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Sailor Moon Crystal
Episode 5

by Gabriella Ekens,

It's Jupiter time. This episode marks the introduction of fan-favorite tomboy Makoto Kino, alias Sailor Jupiter. As the new girl in town, she's ostracized for her masculine demeanor - she's tall, strong, and wears a uniform that makes her look like a sukeban - until Usagi befriends her by discovering her hidden femininity. Meanwhile, there's some sketchy stuff going on about a haunted bridal store where the dummies come alive at night to seduce and kidnap grooms. Makoto gets immediately wrapped up in this through her crush, Arcade Guy Motoki, forcing her to adopt her warrior identity as Sailor Jupiter, Pretty Guardian of Love and Courage, in order to save the senshi and the hapless men.

Apparently Sailor Moon Crystal comes out on the first and third Saturday of every month. This August had five Saturdays, so they got themselves an extra week. Sneaky. Either way, the extra time shows. This episode had noticeably fewer weird off-model shots and more motion than previous ones, although it's still sub-par. More crucial to this episode's success, however, is that the writing takes a step up. In terms of characterization, Sailor Moon Crystal is at its best when it tackles how the senshi overcome preconceptions about their identities through friendship. Ami's intelligence alienates her from her peers, Rei's intensity and after-school job as a miko intimidates people, and Makoto's imposing appearance keeps others from recognizing her sensitivity. Usagi's strength is that she's able to surmount these preconceptions in order to discover and appreciate the girls for who they are beneath the labels. Ami's sweet and hardworking, Rei self-strict and combative, Makoto caring and reliable. They're all, however, desperate for the connection that Usagi provides them, justifying her role as the group's center and leader that's otherwise marred by her immaturity.

This episode worked significantly better than previous ones because Makoto's conflict is well-expressed. There's a heart to it that was lacking in Ami's, which came off a bit generic, and Rei's, which was lost in episode three's plot tangle. This episode is above all focused and benefits greatly for it. It's also more relatable than the other stories. It's not quite as exclusive as Ami's or Rei's, which are predicated on their exceptional qualities, and I'm sure that lots of girls can relate to wanting a relationship with a man but feeling incapable due to not falling into society's harsh standards for femininity. I certainly can. That's probably part of why Makoto is such a fan favorite. She's certainly one of my favorites, and this episode represents a (hopefully permanent) step up for Sailor Moon Crystal from an uneven experiment to a solidly enjoyable 20 minutes.

Rating: B

Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. She writes at animeintrospection.tumblr.com.

Sailor Moon Crystal is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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