Sailor Moon Crystal Episode 3: Rei – Sailor Mars

Episode 3 begins with a familiar scene: Jadeite, our first recurring bad guy, being chewed about for his failures. Queen Beryl has let him lead the last two schemes to find the Legendary Silver Crystal, and both ended abysmally. Judging by her tone – and the ominous way she slams her magic staff into the ground – Beryl doesn’t tolerate stupidity. A shadowy figure appears behind Jadeite, explaining how the monsters in the previous episodes were weak because they were made from clay. The camera pans up to reveal Nephrite, another king of the Dark Kingdom. Of all the villains thus far, he’s benefited the most from the 2014 redesign; his long, curly hair looks much better with modern animation. He offers to take over operations and find the Crystal himself. Another figure appears in the background, pointing out that the Sailor Guardians will just get in the way again. Another pan up reveals Zoisite, whose long ponytail and androgynous design make all the other male characters look utterly macho. Though there’s still no sign of Kunzite (the last of the Four Kings), I wonder if the series will retain the relationship between him and Zoisite. For now, the three villains are implied to be competing for Beryl’s favor. When asked about the exact nature of the Legendary Silver Crystal, she explains that it grants its bearer enough power to take over the universe. Instead of focusing on finding it, Beryl tasks the group with killing the Sailor Guardians first. Good, she knows her priorities. Looking to save face, Jadeite vows to get the job done at any cost.

Meanwhile, a young woman peers into a small fire. You can’t see her entire face yet; just a bit of purple hair and the flames reflected in her eyes. Kneeling with her hands clasped in meditation, she muses that something outrageous is coming. As the camera retreats away from her, it’s revealed that she’s inside a shrine of some kind. Unlike the cold, bluish tint of the villains’ castle, this place is cast in the natural glow of the fire. It feels warm and inviting, if a little lonely. Whoever this mysterious lady is, she’s not affiliated with the bad guys. Of course, the opening theme immediately spoils it with its animations of Sailor Mars, whose huge purple eyes and red fire motif are unmistakable. After the scene changes, we’re given a brief exchange between her and a little girl. The new character is named Rei, and she works as a miko at the shrine. The child waves goodbye and heads for the Sendaizakaue bus stop nearby. As the bus appears, it’s accompanied by some voiceover gossip. Supposedly, whoever takes the Demon 6:00 PM Bus at Sendaizakaue will disappear without a trace. I’ve had my share of bad public transit, but a bus that vanishes into another dimension is pretty crazy. If people know that particular vehicle is evil, then why hasn’t anyone tried to find out more about it? Why don’t they track its route? Interrogate the driver? Aren’t there any witnesses? What about camera footage? Smart phones? Anything?

Usagi doesn’t seem to be taking the rumor seriously. Or her duties as Sailor Moon, for that matter. She’s perfectly content to nap the day away until Luna coaxes her into meeting Ami at the arcade. It’s not very productive; she spends the entire time playing video games instead of planning and talking strategy. Ami and Luna are left to the technical details and stand nearby a Sailor V poster for blatant foreshadowing purposes. Ami is still adjusting to the idea of being a superhero, but at least she has the presence of mind to ask Luna for advice. Rather than coming up with a concrete plan, Luna just spouts the same explanation she gave Usagi: protect the princess and find the Legendary Silver Crystal. Once again, she doesn’t go into any of the details of how exactly that’s supposed to work. You’d think Ami would press her for more information, but it’s sacrificed for the sake of pacing. At least Usagi’s gaming skills have improved; she’s won a pair of watches that will probably have some kind of special power or ability later on. Ami has to leave for another cram school session – hopefully one that doesn’t involve demonic brainwashing – and Usagi decides to tag along.

As they wait for the bus, Ami mentions a beautiful girl she occasionally sees on the commute. Usagi notes that they’re boarding what’s supposedly the Demon Bus, but forgets about it as soon as she sees Rei. When I watched the original anime as a kid, Rei was always my favorite Sailor. Not because she was brash and prone to anger, but because she was intelligent, powerful, badass, mysterious…and utterly gorgeous. Not going to lie, she was the first fictional crush I ever had. It was something about her confidence, and the way she seemed aloof and different from the others. Whatever it was, Usagi certainly agrees; she spends the rest of the ride blushing and ogling at Rei, complete with huge hearts in her eyes. It’s a little creepy and hilarious at the same time. Rei just stares back until she gets a vision of Silver Millennium – apparently the links between the girls aren’t just limited to touch – and gets off at her stop. Usagi quickly follows her in a bout of pure infatuation and eventually comes across the shrine.

Inside, Rei is clearly aware that something’s up. She can feel a demonic presence coming her way, and resolves to protect the shrine from evil. There’s an ominous shot of Phobos and Deimos, the two crows she keeps nearby, attacking the intruder. What’s interesting about the monologue is that the visions accompanying it are presented through a magenta filter; I’m not sure if it’s supposed to represent Rei’s thoughts, or a manifestation of her powers. She opens the doors armed with an ofuda (a small scroll with the power to ward off evil) and defiantly slaps it down…across Usagi’s face. Not quite the demon you’re looking for, young lady. After an apology and a formal introduction, we’re given a bit of insight into Rei’s situation. Not only does she seem more in tune with her surroundings – she notes how Phobos and Deimos normally leave humans alone, thus hinting at Usagi’s secret – but that she has full-blown psychic powers. Of course, that means people think she’s some kind of freak and try to avoid her. A few women stop by and tell her that the little girl from earlier vanished on the Demon Bus, then leave in fear of her. Rei is clearly hurt by this (those quivering eyes from Episode 2 are back), but doesn’t say anything. It’s just like Frozen, but with fire instead of ice, and Shintoism instead of musicals! Rei elaborates a little more on the Demon Bus rumor, referring to it as being “spirited away.” That’s probably something the translators threw in as a nod to the Miyazaki film, but it’s still appreciated.

The next day, our heroines hear more about the Demon Bus. Several people have gone missing over the past week. While Usagi gives Ami the spare watch from the arcade, Luna muses over Rei. Mysterious powers, a noble face, and a shrine maiden? She might be the princess they’re looking for! Wait, what? Luna doesn’t know what the princess she’s seeking looks like? How does she even know what she’s supposed to be doing? Does she have repressed memories or something? Usagi decides to visit Rei again and boards the bus. She and Luna discuss how Ami has to go to cram school, and how the girls’ watches are actually communication devices. This again makes me wonder why Luna hides their special tech inside arcade machines. Why doesn’t she just give the girls equipment instead of making them play a video game? Before this can be addressed, Luna panics and pretends she’s a normal animal. Mamoru is sitting right next to them (finally wearing something besides a tux), and has obviously heard their conversation. He doesn’t call the cat out for talking again, which is surprising. I’d have many questions if I were in his position. I like how Mamoru lampshades how often they run into each other; he must be sick of Usagi’s antics by now. At least he takes the time to introduce himself, complete with his private high school ID card. He was a college student in the first anime, but this version is only in his second year. Usagi tries to make conversation by talking about the Demon Bus, but becomes flustered and fails miserably.

Back at the shrine, a mother and her friends are still looking for her missing daughter. They beg Rei to use her powers to locate the kid, but she’s nowhere near as psychically strong as they think. Judging by what we see of her later, she’s severely underestimating herself. However, she advises the crowd to consult the police, which is actually the practical thing to do. The bus is a physical object; you’d think the authorities would’ve stopped it by now. The people turn on her in disapproval, and even accuse her of being the culprit. Usagi shows up and defends her, and Rei orders them to leave. There a few angsty moments in which she admits to having powers, and how people shun her. It’s pretty heartbreaking; imagine having to grow up with everyone thinking you’re monster. Unlike Frozen’s Elsa, Rei didn’t have the luxury of being a princess. She’s just a normal girl driven to isolation. Usagi offers to help her find the missing child, but is rebuked. Rei heads back inside and meditates just long enough to get a vision of Jadeite attacking Usagi. She dashes out of the shrine, only to be cut off by the Demon Bus. The doors open to reveal Jadeite behind the wheel, who promptly hypnotizes and kidnaps her.

Wow, stuff just got real.

Usagi happens to see the bus pass by, and notices an unconscious Rei slumped near one of the windows. It looks like the bus is going to drive straight into a wall, but it’s actually rolling into another dimension. There are some interesting visuals, particularly how the fabric of reality seems to twist and bend around the vehicle. However, no one else seems to be around to witness it. How is that possible? They’re in the middle of a city, near a large intersection, within sight lines of several buildings. How has someone not noticed this?! Usagi rushes forward to save Rei, using her transformation to change into…a flight attendant? Why? If you’re trying to run after a speeding bus, the last thing you want to wear is a tight skirt and heels! She’s even toting a rolling suitcase! Amazingly, she jumps and clings onto the back of the bus. She drops Luna, but Tuxedo Mask makes a timely catch. Before they can catch up, Usagi vanishes along with the bus. Uh oh, looks like Sailor Moon might have to save the day solo this time. Good thing she had that communicator handy! So much for her learning to do things herself. While she’s busy panicking, Luna and Ami are tracking her location on a laptop. Apparently, there’s an app for tracking magical girl energy signatures. Neat. A throwaway line reveals that the girls have the power to teleport, which is convenient for storytelling logistics. Can you imagine having to run through a city in those costumes?

Meanwhile, Jadeite has a mildly disturbing moment in which he’s looking over Rei’s unconscious body and admiring her natural beauty. Before he can go into full-on creeper mode, Moon and Mercury show up and challenge him. After introducing himself, he wastes no time in kicking them around. Unlike his summoned monsters, Jadeite knows how to fight. He knocks Moon down first, probably wary of the power of her boomerang. When hit with Mercury’s mist, he simply freezes and dissipates it. He briefly taunts them before unleashing dual freeze rays on them. This attack is probably the closest anyone has come to killing the Sailors thus far. Unfortunately, Jadeite succumbs to the idiocy that plagues most villains: he spends so much time talking trash that he forgets about his hostage. Rei wakes up and recognizes Usagi, and the latter tries to cover her civilian identity. It’s a completely ridiculous gesture (Luna looks especially embarrassed), and Usagi finally admits she isn’t a normal person. I get that the exchange was to help Rei realize that there are others like her and that she shouldn’t be ashamed of her powers, but they’re bantering while the girls are being frozen to death. Rei grapples with Jadeite, who tries to freeze her arm off. There’s an awesome exchange:

“Don’t you dare, ordinary human.”

“I’m not! I’ve got powers, too! I won’t let you hurt them anymore!”

So awesome. She’s got such a determined game face the entire time. And at the end of that quote, she busts through the ice and activates her Mars powers. Luna tosses her another pen (Rei gets to bypass the arcade games, apparently) and instructs her how to trigger the transformation. Of the sequences seen thus far, Sailor Mars has the most noticeable improvement. In the original, she was surrounded by flashy red rings that kind of resembled fire. In this version, she takes the phrase “wreathed in flames” literally. Her body is wrapped in a surprisingly realistic inferno as her uniform takes shape. While the CGI still hasn’t won me over in terms of the character models and faces, it works well with the lighting and layering of the flames. She assumes a battle stance and gets her own catchphrase, but is still shocked at the change. Jadeite tries to get the upper hand while she’s distracted, but she’s completely immune to his ice. Sailor Moon uses the tiara boomerang to restrain him (apparently it can change size as well as kill monsters), while Mars winds up for a finishing blow. She pulls out another ofuda, but this one is supercharged with spiritual energy and fire. Jadeite calls her a rascal – seriously, that was the subtitle – before vanishing into the flames. In the manga, Jadeite was roasted to death. This time, it’s unclear if he died or teleported to safety.

It doesn’t matter either way. Evil was defeated, the kid and the other Demon Bus victims are safe, and now there are three Sailor Guardians. Hooray! Usagi and Ami welcome her wholeheartedly, and we actually get to see Rei smile for the first time in the entire episode. Now she has awesome powers, and she doesn’t have to be alone anymore. Anyone that’s felt different or ostracized for not being “normal” will probably relate to her happiness. Of course, now she has to fight demonic beings and maybe save the world, but hey, nothing’s perfect. The girls head off into the night, with the unspoken promise of more friendship and danger ahead. Meanwhile, a high-profile group has landed at the airport. The entourage is under heavy guard with what appears to be Secret Service agents. In the middle of the crowd, an elderly man carries a plush jewelry box. What’s the secret? Is it the Legendary Silver Crystal? We’ll find out next time!

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One thought on “Sailor Moon Crystal Episode 3: Rei – Sailor Mars

  1. Pingback: San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival 2015 | Polymathically

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