Last year I wrote a very angry review on Sailor Moon Crystal (seasons 1 and 2). It was bad. I was crying because it was so bad and I love Sailor Moon so much. I have a Sailor Moon tattoo on my back and it hurts when I remember those horrible Crystal times.
Suddenly season 3 changed all of that and if I could I'd change the last part of my review. Instead of watching Crystal episode 1 and walking away, I now tell people to start Crystal with the Infinity arc. I guess their budget raised considerably and I could feel some love for the manga this time.
The transformation sequences are all 2D again, the attacks look pretty and the inner senshi are finally showing some personality. It does help that - at least in my opinion - the Infinity arc on the manga is considerably more interesting than the first 2. It also helps that this time they paid more close attention to the manga and didn't change things that shouldn't be changed. Maybe because the outer senshi are so amazing and Haruka and Michiru are probably the most popular of them all. I get the impression the new directors (honestly I didn't research much on it but I'm pretty sure they're different) know that and there are so many great moments of them, including a beautiful ending sequence and some cute fanservicey moments.
Remember how in the beginning we could not relate at all with any of the senshi, and scenes that should be heartbreaking wouldn't do a thing? That changed now. The final episodes are very well done in that aspect and it makes me very excited for the next arc.
The animation looks a lot better than before. There are still some derp faces moments (mostly near the end) but nothing that makes me want to stop watching. The BGM didn't change and is still "meh", but at least there's some cute and catchy ending songs (Otome no Susume!) to make up for it. I'm not a big fan of the opening theme though, Moonlight Densetsu nostalgia still speaks louder, but that might be just me.
Sailor Moon Crystal: Infinity made me forgive a little bit the catastrophic mistakes of the first seasons and appreciate the characters even more. It gave me hope that the next seasons might be even better and I'm looking forward to watching them!
I'm sure we all know by now that unfortunately Sailor Moon Crystal Seasons 1-2 were horrible, and unfortunately season 3 would be worse. However, that is not the case, and I would highly recommend people who dropped Sailor Moon Crystal to check out season III (if not, that's fine). Why? Well these are the reasons why Sailor Moon Crystal Season III, despite some hiccups, is the best season of Sailor Moon Crystal.
1) The art and animation are far superior. The characters look more like their manga counterparts with a bit of the 90's anime version mixed in. The budget definitely is higher than the first two seasons. The proportions are better and they show more emotion. The animation is much more fluid for the most part, the CGI is gone completely from the transformations. They are so well done, if there were awards for "Best Magical Girl Transformations of the Year", these would win it.
There are parts where the animation isn't so good and kinda choppy, but they are few and far in between, and mostly it's still fluid. The monster designs for the Daimon are lame and stupid, especially compared to S's, too, but the monster designs look far superior than in the first two seasons.
2) The story is extremely faithful to the Infinity arc, considered the best manga arc by fans, but in some ways, actually adds deviations that make it even better than the original manga version, like Moon having a reason to dive into Pharaoh 90 in the end. The only flaws are that it still has bit of the "1:1 adaptation" to it like the first two seasons, and the story does peter out at the end, but overall, it's not a bad story, but S has the advantage of being 38 episodes with character focus episodes in it whilst Crystal Season III has only 13 with little to no character focus episodes.
3) Better characterization. All of the characters, even the Inners, have hints of personalities to them, and can easily be recognized as their manga counterparts, even the Inners are done better and are slightly more useful, Usagi is far superior and actually cares about others, and the friendship with Chibi-Usa and Hotaru is executed perfectly, Chibi-Usa is far superior here in season 3 than in season 2. The only flaws with characterization of the Inners still don't develop and don't feel like they have much importance or any realistic personalities, their focus episodes don't really add anything to them and sometimes they're still useless, and Moon still feels too perfect like she can do no wrong, the friendship between those five still feels unbelievable, but they're still believable as characters, though once again, not as good as S.
Unfortunately, two of the Outers are less impressive. Sailor Uranus/Haruka, is too overplayed as if all the focus on the Outers goes to her, and Sailor Neptune/Michiru is too underplayed, just feels like she's "there", and doesn't feel like she has that much of a personality compared to her 90's counterpart, other than being Uranus' accessory, sadly this is another flaw the manga had, and it doesn't make their relationship beloved by fans believable in this version, showing unfortunately the manga's characterizations of them haven't aged well also. Also, that whole thing with the kiss was just plain wrong, and the Outers' behavior when we first see them make them look way worse than their 90's counterparts, who were wonderful characters despite their controversial tactics and cold behavior. Pluto and Saturn are used excellently though.
Sadly also, most of the villains aren't too impressive, still mostly bland and such, and some are just unlikable compared to other versions, like Professor Tomoe, who instead of being the crazy, goofy, hilarious, insane mad scientist guy in S, was just a standard, typical mad scientist who unfortunately was an abusive, cold hearted monster. The only villains I really liked were Pharaoh 90 himself, Mistress 9 (who was also slightly creepy with those googly eyes of hers, and her true form was freaky), Kaorinite, and Vilyui, the latter whom they made much more intelligent than in the other two versions, I'll give props for that.
Most of the themes/music are pretty good, I love all three versions of the new theme song and the first and third endings, Eternal Eternity I'd even say is a modern music masterpiece. Unfortunately, Chibi-Usa's theme song, which would more fit the Dream arc, if we get it, or the Black Moon arc, is terrible.
The voice acting is good as always, and props to Junko Minagawa for a practically perfect duplicate of Uranus' original voice (and adding a wonderful touch of masculinity to "Eternal Eternity"...), never before have I heard a perfect imitation of her voice, the only other close ones would be Hisako Kanemoto as Mercury and Ai Maeda as Sailor Pluto. Kotono does a better job as Usagi, Shizuka Itoh is good as Venus, Rina Sato decent as Mars, Ami Kochimizu OK as Jupiter (Neptune and Saturn, though I forgot who voiced them were good too), but I cannot stand Misato Fukuen's take on Chibi Moon, she sounds really miscast and whenever she shouts Chibi Moon's transformation and attack name, it sounds weird and odd, she sounds more like a middle aged woman trying to imitate a 7 year old.
Despite the flaws that this series has, the good points far outweigh it and gives hope that we will get more seasons, it captures a lot of the original charms that made the original manga and anime so great and beloved, Toei put a great amount of effort into this. I'm excited for the Dead Moon arc, which was the best manga arc, better than the Infinity manga arc and the original SuperS, the worst arc of the original anime.
Sailor Moon Crystal Season III, which was a beacon of hope like Usagi/Sailor Moon in there, isn't as great as the original Sailor Moon S, but it is still a decent, watchable modern day Sailor Moon anime/show, and I give it a 6.5/10, count it as the true first season of Crystal, but can recommend it to those who liked Super/the manga. I'm sure Naoko would have loved this one, and I think both Infinity arc anime series will stand the test of time. I still can't recommend Crystal as a whole though, with two horrible seasons being followed by only one excellent third season.
I cannot wait for the fourth season of Crystal though, and I hope it's just as great, if not better.
If you've gone down the path of the first two seasons of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (2014) and in the end, felt as if you couldn't feel much more than bait for the evil energy in the universe to succumb to thanks to what felt as a lazy effort to ressurect one of the largest anime franchises in the name of the moon... you may now breathe amongst the stars in relief. How so? Because the first episode of Season 3 is a better experience than the first 26 episodes of the first two seasons combined... at least Season 1, that's for sure.
Season 3 does not address every issue with Crystal's first couple of attempts at simply being a form of entertainment via magical girl series, but to say the least it aims to please and rarely loses its focus. Finally the show begins to take itself seriously where it matters and not so seriously when it doesn't. The best example of this is the animation. When it's time to say... give Usagi a hard time, you're given a variety of expressions that emphasize and add humor and to the show, reminiscent of the old anime. These are understandably limited mostly when our heroines are being your average (or sometimes above average) anime school girl. Near the end, I have to say I was pretty creeped out by how convincing Mistress 9's struggle with Hotaru was. Quite possibly the creepiest thing I've ever seen of all things Sailor Moon - and I like that the show had given me something unexpected to feel from it's visuals.
Although the Sailor Senshi (particularly the Inner: Ami, Rei, Makoto & Minako) have yet to succeed in feeling like completely unique individuals, that sense of individuality does have its volume raised up a few notches enough for you to realize they too can have feelings of their own without being... pretty much any other main character in the entire series. It seems to come at a price because I cannot recall their efforts as Sailor Guardians during battle (regardless of their Star Power buffs) to amount to much... and that's not the fault of the show, that's unfortunately a part of the script. If anyone's going to flex their muscles against the evil of this arc, it's undoubtly going to be the Outer Senshi in this portion of the series... and there's not much to say about them as (unless you're a die-hard fan) you will never not get enough of them in Season 3... unless your favorite is Setsuna... some things can't be helped, I suppose.
The pace of the story is no longer trying to do everything in 20 minutes (aside from occasional chatter of pretty guardian battle cries and back to back full transformations which now feels like filler). The writing is competent, the quality of the music is bumped up a notch, but the big question is, does Crystal in Season 3 allow the viewers to take that much needed journey where the characters can truly be something you can connect to emotionally? Not... really. At best, Crystal 3 tries to offer this in short but bitter & sweet moments such as between Usagi + Mamoru, Usagi + Haruka and Chibi-Usa + Hotaru. Just like in Season 2, Chibi-Usa wins "the most developed character in the series" award, but not by much this time. At this point, Usagi in Crystal seems to have mastered friendship, and it appears that we might not get the opportunity to receive an Earthly experience of what it takes to build a foundation of love based on friendship with her comrades.
So, as other reviews have stated, this is a far superior season than the first two. If you dropped the first two but are familiar with the Sailor Moon manga, then picking up in the third season is no issue at all. It stays very true to the manga and some of the flaws from the first two seasons, both in execution and in animation, have been ironed out.
The story is the Infinity Arc where we are introduced to the outer senshi. We get to meet the new versons of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The senshi also face their greatest threat ever. Although people say that this was arguably the best part of the manga, I disagree. I think the Stars Arc is superior, but the Infinity Arc is great. This means that there was stronger source material for the animators to use, as well.
I still have a few gripes. I felt like it was too short. There wasn't enough time to flesh everyone out, although we at least got to see more personality from the various senshi. Weirdly enough, I personally feel like this would've benefited from a bit of filler. Usually I hate filler, but Sailor Moon is such a character-driven anime that having a little bit to flesh out wuuld've been good. I'll touch more on this in characters.
The animation was way better than the first two seasons. It still takes some adjusting because the characters do look stiff and unnatural (a weird adjective to use for anime, I know) still, but they have much more flow than they did. Plus, there were quite a few poses and scenes that were clear nods to the 90s anime and warmed my heart. The fact that the transformation sequences aren't CGI anymore is also a huge plus. That was so uncomfortable i the previous series and I'd like to think the animators are listening to their critics, meaning it'll just get better and better.
The sound was the worst part for me. You have to be kidding that we have Uranus right there in front of our faces and she never uses world shaking and we never get to hear some kind of beautiful violin and piano melody during it! I had to Youtube the old world shaking attacks to relish in the nostalgia. Come on, new anime! Plus, there were so many times that the background noise was either too loud or too inappropriate for the scene that I literally had to pause the anime wondering if my roommate as listening to music. That's never a good sign.
The characters were...better. Like I said earlier, they were much more fleshed out than before, but there's room for improvement. I would've liked to see more focus on the inners, especially. I was thinking about it and a huge reason that the 90s anime was so popular is because it really took the time to develop each and every character. I feel like one of the biggest flaws in the new version is that it's not giving the same care and attention to them. This entire arc was only 13 episodes long. I looked up the old anime and it was 38 episodes long. That's a pretty huge difference. I don't think the anime needed to be quite that long, but a 22 episode anime would've sufficed.
I still have conversations with my friends about which sailor senshi we're most like. If someone is introduced to Sailor Moon through this anime, those conversations aren't going to exist. There isn't enough of a difference between the characters yet and there should be - this is season three, after all! The inner senshi especially suffer from this. I felt like the outer senshi were given a little more individuality, but it was still lacking. (Also, in the manga Haruka is heavily featured in this arc whereas Michiru isn't, so that's why she played such a dominant role.)
I hope that next season will be a little longer and will dedicate time to fleshing out and developing each of the girls. The anime will greatly benefit from that kind of focus.
My personal enjoyment was high, maybe an 8/10, but I've also seen the original anime multiple times, read the manga and watched the live action version. I already know very well what these characters are like. If this were my first introduction to Sailor Moon, I don't think my enjoyment scale would be nearly that high.
Overall, this was a huge upgrade from the travesty that was the first two seasons. I hope that this is a projection of what the future of PGSM looks like and that each season will continue getting better and better.