Yesterday, I basically dropped watching Sailor Moon Crystal. I just completed watching episode five and realized that I simply wasn’t enjoying it. Now, I really enjoy the Sailor Moon manga and the 90’s anime, and by all means, considering that Crystal is meant to be a closer adaptation to the manga, I should enjoy Crystal just fine. However, as I watched, I quickly noticed that I just wasn’t getting into it at any point.
Before I continue, I don’t think it necessary to bring up the ridiculous art and animation troubles that this series has. While it is incredibly distracting and pause-the-video laughable at several points, that….is only partially connected to my main issues behind the show. If you’d like to laugh for a while, however, check out the screen caps and gifsets here http://crystalquality.tumblr.com/
No, the real reason I dropped Crystal was because I felt there was no point in continuing. They’re right, Crystal does follow the manga more closely than the 90’s anime ever did. At least in regards to the scenes and structure set in the manga. For instance, each episode of Crystal covers one chapter of the manga. They even have the exact same titles. However, the 90’s series still did something way better than Crystal; it kept the soul of the series.
Something jarringly odd about Crystal is in its lack of emotion. Usagi, once a very comedic slapstick character, has all but lost her goofy facial expressions and cartoony moments. The slapstick and jokes do remain, but they’re done in such a manner that it’s just not funny. In some of the scenes where Usagi’s being punished for being an airhead or a glutton, you actually feel bad for her instead of laugh because her goofy reactions are almost entirely erased and instead is replaced by only slightly over-the-top crying.
For an example, in the first episode, there’s a scene where Usagi gets booted to the hallway. In the manga, there is no dream sequence about the moon princess to remember and fantasize about, and Usagi is much more comedic and animated about everything. She’s more expressive and pouty about being sent to the hall, she chuckles as she’s about to eat her lunch and she has a much more expressive look of dread when she’s caught. In Crystal, every reaction barring being caught is completely deadpan. Despite the lines being basically the same, she says them with the same flat expression and no change of tone in her voice. When she’s caught, instead of the comedic look of dread complete with facial shadow and sweatdrop, she starts tearing up. And not in an overly dramatic bawling way that Usagi tends to do. She’s starting to cry like she’s being bullied.
Rei seems to be another example of this. In the chapters covered in the episodes I watched, Rei shows herself to be quite abrasive and strict, but this seems toned down entirely in Crystal. The instant I noticed something was off was in chapter four and episode four. Rei, in SMC, is acting quite timid and bashful in the first scene in the arcade. It’s really off when Luna shares the information that Usagi is late since she got detention for falling asleep in class and Rei’s reaction is to sigh, smile and say that that is so like Usagi….
Now compare that to Rei’s reaction in the manga. Rei clearly says, with an angry expression, that Usagi is late. They changed ‘You’re late. >:|’ to ‘Oh that is SO like Usagi. Lol *eye roll*’
But if that’s not enough, in that same scene in SMC, Rei says she’s already tired of fighting evil, and that’s that. In the manga, she scoffs and says in a seemingly snotty tone that she doesn’t understand why she has to be a sailor scout and not only that but if Luna doesn’t tell them all where she came from and what she truly is that she’s going to leave.
One more subtle yet significant change comes at the end of the scene where Usagi gushes over wanting to go to the big fancy Princess D party. Rei responds calmly that it might not be a good idea since she has a bad feeling about it. In the manga, she basically says the same thing but it’s clear that she’s saying it with an attitude, especially when she prefaces her dialogue with ‘pfft, you better give up on that now.’
Please keep in mind that I’m not making these comparisons to the manga for purist purposes; I’m doing it because SMC is specifically designed to be a better adaptation of the manga and because I’m trying to convey why the show doesn’t have the same heart that the manga and 90’s anime have.
I’m also not saying that changing characters’ personalities in adaptations is entirely a bad thing either. But the problem here is that the new personalities just seem drab to me. Usagi seems to have lost a good deal of what made her endearing and funny, and Rei, no pun intended, seems to have lost her fire.
Ami is kept pretty loyal, for the most part, but it’s a bit difficult to really alter her character too bad without just completely overhauling it. Worst I’ve heard in regards to changes for her is that she becomes kinda useless as time goes on, which is a damn shame if that’s true because Ami’s the most useful, to be honest.
When we get to Makoto, she’s also seemingly altered. She’s, for lack of a better term, weaker than her manga counterpart. In the manga, as she’s being held captive by Nephrite and his bride mannequin, she quickly picks herself up by the bootstraps and takes them on, even without transforming, once she realizes that she was tricked and manipulated. She instantly throws the mannequin and transforms in her desire to prove to them the powers of an innocent girl. She takes on Nephrite, entirely on her own, and manages to kill him.
In SMC, she is devastated by hearing Nephrite talk about how people only care about looks and how humans are easily manipulated through them. She explains that Motoki looked a lot like her old crush who gently let her down after revealing he had a girlfriend (in the manga, we don’t get the story, we just get told that someone she was in love with broke her heart). So, since he manipulated her, she should give up on love and everything and falls to the floor in a heap. Usagi then gives her a speech about not giving up on love and how there’s definitely someone out there for Makoto and her. Yeah, we went from ‘girl power’ to ‘don’t give up on life because of a guy; you’ll get a guy someday.’ Also, sweetie, Motoki was clearly controlled by an evil force. He didn’t mean to manipulate you.
So, hearing Usagi’s speech, she only then decides to get up and fight. To be fair, though, she does get the rest of the fight to herself. ….But Nephrite survives. I’ll leave the connotations of that alone since it’s the start of a pretty iffy plot thread. You can find a more thorough analysis on that in the Tumblr link.
You’d think that, given the seemingly more serious tone of this anime that they’d at least have a more powerful romance….Well, it’s really hard to get into the sparking romance between Usagi and Mamoru when most of their scenes are just blank stares. Not to mention that in the only two face-to-face interactions that they’ve had as Usagi and Mamoru, without transformations or disguises, they took away a good chunk of the arguing and over the top anger and replaced it with, you guessed it, blank stares. In a nutshell, they made it boring to me.
That really is the bigger problem I have with the art. Sure, there are just terrible art and animation problems, but those could be forgivable if the art they were going for had any real emotion behind it. They’re not even trying to make these characters come to life in any way and it’s still coming out looking like a fourth grader animated it half the time. I know they fixed a lot of this for the BluRay, or at least attempted, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was released this way to begin with and is still as such on sites such as Hulu.
Even the fights, while having some kickass moments, such as Rei’s attack in episode five, lose a lot of their oomph because the art of the facial expressions just don’t convey any real emotions. The voice acting, Japanese, is alright, but it’s also not as good as it really should be in the emoting department.
In essence, the reasons why I ‘quit’ watching SMC was because I feel like it’s not really giving me any reason to watch it. If I want a story more loyal to the manga, I’ll read the manga. The changes that are present in SMC just aren’t appealing to me at all. There aren’t any real drastic story changes so far and what scene changes there are seem to be changed for the worse. I’m definitely not against anime or any adaptations changing things from the source material as long as what they put in its place is just as good, better or builds upon something interesting. SMC just isn’t doing that. They’re taking stuff away and not adding to it.
If I want to watch an animated version of the manga, then the 90’s series works just fine for me. No, it doesn’t follow the manga to a T, but, again, it doesn’t have to as long as what its adding or building upon seems to be either as good or for the better. Not saying the 90’s series is perfect, oh god no, but it does manage to keep the heart and soul of the manga much better than SMC does.
And, to be honest, an adaptation doesn’t even really have to do that. You can build an entirely new soul of a piece of source material and make it into something entirely different and that can still be okay. As long as it’s entertaining and truly feels like something that is trying to connect with you in some way, then you don’t have to even try to emulate the heart or soul of the source material.
The problem is that that’s not what SMC is trying to do. Their main hook was being a more loyal adaptation to the manga, not trying for a new vision of it. Because of this, their aim really was, more or less, to bring the heart behind the manga to an anime, and they just really failed in nearly all levels to me.
Now, the reason ‘quit’ is written like that is because, despite the fact that I’ve dropped it, I’m not against watching another episode or two in the future if I’m in the mood. I’m just not going to actively continue watching it on a semi-regular basis. I’ve heard SMC II and III are better in regards to art and animation quality and kinda better story-wise, but apparently it’s just mediocre at best, and I still doubt I’ll ever bother going that far.
Also, as a note, to anyone with similar opinions to mine, don’t be put off by hard core fans who may judge you for disliking Crystal. Just like no one should judge anyone else for liking it. Everyone’s free to like or dislike anything, even in a big powerful franchise, especially if you’ve given it a fair shot. Remember, if liking everything in a franchise was required to be a real fan of it, I’d have to like The Last Airbender. And that’s just cruel.
Okay, I can’t resist posting a couple.
There is an alarming amount of ones containing Sailor Mars.
Just, why Toei?
Last one, honest. It’s a video, so I can’t upload it here, but enjoy anyway.
Images courtesy of Crystal Quality and Sailor Moon Crystal Failures.