Endless Love- Sailor Moon Crystal 26 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 26 – Replay– Never Ending – Review

If I never see more Sailor Moon Crystal, it will be alright. If you didn’t know it, or if you’ve forgotten I’m new to Sailor Moon. From episode one of Sailor Moon Crystal I have really enjoyed it, by the end of the Dark Kingdom arc, I was calling myself a fan and praising Takeuchi’s craft work. When I say I don’t need more Crystal, I’m talking from a place of fear. I don’t want more because I don’t want it to be ruined. The work already exists, I could read the manga, watch the 90’s anime or ask several long-time fans, but I don’t really want to because Crystal is my Sailor Moon and I am attached to it in very specific ways. I have that tinge of fear as I think about the show’s future because it is so special to me. In truth, I know that Takeuchi is competent and its obvious she cares about Sailor Moon, so I have faith she’d do the rest of the story well, but to some extent I see my trepidation as a compliment. I don’t want to see this precious jewel tarnished and I think that speaks volumes of how great the show really is to me.

Now to do some actual reviewing of Act 26; it was perfect. Spellcheck. Screen grab. Publish. Have a drink.

But really.

26-A

First, a complaint: we need way more specific character interaction between all the Sailor Guardians. I am not sure how that would be accomplished while keeping up the fabulous pacing and escalation of the conflicts, but that is one thing that would make the show practically perfect.

The fairytale ending to the battle with Death Phantom is beautiful and packs a hefty emotional punch while allowing us to see just how powerful Sailor Moon is. The stakes are impossibly high, but Neo Queen Serenity believes so confidently in the power of her 900+ year old child and her younger self that she tells a group of warrior goddesses to just sit a spell while they go save the Universe. From the time she awakens King Endymion with a kiss, Neo Queen Serenity serves to show the audience just how great and powerful Sailor Moon is and it just works. The simplicity and elegance in the take down of this seemingly all powerful foe solidifies just how mighty Sailor Moon is and earns her the deference and awe King Endymion transferred to Chibi-Usagi through tales and which characters like Pluto and Demande (sort of) had for Neo Queen Serenity.

26-B

Sailor Moon gives emotions legitimacy and power and encourages taking action with feeling. The legacy of Sailor Moon is right there. It has fully delivered this wonderful message and done it through telling the story of Usagi Tsukino, the lazy cry baby. She was never the best or brightest, but that doesn’t matter because she has heart. Not grit and determination, but heart. Usagi’s love, that which flows from and to her from those in her circle is what makes her strong. The point isn’t community, it’s about being open and loving and accepting people into your heart, not so you can use them to gain strength or put them under your umbrella of protection, but because that is what good people do and though you might not be who or what you want to be today, with love in your heart and faith in yourself, you’ll get there. You may stumble, you may fall, but since you likely have people around you who love you, you can fight for them or they can help you, as long as you keep moving towards the future.

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In Conclusion

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 26 earns 4 out of 5 for presenting a grand finale and giving me hope for more Sailor Moon Crystal while not actually needing it. Things didn’t quite go as expected, but it was all very good, even if we do not get any more Sailor Moon Crystal.

26-Y

But I would like to see more Sailor Moon Crystal.

 

Dispensing the Pleasant Tease- Sailor Moon Crystal 25 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 25 – Showdown – Death Phantom

I move to nominate Takeuchi to win two awards, the first is for Most Inexact Titles and the second is for Best Use of Split Focus in a Webcast episode. Showdown – Death Phantom is the work I would submit as proof of her accomplishments in both categories. Even though I’m poking fun at those features of the episode, they aren’t actually issues. How much should the title matter anyway? I’m not sure, as long as it isn’t distracting it shouldn’t, I suppose. The inexactitude of the title didn’t stop this episode from being really enjoyable. The split focus I alluded to earlier was actually part of what made the episode so good. In the past few episodes, the action has been ramping up and the conflicts have become more defined until now where there is a fantastic amount of momentum established and there is nothing else to impede the final conflict. I feel like going into the finale is going to be so much more enjoyable because of where the episode left off: Usagi and friends are at the precipice of battle and the stakes have been raised for the Sailor Guardians VS. Wiseman round two. Death Phantom seems like he could be unstoppable, but Sailor Moon just seems to keep growing more powerful. Our heroines have risen from a pit, but now must take on a foe they thought they had defeated. Again: this set up is really exciting.

25-B

Going back to the split focus of the episode, Takeuchi has done this before in Act 13. Queen Metalia is finally defeated and the Guardians go back to their normal lives until Chibi-Usa drops from the sky and ruins Usagi and Mamoru’s tender moment. This technique reminds me of the caesura used in poetry, where there is a break in the middle of a line. I feel like Takeuchi uses it effectively in both instances. Originally she used to allow for an intensely dramatic finish to the fight with Metalia, it was almost as if her fight spilled into Act 13 which was meant to serve as denouement for the Dark Kingdom arc and set up what was to come. In Act 25 the caesura is used in a reversed order. There is a quiet and cool period for the first 12-13 minutes that pauses the action to help build up to a climactic confrontation. Pluto transgressing the third taboo allowed for the break which stopped the action and allowed for a resetting and restoration of elements to a condition where they are most effective for moving the story forward. The best thing about the resetting is that it took the form of heartbreak, internal struggle, bitter-sweet realizations and a dramatic assertion of resolve.

In Conclusion

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 25 earns a 5 out of 5 for misting my eyes, while pumping me up for the grand finale.

Good in Her- Sailor Moon Crystal 24 Review

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Sailor Moon Crystal 24 – Attack -Black Lady

In the latest Sailor Moon Cystal, Usagi Tsukino: average student and teen-mom shows audiences across the world what love really is. This episode was great. I really wish that certain episodes of TV shows can be made compulsory viewing like books are in American schools at least. I don’t know how it works in other countries, but from going to many many schools I experienced gaps in my mandatory reading and I’m an outlier in some circles where many people have read certain books like Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird and I have not. I always thought the concept was frustrating especially because all of the books are older and they didn’t really appeal to me but there were a few winners among them. I particularly enjoyed The Giver and 1984 as well as Fahrenheit 451. Watching this episode of Sailor Moon crystal I was entertained throughout but most particularly when Black lady and Sailor Moon were talking to each other.

24-C24-DThe interaction so strongly rings of one taking place between a parent and child. Despite the fact that the stakes are ridiculous, the sentiments in the scene were real; so real, that they struck a nerve with me. In my first review of Sailor Moon Crystal I identified with Usagi. I still do and that is why I stated at the beginning that I believe this episode should be compulsory viewing maybe not for students but perhaps for adults or parents. Far too often we become wrapped up in the vicissitudes of the adult or real world and it takes something to shake us from that. Throughout history people have worked to enlighten themselves and make themselves sensitive to the deeper truths of life that got lost in the daily grind. Perhaps the things going on in my life that cause me to strive for introspection and self-correction amplify my perception of the show as so lofty a thing, but I feel confident in saying that this is something worthwhile and substantive. The fact that it is packaged in magical girls, short skirts, shiny attacks and a bit of melodrama does not decrease the effectiveness of the message, this message or any other that Takeuchi has passed on to readers and viewers of Sailor Moon.

In Conclusion

Act 24 earns a 5 out of 5 for making me cry and think about life a bunch making Wiseman amazing villain, giving me hope for Chibi-Usa’s redemption, sfowcasing Usagi’s stunning power and inner-strength and making me root for Prince Demande for a moment or two.

Truth and Beliefs – Sailor Moon Crystal 23 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 23 – Covert Maneuvers -Wiseman

External and internal Mind Control is in play in a major way in the latest installment of Sailor Moon Crystal. Covert Maneuvers is not only an apt description of what Wiseman has been doing to Prince Demande and the Black Moon all along, but it also reflects something deeper that has been going on in the Silver Millennium family. While Demande and Saphir have been overcome by Wiseman’s power, much of their personality seems to be intact- almost to the point of Demande seeming unaffected. Chibi-Usagi’s manner and appearance differs though in that she seems to be in full control of herself, but with a change in mindset. The brothers are under the sway of Wiseman’s power while the princess believes in him and what he represents.

I won’t suggest just yet that Wiseman (or Phantom) did something to Chibi-Usagi centuries ago that caused her growth to stop or that this was all a part of his plan the whole time, but the dialogue form King Enymion in Act 21 concerning the insane ruler, Phantom (who must be Wiseman, right?) is possibly open enough for it to turn out that he somehow cursed Chibi-Usagi. Whether he would have cursed her so that he could hurt Usagi in a personal way or so that he could hold the key to unlock Chibi-Usagi’s awakening as a bargaining chit to make a move against Neo Queen Serenity is unclear, but I can easily see either or both as his motivation.

Amoral Conviction

The truth is often shaded by our experiences and Chibi-Usagi’s extended childhood and the woes she encountered never fully prepared her to deal with the likes of Wiseman, She is brave despite herself and certainly willful, but one with the mind of a child, no matter how precocious cannot be expected to have a fighting chance against one who uses the truth, with omissions, to make them see the world really is how they perceive it to be in with their limited scope. A conviction is a firmly held belief. Belief is a personal truth. We know the dangers of fanaticism and radicalized belief systems in our world and we get to see Chibi-Usa as that radicalized youth. She even changes her name as so many young men and women have when leaving behind an oppressive home and joining with a force larger than themselves to fight against the world that rejected and marginalized them.

Chibi-Usagi is convinced that all the pain that she suffered in unending prepubescence wherein she only knew love from her father and longing to be like her mother despite the vast chasm between them as people was a sign that she didn’t truly belong to the Silver Millennium. Crystal Tokyo was a prison for her. She couldn’t escape it and live her own life. She was ensnared by her rank and an impossible legacy she couldn’t possible carry on because she lacked something fundamental.

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When Wiseman told Chibi-Usa he needed her and he gave her a place where she belonged, everything changed. It was as if she had been returned home, she had been released from the curse on her like a fairytale princess by embracing the Darkness and rejecting her false home and past. She is even willing to destroy the Earth and Neo Queen Serenity because she has her love, the only one who ever truly cared for and loved her. What proof is there that she belongs with the Darkness? Her awakening and growth make her into a woman and a s a woman she is ready to take her place at the head of a monarchy, just like her fraudulent mother.

In Conclusion

Act 23 earns a 4 out of 5 for packing an emotional wallop with a wide variety of ordinance that each serves to characterize the people we’re watching without slowing down the plot for a second. To go by the modern vernacular, one might say: feels + action = WIN.

Unintentional Gambit – Sailor Moon Crystal 22 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 22 – Hidden Agenda – Nemesis

In Hidden Agenda, Saphir lays bare the Black Moon’s original plans for the Earth as well as the complications and changes to their plans that came when Wiseman contacted them. We glimpse the made-over Chibi-Usa and Wiseman’s smiling eyes, which tell us that there is something more going on. Takeuchi’s long game pays off as things set up over multiple episodes come to fruition here, for the second time. This is another set up episode after one only a few episodes ago and utilizing much of the same elements, but it feels good because of the active role Usagi takes in rearranging the pieces.

While there was some heavy exposition, the plot felt like it moved along quickly, perhaps even forcefully, because so many moves were made. Mamoru wanders through time asking Usagi for strength and carrying her busted up Moon Rod. Usagi learns her friends are somewhere in the castle. Demande tries to put the moves on Usagi again, but Usagi and Mamoru’s love stops it. She defiantly tells Demande she’s going to save her friends and follows through. The encounter with Saphir shows how deluded Demande is, how Saphir himself has become unstable from all of this, and establishes an issue for Usagi to answer with a clear, focused and powerful response.

The facade of the Prince’s power over the future Queen warps and cracks as he once again attempts to show her that she has no agency in their relationship and never did. He had fooled himself into thinking that his resolve and borrowed power were enough to strip away everything from her. His self-deception comes from the fact that he wants to defeat Neo Queen Serenity, but is left with the option to fight her past self before she became the woman he fixated upon and hated. Demande is like the anti-Endymion, in that he doesn’t believe in Usagi. His overconfidence is his weakness and it sets the stage for Usagi to prove him wrong by, for a time expressing her inner strength and expressing the full potential within.

In Conclusion

Act 22 earns a 3 out of 5 for executing a competent setup with recycled materials and showing off the awesome power of self love and personal affirmation.

Contradictions – Sailor Moon Crystal 21 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 21 – Complication – Nemesis

Almost everything in Act 21 is a faux-contradictions and subversion. By faux-contradictions I mean things that are plausible, but we don’t quite have the right information at this point to really understand how they all fit together. These things subvert my expectations of how the world should work, but don’t break it and some of the characters share my experience.

Neo-Queen Serenity is an aloof goddess, who seems to be distant from her daughter, despite her magnanimous heart. King Endymion doesn’t sense that he should tell Small lady to believe in herself, though she seems to need it. Small Lady has heard tale of her mother’s greatness but doesn’t seem to know how she was able to accomplish all she did, or how she herself ever could. The Legendary Silver Crystal’s power is and isn’t invincible, yet somehow it was able to preserve Neo-queen Serenity, and those she loves most. Certain people reject the near-perfect world of Crystal Tokyo and though the petty cruelty of children is alive and well, so is boldly destructive evil.

Mamoru and Minako must have been as surprised as I am to learn that Small Lady is 900 years old and while most of the surprises delivered this episode were positive, this marks a huge negative for me. I want to know the whys of the above apparent incongruities because they intrigue me, but this 900 year old kid just has me flummoxed. What am I supposed to do with this? Unless she’s been a baby for around 890 years, I have a hard time believing that she could be so immature and unsophisticated. Even if her parents aren’t doing the best job, I don’t think her situation makes any sense. Was she not going to school of any sort? Shouldn’t she have graduated by now? Surely Small Lady must have had an education and learned about sociology or at least how to sort out her feelings. It feels impossible that the Queen and King could maintain the same dance with their daughter for centuries and not helped her to develop a greater emotional intelligence! I feel sympathetic towards her because she is a child, but it is difficult to not expect a 900 year old to act their age. This age debacle might be the most disappointing thing in Sailor Moon.

In Conclusion

For giving me so much doubt about how Takeuchi can stick the landing on Chibi-Usagi’s story during an otherwise decent set up episode, I give Sailor Moon Crystal Act 21 a 3 out of 5.

Growing Pains – Sailor Moon Crystal 20 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 20 – Crystal Tokyo – King Endymion

Act 20 is a solid episode full of charming character moments and interpersonal drama which allows us to learn more about the principle players while, somewhat slowly, moving the plot along and telling the audience crucial things it needs to know about the Black Moon cell whose motives and goals have been fairly vague.

King Endymion makes for a fun plot device. Takeuchi may have not left herself very much room to maneuver, once Usagi and her companions travelled to Crystal Tokyo with Chibi-Usa, but the way she wielded Endymion was satisfying on two levels: he provided the catalyst for several humanizing emotional reactions and gave the audience new information about Black Moon, Crystal Tokyo and the like.

Father Knows… Stuff

King Endymion’s attempts to quell Chibi-Usa’s guilt and sorrow felt sincere and came off well. He tries to comfort her and exhorts her to be strong by offering her a challenge. He doesn’t tell her what to do, but asks if she can rise to a challenge. Whether she does or not is debatable at this point. It was foolish of her to return to Crystal Tokyo on her own, but missing her parents and feeling the pressure of being at the center of conflict between her parents’ younger selves pushed this child to take, fairly courageous, if less than ideal actions. Mamoru sure dropped the ball, by leaving the Time Key accessible.

Lots of Blushing

Endymion is an adult man who has been having sex with his wife for hundreds of years. It’s beautiful, natural and normal for him. Who knows what kinds of social progress have occurred within Neo Queen Serenity’s reign besides that. It is funny to me that Mamoru, Usagi and Minako all become so flush when Endymion clarifies that Chibi-Usagi or Small Lady, if you prefer, is the child of the Queen and King they will become. That means they are going to have sex. Again. At least once more. They just had their first sexual encounter together in the last episode, but it was in private and as far as we can tell, no one knows about it. When Endymion declares the familial relations, he is telling teenagers that sex is happening among their circle and everyone is charmingly put off by it. Minako may be wondering if it has already started, Mamoru and Usagi may be wondering if Minako thinks they have had sex, in their minds it is an uncomfortable mess and it makes for a delightful scene.

Oh dear. these poor kids can't even look at each other right now.
Oh dear. these poor kids can’t even look at each other right now.

Endymion brings on another bout of blushing as he praises Sailor Pluto for her many virtues. She is such a great individual on paper, but it is interesting to see that she is either extremely flattered (possibly because he is the King and she respects him greatly, which would mean to me that he is a really good king) by his words, averse to public praise or maybe a bit of both. We know from last episode that Pluto is an emotional person, but the addition of humility to her character is so lovely and serves a theme of this episode which seems to be rounding and humanizing the core characters.

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Fighting For the World of Tomorrow, Today

At the end of the Dark Kingdom arc, Usagi was an invincible goddess who revived her friends and the world. Black Moon has negated those accomplishments one by one. Her fellow soldiers and friends have been abducted. Even when she knows where they are she cannot yet reach them. Chibi-Usa separated her from her family when she first arrived. Usagi pulled away from Naru and her other friends as she reeled from Black Moon’s waves of attack, which could come at any time, while balancing the loss of her team and holding on to hope that they can be found. Mamoru and Chibi-Usa’s relationship, which had put her off for so long is still an issue for Usagi despite the fact she is their daughter.

Chibi-Usagi, or more accurately, Small Lady, travelled through time to get help from her parents to save the future, the world she will inherit from them. The Black Moon stands in utter contrast to Usagi and the world shaped by her magnanimous heart. Where Usagi’s power and influence bring longer life, increased joy and peace, the Black Moon, with their Malefic Black Crystal seek to bring ruin, strife and death. Usagi Tsukino, high school student, lover of manga and pretty things is confronted by her future, which holds suffering and imminent doom and is forced to grow up to handle it. Throughout the Black Moon arc, Usagi has become increasingly isolated from her friends and has had to rely on fewer people for support, until at this point she is nearly alone. Being an adult doesn’t have to mean isolation, but there are times when there is no one but you to face a challenge and that is where Usagi is. Precedent has shown her that Venus could be taken away easily and despite her chiding herself for getting upset with Mamoru over Small Lady, there is still a distance between them.

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 The harsh reality of what an equal and opposite force can do to you has become part of her. She has internalised the failure to fully defeat the Black Moon and the loss of her friends. Once invincible Sailor Moon is vulnerable. As the episode closes, Usagi is captured, dead-eyed and suspended in an orb of dark energy, splayed out like a corpse. I don’t know where this is going. I am new to Sailor Moon and while I know there is more Sailor Moon to come, I am afraid for Usagi. I don’t know how she can escape this situation or what she can do. What can anyone do? I don’t fully grasp what Demande’s designs for her are and don’t want to let my imagination wander towards the darker possibilities that stand out to me. How will prince Demande’s efforts affect Usagi, could she become as disillusioned and nihilistic as her enemies?

In Conclusion

Act 20 provides emotional context for Usagi’s struggle, making her mechanical deficiencies in Crystal Tokyo impactful. The Legendary Silver Crystal’s power is time-bound, but the guilt, shame, self doubt, and daunting odds she faces nearly alone- all of which are reinforced throughout the bulk of the episode- make the sting of her powerlessness against the Black Moon even worse. For the happy moments and humor experienced along the way which helped cement the foundation of this episode’s surprising end, I give it a 4 out of 5.

Takeuchi Gets Grimm – Sailor Moon Crystal 19 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 19 Time Warp – Sailor Pluto

Chibi-Usa’s revelation leads Usagi and her friends towards a confrontation with Prince Demande. The flashbacks she has had, the visions Mamoru shared with her, the mysterious voice that helped him find his power, the detour between times and what transpired in 30th century Crystal Tokyo after Usagi and her friends arrived all fit together to suggest some of the omitted truths about Chibi-Usa and her family. The great thing is that, while Prince Demande’s intentions have become slightly more concrete, his motivation is still unknown. I’m engaged and excited to learn more. It looks like Usagi’s decision to live on Earth as a normal girl, who happens to save the world with her friends, leads to the Crystal Palace moving from the Moon to Tokyo, where she and Mamoru reign as benevolent monarchs with their daughter. We don’t know enough about Crystal Tokyo and Neo Queen Serenity’s rule to understand why Demande or Wiseman has a grudge against them. With how open Usagi is to other people, it is hard to imagine, but the promise of answers to come definitely has me coming back.

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The animation was fairly nice throughout. A complaint would be the vagueness of what happened to the citizens of Crystal Tokyo littering the streets. Were they supposed to be dead and decaying, or just preserved as if they had been mummified? It looked as if the camera was trying to show me some subtle change happening with one victim in particular, but I was unable to draw any conclusion other than, I guess he’s dead. Tuxedo Mask and Venus each had a stock-footage attack, which looked nice, but it betrays the fact that the show’s producers are on a budget and is less in-line with my preference for, and the consistent use of in-scene attacks prior to this. A final note on animation, while I had no idea what Esmeraude’s lackeys were doing and the cutting between Usagi’s Moon Princess Halation and their nigh unintelligible attacks, I did enjoy the visual of our heroes being frozen in some sort of crystal which became webbed with cracks as the Boule Brothers attacked.

What's happening to this guy? I can't tell. I mean he looks fairly dead, but are they really going there? I suppose Takeuchi hasn't pulled many punches with this story so why start now? I think the thing that throws me off is the transition, why are we watching him decay or whatever? To be extra gross?
What’s happening to this guy? I can’t tell. I mean he looks fairly dead, but are they really going there? I suppose Takeuchi hasn’t pulled many punches with this story so why start now? I think the thing that throws me off is the transition, why are we watching him decay or whatever? To be extra gross?

Sailor Moon Crystal 19 answers questions, introduces more questions as well as a Sailor Guardian who could add a whole lot to the story and brings the Black Moon into sharper focus by making them act against Usagi and her cohorts. This episode earns a 4 out of 5.

Good Grief – Sailor Moon Crystal 18 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 18 Invasion – Sailor Venus

The Black Moon’s power comes from the planet Nemesis, which is the corniest thing since the name “Princess D.” The silliness and obviousness of such an expository gem is countered by the subtleties that were seen in the interactions between the Black Moon’s forces. Calaveras’ sadness for her sisters’ deaths running parallel to the sadness felt by those who care for Rei, Ami and Makoto served to humanize her and the rest of Black Moon to some extent.

We’ve seen Usagi and the others distressed over the sudden spiriting away of their friends. A typical reaction in a hero show for, hero or villain would be a bitter cry followed by steely resolve for vengeance or to mete out justice, but Takeuchi lets the girls flounder a bit even as they have to keep living. Calaveras is shown as bereft. It doesn’t characterize or consume her, but it is a part of her current character and appropriately effects how she acts. When we first see Calaveras, she is channeling her sisters through drones. She promises her sisters, she will avenge them. When Rubeus comes to Calaveras and kisses her, she blushes and her concentration shifts from her sisters, whose apparitions vanish, to the present. She appears to be actively grieving. Evil characters don’t commonly mourn their lost loves, whether familial or not. There is something more to these Black Moon characters.

Calaveras is missing her soul sisters.
Calaveras is missing her soul sisters.

The communion with the dead is not restricted to the Black Moon. Mamoru has a posthumous encounter with Endymion’s Knights that leaves me very uncertain about his future role in Sailor Moon Crystal. Mamoru has a bit of existential crisis while his dead friends are trying to cheer him up and then a voice I can’t quite identify helped him to tap into a power he shouldn’t have. Mamoru seemed as shocked as me to have blasted Rubeus the way he did. Because of the Black Moon discussion of Wiseman earlier in the episode, I can’t help but feel, that perhaps he was somehow involved.

Wiseman is this mysterious figure not only to the audience, but even to Prince Demande and his court. Rubeus is suspicious of Wiseman, who is foreign to the core Black Moon group. Rubeus’ concern makes me curious to see what may develop between them and learn what Wiseman’s true agenda is.

For pushing forward the narrative, introducing new plot elements, calling back to relationships that matter outside of the Sailor Guardian circle and breaking the abduction trend that had been set up thus far, I give this episode a 4 out of 5.

A New Romance Sparks – Sailor Moon Crystal 17 Review

Another Spectre Sister down, another Sailor Guardian captured, and another step closer to the truth about Chibi-Usa. Perhaps my favorite thing about Sailor Moon Crystal at this point is that I can never quite tell how things will turn at the end of a path. Thus far the Sailor Guardian’s encounters with Black Moon have been reminiscent of the escalating conflict with the Dark Kingdom, but on a larger scale. I saw that the formulaic structure if monster of the week in that initially and in some ways, it is even stronger here, but there’s a twist: the Sailor Guardians keep losing. I also didn’t foresee everyone dying at the end of Queen Metalia’s role in the show, or that the world would be directly threatened by her, but it was interesting. If I apply the same idea to the conclusion of the Black Moon arc, I can assume that the world will be at stake again, but we’re only 4 episodes in and 3 of 5 sailor Guardians have been swept of the board already, Metalia didn’t do that until she made her move all in one big push at the end.

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Besides the opaque progress stated in the very first sentence, this episode gave us more time with the characters who are left. Makoto and Asanamu have some adorable interactions. Asanamu’s love for his sempai and desire to be like Mamoru makes his relationship with Makoto feel a little repetitious of the Mamoru-Usagi love that will never die, but it’s handled with a different touch that feels better to me. Perhaps the fact that Makoto feels older and more sure of herself than Asanamu, is what makes me enjoy their interactions a little more. There is no feeling of discomfort to get over between them, as an outsider, or from within the show. They’ve known each other for some time but the sad memory of her parents’ deaths Makoto shares seems to make him realize there is so much more of her he can know. The blossoming feelings between Makoto and Asanamu are exciting to see, even as the old couple are getting into a different space in their relationship.

The way Mamoru is balancing himself to support: Sailor Moon in fighting the Black Moon; Usagi in the loss of her friends and dealing with this child who won’t let up, and Chibi-Usa who misses her mom and is afraid of something she can’t yet explain, is quite novel. The separations between each role are narrow, but each requires a nuanced shift in approach. One of the most compelling things to see play out may be that Usagi is powerful enough to destroy her enemies, but no quite strong enough to break their hold on her friends. How will she deal with that reality when she is alone among the Sailor Guardians? I can’t wait to find out.

I give this episode a 4 out of 5.

Dowsing In Her Sandbox – Sailor Moon Crystal 16 Review

Under the pall of the Black Moon, Sailor Moon Crystal seems to have taken to tending the soil to reap a bountiful harvest of all the seeds that seemed to have been haphazardly scattered at the end of episode 14. This could be tedious work, but Takeuchi has turned what could be unremarkable plodding into something exciting. I’d claim she divined the location of the gems in this episode by dowsing, but for the fact that she laid the soil herself nullifies that claim. What Takeuchi has done, what some authors fail to do is balance the backstory and current events of their characters’ lives so well. This episode showcased the cast dealing with fears, doubts, and sadness all while revealing more about the Black Moon and Chibi-Usa. Ami got to be cool, brave and strong. The information about her past layers and enriches her as a character and I can only hope that the other girls get treated this well, even as I fear they’ll all be abducted and possibly killed over the next month or so.

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I don’t like the character models for the Spectre Sisters and honestly the Malefic Dark Crystal feels derivative of the Legendary Silver Crystal, but hopes that they will be linked somehow, have me a little more optimistic about it

For being a thrilling ride with an epic chess match, sad father-related back story and Ami’s awesome goggles, I give this episode a 5 out of 5.

Uncomfortably Warm – Sailor Moon Crystal 15 – Review

Chibi-Usa and all the changes she has brought to the show have knocked me over, much like our heroine at the pull of a toy trigger. I want to hate Chibi-Usa, but I can’t. The Black Moon crew makes me uncomfortable, but I like it. I can’t really say what it is I am enjoying about the changes Takeuchi has introduced to the show, but it may be the ring of the honesty and consistency I hear from the addition of all these new fixtures.

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To continue the metaphor, it’s as if Crystal has played out as an orchestral piece and the conductor has placed unfamiliar instruments and players into the pit. I’m distracted, intrigued and worried about how these new factors will affect the sounds I’ve heard thus far. Chibi-Usa, Koan and Rei’s abduction are like the striking up of new instruments in a tempo that doesn’t seem to match the rest of what the conductor has had play so far, and now she’s removed one of my favorite pieces and players. Will the other Sailor Guardians go away? Can Chibi-Usa replace Usagi? Is she meant to? Why does she sound and look and feel so much Usagi or someone from Silver Millennium? Is the conductor mad? Do I really like her work, or was that first movement, just really catchy and engaging?

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Getting back to the old truths and familiar elements that comfort me in this time of transition, one of the best things in this episode is the demonstration of Rei’s changing personality. In fact all the girls get to show a different side. These characters aren’t static and haven’t stagnated. We may not see enough of them in their civilian lives to track everything smoothly, but seeing them experiencing peace at the start of the episode is good for now. It’s equally engaging to see each Sailor Guardian get her time to shine as it is to wonder about the new villain cast. Watching Rei open up to her classmates and seeing her deep care for the nuns, who are important figures in her school, was lovely. It made me happy for her and also gave me an appreciation for the openness of the world Takeuchi presents and which Rei embodies. Rei, a psychic, Shinto shrine maiden, attends a Catholic school and everyone seems to be ok with that. We get no insight that she has ever been given trouble by school officials and they allow two groups of students to have fortune tellers, not something of which an American pastor, preacher or rabbi would likely approve. Rei as a woman of the cloth, or perhaps just as a being of good heart, has immediate concern for the nuns and risks her life to protect them.

I know, Usagi! Right? Whats happening to Rei?!
I know, Usagi! Right? Whats happening to Rei?!

Now to address the discomfort and uneasiness brought with the new additions to the show, I’d like to focus on a key difference between the Dark Kingdom and the Black Moon: the Black Moon is more dangerous and has longer-lasting magic at its disposal. Koan had apparently been going around killing people to warm up her fire powers before confronting Sailor Mars. She seemed more powerful than Mars and her flames engulfed her even after Sailor Moon destroyed her with her new attack!

Perfection Overshot – Sailor Moon Crystal 14 Review

SMC Act 14 – Conclusion and Commencement – Petite Etrangere

Except for the whiplash I got at the end, I really enjoyed this episode. The final show down with Queen Metalia was fantastic. Usagi’s power coming from the noble sacrifices of her friends and Luna’s prayer is surprising. I’m not sure from where Takeuchi is coming with this idea, but the strengthening and illuminating power of prayer really resonated with me- it is such an off-beat choice for most fiction. I can’t think of anything that comes close, from what I’ve seen over the years. Most entertainment which pits heroic and villainous forces against each other involves mundane violence and takes a more common path to illustrate messages which can be good, poignant and beautiful even though they are punctuated by explosions and giant robot puches, lazer beams or Rider Kicks- the endgame here is so striking for its lack of actual impact.

Again, Takeuchi splits her storytelling in an interesting way. This episode could have easily been two, but the immediate release of seeing life having returned to normal after all the drama and near-tragedies is really welcome. Other personal moments for the characters were really satisfying too, like Luna pleading with Queen Serenity and Usagi turning down the full Moon Queen position. The music was really great in the fight with Metalia and the scenes of Usagi and her friends living a normal life.

SMC-14

I’m not going to go into the last minute or two of the episode which kind of ruined it for me, I try to pretend that didn’t happen. I give this episode an 5 out of 5 on an emotional high.

I also give the episode 3 out of 5 for Takeuchi falling flat on her face which came out of nowhere, almost like a like a tiny pink-haired Usagi pointing a gun in my face and making me feel a little betrayed.

 

The Magical Miracle: Love – Sailor Moon Crystal 13 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 13 – Final Battle – Reincarnation

I’m going to be extremely honest and really show my amateur reviewer status by not really doing a review this week. I don’t know if it is because I am sick as I write this, or because I was when I watched the latest Sailor Moon Crystal, but the experience is a tearful blur that I remember tenderly and fondly.

I have heard that the original show did the confrontation at point D and final battle against Queen Metalia better, particularly because the time allotted in the anime’s expansion of the manga was used to layer, texture and set up the cast and audience to be heavily impacted by the dramatic conclusion to the war between the Moon and Dark Kingdoms. Although I can’t argue with the failures of Crystal to build up the dynamics between Endymion’s Knights and Endymion/Mamoru himself as well as the Sailor Senshi, which really undercut the drama of seeing Beryl wipe them out last episode, seeing them in this episode really worked on me. The Senshi and Knights represent pairings whose fate is doomed by Queen Metalia’s cruel whims and whose faithfulness towards their individual leaders was their saving grace and the fulcrum around which the plot twisted and upon which Metalia’s demise was set in motion.

SMC-13-H

Queen Metalia is representative of a selfish, burning hunger. She manipulates and twists others in order to obtain energy and dominance over Earth, which seems to only cover the planet in darkness and place its inhabitants under her thrall, turning a number of them into drones who work to savagely harvest energy from other people. The legacy of the Dark Kingdom is death, destruction and isolation.

That Usagi’s power is healing, restoration and inspiring happiness courage and strength in others is what makes her the antithesis of Metalia and Silver Millennium’s perfect heiress. The Queen of the Moon kingdom is subject to duty and the responsibility to protect the Earth. The Moon Kingdom’s status as guardian over Earth is senseless and without foundation in the show’s lore, but it is a beautiful, hopeful message. A great kingdom serving to protect and guide a lesser can be interpreted as an encouragement to hold on because someone is watching out for you and an exhortation to embody that benevolence for others around you.

Apparently Endymion was a great guy and good to his Knights. Princess Serenity and her Guardians were friends and loved each other. Crystal fails to show the relationship between monarch and protective group in both cases and hardly make the connection between Usagi and her friends, but I don’t care. The brief scene wherein the girls hear Usagi encouraging them and form the resolve to save her and then she receives strength from them is enough for me. That she pleads for their help, but is encouraged by Mamoru to have faith in herself because of her good, loving heart is inspirational and beautiful.

Usagi has the power to wipe away senseless evil because of the love in her heart. Mamoru encouraged and supported her because he loves her and believes in her. His Knights strengthened him and saved him so he could keep on loving and supporting her. Usagi was able to free Mamoru and save him because her friends were willing to give up their lives for her, so that she could survive while trapped inside Metalia because of how much they love her due to her goodness and the kindness with which she treated each of them. Love, kindness and gentleness give Usagi the leverage she needs to match Metalia’s raw destructive force and defeat her.

If you haven’t seen this beautiful episode of Sailor Moon Crystal you should as soon as you can.

Mighty Heart-Sailor Moon Crystal 12 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 12- Enemy: Metalia

This episode was great. I’ll definitely re-watch even though I don’t want to because of how it ends, which is what is calling me back. I also have a mind to not ruin my experience by going back and seeing, in sharper relief, the inconsistent animation and the wobbliness of the plot. I appreciate the efforts of the Crystal Team to echo prior events in the character’s lives, but the confrontation between the Sailor Guardians and the Four Kings of Darkness was disjointed because of the out-of-nowhere addition or 4 more star-crossed couple linked to Princess Serenity and Endymion which could have worked well had it been allotted more time. Calling back to weakly established concepts is probably a good way to distract an otherwise absorbed viewer, who has to make the decision to ignore that blemish instead of nodding along and getting pulled deeper into the experience.

SMC12-G

What was effective however, was the affirmation of Usagi’s personal strength, her great love for and dependence upon Mamoru and the assurance that her friends will always be there to support her. Although the series has not spent enough time addressing each girl individually, Usagi benefits from having more screen time as herself and Sailor Moon by way of being the eponymous hero. In the extra time spent with Usagi, Takeuchi has woven the through-line that Usagi’s loving heart is the source of her strength. Watching Usagi struggle to accept and embody that part of herself was beautiful and thrilling. Sailor Moon is mighty and inspiring because she gets back up, by herself, to fight for those she loves and personally does all she can to dish out Justice and stopping evil from becoming more powerful.

For bringing me to tears even though my audio died on me during the second half this episode earns a 4 out of 5.

Famine And Feast-Sailor Moon Crystal 11 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 11- Endymion

There is a problem with this week’s otherwise engaging episode. The drama is real. I feel the tension between Usagi and the other Sailor Guardians, but something in the distribution and flow of events just feels off. Perhaps in the manga, the pacing feels less crammed, or is it more even? The manga is beyond the scope of this review, so the show has to stand on its own.

I think the issue is that this episode is simultaneously empty and crowded. Not much happened in the first 10 minutes or so of the latest Sailor Moon Crystal, but in the second half, it felt like too many separate things occurred, but none of them were given enough time.

The interactions between the Sailor Guardians in the first half of the episode were really enjoyable to watch and the fact that Usagi is a leader despite her penchant for napping and so-called lack of seriousness is charming and a welcome challenge to how most Westerners see super-heroics. It feels like Takeuchi is barely giving the Guardians enough time as their teen-aged highschool student selves. When we see them it is almost always in the context of setting up an encounter with enemies, when we could have much more interactions with eachother and with Usagi. That would have made Usagi’s shining moment at the end more meaningful.

The red-eyed Mamoru went about his mission in an odd way; nfiltrating the employee roles of CROWN Arcade and then hoping that Usagi would come there a lot, so he could pretend to not be Mamoru, but then manipulate her anyway into revealing the location of the Legendary Siler Crystal is ludicrous. The scenario is beyond attempts to justify it, because any number of alternative plans would have probably worked better, i.e. the fake comes back as Mamoru, without letting the Sailor Guardians know and asks to see the Crystal, then snatches it. This was a little silly and convoluted, but the action that followed and the feats accomplished by the Dark Kingdom were cool. Beryl is a beast and I can’t wait to see more of her, but there need to be more -and more substantive- hooks to make this the really good series it should be.

Off-putting pacing earns this episode 3 of 5 stars.

Crisis Reincarnate-Sailor Moon Crystal 10 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 10- Moon

Queen Metalia and Queen Beryl are among the most devious and wicked villains I have ever encountered. Something great about them is that as much as they are Evil on a grand scale, they are also evil on the petty, human level, see: Beryl’s mockery of the Sailor Guardians and the plot she forms at the end of the episode to get the Legendary Silver Crystal. Her plot is not elaborate and sneaky as have been the past attempts of the Four kings to find and obtain the Legendary Silver Crystal, and while it could be argued that it follows the template of preying on human frailty through trickery it is more base- down and dirty keeps coming to mind as I think about it. Another great thing about their villainy is that it is completely legitimate and scary without being indulgent or sadistic in it’s portrayal. These murderous beings who control people like puppets, delight in ordering those under their power to kill their loved ones and want to siphon human energy, mean serious business and their presence in the brightly colored and mostly up-beat world of Sailor Moon crystal adds a real edge to it that is exactly what is needed to invest the viewer in struggles of the show’s heroes. The dichotomy of the hate-filled, power mad forces of evil and the loving, peace-keeping protectors of Earth who make up the forces of good in Sailor Moon Crystal is clearly distinguished, the sides fulfill their roles more than adequately, but Takeuchi goes beyond that and shows us how the Sailor Guardians rely on themselves and lean on each other to find the inner-strength to face the evil in the world. They continue to smile, not because they have to, but because they can be happy even though the Dark Kingdom is gathering strength and they struggle to stop it for the sake of the things that make them smile and so that others can experience those things too.

I don’t know what could have made it better, so this episode earns 5 of 5 stars.

Set and SPIKED-Sailor Moon Crystal 9 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 9- Princess Serenity

I have been duped and for that I am so grateful to Takeuchi. This is my favorite episode of Sailor Moon Crystal to date. I was utterly sold on the true identity of Princes Serenity in the previous episode, until the narrative itself dropped clues to the contrary. What I didn’t expect to have such a great impact on me were the telegraphed punches that landed this episode. The twist and the reincarnation device used to obfuscate the truth were competently delivered, if a bit cliché. That may be why my guard was down and I was taken so aback by Usagi’s emotional struggle that followed the revelation of her past memories. Watching Usagi suffer from reliving a history she freshly remembered, withdraw and gain the resolve to smile again and go rescue her boyfriend was wonderful.

The strong thread that has woven nearly everyone together has been managed with great care. Not only is the finished product fairly seamless but it feels about as natural as such a fairy tale can. I am excited about the possibilities that come with knowing how large a part reincarnation plays in this story because it gives me something about which I can speculate aside from enjoying what is actually playing out in the show. The information given to the viewer, including the misinformation from last episode serves the narrative well, without alienating viewers (at least not this viewer). The story has been straight forward and earnest, but with a wink and a nod here and there, to let on that there is more than there seems to be. One could argue that Luna was deceiving everyone this whole time and that Takeuchi has drummed up the drama from this twist in a crass attempt to hawk her manga, but the brevity of the feint, tells me that isn’t true. The real selling point, all the tension and drama has come from character work. I care about Usagi and her friends because they have been well-written and their relationships, which have formed around their mission, are fairly strong and believable. I care about Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship, creepy moments aside. I care so much that after watching this episode in two runs, hours apart, I felt myself getting emotional when Usagi could do nothing but see her love taken away by malevolent forces.

There were some issues however. I felt the usage of reincarnation was a bit much, as if everyone we’ve seen given a name may turn out to be a reincarnated somebody. That would be asking too much to ask of the audience, I think. Another big issue is animation. This is a pivotal episode. The final scene was beautifully animated, if blocked in a slightly distracting manner, Minako’s close-ups come to mind. The problem is that there were a few scenes in the middle of the episode where people were making little to no expression, their faces seemed really off-model and at one point Usagi reminded me a bit of the catch of the day. I don’t mean to be brutal, but the contrast between the final scene and the handful of preceding weaker scenes really casts them in a poor light.

SMC-09

For not relying on cliché to compel viewers and engaging me through weeks of set up and storytelling this episode earns 4 out of 5, despite some wonky animation.

The Good, the Bad and the Wacky- Part 5 [END]-Riderology Kamen Rider OOO -RX! 059

Logo_Album

Subject: Kamen Rider OOO Q4 Episodes 39-48.

Hosts: Grimmhelm, Mewzard, Ammit, and Professor What

It’s time for us to judge all the show that Kobayashi and crew could muster and throw at us. It isn’t that we don’t appreciate the effort taken to produce a gargantuan show like this, week after week, after week, but that doesn’t mean we won’t call out its flaws and failings. Join us for the mostly positive but appropriately critical final analysis of that power animal, alchemical power using Shaman Rider OOO!

Below is an excerpt from the notes used to make this episode.

OOO 39- A Nightmare, a Security Camera, and Ankh’s Counterattack

Ankh awakens from a nightmare about a semi-Greed Eiji and kid-Ankh stealing his Medals from him, there is also a dead looking Shingo. He wonders if it is Shingo’s fault and warns Eiji to control his Cores. Shimoda Gonzou, a neighborhood Watchman who is going all big brother asks Eiji to remove himself and Ankh from the neighborhood to maintain it’s sanctity. Kid-Ankh sees his overbearing antics and hosts a Yummy from him, in hopes to become complete.

Sataonaka and Gouto are now officially partners in fighting the Greeed and they butt heads a bit: he’s ever vigilant and she’s always waiting for break time. They go to help Eiji and Ankh, but Satonaka takes a long time and shows up in gothic-lolita garb.

Kid-Ankh now is sure of his identity and is eager to absorb his arm. In a plot twist, Gonzou’s wife is the Yummy host and her desire is to rule over people.

Also, Eiji stops Ankh from reattaching to Shingo after the Yummy disappears because Hina had asked him about it after Ankh had been a really huge jerk about possessing Shingo and respecting Hina’s wishes about Ankh playing her brother for his birthday party.

[Comments]

– I officially love Kougami’s antics, playing piano, making cakes and singing happy birthday

– Why is Satonaka so lazy?

Constant food coma :3

– I’m glad Mezul isn’t in kid form, when they’re talking about her liking Maki

– Ankh really is an ingrate and a jerk, or at least that’s his persona. I hate it either way.

– Why not let Chiyoko know about being OOO and the truth about Ankh?

That always seemed off to me. I don’t see how letting somebody who is both a landlord and a close friend in on a weird secret like that could be detrimental to a relationship or a plot.

– Gouto is so awesome as the militia-Birth, I love it. The little Medal holder on his wrist! The bike back pack folding the Medals! I love it all!!!

– Why the F is Satonaka fighting in fetishistic Loli-faire?! She does a decent support job, but am I supposed to be jerking off to this?

Birth as an operational unit of the Foundation is just brilliant, but Satonaka’s inclusion seems to weaken it for her laziness and her attire.

OOO 40- Control, a Birthday Party, and a Vanishing Ankh

Ankh repossesses Shingo after Eiji hesitates to let him. Later in Eiji’s room, Hina says she is starting to change her thoughts and feelings regarding Ankh and Shingo. Eiji tells her that he would have to get rid of Ankh if she stops being ok with the current situation. The Yummy has tagged a bunch of cops with feathers creating a police state for Mrs. Shimoda to rule over so she can revel in their freedom inhibiting activities. Chiyoko gets kicked out of her restaurant and they have a birthday party for Ankh down by the river after he half heartedly tries to strangle Hina. It seems things have changed between Ankh, Eiji and Hina.

Gouto bribes Satonaka to be more prompt and she shows up mid fight to help the Riders finally defeat the Yummy. Which was kid-Ankh’s plan all along! He waited for Ankh to return to Cous Cousier relaxed after their victory and he absorbs him taking many Cores and freeing Shingo fully of the possession. Kid-Ankh regenerates his right arm and wing, but his face remains incomplete.

[Comments]

– Ankh is an awful person

– Why does Hina put up with Ankh’s crap?

Ankh may not have his personality, but he has Shingo’s face – that’s enough to sway Hina over. It’s effectively emotional abuse and trauma.

– Dude pulled out an ASP on Chiyoko? WOW, not ok! You go Chiyoko! She would have made Captain america proud! Why is Mrs. Shimoda such a dirty fascist?

– I like the lame attempt to make the Candroids cooler and more marketable by slapping a few together to make a holo-cam and projector. PLEASE! That little scene was so unnecessary.

– I hope this means we don’t get fetish combat wear Satonaka anymore.

– Wow, that kid-Ankh is sharp.


 

The full notes are fairly exhaustive, but if you’d like an insight into my mind while it digests Rider, you can have it in full.

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The Good, the Bad and the Wacky- Part 4-Riderology Kamen Rider OOO -RX! 056

Logo_AlbumSubject: Kamen Rider OOO Q3 Episodes 29-38 + OOO Wonderful.

Hosts: Grimmhelm, Mewzard, Ammit, and Professor What

Deeper into OOO we go as misgivings start to emerge for Ammit who is still overall positive on the show. Professor What, Mewzard and Grimmhelm have all finished the show and fondly recall their experiences with this stretch of episodes as well as trace lines that connect the beginning and end of OOO that they can perceive thanks to their having already finished it.

Below is an excerpt from the notes used to make this episode.

OOO 34- Best Friends, Manipulations, and Relationships

RX 056

 

Kitamura wants Eiji to be his friend or rely on him. Ankh outs him to Eiji and Hina, but Eiji covers for him and the three guys head off to find Date and Gouto. Eiji taps into the host-Yummy relationship to narrow their search and they find the Kougami employees just after Date tells Gouto that he is ready to be Birth and that he should seize the chance at his next opportunity. Kitamura asks Eiji why he helps Ankh who he must know is manipulating him. Eiji answers that because Ankh is around he has the power to save people and that he is, in fact, using Ankh. Kitamura gets Eiji to Ankh and Maki leaves, not wanting all 10 Medals to be together. Eiji asks for the Dino Medals to lend them their strength and calls forth the set barely controlling his own henshin sequence with them. He still goes berserk and defeats the snow Owl Yumy after Kid-Ankh lands a rider kick and flattens him for a moment. Ankh lures the still enraged Eiji telling him he will be restored no matter what and he needs Eiji for that, even though he cares not for him otherwise.

[Comments]

– after treating Hina like an oppressed housewife, against which she doesn’t buck.

– I enjoy Date’s poor assessment of and guesses at on what animals the bird Yummies are based.

– Date used some last episode too, but how long has he been doing wrestling moves? I like how it matches his personality; brash with some finesse.

-Kita|Mura as in Mirai as in Here Future, as in the future of Kamen Rider is HERE talking about FRIENDSHIP and HIGH SCHOOL!!! This is when they decided on Fourze!

– Bullshit, they’re not friends

OOO 35- Dreams, a Brother, and Birth’s Secret

Hina, who has long dreamt of being a fashion designer wins first place at a fashion show, after which she is approached by one of the judges to work with him in his Parisian studio. She hesitates because of Shingo, who it seems may be re-surfacing as a result of the face-to-face between Ankhs.

Uva seems to be warming up to the idea of absorbing Cores, as he is desperate for more power after meeting kid-Ankh. Uva shows up and steals a Blue Medal and splits along with the Purple dream-crushing Unicorn Yummy after Date falls to the ground clutching his head. It turns out Date has a bullet in his brain– he had kept that from Kougami, who doesn’t mind, now that he knows, He knows it affects him negatively, but the President is fine with him continuing to work as Birth.

Uva guns for OOO’s Medals and sets a group of Psuedo-Yummies upon Eiji, which he destroys with the Dino-Cruncher Gun that the Purple Medals allow him to have as Sugozo.

Date continues to fight the Unicorn, but his injury kicks in and the battle moves away from him, focusing on Eiji, Ankh, Uva and Cazari. The Yummy flees after destroying Hina’s dream. Uva vs Cazali results in Uva getting a few more Mezul and Gamel Cores and Shingo wakes up!

[Comments]

– GORILLA ARMS GIVE YOU rocket punches!!!

– What are you doing to Hina!?

The full notes are fairly exhaustive, but if you’d like an insight into my mind while it digests Rider, you can have it in full.


 

Subscribe for iTunes

Feed RSS For your podcatcher of choice!

Check out some extra content on the Tumblr

Contact the show unkamencastrx@gmail.com

Or tweet the show @unKamenRX

Ammit @TrialOfHeroes

Tony @Grimmhelm

Colton @Mewzard

Jose @ProfessorWhere

Subscription Options

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Feedburder/RSS

Masked Light- Sailor Moon Crystal 8 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 8- Minako – Sailor V

Twists don’t typically dazzle me. I don’t look for mystery or surprises in my media, but the execution of a story, whether earnest and linear or guileful and convoluted, is the mark by which I measure a story. I initially felt some trepidation in reviewing this episode because I feel as if the story told here is incomplete. I want to say I like it a lot anyway, but as much as I may have enjoyed it, I do feel unsatisfied. The difference between an episode with hooks and one that just strings the viewer along is a narrow margin; that I can’t quite call in this instance.

Sailor V’s introduction at the beginning of this episode led naturally from the end of the previous, which was enjoyable because of the pacing. With the conflict ended at the end of Act 7, the characters and viewers are ready to switch their attention to who Sailor V is and what she is doing. The animation for Minako was beautiful and full of character, particularly during the first few minutes. We want to get to know her as we have the other Sailor Guardians and the mystique set about her having been active before the others intensifies that desire. The problem, or perhaps the narrative boon, is that we are so eager to meet her that everything she and Artemis say is accepted without question, but it seems that there is something more going on. The preview for the next episode likely gives away the secret or twist, but the way it was sold in the episode is what matters here. Minako and Artemis have seniority over the others and use that to their end of keeping the others in the dark so she can carry out her mission without their interference. One might assume that Minako’s solo mission has to do with Kunzite, but there are clues in the episode to dispel that notion, which deepens the intrigue. I feel really engaged by the show and want to know more.

The potential repercussions to the mythology of the show and the structure of the Sailor Guardians’ mission and infrastructure are interesting, but most of Mianko’s story ends a bit abruptly by the middle of the episode, leaving room to explore Usagi and Mamoru. If I hadn’t been invested in the relationship between Usagi and Mamoru before, this would have done it for me. The line between Usagi and Sailor Moon is almost immaterial, and the story of their romance is interesting enough for me to swap out Magical Girl for a number of other settings and I am sure I would enjoy it just as much.

Tuxedo Mask Blocking Sailor Moon

There were some errors that brought this episode down for me. I take issue with how the first part of Minako’s story was ended so suddenly. It just felt unfinished, even though the intensity was nice. I also feel that some of Usagi’s heroism has been diminished by Mamoru saving her twice in one episode. The guy loves her and wants to help her out, but it seems too much license was taken to make him cool and noble where that could have gone towards Usagi. She had in fact just had a great scene, but his moment came right after and obscured her glory.

Advancing the story in two directions, despite some big missteps earns this episode 3 out of 5.

 

Changing Tides- Sailor Moon Crystal 7 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 7- Mamoru Chiba- Tuxedo Mask

Takeuchi has fused tragic back stories, mysterious calls to action, betrayal and love into the pleasing piece that is SMC Act 7. Dynamic is the one word I would use to describe Sailor Moon Crystal since I started watching it only a few months ago. The almost entirely female cast may contribute to the intense level of energy I perceive in the show. That may seem odd at first, but given that most everything else I watch is mostly male populated and my day job has 10 men to every 1 woman, it is a little jarring to see a world that almost feels empty for the lack of men, and yet filled with female presence even when only one or two women are shown on screen. It’s off-putting but I like it. Even though the core material, Takeuchi’s manga is over 20 years old, I think this kind of shake up is really necessary and I hope Sailor Moon has resurgence in popularity and reaches new fans in the West; we could use some Moon healing Escalation.

The principal cast is a set of high school girls and a magical talking cat, all of whom are powerful, but unique. Tuxedo Mask, the only good male with any agency regarding the struggle between the Moon and Dark Kingdoms has been seen as an unknown quantity up until this point. Even his declaration to Usagi doesn’t feel immutable. His ambitions could potentially cause him to work against the other Sailor Guardians to obtain the Legendary Silver Crystal. I think the return of repressed memories may compel him further despite his current change of heart, just as it compelled each Sailor Guardian to step out of her comfort zone. Queen Beryl, or whoever she was before she answered Queen Metalia’s call, might be a closer analog to Mamoru, in that she is outside the circle of sailor Guardians and seeks the Legendary Silver Crystal for herself, just as he had and may yet. Beryl is willing to betray Queen Metalia, so does that mean that one of the Four Kings might be out for himself as well? Could we see a divide between the Dark Kingdom, even as Usagi and Mamoru drift away from the Sailor Guardians? Maybe. That is just a fraction the dynamism I have been enjoying in watching this show and most of that is encapsulated in this one episode. While this story is 2o years old and has some cliches (it certainly seem to have set some) it is still surprising. I don’t feel like it is predictable. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

For executing the feat of being a standalone that picks up from the last episode and leads into the next, I give this episode 4 out of 5.

 

Home Late- Persona 4 The Golden Animation 12 Review

Persona 4 the Golden Animation – 12 Welcome Home

As Narukami said, “I’m home.”

Over the course of the series Marie has been through a lot and we’ve been there with her. She was our cipher to see different sides of familiar characters, her amnesia was the impetus for Golden’s main plot of making memories, and she served as McGuffin turned powerhouse once she faced herself with a little help from her friends. Marie was slyly made one of the gang when she appeared on the TV and was rescued from her Shadow in the Hollow Forest. The first part of this episode really harmonized beautifully with that prior event. I don’t feel that Marie confronting Izanami was redundant; it was foreshadowed, not forced. Throughout the game and the prior series there is the distinct pattern of people becoming near victims in the TV, being saved and then joining the team. What keeps the cycle fresh is the variety in each person’s personal issues. The setup and explanation for Marie’s arc is done in a more protracted way in this series; most of it coming in these last few episodes and neatly tied up in this finale. The unique details of her personal struggle still follow the same pattern, but offer a novel look at personhood, agency and inner strength. All the grandiose talk about “truth” and having faith in humanity’s wish at the core of Marie’s self-actualization are inspirational and aspirational. Marie is certain of who she is and is no longer afraid of her feelings by the end of her story.

Where the others were able to become heroes and champions always pushing through the fog to grasp truth, Marie experienced apotheosis. As strange an unattainable as this is, I find it inspiring in perhaps the best way, without trying or being preachy. The characters (Marie included) are cool and go through these engaging struggles and change because of them, they don’t become someone else and I don’t need to either. Embracing your failings, loving yourself for who you are doesn’t mean you refuse to change or grow. The characters in this show are brave enough to stare there ugliness in the face and forgive it- forgive themselves; that is the key to victory over the self. The final battle ends with a short sell on dynamic violence and heroic bravado, it ends with Marie hugging herself, showing that love and acceptance. The message I get and feel is so well conveyed is that, by being one’s true self, pushing aside lies and really knowing who you are and what you want, we can be happier people and help others around us to do the same, if you like that sort of thing. Whatever.

The denouement was well executed, which hasn’t always been the case in this series. The way we see with the passage of time; that things change, but remain the same, is charming, warm and reassuring. Somehow, the creative team did an excellent job of making it seem like Narukami had been gone a long time. The slight changes to all the character models earn a lot of praise for that. The nostalgia of the reunion wasn’t drudged up either, it was conjured. Everything just felt right: Rise’s heart was on her sleeve; Teddie acted unexpectedly to Yosuke surprise; Yukiko started cracking up at nothing; Chie’s enthusiasm never waned; the detective prince found herself out of the loop in an otherwise normal social situation and Kanji finally got it right- almost. Nanako even looked like she had grown some and Doujima was more open. Marie’s new persona, as the thinly veiled goddess of local weather, Mariko Kusumi, parallels the others’ changes neatly with her cheery, but not-too-cheery disposition. The voice actress gave a great performance for her final big scene.

For being the Persona 4 I remember while saying something new and different, I give this episode 4 out of 5.

Dream Boat – Moon Speak 06

Join Sono and Ammit as they discuss Tuxedo Mask and the awesome women with whom he shares the screen from Queen Serenity to Queen Beryl.

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If you’d like to comment on our thoughts, or ask any questions our inbox is trialofheroes@gmail.com or we can be reached individually @sonoyourface and @trialofheroes on Twitter. We hope you enjoyed the show and thank you for listening.

The opening and closing for this episode can be found here and here, please check out the other cool work this musician has done.

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Dream Bound- Sailor Moon Crystal 6 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 6- Tuxedo Mask

Ambiguity, threat escalation and wide ranging impact make this episode an exciting answer to my previous complaints. By the end of the episode more questions about Mamorou Chiba remain, even as Usagi finally realizes he is Tuxedo Mask. He is a desperate person, who is willing to take desperate measures. His kindness and care for Usagi are a mix of self-motivated interest and genuine care for her, but what does he want? The preview lets us in on that, but we’ll leave the particulars to next week, because what is important is how things unfolded in the episode proper. He and Usagi are connected by their dreams of the Moon Kingdom; even new viewers I am sure, have seen the similarities between the princess and soldier in Usagi’s dream and her and her and Mamorou. The story is telling us, quite openly, that they are deeply connected to each other and the Moon Kingdom. We have seen that the other Sailor Guardians are also connected to the Moon Kingdom because they have glimpsed the palace at different times during their introductions. The revelation that Luna’s base is under Crown Arcade and is accessed by the Sailor V machine and the glimpse of Sailor V at the end of the episode with a white cat connect Usagi’s world in a very satisfying way. How everything is connected is still nebulous, but there is a plan and some solid structure upon which this story is all being hung. Queen Beryl’s appearance alongside Soizite also made the Dark Kingdom feel more real and a lot scarier, especially when Soizite had cast a pall over thousands of people in his plot to find the Legendary Silver Crystal and absorb human energy for their master. The doubt and uncertainty which stymie Usagi seem so realistic given the threats she and her friends face. The way she wavers is handled in just the right way too, where the viewer can have sympathy for her, cheer her on to step up and be proud of the team for doing what they must with or without her. Watching Usagi struggle to grow and change has been extremely satisfying and I am so excited to see more.

A return to form that has me really excited for the next episode gets this episode 4 out of 5.

Ererything Is Un- Persona 4 The Golden Animation 11 Review

Persona 4 the Golden Animation – 11 Let It Out! Let It GO!

OK. I will.

Please change your narrative flow P4GA team. The current set up is not making me want to continue watching the series. Poorly constructed cliffhangers are frustrating and anti-climactic. Perhaps the structure of this episode was meant to mirror the first episode, but that one had two endings, while this latest episode had one and one half. The pacing just felt interrupted, not compelling, as if this team hasn’t made (at least) the previous ten episodes. I hardly quit media (because I am very selective), especially of a story I enjoy, but the thing about secondary or tertiary media is that if it is ineffective or poorly executed, it makes it easier to quit. I know I enjoy Persona 4 and I don’t need prove it to anyone by sticking with a show I don’t like. The first half of this episode was really good,  it firmed my desire to play Persona 4 Golden, if only so I and my real life can present the issues of timing in how I experience the story. I think I’m done. I might just go watch more Sailor Moon instead, there is a dub of the 90’s anime now, maybe I’ll go in on that.

For just ending and giving me no reason to want to come back, I give this episode 3 out of 5.

Jupiter Is Ready – Moon Speak 05

Join Sono and Ammit discuss Makoto’s introduction and the baggage of formula fatigue and a point of lack-luster execution. On the other hand, Makoto has some pretty awesome powers as Sailor Jupiter and she has some great qualities at her core that are played out in interesting ways.

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If you’d like to comment on our thoughts, or ask any questions our inbox is trialofheroes@gmail.com or we can be reached individually @sonoyourface and @trialofheroes on Twitter. We hope you enjoyed the show and thank you for listening.

The opening and closing for this episode can be found here and here, please check out the other cool work this musician has done.

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Not Fun Anymore- Persona 4 The Golden Animation 10 Review

Persona 4 the Golden Animation – 10 Not Fun Anymore

I’m once again feeling like this is a different show, which will ultimately work against the series as a whole. The scope of the material covered serves to give a fairly cohesive experience as a first time viewer and enriches the world and story for fans who have seen the original show and played at least the original game. The new areas being explored in the timeline are especially interesting to me because the original game just skipped over them. The show therefore gets a lot of credit and goodwill from me for being able to work in that unexplored area without changing things. Seeing the characters operating towards the end of the story as I know it, as a group who has competently dealt with a murderous adult and a nihilistic goddess in a new situation where they are really unsure of what to do is so fun. Everyone is behaving in a more grown-up way than at the beginning of this series, their growth has been shown throughout and I’m really happy to see that consistency displayed here. The mysterious nature of this Hollow Forest that has just been introduced is effectively engaging too. It doesn’t feel tacked on, because while the TV World has hardly been explored in this show, Narukami and the others getting to the Hollow Forest through the TV and Margaret’s presence as a guide really cemented it as another corner of this nebulous world. The mystique of the TV World and the seriousness of the gang trying to help their sad friend feels so weighty and engaging that I am really hooked.

For reeling me back in and almost making me forget my complaints of the past by feeling so fresh and so classically Persona 4, I give this episode a 4 out of 5.

A Not So Mighty Echo- Sailor Moon Crystal 5 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 5- Makoto – Sailor Jupiter

This introduction was nice, but I think it would have been better served by happening later. I know that the original anime spaced things further apart because Takeuchi was still working and while that arrangement typically bothers me, I can see the good in it. Masquerade provided a break from the pattern of introduce new girl, put her in danger, see her transform and save herself or the others. Patterns and formulas are not anathema to good storytelling, but they can become tiring, as is the case here for me. This may seem like a strange criticism, but if the formula had been hidden better or the details were flipped around I wouldn’t have this complaint; it is just so obvious that it risks losing my attention. I sense that the Sailor Guardian’s ranks will stay at four for some time, but I fear that we’ll be seeing the fifth girl join in one month and I’ll be similarly less than thrilled to see the repetition. The pacing of Luna adding three girls to her cause consecutively felt good because everything was new. Perhaps the break from that accompanying the first experience of both/all sides acknowledging each other (Whose side are you on Mamouru Chiba?) along with the engaging musings of Usagi’s young heart created such a charming experience that this return to the normal flow of the show weakened the experience.

Makoto is a neat character. Whether or not she is stronger than the average girl is irrelevant because she has guts and resolve. The friendship Usagi forms with Makoto and the encouragement she gives her when she realizes her heart had been a plaything to some jerk guy is empowering and heroic. I’m interested to see more of Makoto and her interactions with the rest of the team as they actually do something in the next episode.

Stymied by a modicum of formula fatigue, I give this episode a 3 out of 5.

A Missing Plot- Persona 4 The Golden Animation 9 Review

Persona 4 the Golden Animation –9 A Missing Piece

The latest episode of P4GA proves that you can have heart alongside comedy and mystery. Ardently returning to form in a slightly tiring way, the Seekers of Truth, yet again get their minds warped by a mysterious force more powerful than them. Narukami’s sense that something is off, manifested in some suspenseful and comedic turns that were really enjoyable to watch. Seeing the characters interact and tackle something slippery and much bigger than them is crucial to my enjoyment of this franchise and we got a lot of it here. The Narukami-specific snowstorm that reminded him of the fog sent me a meta-textual nod that felt good to decipher, but the way he received Marie’s comb and Yosuke spoke her name just before the cliffhanger ending felt really contrived. It almost worked on me, but this is another instance where the show’s focus could have been shifted to make the beefy content plentiful, if tough and I end the episode unsatisfied and feeling a little like I wasted my time. I want more from this series. I was pleased to have gone through the series and experienced all the memories the group made with Marie, thereby making them more palatable and nostalgically warm in my heart. The series is effective in getting those kinds of responses out of me, but I felt like I had to wait too long to get to the good stuff, which is addressing the questions of who Marie is, and why and where she has gone. Because the viewers already know this and the pacing makes it feel like the series is almost over it is a letdown and smacks of filler.

For being a lot of sizzle with not much steak, I give this episode 3 out of 5.

Slipping The Multiverse- Persona 4 The Golden Animation 8 Review

Persona 4 the Golden Animation –8 Not So Holy Night

Whether the current and previous iterations of animated Persona 4 are supposed to be linked – if only in an emotional sense – this episode does not belong in this series. The tone and characters were so different that it took me out of the story. Once I accepted that this wasn’t going to be a natural continuation of Golden, I was able to relax and enjoy hanging with the crew from P4A, and it was beautiful. Seeing everyone’s new winter duds was great and the different takes on Narukami’s invitation to the four girls lead to some nice personal and comedic moments. I suppose the thread about “Making new memories.” anchors this firmly in P4GA, but I don’t really appreciate this kind of fake-out storytelling, where all of a sudden this big deception is revealed and the characters just roll over it like nothing. Maybe next episode will tie everything together better and this episode was to give the audience a “chance to breath.” Another concept I reject. Hardcore storytelling all the way!

This episode gets 3 out of 5 for being very enjoyable, but feeling like it was part of the previous series.

Dangerous Moonlight – Moon Speak 04

Join Sono and Ammit as they discuss and review the brand new show: Sailor Moon Crystal. A franchise veteran and uninitiated whelp bring different perspectives to this over all strong first showing of the renewed show.

This episode we discuss the quasi-filler awesomeness that simultaneously re-states the status quo and sets the board for things to come. We learn stuff, get glimpses of mysteries to come and we get to see Usagi’s amazing MOON TWILIGHT FLASH!

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If you’d like to comment on our thoughts, or ask any questions our inbox is trialofheroes@gmail.com or we can be reached individually @sonoyourface and @trialofheroes on Twitter. We hope you enjoyed the show and thank you for listening.

The opening and closing for this episode can be found here and here, please check out the other cool work this musician has done.

Subscribe through RSS|iTunes|Sticher [not Yet Ready] to keep up with every episode of Moon Speak as it drops!

A Sloppy Cliché – Persona 4 the Golden Animation 7 Review

Persona 4 the Golden Animation –7 It’s Cliché, So What?

I don’t know what the team’s goal was for this episode. It felt disjointed in both content and presentation. The music video of Adachi’s memories was nebulous in direction and therefore effect. What was the purpose? If seeing Adachi’s life was intended to make Yu Question his own actions and motives equally to or more than Adachi’s verbalized accusations, I have a heard time believing that. A waste of four or so minutes is not the kind of thing this show needs; I feel a monologue or dialogue over that section would have helped a lot, but I suppose the team deserves credit for making a bold choice. Too bad it was a misstep. Another mar on the episode was the seemingly off message brutality Yu displayed towards Adachi. I lost count of how many time he hit him, but it seemed uncharacteristic and didn’t really match with the tone, especially because as soon as he and Adachi seem to be making headway in understanding each other, he gets taken over by the eye in the sky. The idea that the two of them took such different paths while being so similar was well presented and it was neat that it was acted out by Yu using Adachi’s Persona. The best thing in this episode, which was unfortunately not interwoven well, may have been Marie chiding Yu for not accepting all the consequences of his actions (somehow hurting Adachi in the course of doing what he saw as kindness and helping Marie) for good and ill. She doesn’t drone on about opportunity costs or eating one’s cake and still having it, but succinctly shakes him from self-doubt and accepting Adachi’s path of isolationist inaction. I think a lot can be read into seeing that dichotomy and making a choice.

For nicely representing a cliché message that resonates with me, but mucking it up with unorthodox chronology that adds little to the narrative, I give this overly-ambitious, mediocre episode a 3 out of 5.

Romantic Moonlight- Sailor Moon Crystal 4 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal- Act 4 – Masquerade Dance Party

The character layering and interaction are back of course, and I imagine that technically it could become rote for the group to grow and adjust to new members as the Sailor Guardians increase their numbers, but it is still fun to watch. The first half of the episode feels expository, but not tediously so. The fact that this episode was likely to lead nowhere in getting the McGuffin doesn’t help and the fact that everyone was taking seriously the idea that here is a “Country D” was hard to swallow. Really not much was accomplished besides formalizing the status quo, but charm and fun were certainly not lacking.

This episode was a little bit filler and a little bit romance. But the romantic aspect shone so brightly as to dazzle the critical eye. The warmth and beauty of Usagi’s blossoming feelings for Tuxedo Mask is well executed on at least two levels, it adds to them as characters and served a mechanical function for Takeuchi to work in an upgrade to Sailor Moon’s powers. Additionally the growing connection between Usagi and Tuxedo Mask raises the stakes for her, given his ambiguous statement to Luna that he could be an enemy. Not only do the Sailor Guardians actually know that the Four Kings are actively working against their interests, but now he is this unknown quantity. The stage is set for a lot of drama. Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon could find themselves in love and on different sides of a battle. How will that affect the Sailor Guardians and their mission? The show has hooked me by raising these questions.

I give this episode 3.5 out of 5 for being flawed, but so charming and engaging that I want to see more. Bonus points not included in this review for the new Moon Tiara’s beam canon that blasts moonlight – it’s spectacular!

Apathetic And Evil- Persona 4 The Golden Animation 6 Review

Persona 4 the Golden Animation –6 See? I Told You Yu!

Time skipping, and protagonist shifting can be a risk, but I think the insights into who Adachi is are a vital component of making this show more than just a comedic teen eye-candy festival, which is how it began.

The murders are introduced to the plot in a grimly off-putting way that underscores Adachi’s callous indifference and sets him up as a solid counter-piece to Narukami, Marie and Teddie, who are thematically linked as main protagonists. Bored and full of contempt for everyone, Adachi chafes at the kindness of others, refuses to actually connect with people and seeks to destroy the things that irritate him. A perspective that orients everything around the self lead to Adachi’s sentiment, “Why help someone? They could betray you, so it’s better to do nothing.” This flies in the face of the main cast’s sentiments which lead them to reach out to others and help them. The vulnerability and lost position of weakness from which characters like Marie and Teddy start, cause them to be humble and empathetic. Their friends help them to accomplish good things and direct themselves to be a positive force in the world, however small. Adachi sees himself as a big fish in a little pond and that arrogance is what allows him to lash out at his inferiors. I don’t think every episode needs to be like this, but the tone was consistent with the rest of Persona 4, while authentically presenting Adachi as a sick creep. The inclusion of the scene where Adachi is distressed over Nanako getting hurt, is an interesting touch, which I see as meant to humanize him after the jarring scene of him pushing Saki into the TV. It doesn’t belie his self-centered destructive attitude or what he did, but he isn’t a flat soulless monster.

This episode gets a 4 out of 5 for telling a compelling, cohesive story, despite shifting direction, thanks to the emotional context which threads this darker, weightier content to the quiz shows and skin shots.

Mars Attacks – Moon Speak 03

Join Sono and Ammit as they discuss and review the brand new show: Sailor Moon Crystal. A franchise veteran and uninitiated whelp bring different perspectives to this over all strong first showing of the renewed show. We discuss Sailor Mars bursting on to the scene as Beryl reveals some information to the Four Kings of Darkness, giving us and the Sailor Guardians more juicy tidbits to mull over. We discuss our heroines’ catchphrases, religion and Sono schools Ammit some on Astronomy.

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If you’d like to comment on our thoughts, or ask any questions our inbox is trialofheroes@gmail.com or we can be reached individually @sonoyourface and @trialofheroes on Twitter. We hope you enjoyed the show and thank you for listening.

The opening and closing for this episode can be found here and here, please check out the other cool work this musician has done.

Subscribe through RSS|iTunes|Sticher [not Yet Ready] to keep up with every episode of Moon Speak as it drops!

Not So Pumped- Persona 4 The Golden Animation 5 Review

Persona 4 the Golden Animation – 5 Let’s Go Get it! Get Pumped!

I have previously made complaints about the murder mystery not being a part of this show and it appears now that that is and isn’t the case. Before I continue I must say that for any work of fiction to be truly successful in my mind it must stand alone. That isn’t to say that a part of a series or trilogy has to give the audience a re-cap so they are up to speed on all the minusha and details that inform the characters, setting and circumstances, but that every piece of a story should stand on its own duirng each installment. Characters acting consistently across multiple settings and operating in a world that fuctions the same way as in other parts of their journeys (except where the narrative explicitly let’s the rules get loopy I.E. altrernate universes) creates stories that can engage new audiences while enriching the experiences of dedicated fans. Because I expect so much from the Persona 4 creative team, I have meted out my judgements accordingly. Last episode was a marked improvement and I had accepted the show as a comletely alternate retelling of events in the same characters lives, but this episode has opened my eyes to a new possibility.

The premise of this episode turns this series into an interesting companipon piece that dovetails with the prior series in a way that somewhat alters events and shows what was happening when the “cameras weren’t rolling” in Persona 4 The Animation. Technically, they are probably taking place in separate continuities, but they do add to each other, especially starting with this episode. The threat of Yosuke moving away works on two levels; new fans see the risk of these friends breaking up and those already familiar with the series have a way to see what they already know in a new light.

I like the animation a lot, though Dojima’s new look does seem a little funny to me. An issue these character designs have always had for me is that they feel to tall, unless all the structures in Inaba are tiny. Why am I talking about that? Because there isn’t much meat on the bones here. The episode was decent; I was entertained, but not compelled.

I get it, I think I see what the creative team is doing, but it doesn’t get me pumped. Actually, Marie’s moment of terror at the trio of Dojima, Nanako and Adachi was an attention grabbing bit, but it was so late in the episode that it cut the impact.

Bottom line: I’m really looking forward to the next episode, but this one deserves no more than a 3 out of 5.

Holy Mystical Girl- Sailor Moon Crystal 3 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal- Act 3 – Rei – Sailor Mars

I wonder if marathoning this show would make it feel too fast paced? I raise that concern only to say that I really did like this episode, but it just flew by. With the show more closely following the manga, the team is assembled much more quickly than in the original anime. I think Takeuchi works with this interesting choice that could be a weakness by giving the girls a lot of time to breath. The conceit of hearing about nefarious goings on through gossip at Usagi and Ami’s school efficiently allows them to be clued in to information that will directly effect their lives as Sailor Guardians while they continue their lives as students. Holding meetings at Crown Arcade allows them to get more accessories to use in their missions while letting us see more of who Usagi and Ami are, the fact the Luna got Usagi to perk up for the meeting there says a lot about the two of them and Ami.

The flash of the Moon Kingdom Rei received when seeing Usagi and Ami on the bus is maybe a touch opaque, but I don’t demand twists or reveals in my media as some do. Iti is clear from the opening credits and the framing of the show that she is going to be an important character and in this type of work that probably means she’ll transform. This show and the manga that came before it aren’t on a mission to surprise the audience and they don’t need to. The familiarity of the genre is not a weakness of the show so far, because the monsters of the week, power ups and new members joining the ranks aren’t the focus. The characters matter here. The dangers in the action scenes are representative of the culmination of events in the girl’s personal lives. Usagi extends kindness to those around her and her good will towards others and faith in people is what gives her strength. Is Usagi hadn’t been attracted to Rei because of her beauty and defended her they wouldn’t have formed a connection and Jadeite would have put an end to the Sailor Guardians.

This show has heart and that is what makes it good. I could see these characters in any number of setting and it would still be good and entertaining. Takeuchi laid out a good story and the Crystal team did a good job executing it and breathing life into this world. The music in particular was very good this episode. The music made the atmosphere ominous ans triumphant (at the right times of course). There was a good balance of humor and tension too.

I give this episode a 4 out of 5. I now expect a lot from the show, so I may judge each episode a bit more harshly because the bar has been set high. Let’s just hope Usagi doesn’t do another long wink. Please. If you have been on the fence, you should definitely jump in.

The Sweet Spot- Persona 4 The Golden Animation 4 Review

P4GA- 04 The Mayonaka Ohdan Miracle Quiz

Emotional resonance, here you are. I’m so happy to see you again!

Clichéd.

Old hat.

Call the amnesiac character set up what you will; it’s working well in this show. So far.

Gone are my sentiments, and I would argue the show’s Direction, that Marie is little more than fan-service bait. I am unsure how long they can effectively draw out Marie trying to reclaim her memories, and it could be that her breakthrough about making new memories starting now is the conclusion to that part of her story.

As an aside, it would be interesting if that was the case and it would free up the creative team to explore new material.

Regarding how poor the content of this series milking the amnesia might turn out, the original story drew out a murder mystery for a very long time and kept me hooked by showing the characters’ growth and interactions with each other. Now that we seem to be over the fan-service bait, the characters have been given premission to unsheath their hooks and grab me with them. I am invested in Marie’s story wether she is she-Kuma, Margaret Jr., related to the mysterious contract boy for Persona 3, or just another aspect of the pysche given human form.

The humor sprinkled throughout was mostly subtle (read: good) and the drama of Marie getting lost in the mall was nice, if how it happened was a little off-putting. The scene in the weapon’s shop when she was overcome by the pain of trying to remeber didn’t play well, but her reactions to hearing the horrible truth about combs was really solid. The discussion of the comb and how it brings about separation and suffering is a fascinating cultural insight and was an inspired bit of storytelling. The thematic echo of Marie being separated from her friends and then feeling persecuted by the mall cop was a near seamless call back to what Mrs. Tatsumi had said. The friendship forming around Marie is compelling to watch. The Fools are a neat group of kids and it is really fun to watch them try to help someone for whom they care. What makes it even better is that they have only known her briefly and it has been as Narukami’s friend. This is a great group of kids; they are nice people and its good to see them reaching out to help someone since they’ve each self-actuallized a bit and are now equiped to do so.

Regarding those steamy 2-D bods and how this shopping trip went, I submit that the framing of this shopping trip proves the previous one was meant to sexualize the teenage girls participating. The composition of the shots with Rise and the others in this instance are eye level and put all the characters on equal footing. Rise still asks for Narukami’s input, but it is clear she cares what he specifically thinks of her; he isn’t just any guy giving her value, because that is how women receive their worth. They have a relationship and that context informs her desire for his opinion. Moreover, the scene allows her friends to check out what she is wearing, but doesn’t put her on a platter for the viewers. On the other hand, the bunny suit and speedo do serve up Rise and Kanji for the viewers. I won’t carp about this, because though it bugs me a bit, the events of the scene are so sweet and positive that they counter almost all the negativity coming from the exploitative outfits. The scene would have been no less effective had they been dressed differently

This episode marks a new standard for the show and I give it 4 out of 5. If you want to get into the show and dislike poor representation of other-than-male characters, sex humor and horny boys chasing tail, you can skip all of episode 2 and at least the first half of episode 3 and I doubt your viewing experience will be marred.

Time In The Sun- Persona 4 The Golden Animation 3 Review

Persona 4 the Golden Animation –3 I have Amnesia, Is It So Bad?

For those of you playing along at home, you might be in for a shock- I actually liked this episode. Partly.

About half of this episode was at the beach, showcasing those glistening, firm, young, 2D bodies, but the remainder was more than deep enough to push aside my irritation and bring back that old familiar feeling of satisfaction. Once again, the vehicle for this stirring is the increasingly more-than-fan-service Marie. It looks like Marie’s job in this story is to somehow play off of Narukami and Kuma to service the slowly developing story, which is service to this fan. One of the most engaging elements of Persona 4 was watching the characters struggle to face themselves. Why that has been included in this series in an inadequate way, I can not understand. I concede that the characters have acknowledged (what I presume are) their experiences in the TV world, and while their testimonials were interesting I think they would have been more impactful with a greater amount of context. I think showing some of the excursions into the TV, modified from the previous anime, or reusing extant footage even, would do much to increase the impact of the new insights and perspectives presented. Isn’t there a dictum about showing instead of telling?

Marie’s struggle to find out who or what she is should prove interesting, despite my hunch that I already know. I am compelled by her similarities to Kuma and Narukami’s tenderness and compassion toward her, which I feel form a key to making this series enjoyable for those interested in a solid character story for the Persona 4 Team.

Stupid sex humor aside (which cut out the delicious bits of fat-marbled meat of character-driven dram I have come to expect) I give this episode a 3 out of 5.

Getting Misty – Moon Speak 02

Join Sono and Ammit as they discuss and review the brand new show: Sailor Moon Crsytal. A franchise veteran and uninitiated whelp bring different perspectives to this over all strong first showing of the renewed show. We watch the formation of a beautiful friendship and Ami’s first transformation into Sailor Mercury!

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If you’d like to comment on our thoughts, or ask any questions our inbox is trialofheroes@gmail.com or we can be reached individually @sonoyourface and @trialofheroes on Twitter. We hope you enjoyed the show and thank you for listening.

The opening and closing for this episode can be found here and here, please check out the other cool work this musician has done.

Subscribe through RSS|iTunes|Sticher [not Yet Ready] to keep up with every episode of Moon Speak as it drops!

The Worst Plan- Persona 4 The Golden Animation 2 Review

Persona 4 the Golden Animation –02 The Perfect Plan

 

This episode is not awful. It also isn’t good. It is a crystallization of my complaints and worries stated in the previous review. The original anime started out as slowly paced, but with the same engaging air of mystery, as the game. The introductions to the characters was engaging and watching the arc of the Fools coming together and making a stand against the murders unfold was entertaining. The numbing speed and Hardcore Action (TM) of Narukami’s god-mode fist use of Izanagi at the end of this series’ premiere episode appears to have been a portend of the series’ pacing over all.

This second episode jumps one month in the timeline and adds Kanji to the team without context. In this alleged new game+ scenario, I don’t know what will be different in the show. Who are Yukiko and Chie really? Why does Narumaki continue to spend time with Yosuke? When did Kanji become their friend? Does he just know the two of them or everyone? There are even more questions than that, and I don’t think the gags and eye candy are enough to keep more discerning viewers around. A new viewer may be even more lost and I am at this point. I am almost certain that I would not continue to watch this show if I were a new viewer and I briefly considered stopping now, but I would really like to give the show another chance as a long-time fan of Persona 4.

The twist on the idea of setting up time to spend days with friends (with which only players of the game would actually be familiar) was comical and watching Narukami try to juggle all the events and make it back to Nanako on time was entertaining. The babe hunt was tiring, but it was funny to see these idiotic boys sitting on their bikes failing so hard. I was happy to see Marie not being pure fan-service, but interestingly enough she is spreading that role to the other girls in the show, which is irritating. Way to go team, reminding us that girls need guys to validate them! My final issue to raise regarding the portrayal of women in the show is that of Hanako Ohtani’s appearance and the extra dig the show gets in at the obese. Yosuke is terrified that this completely undesirable fellow student mistakenly believes that he is interested in her. She is almost framed visually as a kaiju and her destruction of Yosuke’s bike is both unrealistic and a display of rotten low-hanging comedy fruit that would have been better left to fall to the ground.

Why should I keep watching this show? Why should you? I don’t know what in this show is engaging and has hooks to keep my attention. The characters are shallow. The murders are not important. The slice of life focus is interesting and it almost seems like some compelling developments might happen with Marie, but the lack of balance and superficiality does nothing to serve these potentially promising elements.

It’s Just Mist In My Eyes- Sailor Moon Crystal 2 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 2 Ami – Sailor Mercury

This second episode is a good showing for Crystal, especially after what I felt was a very strong opening. It was simple, informative, engaging, and opened up the World of Sailor Moon. It gets bonus points from me for feeling original despite the ubiquity of this scenario. I see shades of Captain Planet, Power Rangers and even the Avengers (and the MCU build up to the Avengers) in the execution of Luna’s charge to Usagi to find allies who can help her save the princess. It is a bit disappointing that Luna is keeping her eye out for allies when she had specifically instructed Usagi to do it, but the fact that Usagi made a friend of Ami before Luna -seemingly- picked her to become Sailor Mercury may be a key in excusing that inconsistency.

There are some elements that are either irritating plot holes or seeds yet to flourish into awesome plot points. Ami’s transformation device being the Sailor-V prize pen, and Usagi getting one too comes to mind. How does that work exactly? Is Sailor-V directly tied to the Pretty Guardians? If so, why isn’t she 1) the protagonist 2) more secretive about her operations 3) actively acknowledged by Luna 4) in the opening credits? I could go on, but the show has garnered enough good will from me that I’ll leave it at that for now.

This episode succeeds in the execution of its otherwise rote premise by focusing on the relationships between Usagi and Ami. Luna’s involvement in bringing them to together doesn’t detract from how much I enjoyed watching them interact at all. In fact, I am curious to see more of Luna’s role, but that is a subject for another time and place. The contrast between brilliant, competent Ami and slightly frazzled Usagi is great because in just a few scenes, Takeuchi establishes them as very different characters. It may be that the other girls contrast less with Usagi and may be less distinguishable in the future, but the juxtaposition of these two works so well.

The scene in the arcade where Ami earns her magical pen from the Sailor-V game by getting the highest score and Usagi gets it by wanting it so badly and acting up about it spoke to me as a defining moment for them. Usagi’s care for Ami despite their short-lived friendship is another solid establishing story beat for her. Usagi obviously has a tender and loving heart and as Sailor Mercury explicitly mentions Intelligence, as opposed to Justice in her transformation, I see another distinction between the two. Ami’s almost reluctant actions as Sailor Mercury reflect on her claim of only being good at studying; she is smart, but anything beyond that is out of her comfort zone. She is a bit aloof and the interplay between her and Usagi will likely open her up to experiencing more.

The light introduction to Queen Beryl and Jadeite are nice, as is the inclusion of some new magic and Luna’s celestial stairs, but the impact of the relationship between Usagi and Ami really sells me on this show. I am enthusiastically looking forward to the next episode and if you still haven’t ventured in, and you enjoy character driven stories I think you should give Crystal a chance to shine.

Persona Non Grata- Persona 4 The Golden Animation 1 Review

Persona 4 Golden the Animation – 01 The Golden Days

 

I am a fan of the very successful PS2 game, Persona 4 and the anime based on it. I watched the anime subbed as it was airing and I just concluded watching the dub. I had fun, but I thought it was all over, and like Yu Narukami I was ready to move on. I was surprised and very excited to learn that this unique and engaging property had received a second life on the PS Vita with a port/re-make similar to, but more advanced than, Persona 3 Portable which had been made for the PSP. I have stepped away from gaming and own no hand held devices and so had resigned to wait a year or so and save up the money to buy a Vita and Persona 4 Golden. Just the other day, I was once more taken by surprise when I learned that Atlus, Sega and Aniplex had been making Persona 4 Golden the Animation.

In watching the P4A dub, I found some of the flaws I had noticed in both the game and the subtitled release of the show to be more pronounced. The teacher (who could be characterized as a cougar) Noriko Kashiwagi, and Hanako Ohtani (a heavy set girl) are used almost entirely as the brunt of jokes about how sexually undesirable they are. Ms. Kashiwagi is sensitive about her age and Hanako thinks rancid food is yummy. In a supposedly comedic moment, between Kanji (one of the core characters who was sort of confused about his sexuality) and Hanako is when she tells him she isn’t into guys like him; the joke seems to be that he doesn’t find her attractive and she wouldn’t be expected to reject him as appealing as attractive as he is.

Not only are these female characters mocked for having sexuality, but Kanji’s possible sexual orientation is used as fodder for laughs. It gets worse. Two of the male characters coerce female members of the core cast to wear bikinis and show their stuff for the purpose of drawing the male gaze, both in and out of universe.

There are many negative elements to the game and show, but there is a core of pro-social themes. The formation of genuine bonds between Yu and the characters in the story giving him the strength to face life’s challenges is really compelling. The tenderness and care he showed to people throughout Persona 4 the Animation was moving and the stand the Seekers of Truth take against nihilism is admirable and inspiring.

I am afraid that the bad will outweigh the good in Persona 4 Golden the Animation. I doubt they will fix some of the socially off-key elements they present and I am certain they won’t fix them all.

I watched the first episode of P4GA, The Golden Days and while the new take on the story seems like it will be rather interesting, especially with the sense that Yu is doing a “new game+,” there are still potentially problematic issues ahead for those who continue to watch. Yu seems to be over confident to a fault. He is edging on being abrasive and rude. I would hope that after all the growth he had gone through that he would retain his gentleness while having an air of too cool for the same year of school and saving the world over again.

The music is good. The animation looks nice. The over the top fight scene makes me fear this version will be filled with hyper-macho bravado and brashness. The pace felt break-neck but the additional content after the credits explained, if not excused the abrupt ending. The additional content fully introduced Marie, the amnesiac with an eye-catching aesthetic and a mysterious, apparently new link to the Velvet Room into the show as a prominent figure. Marie’s character design and her attitude, which I read as possibly being tsun-dure makes me worry she’ll be a vehicle for fan-service made significant only because she is an object of the male lead. This hasn’t been true of any other character in previous P4 incarnations, but I’ve listed some poor choices made by the creative team above and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them move on to making new, different, equally insensitive decisions for the show.

Since this is  a remake I think it is fair to bring up just how much Marie reminds me of Mari (Illustrious) Makinami from the second Rebuild of Evangelion who really came off in that movie as an effort to check off another box on the otaku fetish list. The funny thing is that if they wanted to have a sexy female in the show to flirt with Yu or titillate a segment of the audience, I think Margaret had accomplished that quite well in previous incarnations. Margaret is a beautiful older woman with a mysterious air who behaves increasingly forward with Yu (and you as you play the game and grow your Social Link with her) as the show progresses. I always read her interaction with Yu as very flirtatious, but never thought anything would develop between them beyond banter. I hope Marie isn’t a figment created to hold Yu’s affections so that all the otaku can have at Chie, Yukiko, Rise and Naoto.

I endeavor to keep up with the show and keep tabs on the socially in-congruent messages that mar a story that is otherwise deep, soulful and moving.

Luna Eclipsed- Moon Speak 01

Join Sono and Ammit as they discuss and review the brand new show: Sailor Moon Crsytal. A franchise veteran and uninitiated welp bring different perspectives to this over all strong first showing of the renewed show. We enter Usagi’s world and take our first steps with her on an enchanted journey.

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If you’d like to comment on our thoughts, or ask any questions our inbox is trialofheroes@gmail.com or we can be reached individually @sonoyourface and @trialofheroes on Twitter. We hope you enjoyed the show and thank you for listening.

This has been Moon Speak: bi-monthly discussion and review of Sailor Moon Crystal. Visit trialofheroes.wordpress.com to see text reviews every Monday after Crystal airs and hear new Moon Speak the Monday after that.

The opening and closing for this episode can be found here and here, please check out the other cool work this musician has done.

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Man! I Feel Like A Magical Girl- Sailor Moon Crystal 1 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 1- Usagi – Sailor Moon

I am quite new to this property, but having previously seen bits on television in the Nineties and read a chapter of a tankoban at a library in Lake Havasu City, Arizona in the early Two-Thousands, I had a passing interest in it. I bought the first volume of the manga re-release published by Kodansha a couple years ago and I was disappointed. Something didn’t click and I can’t even remember whether or not I finished it. I have heard for years that Sailor Moon is good and the opportunity to see a closer adaptation of the manga with beautiful new animation has induced me take make up for missed opportunities in the past and take a serious look at Sailor Moon Crystal.

One of my first thoughts on seeing the opening credits of the show was that there is an obvious feminine hand at work in the production and design team. I have long been under the impression that manga is one of the few remaining fields that allows for an auteur to operate with full creative freedom and seeing this work greatly reinforces that idea. The character designs for men and women are quite beautiful on purpose, except for dramatic effect here and there.

The beautiful leggy teen heroines don’t feel at all like they are for me or males in any demographic. The beauty of all the female figures shown: from Usagi’s mother, to the high school girls and teacher and female patrons at the jewelry store are featured for the female audience. Likewise, Tuxedo Mask and the bad boy who raised the clay doppleganger of Naru’s mother serve as eye candy to engage the audience in the story. The beauty is an indicator of weight and importance. Like Usagi who dreamt of the beautiful princess and whose heart was a flutter after running into the young man in the tuxedo, I am stirred by the elegant lines and lovely designs.

I am accustomed to being let down by depictions of women in Kamen Rider and in most anime I have seen, so at first the Sailor Guardian designs gave me pause, but seeing the full context has put me at ease. I worried that the voluptuous clay woman the evil servant raised was meant for an untoward purpose, but after learning who she was impersonating and seeing how she acted, I could see that the author intended only to depict an attractive woman who chooses to present herself proudly as part of her work to sell other women jewelry. There seems to be an interesting sentiment about greed and women’s lust for things that shine and sparkle, but two factor counter balance that. The first is that greed is bad in men and women and while that may be the actual point, the items were on sale and the women and girls didn’t get themselves jewelry by anything but honest means. The second is that Tuxedo Mask himself and the evil servant are looking for a jewel.

Though this is a story written for a primarily female audience, or perhaps because that is the case, there is a wonderful balance to the presentation of male and female characters. Umino is not portrayed as mildly antagonistic because of his looks or maleness, but because he told Usagi’s mom about his high score on the English test; if done to embarrass her, that is a petty move regardless of all else. Usagi and her brother seem to share a somewhat common sibling rivalry, with scholastic achievement as the currency of conflict. The mysterious Tuxedo Mask and the evil servant are obviously moving in larger circles and it will be interesting to see what roles they play. Because of the genre, I assume the evil servant is either only the first of many disciples to this great evil at the source of the conflict or the right hand to the bad boss. Tuxedo Mask’s choice to stand down and let Usagi handle the creature was awesome. As Sailor Moon, Usagi is the titular character and is expected to be the strong one, at least until her team comes about, but the way it played out did nothing to diminish Tuxedo Mask as a player in this struggle and she came off even stronger for it.

While all of the above is enough for me to continue watching, the clincher may be the very personal and intimate set up from Usagis’s perspective. The heavy focus on her point of view and the other worldly elements we glimpsed put me right in her shoes and I’m ready to take a journey that I’m sure will have both personal and cosmic stakes.