Sailor Moon Crystal: Death Busters Arc – Short Thoughts

 

So, the third season of SMC has ended and now we await the news for Dream Arc to be greenlit. If it has, I haven’t checked yet.

Will it happen?

Yea. Knowing Toei, it will.

Will it be better than this arc?

Proooobably not. Of course, everyone to their own but the Infinity arc is generally thought of as the best of the five arcs and for a number of good reasons. It wouldn’t be impossible to try and top that with the Dream Arc but given how, er, lackluster SMC’s third season was in comparison to the first series’ third season, despite it being a major improvement over SMC’s first two seasons, I suspect the quality will be around the same. Maybe with the story a step down from the bar the Death Busters plot has set… unless you don’t mind Chibiusa sharing more of the main role with Usagi. Which I don’t cuz I love Chibiusa and therefore, absolutely adore the Dream Arc.

But I’m rambling. Back to Death Busters.

One of the greatest things about the Infinity arc is the introduction of the rest of the Outer Senshi (because FUCKYEA OUTER SENSHI, AMIRITE?!).

However, as much as I want to say that Uranus and Neptune’s debut, as well as Pluto’s return, did not disappoint, I…can’t for some reason.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing was bad and they performed up to my expectations just fine but I dunno. Maybe it’s because I grew up with the first anime series that Crystal’s rendition of them couldn’t quite cut if for me. Or maybe it’s because I saw the anime before reading the manga that I have more of an attachment to the interpretation of the characters in the anime than how they are portrayed in the manga. Which, of course, would then affect my view of Crystal which is adapted straight out of the manga. (Wow, yea, that was confusing so I hope you get what I meant.)

Overall, Crystal stayed very close to the manga plotline like it should’ve so nobody went out-of-bounds.

But what the first anime had in leaving a strong impression for the series and what the manga, the original, had in a beautiful display of mysticism and wonder that helped shaped the magical girl genre, Crystal only had half of either of those.

For the Outer Senshi, Haruka seemed too subdued, Michiru too tamed and Pluto too boring.

They basically boiled down to being drop dead gorgeous as people and, almost literally, solely existed for their duties as Senshi. Outside those traits, I couldn’t really get a grasp of what makes them unique. Not like how it was with the first anime where Haruka was more sharp and fierce even when she acted playful, Michiru radiated an inner strength and grace that actually matched the nature of the sea and Pluto always had an air of mystery and firm conviction around her even after we got to know more about her.

Then again, it might have something to do with Usagi always being the pivot point so any individuality is put second to the senshi’s allegiance to her.

I don’t know. Like I said, maybe it’s just my bias that’s making me think this way and it’s not like I have perfect memory of those two earlier sources either so there’s a good chance I might have forgotten something.

But as far as voicework goes, it’s…okay, I guess. I already knew before they confirmed it that Junko Minagawa would be cast as Haruka and she does a decent job. It’s just that there’s not enough Haruka as there is a voice for Haruka. You get what I’m saying? And Sayaka Ohara is a safe choice for Michiru but probably too safe because Michiru came off as much softer than what I wanted her to be.

As for the villains, it went just as bland as I expected it would. Pretty lil’ one-episode witch bitches all with the same one-dimensional personality and high-pitched obnoxious “Ahahahahahaha!” laugh. Then there was the Professor (not pictured) who was just another mid-boss. So much for hoping him to be more like the Professor in the S arc. That one was much nicer and easier to sympathize with.

I had no idea that Kaolinite could revive the witches though. Did that happen in the manga? Hmm, gotta go back and check.

Kaolinite (also not pictured) actually surprised me a bit cuz I found her less annoying than her minions and the Professor but it really didn’t make that much a difference when she later morphed into a huge indistinguishable mass of evil alien matter.

The lady of the hour.

Except it’s not her.

*sigh* Out of everyone in the “new” cast, I certainly didn’t think that Mistress 9, my top favorite villain in the entire SM series, would disappoint me the most and yet, she did.

Of course, I am judging her rather unfairly since I’m comparing this version to Yuko Minaguchi’s Mistress 9 (no question about it, Yuko Minaguchi will ALWAYS be the best at playing all the egos of Hotaru) but since we’re on the topic, let’s talk about it.

Ever since I laid eyes on the “Messiah of Silence”, even if was just Cantonese-dubbed one at first, I was mesmerized by how she could appear so intimidating and so deadly gorgeous at the same time. The way that Mistress 9 held herself, how she delighted in tricking Sailor Moon by manipulating her sympathy for Hotaru, how she always stood ten steps above the Senshi and condescendingly looked down on them for even thinking they had a chance against her. There was such a refined quality to her wickedness that I couldn’t help but appreciate even though I knew I should’ve been rooting for the good guys.

Because that Mistress 9 knew how to wear evil. She knew how to instill fear in people. And as she watched her enemies crumble powerlessly at her feet, she didn’t break out laughing maniacally after she screamed”Ooooooohhhh, Master Pharaoh 90!!!!” every 2 minutes. She already knew that unless the Senshi had a miracle conveniently stored inside their pockets, they were not going to win so why not relish the moment and torture them a little more before summoning the Big Boss?

Why not bask in the arrogance the makes a villain a villain?

Really, think about the antagonists in those Disney movies. You know they are the bad guy because they get such an defining song to go with their evil scheme. They take that malice and make it theirs. That’s what makes them memorable.

I didn’t get that sort of feeling with SMC’s Mistress 9, who only played the role given to her but never brought anything special to it. She was no different from the rest of the Death Busters. Lots of ham and no substance. Other than how much more powerful she was, hardly anything set her apart from them.

Yea, ok, no. Mistress 9 shouldn’t be a throwaway villain, alright?

She’s supposed to be a formidable foe, one that you wouldn’t forget.

But she wasn’t. In fact, all that over-the-topness that I saw made me almost want to forget this season ever happened because it just got so ridiculous when her true form started to emerge. There was no real characterization to savor.

What I got was just another generic alien bug hiding in a poor kid’s body.

One more thing to add.

I really wished they didn’t give Pharaoh 90 a voice cuz not only did it sound stupid like it did with Wise Man but he was actually more fearsome when he didn’t talk. If he was just this massive ball of negative energy that could destroy the Earth, all you’d need is a lot of destructive noise to make me go “oh shit, they’re screwed”.

You’d be amazed at how more chilling these scenes can be when you leave it to the audience’s imagination.

Now for our main heroine. I’m not going to even bother with a lengthy list of what I did or didn’t like cuz the line between those is so blurred that I’d just be going in circles for hours.

But if there’s two things I want fixed for next season, it’s to tone down the sheer amount of times Sailor Moon gives a glassy-eyed look up at the sky. Seriously, in the last episode alone, she’s done it about at least a dozen times and 3/4 of it absolutely served no purpose. We already know the whole situation makes her sad but find something better to stretch the time. Like oh, I don’t know, maybe actually focus on the battle at hand or have her jump in to help instead of just standing there and shouting out everyone’s names in succession?

The other is her annoying habit at stating the obvious. I can see what’s happening on my screen, Usagi. You don’t have to narrate.

I mean, I’m well aware that all this is for the kids’ benefit since they are the target demographic so it might not matter to them and in the end, it’s not like my complaining will help improve anything. But I have this high suspicion that they only give Usagi a lot of close-ups to avoid animating more complex action scenes.

Not that I’m an expert on animation but even I know those are harder to do than throwing a couple of sparklies at a pretty background.

Whatever.

SMC will never be as gritty and emotionally provoking as the first series so I’ll just shut up about that here.

Enough with my gripes. Let’s give an applause for the person who really made up the best of this arc.

Yep, Saturn is the real lady of the hour. From Hotaru’s perseverance through her long trial of suffering to the awakening of the Soldier of Ruin, Saturn’s story is a hell of a lot more interesting than the actual main plot.

This girl’s entire life has been wracked with sorrow and loneliness and even her warrior counterpart is considered an outcast among the Senshi. Despite all that, Hotaru still has it in her to be the kind. So kind that it makes me want to cry because nobody who went through all the shit she’s been through can possibly remain so pure at heart.

But Hotaru did. She protected Chibiusa’s soul using every last ounce of consciousness she had left. She even tried to hold Mistress 9 back from hurting the other senshi, a few of which who were determined to kill her to prevent Saturn from waking and destroying all life on Earth.

And as Sailor Saturn she was nothing but professional (for lack of better wording). Perhaps even more professional than all the other Senshi combined because she knew, she acknowledged, that her job was the most difficult of all. She has been given a power that nobody would ever want, a task that made others shun her very existence. But did she complain? No. She accepted her circumstances, however grim and undesirable, for what it was and carried out her duty without a trace of hesitation.

Because even though her power is meant to destroy the world, it’s necessary in order to rid evil from it for good. What’s more, there’s a reason why she’s called the harbinger of death. Because after death comes rebirth. And who symbolizes rebirth and hope? Sailor Moon.

Saturn has to clear the path of obstacles to allow Sailor Moon to bring about revival and resurrection, showing that she is indeed an ally to the other Senshi. That she is just as loyal to her Princess as any of them and strongly believes that Sailor Moon has it within her to save everyone. Saturn entrusted that hope, her hope, to that person so that she can perform a task Usagi/Serenity would never have to and so that she can die in the line of duty without regrets.

I just…I just love Saturn’s character so much and I’m so very glad that I have two versions of Saturn to love now. Obviously the other is the Saturn/Hotaru from the first series but they are both different as they are similar enough that I can see appreciate them as separate from each other. Ahhhh, I hope that made sense. I just love Saturn. She’s my favorite senshi. <3

Of course, we mustn’t forget about the friendship between Chibiusa and Hotaru which, in my personal opinion, is the one thing that tops all the other things that make the Infinity arc great.

Look at these two precious girls. Do you see what they share? That’s unconditional love.

Whether you ship them romantically or platonically, it’s an undeniable fact that they grew to be so important to each other because of the bond forged between them.

Sure, Usagi has her Senshi but those relations are extended from a time when the Silver Millenium was in its prime. Back then and now, they still maintain the status quo and bow before the person they recognize as Princess Serenity, their savior and symbol of hope, even though they are practically equals in the present day.

Chibiusa and Hotaru’s is quite different. Their friendship took place in the modern world and was built from the ground up right in front of our very eyes. They met each other as people before they were aware that the other was a fellow senshi. Chibiusa was the first person to wholeheartedly accept Hotaru and didn’t let anything, not even her own shock at Hotaru’s true condition, stop her from wanting to be with Hotaru. Hotaru, in turn, gave everything she had to protect her friend and sacrificed herself to make sure Chibiusa would live.

They’d do anything for each other because they made each other happy.

Honestly, I don’t think there is any other pair that can rival how intensely heart-wrenching and beautiful the friendship between these two are. Not even Usagi and Mamoru’s predestined love can compare because you can always expect Deus Ex Machina to help Sailor Moon out of a pinch and it’s probably because Chibiusa and Hotaru’s relationship is one that really defied ALL the odds against them.

Yep, I love them girl friendships alright. <3

Well, poo, they Senshis will have to part ways for a while until they meet again in the next arc.

I never understood why these three had to leave for another city just to raise Hotaru…or whatever. They’re rich so they could’ve just bought a house right next to Usagi’s and then everybody could come visit. Plus, the Outer Senshi won’t have to be planets away from their beloved Princess anymore and yet they still keep their distance. I dunno. *shrug*

Also, why is baby!Hotaru’s hair curly and not straight? She looks more like Seiya than Hotaru! :S

Anyways, it’s always nice to see the girls together, alive and happy. Especially after such a huge, dark climactic battle like that.

Though I could’ve done without everyone listing off their future club activities cuz we all know they’d ditch it in a heartbeat to do crime-fighting in their magical sailor fuku.

At least there are some things that don’t change like Usagi’s bad grades, lol.

That’s a joke I don’t mind.
Ganbatte, Usagi! ^^

With that, I end this post in anticipation for the Dream Arc (whoohoo~! Helios and the Sailor Quartet!).

Hope we get the announcement from Toei soon. Maybe we can even expect it next year around spring. ;)

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3 thoughts on “Sailor Moon Crystal: Death Busters Arc – Short Thoughts

  1. I think you are right in your views on this. For everything good about Crystal there are definitely some major flaws in the characterisation (or lack of characterisation). I still love it but objectively realise that people who aren’t already attached to these characters won’t find them particularly entertaining.

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    1. Mmhmm. *nods* Like, don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to Toei for this reboot. It’s not like we really needed it but a lot of old SM fans still wanted to see the manga plotline animated and they delivered. It’s not the most perfect product ever and honestly, I’m positive Toei only went ahead with another anime just to cash in on our nostalgia but hey, we still got it.

      However, watching it and critiquing the story at the age I am now, of course it’s going to be different than when I watched it as a kid, y’know? And Crystal really highlights a lot of flaws in the manga that I think most of us would just brush aside because we love the Sailor Moon franchise so much. At least for me, reading and watching drew out different reactions because for the former, I just absorbed the story passively while the latter, I was more actively invested so I would definitely have a lot to say about it. Especially when comparing it to the first anime series.

      Hmm, yea. I mean, as long as most of the fans are satisfied, then it’s not really a big deal as long as they do a decent job with the reboot. SM is almost 25 years old and it’s not like the author is going to go back and change what she already wrote. *shrug*

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  2. Crystal is a show that just constantly frustrates me, despite my patience with it.
    Now and again I see glimpses of promise. But it’s strict adherence to the manga and its terrible pacing chokes it’s potential. Leaving you with just the bare bones of something that could have been much richer.
    If I could offer the perspective of someone who is not in a sense an old-schooler, the shortcomings are a lot more apparent and jarring for me.

    Naoko’s writing unfortunately is a key problem. It can be painfully amateurish and heavy handed in places. The material itself is in all fairness quite dated in this this day and age. Magical girls have come on quite a bit since then. And she clearly couldn’t manage the cast properly, especially as it grew bigger, which often resulted in many of them being clumsily shoved off to one side.
    The plots jump from one event to the next without any real build-up or breathing space in between. Things like the fight between the Inner and Outer Senshi suffers because of this, as they don’t establish any proper feud between them beforehand. And it ends up looking more like it was just done for the sake of it.
    Character itself is virtually non-existent for anyone not central to the story, and most of that revolves around Usagi. Who herself is turned into this kind of idolized super being, incapable of doing no wrong and above any kind of criticism, and who everyone around her is hopelessly devoted towards out of ‘destiny’. This becomes worse when you find out she was originally a self-insert for the author.

    Given how Naoko herself wasn’t happy with/embarrassed by how the manga turned out, I was under the initial impression that the main purpose of Crystal was to attempt to fix a lot of those flaws while expanding on the material and developing elements that she didn’t have the time or luxury to do so originally. This could easily have been done by doubling the length of each arc. Yet they haven’t bothered with either of these apart from the disastrous crow-barred in Shitennou romance. Instead we get a one to one copy, with all the flaws faithfully replicated, plus its own added on top.

    As an example of some of the many problems. Haruka and Michiru’s relationship, which despite being heavily teased at the beginning of the season is very quickly forgotten about. Because apparently people would prefer to see the former force herself on Usagi in a rather uncomfortable manner, leaving the later getting pushed into the background. Hotaru being a cyborg was a pointless bit of development that ended up going nowhere. And Setsuna (my favourite outer) looks like she was just stuck in to fatten out the group.

    But the biggest peeve I have with the show is the rather unflattering handling of the Inner Senshi. To put it bluntly, Crystal for me has taken four great characters and turned them into miserable jokes. As a friend (who isn’t a fan) once commented, they could easily have been taken out of the show altogether and it wouldn’t have made any meaningful difference. Even Mamoru contributes more then they do.
    Besides stripping away much of their individuality and watering down their personalities (Rei in particular got it the worst), too often its like the writers just go out of their way to make them look as pathetic and incapable as possible.
    Unfortunately the Infinity Arc was notorious in it’s glorification of the Outers at their expense. You only have to look at how much they outclass them against the Witches 5. Even combined, their attacks don’t do any damage.
    And frankly having your villains (especially bland ones) effortlessly beat up on your protagonists in order to make them look stronger is a very tired and lazy method, particularly if you do it continuously.
    Likewise the relationship between them and Usagi, which I’ve always seen as the very heart of the series, is so poorly developed and as a result artificial. Too say nothing of the number of times Usagi herself shows very little care or concern for them.
    One rather tragic scene that I find pretty much sums up how tight their ‘friendship’ is, happens in Labyrinth. Whereupon being captured and placed into illusions by kaorinite, do they make any attempt to fight back and resist her transparent temptations? No, they just give up and abandon Usagi with zero effort. Resigning themselves to the role of helpless damsels. Leaving it up to the Outers to swoop in and save their behinds, thus making them look even more pathetic and incapable in the process. Regardless of where you come from, that’s some pretty bad writing. In that it pointlessly demeans some much loved characters just to others look better.
    To rub salt into the wound, right afterwards the group then splits up for no good reason in order to neatly pack those four off out of the way.

    I guess ultimately only long term fans can muster any real enjoyment out of this show. It offers very little for newcomers or casuals. There’s this distinctive half-heartedness in the way its executed. It’s very much paint by the numbers, and doesn’t really bring anything new or interesting to the table for me.
    My inner child finds it to be generally dull. While the grown up part finds it too simplistic, cloyingly so at times. There simply isn’t enough substance for it to stand on its own two feet. As it relies too much on your pre-existing knowledge to subconsciously fill in the gaps.
    I’m sorry to say it. But if this had been just another anime, barely anyone would have given it more then a passing glance.

    Purists may look down their noses and sneer at the original anime, but it understood that some things which might be alright on paper don’t necessarily translate well over to TV. And it had the benefit of some talented people working on it. A few of whom would go on to create other successful works. Also a lot of the original’s success was down to the emphasis it placed on slice of life, allowing you to get to know the characters better. Something Crystal would have benefited greatly from. There were a few very brief moments in this recent season, but not nearly enough.

    Many might be okay with the quality now. But something as iconic as Sailor Moon is deserving of much better in my opinion.

    I suppose in the end, it just isn’t for me…

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