Sailor Moon Crystal Season III Ep 11 [Hotaru’s Heart: Examining Death Busters New v Old]
This episode marks the week before the penultimate episode and with this episode I can get a full grasp on what makes this Crystal arc good as well as bad. This week Crystal did something that the original anime never did quite as well: make Hotaru into a loving, beautiful, fighting beautiful cupcake who I cry over. Yes, you can quote me on this: Crystal, with less time to develop all of its characters, did a superior job at developing Hotaru into a sympathetic character. True, in the original anime Hotaru gets way more screen time just because of the volume of episodes. Does this matter? Not really. For once I am going to use side by side comparisons to the current parts of Sailor Moon and its original so we can get a real feel for it. But first you must see the moe muffin that is Hotaru’s original anime dad.
I miss that guy. In any case the first comparison really that comes to mind for me is Mistress 9. In the manga/Crystal Mistress 9 exists as a ghoulish, even masculine, monster that is inhabiting Hotaru’s body and waiting to destroy its host so it can take its proper form. In the original anime Mistress 9’s very life seems connected to the well being of the body and her fight for the body is very. . . refined. In reality Mistress 9 of Crystal seems almost hokey, clearly an alien inhabiting the body of a human and nothing really special compared to the other Sailor Moon villains. Mistress 9 in the original anime was cunning, using Hotaru’s father to con the Holy Grail away from Sailor Moon and use the Crystal to power up Pharoah 90. As you can see from the side and below, the two are very different villains. To the right, we see the smiles they give when they feel they’ve won or gotten the upper hand. Mistress 9 in the original anime has a cackling laugh she breaks out (this is also in the dub, but it was kind of amazing in how creepy and dumb it sounded) into when she wins. Yet she never has a smile wider than Hotaru’s face. It’s almost made perfectly clear that yes, this body is distorted. Is that bad? Not necessarily. The point Crystal seems to want to make is: this is horrifying and painful for Hotaru. This is not a good thing and you should feel empathy with Hotaru. It wasn’t quite so easy to feel that way in the original anime when the Sailor Saturn deal wasn’t even made explicitly clear so much as the ‘Messiah of Destruction’ was. The two were greatly different but used Mistress 9 to essentially the same ends.
So what does this say about how the two anime adaptations are different? Well, I know what you’re thinking! There are two episodes, left, right? But the thing is this episode is all we need to really see some of the key strengths and weaknesses with each show. When it comes to villains the original manga and Crystal. . .are actually sadly lacking. The original anime made the villains all people we could care about, and made Usagi care about them. In Crystal the villains are so clearly evil and meant to be seen as evil that even Chibi-Usa has no problem smacking down the villains from behind. (To be fair, it was not humanoid, so that takes away some empathy) In a sense this takes away a lot of tension and drama. I liked Mistress 9 because she was spit evil and that definitely doesn’t change here except now she sets herself up to be explicitly separated from the identity of Hotaru, whereas before she kept the body until her untimely demise. Because there is no tension we are now where we have been the entire time for the past several seasons of Crystal: Sailor Moon is using the power of love to defeat a big bad whose entire existence is to fight the true and just ruler of the future world. In my opinion that isn’t very clever of the show or the manga to make villains who are bland in that sense, but on the other end of the spectrum this allows for the show to succeed in a way the original anime couldn’t: Love.
Before I cut to the Hotaru chase, which is the best argument for this adaptation, it’s very important to note how this version of the anime allows for the good guys to all be good guys and have things generally make sense. In the original anime I have mentioned that Haruka outright steals Usagi’s broach so she can’t stop them from walking into a trap or interfering with their business. At the end of the arc the entire situation is mixed up. In Crystal the outer senshi are trapping Pharoah 90 in a barrier with their Talismans to prevent the world from being assimilated. Meanwhile, the Inner Senshi are victims of Mistress 9 who steals their Hoste which leaves Sailor Moon to be the only one to fight (temporarily). In the original anime the outer Senshi are captured and watching Sailor Moon while the Inner Senshi form a barrier and protect the world from Pharoah 90 growing. All in all, it provides the same situation. Differences? The outer senshi are sitting there berating Usagi for well, being Usagi, and not wanting to let Hotaru die in vain. To the bitter end the outer senshi make it clear they think Usagi sucks and is too weak. Granted, Crystal’s Usagi would be in a precarious position were this to happen. Would she give over the Grail? I don’t know. The Crystal? Definitely not. The Grail, the personification of love between all the scouts and her family? Maybe. If everyone turned against her and berated her goals, more likely.
The Usagi’s have the same general goal: save Hotaru at all cost. However they’re greeted by two different realities: one where everyone believes in her and fights for her, and one where everyone is against her and the goal she fights against. If you look to the left the original
anime scene is where Uranus is scolding Usagi for ruining everything and the bottom scene is when all the Outer Senshi rally behind her to protect the world. Really, original anime Usagi gets very little respect for being the future ruler of the world. So while the original anime is more dramatic and definitely gives every character a few layers to shave through, all the senshi and the villains alike, Crystal is more cut and dry. Usagi is the heroine and the scouts are her loyal and faithful servants whose loyalty will always give her the strength to save the world. What makes this simple plot so successful is how genuinely pure their love for her is, and seeing it on screen compels me to believe in their relationship and bond far more than you might think on paper.
So that brings us to Hotaru. How does Crystal’s Hotaru differ from the original anime? First off, the entire reason Sailor Moon is capable of fighting Mistress 9 is because Hotaru is willing to give up on her own body to save not only Chibi-Usa but all of the inner senshi. This doesn’t mean anything beyond: Hotaru willingly gives up her life to save Chibi-Usa and the others, without even knowing what her destiny is. She loves Chibi-Usa so much she would rather die than let her and her friends be used in such a way. She even acknowledges her father is gone and that she has nothing left, but she does not give up. In the original anime Hotaru is held in the arms of her loving father who begs her to come back, and so she fights against Mistress 9 and wins. What does winning mean for her? That Saturn is born and Mistress 9 is destroyed. While Hotaru proceeds to offer her life in order to save the world, it’s not really ‘Hotaru’ who returns Chibi-Usa back to life. The original anime takes away the emotional speech between the two of them and simply turns Saturn into a stoic warrior who is ready to jump in and kill all. Crystal separates these arcs by having Hotaru die selflessly. It doesn’t cause Saturn to awaken or for her to regain control: Hotaru’s choice in Crystal is made of pure selfless love and the scene where she returns Chibi-Usa’s heart is so breathtakingly beautiful I’m pretty sure the entire budget went into that and that’s why the rest of the episode has some pretty bad animation. (Cut to the end if you don’t believe me) Just compare the scenes of Hotaru returning the ‘Hostes’ to the side. Look a little different? That’s because in the original anime Hotaru and Chibi-Usa don’t speak at all. For all of the relationship she developed with Chibi-Usa in the end it was insignificant, and what really solidified Hotaru’s final moments was that she sacrificed herself for everyone. It took all of her empathy away and made her more or less enigmatic, but it wasn’t a proper conclusion. I didn’t even know I had a problem with it until writing this post but, well, yeah! There you go! Crystal did closure for Hotaru’s sacrifices way better and they’re not even done doing them!
All in all, Crystal has been largely successful because of something it was actually initially critisized for. If you go back and watch the original two seasons they do largely the same thing: focus on Usagi’s relationships and people devoted to her. The big issue was Mamoru was largely tugged around and became her focus which was a problem for a lot of people. Now that he’s safe has Usagi stopped caring to a stupid degree? No, she defied the other Senshi and made it clear she wanted to save Hotaru. Have the other scouts gotten one off episodes about them exploring their characters? No, what’s made explicitly clear is their relationships together and with Usagi. The show hasn’t changed formula but rather it’s changed focus and evolved into something more complex. Usagi now has an entire family and many people behind her, but she still suffers. Yet why does she become queen? Because she perseveres and shows love can always win and the loyalty you have towards others is very important. I’m glad Crystal has grown so much as a show and I’m glad that it can actually stand up to the original in some aspects. While I’ll always prefer the original Mistress 9, I will always prefer Crystal’s Hotaru. . .and really, aren’t I supposed to love the Senshi more anyway? By the way, this was how bad some of the animation got:
But you should look at the pretty crying tears in the gallery instead!