Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Fighting Evil By Moonlight – Let’s Watch Sailor Moon Crystal, Ep 2

October 11, 2014

Act 2 – Sailor Mercury

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Open to a shot of mild mannered middle school student Ami Mizuno, having a Good Will Hunting moment. Everyone else is in awe at her intelligence. Apparently she has an IQ of 300. Unfortunately, being smart means she has no friends. Also, only 300? That’s wayyyy less than Alakazam’s IQ of 5000. Get it together, Ami.


Yeah, Ami. Get it together.

Cut to Queen Beryl’s lair, where someone’s getting chewed out. It’s Jadeite – one of the Four Dark Kings, or something to that effect. He leaves and calls up a Youma – ok, so like a demon – to gather more soul power.

Cut to Usagi’s house, Luna warns Usagi that there’s going to be more Youma attacks. Usagi is demoralized, because the fight from the previous episode was scary, before realizing something the show forgot and asking exactly is a Youma. Luna confirms that they are, indeed, like demons – things that are not supposed to exist. Alright, so we’re doing the gradual revealing of the worldbuilding thing. I can get behind this.

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Beware the mutant, the alien, the Youma.

Anyways, Luna says to look for allies, and not surprisingly Usagi thinks of boys. Unperturbed, Luna reveals that she’s been browsing Facebook – I mean, uh, scouting out potential allies. She’s got a lead and…the cat knows how to use a computer wut.

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i can haz sailor guardian?

Cut to the class rankings, where we see that Ami’s apparently the highest ranked student in all of Japan. Also, the joys of kanji – her last name is “Water Wild”. Nerdface from the previous episode pops in to tell us that Ami goes to Crystal Academy, which is the top cram school in the nation.

So, cultural tidbit – in Asia, your grades are everything – you take an exam that determines what middle school you can go to, and another to determine what high school, and the most important one after that, to determine what college you go to. You wanna talk about high-stakes testing in the US, it’s got nothing on the bookworm brawl that is Asia’s college entrance exams. Thus, lots of people pay to go to cram school, where they do nothing but review for the exam. Like TestMasters…when TestMasters grows up and eats its wheaties.

And now I must thank my dear mum and dad, for moving to the US and thus sparing me from the horrors of the East Asian education system.


I’ve seen some shit, man. You don’t even know.

Anyway, Ami watches people talk about her from afar…you know, Ami, it wouldn’t kill you to socialize every once in a while. Cut to Usagi, walking home from school with her latest report card…jeez Usagi, how do you get a 52 in Japanese? That’s your native language! Suddenly, though, she happens upon Ami, playing with the kitty, which gives her an in to start making friends.

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Cats, the best wing-people

Anyway, Ami hands Luna back and receives a vision in the meantime. Usagi, meanwhile, asks Ami out on an arcade date.

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Not sempai…but close enough

They play the Sailor V game. Usagi dies early…but Ami is beating the shit out of that game. Heh, awesome by analysis! For her victory, she wins a sparkly pen…but Usagi wants one too so she shakes the machine until it drops one as well. The rest of the day goes pretty good. We learn that Ami wants to be a doctor, so presumably her high-expectations Asian father is satisfied.

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Cut to Ami at the prep school. The teacher hands her a CD and tells her that she needs to work through it if she wants to study hard and become a doctor. Teacher’s a youma, isn’t she? Yep, totally a Youma.

The next day, school’s let out, and Usagi wants to get some ice cream with friends, but one of her friends ignores her, just walking past while muttering numbers. We learn that she goes to Crystal Academy also. Usagi approaches Ami as well, but Ami says she can’t because she has to study.

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Do you wanna get some ice cream? It doesn’t have to be an ice cream…

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Go away Usagi

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Okay bye…

Ami leaves the CD behind, though, so Usagi pockets it thinking it might make her smarter. As she walks home, she notices the Crystal Academy teacher handing out flyers. It fails to hold her attention, though, and soon she tosses over her shoulder…which hits Bishounen McDreamy in the face, in one of her not-proudest moments. He snarks at her (isn’t it usually the girl who’s supposed to be tsundere?) and then asks the million-dollar-question: did your cat just talk?

Luna freaks out, which now intrigues me – so it seems like she doesn’t know anything about Tuxedo Mask or his civilian identity. I was previously under the impression that she at least knew a little bit. Anyway, they go home, Usagi tries to investigate the CD but finds it’s just a normal prep disc. Frustrated, she hits some random keys…and suddenly subliminal messaging plays.

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Achievement Unlocked: Yvan Eht Nioj

Usagi operators up to the cram school…it’s okay girl, it’s Japan, the guards don’t have guns there. Luna tells her she needs to find a way to get in somehow, so Usagi pulls out the pen and transforms…into a doctor. Wait, is that part of her powerset also? Is that a power the pen has? Or are they part of her Sailor Moon powers? Whatever, I’m just going to roll with it.

Cut to inside the school, where teacher is in full on Tiger mode. Solve the problems, Ami. WHY AREN’T YOU SOLVING THEM FASTER, AMI. Ami, for her part, does what she can, but then her eyes fall on the pen from the arcade, which remind her of friendship. Teacher notices and throws the pen away, but suddenly Sailor Moon and Luna dynamic entry into the room!

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Pictured: Luna dive-tackling a mofo. Not pictured: Luna body-checking her so hard that she gets knocked over. The cat so far has demonstrated far superior combat skills to everyone else in this show.

Usagi continues with the doctor act, saying she’s been investigating what’s going on, and reveals that she knows what’s up and won’t allow the youma-teacher to twist a student’s pure ambition any more, to which teacher responds by transforming into her demonic form. Although I have to say here, this is the first time I’ve ever heard “ambition” described as a “pure” and good emotion in a fictional work. Usually it’s reserved for the bad guys, because it’s their ambition that made them walk the path of evil in the first place, like Commodus from Gladiator or the entirety of Slytherin House bar Slughorn. Being that “ambition is evil” is a trope I actually really dislike, so by averting that…good for you, show!

Anyways, Usagi fails a morale check, but her buns make some kind of sonic waves attack as well. Unfortunately it’s not very effective, and youma-teacher fights back by shooting paper at her. So, Usagi…if you can be defeated by wads of paper…maybe it’s time for some karate classes? Youma-teacher moves in for the kill, but the power of friendship manifests and brings out Ami’s inner guardian potential. A few words from Luna, and Sailor Mercury makes her debut.

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Mmmmmwater! (Alternate caption: “if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it”)

Alright, so Luna’s dialogue confirms that she’s really searching for people who might have the sailor power in them. So..is it like everyone has the potential to be a Sailor Guardian, and they just need supervision and an impetus for the powers to manifest? Or is it like there’s only a couple of slots, and whoever manifests it first, that takes out everyone else’s chances? And most importantly – what exactly happens if we suddenly decide that Mercury is no longer a planet?

Anyway, Mercury wastes no time throwing herself into battle, calling up a mist that shrouds everything. This isn’t a bad idea, and actually fits very well – she’s the brains of the group, so it makes thematic sense that her special attack is a support move that makes the enemy less effective. Youma-teacher can’t see anything…but Usagi’s panicked screaming gives her away. But, Tux saves her in time, and she Moon Tiara Boomerangs the youma-teacher into oblivion.

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Looks like school’s out for the summer.

Cut to Jadeite looking displeased before walking away, and then to Ami and Usagi, friends for life.

Thoughts:

Good introduction to the second of the Sailor Guardians. I like the gradual revealing of worldbuilding aspects. We now know that Sailor Guardians are identified by having the vision of a White-House-looking building, and also that Tuxedo Mask apparently doesn’t really know anything about them either. Seems like he’s searching just like Luna and Beryl are.

Until next ep.

Fighting evil by moonlight – Let’s Watch Sailor Moon Crystal, Ep1!

July 11, 2014

So, I realized that I actually quite like reviewing stuff (see the Fate/Zero posts), and being that Sailor Moon, the show that I’d always try to watch as a little kid but could never get home in time for just got a reboot, this is as good a show as any to start doing it again. I’ll be approaching this from the perspective of someone who knows the general idea of the original material, but am very fuzzy on the details beyond “five young teenage girls WITH ATTITUDE (and the main girl’s boyfriend, and her little sister or something?) fight the forces of evil!” So, let’s see how this holds up.

Let’s get this show on the road

We open with a shot of the solar system.

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Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

Cut to a sparkly queen woman floating into the arms of a sparkly bishounen man, about to liplock…but it was all just a dream, as Usagi Tsukino, 14-year-old schoolgirl, wakes up and is late for school.

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7:00AM, waking up in the morning/Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs/Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal

In her hurry, she steps on a cat (a very resilient cat, if it can take the full weight of a person), removes the strange bandaid on its head to uncover a moon-shaped bald patch (nope, nothing strange about that at all), and then runs away when it tries to scratch the hell out of her face. Usagi finally makes it to school, but is like super late and has to stand outside.

Meanwhile, a wild ANTAGONIST appears! He calls up some kind of shadow demon woman and tells her to find a “Legendary Silver Crystal”.

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Summon Minion

Cut back to school. Usagi is daydreaming about the princess from her dream. Test results are out and…holy crap, Usagi, how the hell did you get a 30!? BETCH ARE YOU EVEN ASIAN. Although, to be fair, it’s an English exam, and who cares about that, right? English is like hella useless anyway, it’s just lit crit that is rendered utterly redundant by tvtropes – oh, wait, they’re in Japan, this is the *language* class which is actually useful. Ah well, it’s okay Usagi, who needs English when you can just speak American instead?

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Asian Grading Scale: A=Acceptable, B=Bad, C=Crap, D=Death, F=Fake your death and start a new life elsewhere

During the same time, we’re introduced to her muggle friends, a girl named Naru and this super nerdguy named Umino. Being that I know enough of the show to know that they’re not going to be Sailor Scouts later, we can safely write them off as unimportant, I think.

School lets out, and Usagi is talking to her friends. There’s been a rash of break-ins, apparently, but some vigilante named Sailor V caught them…wait, there’s already a Sailor V? This is somewhat new to me. I thought Moon was the first one, and then she finds all the other ones? Anyways, one of her friends then notes that she can totally relate to robbers – who wouldn’t want to steal jewelry? It’s so pretty!

…wimmenz, amirite? </trollface>

We learn that Naru’s mom owns a jewelry store, and they’re having a discount sale, so the girls go. Naru notes that this is actually the first time they’ve done this kind of thing, and now that she mentions it, her mom does bear a slight resemblance to the shadow woman that appeared earlier…and now she’s internally monologuing about feeding off the shoppers’ exuberant energy.

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Hey, vuja de

Usagi left, because her test scores are unlikely …she has now bumped into Bishounen McDreamy (yes, I know it’s Tuxedo Mask/Darien/whatever his Japanese name is, but that’s just what I’m going to call him, as he appears with bishie sparkles and everything)

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So…how long until they’re going on spaghetti dates while adorable stray animals serenade them in Italian?

Anyway, turns out this guy’s looking for the silver crystal too. Cut to Usagi walking around wishing she was Sailor V, then she wouldn’t have to put up with any of this. She ends up at the arcade, wherein she hits on this random other hawt guy who works as a part timer. Motoki is his name, but being that he too is a muggle, I think we can write him off as unimportant.

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Welcome to the Friendzone. Please take off your shoes.

Usagi goes home, sees the cat again, and notices the moon mark on its head. More importantly, her mom notices her test score. Oh jeez, run for your life, Usagi! Tiger Mom up in this bitch!

Usagi gets kicked out of the house, while her younger brother gets back home – wait, she has a younger brother? I thought pink-hair chibi girl (forgot her name) was her only sibling? Anyway, cut to Tuxedo Mask, sneaking around, operating operationally. And then to Naru’s mom, who is absorbing life energy from everyone who bought jewelry using the jewels themselves as a conduit. Naru walks in on her…which she shouldn’t have done, because now Monster-Mom is going to silence her forever.

Cut to eye-catch…ok the pitch black on the skin is somewhat creepy. Seriously you start looking from the bottom up and it’s like…okay, she’s just got leggings on, whatevs, leggings are hot, and then you look up and HER FACE IS BLANK.

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KOH THE FACE-STEALER WAS HERE

Cut to Usagi who has a dream of the princess again, only to be woken up by a scratch. It’s the cat, and HOLY FUCK the cat can talk. Its name is Luna, and it tells Usagi that there’s trouble in the city, but she can help! …but Usagi ignores her, thinking it’s just a dream. Fortunately, Luna knows how to get a girl’s attention…with shinies! Unfortunately, she didn’t count on Usagi being so focused on the shiny that she still is ignoring Luna. But soon enough, Usagi starts paying attention, and Luna teaches her to say the words. Cut transformation sequence!

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In brightest day…in darkest night…no evil shall escape my sight…let those who worship evil’s might…beware my power, Green Lantern’s Light!

So she’s transformed…and apparently her hair buns are also evil-detecting radar!? This is new to me. Cut to Tuxedo Mask, about to dynamic entry into the jewelry store…but Usagi beats him to it. Naru’s Mom (who reveals that she’s not the real mom, just a replacement who’s tied up the real one in a basement somewhere) is all like, “who the heck are you?” Cue the time honored tradition of new superheroes realizing that they forgot to pick out a name…so Usagi decides on Sailor Moon. Demon Mom is unimpressed though, and calls up a bunch of mind controlled minions, for which Usagi is entirely unprepared, running around like a chicken with its head cut off while Luna facepalms.

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BETCH DO YOU EVEN OPERATE

Anyway, Usagi falls down and begins crying…but fortunately for her, she has Black Canary’s sonic scream which knocks out all the minions, leaving just Mother Monster (no, not that one). Luna teaches her another attack…and oh hey her tiara turns into a chakram that obliterates Monsters Of The Episode in one hit.

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Normally I’d start referring to you as Xena, Warrior Princess at that point…but Rachel from Animorphs already laid claim to that title.

With the Monster defeated, Tuxedo Mask now formally introduces himself, before leaping into the night.

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I must now flee…sexily.

Meanwhile, Sailor Moon is now being watched through an EVIL crystal ball. The next day, Naru only remembers passing out but seeing a Sailor Guardian come to save her. We end on Luna noticing a blue-haired girl walking around campus, one of a…mercurial disposition, as it were.

Thoughts

OK, so, not bad for an introductory episode. It follows a pretty standard origin story format. We meet our main character, our main love interest, a couple of unimportant muggles, and the bad guys are somewhat vague right now, but I’m sure they’ll start making more frequent appearances once Usagi gets her team together (dibs on Jupiter, btw).

On a technical front, animation is nice and crisp, and the CGI looks pretty good. Hidden villains are always good from where I stand, as long as the mains are making a decent effort to locate them.

Until next ep.