Many times during this run I wondered what the heck Queen Beryl and her minions ere trying to accomplish. While her earlier attacks-of-the-week had a certain poetic justice to them, they lacked punch and seriousness, and weren’t helped by the fact that Usagi & (later) Co. were able to defeat them despite just coming to grips with their power. They were potshots.
No more. This week, Beryl goes right for Usagi’s heart, first by delivering the shock of Mamo-chan being alive and well in the arcade, then making him her latest instrument of evil. Usagi is experienced and wise enough to know something’s not right, but her heart is constantly in conflict with her head this week.
The Guardians don’t have their best week, either, letting Usagi slip away right into the lion’s jaws. Then Makoto confronts the ‘quasi’-Mamo-chan alone and falls for his power of suggestion to lead everyone else into a trap at the Command Center.
In this regard, Beryl finally hit that magic formula to emerge as a legitimately nefarious threat using insidious tactics that take advantage of Usagi’s love for Mamo-chan, something she couldn’t do as effectively before with other pawns. Usagi only really snaps out of things when Mamo smacks a lunging Luna across the room.
Beryl gets the crystal, and then rubs salt in the wound by revealing the Tuxedo Mask with her is no impostor or double, it’s the real Chiba Mamoru, only obviously under some kind of evil spell. She thought it fitting for Usagi to be killed by the one she loves. Ice Cold.
Sailor Moon Crystal has been very brisk and efficient in its storytelling of late, and also liberal in its distribution of Shocking Truths. With all the developments coming so hard and fast, it makes me, a mere Moon tourist, wonder how the remaining sixteen episodes will be filled. My self-answer: They will be, with something; I’ll just have to wait and see what.
But first, to the events of this week: the Sailor Guardians hold hands directly beneath a full moon and transport there, and the stony, soundless remains of Silver Milennium and the Moon Palace are a morose sight, to say the least. Such vital grandeur once stood there, and now it’s all ruin. All but the central prayer room, where a hologram containing the will of Usagi’s mother from her first life, Queen Serenity, fills in the blanks of that life, and how it ended.
Basically, Usagi, AKA Princess Serenity, loved the greenery and wind of Earth so much, she regularly snuck away to visit when no one – her Sailor Guardians included – noticed. There, she fell for Prince Endymion, and he for her, but the evil force of Metalia and Beryl stoked the fires of war between Earth and the Moon, with the lovers caught in the middle. Endymion was slain protecting the princess, and, she in turn takes her own life, Juliet style. Sealing Metalia meant sacrificing the entire kingdom. Now, in the present, the good guys have an opportunity for a do-over, and they can’t afford to waste it.
Today is the day the Sailors finally visit the home of their former lives, but it’s also the day Beryl’s four pawn-princes decide to follow her down to the basement to see what she’s up to. Her words with Metalia awaken their own lost memories, but only for a moment; Beryl quickly uses her evil magic to suppress them and restore her hold over them.
As the Crystal isn’t on Mamo-chan (at least physically), she sends the princes after the sailors, and we get a nice full-strength fight in a Tokyo frozen by ice, the crucial point of which is for Sailor Venus to point out that the princes aren’t their enemies, or at least they didn’t use to be. Back in their previous lives, they were knights who served Endymion as the Guardians served Serenity. Not only that, the guardians and knights were in love with one another, which works out nicely; not love polygons here!
When the Guardians, not wanting to fight the men they loved, end up in a bad way, Usagi is the one who saves them, using her healing power to thaw the city. The Guardians then try to extract the evil from the princes, but Beryl snatches them up before they do so. The stakes are now high for all the sailor guardians, not just Usagi. But the next time she faces her beloved Mamo-chan, he’ll be another one of Beryl’s mind puppets. So yeah, there’s still plenty more to overcome before victory is achieved.
Things are definitely picking up in Sailor Moon World, as Usagi not only recovers the memories of her past life as Moon Princess Serenity of Silver Millennium, in which she fell in love with Prince Endymion of Earth, AKA Tuxedo Mask, AKA Mamo-chan; but the titular Crystal finally makes its appearance, the seal for it broken by her tears she sheds for the injured Mamo-chan.
It’s unfortunate for Usagi/Serenity, then, that Queen Beryl decides now is the time to show herself and spring into action, grabbing Mamoru and disappearing off to her realm. Unfortunately for Beryl, in her haste she misunderstood exactly what was going on with Usagi and Mamoru as they were suspended above the second-most-impressive tower in Tokyo: the actual Silver Crystal didn’t go into Mamoru’s body, but remained in Usagi’s possession. OOPS!
With her past and present beloved in enemy hands, Usagi could care less about the Crystal. She’s beside herself not only due to the present situation, but having just had the tragic memories of her past lost love and kingdom’s fall, because the people of Earth and the Moon couldn’t just get along.
Mamoru, awakens in Beryl’s castle, but the only thing keeping him alive is Beryl’s belief he still has value to her in terms of recovering the Crystal. Once she realizes her blunder, he’s going to be in big trouble, as he’s only a human from earth, after all. That’s right: the pretty Sailor Guardians are going to have to rescue the dashing prince…not t’other way ’round. From Beryl and Metalia to the Guardians, the ladies are calling all the shots in this show.
Ami, Rei, and Makoto also recover memories of their past lives. Along with Minako, who led them, they were Serenity’s guardians, and successfully sealed Metalia away, though the Moon Kingdom did not survive. Seeing Usagi so down in the dumps makes them down in the dumps too, so they decide to keep their chins up and visit her at her house to try to cheer her back up.
In the last nine episodes, Usagi has gone from clueless, clumsy, silly, materialistic girl and has steadily transformed into a heroine of justice. That transformation became more literal this week, and though it’s more her hair and clothes that change than her body, this is obviously a stand-in for the changes all girls go through during the transition to womanhood. It’s painful and scary, but it’s also an unavoidable part of life, and her friends and family are there for her. On to the Moon!
Lots of reveals this week, most importantly, that of the fifth Sailor Guardian, Aino Minako, AKA Sailor V, AKA Princess Serenity of the Silver Millennium Moon Kingdom. Yikes, that’s a lot of Aliases for someone who looks almost suspiciously-similar to Usagi!
In a way, we’ve known about her all along; not just in the OP and knowing a Venus would show up eventually, but the Sailor V game the other girls were playing wasn’t just a game; V was using it to show and tell them how to defeat their enemies thus far. Itou Shizuka gives a seriousness and urgency to V’s character. I should also mention she has a white cat, Artemis, which is the name of a goddess, though the cat is male.
The episode is also an exploration of protecting people, or falling short of doing so. Mamoru/Tux feels bad not just for not being able to save “Usako” from Zoisite, but possibly also in the past, which is coming back to everyone bits at a time through dreams and various stimuli triggers. Usagi also sees glimpses of an escape from a palace during a heated battle, from the POV of the princess, and leading her to safety is Mamoru, whom she calls “Endymion.”
I’m still a little confused by who is really The Princess here: Minako or Usagi? Is it both of them? In any case, Metalia is getting impatient, which means Beryl is getting impatient, which means it’s time for a new mineral king to step up and try to retrieve the LSC.
Kunzite takes up the challenge, and launches the biggest attack on Tokyo yet; knocking out the power and draining the energy of every citizen, threatening to Kill ’em All if Sailor V doesn’t meet him at the Tokyo Tower with the Crystal. Why he doesn’t want to meet at the newer, taller, more impressive Tokyo Sky Tree, I’m not sure. Ask the animators, I guess!
The bottom line is this: the bad guys have taken things up a notch. Fortunately for the people, the Sailor Guardians are now at full strength, thanks both to Luna and to Usagi bringing three girls who had been alone together as friends.
V’s plan was to face Kunzite alone (and her ribbon-y transformation is nice), but that doesn’t go so well, and in any case is a silly idea when there are four other Sailor Guardians who can help out.
They make a suitably big, bold entrance, with Sailor Moon promising to punish Kunzite in the name of the moon and all that good stuff. But all of their attacks seem to bounce off that damn green bubble. When Usagi is sent flying and falling to her death, Tuxedo Mask swoops in and saves her…again.
Usagi thanks him and rewards him with a passionate kiss he didn’t see coming at all, but tells him to get away and let her and the other Guardians handle Kunzite. With that, Usagi bolts off back to the battle, showing a side Mamoru had not seen before, which is kind of a trend both for him and us.
The dopey, clumsy Usagi is nowhere to be found; she’s Sailor Moon, and she’s got work do do. She’s also falling for Mamoru, but he’s falling right back for her, which is why when Kunzite launches a Bolt of Evil at her, he takes the full force of it to protect her once more. Sure, it’s a cliffhanger, but it closes an exciting, entertaining episode where everything is starting to take shape. I for one am fully invested.
Because disguises are classically much better than they appear to the audience in anime, Usagi didn’t know Chiba Mamoru and Tuxedo Mask were one and the same until she woke up in his house. But in this case, she kicks herself for not realizing it sooner, and despite Luna’s reservations, decides to believe in him.
Mamoru tells her his backstory, which is, like everything on this show, pleasingly straightforward: he was on a pleasant weekend drive with his folks when his dad suddenly decided to drive off a cliff (or maybe it was an accident). Mammy lost both his parents and his memories on that day, and thinks the LSC is the best way to get them back.
Usagi can’t quite explain why she’s trusting the dashing fellow so implicitly, nor does said fellow know why he told her so much about himself that he’d probably never told anyone else. But we know why: it’s because they’re falling for each other. That much is clear when having lunch with her friends, all Usagi wants to do is tell them about Mamoru; only she promised not to. She also stole his watch, and he nicked her hanky! Ah, love.
It gets clearer still when “Usako” (Mamo-chan’s nickname for her) decides the only way to heal the hordes of brainwashed citizens and classmates programmed to hunt Sailor Moon down is to become Sailor Moon. When she ends up in Zoisite’s clutches and the other guardians are knocked down, it’s Mamoru who springs to her rescue, right as she’s wishing for him to do just that.
The bad guy is stronger than usual, so even Mamoru needs saving; enter the real-life version of Sailor V, who’s been in contact with Luna for some time, whom I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of a couple weeks from now. If she’s the subject of the video game, then she was a sailor guardian before even Usagi. I wonder what her story is.
Finally, we also see a smidgen of nuance from Queen Beryl, who seems to regret awakening plotting her nebulous leader Queen Metalia, and plans on claiming the crystal—and the world—for herself once its found. Somehow I doubt ruling the world will be much fun for anyone, but hey, everybody’s gotta have a goal!
A statement to the media by the criminal Tuxedo Mask makes the Legendary Silver Crystal (LSC) the talk of Tokyo, in an effort to gather more information. How Tux has the clout to make statements to the media, and why so many people are taken in by all this magical mumbo-jumbo is a mystery, but his efforts end up spooking Beryl, who dispatches Zoisite to Earth.
Zoey poses as a researcher on the crystal being interviewed on the news, and uses the broadcast to brainwash everyone watching into searching for it at all costs. Is it just me, or is asking/hypnotizing a bunch of random people to look in random places in the city not necessarily the best way of going about looking for something? It’s basically saying “Screw it; I’m going to leave it up to luck.“
Then again, it’s not like the Sailor Guardians are having any more success, either in finding the crystal or identifying their princess. When Luna shows them their secret base under the arcade, then accuses Tux of being responsible for the brain-washings, Usagi gets upset and runs away, which isn’t really a good idea considering the situation.
As a result, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter end up in their tightest spot yet, though only because their bolts of various colors miss Zoey, but his green bolts take them all down. Turns out Usagi is right: while he’s after the crystal, Tux is a friend, and it’s because of him she gets her confidence back, rescues her friends with her new Moon Healing Escalation, and forces the bad guys to retreat.
From the numerous plot contrivances to the continued inscrutability of the MacGuffin-like LSC; the repetitive and unimaginatively-combined transformation sequences (split-screen them, you guys!); the fact Tokyo Tower is prominent but the taller Sky Tree nowhere to be found; this show sometimes watches like it was made twenty years ago, though it’s brand new. Regardless, I’m enjoying its charming, almost stubborn throwback approach to anime.
It’s been a long time since the last Sailor Moon Crystal, so…um…where were we? The Sailor Guardians are only three-fifths assembled and they’re no closer to finding their princess or the crystal. While we’ve said Usagi’s superpower is ineptness, she actually has another: the ability to make friends with anyone. Usagi, Ami and Rei are profoundly different people who don’t make friends easily, but Usagi made it easy, and their bonds are bolstered by their shared mission.
Enter the statuesque Kino Makoto, a new transfer student. The school is awash in rumors that she possesses superhuman strength, and got kicked out of her old school for fighting. Usagi doesn’t listen to all that noise (or her ears possibly filter it out) and reaches out to Makoto, not because she’s taking pity or “being nice”, but because she thinks Makoto is a beautiful, capable person. I agree, and Koshimizu Ami is the perfect voice for that role (note that I’ve never heard the original Jupiter). There’s also Luna’s belief that the other sailor guardians are being drawn to Usagi.
Others just see her size and strength and are intimidated and avoid Makoto, but Usagi sees the beauty and girliness beyond. The pattern of Usagi befriending a future sailor guardian, followed by that person being targeted by one of the bad guys (Nephrite), is repeated here, with the Makoto’s lure being her memory of being rejected by a senpai she liked. Meanwhile numerous men are being lured into slavery by a demon bride mannequin controlled by Nephy.
The Sailor Guardians (or Scouts, whatever you want to call them) never miss an opportunity to help a captured group of ordinary people in the process of recruiting a new member, and this is no different. They also get into trouble, but their brand-new member Sailor Jupiter bails them out with her combination of graceful rose hurricanes and forceful lightning blasts. Rei now has some serious competition for the most powerful guardian.
While the Sailor Guardians have spent much of their time fighting Youma since gaining their powers, this week emphasizes that their “ultimate mission” as described by Luna, is to protect their princess…only even Luna doesn’t know who that is. They have to seek her out.
What a coincidence: there’s a princess in town! Princess D of the Kingdom of D, comes from a land famous for its precious stones (Africa?) with a “secret treasure” in her possession she’ll unveil at a fancy masquerade ball. Could this be the princess they’re meant to protect?
Well, obviously no. For one thing, we’re only four episodes into a 26-episode series, and for another, only three sailor guardians have awakened. When they’re all accounted for, some kind of seal will presumably be broken, revealing their charge to them.
But while they don’t know who their princess is or where the Legendary Silver MacGuffin is, now they have a clearer picture of their enemies: the Four Kings with names ending in “-ite.” All four assemble and reveal themselves to the three guardians, but then withdraw.
Nephrite was the active king this week, disguising himself as a woman and making the princess possessed by a Youma in order to steal the treasure. Like the Guardians, he was lured to the princess believing her treasure was the crystal, but it’s only a big carved diamond.
The episode also allowed room for the girls to bond a little at the arcade, then use (abuse?) their powers to infiltrate the ball as princesses, which is definitely something pretty guardians and Usagi in particular would do. If you can transform into a princess, you ain’t staying home that night!
This is also the episode in which Chiba Mamoru AKA Tuxedo Mask seems to start falling for the girl he’s stalking in order to find the crystal. I like how despite how close he and Usagi are getting, he always draws away at the last minute, as if to preserve his neutrality. But he can’t help stealing a moonlit kiss.
Of all the characters in the show, he’s the only one who isn’t overtly good or evil, though that’s partially because we just don’t know enough about him yet. He’s someone who could save (or be saved by) Usagi one week, then back-stab her the next, and Luna doesn’t like anyone she can’t place in either a black or white column.
The dresses Usagi, Ami, and Rei choose to wear match their personalities perfectly.
Ever since there’s been more than one Sailor Guardian to transform, the show’s done them one at a time in sequence, which tends to kill the momentum a bit. I feel like they’re wanting a split-screen treatment, something used to great effect in Kill la Kill to move transformation sequences along and imbue them with more power.
It’s been established that Usagi can be a major klutz, but she doesn’t bump herself once while rushing out of the house in the morning, and she dances quite gracefully with Tux. Are her newfound powers affecting her regular self?
The Four Kings will probably kick themselves for not combining their powers and defeating the Guardians now, while there are still only three of them. Ah well, no one said these villains were smart.
Hino Rei AKA Sailor Mars is introduced quickly and efficiently, just in time to aid in the Guardian’s “toughest” fight to date, against one of the Four Kings of the Dark Kingdom, Jadeite, who is done delegating his work to underlings.
I hasten to note that the villains continue to be the most underwhelming aspect of this show so far, but there’s a certain retro appeal to their general ineptness. After all, who wants to see the Sailor Guardians lose, especially to these heels?
Usagi meets Rei when Ami makes her aware of her existence, and Rei is so beautiful Usagi sets to work stalking her immediately. In this instance Usagi’s shallowness proves integral to not only recruiting Rei, but helping Rei discover why she was born with strange powers.
I liked how Rei sensed a “demonic atmosphere” when Usagi arrived at her shrine and acted accordingly. Usagi isn’t what I’d call “not trouble”, but it’s the good kind of trouble that protects the weak and punishes evil.
Jadeite adopts a local legend of a “demon bus” that spirits people away, something for which the parents of one child blame Rei and her peculiar powers. But no, it’s just the bad guys taking loads of hostages to serve as Sailor Guardian bait, and it works like a charm.
You’d think Jadeite and his ilk would be able to sense Rei’s latent powers, but he treats her as another human hostage. Usagi’s impulsive, shortsighted nature leads to her discovering where the hostages are being held.
Jadeite’s oversight proves poetically unfortunate. Moon and Mercury’s magic has little effect on him, but Rei’s fire easily cancels out his ice. Jadeite’s pal Nephrite talked big earlier, but he’s notably absent when Jadeite is suddenly outnumbered three-to-one.
With the introduction of the bad-ass Sailor Mars, we’ve got two more guardians to meet, plus they have to figure out who this “princess” is they’re supposed to protect, as well as locate the “Legendary Silver Crystal.” There’s lots more to do, but plenty of time to do it. Meanwhile, things are coming together nicely.
This week we’re introduced to Mizuno Ami (Kanemoto Hisako) and witness her progression from quiet genius girl, to brainwashed tool of the enemy, and finally to Sailor Mercury. This second episode also suggests the show wants to balance the main serialized storyline with smaller, more episodic plots. Like the first, it moves briskly and embraces the goofiness, even coming off downright cool in some moments.
The story of the week is that Ami, despite having perfect scores, is suddenly attending the equivalent of a cram school (and a very evil looking one, at that), along with an increasing number of students. Like the jewelry women last week, they all wander willingly into the trap, and then the enemy has them. Unlike Usagi, Ami is first conscripted by the enemy, albeit after she’s brainwashed.
Yet again, Usagi’s weaknesses as virtues: just as she was too poor to buy any evil jewelry, she’s not…ahem…academically inclined enough for the brainwashing CD-ROM(!) to work on her (i.e. girl dumb as brick, yo). But this episode showed that her most powerful weapon wasn’t her crass materialism, ignorance, or quickness to tears: it was her profound kindness and loyalty.
While other classmates were intimidated and stayed away from Ami, Usagi, after Luna provides an opening, extends a hand of friendship. Having just become a sailor guardian herself but discussing it with neither family nor fiends, Usagi gets that there’s more to Ami than her cool exterior. Sometimes it takes a fluffy black kitty to bring out one’s warmer side. Unless one’s allergic.
Usagi’s kindness gets through even to a heavily brainwashed Ami under duress from the fake teacher (though it’s ironic Usagi warns Ami while dressed as a fake doctor). The teacher is really a demon servant of another servant of Queen Beryl. The higher-ups seem to employ a lot of delegation rather than doing things themselves.
That strategy is looking increasingly flawed as the Sailor Scout ranks expand. When Usagi transforms into Moon and gets whaled on by the demon, taking blow after blow for Ami’s sake Ami snaps out of it, produces the pen she won at the arcade, and then we get the second elaborate CGI sailor guardian transformation, that of Ami into Mercury…Game, set, and match.
Mercury commands water, which makes sense with her delicate yet ambitious personality, and creates a fog that gives Usagi the chance to slice the demon in two with her boomerang. Tux Mask gets an assist as well, but only Usagi sees him and he vanishes quickly thereafter. Luna—ever the Good Kyuubey—rejoices that she’s found the “brain” of the group. Usagi and Ami seem more happy about the fact they’ve made friends.
I’ve neither read nor watched any other iterations of the Sailor Moon franchise, nor do I plan to. When I first heard it was being rebooted for its 20th anniversary, I wanted to go in as green as possible, unfettered by prior knowledge or expectation. Even so, I was aware that Sailor Moon was an immensely popular and iconic cultural phenomenon that directly influenced countless newer series I’ve watched and enjoyed. That carries its own expectations.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece here, and I didn’t get one. But I was pleased with how pure, elemental, and straightforward the storytelling was. That’s kind of a given when you’re dealing with a show that isn’t just “a take” on the quintessential magical girl stories, but is the quintessential magical girl story, full stop. To that end, it sticks with a charming throwback aesthetic that you don’t see very often in contemporary anime.
That simple story can be summed up thus: pretty but clumsy and unfocused girl steps on a cat on the way to school, removes band-aids from her head. The cat shows up in her bedroom window to bestow a magical talisman that turns the girl into something resembling a heroine. She defeats the villainess, frees the jewelry-grubbing ladies under her thrall, and catches a glimpse of the Dashing Prince of her dreams.
I liked how Tsukino Usagi’s initial weaknesses ultimately worked to her advantage. Her abysmal test scores meant she wouldn’t be able to ask her mom to buy her any jewelry, without which she didn’t fall under the bad guy’s spell. And because she’s uncoordinated and late for school, she ends up stepping on a cat that gives her the tools to fight the bad guy. Heck, even her quickness to tears turned out to be a useful weapon.
Usagi doesn’t just look like no one else in the current anime spectrum; she sounds like no one else, too, thanks to the veteran Mitsuishi Kotono, who has always voiced Usagi. Don’t get me wrong, so much of Usagi’s dialogue is sooo stupid, but Kotono’s line delivery is a wry blend of syrupy guilelessness tinged with wry irony. Whether she’s happy or sad or falling down the stairs, Usagi always puts on big, over-the-top productions, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at them.
That theatricality is put to good use when she transforms, which is the episode’s big visual set piece, employing elaborate CGI that heralds the show’s official arrival to the 21st century. It was a nice surprise, akin to when the cartoonish-looking Panty & Stocking suddenly adopt realistic character designs when they transform. Usagi’s somewhat cumbersome sailor fuku accentuates her clumsiness, but in Sailor Moon kit she cuts a far sleeker, more mobile figure.
Which is why her first moments as Sailor Moon are so funny: she looks the part, but has no idea what to do or how to do it, and is suitably flustered. Thankfully, Luna is there to tell her, and the bad guy is dispatched; perhaps too easily, but it’s only the first battle; it couldn’t be too hard. And for a few shining moments, Usagi shed the “hopeless dumb girl” act, believed in herself (and in the stuff Luna was telling her), and stood up against evil to protect others.
This episode was a nice introduction to Usagi, her ordinary life, and the more exciting and trippy life that awaits her. She still has lots to learn, including how to juggle these two lives, but we know she’s going to meet allies, allowing for more interesting battles with tougher enemies. To conclude, despite harboring zero nostalgia for the franchise, this reboot stood pretty well on its own freakishly long, slender legs, and left me looking forward to the story continuing in two weeks’ time.