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This past Saturday was the season premiere of season 3 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The story of this first episode centred around a location called The Crystal Empire. A while back when clips of this episode first appeared online someone made this image suggesting a link. While I certainly believe there are visual similarities there I think that now that the full episode has aired we can look at them objectively and see just what does and doesn’t add up.
The similarity in the image above is hard to ignore. These are both cities made of crystal with one large tower in the middle. The Crystal Empire has a road formation made of stars. Crystal Tokyo does not but from this angle we see a diagonal road leading to the tower which makes the two cities seem similar. The structure of the two cities is somewhat similar with the way other buildings are spread out with some grassy areas, but this is not atypical of any city. It should be noted that a view of Crystal Tokyo during the day is somewhat rare. More often than not we saw Crystal Tokyo during a perpetual night as it was all but completely destroyed and occupied by the Black Moon Clan.
But let’s ignore the visual similarities and look at the similarities to the story for a moment. The image which suggests the parallel calls both an “Ancient Empire Revitalized”. In My Little Pony this is partially true. The Crystal Empire is old but has been around the whole time, just dominated by King Sombra. Crystal Tokyo itself is not old or ancient, it exists only in the future, from the near future (before Usagi’s 22nd birthday in the Manga and after the Earth is frozen in the 21st century in the anime) until the 30th century at least. It is the reestablishment of an ancient empire on the Moon, Silver Millennium. These aren’t really the same at all…
Next the image mentions an “Old enemy (previously banished far, far away by Royal Embodiments of Good) returns”. King Sombra and Wise Man look, act and are nothing alike. Both are banished by some form of royalty. King Sombra is banished by Princesses Celestia and Luna. Wise Man was a prisoner on planet Nemesis placed there by Neo Queen Serenity. We’re really just establishing similarities between the two series as a whole here in that there are royal main characters, but the characters themselves are nothing alike.
There is also a similarity mentioned between the “dark crystals”. This similarity seems somewhat warranted. The Black Moon Clan’s plans to take over modern day Tokyo involved infusing it with dark energy with the help of Crystal Points, Dark Henges and things like that. Ultimately a large Evil Black Crystal is erected in the center of Tokyo. Similarly Crystal Tokyo is covered in these kind of crystals when it’s attacked. The Crystal Empire in My Little Pony is similarly filled with black crystal shards that King Sombra places everywhere. The placement and purpose of these aren’t really the same, but their appearance is certainly similar.
Another similarity mentioned is that “It’s up to the heroine and her friends (who represent elements/planets) to go there and save the day”. Well yes, the main characters have to solve the week’s problem, aside from that we’re just talking about similarities between the basic idea of My Little Pony and Sailor Moon. They don’t use the elements of Harmony, they don’t really do anything Sailor Moon like. This comparison seems pretty superficial.
It then mentions “Oh yeah, these two are waiting to help when you get there” showing pictures on the left of Shining Armor and Princess Cadence, who are waiting there to help, and on the right Sailor Pluto and Sailor Chibi Moon, who aren’t. Sailor Pluto is not waiting in Crystal Tokyo, she’s guarding the door of time. She doesn’t really do anything to help. She protects the door, but the Black Moon Clan are able to come and go as they please. She’s actually does nothing but deter the group. In the manga she does a bit to help, but this isn’t really what we’re talking about here. Sailor Chibi Moon doesn’t factor into it. She is not involved in the story. Chibiusa is. She’s not waiting to help. She’s in the past with Sailor Moon asking them for help and ultimately she just turns evil. She helps in the end but she was never waiting in Crystal Tokyo to do so. These final points are of no relevance and fail to establish any similarity.
We can also look at other aspects seen in these episodes to see if there are similarities. Both the palace in Crystal Tokyo and the Crystal Empire are protected by a crystal. In Sailor Moon it’s the Silver Crystal. When it is removed by Chibiusa this causes the palace’s defenses to fall. In My Little Pony it is the Crystal Heart which King Sombra removes. These two items don’t really look alike at all. Later in the series Chibiusa’s Silver Crystal does change to be heart shaped, but this doesn’t seem terribly relevant.
Another only vaguely similar plot point is the shield that’s generated to protect the city from evil. In Sailor Moon we see the Sailor Soldiers bring up a force field around the palace, staying ever vigilant in keeping it up to protect Neo Queen Serenity. In My Little Pony it’s Princess Cadence who puts up a dome shaped force field around the entire city with a very different purpose and a much larger scope. The shapes of these shields aren’t very similar.
The central chambers in both palaces also bear a passing resemblance to each other.
There is also an illusion of disappointment by a parental figure that comes into both stories. In Sailor Moon Wise Man uses an illusion to make Chibiusa think that her parents and friends don’t love her. He shows her images of her parents Neo Queen Serenity and King Endymion scolding her and refusing to help her when she falls. Similarly Twilight Sparkle is shown an illusion Princess Celestia disappointed in her failure and scolding her which is caused by King Sombra’s dark magic. The specifics differ as Wise Man shows the truth, manipulated by hiding specifics, while King Sombra’s magic shows an outright lie.
Ultimately a lot of this seems to just be a case of looking for similarities where there are none. The Crystal Tokyo story of Sailor Moon R spans a large number of episodes so there are a lot of events we can look to for passing similarities. When we look at the 200 episode Sailor Moon series as a whole it doesn’t take long to find other similarities. When the ponies show up in this snow filled place that’s quite cold I immediately thought of the Sailor Team arriving near the D-Point in the North Pole without the wardrobe to back it up.
Then there’s the scene where Spike throws himself off of a building trying to catch the Crystal Heart when Princess Cadence, the winged unicorn, flies in to rescue him. This reminded me of Sailor Moon diving to catch Chibiusa getting rescued by Pegasus, the winged unicorn, in Sailor Moon SuperS.
I am not mentioning these additional similarities to suggest a connection, quite the contrary I’m just trying to illustrate that especially when dealing with a series with hundreds of episodes it’s fairly easy to be able to pick and chose vaguely similar things when no real inspiration needs to be made. Was The Crystal Empire inspired by Crystal Tokyo? It’s certainly possible, but who exactly are we saying would have done this? If it’s the writer, then why the visual similarities? It if was one of the artists, then wouldn’t that make any story similarities a coincidence? While there are certainly people who work on the show who have mentioned they are fans of Sailor Moon and some minor inspiration is possible, to try to draw significant parallels between the two series’s stories does not hold up to scrutiny as the differences are more numerous than the handful of cherry picked similarities we can find. These are shows for young girls. They have colours, crystals, royalty and other such things that at times may overlap but it’s likely not much more than a coincidence.