Sailor Moon Crystal is a retelling of the popular manga series by Naoko Takeuchi. Unlike Sailor Moon Classic, as we now refer to the original, Crystal had more input from the mangaka and more accurately follows the manga series. Season 3 of Crystal brings to us the Death Busters arc, where we meet The Witches 5 and the final Sailor Guardians. Unfortunately, Neptune and Uranus weren’t supposed to be reincarnated so a we know a real catastrophe is approaching. Can the inner and outer guardians learn to cooperate?
Title: Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3
Genre: Magical Girl
Release Date: December 5, 2017 (US)
Languages: English and Japanese (with subtitles)
Number of Discs: 4 (bluray)
Runtime: 312 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1080 HD
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Special Features: Art cards, Art book, English cast interviews
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
I’m going to start this review by noting that I have thoroughly watched this in both English and Japanese. I also watched this season when it streamed simultaneously with the Japanese release. As usual, the hopes for visual improvements in the home release were high. Fortunately, as with the previous home releases of Crystal, I am pleased with the cleaned up version.
—spoilers below, you’ve been warned!—-
Usagi Tsukino is a crybaby teenager who loves food and hates school. Unfortunately, destiny has other plans for her even as she attempts to live life as a normal teen. A new enemy as arrived and the Sailor Scouts are about to learn a lot more about the frailty of humanity than they could imagine.
Season 3 follows Hotaru Tomoe, a frail and ill 6th grader who lives in Mugenzu with her father Professor Tomoe. Recently, Mugenzu has seen an uptick in the construction of new buildings and facilities. At the center of all stands Mugen Academy, an elite private school for the best and brightest. Unfortunately, a dark cloud hangs above Mugenzu and strange things have been happening to Mugen Academy students. That’s when two more Sailor Guardians make their appearance, who already infiltrated the high school as students. Despite being guardians, they’re hostile to the inner scouts and attack them in an effort to keep them away from Mugenzu. As far as the two outer scouts are concerned, the inner senshi are a burden to their mission.
With the inner scouts confused and suspicious of the two new guardians, they continue to investigate Mugenzu. They discover that the Death Busters have set up camp deep inside Mugen Academy. Using the Witches 5, Professor Tomoe who has also been turned into servant for evil, has been gathering energy to awaken Mistress 9. Mistress 9, who is dormant in Hotaru Tomoe’s body is supposed to destroy the world. Eventually the inner and outer senshi agree to cooperate with each other to take on this new threat…
We already know the inner senshi quite well, so let’s jump right to the ones we are introduced to in the Death Busters arc. In Sailor Moon, the Death Busters arc holds a special place for fans because it was when we were initially introduced to a group of older and more refined Sailor Scouts who serve a different mission from the inner scouts. Their purpose isn’t to protect the queen, but instead to fulfill duties that don’t require a large team. Basically, if the outer senshi are together you know the world is in some deep trouble.
Haruka Tenoh (Sailor Uranus) is the first of the outer scouts to make an appearance in Crystal 3. Her shadowy figure leaves the inner senshi surprised because they didn’t know there were more scouts out there. Her existence is especially puzzling because she refuses to cooperate with the inner senshi, whom she thinks are in the way of her mission. If anything, help from the younger and arguably weaker scouts is something that gets in the way. It is obvious to viewers that Haruka is investigating Mugen academy but it isn’t as apparent to the senshi. Like in the manga, Haruka lives her daily life as a successful race car driver who attracts all the ladies. She is romantically involved with another outer guardian and thankfully, we don’t need to pretend they’re cousins.
Michiru Kaioh (Sailor Neptune) is the second new guardian to appear in this arc. She is enchanting and captivates the attention of everyone with her beauty and violin skills. Like Haruka, she is mysterious and refuses to initially cooperate with the inner senshi. She can even use her violin playing as an unnamed attack on the inner senshi – so you could argue she’s a little bit like Rei with abilities that are accessible without transforming. She’s also the one character in the series who has a personality least like Naoko Takeuchi, if you’re looking for some fun trivia. She is very capable but has a sharp temper and a cold disposition towards outsiders. It is implied that she as an enhanced power of perception, which assists Sailor Uranus on their mission.
Setsuna Meiou (Sailor Pluto) is the third new guardian, but her appearance comes a little later in the season. We know shit has gotten real when Pluto appears, since her mission is entirely different than that of the other 9 guardians. As the keeper of time and space, Pluto is a solitary guardian who works alone. She guards the Space-Time door and is confined to its vicinity. Her powers are also tied to taboos that should not be defied, meaning, if she uses her powers to stop time she must face the ultimate punishment. Pluto is well aware of her boundaries as the solitary guardian of space and time but often leaves the door unattended due to more important circumstances.
Hotaru Tomoe (Sailor Saturn) is the main antagonist of the season, you could say. We initially meet her as the sickly Hotaru Tomoe, who is the daughter of the deranged Professor Tomoe. Her senshi identity isn’t revealed until later in the series, making her the last guardian to join the team. She first becomes friends with Chibi Usa, who senses that Hotaru is troubled but genuine and kind. Her ill body is being manipulated by Professor Tomoe, who initially had good intentions in his attempts to save his daughter’s physical body. Unfortunately, he’s been brainwashed by a powerful and evil entity. Eventually Hotaru becomes the main villain of the season.
Professor Tomoe is Hotaru’s father is a scientist in engineering and astrophysics but he likes to research creepy things that are out of the ordinary. He has an interest in genetic engineering and most of his scholarship is based on the subject. His sick daughter has often been the target of his experiments as he grasps for ways to keep her living. He is being controlled by Germatoid, who has found Professor Tomoe to be an exceptional choice given the scientific twist he adds to the Death Busters team. It’s also an added bonus that he willingly hands his daughter’s body over to an evil entity.
Kaolinite is Professor Tomoe’s secretary and the caretaker of the Tomoe household. She is often seen hoovering around the professor, whom it seems she is interested in romantically. Other times she is with Hotaru, making sure she isn’t feeling ill. She’s a sinister woman who launches the initial attacks on humans to seek out Pure Hearts. Eventually she gets killed but is revived by Professor Tomoe. After the revival she serves as Hotaru’s guardian until she eventually attacks Chibi-usa in an attempt to get her Pure Heart. If Kaolinite is a genuinely kind person who was simply effected by Germatoid, we could just assume she was attacking Chibi-usa to save Hotaru and get the professor’s affection. After all, the Tomoe household has been convinced that Pure Hearts will save Hotaru when in fact they’re just needed to awaken an evil entity controlled by Germatoid.
Witches 5 are the perfect Daimonds created by Professor Tomoe. Consisting of Eudial, Mimete, Tellu, Viluy, and Cyprine/Ptilol. They take orders from Kaolinite and Professor Tomoe with the mission to seek out Pure Hearts. They are also department heads/teachers at Mugen academy, making the hearts of students very accessible to them. In both versions of the series, The Witches 5 have their name painted into their door. In the spirit of humor, they put up a poster each time their numbers dwindle, indicating how many of them remain.
Mistress 9 is the boss of this season, you could say. She is the result of Professor Tomoe implanting an egg that contained Mistress 9 into Hotaru’s body. He was attempting to rebuild his daughter (literally) and was led to believe this egg would help. The egg is actually the reason Hotaru remained in a frail condition and leads to the events in this arc. Mistress 9’s sole purpose is to awaken her master, Pharaoh 90. The Death Busters’ sole purpose in the series is to awake Mistress 9 who was dormant in Hotaru’s body. Mistress 9’s purpose isn’t that different from Sailor Saturn’s mission.
Art, Animation, and Sound
Sailor Moon Crystal is unsurprisingly handled by Toei Animation. The animation quality of the initial stream and the stylistic choices of the animators have been questioned by fans consistently since the first season. Season 3 brought on additional complaints from fans since the style changed from the previous seasons. Likewise, the stream quality of season 3 was lacking. Fortunately, most of the main issues that plague the reboot such as lopsided eyeballs and other lazy examples of rushed animation. That isn’t to say the quality of the home release is top notch. It really isn’t. There are instances where the scouts look at each other, yet their faces appear poorly drawn and elongated.
Of course, there are still things left to desire, but most of that really stems from the style choices made in the series. The characters more closely resemble their manga counterparts, which I think is something to be very happy about.
The character’s appearances are all different from what we remember in the original Infinity Arc in Sailor Moon S. To me, it’s a welcome change since the senshi are elegantly drawn in the manga and it should be reflected in the series. There are lots of bad cgi moments in the series that I am willing to overlook for the sake of having a modern reboot that closely follows the manga. Everyone seems thinner and taller, which is copied from the manga. The senshi uniforms more closely resemble their manga counterparts and even the villains look a lot more like their manga versions.
The transformation scene with Hotaru turning into Mistress 9 is really phenomenal. She quickly goes from a weak teenager to a grown woman with bad intentions. The scene is drawn quickly, with Hotaru first getting the face and hair of Mistress 9 before assuming a full size adult body. Her hair actually turns into monstrous hands that clutch Sailor Chibi Moon and kill her. This whole scene is visually beautiful and is possibly one of the most gripping scenes in the season.
My only gripe is that Mistress 9 appears in the black and blue outfit from the original anime instead of the blue and white clothes she wears in the manga. Since the announcement of Crystal, I was hoping Mistress 9 would get her manga clothes like the rest of the characters did, but it seems like they chose to stick with the outfit she is famous for. Disappointingly, Mistress 9 looks a lot like she did in the original series. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look good since her hair is virtually the same color as her skirt and it blends in. It’s a bit difficult to distinguish between her hair and clothes. This could have been avoided if she wore her white skirt from the manga.
The sound is top notch and I kept my television volume below 30. This series shares the same voice actors from the Viz Media dub of the original series, but the characters have different personalities. This was a great opportunity for the cast to have fun with the characters and make adjustments while keeping fans interested. The sound track is also enjoyable with background music that is based on the environment and context of the episode rather than based on who is the focus of the scene.
The opening and closing music for Sailor Moon Crystal has never been likable for me and that hasn’t changed. I just skip past them. They don’t hold a candle to the songs in the original series.
The limited edition set comes boxed in a navy blue slipcase. The dark blue packaging is a welcomed change from the white and bubblegum pink colors of the first two seasons of Crystal. The navy case with the gold embossing is beautiful and looks good displayed on a shelf. If you don’t like inconsistency on your shelf, you can always flip it around to expose the spine of the disc case, which remains in the same white and pink colors as the previous cases.
Additionally, the limited edition comes with a few art cards and a small art book. The art book is about the same size as the one that came with Sailor Moon S and contains a lot of nice drawings. It’s also great to have since it clears up confusion on the spelling of Kaolinite’s name, which is often spelled two ways by fans.
Although it takes time to get to it, Season 3 explains a lot of plot holes left out of the original series. With the Sailor Moon, we were left in the dark about Hotaru’s frail body. We aren’t quite sure what the deal is with the lab and the role she plays as a science experiment. We only know she’s sick and lonely and stuck living with an eccentric father who was booted from the science community.
In the new series, the outer senshi explain Hotaru’s accident and we get to see her without the long sleeves and stockings. If you only watched the original series without reading the manga, this will come as a surprise. This is not explained in the Infinity arc and requires referencing the manga to understand that Hotaru is more like a cyborg than human. Without knowing this, it’s unclear why Professor Tomoe sought the help of the Pharaoh 90 in the first place. Crystal, closely following the manga, gives us the downlow on Hotaru’s accident and her father’s attempts at recreating her body. Unfortunately, he gave no thought to her well-being beyond her ability to walk and move about alone. She still remains quite ill, although Sailor Uranus implies that it’s because she is constantly fighting a battle to keep Sailor Saturn dormant. Saturn is only supposed to awaken if the world is ending – otherwise Hotaru should die on her own because of her weak body.
As I have said in the past, I am willing to overlook the animation flaws of Crystal because it is still an opportunity to enjoy a new look at the series that served as my gateway anime drug. I like that this version of Sailor Moon is all content without the fluff of the original. For anyone who really enjoyed the manga, this series closely follows the plots without any of the extra arcs added in to keep the show running while Naoko Takeuchi was drawing new chapters. You also don’t need to read the manga to understand what is happening since this clears up a lot of questions that the original anime ignored. This season is much darker than S and may not be suitable for younger fans.
*This was provided for review by Viz Media.