Usagi Tsukino and the rest of the Sailor Senshi are back, but not so ready to kick ass.
After the defeat of Queen Beryl, the girls returned to Earth with no recollection that they’d just saved the planet. It’s up to Luna and Artemis to restore their memories, but now the world is safe don’t the Senshi deserve a peaceful, normal life?
Unfortunately for them, a new threat appears, and they’re called to action once more.
This season is split into two main story arcs: Makaiju and Black Moon. While the Black Moon arc is adapted from Naoko Takeuchi’s original manga, Makaiju is filler material created by the Toei studio to give Takeuchi more time to develop the plot. And in true anime filler style, you can tell.
After the climactic end to the original series, the Makaiju arc seemed to start very slowly, not gaining any sort of momentum until much later on. This may be because of the pure nostalgia I felt from watching the Sailor Senshi vanquish Queen Beryl, which reawakened fourteen year old feelings that I thought were long forgotten. Watching Usagi as Princess Serenity, wielding the Moon Stick with the rest of the Scouts, reminded me of how I felt the first time I had watched it as a young, impressionable seven year old. To see these girls fight back and be victorious was exciting and inspiring, and to feel that excitement again (if only for a moment) reminded me how special this series is to me, and to so many others. So to go from that iconic moment from my childhood to a filler, there was never going to be a proper comparison. The original series is still my favourite Sailor Moon, but it’s open for debate once I watch the others.
However, personal subjectivities aside, the point still stands. While one of the most noticeable features of Sailor Moon is its formulaic nature, with the pace of the Makaiju arc, it seems more obvious and pronounced than ever. Ail and An find a new source of energy to feed the Hell Tree (or Doom Tree in the English dub), they pick a Cardian to collect it, then the Senshi show up and defeat it. It’s very simplistic but unlike the first series, there’s very little variation. However, this is understandable given that it’s not based on the original manga and we’ve already had the majority of a season using the same formula.
The characterisation of Ail and An seemed rather flat at times, with their pursuit of Usagi and Mamoru respectively often overshadowing their real purpose. Compared to other antagonists they came across as much weaker, but even if their characters were harder for me to appreciate, I eventually started to feel something other than indifference. Because of this, the final episode of the Makaiju arc was by far my favourite as I felt more engaged with the story as a whole.
Then in comes Chibiusa, and Sailor Moon starts to use its great potential again.
A definite improvement from the previous arc, the Black Moon storyline introduces the titular Black Moon Clan, led by Prince Diamond. But behind the scenes, the mysterious Wiseman is pulling the strings. These antagonists definitely feel like a more solid threat, like they’re going to give the Sailor Senshi a real challenge. Initially, I wasn’t overly fond of the Ayakashi Sisters being characterised as simultaneously villainous and feminine, but when this is considered in the context where the ‘good guys’ are also feminine, to the point of hyper-femininity at times, it balances the two teams, like they’re two sides of the same coin. Then, the sisters are given the opportunity to redeem themselves and they still retain their characterisation as ‘girly’ characters interested in fashion, shopping and make-up. This isn’t demonised as it’s prevalent across a wide range of characters, including our protagonist. Seeing their motivations makes these characters more three-dimensional and engaging.
Considering that the 20th anniversary series Sailor Moon Crystal has been airing since the 5th of July last year, it is currently aligning with this approximate part of the Sailor Moon timeline. As someone who has been watching Crystal, I was aware that there were going to be discrepancies as Crystal was intended to follow the manga more closely but certain key pieces of information remained the same. However, I already knew what Chibiusa’s grand reveal was going to be from Google searches when I was sixteen, before I had such a strong anti-spoiler stance. So I wasn’t surprised when the Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen follow her into the future and find out the truth about her parents, but I wish I was. I doubt I wouldn’t have quickly figured it out with the less than subtle flashbacks (or they flashforwards?) but it did make the scenes between Chibiusa and Mamoru painfully awkward. While nothing has been as unnerving as that scene from Crystal, the relationship felt strange from the moment she fell from the sky.
Overall, the arc remained consistently interesting, from the Black Moon sisters targeting Star Points, to the Space-Time Corridor and the introduction of Sailor Pluto, to the face-off with Black Lady and the Death Phantom. I didn’t find myself thinking “when will this arc be over?” like I did with the Makaiju arc. Although, the final recap episode could have been skipped over, as the whole flashback concept was framed with the “who will lead the Senshi?” question that has already been raised before. It felt like covering old ground, as it has previously been determined to be Usagi’s destiny.
However, I did enjoy this series, despite its slow start and incestual undertones, and I’m hoping that Sailor Moon S is just as good, if not better.