Sailor Moon Crystal began airing in 2014 and was both a blessing and a curse to many manga fans. The style and story were more faithful to the original but still lacked some of the luster a lot of fans had called for. Season III of Sailor Moon Crystal seemed to be the answer everyone was looking for, with the new funding and dedicated time Toei made a new animation style alongside recreating the very unpopular 3-d animation transformations with the traditional and beloved 2-d transformations. The response has been largely positive and renewed love for the series. Through my reviews for both original Crystal and Season III Crystal I was ecstatic for changes and just seeing the show I love again. Yet there are a ton of differences this season that really call out to me, and I want to talk about them now in order to really examine the season finale of Crystal.
What Crystal has done right in Season 3 is capture a lot of emotions more effectively. Tears are no longer giant blobs that fall off of faces that are drawn too close to the screen ala Black Lady over Pluto in Season 2 of Crystal, which is a vast improvement and does a much better job of showing us people feel things. We see the fear and desperation of every character as they believe they’re going to die and the genuine fear as Chibi-Usa calls out for her mother, following by calling out for the hero Sailor Moon. Her love and fear restore Usagi and allow her to do what she does best, because as we have learned the Crystal has immense power and Usagi uses it better than any other could.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Crystal is a story about Sailor Moon and how her love and friendship unites everyone. Her emotions are the key and so her sentimentality and dedication that was originally a weakness in the original anime is now her greatest strength. If Sailor Moon was more practical and less driven by her sense of righteousness then the Legendary Crystal would simply not work the way that it does. In the original anime adaptation Sailor Moon’s love was always a weakness getting her beaten down until the very end when she proved others wrong. That was the very unfortunate part however: the original anime made Sailor Moon deal with rejection and loss constantly by forcing her to feel unintelligent, undermined, and unappreciated. There were even episodes devoted to doubting her leadership, doubting her friendship, and jokes about her intelligence were scaled up to make her seem unable to do anything worthwhile.
That’s not to say the original had bad points: this finale featured a Sailor Moon capable of winning the day through both friendship and her own enormous powers. In the original anime the only reason they won at all was Sailor Saturn’s birth- instead of Sailor Moon defeating the enemy she had to watch as Saturn sacrificed herself to destroy Pharaoh 90 from within. She has a beautiful moment of using her own soul / heart crystal to turn into Super Sailor Moon anyway and saves her, rebirthing Saturn as the child we also see in Crystal. Both are beautiful takes on a character as Sailor Moon in the original would sacrifice her own soul to save someone, but Crystal’s Usagi is willing to do it as well while also having the support and dedication of all the Senshi even when they’re unsure of her. Despite their certainty that killing Saturn was the only way none of the Outer Senshi ever put her down or truly turned against her the way that the Outer Senshi did in the original.
Saturn establishes in the finale that she exists to destroy the world so that Sailor Moon can return it to its rightful state. Essentially Saturn exists to destroy evil from the world rather than allow it to win, and Sailor Moon in turn uses the powers of the Crystal in order to restore the world and all those who live on it. Through this her power is truly eternal and we see why the Crystal Tokyo kingdom can ever exist at all. The original anime never really made me feel Sailor Moon was powerful until the very end of each season but in Crystal I’m always fairly certain she is strong. On top of that Crystal really shows how she grows and learns to control her powers whereas in the original anime Sailor Moon just mysteriously gets power ups after getting severely beaten, not really using her family or love to manipulate the Silver Crystal into these updates. All the villains in Crystal see the power of the Crystal but after Season 1 no one seems to gun for it in quite the same way in the original.
Crystal Season 3 captures all the emotions you need to capture while maintaining the theme of the show. Despite that many will try to disassociate it from the first two seasons the anime does work better with those two seasons because it really builds on a theme of Usagi’s initial weakness to love and fragility with it to her pure determination to use her love to protect and defend all. I will say the first 2 seasons will always hurt a bit to watch in terms of animation quality because now we have something updated and more captivating to compare it to, but I still think new viewers should watch it once. Once. And then maybe watch season 3 twice. Usagi’s weaknesses are now her greatest strengths and that is why the entirety of Crystal has turned into something superior and something entirely unique from the original anime.
Ultimately, my real opinion is that it’s very difficult to say the original or Crystal are better. The original was much better at making terrifying monsters because traditional animation had harsher more black lines and less perfect saturation like the modern era of computer animation. Crystal’s animation is smooth and seamless and the original had a much different feel, which created more dynamically scary villains. Crystal’s villains are also blank slates for the most part and tend to want one thing only, more power, while the original anime villains had layers and different motivations. In Crystal Kaolinite still had the deep goal of serving the Master well, but in the original anime she was directly in love with Tomoe and constantly reappeared even after being bested to make several important contributions to the plot. She also had a much more tragic end when she was struck down.
If you compare the OST in season 3 of Crystal and the original you find a completely different feeling. Crystal has an uplifting theme in every season and so drama and tension don’t quite feel the same. A good example is to search for the “Hotaru becomes Mistress 9” scene. In Crystal she snatches Chibi-Usa’s broach and this, in consequence, takes her hostess. The very nature of the Death Busters in the original is to take the hostes / heart crystals in the dub to feed it to Mistress 9 inside of Hotaru’s body. In Crystal seeing Chibi-Usa fall with life less eyes is anxiety ridden, but in the original anime all of the Senshi have to watch as Chibi-Usa is laying on an alter while a creepy song is sung and Mistress Nine slowly snatches Chibi-Usa’s soul from her body. The Catch? The Crystal she has isn’t even mentioned, and Mistress Nine is still in the form of Hotaru. The scene has so much more ominous music, terrifying archaic imagery, and to top it off Kaolinite is immediately killed despite her contribution just because ‘she was no longer useful’. Crystal’s imagery doesn’t even come close to defeating that but it immediately makes up for it by completely surpassing the way that everyone reacts to her situation. Watching her die, then having Mamoru sustain her with his life, and watching Usagi’s emotional reaction to it is far superior to her initial anime reaction.
Really, Crystal is all about reactions and relationships with Usagi. The original anime was made to kind of dig deep into motivations of everyone, giving everyone some kind of depth. Mistress 9 was actually attacked by Pharoah 90 in the original anime instead of being his irreplaceable ally, leaving for a confused look from me as a child because he spent all this time powering her up. Granted it could’ve been seen as part of a ruse but it was honestly so confusing and out of place I didn’t feel that way. Yet at least this gives everyone some kind of depth: Mistress 9 actively uses Professor Tomoe (the not evil one) to manipulate Sailor Moon, Udial at one point tortures Uranus and Neptune to produce their talismans, Tomoe wasn’t evil but gave up his body to restore Hotaru to life. Everyone has some kind of angle in the original and I miss that. Udial’s torture was the most gratuitous show of love between Uranus and Neptune in any adaptation to this day, with Neptune deliberately torturing herself in order to save Uranus from having her hostes taken by Udial.
In a way I miss that in Crystal: we see everyone cares for each other but it’s Usagi who is the feature show. Because of that she is my new favorite character, but I also miss seeing a lot of the gratuitous relationship growth between all of the Senshi. Yet even as that complaint leaves my lips, the season ended with seeing Usagi and all her friends acting normal and getting time to express their interests and excitement for high school. On top of that, the Outer Senshi obtain a baby Hotaru and are like ‘hey let’s raise it!’ and Haruka is onboard and Setsuna is basically like ‘hey why not my friday’s are free’. Everytime I want to critisize one of them they have something else to make up for it. So really, truly, all I can say to you is that now there is no reason not to really enjoy both. The existence of both of these anime compliment the other. Does it bother you that Hotaru and Chibi-Usa’s relationship was kind of brushed off at the end of the Death Busters arc in the original? Look no further! Do you wish the villains in Crystal were more complex? The original can solve that for you! Want to see the villains form relationships with the Senshi? Season 1 of Crystal, how about with each other to show complexity? Season 1 of the original has that for you!
Ultimately, Season 3 of Crystal was a blinding success and proved to be endearing and a wonderful addition to the Sailor Moon media. I am ecstatic and can’t wait for more, and rightfully so this episode ended without closure but without a preview. Here is to next season and I give this Season of Crystal a 9 out of 10!