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Based off of creator Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon manga series, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal welcomes back old heroes and foes in this fresh reboot of the ‘90s anime. Starting from the beginning of 14-year-old Usagi Tsukino’s journey as Sailor Moon, she and her fellow Sailor Guardians are back for another round of heroics and romance.
After 22 years since the debut of the sailor-suited heroines, Crystal finally kicked out its first episode on July 5, which streamed worldwide and was subtitled in 12 different languages, including English.
The overall imagery of Crystal is heavily influenced by the manga, especially in comparison to the original anime.
Featuring updated designs of the Sailor Guardians, as well as reinvented transformation sequences and attacks, there’s a lot of modifications that TOEI Animation took upon themselves to tweak and improve on.
Whether someone is coming into the series as an old timer or is just joining the party, this first episode finds a sweet medium in reeling in an audience from any which direction. In terms of making a memorable introduction, the entire episode is one giant teaser. It certainly doesn’t shy away from incorporating every storyteller’s favorite tool – foreshadowing.
Opening to a sleeping Usagi, who wakes up late for school – surprise, surprise – she has a fateful run-in with a bandaged black cat. After removing the band aid from the cat’s head to reveal a crescent-shaped bald spot, she rushes to school only to be thrown out of the classroom by her English professor, Ms. Haruna.
Rich with comedic accidents and clumsy moments, this is yet another average day for the still-maturing, crybaby Usagi.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a normal school day without the presence of her best friend, Naru Osaka, and nerdy classmate, Umino Gurio. After a small chat about diamonds and recent robberies, Naru invites Usagi and everyone to visit her mom’s jewelry store and snatch a deal during a big sale being thrown.
Unbeknownst to anyone, it is clear that evil forces are at work when they arrive and that Naru's mom is not at all what she appears.
Bent out of shape and stuck with yet another bad grade on one of her tests, Usagi leaves the shop in self-pity over not being able to buy anything. Unfortunately for her, it makes it the perfect wrong-place-and-time moment to introduce her counterpart.
If there were ever a moment to keep watching, this would definitely be a front-runner.
Sharing a few sharp words with a slim-fit man wearing a tuxedo – who may or may not be her past love from another life – Usagi and Mamoru Chiba meet eyes and spark a subtle interest. If fans didn’t already grow up crushing on the original Mamoru from the ‘90s, this newest adaptation will have fans falling head over heels in love.
Fast forward through a visit to the arcade and getting grilled by her mother for poor grades, and Usagi soon finds herself talking with the same cat she helped earlier.
To clear up any confusion that last statement might have caused; the cat does indeed talk. Welcome to the world of anime and all its logic.
She is capable of more than just talking, too. Introducing herself as Luna, the level-headed cat bestows a locket that will forever change Usagi’s life. All but prolonging the moment that every shoujo fan anticipates, Usagi transforms into the magical girl fans know and love.
And what a transformation sequence it is.
Mimicking the same idea of the original, the 2014 transformation is taken up a notch with 3D animation and a few more ribbons to throw around. Although the sudden switch to 3D does seem a bit out of place, the purpose may have been to make the scene stand out more. It really comes down to a matter of taste.
Sporting her new look, Usagi takes her beginning steps into the world as a full-fledged guardian and quickly senses that Naru is in danger. For the sake of her best friend, Usagi hesitantly takes her place as Sailor Moon and makes her way to the jewelry store.
Upon arriving, she comes face to face with the now-undisguised monster that took over the shop hoping to find the mysterious Legendary Silver Crystal. Although not much is unveiled about it in this episode, it's safe to say that anything with the word legendary in its name is bound to be important.
Embodying a darker vibe as opposed to the more playful 1992 version, a sea of brainwashed victims attack Sailor Moon. Throughout the chaos, masked-man Tuxedo Kamen – who looks an awful lot like a certain someone named Mamoru – finally reveals himself from the shadows and urges Sailor Moon to fight back.
That’s right; it is Sailor Moon’s first time on the offensive as a kick-butt Sailor Senshi. With the removal of her tiara, and the help of her new magical properties, she takes a good arm swing and yells out her first-ever battle cry: “Moon Tiara Boomerang!”
Some fans may recall the different versions of this sequence in the manga, anime and live-action adaptations. Crystal opts for following the reprinted manga version, which was adjusted accordingly with the live-action television series.
There’s a bit of Sailor Moon trivia for you!
After defeating the baddies and having an informal meeting with Tuxedo Kamen (note the gooey-eyed expression), the next school day arrives bright and early. While Naru gushes to her classmates about being saved from a robber by a Sailor Senshi, Usagi comes to the realization that she is in fact a true Sailor Guardian.
Almost at its close, that’s not all the episode leaves the audience with. A quick change of focus finds Luna eyeing one of the students, but is she a friend or enemy? All signs point to the arrival of another guardian – one that is particularly resourceful with water.
Supposedly intended to follow more closely to the manga, the first episode of Crystal walks almost hand in hand with the 1992 anime. However, to ease the concern of some viewers, both opening episodes occur on point with the manga. Major differences between the two anime will likely appear in upcoming episodes sooner rather than later.
Holding a lot more meaning than what it may seem, Crystal is the beginning and continuation of something much bigger. Sailor Moon has grasped the interest of people around the world for over 20 years, and Crystal is yet another piece being added to the longevity of its legacy.
Official episodes of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal can be watched for free on Hulu, Crunchyroll, Niconico and NeonAlley. Episodes air every two weeks on the first and third Saturday of every month.