This episode wowed me. I was worried that the animation in Season 3 would start to get bad as it went on, but that definitely isn’t happening. There were even some parts in this episode that looked great! Plus, drama!

Somehow, this week, the show also made me enjoy a Ami/Mercury-focused subplot. Normally she’s a big snoozefest for me, always being depicted as too timid and predictable to be interesting. In the 90's anime in particular, Mercury just blushes, says cute things, and types on her mini-computer. You might forget she’s supposed to be a senshi, a “warrior,” like the others are. And because she’s the most popular character in Japan, there is so much consistent focus on her. But then this episode comes along and reminds you that the manga is very different from the 90's anime and the Inner Senshi are capable of doing things on their own without Sailor Moon - including Mercury.

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The episode opens where the last left off, with Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune finally making their grand appearance. It’s so weird hearing Neptune’s voice actor correctly pronounce the “tu” in Neptune without turning it into a “chu.” The Inner Senshi can’t believe what they’re seeing, but Chibimoon immediately recognizes Neptune’s mirror as the one Michiru had on the helicopter - that she called a “Talisman.” The rest of them are shocked to hear Chibimoon call it that, and when they start asking questions, Uranus blows them off. She makes it clear that they’re not interested in working with the Inner Senshi or being their allies, to Sailor Moon’s disbelief. Before much else can happen, Neptune and Uranus attack them and Sailor Moon blacks out.

We then go to the OP, which...... is a different version, for some reason? There’s a different vocalist singing this one. I know the original was a bit divisive, with me not liking it personally, but this vocalist is MUCH better for my tastes. She’s actually putting a little bit of energy and emotion into it! She sounds interested in what she’s performing! Is the OP going to get more energized as the series goes on?? Probably not, but I can dream.

When Usagi wakes up, she’s at the Crown control center with the others. Makoto is pissed that Uranus and Neptune attacked them, but calm Rei asks Luna - the most logical person to ask - who these Sailor Senshi are. Luna explains that Uranus and Neptune are similar to Pluto in the sense that under normal circumstances, the Senshi aren’t supposed to ever meet them. They work alone and have their own responsibilities and jurisdiction that is separate from the Inner Senshi and the Princess.

So basically, for them to even know of Uranus and Neptune, much less meet them, is a very bad sign. Usagi desperately wants to believe they aren’t their enemies, but everyone else points out the overwhelming evidence to the contrary... especially the fact that, you know, they straight up said they weren’t their allies.

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Later that night, Usagi and Chibiusa are sleeping over at Mamoru’s house. Mamoru is awake and watching over them as he contemplates the day’s events. Yes, more Mamoru being relevant and involved!!! Mamoru grabs Usagi’s hand and nods off and has a creepy dream about being in a rubbled city. He sees the silhouette of a person at the tippy-top of a pile of rubble and asks her if she’s the Deity of Destruction. But, uh, it’s very very clearly Neo Queen Serenity or Usagi as Princess Serenity.....? In the manga this scene is more vague, depicting a generic woman in a long dress with long hair. And also, Usagi isn’t the Deity of Destruction, so wtf. I’m not sure what the purpose of this change is, but at least it’s small.

Mamoru and Usagi wake up with a jolt, having both seen the same dream. At Hikawa Shrine, Rei is trying to deduce what this “Deity of Destruction” is too, with no luck. But maybe they’ll have another convenient dream in a little while. Just wait it out, guys!

Sometime later (a few days?) Usagi is waiting somewhere for Mamoru and contemplating the situation. A pair of hands playfully covers her eyes, but when she turns around, it’s Haruka. Usagi confronts her with her identity as Sailor Uranus and insists they must be allies because they’re both Sailor Senshi. Why then won’t she tell them anything about what’s going on? Haruka answers that if she had her way, Usagi would have only ever met “Haruka” and not Sailor Uranus, echoing what Luna said earlier. She draws close to Usagi - within kissing distance again - and under the weight of the sexual tension, Usagi asks her if she’s a man or woman. Leading to one of the most famous lines from the manga:

Mamoru suddenly shows up to ruin the yuri moment and Haruka disappears with the wind again. Usagi tells her boyfriend that Haruka didn’t do anything weird to her, but for some reason, she can’t help but feel like crying.

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After school, Chibiusa stops at Crown arcade looking for Mamoru. She needs help on her arts and crafts homework, and of course she wants her precious dad to do it. The homework in question is some kind of malformed clay sculpture, which she quickly identifies as the “Legendary Holy Grail,” an item her mother used to have when she was young. Although she saw a picture of it hanging in her room when she was little, she doesn’t know anything else about the item aside from the fact that it’s pretty. The memory seems to make her homesick, but when gently confronted by Makoto, she says she’s intent on staying in the past until she’s become a full-fledged, capable Sailor Senshi.

This is a really great scene for Chibiusa, giving her a chance to shine a little bit as a character. I love the idea of her sneaking into her mom’s room to look at her cool stuff because she loves her mother so much, even if she was told not to. I don’t understand how anyone can hate her manga/Crystal version; she’s adorable and so earnest.

Meanwhile, Usagi and Mamoru are back at his apartment, and the atmosphere is...... tense, to say the least. Usagi is stressing about Mamoru possibly being angry with her after seeing her with Haruka. Not just with Haruka, but really... close to Haruka. But Chibiusa arrives as Usagi tries to broach the topic and finds her future parents in emotional gridlock. Child charm to the rescue!

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Chibiusa convinces Usagi and Mamoru to “help” her with her homework assignment (aka do it for her), giving us a cute little scene of the core trio having some bonding time. Plus, a description of what a “holy grail” is for the Japanese audience that probably wouldn’t be familiar with the concept. By the time the project is done, Chibiusa has fallen asleep, leaving Usagi and Mamoru alone again, but without all the tension from before.

Usagi apologizes for getting so handsy with Haruka. She admits that she felt jealous when she saw Mamoru with Michiru, but Mamoru admits he felt jealous too. But, he figures that Haruka - Sailor Uranus - must have some reason for continuing to initiate contact with her. Ever perceptive, he points out that Haruka always looks like she wants to say something. Usagi realizes it’s true: when she felt like crying earlier, it was because she’d picked up on some kind of despair and hopelessness in Haruka’s eyes.

As this conversation happens, Chibiusa is watching from the couch. She was faking being asleep and successfully helped her parents work things out! How can you not love her? This is a great Chibiusa episode.

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With that, we hit the halfway mark and move into the battle of the day. This seems to be the typical structure of Crystal episodes, but hey! It works. Focus on the plot, incorporate the daily action in a way that doesn’t waste so much time. Anyway, at Juuban Middle, Ami is talking about attending a new cram school at Mugen Academy. There’s a student there who she just can’t beat on practice tests! This sounds painfully familiar for a Sailor Mercury episode - it’s never anything more than tests and studying with her. And I think the 90's anime used the “student who keeps beating Ami at tests” character introduction at least three times over the course of the series. (To the credit of the manga/Crystal, this is the first time it’s been used, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling overdone by now.)

The student in question shows up when Ami checks out the cram classes: Yui Bido, a white-haired beauty who resembles Berthier from the Black Moon Arc a little too much. Ami decides to go to Mugen Academy by herself for the cram classes - and to investigate some more - assuring the other Senshi that she’ll call them if something happens. But what are the chances of that, am I right?!

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When she goes to the room in the Mugen building that’s supposed to have the cram class, it’s nothing but a dark, empty lab room. At the back of the room is a strange image of a galaxy in what looks like a fish tank. Yui shows up as she’s gazing at the galaxy and tells her that, uh... it’s literally a “mini galaxy,” the “Tau Star System,” that they made in science class. What? They put a fucking galaxy in a fish tank? Methinks that has to be a prank, evil sorceress villains or not.

Yui leaves to go to class, and Ami realizes she’s being watched through a camera. Kaolinite knows that she’s Sailor Mercury and she commands Yui, AKA Viluy of the Witches 5, AKA the blue one destined to fight the other blue one, to steal Ami’s especially powerful soul for their ruler.

But alas, this episode is a rare instance of real badassery from Ami. She throws a pen at Kaolinite’s camera like it’s a ninja star and flees from the creepy mini galaxy room. She runs through the halls until she sees a very suspicious “Do Not Enter” stairwell. Let’s go down there! Nothing could go wrong!

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Except it’s full of Daimon, the monsters that the Senshi have been fighting up to now. And Viluy shows up with a large group of mind-controlled Mugen students. They restrain her and drag her up to a computer room where more students are having their souls and lifeforce sucked out for Pharaoh 90. This scene is very reminiscent of the second chapter of the manga, where Ami was introduced, which also involved students having their energy stolen at cram school by computers. Wait, maybe this episode actually sucks and Ami’s side stories are predictable and boring. They even try to force Ami into a chair to get brainwashed - yet another thing that happened in the 90's anime’s adaption of the second chapter.

Just as it’s looking bad, Haruka and Neptune show up to free her. This is one of those very tiny changes from the manga - originally they get captured as well down in the restricted Daimon room - but this is a good change, one that feels better within the context and flow of the episode. Good Crystal, very good, that’s how you adapt something.

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And now that Ami’s freed, she calls Usagi to confirm that the Death Busters are definitely using Mugen Academy as their base, and......... jumps out the window. From like, the 20th story. But it’s okay, because she transforms mid-air and does this awesome dive into a swimming pool beneath her, and it is awesome and way cooler than almost anything else she’s done. Scratch that, this episode IS an awesome Mercury episode!! (Or at least this part is.)

Mercury and Viluy throw it down for a while, Mercury gets cornered, and the other Senshi show up to save her. Viluy summons two Daimon, and as the Senshi prepare to fight them, Haruka and Michiru suddenly jump betwee the two sides, rather unnecessarily I might add. The Inners have handled two Daimon before, haven’t they? They’re being awfully helpful for people who attacked them earlier this episode.

Anyway, who cares about any of that, because here we finally get to see the new animations for their transformations. Like the others, they’re based heavily on the 90's anime’s transformations, but they do seem a little... rushed? In comparison. Shorter than the old ones. Feels a little cheap that so little time is spent on the details, even when the old versions were brief as it is, but oh well.

Have a video!

After they’ve done their introductions and the Senshi have gawked at what they just saw, Uranus summons the Space Sword and kills Viluy AND both Daimon in a single blow with a Space Sword Blaster. This is easily the best part of the whole episode and I was legit impressed with how good it looked. More videos!

Even the biggest Crystal haters have gotta agree this is a fantastic 15 second piece of animation.

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Sailor Mars recognizes that Uranus’ sword is the second Talisman, but the two of them run off again before anyone can ask them about it. Seriously, why did they show up to help them out? It’s a little confusing.

The final scene is within the hallways of a university building. Reika, the sister of Crown Arcade’s Motoki, meets a new student in the hallway as she moves her things into an unused laboratory. It’s none other than Sailor Pluto, who introduces herself to Reika as “Setsuna Meiou,” a first year student in theoretical physics. SAILOR PLUTO HYPE!

The episode closes out with a new ED featuring Chibiusa. It’s cute and perfectly fine, but it’s no Eternal Eternity. Bring the last one back plz.

Anyway, this episode was pretty great - I was satisfied just from Sailor Mercury’s awesome pool dive and Space Sword Blaster. Assuming Crystal will keep following the manga (I know I sound like a broken record, but it really is following the manga incredibly close), the next episode has quite a lot going on in it and should be great. I mean, come on.... SAILOR PLUTO HYPE!


You can follow the author on Twitter at @sub_judice.