Sailor Moon Crystal – 06

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 05

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 04

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Stray Observations:

  • 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.

Sailor Moon Crystal – 03

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And then there were three.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 02

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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One Week Friends – 08

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This week the still newly-forged quartet of friends go on their first summer trip to the beach together. Kaori first suggests it, but things don’t bode well for Yuuki when she indicates it would be “too embarrassing” just to go with him, necessitating the invitation of Shogo and Saki.

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Throughout the trip, everyone has a certain degree of fun, but it’s also tinged with the feeling Shogo and Saki are in the way. When a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors backfires on Yuuki, Saki is with him while Kaori goes with Shogo, but neither Saki nor Shogo can get much out of them, but they’re pretty sure they like each other as more than just friends, but just can’t articulate it; least of all to one another.

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Even when Shogo asks Yuuki flat out if he should “push a bit harder” towards trying to articulate it—someone has to make the first move—but even when Yuuki and Kaori are left alone on a truly gorgeous sunset on the beach, sudden incidental contact spooks him, and while Kaori goes on about all the things she likes and loves, she keeps things general.

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The things holding them back from saying what they need to say to each other, even in the most appropriate times and places to do so, are fairly clear: sheer romantic inexperience, combined with the fear of damaging their present relationship. But one gets the feeling this status quo won’t be enough for them forever. At some point they’ll have to take greater risks.

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Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 – 11

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Sono tells the C3 club that she’s returning to America soon, so they plan a farewell airsoft match for her. Rento finds Yura in an arcade to invite her, and ends up telling her off. Rin visits Sono, who realizes that throughout all the ordeals in her life she puts up a stoic facade to run from reality. As Sono’s farewell match commences, Yura wanders town aimlessly until she arrives at the shrine, where the human form of Choujirou tells her she must accept herself before others will. When Sono has defeated all the C3 girls, Yura arrives with Choujirou in hand, ready to fight.

Shameless enthusiasm for airsoft: Rin remembers her old friend Sono having it, and Yura has it too. Rin thought she could “save” Yura from going too far, but lost control very quickly, and had to cut her loose (you could call it a defeat for Rin, but ‘discretion’s the better part of valour’, and all that.) Yura didn’t manufacture that enthusiasm; that was just the way she was. Her unrelenting path to airsoft perfection ended up isolating her from everyone, but she couldn’t be forgiven or accepted until she forgave and accepted herself.

She is who she is, and maybe sometimes she’s going to rub some people the wrong way, or hit rough patches with those she’s closest to. She’s going to piss them off sometimes, and they’re going to piss her off. It’s no reason to settle for playing bad video games in the dark corner of an arcade with bags under her eyes. The world belongs to Yura just as much as it belongs to Honoka, Rento, Karila, Yachiyo, Rin or Sono. But while her friends all want her back, it’s Yura who has to actually come back, on her own. Her joining Sono’s farewell match is an encouraging first step.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 9

When Nemoto, a yakuza, threatens to raise the rent of an arcade the NEETs frequent, they convince him to take part in a bet. If the NEETs beat him at baseball, the rent stays the same. To their surprise, it’s a real baseball game, not a video game, they have to participate in. Nemoto also fields ringers and is himself a former ace pitcher. To beat him, Alice and Narumi need to know what kind of player he was.

I have a soft spot for baseball episodes – even DS9 did one for crying out loud – especially when they bear some resemblance to the sport of baseball. This episode did, somewhat. You had your signs, your uncaught strike three, your out pitch, et cetera. Baseball is every bit as much about brains as it is about brawn, and considering the NEET team had more than a few capable players, I wasn’t that outraged that they won. Whether Narumi could actually hit a home run off of Nemo just because he knows what’s coming is a stretch, to be sure. But as an in-between episode it wasn’t bad.

The arcade at stake is apparently where the NEETs spend a lot of time; the owner calls them regulars. Yet nine episodes in and I believe this is the first time we’ve seen them there. Usually they’re just in the alley behind Min’s ramen shop. It was hard to care about the stakes considering this episode was the first time we learned of the arcade’s existence, and Narumi & Co.’s fondness for it. Still, I liked how they still needed to do some detective work to “solve the case” (win the game). And Alice actually going outside and participating in athletics? Unprecedented.


Rating: 3