Usagi befriends the extremely tall transfer student Makoto Kino, but danger lurks in the form of an evil bride.
After the the somewhat off topic episode we had last time round, Sailor Moon Crystal returns to the core thrust of its story here, namely recruiting more Sailor Guardians. I’m pretty happy with that, as I’ll admit Makoto/Jupiter is my favourite character out of all the myriad cast. The original version of the character was an intriguing blend of tomboy toughness and more traditionally feminine qualities, and thankfully most of that appears to have been carried over here. It’s always a mix I’ve really liked, because it breaks out of the traditional stereotyping that any female character with male qualities must be short haired, angry and mannish. Instead, Makoto’s a remarkably progressive take on the idea – it’s possible to be big, physically and tough and fighty, but also be into dresses, true love and all that jazz.It’s almost as if – gasp – you can’t pigeonhole people into easily defined boxes. More stuff like this please anime.
With all that being said, Makoto’s introduction is definitely more slow-and-steady than a barnburner. What’s encouraging though is that there are signs that the show is finally beginning to feel confident enough to juggle multiple plots at once, even if they’re only very minor. Makoto’s angst over a love rejection isn’t the most earth-shattering issue there is, but it’s a nice undercurrent to her character development throughout the episode, and the cliched payoff is perfect for this kind of very broad story. I also enjoyed that more time this episode was spent on quiet character moments like Usagi and Makoto sharing lunch or the three girls hanging out at the arcade. It gives the characters a chance to grow and appear more human than the previously one-dimensional roles they’ve inhabited. What’s not so impressive is the continued muddle over Tuxedo Mask. The story is trying to build him up as mysterious and ambiguous, but he’s neither, and so the effort is moot and really just rather annoying instead. What’s more, he’s used as the archetypal magical deus ex machina in this episode, showing up merely to literally lead Usagi to the plot. I do hope the show can find a better way to integrate him into future episodes.
As for the showdown itself, it’s decent enough and the flashy fire and lightning visual pyrotechnics do a bit to hide the fact that there’s not really much of an actual fight here. The ‘evil bride’ thing is ludicrously corny but also perfectly in line with the crazed shoujo fantasy element of Sailor Moon, so while it’s not my cup of tea it’s entirely acceptable. What’s important is that it’s focused and delivers the story competently, clearly and effectively. On other thing I which helps is that this episode was far, far better animated than the previous few and pretty much up to the standards of the first. Everyone stays on model for the most part and there’s even a few nicely composed shots. Baby steps sure, but Sailor Moon Crystal is doing well at getting itself back on track.
- Makoto’s new voice actress is Ami Koshimizu, who recently played Ryuko in Kill La Kill using almost exactly the same voice. It’s perfect for the slightly boyish Makoto, but the similarity is really distracting at some points.
- There’s been an extra week between this episode and the last because the show apparently comes out on the first and third Saturday of every month, even though there were actually five Saturdays in August. I hope the extra time wasn’t the sole reason for the solid animation.
- Makoto probably has the best of the non-Moon transformations so far, largely because her CG lightning doesn’t look quite as terrible as the CG water and fire Mercury and Mars get stuck with.
- Iro pointed out that it’s sort of silly that Sailor Moon gets her leadership appointment and wand after only four of the Guardians have appeared. To counter, I’d remind everyone that all five are actually about at this point, it’s just that Sailor Venus is not here at the moment.