After a rollercoaster known as the first and second season of Sailor Moon Crystal (SMC), many things happened during and after the last season ended. The sudden announcement of the director and character designer bowing out caused a ruckus amongst fans and created uncertainty for the continuation of the series. It seemed like all was lost.
Surprisingly, at the beginning of this year, the official Sailor Moon site revealed the third season would premiere in the Spring 2016 anime season, with a new director and character designer. So we waited patiently (painfully) as we were slowly spoonfed little bits of news here and there over the past 3 months.
This past Monday, we were happily greeted with the first episode of Season 3. Before I start talking about my first impressions, I would like to inform you I will be also be comparing what I’ve seen in this episode to what was seen in the previous two seasons. Also, while this impression will be spoiler free for the first episode, there may be mentions of previous events that transpired leading up to Season 3 Episode 1.
The original director of Sailor Moon Crystal Seasons 1 and 2, Munehisa Sakai, was replaced by Chiaki Kon, who is known for directing Junjou Romantica and Golden Time. Based on her track record, be prepared for your heartstrings to be pulled and for some massive tear jerking scenes. Although, she also directed Higurashi and Umineko, both horror based anime, so be on the lookout for some potentially dark themes!
Remember the 3D transformation sequences and horrible animation hiccups? How could we not?! Well, toss those away my friend, because Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3 is what every Sailor Moon fan has been praying for. Raise your hands if you teared up or mouthed the words, “Yass” after watching the trailer? Or both?
The new animation for the show has a nice blend between the manga and the 1990’s anime version. As far as I see from the first episode, gone are the weird shading inconsistencies and poor animation, which are replaced with simple lines and a bright, vivid color scheme. While the characters were not drawn as delicately as seen in SMC 1&2, they still kept the colorful pigment and elegance you were used to seeing.
Chibi-Usa, in comparison to before, doesn’t seem as immature or childish, which has made me warm up to her, when I usually consider her my least favorite of the Sailor Scouts. In contrast, Usagi seems to keep her childish immaturity, but it appears to be a bit more subdued, which I hope continues as the show progresses.
The introduction of two of the new characters, Haruka and Michiru, gives a strong aura of mystery and hints at a deep romantic relationship between the two. Their exchanged looks and mannerism insinuates that they know something that neither the audience nor the Scouts know. Compared to the rather subdued and haphazard romance between Mamoru and Usagi, Michiru and Haruka’s relationship seems mature and almost graceful.
The other Scouts seem to keep their normal mannerisms, but unlike before, they seem to have a better spotlight. I’m truly hoping we get more character development for them in this season, since it seemed to be rather lacking before. In the 1990’s, there was a ton of character development, and even several episodes scattered throughout the series that were dedicated to the Inner Senshi. I hope they pull inspiration from that version of the anime and bring it back.
I can say that both fans who have read the manga and/or watched the 1990’s version will not be disappointed, and will ride high on the nostalgia train. Sticking true to the original storyline, they managed to recreate the events that transpired in the manga almost point for point.
The story starts off not long after the battle with the Black Moon Clan, and Chibi-Usa has returned from the future. Through dreams and premonitions, the characters are informed that an impending doom is upon them, and they must “awake” before it’s too late. At the beginning, we hear a monologue from whom we can only assume is the newest villain. I won’t go into too much detail, but the foundation of this villain’s speech compared to the previous villains seems darker. This is probably influenced by the direction of the new director.
With new enemies comes new underlings to do their bidding. Instead of drawing energy from their victims, the gophers in this season have a new objective and don’t take on humanesque features, but rather demonic and dangerous looks. One thing I didn’t understand is the fact that the general public is aware that monsters have been attacking the city. In the previous seasons, we are so used to everyone either fainting, shrugging it off or just forgetting about the whole ordeal. Also, it is amazing how no one knows the identity of the Scouts after they transform in a public area.
The sound effects used in the transformation sequence and speeches also seems rather soft and airy. The “twing” sound effects seem almost like they are from Kingdom Hearts. The show has a new opening, “Love the New Moon” (New Moon ni Koi wo Shite) sung by Etsuko Yakushimaru. (Source)
The voices for Michiru (Sayaka Ohara) and Haruka (Junko Minagawa) sing a beautiful duet for the ending sequence called, “Eternal Eternity.” (Source)
Toei Animation continues to be in charge of the animation, although as previously mentioned, the character design is changed up and the color palette of the series is vivid yet nostalgic. Thanks to the new character designer, Akira Takahashi, who replaced Yuki Sako, all the characters got a complete overhaul. I am rather thankful that Toei Animation got Takahashi on board, since she has previous experience working on the mahou shoujo anime series Precure. Previously, all the transformations were done in 3D, but now it has been replaced and completely redone as 2D. They also updated the Scouts’ transformations.
Be sure to pay attention during these sequences, especially Sailor Moon’s, because the animators put in an extreme amount of detail. Even for tiny elements like the sparks and flares, they went to great lengths to represent them with hearts and moons. As far as we see in the first episode, the other Scouts don’t have as elaborate a transformation sequence as she does. While I don’t mind, since it would cut down on the amount of time it takes for them all to transform, I hope the other Scouts receive just as much attention to detail as Usagi’s in their own solo transformations.
The animator even brought back the over dramatized expressions we are used to seeing from the 1990’s version. In the previous season, they attempted to re-introduce this element, but it seemed forced and out of place. Now, it fits the mood and style of the show.
Starting this season and onward is a tad foreign to me, since I wasn’t able to watch the rest of the 1990’s anime version as a kid. The only part of this season I saw were random VHS tapes that were lent to me by a friend in high school. I did do some research as a refresher, but I made sure not to read too much, because I wanted to have a somewhat fresh experience of seeing this part of the storyline for the first time. This is also why I haven’t watched the old version that Hulu is hosting (I will, at some point, but maybe once this season is over).
Speaking of Hulu, you can watch Season 3 of Sailor Moon Crystal and all of the previous seasons on Hulu and Crunchyroll! So, my Moonie fans, what did you think of the first episode of the brand spanking new season? Love it? Hate it? Let us know in the comments below, but try to keep it spoiler free!
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