Category Archives: Anime Reviews

Review: Tales of Zestiria the X, Episode 1: Capital of Seraphim

Review:

This episode begins with more original content, as Alisha stumbles upon some ruins after somehow escaping from the scene at the end of the first episode. While it would have been nice to see those events played out, it is understandable that we might not get to see every little detail; after all, the show is apparently slated for just 13 episodes, with the game being at least 40+ hours of content. Honestly, I can’t see the story concluding in just 13 episodes, unless the story is rushed, minor events are completely removed, or the 13 episodes will only comprise a “first season”. Regardless, let’s look at this episode for now.

Those who have played the game will recognize that a Normin is introduced in this episode, although the show doesn’t identify the creature. This is where us gamers have an edge, because we understand why Alisha isn’t reacting to its presence, even as it defends her from a horde of bugs, whose role I hope is explained later, because they seemed to be coming after her with a purpose. Whatever the case, we now know how she ended up unconscious in the ruins, where we first meet her in the game. This may have also been mentioned within the narrative of the video game, but if it was then I don’t recall. This new content is also intermingled with a new introduction to Sorey and Mikleo, as well. At first I thought they completely changed this portion of the story, but then Sorey discovers the ruins where we first meet him in the game. All of this was greatly enjoyable because it not only gave new information not provided by the game, it also helped ease this gamer into the anime without feeling like I was just watching the same stuff over again. Now that we are in the proper story of the game, this may change, but I am still eager to see how they adapt things.

The art retains its excellent quality from the introductory episode, and the anime continues to utilize background music from the game at the appropriate points, which I still maintain is a nice detail. Some areas appear to be more fleshed out (for example, the interiors of Sorey’s and the Elder’s homes appeared larger in the anime than they do in the game), which helps to better fit the transition from game to show. Overall, I am very pleased with how this adaptation has started and I can’t wait to see how it will progress.

A Christian Perspective:

Okay, I am going to claim some gamer privilege here and utilize knowledge that hasn’t been presented in the anime yet. Forgive me if this is overstepping my bounds.

Early in the episode, we see Alisha stumble into some ruins, where a strange creature is seen hanging around her. Though not named in the episode, this creature is known as a “Normin”, and it is a spiritual being, like the Seraphim who are mentioned later. As the context of the scene suggests, Alisha cannot see the Normin,and as you will find out if you haven’t played the game, the majority of people are unable to see or sense spiritual beings in the world of Zestiria, whether Seraphim or Normin. If I recall correctly, it is basically due to unbelief, though I believe some people are also more attuned to seeing them than others. Nevertheless, this is reminiscent of the world in which we currently live, where so many people are numb to the spiritual forces around us due to their unbelief. Even worse, some seek out the wrong spiritual forces through demonic practices, such as Tarot cards, Ouija boards, seances, etc. I guess this isn’t strictly a “Christian” perspective, but as we know the only spiritual force worth knowing is God through His Son, Jesus Christ, for He is the only source of good in the universe. All other spiritual forces (angels notwithstanding, though we don’t seek to know them, and to do so could constitute idolatry) are evil and seek to lead us astray from God, so while we should be aware of them (for our own protection and for the sake of discernment so we know from what to flee), we should not seek to know them; however, many people would deny their very existence right along with God’s, opening themselves up to manipulation by demonic forces while simultaneously rejecting the only One who could save them.

Content Guide:

Spiritual Content: Characters use magical Artes; there is discussion about an “era of the gods”, as well as the beings known as Seraphim who would receive worship from humans and bless them in exchange

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: Dezel and Zexceed may be drinking alcohol in the closing credits

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: A Normin fights off some bugs; characters are thrown around by lightning

Blood/Gore: None

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 33: INFINITY 6 Three Guardians

Review:

In the aftermath of Pluto’s arrival, Usagi finds herself taking her Princess Serenity form, at which point the three Outer Senshi pledge their loyalty to her and explain their purpose; however, they blatantly refuse to work with the Inner Senshi and intend to conquer the enemy on their own. Mugen Academy is closed down due to Hotaru’s father’s connection to it, and his past crimes. In an effort to spy on him, Chibi-usa reaches out to Hotaru to get together with her and see a movie; however, Hotaru is unable to make the meeting due to a sudden surgery that her father performs on her. Concerned, Chibi-usa visits Hotaru’s home and accidentally stumbles upon Hotaru post-surgery, at which point she becomes scared and flees. Elsewhere Cyprine, the last of the Witches 5 is called into action, using hail to drain the Hostes of the people in the city and turn them violent. She also hunts down Haruka and engages her in battle. Neptune and Pluto arrive to help. Eventually, Usagi figures out that they are under attack, and she urges the rest of the Senshi to help. They arrive just in time to deflect an attack by Cyprine, who then unleashes a new move that turns the Inner and Outer Senshi against each other. As the only one unaffected, Sailor Moon attempts to defeat Cyprine; however, she only succeeds in revealing that Cyprine has a second “half” known as Ptilol. Tuxedo Mask and Chibi-usa arrive on the scene and, together with Sailor Moon, summon the holy grail.

This episode was another example of how the show manages to do both good and bad story telling at the same time. The plot points that have been developed over time are great: Chibi-usa’s friendship with Hotaru would understandably lead to her eventually discovering the darker parts of Hotaru’s life as she did in this episode, for example. On the other hand, the show’s need for an episodic monster kind of drags the whole pacing down. True, Sailor Moon has always been about a “monster of the week”, but generally speaking there is usually some build up. The monster is disguised as a seemingly normal person, and the audience is generally in on it. There is some sort of simplistic plot device revolving around the monster’s actions, the Senshi somehow get drawn into it, and then they defeat the monster. Simple, redundant, but fleshed out. Cyprine, on the other hand, kind of just bursts into the scene out of nowhere (right after Chibi-usa sees Hotaru’s bionic arm, no less) and begins sapping people’s energy. Yes, I know, she was introduced in the little pool of water, but there was no build up to her attack. It just happened.

Storywise, perhaps it would have been better if we didn’t have Cyprine attack this week. Chibi-usa could have stumbled upon Hotaru’s secret, run away, but be noticed by Professor Tomoe or Kaolinite. Cyprine could have captured Chibi-usa and used her as bait. This is just a quick idea, but the point is it would have tied everything together a lot nicer. I get that Cyprine’s primary targets were the Outer Senshi (and specifically Neptune and Uranus, since they revealed their identities), but these aspects of the plot just don’t flow together well. More time could have been spent drawing out the tensions between the Inner and Outer Senshi (which would have made their clash all the more climatic) on top of the aforementioned possibility of fleshing out the scenes with Chibi-usa and Hotaru. It just feels like the writers are insistent upon sticking to the age old formula, and it feels really forced in this case. And yes, I get it, this is all ultimately based on the original manga, but it’s not unheard of for an anime to take certain liberties or deviations from the source material. Certainly this would be acceptable if it meant delivering a more solid, cohesive story. Alas, such is not the case. They don’t even give us the benefit of suspense until the next episode: the preview clearly shows Sailor Moon gaining new powers (and they add it to the next episode’s title, to boot), which I called in the previous episode’s review, so we pretty much know that things will quickly resolve themselves! Conflicts resolve themselves in this series as quickly as they present, and the show ultimately suffers for it.

A Christian Perspective:

Proverbs 16:18 – Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Let’s be blunt: the Outer Senshi are pretty prideful. They completely brush off any offer of help from the Inner Senshi and act as if they don’t need any assistance. The depth of their feelings is revealed in the fact that Cyprine’s powers are able to draw out the feelings deep inside a person, which in this case sets the Inner and Outer Senshi against each other. While it also reveals the hostility within the Inner Senshi, we know that the Inner Senshi wanted to help the Outer, but the Outer were the ones to refuse that help. The pride of the Outer Senshi not only put them in a bad place where they were attacked and overpowered by the enemy, it also put them in a position to be susceptible to Cyprine’s powers, and it caused hostilities that would not have otherwise been there. It goes to show that one little act of pride can have some pretty big consequences, so the next time you’re feeling prideful, as yourself if it is worth it.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “h*ll”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Usagi’s dress shows cleavage; two enemies show cleavage; Hotaru is shown in her night clothes; Hotaru is shown on a hospital bed seemingly only covered by a sheet (some slight cleavage is visible); Haruka’s top shows cleavage; Uranus transformation sequence

Violence: People attack each other in the streets and riot; the Senshi battle a member of Witches 5 and then each other

Blood/Gore: Hotaru is shown with a grotesque arm and later all of her arms and legs are shown the same (they look as though they are stripped to the muscle)

Other: A flashback to Uranus kissing Sailor Moon; Uranus is said to be both a man and a woman; magic powers

Review: Tales of Zestiria the X, Episode 0: Age of Chaos

Review:

Normally I would start my reviews with a summary of the episode; however, I’m going to try to move away from that. We’ll see how it goes. Anyway, here we have the first installment of the Tales of Zestiria anime adaptation, dubbed “Tales of Zestiria the X”. What does “the X” mean? I don’t know. Maybe it’s answered somewhere out in the infosphere, but I didn’t go looking. In any event, the first thing you’ll notice about this episode is that it contains content that is completely original from the game. The entire episode follows Alisha, a princess of the Hyland kingdom, as she and a few companions search for one of her subordinates that she had sent out to do some investigating. A little flashback section reveals that she was butting heads with some of the nobility who wanted to conscript civilians into military service during a festival, which Alicia adamantly opposed, as well as showing some discoveries and concerns that are arising throughout the kingdom. This little bit of backstory helps to flesh out Alisha’s character a bit, and it gives those who haven’t played the game an immediate clue into Alisha’s clash with the nobility. Admittedly, the story is a bit confusing though, even for someone who has played the game, because all of the material is new! I’m not sure how this will tie into the story of Tales of Zestiria, but from what I’ve seen elsewhere, the anime is supposed to answer questions that were left unanswered by the game. There were certainly terms mentioned that I don’t remember (ley lines, specifically), and the whole concept of the giant mist is new from what I can recall. Those who have played the game will recognize certain faces that pop up in this introductory episode.

Artistically, the show is beautiful. The moments where CG is used are fairly obvious, but the scenes themselves are still well done, so the use of CG doesn’t come off as cheesy or cheap. Those who have played the game will recognize the use of the game’s BGM during certain scenes, and the layout of Hyland is faithful to its in-game counterpart. In that respect, the show manages to throw some fanservice (the good kind) to the gamers while also being inclusive to those who are just now being exposed to the world of Zestiria. I suspect those of us who played the game are also in for some new treats, as the intro (which is played at the end of this episode, as is the case with many anime first episodes) shows a few scenes of Velvet, the protagonist of the upcoming Tales of Bersaria, which is said to take place in the same world as Zestiria. How she will be incorporated and how much of a role she will play should be interesting to see, as giving her too big a role would seem to disrupt the established story, I would think.

One of the biggest criticisms I had of the game (you can read my review here) was how certain characters were handled. Specific to this episode is the character of Symonne, who is not introduced until late in the game (though she makes a few shadowy appearances earlier on), making her role feel more shoe-horned than anything. While her appearance here doesn’t necessarily mean that she will play a larger role in the anime, it is at least nice to see her make an appearance early on so that viewers can immediately identify her as an enemy, if nothing more. Overall, Zestiria was not my favorite Tales game out of the ones I’ve played, but I still enjoyed it well enough, and so far the anime has my interest, even though I know the crux of the story. The new content in this episode, as well as Velvet’s appearance in the intro, make me think that I (and my fellow gamers) will still be in for a few surprises. Tales of Zestiria the X can be watched either at Daisuki.net or via Funimation Now. This review and all subsequent reviews will be using Funimation Now, as I have a subscription to the service, which means I get to see the episodes as soon as they are released.

A Christian Perspective:

Keeping in mind the fact that I have a good grasp of Alisha’s character from playing the game, I will point you to her adamant refusal to conscript unsuspecting citizens into military service in this episode. As you will come to find out (and may have begun to suspect), Alisha holds what could be called a very righteous attitude. She doesn’t deal in deception and underhanded schemes, which puts her at odds with the nobility. Instead, she conducts herself with honor, making it a point to care for the citizens of Hyland, as well as her own subordinates (again, as we see in this episode). This demeanor is reminiscent of what Christians should strive for: rather than doing things deceitfully as the world does (in this case, tricking people into bolstering the military forces), we should do things honestly and with integrity, as Alisha does. As you will come to learn, Alisha’s attitude doesn’t earn her many friends among the powerful nobles, but it does cause her to be loved by those under her (as we see with her subordinates in this episode). Similarly, we can expect that the world won’t love us when we refuse to do things their way, and we may not even gain the love of those underneath us (those who hate the light will hate the light), but if we stand for what is right then we may gain the love and, more importantly, the salvation of those who have been wronged by this world and its systems. Not that we ourselves gain their salvation, but our conduct may be the path that leads them to knowing Christ and his saving grace.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Maltran’s top shows cleavage; Velvet’s outfit in the intro (outro in this episode) shows cleavage; Symonne wears a rather skimpy outfit, although you don’t see anything inappropriate

Violence: A band of assassin’s attack Alisha and her group; two beings battle with what appears to be magic; characters are sucked into a giant whirlwind

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Characters appear to use magic

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 31: INFINITY 4 Haruka Tenoh, Michiru Kaioh – SAILOR URANUS, SAILOR NEPTUNE

Review:

Uranus and Neptune may have bailed the other Senshi out of a hard place, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to team up and play ally. After saying as much, they then proceed to attack the Senshi, knocking Usagi unconscious. After she awakens in the Senshi’s base, the girls resolve that they will fight the two newcomers if necessary. Distraught over this, Usagi later encounters Haruka while waiting for Mamoru, resulting in Haruka putting her in another questionable position just in time for Mamoru to show up. This creates tension between Usagi and Mamoru, until Chibi-usa shows up to break the tension by convincing the angry lovers to “help” her with her clay project. Her plan succeeds, and the three spend the night together. On the B-side, Ami is recruited to be a temporary student at Mugen Academy, where her identity as a Senshi is uncovered by the Witches 5. After disabling a security camera, Ami flees and finds herself in a room full of experimental animals, where she is ultimately captured. With her Hostes about to be stolen, she is saved at the last moment by Haruka and Michiru, leading to battle with the latest member of the Witches 5. Outclassed on her own, Ami is rescued by her friends, with Uranus and Neptune joining the fray to ultimately defeat the enemy.

One of the most endearing aspects of this episode is the difference between this incarnation of Chibi-usa and the original 90’s incarnation. While the Crystal version retains some elements (namely, her clinging to Mamoru in season two), this version actually seems to care about the relationship between Usagi and Mamoru—a wise investment, given that her existence depends upon them staying together! It has been quite some time since I’ve watched this portion of the 90’s anime, so it’s possible that Chibi-usa may not have been as bad at this point even in that version, but I don’t remember her having very many redeeming qualities. Of course, the fight itself seems a bit silly as a whole, especially since Haruka was the one forcing herself on Usagi; then again, Usagi did get jealous when she saw Mamoru with Michiru, so perhaps this is a sign that the two of them need to work on their trust issues.

In regards to the second half of the episode, the Ami fan in me was certainly happy to have a focus on her, although the revelation that Mugen Academy is behind all of the attacks seems a little to slow in happening, given that Mugen Academy always seemed to be involved in pretty much every attack that the Senshi have dealt with thus far. There is also the fact that the episode chooses this point to introduce a new plot element without explanation; namely, the so-called “Hostes”. The enemy seems to place a high value on whatever this source is, but we have no idea what it is. On the other hand, Uranus and Neptune seem to finally throw their lot in with the rest of the Senshi, so it’s not all bad.

A Christian Perspective:

Genesis 5:2 – He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were crated, he called them “man.”

During her discourse with Usagi, the subject of whether Haruka is a man or a woman is brought up, to which Haruka asks if it really matters. Based on the above verse, I believe it does. If God created us “male” and “female”, then the distinction is important to make, because God Himself felt it important to make that distinction. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where what people “feel” matters more than what is actually true. A man can simply declare that he doesn’t “feel” like a man, but rather “feels” that he was born as the wrong gender and should actually be a woman. People try to rally around this vain philosophy by declaring things like “sex and gender are different”. Everything comes back to the fact that God created us male and female, though, and our genetics attest to that. A person can say that they “feel” they are a different gender, but their genetics will attest otherwise. If our genetics, our DNA, attests to what God has created us as, then anything else is simply in our minds. Some might argue that God may have created the person this way, but this is wrong, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33a). If God is not a God of confusion, then it would not make sense for Him to create a person with a certain set of genetics and then set that person’s mind on a path to be at odds with the physical evidence of what He created. Such tactics belong to our enemy, Satan, not to God. What all of this “gender confusion” comes down to, then, is at best a state of mental confusion or disorder, and at worst a Satanic deception.

Yes, it really does matter whether someone is a man or a woman, because God so defined it that way. Let’s not be so casual as to discard God’s definitions as “unimportant”.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Cleavage; Uranus and Neptune transformation sequence

Violence: Uranus and Neptune attack the rest of the Senshi; Michiru and Haruka hit two Mugen students; the Senshi do battle with a member of the Witches 5

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Usagi and Chibi-usa are shown sleeping in bed with Mamoru; the magical nature of the Senshi’s attacks

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 30: Infinity 3 – Two New Soldiers

Review:

After Sailor Moon’s unexpected encounter with Sailor Uranus, the Senshi meet to discuss the potential implications of the two mysterious figures. Meanwhile, Chibi-usa tracks down Hotaru in order to return her handkerchief, and the two begin to discuss Hotaru’s condition, at which point Hotaru begins to have an episode and asks Chibi-usa for her amulet. After retrieving the amulet, Chibi-usa produces her Silvery Crystal and provides healing to Hotaru, with the two forming a closer friendship as a result. Outside, Haruka and Michiru show up and offer Chibi-usa a helicopter ride home, while trying to press her for information on Hotaru. Usagi and her friends also have encounters with Haruka and Michiru, ultimately ending up with tickets to Michiru’s performance. Minako uses it as an excuse to see a performance by a prominent pop idol who is only performing at Mugen Academy. Unfortunately, the pop idol turns out to be a member of the Witches 5, who attempts to drain energy from the students. Minako transforms and interrupts the witch’s plan, to be ultimately joined by the other four Senshi. The witch summons three additional monsters, which are dispatched by the two mystery Senshi, with Usagi dealing with the witch.

Before I begin, I really do want to emphasize that I am actually a Sailor Moon fan, and that overall I am actually enjoying this arc in Crystal. That said, I keep finding myself noticing small annoyances. First up are the seeming abundance of lesbian undertones to the series. Usagi is quite obsessed with Haruka’s kiss, complete with blushing, and Chibi-usa also seems to blush quite a bit when it comes to Hotaru. It’s possible that I am just reading too much into this given the presence of Haruka and Michiru in this season, but it certainly feels like those are the undertones present in the series. Another criticism comes in the form of the dreams that the Senshi are sharing. Specifically, one scene shows the Senshi lying dead on the battleground; however, this loses its weight when we consider that the Senshi traveled to the future in the previous season. In other words, we’ve already seen that the Senshi are alive past this point, so the current threat to their lives means nothing. Sure there’s the possibility of the future changing, but since Chibi-usa hasn’t disappeared, that would be unlikely. Again, this is probably thinking too much about it, but from a story telling standpoint the threat death seems to diminish when you involve a future arc, especially when you consider all of the paradoxes that would exist. Finally, my previous criticism from the last episode concerning the simplicity of the fights against the Witches 5 still stands.

As for positive points, this season is taking its time to tell its story. I believe I complimented the second season for the same thing. Future paradoxes aside, the writers are taking the time to tease out the story, and although the fights themselves could stand to have a little more tension, the beginning of this season suggests that doing two-part episodes may not be the best approach. At the end of the day, Sailor Moon Crystal is a great entry in the Sailor Moon franchise.

A Christian Perspective:

1 Corinthians 8:4 – So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.”

Yes, I am taking a bit of a cheesy approach here by using the presence of a pop “idol” as a bridge to talk about actual idols; however, much like real idols—false gods that are set up as if they are real—the “idol” in this episode was also a fake, simply an enemy masquerading as a musical performer, rather than an actual performer. As we can see, this came with its own dangers: students were pulled in to hear her performance, which put them in a potentially deadly place. Even Minako, one of the heroines, was not safe from this deception, as she, too, ended up falling prey to the deception. This brings up a good point about how easy it is to fall prey to idols.

While our minds almost immediately conjure up images of crude statues made from wood, stone, gold, etc., the generally accepted principle among Christians is that an idol can literally be anything that takes the place of God in our lives….even anime and/or video games. We get caught up in these things and before we know it we have little interest in God, putting Him off to the side for more time with our favorite games or shows. Truly, these things are “nothing” in the grand scheme of things, whereas God is everything, but our finite human minds are easily distracted and lead astray. We don’t comprehend the concept of eternity and living with it in mind because we are trapped in the reality of living day-to-day, so we think of our immediate gratification more than our eternal souls. And don’t think I speak of any of this as someone who has mastered these things or ascended above these traps—I probably struggle with the concept more most.

That said, I don’t hold to the view that an idol is simply the thing you spend the most time with. I know that some will disagree with me, but we know that “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7c) It is completely possible to spend most of our time doing “God stuff”, yet have our hearts be far from Him; conversely, it is also possible to spend little time specifically doing “God stuff”, yet have that small bit of time impact the rest of our day and cause us to reflect on God throughout our various daily activities (perhaps by finding biblical lessons in the anime we watch?). Again, I don’t pretend to even come close to being perfect at this; however, I feel a lot of Christians focus too much on “how much” we do, and not enough about the quality of what we do. Even Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7) That’s not to say that long prayers are inherently bad, but they can be if we are only praying long prayers because we believe we are “supposed” to. If Christianity is indeed a relationship with our Creator, then it stands to reason it would grow like any other relationship: we start out spending some time with someone, and as we get to know them we desire to spend more time with them.

Yes, it takes discipline to take time from our fleshly desires and focus on God, but that discipline should lead us into a relationship where we eventually want to spend more time with Him, rather than spending a certain amount of time with him for the arbitrary reasons such as “my pastor said I had to pray for at least an hour”. I speak as someone who has, for a long time, spent long amounts of time in prayer because I felt I “had” to. For instance, I once prayed for two hours, and had convinced myself for the longest time that I always had to pray for at least two hours from that point on, or I was telling God He wasn’t worth it. Only recently have I had the presence of mind to ask Him to help me develop a relationship with Him based not on ritualistic rule keeping (reading enough chapters a day, praying long enough, etc.) but rather on who He is and a desire to know Him better. I haven’t gotten there yet. I struggle with a lot of depression and doubt. But as I sit here typing this, I have a sense of hope that one day He will bring me to that place.

Content Guide:

Spiritual Content: A “Deity of Destruction” is mentioned

Language: 1 “j**z”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Haruka shows cleavage; Mimi Hanyu’s outfit shows cleavage; multiple female episodes show cleavage

Violence: The Senshi fight monsters

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Haruka kisses Usagi at the beginning of the episode and in a dream; magical nature of Senshi’s attacks

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 29: INFINITY 2 Ripples

Review:

In the aftermath of the previous battle, Hotaru heals Chibi-usa’s injury, but does not receive the rejection that she expects for her strange powers and instead finds herself with a new friend. Afterwards, they go their separate ways, although we see that everything isn’t well off for Hotaru, as she returns home and collapses in pain, rejecting the help that her father’s assistant offers her. Worse off is the fact that her father doesn’t exactly seem normal. Elsewhere, the Senshi investigate Mugen Academy and reflect on the appearance of two new Senshi. Mamoru encounters Michiru in town, and Usagi stumbles across the two of them, feeling a tinge of jealousy. Usagi encounters Haruka at the game center, but the other Senshi step up and demand that “he” leave Usagi alone. Despite all of this, the girls still find themselves in a pleasant mood as they discuss having a party for Rei’s 15th birthday, though it turns out that Rei has gone to the mountains to train. Of course, this means the others set off into the mountains to find her, where they also find that Mugen Academy is having some sort of retreat. They encounter Haruka there during the day, where Makoto faces off against “him” in a judo match, and at night both Rei and Makoto notice something weird happening in the Mugen camp. Upon investigating, they find a member of the Witches 5 possessing the students. They launch into battle and are almost defeated until Sailor Moon and the others appear to aid them. They successfully dispatch their enemy, and Sailor Moon takes off after one of the new Senshi who again appears at the conclusion of their battle.

This was a much more satisfying episode than the previous one, with a much deeper and more drawn out episode story. We’re introduced to a little more of Hotaru’s backstory, which will become more important as the series progresses. Meanwhile, we begin to uncover more about Mugen Academy’s secrets (although did any of us not see that it was an evil organization?), and we get an actual excursion into the personal lives of the five main Senshi. Having more time spent watching the Senshi in their normal lives makes the show feel a bit deeper, as we get to see that the girls are more than just warriors.

My main criticism is how quickly the member of the Witches 5 was dispatched. Perhaps it’s because of my primary Sailor Moon experience being from the original anime, but I would expect the evil masterminds to pose a greater challenge than the throw-away, one-off monsters of the week. Then again, since I have very little knowledge of the manga, this may be the way things were originally designed. Still, having the enemies pose a greater challenge (and perhaps having multi-episode fights, a la shonen anime) would give a greater sense of tension to the show. Still, this episode did a much better job of deepening the mystery behind Mugen Academy, Haruka, and Michiru, so the episode managed to serve a greater purpose than its predecessor.

A Christian Perspective:

Ephesians 4:14 – Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.

This time I’m reaching way out of the box to make an abstract point, possibly to the point of stretching. If so, please forgive me, but this idea occurred to me, and it was better than the “pride comes before a fall” application I originally had in relation to Mikoto’s match with Haruka.

As for the application of Ephesians 4:14, my inspiration came from Usagi’s decision to chase after the mysterious Senshi at the end of this episode (although her insistence upon investigating everything as commented on by Michiru in the previous episode can also be raised here). Without applying any sort of discernment, Usagi races ahead, hoping to catch the mysterious girl, without any consideration for the fact that she could very well be an enemy. Such a decision could, of course, be dangerous or fatal to her, but her actions are undisciplined and therefore not thought out. This seems like a good metaphor to what Paul mentions as our ultimate goal as Christians in Ephesians 4:14. Without discernment as Christians, we can be blown about by various teachings, chasing after things that are ultimately dangerous to us and our spiritual growth; however, as we mature, we become capable of telling truth from fiction, and won’t be moved by people who wish to harm us with their lies.

Content Guide:

Spiritual Content: Hotaru has healing powers; magical nature of Senshi powers

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Female enemies show cleavage; Sailors Mars and Jupiter transform

Violence: Mars and Jupiter battle an enemy; Sailor Moon destroys an enemy

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Haruka embraces Michiru; Usagi and Chibi-usa are shown sleeping at Mamoru’s place; Sailor Uranus kisses Sailor Moon

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 28: Infinity 1 Premonition – Second Part

Review:

A new foe is revealed, and as can be expected, their targets are the Sailor Senshi, who ultimately have the power to put a stop to their plans. While Usagi and company plan their investigation of Mugen Academy, Chibi-usa ropes Mamoru into a fun outing to an amusing park, much to Usagi’s chagrin. Despite her protestations, Mamoru reminds her of her obligations and promises to be there should anything go wrong. In order to get into the academy, Usagi uses her disguise pen to dress herself like a Mugen student, granting her access to the building, where she stumbles upon Michiru playing the violin. With cold eyes, Michiru calls Usagi fearless, and warns her that it would be her undoing, just before another student demands to know Usagi’s class and name. Lacking a cover story, Usagi takes off. Outside, Haruka approaches the other four Senshi and warns them to stay away. Meanwhile, Chibi-usa loses her hat while on a rollercoaster at the park. She chases it down, only to discover a mysterious girl who appears to be in pain. During this time, she encounters Usagi, and the two are attacked by a monster. The Senshi transform and defeat their foe just in time to see two mysterious figures watching them from a distance.

I have to say, I am very much enjoying the fact that the show now has a weekly release as opposed to season 1 and 2’s two episode per month schedule. I’m also enjoying the slightly slower pacing. It is always nice when a show decides to take its time to draw out a plot. That said, the pacing didn’t seem to produce much in this episode. We get a little bit of background information on Mugen Academy via exposition, and we get something of an introduction to our new enemies, but that’s about it. Usagi’s exploration of the school doesn’t really produce anything, other than a brief encounter with Michiru, and the amusement park subplot really only serves to introduce Chibi-usa to Hotaru. Beyond that, there isn’t much worth noting in the episode. On top of it all, the episode features another full transformation sequence for all five Senshi, plus Chibi-usa. While this made sense for the first episode—it allowed for a reintroduction of the characters and a chance to show off the new transformations—it just feels like a time sink this time around. Chibi-usa’s animation makes sense, as she is being shown for the first time in this season, but the inclusion of the rest just feels like an excuse to take up time.

On a somewhat more positive note, this season seems to bring back some of the more slapstick elements of the original anime. While Usagi is still less whiny and annoying than her original anime counterpart, the hijinks between her and Chibi-usa combined with the comedic fleeing from enemies is a nice throwback to that era. More of this and less of the time consuming transformations and empty plots would be most welcome in the episodes to come.

A Christian Perspective:

Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,

Okay, this isn’t the most positive message, but I honestly felt like there wasn’t much to pull from the episode. I already stated my criticisms of the episode above, so I’ll spare you the redundancy of repeating those complaints here, but the episode’s lack of any real substance combined with another drawn out transformation sequence certainly suggests something not done “with all your heart”. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re all guilty of this. How often do we go to work and just get through? Or come home and just do the bare minimum? The verse above tells us that whatever we do, we should do with all of our heart, as if we were doing it for the Lord Himself. We may not always know what that looks like, but we should still try our best, and creating a two-part episode where nothing noteworthy happens in the second part is not really our “best”.

Content Guide:

Spiritual Content: The new enemies are known as the “Witches 5”

Language: 1 “j**z”, 1 “d*rn”, 1 “h*ll”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Cleavage/side-boob: The five main Senshi and Chibi-usa are shown going through their transformations

Violence: Slapstick comedy; the Senshi battle an enemy

Blood/Gore: Chibi-usa has a small scrape on her arm

Other: Magical nature of the Senshi’s attacks; a mysterious girl magically heals Chibi-usa

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 27: Infinity 1 Premonition – First Part

Review:

The episode opens on a mysterious voice discussing light and how it is the enemy to their darkness. A partial shot of a woman’s face is shown, before shifting to a young girl dreaming of the Senshi being killed. Mamoru seems to share her dream. We then shift to Usagi, who is dreaming of marrying Mamoru before being abruptly awakened. As she scrambles to get ready, Chibi-usa catches a glimpse of the news, where the reporters are talking about a monster attack and theorizing that it may be “reversion”–humans reverting back to a primal state. Usagi and Mamoru meet up, but before they can kiss, they are interrupted by Chibi-usa who ultimately joins her friends. As they finally go to kiss, the scene from earlier replays, giving them both pause. As they part ways, Usagi theorizes that her peace won’t last long. The focus shifts to a swimming girl, and then to a “boy” who is driving a race car. These two, named Michiru and Haruka respectively, are briefly touched upon as being members of Mugen Academy, as well as boyfriend and girlfriend, before the focus shifts back to our main cast, reintroducing us to each one. Usagi and company have a brief encounter with Haruka in the game center, while Mamoru briefly encounters Michiru outside the game center, with an enemy encounter following shortly thereafter. The girls defeat their foe, and begin to draw a connection to the attacks and Mugen Academy.

So begins the arc known as “Sailor Moon S”. Despite the controversial content in this arc (more on that in a moment), this is by far my favorite arc of Sailor Moon (though admittedly, I’ve never read or seen StarS) because of how dark it is. I’m sure that won’t sit well with some, but I believe I’ve said in the past that in reality, a magical girl’s life would not be sunshine and happiness—they are battling forces of evil and putting their lives on the line. As such, a certain level of darkness is appropriate for the setting. Although the new players are barely touched upon in this episode (we only see brief shots of Hotaru, and Haruka and Michiru’s identities are not revealed yet), they will ultimately play a key role in why this arc is so dark.

I mentioned controversy, and I mean that more in the sense that I am obviously writing for a Christian audience. Let’s just be blunt: Sailors Uranus and Neptune are in a lesbian relationship with each other. This isn’t explicitly spelled out in this episode (people believe Haruka is a boy at this point), but the ending credits kind of give it away (if 20+ years of Sailor Moon’s existence hasn’t already). It’s not something I approve of as a Christian, but I also don’t feel it is enough to throw the show away as a whole, especially because Sailor Moon Crystal is its own incarnation of the story, so seeing how everything will play out in relation to past incarnations will be most interesting.

The show does take the time to reintroduce the main characters, presumably in case you are jumping into the series at the beginning of season three. While such approach is not recommended, you will at least get a crash course in who’s who if you have chosen to do so. Each of the five Senshi’s transformations is also shown, and the animators seem to have listened—gone are the awkward CGI transformations, replaced with transformations artwork that is the same as the rest of the artwork. In fact, the artwork as a whole received a complete overhaul, it seems, and while that will make for some awkward transitions if you watch straight from season 2 into 3, the new artwork does certainly feel more appealing.

Other than that, there’s not much to say for this episode, except that it was a good Sailor Moon episode. It was clearly meant to be more of an introduction (or reintroduction) than anything, and it serves that purpose well while simultaneously laying the groundwork for the new plot that will most certainly begin to unfold in the next episode. Ladies and Gentlemen, Sailor Moon Crystal is back, so let’s see how it delivers!

A Christian Perspective:

John 1:5 – The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Okay, okay, I know, this isn’t really the most insightful or groundbreaking connection, but I honestly didn’t have anything else come to mind, while this concept (if not this particular verse) came to mind during the unknown villain’s opening monologue. While there’s not a whole lot I can expound upon (it’s a pretty clear comparison—the villain mentioned how the darkness could not thrive because of the light), it is still interesting to see how biblical concepts make their ways into stories from cultures that certainly aren’t influenced by the Bible. The number of Christians in Japan is low, and Sailor Moon is not exactly a Christian allegory (though I have made plenty of connections in the previous two seasons), yet this concept of the darkness not overcoming the light pops up right at the beginning of season three. It’s like its a natural concept or something, a reality embedded in our very subconscious by a power greater than us…

Content Guide:

Spiritual Content: Mars uses talismans in an attempt to exorcise an enemy

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Chibi Usa and Hotaru are shown lying down naked in the intro—their limbs cover their private areas; a bust shot of a naked Usagi is shown in the intro—her hands cover her breasts; Usagi dreams that she is wearing a cleavage-revealing wedding dress; Michiru is shown in a one-piece bathing suit; the five main Senshi all go through their transformation sequences

Violence: The Senshi engage an enemy in combat

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Haruka plays herself off to be male; Sailors Neptune and Uranus are in a lesbian relationship – Neither of these things is explictly shown in this episode, but this is common Sailor Moon knowledge. The ending theme song features Neptune and Uranus exclusively, and includes scenes of them holding hands and lying down, embracing each other.

Review: Young Black Jack, Episode 8: Painless Revolution Part 2

Review:

Yabu has returned from Vietnam with an American soldier who is suffering from PTSD. When the pair goes to the hospital for the soldier to be examined, Yabu is surprised to run into Hazama, who has exhausted himself by searching for a cure to Johnny’s analgesia. While Hazama and Yabu talk, Tommy, the soldier with Yabu, goes elsewhere, only to return later and mention that he ran into Johnny, who was a former comrade of Tommy’s. During their conversation, Hazama finds out that Johnny never actually went to Vietnam, contrary to what Johnny had divulged. Realizing that he has been lied to, Hazama returns to Johnny’s room and uses scare tactics to drag the truth out of the injured man. Elsewhere, Professor Risenberg meets with a CIA operative, where they discuss the true causes of Johnny’s analgesia, Risenberg’s secret past, and the implications for Johnny’s future. Afterward, Risenburg approaches Hazama on the roof of the hospital and tears up Johnny’s test results, commenting that Hazama will no longer need them since he is returning to Japan. Risenberg later injects Johnny with a sedative before hooking him up to a machine that restores his ability to feel. Back in Japan, Hazama laments that he was not the one to heal Johnny before finding out that Johnny has now retired from civil disobedience movements.

This episode is unique in the series thus far, as it is the only one to not feature Hazama involving himself in a surgery of some sort. Instead, the focus shifts more to Johnny and Professor Risenberg, with Hazama actually serving as more of a plot element than anything this time around. Instead, the more shocking revelations come in the form of Risenberg’s true personality and the truth behind Johnny’s lack of pain recognition. These revelations, combined with the attitude of the CIA agent, do make one question what the Japanese (or at least the writers of this show) think about Americans.

It is also interesting that everything beyond the first two episodes has stemmed from the Vietnam War (and even the second episode provided the resource needed to get Hazama to Vietnam). While the episodes themselves are largely self-contained (minus the trilogy and duology aspects), this common theme does serve to provide a sense of unity for the series, and the weight of the Vietnam War as a backdrop continues to give the series a historical perspective. This particular episode manages to capture the type of drama you’d expect to find in a live-action medical drama such as House without losing its originality, and it also raises the question of whether previous events will continue to culminate in future plot developments. After all, we did see the return of the CIA agent who is familiar with Hazama’s skills this time around. Young Black Jack has successfully managed to defy our expectations in this installment by following a different path than normal, but whether or not this pattern will continue has yet to be seen.

A Christian Perspective:

The first idea I had was to compare Professor Risenberg to the apostle Paul. After all, both appear to have a murderous background (Risenberg seems to have worked for the Nazis while Paul was a Pharisee who executed the early Christians) prior to changing their lives around and ultimately using them to help people. On the surface, this seems like a good comparison; however, it quickly falls apart with a little thought. For one, we have to consider the culture: Paul’s murdering of Christians was legal, at least by the worldly authority of the Pharisees, whereas Risenberg’s murdering of Jews was seen as a heinous crime. While turning from murder is obviously right in God’s eyes, Paul’s transformation actually went against the governmental authority he was under, so him facing worldly punishment for his crimes was not realistic. Risenberg, on the other hand, should have faced justice, but instead was harbored by the American government in exchange for his research. This is also an abdication of duty by the American government, as they failed to administer appropriate justice when presented with the knowledge of Risenberg’s crimes, and instead profited off of that information. Let’s not forget that God is the One who gives authority (Romans 13:1), though humans do have a tendency to abuse their authority. In the end, Risenberg at least makes some form of repentance by choosing to use his knowledge to reverse Johnny’s analgesia and save the young man’s life, but one must wonder if this is really enough to make up for the fact that he never faced justice for all the lives he took.

In summary, while Risenberg and Paul appear to have similar stories at first, that comparison quickly falls apart when we realize that Paul was murdering with the full support of his government before turning against that to spread the true Gospel, while Risenberg was murdering and committing acts that were considered a crime by pretty much the rest of the human race before turning from those actions and being harbored under a false identity. Paul never hid who he was—everyone knew his past and the miraculous work God did in his life. The same cannot be said of Risenberg.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “sh*t”; 1 “swear to G*d”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: Scenes of gunfire and explosions are shown; a flashback shows Johnny having his leg broken by a police baton; Johnny is beaten by several police officers

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Scenes are shown to indicate people being killed by poison gas, but they are represented by shadowy figures

Review: Young Black Jack, Episode 7: Painless Revolution Part 1

Review:

Maiko and Hazama take a trip to Chicago in order to watch an acclaimed doctor perform a surgery. While there, they run into an old friend of Maiko’s named Tiara, and they encounter a young man named Johnny who is a big name in the ongoing Civil Rights Movement, a practitioner of peace in a time when activists were resorting to violence. When two violent activists try to force Johnny to join them, things go bad and Tiara ends up shot while Johnny ends up with a broken arm. While Tiara’s wound ends up being non-fatal, Johnny’s opens up a new world of questions when it is discovered that he cannot feel pain. Maiko expects Hazama to seek a solution to the problem, an idea that Hazama has no interest in until it is discovered that Johnny’s condition is not genetic. With only three days left in Chicago, Hazama challenges Johnny to let him find a cure. Elsewhere, Yabu and an unknown man also land in the city.

It is amazing to see an anime tackle historical issues like Young Black Jack has. From the Vietnam War to 60’s Civil Rights, the show has expanded its focus beyond Japan, which is rare in anime. Old school fans may remember Chicago-based anime Gunsmith Cats, but that’s honestly the only name that sticks out immediately. To see an anime depict a cultural struggle in another country is quite frankly different and refreshing. The lack of a stereotypical portrayal of black people is also a nice touch. Many anime seem to fail in this regard (I’m looking at you, Mr. Popo). While the general focus of the episode still remains as Hazama finding a new medical mystery (this is basically House: Anime Edition, after all), the Civil Rights Movement serves as a different back drop, and is given the appropriate respect it deserves as a struggle for fair treatment. The writers even manage to capture some of the tension that would have been prevalent during that time when the four main characters sit in a restaurant where the white patrons clearly are not happy to have them.

While it was previously stated that the episode still ultimately revolved around Hazama discovering a new medical situation, the episode does stray from that a bit. True, it is the penultimate conclusion to this installment (and will probably form the major focus of the next) but there is quite a bit of character drama and development that goes on in between. Finding out that Hazama has a limit to what he will try to “fix” was surprising, to say the least. Of course, the episode isn’t without its shortcomings. A big name doctor allowing two people he doesn’t even know to assist him in surgery (one of whom is still a student, which the doctor makes no effort to discern) kind of puts a chink in the armor of the episode’s believability, and one must wonder if the airplanes shown at the end of the episode are really circa-1960’s. Still, the episode gets far more right than it does wrong, and it may be one of the best installments in the series thus far.

A Christian Perspective:

Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

I was honestly having a hard time coming up with a Perspective for this episode. Certainly a lot can be said about the Civil Rights Movement, the events leading up to it, and the reason why discrimination is biblically wrong, but honestly that wouldn’t really be unique to this anime, and much has likely been said about these things by men wiser, smarter, more spiritual, and more devoted than I. The best reflection I can come up with is to compare Johnny’s desire to be a peaceful activist as opposed to others who would rather resort to violence with the words of Jesus in the above Scripture. Granted, the reasons for Johnny choosing to be peaceful could be questionable, but whatever the case he has made a decision to not pay back violence with more violence. It seems like such a simple concept, and yet most people seem to not realize that if you respond to violence with violence, it will only lead to even more violence as each side gets more and more angered by each subsequent attack. Staying peaceful in the face of someone being violent towards you is certainly hard, but at some point the cycle needs to be broken.

Content Guide:

Spiritual Content: A woman calls a surgeon’s skills an “advent of God”

Language: 1 “d*mn”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: A flashback shows Hazama shirtless; Maiko’s dress shows a little cleavage

Violence: Hazama throws a knife into a man’s hand; a man fires a gun; flashbacks to Hazama being beaten in Vietnam and to war time violence; Johnny is punched many times; Tiara has a gun put to her head; Tiara is shot

Blood/Gore: Tiara’s gunshot wound bleeds, and blood pools next to her; Johnny’s arm is shown mangled and twisted