Rei vs. Rei: How Sailor Moon Crystal’s Rei Reigns Supreme Over Classic Anime Rei

A few weekends ago saw the debut of Rei Hino, aka Sailor Mars, in the latest episode of Sailor Moon Crystal. Knowing that the newer anime will be following Naoko Takeuchi’s manga more closely, it was one of my most anticipated episodes to watch. I was not disappointed when I saw the “true” Rei come to life before my eyes.

smcrystal_reipriestessI became acquainted with Sailor Moon as an anime first before reading the manga. When I eventually got my hands on the manga and was struck by how different manga Rei was to the classic ’90s anime Rei, well, the comparisons I made between the two versions were hard for me to avoid.

What I enjoyed most about watching Sailor Moon was the different personalities each of the Sailor Scouts possessed and how those personalities function under a team setting. Their relationship to each other was also an interesting aspect to gradually watch unfold on the show.smclassic_usagirei

Anyone familiar with ’90s anime Rei will know that her relationship to Usagi is quite the volatile one. Both women rub each other the wrong way, they’re always argumentative, and they’re constantly in direct competition with each other until it becomes unbelievably childish. It’s almost hard to believe these two could ever be friends.

Discovering manga Rei to be much more quieter, calmer, and mature than her ’90s anime counterpart made me think, “Why did the creators of the anime decide to change her personality so drastically?” Whether it was to add more comedy to the anime or to have a Sailor Scout who dishes out tough love to Usagi in an attempt to make her a better leader and future ruler, it’s a change I actually wish the studio of the ’90s anime didn’t do. I found classic anime Rei annoying most of the time and she was probably my least favorite Sailor Scout out of all the ones in the anime. Someone who derives pleasure in constantly arguing with a “friend” isn’t a display of good character. If I were Usagi, I’d avoid Rei at all costs if that’s how our friendship dynamic always operates.

Seeing Rei’s episode in Sailor Moon Crystal and having her real personality remain intact, as how Takeuchi wrote her in the manga, made me instantly like Rei. As a shrine priestess with a gift in the psychic arts, Rei is both beautiful and mysterious. She exudes a gentleness and grace that the ’90s anime Rei sorely lacked. Her interactions with Usagi doesn’t have that fiery volatility and Rei’s rage only arises when she sees a friend or innocent in trouble. This is why Rei is suitably born into the role of Sailor Mars.

smcrystal_reibirdsRei’s episode only gives us a small taste of what this Sailor Scout is like, but I’m looking forward to having more of her backstory revealed. One of the best stories about Rei that’s seen in the manga is her complicated relationship with her father and why she seems to dislike men in general. Her story, and I hope it will be covered in the new anime, is one of the saddest you’ll ever read about and it shapes Rei into the girl you see in the series. You’re certainly not going to see this anime’s Rei acting boy crazy like we’ve seen in the ’90s anime Rei. She’s a girl who looks and acts much wiser than her years and her focus is her friendships and being the best Sailor Scout she can be. And to be honest, I prefer it just fine.

19 thoughts on “Rei vs. Rei: How Sailor Moon Crystal’s Rei Reigns Supreme Over Classic Anime Rei

    1. It’s definitely worth watching. It has been following the manga pretty closely so far and I just love seeing Rei as she’s meant to be in this version.

  1. I know this article is several years old, but i just have to comment.
    I really cannot take the title of this article seriously, the only thing i can see SMC Rei reigning supreme in is being reduced to a demure background character to please people who were offended by her boisterous portrayal in the 90’s anime.

    As a big anime Rei Hino fan i couldn’t but be dissapointed by what i saw of SMC season 1. 90’s Rei has often been missappreciated by a lot of people it seems. I think she was an empowered girl, who despite a dutyfull approach to her role as a soldier had no problems putting her soul into the most idle daily concerns of a normal teenage girl. Despite there being many people in Usagi’s life critisising her for irresponsible behaviour Rei was the only one who got through to her and you clearly saw how she was instrumental to Usagi’s growth as a leader. She even displayed characteristics that are commonly associated with Usagi (like her ability to generously forgive someone who has hurt her and compassion for an opponent) before we saw her leader display these qualities, she basically brought down the Ayakashi Sisters through domino-effect by giving Koan the chance to start her life over. She also displayed less heroic characteristics she shared with Usagi like being self-centered and shallow sometimes or walking all over people because both girls had such larger than life personalities they didn’t always notice how they overwhelmed others. Yes, she could be confrontational and harsh, but she had no problem being on the receiving end. She also often was very protective, kind and gentle especially to Usagi and had the emotional maturity to defuse several arguments she got in with her friend because she was misunderstood. Rei was also the only one in the original anime with any kind of developed love life (unfulfilling as it may have been to her) and family life. In fact i think i was a bit spoiled by the 90’s anime because i think Rei is arguably the most three-dimensionally developed character in it apart from Usagi perhaps.

    The Rei i saw in Crystal on the other hand looks like a spiritless drone who is only there to “protect” her leader who never really needs any protection to the point where you consider her allowing these girls who were given much less powers than her to fight for her downright cruel.. She seemingly has no life of her own, she doesn’t react when people are flat out rude to her and the only personality she is given is through her stating things about herself as if she was reading of a profile list.

    I understand that there will always be people who value the written fiction of any franchise higher just because it was first, but clearly the changes made to the SM manga were made because they were necessary.

    1. Keeping in mind that this article is a few years old now and the Crystal anime has finished three seasons so far, my opinions of how the new anime compares to the ’90s have changed a bit. While there are some things to like about the new anime, I still prefer the ’90s one much more. As much as I don’t consider Rei my personal favorite Sailor Scout, this doesn’t mean I didn’t respect her either or admired the big moments she had in the ’90s anime, especially her act of kindness towards Catsy and her super badass, ultimate sacrifice moment taking down the remaining members of the Doom and Gloom girls (forgive me but I forget their original Japanese name). However, I still felt ’90s anime Rei had a lot of growing up to do. Her bossy attitude and her immaturity did turn me off at times whenever she interacted with Usagi, making it hard for me to sometimes believe they’re good friends.

      I’m not sure if you read the original manga, but I never felt Rei ever comes across as a demure background character at all. Most of her strength is quiet and centered, like a calm flame that only burns wild when there’s an injustice happening to someone else. Rei’s personality in the manga came across to me as someone who has been through a lot, which shapes her wise beyond her years aura I got when I read the original source material. A big issue I have with Crystal, is the same way you feel about Rei in the new anime but can be applied to all the characters in my opinion––they are hollow shells with no life. I do feel like with this new reboot there’s something severely lost here. Where all the characters are animated and had their own personalities that made each girl striking on their own in the ’90s anime, Crystal sort of reduces them into pretty dolls that go through the motions of life. I definitely connected and responded to each girl in the original ’90s anime, good or bad. To me, they felt human and real. Crystal? Not so much.

      Even with the new anime supposedly being an adaptation of the original manga, some things didn’t seem to translate well on screen and there are still some instances where changes were still made for the anime. At this point, I still didn’t feel like manga Rei was fully actualized in Sailor Moon Crystal. I’ll also always be of the opinion that ’90s anime Sailor Moon is far superior than Sailor Moon Crystal.

      1. Rereading my post, i realise it was a bit more passionate than i imagined.
        I didn’t mean to play the “true fan” card,
        i just binge-watched season 1 of Crystal, got dissapointed and had a chip on my shoulder.

        I agree the writers played the frenemy card a bit too much sometimes for comic effect
        and there wasnt always much logic to it.
        But while logic is rarely what one expects in a cartoon,
        logically Rei had a lot of maturing to do, since she was a teenage girl.
        Still, i feel it was mostly in the beginning of their friendship that she was so bossy to Usagi,
        towards the end of the first season and during the other seasons she is mostly very kind to her friend and ofter very considerate
        (like when she felt guilty and uncomfortable when Chibi-Usa asked her instead of Usagi to help her cook a curry for school)
        and i think these moments are often forgotten because they get overshadowed by their fights.
        It’s also in the latter seasons that a lot of the fights and the picking of them have little logic to them,
        Alltough there does seem to be an evolution where Rei starts out picking fights with Usagi in the first season and less in the latter ones,
        while in the latter seasons Usagi sometimes initiates them because she misinterprets what Rei says as abuse through habit,
        and gradually they mellow down and realize how much they mean to each other.
        It’s an interesting way for their friendship to evolve cause there obviously are things both girls find frustrating about each other,
        but gradually frustrations and suspicions are overcome through mutual respect, appreciation and kindness.

        I realise you were expressing your hopes for Crystal rather than appreciation for what we got,
        I admit there were things to like, and these were all related to the manga (haven’t read it chronologically yet, but i have read some parts)
        and i liked what i saw of Rei and the others.
        I focussed on Rei because that’s the senshi whose characterisation i was most impressed with and as i said i feel spoiled with what the writers did with her in the 90’s anime.
        So i wouldn’t have minded if they spent comparitively more focus on the other senshi in Crystal, in fact i was hoping for more variety especially in the portrayal of Ami, who i feel got stereotyped far too much in the 90’s anime.
        Instead as you say we got a bunch of pretty dolls without character or purpose.
        There definitely is a lot to be improved on the 90’s anime and that was what i was hoping for, we got a little of that with Minako but on the whole i was very dissapointed in it’s stripped, minimalistic reimagining of the franchise.
        A lot was lost also with doing away with the abundance of Youma wich often gave us very well crafted sidestories of minor characters and exploration of the senshi.
        All in all, it’s not a big deal. I enjoy the 90’s anime very much and i think i’ll enjoy the manga too, i’m sad Crystal is the opposite of what i hoped for, but there is still much Sailor Moon to enjoy for those who didn’t like it.

  2. I have to say, a big difference between the 90’s anime and Crystal is the fillers. 90’s anime had 200 episodes total. Most didn’t exactly follow the main story like episode 1 to episode 4 (Sailor Moon to Sailor Mercury). You had a main story episode and then would have some filler episodes before the next main story episode. It made a stronger impression on the characters and allowed people to really know them before going too far on. With Crystal, there are no fillers. Only the most relevant to the main story exist in it. It makes for too short a story to really get to know them. Many scenes usually involved Sailor Moon or one of the others. Rei got little screen time so to speak. 90’s anime, to me at least, made Rei and the others more believable. They are supposed to be 14 making them not that mature. Their personalities, in my opinion, match their age very well. Crystal’s versions of the characters seem older and more mature, which doesn’t live up to the idea that they are only 14. (My opinion: They look like 20 something year olds in Crystal.)

  3. Also, if I have my math right, 90’s anime had 46 episodes in season 1, 43 in season 2, and 38 in season 3 giving a total of 127 episodes. Crystal’s season 1 has 14, season 2 has 12, and season 3 and 13 giving a total of 39 episodes. 90’s anime has 88 more episodes than Crystal. You really get to understand the characters in so much time. Not so much in Crystal though.

    1. Yeah, you do have a point. The ’90s anime may have had more filler episodes, which has nothing to do with the main story itself, but it does give the show a chance to really flesh out a lot of the characters here. I think after watching both shows in its entirety, classic and Crystal, I still have a very personal attachment to the ’90s one. Each girl, including the supporting characters, really stand out in each episode. You understand their strengths, weaknesses, fears, hopes, and dreams. Crystal really strips a lot of what makes the ’90s anime work so well. I also agree that Crystal makes the scouts more like grown women trapped in 14-year-old bodies. I think in some ways this has to do with the manga itself. While there are moments when Usagi and the gang do act like regular teenagers, a lot of the times, they do act more like grownups than kids in the manga. However, I think there was a good balance of this in the manga. It kind of feels like the Crystal anime tipped too far in one direction. I’m not saying this is necessarily good or bad. It’s just different.

      1. I agree Crystal made the characters seem more like late teens or early twenty somethings than fourteen year olds. It could have been an interesting take to make the story take place at University or around young woman starting a career, but sadly the format didn’t allow for this. In the case of Sailor Moon storytelling i’ve become convinced less is definitely not more with Sailor Moon: the story needs that filler, it needs the fleshing out of the characters. Because the heart and soul of the story is in those friendships. There are villains and battles i enjoyed, particularly the Queen Berryl arc, the anime only aliens from the beginning of SMR and the various Black Moon villains, but what i enjoyed most about the show were the interactions between the senshi mainly and the sidestories, all those supporting characters also made for great short stories and helped flesh out the main characters and villains: Naru and Nephrite’s arc will always be among my favorite episodes, and with the exeption of Jaidite i think the generals of the Dark Kingdom got a lot more characterisation in the 90’s anime. Perhaps Crystal just suffered from a lack of investment. As you say: you can’t provide the kind of story in 14 episodes that you can in 46.

  4. Rei from the 90’s: Has one of the most epic death scenes in the series where she protects Usagi from two monsters. Is sort of otaku-ish. Breaths fire when eating too much salt. The OG tsundere.

    Rei from Crystal: Really beautiful, but just kind of there.

    Sorry, how does Rei from Crystal reign supreme over the classic version again?

    I know this blog post is really old but I just had to comment I disagreed with it so much haha. Of course just my opinion.

    1. When I wrote this post at the time, it was based on early first impressions on Crystal. I thought the new anime would have followed the manga closely, because I liked Rei’s characterization in the manga, but it didn’t. The new anime is certainly pretty and all but there’s something largely missing from it. It doesn’t have the same charm the ’90s anime has. I actually prefer the ’90s anime over the new one. I suppose I should have written a follow up post when I finished Crystal.

      1. Yeah, I agree. Personally I love Rei in all versions but there’s something lacking in Crystal. Ah well.

  5. I don’t like the SMC Rei (I guess Manga Rei) because it gives her the same nice like personality you see in the other girls. The “mean” girl gave more flavour to her. We already have Ami for this nice/mature/calm trope.

    1. You should read the manga before saying anything. I hate the 90s Rei. The manga Rei is mature and beautiful. She isn’t your typical nice girl trope since if there is any injustice, she will go into a rage. She also dislike men because her politician father abandoned her and her mother for his job and lead to her mother’s death. She is stubborn and her ideology lead her to clash with Minako. If you read about her backstory in Casablanca Memories, you will understand why she is mature like that.

      1. I actually have read the manga a long time ago, back when the 90s Sailor Moon anime was still airing. This post, which I wrote a long time ago, doesn’t bash manga Rei. In fact, it goes on about how Sailor Moon Crystal, the newer Sailor Moon anime, actually tries to stay faithful to the original manga. I agree I like manga Rei more. I found her much more likable than the 90s anime portrayal they did of her. This is why, looking back on it now, I don’t understand why liberties were taken back then to alter Rei’s personality so much.

      2. memoirs casablanca does not justify rei’s attitude towards men at all, ironically it makes her look even more immature.

  6. after seeing the three seasons of crystal and sailor moon eternal, I must say that I prefer the queen of the classic anime, she has a better personality, greater character development, is more endearing and is a perfect representation of the aries sign, according to the planet of fire :MARS.

    1. After finishing what was released of Crystal, I still prefer the 90s Sailor Moon over this one. I don’t think Crystal is a bad series but it isn’t one I would go back and rewatch again.

  7. Frankly I never got any of the praise for the so called ‘superior’ manga version of Rei. If anything I found the whole straw misandrist routine far more obnoxious than the 90’s Anime incarnation (who is my favourite character thank you very much) And Casablanca Memories certainly didn’t do her any favours. Forget about the much more interesting issues with her father, let’s instead focus on some boring throw-away love interest who will have no further relevance after this. Then have her bum free drinks of some guys, and not share any of them with her friends…
    And all Crystal/Eternal for me has done is highlight just how flawed, rushed and badly written much of the source material is.
    They completely sucked all the personality out of Rei and turned her into a glorified prop. In fact the Inner Senshi in general are just flat out pathetic in this version. Their only real purpose is to make other characters look better by either getting beaten up, captured, brainwashed, or all three. Labyrinth from Season 3 saw them straight up abandon Usagi with zero effort on the (boring one-dimensional) antagonists part. Then they spent the entire finale playing damsels on demand.
    Hands down this is one of the most mind-numbingly awful, overrated, and shallow excuses for a cash-grab I have ever seen. And I’d still say that even if I never saw the original anime. What a farce…

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