Well that was a longer period of absence then I originally planned on going for ^^;;; Welcome to 2015 and blah blah blah. You know the drill.
I thought I would take the time to review the first Arc from the new Sailor Moon Crystal series together as a whole (because at this point, doing all them individually and compare/contrast to previous material would be a BUTT load of work) as the first story has completed and we are moving into the Black Moon storyline. So that means SPOILERS people!
Largely the basic storylines from these 14 episodes remain unchanged from the manga. Minor differences being the exclusion of the girls “girly” moments, the reworking of the Shitennou storyline, the changing of the kiss scene in act 4, and the lack of appearance from Rei’s Grandpa (who only shows up twice in the manga). Now I say minor differences but excluding the no-show of Rei’s grandfather, these changes ended up making rather large impacts, from the audience members who are familiar with the manga.
Let’s start with the kiss scene in act 4. In the manga and original anime, Usagi became drunk at the party and Tuxedo Mask kisses her. Over the years, people have complained about this since Usagi had no way to consent to the kiss from him and it gave many readers an uncomfortable feeling (especially since Mamoru is college-age in the anime). With the chance to make some changes, Crystal made a slight edit to the moment in which she was exhausted (due to being up the night before reading comics lol) and fell asleep. Tuxedo Mask still gives her a kiss (kinda creepy that he’s kissing her when she’s asleep) but unlike the original anime, Luna steps in and tells Tuxedo Perv to leave her Usagi alone. Here Luna is acting as a protective barrier for Usagi as she is sleeping. The kiss still is rather creepy with Usagi not awake (even if she’s just tired) and is an old romantic trope from fairy tales, but I suppose it does improve with A) Mamoru being closer in age to her B) NOT DRUNK and C) Luna stepping up to the plate to protect Usagi’s well being.
In case anyone is wondering, in the live action, both parties are sober and awake in the romantic moment. However, Usagi is wearing a full bear costume so Tuxedo Mask is unable to see who is hugging them. This allows Usagi to hug her (not so) secret crush to her hearts content and Tuxedo Mask can act very uncomfortable as a stranger in a bear costume is hugging him. This was done on purpose btw ;)
Original Anime Drunk Kiss
Crystal Tired Kiss
Manga Drunk Kiss
Live Action Awkward Dance
Next I’d like to talk about the removal of the “girly” moments from the story and how it impacts the girl’s relationships with each other. In the manga, it is clear that the events happen over a short time while in the original anime, it could be believed to happen over a longer time given the amount of padding/filler the first season receives. In both these versions, I have no problem in the believability of the girl’s relationships with one another. It’s odd that I only have this problem with Crystal given it virtually is the same length as the manga, but as I thought about it, I discovered my issue wasn’t with the length of the stories but the lack of real interaction the girls have with one another. You hardly see them be silly or teenager girls! There are some moments when they are being with one another but they mostly revolve around discussing the enemy or their mission. The manga had many of these kind of brief, small moments scattered through the story and you can really feel their absence in Crystal. One of my favourite moments is when they are on the moon for the first time Makoto makes a joke about there really being a rabbit on the moon, a reference to the pun of Usagi’s name in Japanese and the Japanese belief of a rabbit living on the moon. It was only 2 panels long before everyone resumed but it really helped solidify the relationship they have with one another.
Makoto making a bad pun
Minako suffers the most from this deletion of the girl’s relationship as she comes off extremely cold and distant from the girls. It doesn’t feel genuine that she has a close relationship with Usagi in Crystal as they don’t do the same school and Minako is introduced late in the story. They have little chance to interact and by removing what small bonding moments they did have really takes away any feeling of friendship she may have with the other girls. And this is a real shame since Minako and Usagi are very similar in nature. Minako’s more serious side more comes out when she is Sailor Venus.
Without these quieter silly moments, it is kind of unbelievable for all the girls to show strong signs of devotion and bonds of friendship to Usagi because the audience never witnessed any. It seems strange for the girls to cry over her, to be willing to risk it all to protect her, and to hear them express gratefulness for Usagi to befriend them. Ami and Makoto can get away with it as being schoolmates with Usagi and able to spend some unseen time with her during their breaks, but Rei and Minako go to different schools so they can only spend time with her outside of school hours. My frustration grows more with this lack of relationship between the girls as THIS is the theme that comes up again and again throughout the series: the importance of FRIENDSHIP and Usagi’s ability to bind them all together in these bonds. ESPECIALLY in the final arc this theme is extremely important. The romance is not what drives the story (though it is important), but the friendship the girls have with one another through Usagi. Without these kinds of moments and a solid foundation of the friendship theme, I fear this will impact future arcs and character development, leaving the audience with a hollow, disingenuous feeling as the friendship moments come to centre stage.
The Shitennou got the “biggest” overhaul in the series in comparison. They weren’t killed off so quickly, saw a bit more interaction with them, and they were finally officially linked to the inner scouts through their past lives as former lovers. There was some official artwork that came out when the manga was being published that suggested this past connection but never in the story was it officially brought up. Given that this was Naoko Takeuchi’s first major series at the time, it is likely she came up with the idea after wards but couldn’t find a way to add it into the story. Along came Crystal and she was able to make it official. … And I don’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, I never had a problem with how the relationship was hinted at previously. I liked it! But when it was finally revealed in the story, it felt rather predictable and campy. “Oh of course they would fall in love with the other scouts. Their masters have fallen in love with each other”. For me, it just felt flat. OH! And when they were finally killed, the girls wept and MOURNED their deaths. I’m sorry but they may have known them in the past, but there wasn’t much time between when everyone remembered who they were (in the past) and their sudden deaths. All the crying and weeping for them just felt dumb to me. Not to mention how easily they were killed off in the first place!! It would have been more effective and more tragic had the girls killed them off (as they did in the manga) and THEN remember them as their past lovers. Then their crying and whatnot would have made more sense to me. To only to have to have their past loves be brainwashed to join the enemy and for them to die before they could even remember but to have the knowledge that THEY killed them personally would have made it all the worse for them. And it would have made Queen Beryl and Metalia seem like even worse as villains for the girls.
As a side note: I found two REALLY detailed examinations of the Shitennou on Tumblr. So far she seems to have only written about Jadeite and Nephrite but seems to be on her way to writing about the other two as well
One of the improvements from the manga to Crystal was an improved linking of the past Moon Kingdom to the events of the story. Don’t get me wrong. There wasn’t a huge difference between the two but in Crystal, it seemed less just thrown together and more thought out. We got to see more moments of Princess Serenity with the Scouts (which not only showed their bonds of FRIENDSHIP but showed how little things have changed between then and now) and see more of the physical kingdom itself. This tightening has probably come from the years in between the original series and when Crystal was started to be plotted out.
I think I shall save the talk about the animation and transformation sequences for another post! Until then!!