‘Sailor Moon Crystal’ Season 3 Episode 1 Recap: The Reboot We Always Wanted

  • Adventure
  • Anime
  • Romance
Ready to Fight
Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3 is off to a strong start. Toei Animation

Um, wow. This is an improvement.

This is a foundation-laying, stage-setting kind of episode, so it’s light on drama and climactic events - but gosh, does it look great. In the opening moments, we’re introduced to Pharaoh 90 and given a glimpse at his nefarious plans, followed by a quick scene where Hotaru, Rei and Mamoru are simultaneously shaken by disturbing visions.

We get a few scenes in Casa Tsukino as the following day begins: Chibiusa eats an adorable breakfast and somehow manages to not be irritating, while Ikuko and Kenji (Usagi’s parents) seem to have had a makeover. Meanwhile, a news story plays describing the recent appearance of “reversion monsters,” A.K.A., the expendable meatbags our heroines will blast to sparkly bits every week until the Big Bads make their appearance. No one seems particularly concerned.

Usagi and Mamoru meet up to walk to school - Usagi, true to form, is late. Mamoru balks at a kiss after her expectant pucker triggers a flashback to his nightmare. His rebuff leaves her feeling anxious that their happiness won’t last, but she forces a smile and chalks it up to the superhero’s bargain. Aw, all grows up!

My Fate
With great power comes great responsibility. Photo: Toei Animation

Later, we get our first introduction to Michiru and Haruka. Michiru still looks amazing in her inexplicably elegant white bathing suit, while Haruka’s burning up the racetrack and sending the crowd into a tizzy. We discover the duo owns a pair of helicopters, which they use to commute to school. (They go to the same school, do they really need two helicopters? How much do teen violinists and race-car drivers get paid, anyway?)

After school, we are briefly reintroduced to the Inner Senshi at Crown Game Center; it’s all very cute and endearing, and the animation looks great. Everyone’s eyes look more lively and bright, their faces more expressive, their limbs more solid and anatomically plausible.

Hino Rei
Shrine maiden Rei looking lovely. Photo: Toei Animation

Throughout, the girls display a lot more personality than they have in previous seasons of Crystal. It’s clear that not only are these girls close to Usagi, but they have bonds with each other, too. Haruka shows up in Crown and wipes the floor with Usagi at a racing game, leading to some fun moments where Minako and Makoto fawn over Haruka, bringing a refreshing lightheartedness to the episode. (Potential implicit spoilers: Haruka is referred to by male pronouns throughout the episode, which is in keeping with the early episodes of the 'Infinity' arc in the manga. Some of this may be attributable to the differing use of indefinite third-person pronouns in Japanese.)

Juban Mall
Oh the cuteness! Photo: Toei Animation

As the girls leave the arcade, a daimon / “reversion monster” possesses a girl and attacks in broad daylight. Mamoru blows their cover in front of Umino and Naru like it ain’t no thang; all the girls transform in full view of the public. (It’s not like their secret identities were hidden especially well, anyway.)

Transformation sequences for Sailor Moon and the Inners have undergone a significant, worthwhile update; a greater emphasis on hand-drawn animation gives a nostalgic nod to the ‘90s originals while improving upon them. Only Venus's transformation sequence, which is oddly heavy with close-up face shots, stands out as a bit of a clunker. Still, moonies will find lots of screensaver and phone wallpaper fodder here. 

Punish With Love
Death by snu-snu? Photo: Toei Animation

Venus and Jupiter also get new, cool attacks during this battle: Venus Wink Chain Sword and Jupiter Coconut Cyclone. (The latter, sadly, does not feature actual coconuts.) What is more, the two actually defeat the enemy WITHOUT SAILOR MOON’S HELP!

It’s still early days, but thus far Season 3 stands out as a massive step up in terms of animation quality and character development. It addresses many of the fan criticisms of Crystal’s earlier seasons, and while it’s not perfect, it’s far closer to what fans had hoped for when the reboot was first announced in 2013.

New episodes of Sailor Moon Crystal premiere every Monday on Hulu, Crunchyroll and Viz.com.

What did you think of the latest episode? Are you excited about where this season of Sailor Moon Crystal is headed? Let us know in the comments!

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