Sailor Moon Crystal – 11

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 10

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 09

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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.

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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!

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Is that…a weeping stool?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 08

"'SUP?"
“‘SUP?”

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!

"I'm gonna do everything MYSELF. That way, I know it will get done correctly."
“I’m gonna do everything MYSELF. That way, I know it will get done correctly.”

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.

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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 should really get that squeaky door fixed."
“I should really get that squeaky door fixed.”

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.

"Don't make me wait up here all day...in my floating green bubble."
“Don’t make me wait up here all day…in my floating green bubble.”

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!

"We still want the groceries, right? I'm taking the groceries."
“We still want the groceries, right? I’m taking the groceries.”

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.

This show isn't known for particularly cool shots, but a blacked-out Tokyo is certainly one
This show isn’t known for particularly cool shots, but a blacked-out Tokyo is certainly one

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Toaru Majutsu no Index: Endymion no Kiseki

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On the streets of Academy City, Touma and Index meet Meigo Arisa, a street singer/songwriter with mysterious miracle-like powers. She wins an audition to become the “spokes-idol” for Endymion, a space elevator nearing completion. Touma protects Arisa as she’s pursued by both the church – who believe her to be a saint, and Ladylee Tangleroad, the CEO of the company that built the elevator who has been cursed with eternal life. She sends her employee, the militaristic music-deaf Shutaura Sequenzia to retirev Arisa seeking to use Arisa and the elevator to create a magical device that will end her life – destroying half the world in the process.

When Shutaura learns of Ladylee’s true plans she turns against her. With the help of his many friends, acquaintances, and one-time enemies, Touma and Index launch into orbit to reach the top of the elevator, where Arisa performs before a massive crowd. As the parties on the ground disable Endymion, Index disrupts Ladylee’s spell, while Touma convinces Shutaura not to kill Arisa, punching her in the process. It turns out Arisa was the manifestation of Shutaura’s own wish when she was aboard the doomed space plane piloted by her father. Arisa merges with Shutaura, who regains as Ladylee’s spell is destroyed, ending the crisis. Life returns to normal.

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First things first: woe betide ye who attempt to watch this film as a newbie to the Index/Railgun franchise. Aside from having no idea why a normal guy like Touma keeps shrugging off multiple blows and severe burns to his body, and has a tiny bitey nun for a roommate, all of the dozens of cameos in the film will go right over their heads. We ourselves have a certain soft spot for the franchise, and so were eager to see what they could do with a feature-length film. The results were very ambitious, and we came away from the viewing feeling it succeeded insofar as it adapted the spirit of the show – magic vs. science – and was a most entertaining romp, complete with robot fights, mecha/car chases, and space battles, all taking place in gorgeous settings.

We also dug the idea of dual heroines in Arisa and Shutaura. Looking back there were plenty of clues that they were pretty much the same person split in two: music was Arisa’s life, but Shutaura’s ears couldn’t even discern it; Arisa remembers nothing prior to three years ago; they both possess halves of the same blue bracelet. Arisa’s meteoric rise to fame reminded us of Ranka Lee’s similar arc in Macross Frontier, a series we kept thinking of due to the similar space opera-y milieu the film adopts in the second half. The film looked and sounded great, we had a lot of fun watching it. Had it run in a theater near us, we would have definitely felt we got our money’s worth.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)