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.

7_mag

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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.

8_mag

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!

9_mag

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.

9_mag

Sailor Moon Crystal – 07

"How the heck did you figure out how to get my shoes off?"
“How the heck did you figure out how to get my shoes off?”

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.

I like how Beryl doesn't really WANT her leader to rule the world...because SHE wants to!
I like how Beryl doesn’t really WANT her leader to rule the world…because SHE wants to!

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.

Whoa...
Whoa…

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.

MORE brainwashing? Hasn't that proven ineffective already?
MORE brainwashing? Hasn’t that proven ineffective already?

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.

Usagi doesn't just fall for any pretty guy...case in point:
Usagi doesn’t just fall for any pretty guy…case in point:

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.

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Catch her! Catch her!

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!

8_mag

 

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.

7_mag

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.

7_mag