Jadeite of the Four Generals attempts to destroy the Sailor Guardians, presumably by dismantling their animation budget.
It’s extra tricky reviewing a remake because to a large extent the most important part of the show – the story and characters – are already known quantities. Of course, there can be variations in tone, method and message, but for the most part you’re being judged on the quality of your execution rather than the quality of the underlying story. For a remake to justify its existence then, it must substantially improve the way the existing story is presented of communicated. The reason I start by saying this is because this episode of Sailor Moon Crystal is a catastrophic failure in execution, but not one serious enough to damage the underlying strength of the story. At the end of the day, we get a humdrum but acceptable tale about the introduction of Sailor Mars to Usagi’s posse. It works on a functional level. It’s just not very good.
Part of this is the show’s greatly increased pace suddenly catching up with it. Say what you like about the abundance of filler in the original show, but it at least gave us a chance to get to know a little about our characters and watch their relationships develop over time. Here everything is simply going too fast. We barely know Usagi, and we certainly know nothing about Ami, and yet they’re already being backgrounded in favour of the new kid on the block. This isn’t exactly a great introduction to Rei either, with little given to make her stand out as her own woman. As it did with Ami, the show toys with an interesting idea, in this case how Rei’s ‘otherwordliness’ isolates her and causes her to be viewed with some suspicion by others. And as it did with Ami, this idea is unceremoniously bundled to one side because there’s just not enough time to get anything out of it. Instead we get that most tired of cliches, the crowd who turn on people at the drop of a hat. Even less so than Ami, there’s really no journey for Rei through this episode. Sure, she gains magical sailor friends, but there’s not really any sort of epiphany or lesson learned here. At least Ami could claim she learned to be more sociable and come out of her shell a bit more. Rei just sort of casually joins in with the adventure.
As slapdash as the writing is though, it’s nowhere near the levels of slapdash that the visuals are. This might be one of the most stunning examples of animator incompetence since the Eureka Seven AO OVA. There’s a plethora of off model characters throughout the whole episode, ranging from subtly wrong to laughably inaccurate. Rei in particular seems extremely prone to appearing utterly gormless, perhaps a function of her distinctively aggressive look. It’s not like there are visual flourishes to make up for it either – direction is passable at best, uninspired at worst and often conspires to undermine the drama and excitement of any scene. Check out the appalling lack of motion in the gang’s ‘battle’ against Jadeite’s freeze ray for an obvious example.
What’s especially worrying is that these aren’t just one-and-done moments, but a persistent issue that crops up again and again throughout the episode. The above shot for example is on screen for more than a second, and most worryingly, it’s stock footage. If your pre-animated inserts look this bad, what can we expect from the unique shots? The entire thing feels desperately rushed, and I’m certain many of the shots would not have passed a QC test had the show had an extra week of production. But Sailor Moon Crystal is already on a fortnightly schedule to smooth any issues, so it already has far more time than other, far better looking shows. It’s astonishing to me that Toei have not thrown more money and better talent at one of the anchors of their empire, although we probably could have guessed there were issues from the ridiculously long gestation period. Still, this story and these characters deserve better.
- There’s a LOT of bad CGI in this episode, most notably for the moving vehicles, but the horrible flames in Rei’s transformation sequence might be the worst offenders.
- I didn’t notice before, but in the opening you can clearly see Artemis sitting on Minako’s shoulder.
- I appreciate the corniness of the evil bus being numbered 666.
- Rei’s crows are called Phobos and Deimos, which are of course the real-life moons of Mars.
- Another side effect of the increased pace of this anime is that it makes Usagi seem (even) more useless, since we’ve not seen her defeat any enemies by herself since the first episode.