Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Sailor Moon S
Blu-Ray - Season 3 Part 2
The Death Busters' Witches 5 are stepping up their game, determined to find the Holy Grail in order to awaken the Messiah of Silence. In the meantime, the Sailor Guardians are equally focused on preventing that – and the Outer Guardians are willing to use force if they need to. But Sailor Moon doesn't see why the vessel for the Silence, or Sailor Saturn, need to die in order to make that happen. Who will prevail in this battle for the fate of the Earth?
Usagi has never really been a fighter. She does fight as Sailor Moon, and she's willing to do what she has to in order to keep everyone safe, but ultimately, the former Princess and future Neo Queen would rather resolve things as peacefully as possible. That makes sense, if you think about it – unlike the other Guardians or even Tuxedo Mask, she wasn't a warrior in the past; she was the one they all fought for. This is easy to lose sight of, of course, and it can make Sailor Moon herself seem like the weakest of the Sailor Guardians as they prepare to take on the Messiah of Silence in order to prevent the world's destruction, but it is important to remember. Usagi's need to find an alternative to violence but to ultimately do whatever it takes all by herself is central to her character, and what drives her actions in the final episodes of this season.
It's also behind the difficulties she has with Sailors Uranus and Neptune as it becomes increasingly apparent that Chibi-usa's new friend Hotaru Tomoe is a potential danger. Neptune and Uranus are driven to the point of being blinded to all else in their need to take out Hotaru, which puts them in direct opposition to Usagi and the rest of the Inner Guardians. While it does make sense, it also makes the two of them look a bit short-sighted – by this point they know that Usagi/Sailor Moon was Princess Serenity and will be Neo Queen Serenity, so mortally wounding her or actually taking her out, as Haruka threatens to do a few times, absolutely puts the safety of the future at risk. Sailor Pluto, who reappears as Setsuna Meio with all of her memories intact, keeps herself slightly separate from the other two talisman holders, and this may be why: as the Guardian of Space and Time, she can't flat-out tell them the future, but she also doesn't have to actively help them when they're on track to put it at risk. It's an interesting character choice that creates essentially three teams of Guardians within the final half of the show – the Inners, Neptune and Uranus, and finally Pluto and Tuxedo Mask, working more on the outskirts.
In the middle of all of this is Hotaru. With both Mistress 9 and Sailor Saturn warring inside of her (we could say that the Saturn personality is her true one, given the way the other Guardians function), she spends a lot of the episodes conveniently unconscious, keeping she herself unaware of her own role in the story. She does function as a chance for Chibi-usa to find motivation and a real sense of belonging in the present, which is important to Chibi-usa's own development, but more in keeping with the overall themes of the Sailor Moon story, Hotaru's character is a living embodiment of what Sailor Saturn represents: death (destruction) and rebirth. Hotaru herself was basically reborn when her father allowed the Tau Star System to use them, immediately serving as a reminder of both halves of her meaning as a Guardian; later her transition between herself and Mistress 9 serves to drive that point home. What's interesting is that none of the Guardians beyond Sailor Moon can comprehend that with an ending (death or destruction) comes a beginning – Uranus and Neptune specifically can only see Saturn's power as “bad.” But even then, if Sailor Moon is hope, Sailor Saturn is despair, making them two halves of the same whole – conceptually, they cannot exist without the other. This is a theme that the entire five season franchise builds upon (as does Naoko Takeuchi's original manga), and it's one that drives Chibi-usa's own character growth in this season, as we see in the final transition episode to the next season, when she turns her sorrow at leaving into determination and hope for her future.
It's unfortunate that with these important and interesting plot developments, to say nothing of increasing clarity about Haruka and Michiru's romantic relationship in their interactions, which may not seem like as big a deal now as it was when the show first aired, that this second half of the season really suffers from major pacing issues. While other seasons of the franchise have managed to give both heroes and villains more time to develop as characters, this set of episodes rushes through the Witches 5 at breakneck speed, apparently only realizing too late that it spent too long with Mimete, the second of the group. Despite a strong dub performance by Kira Buckland, who definitely joins Mika Kanai in delivering a good “bimbo voice” (as described in the Materials Collection), she sticks around far too long, which means that the remaining Witches only get one episode each. It also leads to the finale feeling a little rushed; although it probably would have been possible to leave out the second-to-last episode, by that point things were already a bit too condensed. Ikuhara fans should still be able to enjoy spotting imagery that will later be used in both Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mawaru Penguindrum, however.
While the dub maintains its quality – Mamoru and Tuxedo Mask have some particularly well-delivered lines during the episode where we learn where he's getting all of those roses, and Keith Silverstein's Professor Tomoe is delightfully unhinged – the blu-ray is sadly lacking, with a lot of noise in the images and uneven color saturation. There is, however, no ghosting and subtitles are easy to read. The animation and character designs definitely pick up in the finale episodes (not counting the last one) but are decent throughout. Extras are the usual assortment of interviews, character profiles, trailers, and clean songs. The interview this time is with Silverstein, and that's quite interesting. Also included this time is a video commentary track with the English voices for Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn, which is fun.
Sailor Moon S doesn't quite hold up as well in its second half due to pacing issues, but it does remain a strong season overall. It nicely uses the central themes of the Sailor Moon franchise while providing still-needed LGBTQ representation and good character development for people the original author left by the wayside. It isn't a shining example of the series, but it's still a good story, which may be what really matters.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Hotaru's character and theme music are effective, good use of the death/rebirth themes, interesting character dynamics
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