Sailor Moon Crystal just did it to me.
My thoughts on the episode (minor spoilers):
Okay, so you can rest easy now. I assure you the artwork and animation are phenomenal.
Now, on to the actual story.
Can I get away with saying that not only was this episode so accurately true to the manga, but that it was actually BETTER? Seriously. Let me give you a list of all the things these writers and animators did right. (This is where those aforementioned "minor spoilers" come in, so if you're really keen on finding these points out all by yourself first, go watch the episode right now.) In no particular order:
1. Mamoru is not a complete bleephole.
Yes, he was a little rude to Usagi, and rightly upset about getting smacked in the face with a balled up piece of paper, but he was cool. After initially chewing her out for her rudeness in throwing things around without looking, and a remark about her test grade, they shared a moment of deja vu while assessing each other. This served to diffuse a moment which might have otherwise led to the biting scenario that occurred in the 90s anime. Honestly, while I was watching the 90s version, I hated him so much in the early episodes. I could NOT understand how they were supposed to fall in love later, because he never seemed to show that attitude to anyone else, as if he reserved it all for Usagi. As much as people complain about Rei being nasty, it seemed pretty bad coming from Mamoru, at least to me.
Not that I'm dwelling. :P
Anyway, Mamoru comes off less as a jerk now and more realistic in his reaction to Usagi's paper ball throwing skills. I hope to see this same trend in future episodes.
2. You get better cues for what's to come.
You actually get to see the process of Naru's impostor-mother, Morga, being created, but it's short and kept in shadows. You also don't see her face. For people who have never seen either the old Sailor Moon anime or the manga, this means that they get to have that "aha!" moment a little later in the episode when the impostor's intentions are revealed. For the people who are already familiar with the story of Usagi's first transformation into Sailor Moon, it gives us a better sense that the villains-- and by extension, the writers-- knew what they were doing all along. Plans have been made, and we aren't watching random villains making random decisions in their attempts to acquire the Legendary Silver Crystal. I'm not saying that it was really that random in the older anime; I'm just saying they did a better job of tying everything together in Crystal.
Another example is the fact that you catch a glimpse of Tuxedo Mask inside the store right before Sailor Moon runs in (and in fact, we saw him approaching the store a few scenes earlier) . While yes, I'll grant you that seeing him standing in front of it earlier when there were paper balls flying at his face was already the cue that he was going to be there, remember that that scene occurred several hours before all the action starts to happen. In the old anime, and also in the manga, it feels much like a deus ex machina moment when he suddenly appears at exactly the right place and time and rescues Sailor Moon. It seems like his only purpose was to wait around in order to rescue her. In fact this time around, in Sailor Moon Crystal Usagi doesn't need to be rescued. Even though she was scared and struggling to figure out how to defeat the enemy, she didn't let it overwhelm her to the point of becoming crippled. She relied on her own strength instead of waiting for the "knight in shining armor" to make the first move and direct her actions for her. While there's nothing wrong with a character needing to be rescued once in a while, this is rightfully her spot here, not his. He gets plenty of chances to rescue her later on.
Meanwhile, in the scene at the jewelry store it now feels like Tux was actually kind of busy with his time, like he had been listening to Morga's plans, or looking for the right moment to jump in and either a) attack the villain and rescue Naru or b) try to locate the Silver Crystal secretly and run off with it. It's clear he wasn't expecting Sailor Moon to show up, and when she did, he held his ground so as not to get in the way of a super-powered battle (remember, at this time he has no real power for battling like Sailor Moon has). Now you can better understand why he was so amused at what he saw when Sailor Moon showed up. :)
3. Usagi is more emotionally stable.
She's still a crybaby, but it's not overplayed this time around. She has a stopping point. She now appears to be an emotional teenager, rather than the emotional six-year-old that the 90s anime portrayed her as.
4. Same voice actress, better voice.
Thank you, Kotono Mitsuishi, for toning it down from before. Your fans are delighted. :)
5. The video game scene was awesome!
Wow, it really looks like a scene from a professionally developed video game. There are health/ stamina bars, a stage progress bar, and what looks to be a bar displaying available power-ups. The bars are even animated: There's a moon crescent that swings a little bit in the stage progress bar, a floating indicator to show which stage she's playing (the first of four), the occasional shine animation for the power-ups, and a constant glow around the health/ stamina bars. If they ever make a real Sailor V fighting game based on this scene from this episode, I will be the first in line at Game Stop to get it!
6. Luna's not a complete bleephole.
This may stem from the fact that Usagi is more mature than she was in the 90s version anime and therefore Luna does not need to react as harshly. (I'll be honest: if I was in charge of training a super-hero with so much propensity for laziness and senseless crying, I would nag and lose patience easily, too.) I'm sure Luna will still get plenty of chances to chastise Usagi for her laziness, blubbering, or lack of responsibility, but she'll probably be more tolerable this time around.
(Character flaws are necessary, of course, but in the vein of keeping the characters in character, the writers have done a great job so far. And after all, these characters already had flaws written into them, and there was no need to exaggerate them too much.)
6. All the male characters are different.
Is it just me, or did about 85% of the males in the old anime look exactly the same, mostly resembling copies of Mamoru? It's not just me, right?
7. Her brooch sounds metallic.
The old anime made their devices sound like plastic toys, and it always bugged me. In Crystal, when Usagi gets her brooch from Luna, you can hear a subtle "tink" noise a couple of times, making it seem like real jewelry, rather than a toy.
8. Look! Snow!
Did you notice the snow behind Jedite in that second-to-last scene? Now we have a better clue as to where Beryl and company reside. Not a major detail of course, but I appreciated it.
9. Oh yeah, Luna got stepped on.
Again, not the most important detail, but it's always cool to see how closely Sailor Moon Crystal resembles the manga.
10. Look, Ami-chan's there.
Just to help you get the sense that she belonged here all along. :)