Episode 3 of Sailor Moon Crystal continues the manga pacing with its introduction of Sailor Mars. Once again, the story is well done, with Rei being portrayed as per Naoko Takeuchi’s characterization. However, the animation is as bad as “Ami – Sailor Mercury”. It’s more than likely that this is just how it’s going to be from now on.
“Rei – Sailor Mars” introduces Hino Rei, who in the previous anime is the bratty, temperamental Sailor Senshi. This Rei is much closer to her manga counterpart. She’s cool, elegant, and serious. Rei is the biggest departure from the original anime series so far, and I’m interested to see what people think of her reserved and mature personality. It’s worth noting that out of all the new designs, Rei’s is my favorite. She’s gorgeous when she’s on-model. Her hair is given weight, and her sharply drawn eyes indicate a shrewdness to her character.
While this episode doesn’t add any extra scenes, it still manages to give insight into Rei’s insecurity about having powers. Her line of work is one in which people expect her to solve their problems with her supernatural senses, and when she can’t do that, she’s labeled as “shady”. That isolation comes out in Rei just as it does in Ami, and Usagi’s heart-eyed admiration of and trust in Rei is what allows her to awaken as Sailor Mars.
Usagi’s other main interaction this week is with Mamoru. After an embarrassing blunder concerning Luna, Usagi finally learns Mamoru’s name and grade. There’s a cute moment in which she hides her face with Luna, and it’s clear that her crush on him is winning out over her irritation with his teasing attitude. It would have been nice to see her start to connect the dots between him and Tuxedo Mask, but that’s coming soon enough.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must point out that the animation is once again appallingly low quality. Rei’s face and eye size change frequently, with the most obvious failures occurring during the final battle. Usagi and Ami too have moments in which their faces look terribly drawn. When they’re on-model, everyone looks great. It’s just they’re so frequently distorted looking that it’s immensely distracting. There are also a lot of noticeable animation shortcuts, like having characters speak off screen for half the conversation before focusing in on them. The one bright moment is during Rei’s catchphrase sequence which, like Ami and Usagi’s, is very lovingly animated.
At this point, I’m not sure how the animation can be fixed. It’s so disappointing that Sailor Moon, one of the biggest anime franchises in the world, isn’t getting better treatment. I know it’s possible, since the “Moon Pride” music video was beautifully animated. I just want to see more effort put into the actual show, however possible.
The pacing in Sailor Moon Crystal has been pretty brisk so far. It doesn’t necessarily bother me, though I think it could benefit from a little anime-only character building. Jadeite’s exit was kind of sudden. Since we’ll probably be taking a look into the Shitennou’s origins, it might be nice to give the other three a little more personality.
Next episode will take a break from the introduction of Sailor Senshi, so that should be a nice change of pace. It will air on August 16th.
Images are copyright of Naoko Takeuchi, Toei Animation, and Kodansha.