incarnation…and I can’t say I’m exactly happy about that. I liked it, though, that „Sailor Moon Crystal” gives the first scenes of the episode to Ami’s perspective, emphasising her isolation as an overly gifted kid avoided by classmates.
I suppose I must be patient and wait until I get a better understanding of what kind of „Sailor Moon” this will be- it would be a shame if it was just animating the manga and nothing else. Not to mention, both the manga and the old anime are more expressive than what „Crystal” has displayed so far. And it’s not like the makers of „Crystal” don’t want the two shows to be compared: indeed, details like keeping the transformation sequences (which were not in the comic), or the same voice actress for Usagi, suggest that they are practically begging for comparisons. We’ll see. Next time on „Sailor Moon Crystal”: my favourite senshi, Sailor Mars, makes her first appearance.
P.S. The animation continues to be stiff, and at times distractingly so, and the characters are off-model quite often, but I assume this will be a permanent issue, so I promise not to complain about it again unless there is a significant change, for better or worse.
“In the name of the Moon, I will punish you”: Sailor Moon is back