Winging It 3: Pacing and Other Thoughts on Sailor Moon Crystal
Season 3 of Sailor Moon Crystal just ended. Obviously spoilers ahead.
I’ve been a Sailor Moon fan since it started airing on local TV before school in the morning. I was 12 at the time, and it had a major influence on my life and especially my art. My cousins and I even had our own Sailor team. I was Mars, then Mercury, though based on my physical attributes I really should have played Jupiter.
So of course I was thrilled to hear a new Sailor Moon anime was coming out. In the end, I was disappointed by it. Not by the less-than-stellar animation and strange anatomy. I have a high tolerance for imperfect visuals as long as the story delivers.
But the story? Minus a few points, Crystal followed the manga panel for panel, and I liked the manga story. So what gives?
My thoughts are actually summed up pretty well in a recent episode.
In short, pacing.
Narrative pace is about how quickly or slowly you guide your audience through a story. You were probably introduced to a graph in middle or high school that looked like your Tumblr activity.
I mean, if you actually have active followers
Basically the graph represents the high and low points of your story. Highs are the action moments of the story, the things that stir up all the characters, and the lows are the resting points for contrast. Without that contrast, you can easily lose interest. Your audience needs enough time to process what is happening, but also the story needs to keep moving. Clearly, spending too much time in a low point can be pretty boring because nothing is happening.
On the other hand, spending too much time in a high point wears out its impact. One of the examples I can think of is when Red Letter Media talks about the Anakin vs Obi-Wan fight at the end of Star Wars Episode 3. The reviewer says the fight goes on far too long to hold much intensity, and I definitely remember feeling the same way when I first saw the movie. But comfortable pacing is going to be a little different for everyone. It’s clear I prefer a faster pace – I frequently get feedback on my stories that I move too fast, and often when I’m watching movies or TV shows I find myself thinking “OK, let’s move on already.”
Even in still works, pacing is important, but what you need differs from medium to medium. There are even different expectations between styles. It’s more challenging when you have a specific time slot to fill. One way the original anime filled out time was with stock transformations/attacks, and they started using this pretty frequently in Season 3. Some like it, some hate it. The transformations and attacks were one of my favorite parts of the original anime, so I don’t mind so much.
But if you want to expand your series’ runtime, there are plenty of ways to do it. With characters with such rich personalities like Sailor Moon’s, it should have been easy to come up with engaging material. A lot of what we get instead is this.
She’s created –
– the ultimate glass for our dinner party!
A reaction shot from every character that’s essentially the same reaction. If you’re going to do this, at least have the characters react differently, work some of their personality into it. The series is full of moments like this where a scene lingers for far too long for no purpose other than to fill time, regardless of whether it’s a low or high. It kills the momentum.
Why did I keep watching if I was disappointed? Certainly not because I’m a big fangirl that absorbs anything of my favorite property no matter how I feel about it. Uh-uh. No way.
The series occasionally DID introduce new development material, like showing how Professor Tomoe and Kaolinite fell in with MP90. This is a good expansion of time. As a matter of fact, the main reason I kept watching the series was because it clarified some of the manga for me. (Naoko Takeuchi’s art, while pretty, is very vague at times.) Also, it fixed some inconsistencies, or at least made an attempt. One thing I never got about the end of the manga’s Infinity Arc was that the Outer Senshi were pretty adamant that they were going to kill Hotaru to save the world, without hesitation or remorse. OK, there’s one scene when they’re looking on her with pity in their eyes, but I never felt like it was enough to justify Pluto screaming SATURN NOOOOOOOO after closing Saturn in the Tau dimension. After Saturn just destroyed the world, which was what they were afraid she was going to do the whole time. They toned it down in the animation.
Speaking of Saturn, before everyone thinks I’m just using this to bash Crystal, I have to let myself gush about one thing.
This is one of the most EPIC scenes in any incarnation of Sailor Moon I’ve ever watched. I think I’ve watched this clip a dozen times. I wasn’t a huge fan of Saturn before so I wasn’t waiting specifically for her appearance, but wow. I haven’t felt this pumped up about a scene since I was a kid watching the “Carry On” fight for the first time.