Episode two of Sailor Moon Crystal debuted to an excited and worried crowd on Saturday. On the one hand, longtime Sailor Moon fans are still extremely optimistic about this new series and its faithfulness to the manga. On the other hand though, the new character designs and the new series’ animation style has yet to win over a portion of the viewer base. Episode two was Sailor Moon Crystal’s chance to prove itself again to both sets of fans. And did it?
Well… kind of. On the one hand, we got another extremely faithful-to-the-manga episode this week. The focus of the episode is Ami Mizuno, AKA Sailor Mercury, a super-genius loner who finds herself in the midst of an evil scheme. Again, we get some good and creepy shots of the “Evil” this week. There’s a lot less “la-di-da summon another youma!” in Crystal than the old series, and for good reason. The pace is a lot faster, so the stakes are a lot higher for our Dark Moon generals. Jadeite looks a lot more stressed out as he summons our next minor villain.
Anyway, back to Ami. She develops a bond with Usagi that becomes much more of a focal point to the plot than it was even in the original series (though I haven’t seen it in years, so please let me know if you disagree). The Scouts’ loyalty to Usagi has always been a major part of the show and the manga, and so having this be a strong part of the story just feels right. Usagi quickly befriends her and is quick to rush to Ami’s aid near the end of the episode (with the help of the transformation pen in its first appearance!), and Ami is only able to break the enemy’s hold on her mind through her bond with Usagi. The episode felt more character-centric than plot-centric, which was nice.
One of the best parts of this episode was Mamoru and Usagi’s second meeting. Again Mamoru is treated to a ball of paper to the face, and again Usagi is surprised and flustered… but this time, Mamoru is sure he heard Luna talking. Look below. That’s the face of someone who is not fooled. (Though for such a sharp guy, you think he’d think twice before running around town in a tuxedo. It’s like Superman running errands with his cape on.)
Storywise so far, I have no complaints. It’s continuing to the faithful to the manga, which introduces a scout a chapter or so until we have the full inner senshi lineup. And that’s great! But on the other hand, the quality of the animation in this episode was so incredibly spotty. The character’s expressions did feel more organic and flexible (Usagi had some cute faces in particular), and some scenes were just downright gorgeous to look at. But there were so many instances where the characters appear rubbery, their eyes uneven, and their movement very wooden.
To be fair, the 90’s series had plenty of all of the above. Most modern anime series have this problem as well due to the limitations of their budget. It’s normal, and maybe many of us are just holding Sailor Moon Crystal up to an unfair standard because of the force of our nostalgia. But for a series that had so much hype, and was in production for so long, this sort of sloppiness just feels so incredibly disappointing.
The main reason for that disappointment, I think, is because when this series looks good, it looks really good. Ami’s transformation is short and sweet and is a great nod to her original 90’s one. One very exciting thing was that Sailor Mercury’s and Sailor Moon’s attacks weren’t their own standalone animated scene- they happen in the middle of the action. No recycled movement with a generic background. It looked and felt more immediate and exciting that way.
I continue to be impressed with Crystal as a whole despite the flaws, and you can count me among the many fans who can’t wait for the introduction of Sailor Mars in two weeks.
Crunchyroll members can watch the episode now here!